Constructed by Charles Rennoldson & Son at South Shields, the Castle Class steam trawler John Bullock was built to the order of the Admiralty and launched in September 1917. She had a three cylinder steam engine, single screw propulsion and dimension of 125.3’ x 23.2’ x 12.6’. She was purchased by Belgian owners in 1921 and registered at Ostend under a new name, Filiep Coenen. In 1939 she was sold again, this time returning to UK ownership in Hull with another name change to Flying Admiral (H66). Following another change of ownership in 1945 her name changed to Benghazi and she moved her base in 1947 to Fleetwood but retained the name Benghazi until her loss later that year.
Shipwrecks are often surrounded by stories of great heroism and selflessness. The wreck of the Fleetwood trawler Benghazi on the small island of Fladda in the Sound of Luing is perhaps not a tale heroism in the true sense, but still the efforts of second engineer Charles Bevin saved twelve of his shipmates and, in the end, cost him his life.
The Benghazi had been fishing near Iceland and was homeward bound for Fleetwood when she was caught in a strong north westerly gale in the Firth of Lorne. She had called at Oban for coal and provisions after a gruelling seven day trip from Iceland and left on the last leg of her trip just after midnight on 23rd April, 1947. Ten miles south of Oban the gale struck and, in blinding rain the trawler ran onto a rock called Bogha Nuadh and heeled over until the sea was rushing in through the wheelhouse windows. The panic stricken crew quickly launched the ship’s boat and were about to push off when they found that the boat’s bung was missing and that it was rapidly filling with water. Charles Bevin stuck his hand in the hole and succeeded in stemming the flow of the freezing water into their craft and called to the his colleagues to jump in before the trawler sank. Twelve of the crew joined him in the boat with four men, including the skipper John Anderton, the bosun and the mate staying aboard the grounded trawler. The men in the boat drifted at the mercy of the tide for two hours before they finally were washed ashore on Luing. Most of them were only half dressed and by the time they reached the shore they were freezing. They had no idea where they were and huddling together for warmth they waited for daylight but for unfortunate hero, Charles Bevin, this was too much and he died of exposure before morning, despite the desperate efforts of his shipmates to keep him alive.
Meanwhile aboard the Benghazi the four remaining men were alarmed to feel their damaged ship floating off the rock and drifting off into the night, now at the mercy of the fierce tides in the Sound of Luing. They sent out a radio SOS, which was answered by the Campbeltown and Tobermory lifeboats, but, as help sped to the scene, she ran aground again on Fladda, a small rocky island in the middle of the Sound of Luing, just beneath the lighthouse. The four men aboard spent a terrifying night as she bumped and rolled on the rocks fearing that she was in danger of sinking at any moment. Some time during the night Frank Duncan, the remaining ordinary seaman aboard, disappeared and was never seen again. In the early morning the three remaining crewmen succeeded in getting onto the island and waited for rescue. When the lifeboat finally arrived, at first it was too rough for her to get close enough to take the three men off but eventually she managed to get them off the barren rock and away to safety.
At first they were very confident that the Benghazi would be re-floated and a salvage tug was dispatched to the scene to pull her off the rocks. Before this was accomplished, on the 26th April three days after the wrecking, she slipped off the reef and sank. Her starboard side was till visible above water at low tide and it was still hoped that she might be raised but she became a total wreck.
The Wreck Today
The wreck of the Benghazi lies on the west side of Fladda below the wall of the lighthouse.She lies 20 metres from the shore in position 56° 14.947′ N, 005° 41.005′ W (GPS) on a sloping slate and shingle seabed in 6 – 12 metres of water. The highest part of the wreck reaches to within a few metres of the surface making the wreckage still fairly substantial.
Benghazi Dive slideshow
The central area around the engine room appears to have been salvaged but their are still large pieces of wreckage to be seen, including the boiler and the bow section which is intact, lying on its port side, facing west away from the lighthouse.The wreck is covered in a dense carpet of kelp for most months of the year.