Thistlegorm, An Underwater WWII museum

Added on Jan 22, 2018

The SS Thistlegorm is a 126.5m long British vessel that was built by Joseph Thompson & Sons of Sunderland in June 1940.

On June 2, 1941, the Thistlegorm’s Captain, William Ellis, departed for Alexandria, in what became its last voyage from Glasgow. Joined by a large convoy and instead of taking the Mediterranean route; it rounded via Cape Town for safety reasons, the Convoy proceeded along the east coast of Africa before finally entering the Red Sea, Gulf of Suez.

At this time, however, two vessels had collided further up the Gulf of Suez and were virtually blocking the entire entrance to the Canal.
The Thistlegorm, remained at anchor for two full weeks; its presence had been confirmed by German intelligence; and on October 5, 1941 two twin-engine Heinkels 111 fighter aircrafts crossed the north Egyptian coast heading south-east in search of the big ship. Just as they were on the point of returning home, one of the pilots spotted the ship at anchor. As he approached the bows of the Thistlegorm, he hit its bridge with two missiles. The attack resulted in detonating a great deal of ammunition. The hit sent the two locomotives spiraling into the air as the ship was ripped open.

The vessel began to sink and the crew quickly abandoned ship. She sank at 0130 hrs 6th October 1941. The crew was rescued HMS Carlisle and then taken to Suez. 4 crew members and 5 of the 9 Royal Navy ratings had lost their lives.
Despite extensive public knowledge and interest in Thistlegorm, it will continue to inspire a sense of mystery. Jacques Cousteau's visit in 1955 remains the subject of much discussion and like the legend himself, Thistlegorm continues to attract speculation and controversy from beyond the grave.
Divers can visit the wreck from Sharm El Sheikh by daily boat or during a weeklong safari. Located on a bed of just thirty meters in good visibility, this is the perfect wreck dive where much of the original cargo still remains.
A trip around the Thistlegorm today is like traveling through time and many visitors experience high emotions during the dive. It is after all a battle field with highly visible signs of great destruction and loss. It's also a giant underwater museum, a war grave, a unique piece of military history and an opportunity to step into the past.