Where Great Dives Start

PADI IDC 5 Stars Resort

Thistlegorm

Weekly we organize very special trip to legendary wreck of Thistlegorm.

Early pick up from the hotel on sunrise.
You will have a great chance to see breath taken sunrise on Red Sea on the way to Straits of Gubal where Thistlegorm wreck is located.

On the boat you will be offered breakfast and lunch.

There are 2 dives on the wreck. First dive usually is done outside. Second one is inside.

On the way back there is a chance for 3rd dive in Shark &Yolanda Reef in Ras Mohamed National park.

You will be back to the jatty at 4:30 pm.

SS Thistlegorm

  • Albyn Line: Formed 21st June, 1901
  • Built: January 1941, Joseph L. Thompson and Sons Ltd, Sunderland
  • Type: Steamship, single screw
  • Gross Tonnage: 4898 tonnes
  • Length: 415 feet/126m
  • Sale price: £115,000
  • Launched: 9th April 1940, by Mrs K.W. Black

Voyages

  1.  USA to bring back steel rails and aircraft parts
  2. Argentina, returning with grain
  3. West Indies for sugar and rum
  4. Final voyage to Suez

Crew: 41
Bombed: 6th October 1941
Casualties: 9

Cousteau's visit: 1955

Rediscovered: 1974 first known dive to wreck
Dive site: First publicised in 1992
Television: First TV documentary in 1995 'Thistlegorm's Last Voyage' by Caroline Hawkins
Location: Safe anchorage 'F' in the Straits of Gubal
Depth: Deepest point at 30m
Shallowest point at 13m

 

The Thistlegorm in Gaelic means 'blue thistle'. She was a British transport ship belonging to the Albyn Line shipping company, was 126.5 meters long and had a three cylinder steam engine which was giving the vessel a speed of around 10 knots. The Thistlegorm was built to transport refurbished wartime materials for the British troops. In May 1941 with a crew of 39 men it had left the port Glasgow, Scotland with a cargo of munitions, bombs of different kind, antitank mines, riffles, a hundred of BSA motorcycles, BSA W-M20, Matchless G3L and Norton 16 H, Bedford, Morris and Ford trucks, two light Bren Carrier MKII tanks, two steam Stanier 8 F locomotives with two coal tenders and water tankers necessary for travel in desert zones, transport trucks, portable field generators, spare parts for airplanes and automobiles, medicines, tires and rubber boots. The cargo was destined for the British 8th Army stationed in Egypt and Lybia; yet the German forces controlled the Mediterranean so circumnavigating Africa and passing through the Suez Canal to reach the port of Alexandria was considered the safe route. The Thistlegorm was already on its way up the Red Sea when it received the order to anchor in Straight of Gubal and wait as the Suez Canal was temporary obstructed by a vessel that had hit a German mine. On the night of the 5-6th October two German Heikel He III bombers, coming from their base in Crete, sighted and attacked the ship. It was hit by two bombs on hold no. 4where the munitions deposit –among other things-was situated. The explosion was very violent and tore the ship in two whilst the locomotives despite their weight of 126 tons each and the fact that they were tied to the deck, were catapulted into the air. The bomb and the explosion of some of the ammunition stored in hold 4 led to the sinking of the Thistlegorm with the loss of four sailors and five members of the Royal Navy gun crew. Mr. Rejda single-handledly saved most of the sailors by swimming in to the wreck and towing them to safety. The survivors were picked up by HMS Carlisle. Captain Ellis was awarded the OBE for his actions following the explosion and a crewman, Angus McLeay, was awarded the George Medal and the Lloyd's War Medal for Bravery at Sea for saving another crew member. Most of the cargo remained within the ship, the major exception being the steam locomotives from the deck cargo which were blown off to either side of the wreck.
In the early fifties Jacques-Yves Cousteau discovered her by using information from local fishermen. He raised several items from the wreck, including a motorcycle, the Captain's safe, and the ship's bell. The February 1956 edition of National Geographic clearly shows the ship's bell in place and Cousteau's divers in the ship's Lantern Room. Cousteau documented diving on the wreck in part of his book The Living Sea.
What makes this ship so extra-special is a combination of several factors. Despite extensive damage aft of the Bridge, the main section is upright and on an even keel. Then, there is the story of her passing, with all its ingredients of War, Heroism and Tragedy - something that is never re-created in any vessel deliberately sunk. Lest we forget, even the Titanic would have passed into obscurity were it not for the manner of her sinking! Then, prevailing conditions and accessibility all come into play. These include an acceptable climate, relatively warm waters, very good underwater visibility and a maximum depth of just 32 metres to the seabed.
What more could be asked of any shipwreck you might ask - and the word "Cargo" springs to mind. Within the Thistlegorm, that cargo is a veritable underwater "World War II Museum."
Despite the manner of her sinking and the ongoing destruction, the Thistlegorm is still in remarkable condition. The front section remains largely intact and sits upright on a sandy seabed at a maximum depth of 32 metres. The starboard anchor is deployed, some railing are still in place and all the winch houses, winches, blocks, windlasses and other paraphernalia are there to be found. Leaving the focsle, on the main deck there is a railway water carrier on either side of No 1 Hold with the one on the port side resting precariously over the edge of the Hold.
Each hold was built in two levels with the upper level known as "tween decks." Basically, these tween decks are, in effect, a large shelf that stretched under the decks of the ship. There are Bedford trucks and a number of Motorcycles on the starboard side and whilst the same is found on the port side, the top of the hold is bent downwards and, with the presence of the water carrier, perched somewhat menacingly over the edge, it tends to be less well visited.
Inside No 1 Hold, the cargo of parts and spares has come to look like an accumulation of debris which obscures anything of greater interest - including more vehicles.
Back at deck level, there is a Tender Railway on each side of No 2 Hold beside which are two "torpedo" shaped Paravanes. Once again there are some very interesting vehicles in the tween decks but below these on the port side, the Diver will discover two large Armoured Cars - built on Rolls Royce Chassis.

It must be said, that even after several hundred dives on Thistlegorm, such is the allure it holds for divers, that there is always something new to see. Very recently, a local diver claims that he stumbled across a newly discovered locomotive some one hundred and fifty metres from the wreck. The race is on to reach and photograph the engine together with the ship's funnel, both of which, allegedly, are still attached to the deck blown clean off the ship by the explosion.

Diving SS Thistlegorm requires certification as a trained diver, beyond entry level, through a recognised scuba training agency. In any event, divers visit the wreck at their own risk.

 

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