Built for Det Dansk-Franske Dmpsk of Esberg and launched on 26th October 1912 the Bretagne was powered by an 116 nhp triple expansion steam engine by her makers Bergen Mek Vaerks. She measured 224.0′ x 36.1′ x 8.1′ and was 1110 gross tons. Two years after she was handed over to her Danish owners the outbreak of World War One brought a conflict the Bretagne was not to survive to return to peacetime service.
In April 1917 the Bretagne joined a convoy heading from North Shields to her home port of Copenhagen. She was under the command of Captain Vilandt and was heavily loaded with a cargo of coal. As she steamed north on the 17th April without warning a torpedo trail sped across the bow of the ship narrowly missing her. The crew were relieved at their escape but their joy was quickly extinguished when they spotted a U-boat surfacing off their starboard stern. Captain Vilandt ordered full speed ahead in an attempt to outrun the U-boat but it was useless. The submarine was UC-45 under the command of Kapitanleutnant Hubert Aust. Aust was not about to let his prey escape. He immediately began shelling the Bretagne forcing her to come to a halt. In line with the more gentlemanly approach to warfare in the early years of the first war Aust allowed the crew of the Bretagne to take to her lifeboats before he fired a second torpedo, this time hitting the Bretagne midships, sinking her within minutes. UC-45 then sank beneath the surface a disappeared. The crew of the Bretagne were picked up safely by British ships and taken to Peterhead and Aberdeen without casualty or further incident.
The Wreck Today
The wreck of the Bretagne lies in position 57°41.493’N, 01°43.365’W oriented 130°/310°. She lies in 61 metres and is well degraded although the midships section with the engine still stands 5 metres proud of the seabed. Elsewhere the wreckage is almost flat with the deck and hull plates lying alongside the keel plates and keel itself. Although nothing has been recovered to specifically identify the Bretagne local divers are convinced the identification is correct based on the position and size of the ship which closely match the wreckage observed.