Built just one year before the outbreak of World War One by Alexander Hall & Co Ltd., Aberdeen (Yard No.493) for the Don Fishing Company of Aberdeen and launched on 13th November 1913 the steel steam trawler Pitstruan was quickly requisitioned by the Admiralty for use as a minesweeper. She measured 115.3′ x 22.1′ x 12.0′ and weighed 206 gross tons, 78 net tons.
In the early hours of the morning of 13th April 1917 she left Longhope on escort service to the Shields registered steam trawler James Pitcher which was planning to fish in the area of Noss Head. Having safely delivered the James Pitcher to the area Pitstruan, under the command of her skipper Ronald Digby RNR with a crew of ten men including the Royal Navy representative Lieutenant White, began to patrol the area. The sea off the headland of Noss was a popular site for German mine laying U-boats lying as it does close to the shipping lane from the Scottish east coast into Scapa Flow. Indeed, on that very same day the German submarine UC-76 had laid two strings of six and three mines in that very area – Barrage 63 & 63a.
As Pitstruan approached the area close to Noss Head the skipper Digby spotted another trawler close by which appeared to be shooting at something. At first he believed the other vessel was firing at a U-boat and he steamed towards her to join in the attack. The other vessel then signalled that they had discovered mines and were shooting at them to destroy them. Digby and Pitstruan then began to search for further mines with a view to destroying them. They quickly spotted two mines floating nearby and quickly dispatched the first of them with a couple of rifle shots. As they manoeuvred to shoot the second floating mine there was a huge explosion. Pitstruan had collided amidships with another unseen mine. The vessel was almost completely destroyed in an instant. One crewman, trimmer James Marr, who was standing close to the bow when she struck the mine, was lucky to survive jumping into the water as the ship sank beneath him. Lieutenant White also escaped by clinging to some floating wreckage. Skipper Digby survived the initial explosion and, along with Marr and White, was picked up from the water by a local drifter called Lapwing but he died before they could reach shore. The remaining members of the crew were killed and lost with only four bodies being recovered from the sea.
The wreck of the Pitstruan lies in position 58° 27. 894’N, 002° 59.578’W and is very broken due to the severity of the explosion which sank her. She lies in 51 metres rising 4 metres from the seabed and is oriented 110°/290°. Her boiler is visible and the single deck gun that had been fitted for her wartime duties. The bow is relatively in tact but midships and forward is a tangle of broken twisted metal.