Launched from the yard of Scott’s Shipbuilding Co Ltd, Greenock on 10th January 1928 the Royal Archer measured 290.5′ x 41.2′ x 18.0′ and weighed 2266 gross tons, 1167 net tons. Her triple expansion steam engine by Scott’s delivered 329 nhp. She was owned by the London and Edinburgh Shipping Company of Leith.
Her fate was sealed months before she finally sank when the German U-boat U-21 slipped into the protected waters of the Forth on 4th November, 1939 and laid her mines in the middle of the narrow seaway leading into the ports of Methil, Leith and Rosyth. This was a risky and brave mission by the U-boat’s highly decorated commander Kapitanleutnant Fritz Frauenheim penetrating deep into one of the Royal Navy’s most important and best protected anchorages. It was particularly risky as only three weeks prior to the mission another German U-boat had penetrated the defences at Scapa Flow and sunk HMS Royal Oak. This had prompted the dispersal of the British Fleet to other anchorages, including the Forth, while the defences of Scapa were improved. The British Navy and port defences of the country were on highest alert in case other German submarines tried the same kind of bold attack but Frauenheim managed to slip in undetected and lay his mines before heading back into the North Sea to safety.
More than three months later convoy FN100 left Southend on 21st February bound for the Firth of Forth. The Royal Archer was part of this small unescorted fleet and was carrying a cargo of 630 tons of general goods for Leith under the command of Charles Piper with a crew of 26 men. The convoy safely reached the Forth and was dispersed on 23rd February west of May Island. The Royal Archer was heading for Leith and was now only a few miles from the end of its voyage when the ship was rocked by a huge explosion as she hit one of the mines laid three months earlier. Thankfully no-one was seriously injured by the blast but the ship was doomed. The men escaped in the ship’s boats and then watched their ship slipped beneath the surface. They were picked up by HMS Weston and taken to Rosyth.
The wreck of the Royal Archer, which was dispersed with explosives and salvaged in the 1970s, lies in position 56° 06.450’N, 003° 00.083’W (WGS84). The wreck is well broken and spread over a wide area in 24 metres. The stern section is reported as the most in tact.