Saturday, 20 February 2010


It was the tenth of August 1918 and the sea was calm but the fog was pea soup. The S.S. Bretagne was creeping along past Hopes Nose. She was bound for Rouen carrying 2000 tons of Welsh coal. Suddenly from out of the fog came the bow of a French steamer which cut into the Bretagne and very soon she was foundering and the water was lapping over her deck. The noise of the collision had been heard by the crew of the Torbay Boom Defence Vessel which found the Bretagne and took off all hands except the Skipper, the First Mate and Dick Pym. Dick Pym from Torquay was a Navy gunner who was attached to the Bretagne. He, in 1972, was to be reunited with his twelve pounder gun after it was raised by the Bristol Aerospace Sub-Aqua Club who towed it to the door of his house. After fifty four years he is quoted as saying: "I never thought I'd see that bugger again."

The First Mate, Mr Watterson, was below when a wave slammed the door shut behind him. He was trapped and he sank with the ship. He was the only one to die. The Skipper and Dick Pym stepped onto a lifeboat just as the ship went down.

Very soon the name of the vessel was forgotten and the wreck was known locally as the Teignmouth Coal Boat. It was believed, there had after all been a war on, that she had met with a mine. The Navy removed the superstructure so that she would not be a hazard to shipping and for fifty odd years she was left in peace.

But not altogether! See this blog next Wednesday.

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