Explore the Thistlegorm for the first time in 3D with our Wreck Tour
The SS Thistlegorm was a British armed Merchant Navy ship, which sank on 6 October 1941 near Ras Muhammad in the Red Sea. In the early fifties Jacques Cousteau discovered her using information from local fishermen, today its accessible depth as well as being relatively intact, make it one of the most popular dive sites in the world.
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thistlegorm wreck information:
Due to German and Italian naval and airforce activity in the Mediterranean the Thistlegorm sailed as part of a convoy via Cape Town, South Africa, where she refuelled, before heading North up the East coast of Africa and into the Red Sea. On leaving Capetown, the light cruiser HMS Carlisle joined the convoy. Due to a collision in the Suez Canal the convoy could not transit through the canal to reach the port of Alexandria and instead moored at Safe Anchorage F, in September 1941 where she remained at anchor until her sinking on 6th October 1941. HMS Carlisle moored in the same anchorage.
There was a large build up of Allied troops in Egypt during September 1941 and German Intelligence, Abwehr, suspected that there was a troop carrier in the area bringing in additional troops. Two Heinkel He-111 aircraft were dispatched from Crete to find and destroy the troop carrier. This search failed but one of the bombers discovered the vessels moored in Safe Anchorage F. Targeting the largest ship they dropped two bombs on the Thistlegorm both of which struck hold 4 near the stern of the ship at 0130 on 6th October. The bomb and the explosion of some of the ammunition stored in hold 4 led to the sinking of the Thistlegorm with the loss of four sailors and five members of the Royal Navy gun crew. Mr. Rejda single-handledly saved most of the sailors by swimming in to the wreck and towing them to safety. The survivors were picked up by HMS Carlisle. Captain Ellis was awarded the OBE for his actions following the explosion and a crewman, Angus McLeay, was awarded the George Medal and the Lloyd's War Medal for Bravery at Sea for saving another crew member. Most of the cargo remained within the ship, the major exception being a steam locomotive from the deck cargo which was blown off to the port side of the wreck.
Diving the Wreck
The wreck of the Thistlegorm is 114m in length and so even though it's possible to cover the majority of it in one dive its highly recommended to split it up over 2 or more dives, as there is plenty to see and the choice of both penetration and no-penetration routes around the wreck.
The ship is split into 2 main sections with a significant amount of debris in-between. The aft section is resting at roughly a 45° angle to the port. Starting at the stern of the ship you will find the 40mm anti-aircraft machine gun at a depth of 21m, aft of this surrounded by wreckage are the remains of another light anti-aircraft gun. The rubber and propeller are both intact an can be accessed on the starboard side at a deepest part of the wreck (30m). Heading forward you'll reach the area where the ariel bombs hit hold no4, this is a large area of debris sloping down towards the port side. Here you can find the remains of 2 Bren Carrier MKII tanks and various munitions including cases of projectiles.
Heading across this area you'll reach the main wreck, with easy access straight into hold no3 which is empty as it contained coal. At this point the route you choose to take depends on whether you've planning to penetrate the wreck or explore the deck area. Above hold no3 is the funnel and curved blast roof, as well as the torn deck from the explosion. Heading towards midships you'll reach the bridge superstructure, which makes a nice swim-through to the forward holds on the deck.
If you chose to explore the holds, you will quickly move through the empty hold 3 towards hold no2. The holds are split into 2 levels, the upper level contains Ford and Bedford Trucks, Morris Jeeps and Motorcycles. On the lower level there are more Bedford Trucks carrying Motorcycles, a Tilling Stevens Truck, Norton Motorcycles (some with sidecars), aircraft spares, rubber boots and Enfield MK III rifles. You can move directly from hold no3 into hold no2, which contains two empty trailers, motorcycles, cables and electrical material on the upper level. The lower has more trucks, aircraft engine covers, crates of medicine and more rifles. It is possible to enter the bow from hold no2, but many chose to ascend here and explore the forward deck area.
The deck has 2 coal tenders, 1 either side of hold no3. The port side one has the main mast resting across it, broken from the mast foot in-between the 2 holds. The loading derricks are also collapsed across hold no3. Either side of hold no2 are tank wagons which are collapsed/crushed like cans. Reaching the bow, there are a number of doorways into the forepeak of the anchor and workshop. Above this area on the bow deck are some large winches for the anchor chain, as well as inlets for the air scoops. This is the shallowest point of the wreck at 15m.