The Empire Frank was a screw steam tug launched from the yard of J. Crown & Sons Limited, Sunderland in September 1942 for the Ministry of War Transport. Her steel hull measured 107.8′ x 26.2′ x 12.5’ and tonnage was 268 gross and 2 net. She was powered by a triple expansion steam engine supplied by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson. After the end of WW2 she was put up for sale and purchased by Steel and Bennie in 1946 and renamed Brigadier, working as part of their towage fleet until her loss.
The Brigadier left Greenock in the early hours of the morning on Sunday 19th October, 1960 to assist two Norwegian tankers, the Mosburg and the Norsefoss, into the Shell Refinery terminal at Ardrossan.
As she approached the entrance to Ardrossan Harbour she was engulfed in a sudden and dense snow squall and ran aground on the south tip of Horse Island, tearing her hull on a shallow reef. She immediately began to settle as water rushed in through the gash in her hull. The vessel’s approach had been observed by the Harbour Pilot, Mr Neil McDonald, who guessed she had gone aground before the distress flares confirmed the Brigadier’s predicament. He quickly set off in the pilot boat and picked up the shaken crew, some of whom had to wade through deep water in the engine room to make their escape. He later returned for Captain McKeague who had remained on board to inspect the condition of his vessel. It was initially hoped that the Brigadier could be saved, but due to her location in a narrow fairway, and the severity of the damage to her hull, she was declared a constructive total loss a few months after the accident.
The salvage of the Brigadier was carried out by Metal Industries who broke her up where she lay. The scattered remains of the salvage operation lie in position 55° 38.517’N, 04° 50.543’W.
It is worth noting that Horse Island is a nature reserve managed by the RSPB.