Digital image of a hull on the seafloor

The discovery of SS Hartdale

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 working on the Unpath’d Waters project. 


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.


Dr Michael Roberts

SS Benbrook

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.  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.

Of the wreck’s identification, Barney Sloane, Principal Investigator of Unpath’d Waters at Historic England, said “This is one excellent example of the vast, untapped potential waiting to be unleashed through the creation of a linked, accessible and sustainable national collection of the UK’s cultural and heritage archives, museums and records; potential to unlock human stories and unleash scientific innovation”.

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