Diver lays wreath on wreck of torpedoed WWI cruiser

Pathfinder.jpg

A scuba diver from the Westcountry laid a wreath and raised the Union flag on the wreck of a First World War ship which sank a century ago with the loss of 250 crewmen.

Mike Rowley, 68, a retired engineer from Dartmouth, was one of team of ten BSAC divers who took part in a commemorative dive on the wreck of HMS Pathfinder – the first ever ship to be sunk by a submarine-launched torpedo.

The cruiser was steaming off the east coast of Scotland, near St Abbs Head, on September 5, 1914, when she was hit be the locomotive torpedo from German U-boat 21.

Mr Rowley, a national diving instructor and head of BSAC’s national diving committee technical group, laid the wreath on the wreck, which lies 68m (223ft) below the surface, and also raised the Union flag above her.

“It was a really poignant and sombre occasion,” he said. “I was particularly moved by the occasion as my own grandfather was killed in the First World War.

“We had a simple service later on board the dive boat. with a very moving eulogy to those that lost their lives in the disaster.”

Joining the dive were family members of some of the men who lost their lives, including grandfather-of-eight, Malcolm Stern, 85, of Rickmansworth, whose Uncle William was killed aged 22 and is thought to have been the first Jewish sailor to die in the Great War.

Also present was Paul Ratcliff, 74, of Canterbury, whose Uncle Bill was just 19 when he died.

The underwater team had just 25 minutes on the wreck, which is still in good condition, and although much of the superstructure is missing, there are still guns visible as well as shell cases.

Mike added: “The wreck is in remarkably good condition. It is pretty much intact from the bridge to the stern although the bow is missing. We managed to secure some fabulous video footage of the wreck which was one of our aims.

“The weather couldn’t have been kinder and the sea was flat calm. Visibility was good taking into account the depths at which we were diving.

“It was a wonderful dive to be involved in and listening to people who lost family members on the Pathfinder when she sank really drives it home what a terrible human tragedy this was.”

The Cammell Laird Birkenhead-built HMS Pathfinder was struck by a single torpedo fired from U-21 as it patrolled the Scottish coast south of the Isle of May.

The flash ignited the ship’s magazine, destroying the fore section of the craft and causing the foremast and number one funnel to collapse.

The majority of crew below decks had neither the time nor opportunity to escape and went down with the ship.

Launched on 16th July 1904, HMS Pathfinder was the lead ship of the Pathfinder class of cruisers.

Armed with nine four-inch guns, she initially saw service with the Atlantic and channel fleet while at the start of the First World War she was part of the 8th destroyer flotilla based at Rosyth in the Firth of Forth.

 

Source: www.westernmorningnews.co.uk

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