The steel steam trawler Cyelse was launched from the Selby yard of Cochrane and Sons Ltd (Yard No 523) on 3rd April 1912. She measured 120.0′ x 21.5′ x 11.8′ and her tonnage was 237 gross tons, 93 net tons. She was powered by a triple expansion steam engine by CD Holmes, Hull delivering 58 net horse power.
She was ordered by Mr D Pettit of Milford Haven and was registered in this port M138. During Word War One she was requisitioned by the Admiralty and served throughout the conflict as minesweeper 975 based in Kirkwall. After the war she was returned to her previous owner and operated for this owner until she was again requisitioned for war duties during World War Two. She again survived these duties, including participation in the support fleet for the Normandy landings in June 1944 where she operated as a fuelling trawler in support of Force G – one of the landing craft groups.
After the war she was purchased by the Mason Trawlers Ltd of Fleetwood who registered her in this port FD67. She survived two grounding incidents off the southern coast of Ireland but her luck was to run out in the Outer Hebrides when fishing there for her Fleetwood owners.
On 12th March 1949 the steam trawler Ben Bhuela was fishing south west of Barra when her engine failed after she developed a leak. Her calls for assistance were answered by the Cyelse and the Barra lifeboat who managed to take her in tow and bring her to Castlebay. The Ben Bhuela was safe but with no power and seven feet of water in her engine room. The two trawlers remained tied together with the Cyelse’s donkey pump being used to keep the other trawler afloat. Early the next morning, as the wind increased to a severe storm, the Cyelse, under the command of skipper John Smith, was struggling to keep the Ben Bhuela off the rocks. Finally the Cyelse herself, still attached by cable to the other fishing vessel, hit by a sudden north west gust, touched the rocks and stuck fast. She was driven stern first onto the rocks leaving her crewmen in a very dangerous situation. Her distress signals were answered by two other trawlers, Flanders and Harry Melling, anchored in the bay but, although they raced to the scene, they were unable to help due to the proximity of jagged rocks and reefs around the Cyelse. In huge swells, with their vessel grinding up and down on the rocks, they managed to launch their boat and rowed to the Ben Bhuela which, although also aground, was in a safer position than the Cyelse. The Barra lifeboat was then able to approach the Ben Bhuela and take off the Cyelse crewmen safely. A few hours later, with the storm still increasing, the Cyelse rolled off the rocks and sank in deep water. The Ben Bhuela was successfully refloated the following day after the storm had passed by the Harry Melling.
The well broken wreckage of the Cyelse lies in the position 56° 56.268’N, 007° 29.519’W. In the 1990’s she was reported lying in 5 metres well broken lying in three major sections. Her boiler was reported to be the largest and most recognisable feature. We have no more recent data on the condition of the wreck but it seems likely that any remains will be further broken and spread across the seabed.
We would like to thank Lloyd’s Register Foundation – Heritage & Education Centre for allowing us to reproduce documents from their archive in this article.