Built for the Orders and Hanford Steam Shipping Company Ltd. of Newport, SS Muriel was launched on the 1st September 1898 by the Grangemouth Dockyard Co Ltd, Grangemouth. She measured 267.4′ x 40.1′ x 18.2′ and weighed 1831 gross tons, 1144 net tons. She was powered by a 185 net horse power triple expansions steam engine constructed by Hutson and Sons Ltd. of Glasgow.
In 1916 Orders and Hanford were bought over by John Cory and Sons of Cardiff owners of the British Steam Shipping Company. Pressed into war service early in World War One, the Muriel was fitted with a defensive stern-mounted 12 pound gun and continued her coastal trade round Britain despite the ever present dangers of the German U-boat fleet. As the war drew to a close it appeared that she had survived the dangers of the conflict but, in September 1918, her luck was to run out.
At 11:20am on 17th September she was en route from the Tyne to Scapa Flow under the command of Captain T G Smith with a crew of twenty three men with a full cargo of coal when she was torpedoed by UC-58 off Peterhead. UC-58 was one of the German’s most successful U-boats with twenty eight previous victims. Muriel was to be her last as the war drew to a close. Her commander, Kapitanleutnant Kurt Schwartz, was a highly decorated sub-mariner holding the Iron Cross 1st class. He gave no warning as he fired but thankfully the Muriel, despite the severe damage caused by the explosion which rendered both lifeboats useless, stayed afloat long enough for the crew to be rescued, taken off by a patrol vessel which was nearby before she sank only twelve minutes after the torpedo hit.
The wreck of the Muriel was charted by the Hyrdographic Department for many years in the wrong position before Buchan Divers discovered the true identity of the wreck at 57°32.102’N, 001°44.220’W when they recovered the Grangemouth Dockyard maker’s plate from the wreck in 1999. The wreck is now correctly charted in 46 metres and lies oriented 155/325 degrees. The stern and mid section of the wreck are almost totally in tact with the stern-mounted gun and the engine the most prominent features. Forward to the engine room the wreck is almost totally destroyed. The effects of the impact of the single torpedo that sank her in 1918.
We would like to acknowledge the assistance of Buchan Divers – www.buchandivers.com in the preparation of this article.