SS Thistlegorm

Diving the SS Thistlegorm, the Red Sea’s greatest shipwreck.


The SS Thistlegorm, a British freigher belonging to the shipping company Albyn Lyne Ltd, was one of a group of vessels whose names began with the pefix “thistle” the national flower of Scotland and the shipping company’s logo. Launched on 9 April 1940 at the shipyard of Thompson & Sons Ltd in Sunderland, the Thistlegorm was a freighter assigned to transport supplies and war material to the British armed forces at the beginning of World War II.

The Thistlegorm took part in the secret mission code-named Operation Crusader, intended to deliver supplies to the 200,000-strong British 8th Army stationed in Egypt and Cyrenaica (Eastern Libya) under the command of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. In May 1941, the Thistlegorm, with a crew of 39 men, left the port of Glasgow in Scotland and headed toward Alexandria. This was to be her last voyage. The ship was carrying ammuntions of different kind, antitank mines; Lee Enfield MK III rifles; some one hundred motorcycles; trucks; transport trailers; portable field generators; spare parts for airplanes, and land vehicles; medicines; tires; and rubber boots.

During the night between 5 and 6 October 1941, two German Heinkel He 111 bombers stationed on the island of Crete happened to sight the ship by pure chance. They attacked her at 0.35 am on 6 October. The attack came as a complete surprise, and the Thistlegorm had no time to defend herself. She was hit by two powerful bombs at the level of hold no.4, near the engine room, and where the ammunition was stored. At 1:30 am, the Thistlegorm, having split in two, sank rapidly, coming to rest upright and on an even keel on the flat, sandy seabed at a depth of a little over 30 meters.


Pictures by © Alessandro Mangione | 2013 | Canon G10 6.1-30.5mm
Red Sea, (Egypt) Nov 2013 SS Thistlegorm Black and White, Destinations, Environment, Underwater, War