The steel steamship Sabbia was launched from the yard of Clyde Shipbuilding and Engineering Co Ltd., Port Glasgow (Yard No.280) on 30 June 1908 for Navgazione Libera-Triestina SA, Trieste, Italy. She measured 315.3′ x 46.5′ x 13.7′ and her tonnage was 2752 gross tons, 1737 net tons. She was powered by a triple expansion steam engine delivering 269 net horse power also built by Clyde Shipbuilding. The vessels official number was 136774.
At the start of World War One in August 1914 Sabbia was visiting the Tyne, and with the declaration of war, despite Italy’s declared neutrality at this point, she was detained by the British Admiralty and eventually requisitioned for use by the British merchant fleet operated by the shipping company Everett and Newbiggin.
On 20th April 1916 she departed from Burntisland in the Firth of Forth bound for London with a cargo of coal. Three weeks earlier the German UE-1 class U-boat U-74 commanded by Kapitanluetnant Erwin Weisbach had been operating in the area laying a barrage of mines south east of May Island on 31st March 1916. These mines were to sink the Sabbia. She hit one of U-74’s mines only hours after leaving port. Thankfully, although the vessel was to sink, the crew managed to escape safely in the ship’s boats before she went down. Ironically U-74 was to be sunk only a few miles from the location of the attack when she suffered a mine handling accident and was lost with all her crew off Dunbar on only weeks later on 17th May 1916.
The wreckage of the Sabbia lies in position 56° 03.555’N, 002° 17.080’W oriented 160/340 degrees spread over a wide area with the bow section towards 160 degrees. She lies in 52 metres with a least clearance charted at 41 metres. The bow section is well flattened. One of her huge boilers is visible midships and the stern section is most in tact with holds clearly visible.
We would like to thank Lloyd’s Register Foundation – Heritage & Education Centre for allowing us to reproduce documents from their archive in this article.