The steel steamship Saint Clement was launched from the Aberdeen yard of Hall Russell and Co Ltd (Yard no 695) on 3rd May 1928. She measured 156.3′ x 25.6′ x 9.8′ and her tonnage was 450 gross tons, 179 net tons. She was powered by a triple expansion steam engine by Hall Russell delivering 68 registered horse power.
Owned by the North of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland Steam Navigation Co Ltd., she was based in Aberdeen and served mainly on the route between Aberdeen to the Northern Isles. On 18th October 1928 she ran aground near Saltwick on Yell but on this occasion was safely refloated, repaired and returned to service.
With the outbreak of World War Two the Saint Clement’s regular voyages along the Scottish east coast became much more dangerous but nonetheless she continued to shuttle back and forth bringing much needed provisions to the citizens of Orkney and Shetland. On 5th April 1941 she was inward bound to Aberdeen from Kirkwall with a general cargo and some livestock she was attacked by a German aircraft off the mouth of River Ythan. She suffered a direct hit which killed the chief engineer Gordon Cruickshank and fatally damaged the ship. The remaining eleven crew members escaped in the ship’s boats before the Saint Clement sank in a position reported as five miles off Ythanmouth.
The wreck in position 57° 16.901’N, 001° 51.858’W was dived by Buchan Divers in 2010 who found a steel steamship sitting upright with severe damage to the port bow consistent with a hit from a German bomb. The configuration of the wreck and the location (the other wrecks in the vicinity have been positively identified leaving this wreck as the only one still to be confirmed) strongly suggest this is the Saint Clement although nothing has been found, as yet, to positively identify her. She lies in 55 metres rising 5 metres from the seabed, in tact with heavy damage to the port bow area.
We would like to acknowledge the assistance of Buchan Divers – www.buchandivers.com in the preparation of this article.
We would also like to thank Lloyd’s Register Foundation – Heritage & Education Centre for allowing us to reproduce documents from their archive in this article.