Emotional remembrance of ship sunk off St Abbs

SBBN-11-09-14 Pathfinder Wreath
SBBN-11-09-14 Pathfinder Wreath

A team of divers has left a wreath at the site of a World War One warship that was sunk off St Abbs 100 years ago last week.

HMS Pathfinder went down 11 miles off St Abbs Head, the first ship to be sunk by a submarine-fired torpedo.

A team of 20 divers from the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) took a tribute down to the wreck while HMS Example and her crew held a memorial service and laid a wreath on the water above the wreck site.

Captain Chris Smith led the memorial, with dive boats Wavedancers 1 and 2 watching on. The commemoration was broadcast to the dive boats via radio in what was described as a very moving ceremony, and the Last Post was sounded by a bugle following which a two-minute silence was observed.

After the Royal Navy commemoration, a team of divers went down to the wreck and flew the White Ensign.

BSAC National Diving Committee member and group leader for diver coaching, Dave Lock, 63, from Felixstowe, led the HMS Pathfinder dive team. He said: “I think it reminds us that this isn’t just a wreck but a real human tragedy that still affects families today.”

Despite War Office attempts to play down the sinking for fear of public panic at the efficiency of German U-boats, the commander of the Pathfinder was brusque in his response.

In a letter to his mother, Captain Martin-Leake wrote: “Since my last to you these blighters have caught us with a submarine, with very disastrous results as you will have gathered from the papers, no useful results to themselves however.”

Another account, by Lt (E) Edward Oliver Sonnenschein, described how the ship “gave a heavy lurch forward and took an angle of about 40 degrees down by the bow. Water came swirling up to the searchlight platform.

“The Captain said, ‘jump you devils jump!’. The Captain and his secretary remained with the ship until the very end but somehow both survived.”

Captain Martin-Leake continued: “Personally I stayed too long and found myself on the after shelter deck with the ship rapidly assuming an upright position. I decided to stand on the searchlight stand and take my chance.

“This soon went under and self as well, come up again ship still there, had another dive and then got shot right clear.”