The steel steam tanker Desabla was launched form the Hebburn yard of Hawthorn Leslie on 16th September 1913 for her owners, the Bank Line of Glasgow. She measured 420.3′ x 54.6′ x 32.4′ and her tonnage was 6047 gross tons, 3788 net tons. She was powered by a triple expansion steam engine by Hawthorn Leslie delivering 536 net horse power. After her launch her fit out and testing was completed by November 1913 and she entered service for her owners. In the few months before t he outbreak of World War One she was based on the west coast of America steaming back and forward between Chile, California and Vancouver and had one voyage through the Panama Canal to Rio de Janeiro. With the increasing ferocity of the war she was requisitioned by the Admiralty as Oiler No 63 to bring much needed supplies to support the British war effort.
It was in this capacity that, in late May 1914, she was loaded with a cargo of linseed oil and other goods in Port Arthur Texas bound for Hull. Her captain, Fred Cowley, had a crew of thirty five men, predominantly from Hong Kong, with a few British men in the senior positions aboard. The Transatlantic voyage passed without incident and by 13th June she had passed through the Pentland Firth and turned south down the Scottish east coast. At 7:20am that morning the crew spotted a German U-boat approaching to their rear. The captain tried to take avoiding action steaming at full speed and zig-zagging as best he could be it was to no avail. The faster and more manoeuvrable submarine soon gained on them and began to shell the tanker from it’s bow mounted gun. The U-boat was U-17 commanded by Kapitanleutnant Hans Walther. Earlier that day he had sunk the sailing vessel Cocos off Tod Head. Desabla was to become his second victim of the day.
The wreck of the Desabla lies in position 56 39.220 N, 001 25.634 W oriented 140/320 degrees. She sits in 61 metres with a least clearance of 49 metres. The wreck is well broken at front and rear but still sits high above the seabed.