Support our Nation today - please donate here

Bangor University researchers find final resting place of British cargo ship missing since 1915

13 Mar 2024 3 minute read
Grid model based on multibeam sonar data obtained from previously unknown UKHO wrecksite: 5086, illustrating the remains of the SS Hartdale lying on its port side.

The final resting place of a British cargo ship, missing since being torpedoed by a German U-boat, has been established by a team of researchers from Bangor University.

The exact location of SS Hartdale has been a mystery since the vessel was attacked by U-27 in the Irish Sea on 13th March 1915 but its remains have now been identified lying at a depth of eighty metres, twelve miles off the coast of Northern Ireland.

The Bangor University team identified the missing ship by combining multibeam sonar data from wreck sites in the Irish Sea with a range of maritime collections and historical records, many of which are available online.

Important wrecks

Dr Michael Roberts, who led the team, hopes that this initial discovery will be the first of many to arise as part of a project, which is focussed on identifying historically important wrecks in an area of the Irish Sea between the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland.

Dr Roberts said: “Connecting scientific data with our disparate, diverse yet information-rich maritime record has enabled us to identify this previously unknown wreck and create a comprehensive and detailed narrative centred around the vessel that it once was and improve our understanding of UK maritime archaeology.

“This vessel is just one of the many thousands of merchant ships known to have been lost in UK waters that remain listed as missing or have been incorrectly identified due to a lack of high-quality data.

“We certainly now have the capability and technology to able to rectify this largely overlooked issue.”


The SS Hartdale was built in Stockton-on-Tees in 1910 and was originally named the SS Benbrook, before being sold and renamed in 1915.

The vessel was transporting coal from Scotland to Egypt, when it was dramatically chased down by U-27 and sunk by torpedo.

German submarine U27. Photo public domain

Two of the crew lost their lives as the vessel sank and survivor accounts as well as U-27’s own official war diary provided researchers with crucial information relating to the exact location of the attack, important descriptions of the actual torpedo strike and poignant accounts of SS Hartdale’s final moments.

The research team involved in identifying the wreck were working on the Unpath’d Waters project, an initiative led by Historic England and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The project enables scientists and historians to combine marine data with maritime records in new ways to efficiently identify shipwrecks in UK waters, assess their condition and predict how wreck sites may change over time.

The Unpath’d Waters project team also acknowledged the contribution made to the discovery of SS Hartdale by independent US Naval Historian Michael Lowrey.

Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.