The steamship Russ was launched from the yard of Sir Raylton Dixon and Company in Middlesbrough on 17th April 1897. She was 314.7′ x 43.0′ x 20.5′ and 2492 gross tons and 1525 net tons. Her engines by North East Marine Engineering of Newcastle delivered 249 nhp. Built for the the Danish-Russian Steamship Company she served for many years on Baltic Sea routes before she was purchased by her final owners, Angfartyg A/B Kjell of Kalmar in 1920 and renamed Fram and registered in Stockholm.
Another successful career evolved but by the time Word War Two broke out she was an old slow ship with a maximum speed of nine knots. However, the requirements of the war meant that she was pressed into service shuttling back and forth across the North Sea with supplies for the allied forces in Scandanavia prior to the German invasion of Norway.
In late January 1940 the Fram set out on a voyage from Stockholm to Hartlepool with her holds filled with ballast stones. She battled across the North Sea in a heavy south easterly gale taking almost three days to reach the Scottish coast near Fraserburgh and so, with no sign of the weather abating, her captain decided to head along the Moray coastline to Aberdour Bay where she anchored to sit out the gale in the relatively sheltered waters off
the small village of Rosehearty.
Meanwhile the small German coastal submarine U-13 had also reached the same area to shelter from the same storm. She had been on patrol in the Moray Firth and had recently arrived in the bay after successfully sinking the Norwegian steamship Start only a few days earlier some fifty miles or so north west of their current position. Her skipper, Kapitanleutnant Max-Martin Schulte, could hardly believe his luck as his lookout spotted the Fram anchored directly ahead of the U-boat. Just after midnight on 1st February the U-boat crew were called to action stations and the submarine began manoeuvring to get the best shot at the stationary ship. At 00:43 the torpedo was fired and a few minutes later smashed in to the side of the Fram midships.
The night sky was illuminated by the huge explosion as the old steamship was torn apart, almost immediately splitting in two where the torpedo hit. The bridge and central accommodation areas were devastated and many of the ship’s boats were also destroyed. Except for the men on watch, the crew had been asleep in their berths and by the time the men not killed in the initial explosion reached the deck the ship has split completely in two pieces which were now drifting apart and filling rapidly. The bow section remained in position held steady by the anchor chains but the stern section immediately began to drift with the prevailing wind out to sea. It floated for another 30 minutes before sinking one and a half miles from the original mooring position. The men aboard both sections scrambled aboard the liferafts that remained and were then also swept out to sea by the same offshore winds. Luckily, later the following day, the raft from the bow section, which had seven men aboard, was spotted by the Aberdeen trawler Viking Deeps some eight miles out to sea from the position the ship went down and the trawler took off the wet frozen crewmen who had been on the raft for nearly twelve hours. Unfortunately two of the men had succumbed to the cold before they were rescued. Remarkably, a further day later, the raft from the stern section was also located and a further ten crewmen picked up by another trawler. Ten of the crew of the Fram including her captain were lost in the attack.
The wreckage of the stern section of the Fram which was discovered and identified in 1976 lies four miles off the village of Pennan in position 57°42.733’N, 002°13.465’W (WGS 84) in a general depth of 45 metres, oriented 160°/340°. The wreck, which rises 8 metres from the seabed, lies on its starboard side with the portion of the wreck nearest the stern most in tact. Forward of her raised sterncastle the wreck is well broken although many features are still recognisable. The bow section of the Fram, which was not located until the summer of 1994, lies in position 57 42.097’N, 002°10.584’W (WGS84) in a general depth of 37 metres oriented 000°/360°. The wreck is well broken but the forecastle is still partially intact and the stem, which rises 6 metres from the seabed, is still very visible. The boilers lie on the seabed nearby amid a scattered field of miscellaneous wreckage.