Built for the East Anglia Steam Fishing Co Ltd, Grimsby the steel steam trawler Northumbria was launched from the Beverley yard of Cook, Welton and Gemmell on 23 June 1906. She measured 115.5′ x 19.8′ x 9.9′ and weighed 211 gross tons, 76 net tons.
She was powered by a triple expansion steam engine by C D Holmes delivering 60 net horse power. She operated successfully for her Grimsby owners until the outbreak of World War One in 1914 when she was requisitioned by the Royal Navy for Minesweeping duties as FY 623, her armament was a single 12pdr deck gun.
On 3 March 1917 she spent the day sweeping the approaches to Dundee and the River Tay with a number of other trawler minesweepers. Meanwhile, that same day the German U-boat UC-29, under the command of Oberleutnant Ernst Rosenow, was approaching the Firth of Forth intent on laying their mines in the busy seaway in and out of Rosyth and Leith. After successfully sinking trawlers Herbert Ingram and Redcap, 70 miles off the Northumbrian coast, Rosenow steered a course for May Island and succeeded in laying a string of mines close to the north tip of May Island before turning and heading back out to sea at the end of his patrol.
Only a few hours later the small fleet of trawler minesweepers returned from the Tay estuary and were lying off May Island awaiting orders for their next duty. The Northumbria was drifting gently with engines stopped with Hull registered trawler Cave only 150 yards away. The crew of Northumbria were relaxing in their quarters towards the stern of the vessel when she was suddenly rocked by a huge explosion. The drifting vessel had collided with one of Rosenow’s mines and was fatally damaged. Luckily the explosion occurred at the bow of the trawler and all twelve crewmen survived the initial explosion and leapt into the sea as the Northumbria was sinking fast. Within three minutes she plunged beneath the surface leaving her crew struggling in the sea. The Cave and another trawler, Othonna, reached the men as quickly as they could despite the obvious danger. In fact the skipper of Cave later reported he saw a second mine drifting past as he reached the area. The trawlers scoured the area in the darkness with Othonna successfully picked up five crewmen and a third trawler, Delphinus, picking up two more. All the survivors were then transferred to Cave which took them ashore. Five unfortunate crewmen lost their lives.
The wreck of the Northumbria lies in position 56° 12.237 N, 002° 34.641 W off the north tip of May Island lying in 35 metres of water oriented 09°/270°. The wreckage rises only 2 metres from the seabed and is well broken and scattered. The ship’s boiler is the largest piece of visible, recognisable wreckage.