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I was SOS on the Overseas Towage & Salvage tug Dexterous when on the morning of 25th July 1947 we left Barry towing the captured German freighter renamed Empire Lark out to sea to scuttle her. The Empire Lark 4949 tons, ID number 1180798 built by Deutsche Werke, yard number 65, Kiel was originally named 'Martha Hemsof' launched 21st May 1921 then in 1926 renamed 'Kersten Miles'. As a U-Boat supply ship she was interned by Spain at Las Palmas in 1939 after the outbreak of WW2. She was surrendered to the British (MOWT) in 1945. Was renamed Empire Lark, managed by Sir R. Ropner & Co; She was loaded with 8000 ton of chemical munitions at Barry docks, then the Dexterous with Movietone and Pathe film crews along with a frigate escort towed her to a position 250 miles off Southern Ireland, 200 miles off Lands End and 165 miles off Brest, position 47º55'N 08º25'W, (the Atlantic Deep) where she was scuttled on 27th July 1947. The Dexterous slipped the tow line, then the navy demolition crew that had remained on board the Empire Lark since the departure from Barry lowered one of the ships lifeboats and moved to a safe distance from the Empire Lark trailing a wire connecting an explosive charge in the Empire Lark's stokehold then to a plunger in the lifeboat. When this was set off it blew the side out of the Empire Lark's stokehold. First she heeled over to starboard, and then settled slowly by the stern. As the stern started going under the surface she began gathering speed. As the mainmast hit the water, it flew to pieces, then the funnel hit the water and with a great puff of soot it too parted company, then the same happened to the foremast and the bows finally disappeared. A small boat from the frigate went over to the Empire Larks lifeboat to pick up the demolition crew who then had to sink the lifeboat. They took to the buoyancy tanks with axes. Well, this operation took longer than the sinking of the Empire Lark before every buoyancy tank had been holed and flooded. There were many more munitions disposed of in this way. What is happening to all of those chemical munitions rusting away on the sea bed?

Eric Bennett
 
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