Built by Lithgows Limited of Port Glasgow (Yard No.869) and launched in August 1934 the Loch Maddy was a steel screw steamship of 4996 gross tons and measured 414.6′ x 56.2′ x 25.5’.
Like many of her contemporaries the Glasgow steamship Loch Maddy was requisitioned for war service in 1939 running the gauntlet of the North Atlantic U-boat packs to bring much needed supplies to Britain and her allies. It was on this service that she joined convoy HX19 which left Halifax Nova Scotia on 7th February 1940. The Loch Maddy was commanded by William James Park who had a crew of 38 men on board. The ship was loaded with a general cargo including wheat, timber and a few aeroplanes packed in crates. She joined a convoy of 45 merchant ships plus 7 escort ships heading east, the Loch Maddy herself was destined for Leith. The convoy was under the command of Vice Admiral Mackinnon CB CVO, on board the SS Magician.
The voyage went well until they reached the west coast of Scotland when the Loch Maddy began to fall behind the rest of the ships. It was too dangerous for the other ships to assist so they steamed on through the Pentland Firth. This was the opportunity the prowling German U-boats had been waiting for. At 18.09 hours on 21st February 1940, the Loch Maddy was hit by a torpedo from U-57 (Kapitantleutnant Claud Korth) amidships. Four of the crew were killed on impact but the remainder managed to abandon ship in the lifeboats. The master and 34 crew members were picked up by the British destroyer HMS Diana (Lieutenant Commander E.G. Le Geyt) and were later landed at Scapa Flow.
The Loch Maddy did not immediately sink, at 01.07 hours on 22nd February, the drifting ship was hit by a coup de grace from U-23 (Kapitanleutnant Otto Kretschmer) and broke in two 20 miles 070° from Copinsay, Orkneys. The bow section sank, but the stern section was taken in tow by the British rescue tug HMS St Mellons (Lieutenant H. King) and beached in Inganess Bay, Orkney. The cargo was salved and the vessel declared a total loss.
The Wreck Today
The wreckage believed to be the bow section of the Loch Maddy was revealed in a survey in 1986 but it was not until the early 2000’s that this wreckage was suggested to be the Loch Maddy. She lies in position 59° 44.239′ N, 002° 40.710′ W (WGS84), in depths of around 71 metres. The wreckage points generally to the north west, oriented 150°/330°, is approximately 75 metres long and rises 8 metres from the seabed.