Ordered by the Admiralty the steel Castle class armed trawler Robert Bowen was launched form the Beverley yard of Cook, Welton and Gemmell in Beverley(Yard No.390) on 14th March 1918. She measured 125.5′ x 23.6′ x 11.2′ and her tonnage was 290 gross tons, 126 net tons. She was powered by a triple expansion steam engine by Amos and Smith Ltd., Hull delivering 61 registered horse power. With the end of Word War One she was decommissioned and later purchased by the Britannic Trawling Company of London and converted to a fishing vessel. In 1926 she was purchased by Brand and Curzen of London before a further ownership change and transfer of home port when she was purchased by Milford Trawlers Ltd in 1938. In July 1939, only months before the outbreak of Word War Two, she was purchased by J Marr of Fleetwood but before she could begin fishing operations for the Fleetwood company she was requisitioned by the Admiralty only a month later and converted to a minesweeper.
In February 1940 the Robert Bowen was operating in an area off Balmedie with a number of other trawlers including the Fort Royal, aboard the Robert Bowen her skipper Lieutenant J Clark RNR had a crew of fourteen men. On the 9th February, the group of ships were attacked by two German Heinkel He111 bombers. As they swooped and fired, the skipper of the Fort Royal was killed before, on the second run, the Fort Royal was hit by aerial torpedoes and sunk. The planes turned again and this time succeeded in hitting the Robert Bowen close to the bridge area. From the damage observed on the wreck it appears that the Robert Bowen received multiple hits. The ship sank instantly with the loss of her entire crew.
The wreck of the Robert Bowen lies in position 57° 14.085’N, 01° 48.853’W oriented 090/270 degrees. She lies in 62 metres with a least clearance of 57 metres. Explored by Buchan Divers in 2022, they found the wreck of a Castle Class trawler sitting upright on the seabed. The stern section is fairly in tact but forward of the bridge the devastation of the bomb impact is clear to see. The hull is blown outwards and the bow area, almost detached from the remainder of the wreck, lies at an angle. The remains of the gun mount are visible in this area and the gun itself lies on the seabed nearby.
We would like to acknowledge the assistance of Buchan Divers – www.buchandivers.com in the preparation of this article.