The steel steamship Elsa Menzell was launched from the Flenburg yard of Flensburger Schiffsbau Geselschaft on 28th July 1908. She measured 383.3′ x 52.1′ x 25.3′ and weighed 4398 gross tons, 2782 net tons. She was powered by a triple expansion steam engine by Flensburger delivering 306 net horse power. Her original owners, Menzell and Co of Hamburg sold her to Deutsche Rhederi GMBH in 1912 who renamed her Ekkehard. Only a year later she was sold again to her final owners Companie Royale Belgo-Argentine of Anwerp who renamed her Anvers.
With the outbreak of World War Two her regular Transatlantic voyages became increasingly dangerous with the build up of the German U-boat fleet and the wolfpack attacks attempting to cut off supplies for the British war effort. In most cases Anvers, a fast ship, made the voyages independently but as the threat increased she soon joined up with the many protected convoys crossing the North Atlantic. On 11th October 1940 Anvers was in Philadephia being loaded with a full cargo of steel. She departed from Philadelphia and steamed to the convoy assembly point off Sydney, Nova Scotia where she joined convoy SC8 bound for Liverpool departing on 15th October . She was under the command of Captain de Jonghe and had a crew of thirty four seamen. On 30th October the convoy was subject to an attack by U-32 west of Ireland but thanks to the intervention of the destroyers HMS Highlander and HMS Harvester who successfully depth charged the German submarine, Anvers made it safely to the dispersal point and headed to the Clyde arriving on 31st. Here she joined the coastal convoy WN35 heading north through the Pentland Firth to her final destination at Methil on the Forth.
On the 13 November 1940, the convoy turned south east past Duncansby Head steering for Rattray Head when, as the convoy passed Cairnbulg on the Moray coast, it was attacked by German He111 and Ju88 aircraft operating out of Stavanger, Norway. Anvers took a direct hit on her port side and quickly began to sink. Twenty of her crew were lost in the attack. The fifteen surviving crewmen took the boats and were picked up later.
The large wreck of the Anvers lies in position 57° 41.250’N, 01° 47.794’W oriented 090/270 degrees. She lies in 51 metres and rises 10 metres from the seabed. She sits upright and substantially in tact with the explosion damage to her port side clearly visible. The engine and huge boilers are also clearly visible. The area is swept by strong tides making a slack water dive essential but the result is the wreck is completely covered in colourful sealife.
We would like to acknowledge the assistance of Buchan Divers – www.buchandivers.com in the preparation of this article.