british Readhead G. T. & Co. SS Highcliffe [+1940]
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nationality british
purpose transport
type cargo ship
propulsion steam
date built 1927
live live
weight (tons) 3847  grt
dimensions 112.7 x 15.4 x 7.2 m
material steel
engine 3 cyl. Triple expansion engine, three boilers, single screw
power 371  n.h.p.
speed 10.5  knots
yard no. 489
IMO/Off. no. 139916
about the loss
cause lost ran aground (wrecked)
date lost 06/02/1940  [dd/mm/yyyy]
casualties 0
about people
Readhead John & Sons Ltd., South Shields
Readhead G. T. & Co., Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
captain Henderson
no. of crew 35
about the wreck
status well broken up
depth (m.) 16 max. / -- min. (m)
position on seabed upright
visibility good
current normal
sea bed rocks
marine life average
protected no
war grave no
 Miramar Ship Index
entered by Jan Lettens
entered 27/08/2008
last update Racey Carl
last update 18/02/2012
Jan Lettens12/10/2010
latitudeUK hydro member
longitudeUK hydro member
AISUK hydro member
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 UK Hydrographic Office
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  The Wreck today  

Jan Lettens12/10/2010

UK hydro member
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 UK Hydrographic Office

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  Hydrographic Service UK  
Racey Carl18/02/2012In February 1940 another vessel left Narvik with vital iron ore for the war effort, she was the s.s. HIGHCLIFFE. Captain Henderson, who had been the master of the ship since she was built in 1927 by Messrs John Readhead, intended to travel down the west side of Shetland rather than the east where he would run the risk of meeting German U-boats in the North Sea.
As she approached the Shetlands coast the ship travelled cautiously and took soundings. Suddenly the bottom shelved up from 18 to 3 to 4 fathoms and the HIGHCLIFFE grounded. She possessed no radar or any other navigation aids and the weather that night was bad.
Willie Fraser, who lived on Papa Stour at the time, described the night of the 6th February as follows: "Well it was dark like the pitch, and of course we had no torches. In the country there was no lights you see. I went to go back in the house, and I hit a gable of the house with my hand! My mother heard the bang inside the house. I must have been walking pretty fast I suppose, but I couldn't see the house in front of me. I didn't ever see it so dark".
Captain Henderson, who originally came from Reawick, ran the ship aground on Forewick Holm, Papa Stour, about 15 miles from his home. He has evidently mistaken the Neep of Norby, in Sandness, for Fitful Head, the south west tip of Shetland, and expected his course to the west to be clear.
The crew were ordered to stand-by the lifeboats and an SOS was transmitted to Wick Radio Station. Aith Lifeboat was now standing by in case further assistance was required. It wasn't until 8.00 a.m. that the HIGHCLIFFE sent up rockets and the Aith lifeboat responded. The lifeboat arrived on the scene two hours later and all 35 crew were landed safely. The ship had been damaged in No. 1 hold and was lying on an even keel. The pumps were still working.
There was great excitement on Papa Stour and many of the isle's inhabitants had gathered on the shore after hearing the ship's siren. Smoke from the large funnels was blowing in the direction of one women's house. She ran to a neighbour believing the Germans had arrived and were trying to gas her.
George Peterson, a boy at the time, recall show his father took him on the morning to see the ship lying on the rocks. He remembers the large black ship with two masts, derricks and the wheel house. With some reluctance George and his friends went off to school that morning, only to meet the teacher, Mrs Drummond, carrying a tray of food from the schoolhouse to the school where the crew now sheltered. There were lessons that day.
George recalls how, on the way home, he and his sister stood in the lee of the dyke in the yard looking down on the South Sand: ..... She was lying on an even keel and when the north tide came in it swung her around so she was a different shape. The forecastle was up at an angle and the foremast away up in the sky, and the aft half on a more even keel, but the two pieces had bucked and broken.
She was like that for some time, I would say a year or two, I remember us going across to the fishing and we would come about the HIGHCLIFFE and you would hear the sea echoing and splashing inside the forecastle. The doors were off, and there was a ventilator on the forecastle. I think it had been washed off, but when it was in winter sea, the sea would cover her and the forecastle was full of compressed air and then the sea subsided the air would gush out in a fountain through the ventilator. The forecastle went over on its side and went below the surface in a heavy sea and that section vanished.
It was up in 1946, but it wasn't too long after that she disappeared finally.
ref. used: 
 Shetland Sub-Aqua Club, Shetland Shipwrecks
Jan Lettens12/10/2010UK hydro member
ref. used: 
 UK Hydrographic Office

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About Builders
 Readhead John & Sons Ltd., South Shields
Readhead and Softley (1865~1872)
John Readhead & Co. (1872~1888)
Readhead & Sons (1888~1909)
John Readhead & Sons Ltd. (1909~)
British Isles
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SS Highcliffe [+1940]
British Isles
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