The Belgian combined cargo/passenger vessel Alex van Opstal seen here shortly after delivery to her owners, late 1937.
The Alex van Opstal (5965 grt/3447 nrt/8170 tdw) was launched on July 30th, 1937 by Nakskov Skibsvaerft A/S, Nakskov, yard number 80, and delivered to Compagnie Maritime Belge (Lloyd Royal) S.A., Antwerp in Sept. 1939. Alex van Opstal had also passenger accommodations was driven by Burmeister & Wain 5-cyl. diesel engines, capable of achieving a speed of 15 kn.
The very modern Alex van Opstal did not have a long career as she became one of the earliest victims to U-Boat warfare and the first Belgian ship to be lost in WW 2. In Sept. 1939 the motor vessel was returning from New York to Antwerp with 4410 ts of general cargo in her holds but was was ordered by the British authorities to proceed to Weymouth for inspection when entering the English Channel. En route to Weymouth, on Sept. 15th at 7.40 p.m., she struck a mine, directly under No. 2 hold, 1 mile south of the Shambles Lightship. The mine belonged to a barrage laid by the German U-Boat U-26 on Sept. 10th, 1939. The explosion lifted the vessel 7 ft out of the water and when she fell back, the hull broke in two in front of the bridge and caused her to sink ½ mile east of Weymouth in position 50°32'26''N 2°16'8''W, disabling a submarine detection loop. The master Vital Delgoffe, 48 crew members and 8 passengers were picked up by the Greek steam merchant Atlanticos (5446 grt/1919) and landed at Weymouth. There were no fatalities, but 8 crew members and a passenger were wounded.
Alex van Opstal sunk in 90 ft of water, and lies 65 ft below the surface. To clear the waterway, the wreck had been partly dispersed, but her forward end is still intact with the aft part buried in shifting sands.