The steel steam trawler Asia was launched from the Hull yard of Earle’s Shipbuilding and Engineering Co Ltd (Yard No 497) on 30th August 1905. She measured 146.7′ x 23.3′ x 11.5′ and her tonnage was 309 gross tons, 124 net tons. She was powered by a triple expansion steam engine by Earle’s delivering 85 registered horse power.
She was ordered by the Hull Steam Fishing and Ice Co Ltd who were to own and operate the vessel for her entire commercial career. In October 1914 she was requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted for use as a minesweeper (Admiralty Number 653).
In September 1917 the German mine laying U-boat UC-40 was on patrol east off the Scottish east coast under the command of Kapitanlieutnant Hermann Menzel. On 8th Menzel attacked and sank the British trawler Family’s Pride by gunfire off Peterhead before heading north to lay his first group of mines off Shapinsay Sound, Orkney. These mines resulted in the loss of SS Swiftsure on the 9th. Menzel then proceeded north again and laid two strings of mines off Bressay in the entrance to Lerwick harbour. Before the mines were discovered and cleared they were to sink SS Parkmill on 10th September and the trawler Asia on 12th September. The SS Margarita was also badly damaged on the 10th but survived. At the time of her loss Asia was escorting a small convoy into the safety of Lerwick harbour under the command of Lieutenant John Duxfield Benjamin when she struck one of Menzel’s mines. Seven of Asia’s crew including Lieutenant Benjamin were to lose their lives in the incident.
The broken wreckage of the trawler Asia lies in position 60° 06.052’N, 001° 07.400’W oriented 140/320 degrees. She lies in 69 metres with a least depth clearance of 63 metres and was positively identified when a local diver recovered the ship’s bell. The bell was donated to Lerwick museum.
We would like to thank Lloyd’s Register Foundation – Heritage & Education Centre for allowing us to reproduce documents from their archive in this article.