SS Thistlegorm

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

The SS Thistlegorm is often heralded as the most popular wreck in the world. It was a British freigher belonging to the shipping company Albyn Lyne Ltd. It was one of a group of vessels whose names began with the prefix “thistle” the national flower of Scotland. 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. It was intended to deliver supplies to the 200,000-strong British 8th Army stationed in Egypt and Cyrenaica under the command of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. In May 1941, the Thistlegorm, with a crew of 39 men, left the port of Glasgow and headed toward Alexandria. 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.

Thistlegorm was sunk during a surprise attack by a pair of Heinkel He-111 bombers dispatched from flight squadron KG26 in Crete during the night between 5 and 6 October 1941. 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. Two bombs hit the SS Thistlegorm’s ammunition room and at 1:30 am, the ship sank rapidly at the 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 & White, Destinations, Underwater