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DUNBAR CASTLE sunken

DUNBAR CASTLE sunken

The British twin-screw passenger motor vessel DUNBAR CASTLE sunken up to the boat deck on Goodwin Sands in 1940.

The Dunbar Castle (10,002 GRT / 5985 NET) was launched on 31 Oct 1929 by Harland & Wolffs Govan Shipyard, Scotland, hull-number 851, and taken over by Union Castle Mail SS Co., Ltd., London on 20 May 1930. Dunbar Castle was powered by two 6-cylinder B & W diesel engines with 6300 bHP, allowing for a service speed of 14½ kn.

Between 1930 and 1939 she travelled on her usual route between London and Capetown, shipping passengers and mail. After the outbreak of World war II on 1 Sept 1939 she remained on that route, but travelled in coastal convoys on the first leg between London and Western Approaches. In early 1940 the Dunbar Castle became the first war loss of Union Castle Line after she struck a destroyer-laid mine north east of Goodwin Sands while en route from London to Beira, Portuguese East Africa.

Dunbar Castle was part of convoy OA-69 and had 48 passengers aboard and 4400 ts of general cargo, incl. automatic scales, spoons, gin and herring. On 9 Jan 1940, two miles north east of Goodwin Sands the Dunbar Castle, the largest vessel in the convoy, struck a magnetic mine, that exploded directly beneath the bridge. She began listing and the forward mast crashed on the bridge. The master Henry A. Causton, 8 crew members and 1 passenger died by the mine explosion but the Chief Officer, Henry H. Robinson, took over command and got everyone away without further loss of life, the boats being picked up a short time afterwards by the minesweeper HMS CALVI. In all, 141 crew members and 47 passengers survived. They were transferred to a nearby costal motor barge which landed the survivors at Ramsgate. For his actions in getting the boats away and maintaining order during the ordeal Chief Officer Robinson was awarded the Order of the British Empire in March 1940. The empty lifeboats were taken by HMS Calvi to Dover where they were sold for £14.

The Dunbar Castle foundered 30 minutes after the detonation on even keel, 7 miles north east of Ramsgate, in position 51.23N 01.34E, depth 55 ft, her bridge and the upper deck awash. The mine was part of a barrage laid by 6 German destroyers of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla in the night of 6/7 Jan 1940 off the Thames Mouth. Besides Dunbar Castle the barrage claimed the destroyer HMS GRENVILLE, three steamers with a total of 11,358 GRT, the Dutch motor vessel TRUIDA (176 GRT / 1928) and the motor trawler ETA (81 GRT) sunk between 7 and 19 January. Dunbar Castle's wreck was demolished during the war and the remains dispersed by explosives in 1959 to a depth of 10 ft above the seabed to clear the waterway.
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Maritime Casualties & Breaking Yards
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