Built in 1939 and launched on 25th January 1940 by the Rowhedge Ironworks at Colchester, the motor vessel Ben Hann was a small coastal tanker owned by the National Benzole Company. She was one of six similar tankers built for the company by Rowhedge and her dimensions were 127.7’x24.2’x10.2’, with a gross tonnage of 298 tons.
There is very little information recorded about the circumstances of her loss. In fact her exact location was only confirmed in 2012 with the discovery of the makers plate on the wreck, up to this date the story can be simply told as follows. On the 10th November 1941 she left Fort William en-route to Bowling where it is believed she was to undergo repairs. The vessel was under the command of James Eynon – Master, and a total of ten crew were on board. It is believed the Ben Hann was sighted sometime on the 11th November, off Kintyre, but nothing else was reported until two life belts and a life raft were found ashore on Islay, five miles east of Port Ellen a few days later. Searches were made over the following days but no trace of the vessel could be found. Bodies of five of her crew later washed ashore and were buried at Islay, Berneray, Cardiff and Drumtemple. The five crew unaccounted for are listed on the Merchant Seaman memorial at Tower Hill, London, a photograph is included on this page.
The Wreck Today
The wreck of the Ben Hann lies in 61-62 metres on a flat mud and shell seabed in position 55°30.298’N 005°51.412’W. She lies 045/225° with her stern to the north. The hull rises no more than 2-3 metres above seabed level and what is left of the engine room casing perhaps another 2.5 metres.Most of the superstructure has fallen over the side or onto the fore deck. There are holes in the side of the engine room and aft accommodation where plates have fallen away and you can see into the heart of the ship.
Ben Hann slideshow
The fore deck area is around 60 metres deep and is thought to be made up of six tanks, each with its own access hatch and ladder disappearing into the gloom.The high foc’sle has fallen onto the seabed all-round so fore deck is flush from forward engine room bulkhead to stem post. Debris litters the fore deck including the main mast. There are a number of square frames with diagonal bracing lying on the fore deck, and from reviewing pictures of one of her sister ships, the Ben Henshaw, these would appear to be supports for an elevated walkway that would have linked the bridge and the foc’sle. The aft deck on the Ben Hann has a small rectangular housing over the engine room, but little else of the bridge remains other than an outline of its base on the deck.
We believe there is a reason for the wreck being so badly degraded, and is the result of depth charges fired by Royal Navy vessels against what was thought to be a U-Boat in 1944. The wreck in this position was for a long time thought to be the German U-Boat U482 as recorded for sometime in the Royal Navy Hydrographic archive. Infact there were suggestions that two wrecks were located close by, the second, a WWII rescue tug, the Englishman. In recent years divers have visited the single wreck and confirmed it is not the U482, which is now recorded as lost with all hands west of Shetland, nor the wreck of a tug. In 2012 a diver recovered a makers plate from the wreck which recorded the builder as the Rowhedge Ironworks in Colchester and the yard number of 585. The name of the wreck was soon confirmed and the location of the Ben Hann has given relatives of the five missing crew the peace of mind as to the final location of their long lost relatives.