KendallQ

Kendall McDonald, a former Fleet Street editor, has been diving (and writing about it) for more than 45 years. He has been DIVERs wreck expert since 1960.
THIRD TIME UNLUCKY  
For the past six years I have been researching ships lost in the Egyptian Red Sea for a book. Leaving aside those main shipwrecks so popular with divers, I have come across 150 other ship names, which will be in the book. This is now finished - or was, until a German student emailed to say that he had found a new wreck in 50m-plus off Egypt at the end of a dive, and had time only to fin down and look around for a few moments. He did recover a dinner plate, which has a crested centre with Helme Park and South Shields in a band around what is obviously a shipping line flag in red and black quartering. No one seems to have heard of a ship called Helme Park. Can you help
Ned Middleton


 
Well, I started to. I found a shipping firm called J & J Denholm Ltd, which had its first steamer in 1882 and named all its ships to include the word Park, but it was in Glasgow and didnt have a Helme Park, so that petered out.
Guildhall Museum was superb as usual and tracked down a steamer called Helme Park built in January 1883 by John Readhead & Sons of South Shields for William Wright. Wright sold her in 1874 to J Glynn of Liverpool, who promptly changed her name to Zealot.
Its not often that I get questioners turning into answerers, but Ned Middleton was on the phone just before this column went to bed and added these answers to his own original question. He had found out about the name change and went on to tell me that the 1328 ton, 245ft long Zealot was lost on 14 October, 1876 off the coast of Egypt while on her way to Bombay.
The Zealot was captained by J A Best and was carrying cargo worth£24,700 (790 bales, 91 cases, and 110 tons of iron) when she sank.
The two passengers and all the crew were saved and Captain Bests ticket was suspended for six months. Surprisingly little punishment, when you realise that Zealot was the third ship he had lost!
Fatal race  
I am searching for information on the steamer Ottercaps. She sank in fairly shallow water (10m) off the Pointe du Raz near Brest in France in 1903. Any information would help.
Janet Wardell


The Ottercaps was a 900 ton steamship built for Lambton Collieries in 1878 by R Thompson. Normally a collier, 216 ft long with a beam of 32ft and a draught of 16ft, she was carrying a cargo of iron ore from Bilbao to Middlesbrough when she ran into a storm with violent, gale-force winds on 26 February, 1903 while nearing the great headland of the Pointe du Raz.
She was reported lost just off Feunteunot, which is the last rocky point to the south of the huge tidal race between Pointe du Raz and the Ile de Sein. Her position in the Bay of Audierne suggests that she was going to attempt to run between the island and the Pointe du Raz.
If you have stood on the Pointe during even the mildest winds, and looked down on the tumult of spray and breaking waves, you will know that to try to run through the race in a gale was madness. The bodies of 10 of her crew were washed ashore.
In the mood to find Glenn  
I have been researching the fate of bandleader Glenn Miller, who was lost during a Norseman aircraft disappearance in 1944. Every now and then a story appears about a wreck of such an aircraft being discovered. The aircraft wreck was said to be two miles off the French coast, near the wreck of an old ship. A diver called Clive Ward was said to have visited the aircraft in 1985. Other reports say another Norseman was found in 1970 and was minus a propeller. One story says that the wreck is in the Pas de Calais area, the other that she lies near Le Touquet. Have you any information about the wreck Are you familiar with the stories
Lee Straderick


Yes, I know the stories. And thanks to the editor of the magazine Aeroplane, I know an even better one. Roy Nesbitt, the aircraft historian, wrote an article for that magazine in which he tracked down the crew of a Lancaster bomber who had returned from an aborted mission in 1944.
The aircrafts captain told Nesbitt that as landing back at their home airfield with a full bomb-load would have been extremely dicey, he had decided to drop their bombs in a specially allocated dumping area in the Channel. They started doing this and soon found that other aircraft from the same mission were releasing their bombs in the area.
Looking down, the Lancasters navigator saw a small American Norseman plane fly straight into the path of the bombs and crash into the sea amid the explosions.
This happened on the right date for it to be Glenn Millers aircraft, and about the right place for his flight to have reached if it was slightly off course on its way to Paris, where he was due to give a troop concert.
It seems pretty definite that this was the way Glenn Miller died - but the position given is in neither of the two spots you name, but some ten miles off Beachy Head.
I suggest that you ring Aeroplane magazine and see if it can let you have a back number from several years ago with the Miller story in it.
No diver to my knowledge has found the Norseman which carried Glenn Miller to his death.
Off-target from the Start  
I am not a diver, but I hope you can help me. I bought your book Shipwrecks of the South Hams when we visited Start Point lighthouse during our holidays. I was hoping to find details of a ship which was sunk off the Start, but it wasnt mentioned in the book. I want to help my father-in-law find out about his father, who was badly injured while serving as chief engineer aboard a new ship belonging to Runcimans in 1915, when she was torpedoed by a U-boat off the Start. I know nothing else. Do you
Margaret Mitchell.


First of all, Mrs Mitchell, your ship wasnt in my book because she was not a shipwreck of the South Hams. She was torpedoed in the Channel 50 miles SW from Start Point!
The ship you are looking for is the Spennymoor, of Runcimans Moor Line, which was sunk on her maiden voyage on 28 May, 1915 by first the gunfire of U41 and then, after the crew had been ordered to abandon ship, finished off by a torpedo.
Five men were killed in the encounter, including the master.
Youll find details of the sinking in The Times and a fuller account in Neil Maws World War One Channel Wrecks (from Diver Bookshop).
Can any diver give me diving information to pass on to Mrs Mitchell The position of sinking given at the time was 49 44.00N; 04 43.00W.
Torpedoed or mined  
I know most records say that the steamer Australbush sank after being torpedoed on 13 November, 1917, but when I dived it I had the distinct impression that it must have been mined. There is an enormous amount of damage towards the stern, as though a mine had rolled along her side before exploding. Could I be right
Dan McKay


Sorry, I dont think so. The wreck of this 4400 ton vessel is well-documented as lost some seven miles north-east of the Eddystone. She was in ballast, bound from Le Havre for Barry Roads, when at 1.40pm the second mate saw the white streak of a torpedo only 200m away.
The torpedo hit the port side in number 3 hold. It not only ripped a hole in that side, but also penetrated so far that it blew out part of the starboard side.
That accounts for much of the damage you saw, and for the fact that she sank in moments, stern-first. Two crewmen were lost. UC31 claimed the steamer in her log for that day.
For all plane-spotters  
Divers who have found the wreck of an aircraft under water will know the name of Ross McNeill, Wreck Q&As lost aircraft expert.
A diving instructor in the 1990s, and former pilot with the RAFVR, he is an aircraft historian of repute. Now he has written his first book of a series detailing lost aircraft with lat/long positions, date and time, how the crash took place, crew names, squadron numbers and diving information where possible.
Royal Air Force Coastal Command Losses of the Second World War, Volume One 1939-1941 (Midland Publishing;£16.99) is definitely one for the wreck-divers bookshelf.