When we were first shown the HALF WRECK at SATAYA EL BARA, we found inside the engine room a plate with R.C. CRAGGS embossed and a works number would if fact prove to be something of a red herring in her identification., but without this knowledge to hand we set about looking for the missing section of the ship; the other half in fact. We were to search in vain…the bow lies in deep water somewhere to the north.

Initial research from the makers plate pointed to the ATLAS, which had been built by Craggs, and although this ship was reported to have been torpedoed off the Yemen.

Further initial research into the ATLAS listed her as a British built, 4000ton 345 ft long steam tanker, under Greek registration at the time of her sinking, the ATLAS. Built in 1909 by R C CRAGGS, Smiths Dock, Middlesborough, she was torpedoed on Sept 6th 1940. by the Italian submarine Guglielmotti off the Yemen. The ensuing explosion broke the ships back and as she settled by the bow she broke in two. With war materials at a premium a daring salvage attempt was made and the stern section made watertight and the long journey to north to Alexandria began. Massawa was still in the hands of the Italians, from where their submarines could still pose a limited threat, made less potent by the poor line of supply and the lack of will of the Italians to engage in a fight.

The salvage operation was directed by non other than Jim Devellyn a naval salvage operator during the Second World War, who have successful salvaged the bow section of the Inverlane, another tanker, IN 1939. I had interviewed Jim as he lived locally and had also been involved in salving many north east England wrecks. His notes and diaries were to be a great help in filling in some of the missing questions about the Atlas.

The two tugs which Jim described as “liberated rusting tubs” were christened Hercules and Golliath.”. (Hercules was eventually to find here back in north eastern waters where she ended up sinking off the Tyne), and it would seem they were borrowed or as Jim put it “requisitioned for the greater good of the war effort.” Where they came from Jim would never elaborate, but I suspect that tale would make a great story!

Jim went on to recall that the project went well until in Jims works “they reached RAS BANAS” .At this point the prevailing winds whipped up the sea from the north and the ungainly hull was caught a –beam of the waves the towage was broken and the stern section foundered and sank.

With these two pieces of evidence to hand it seemed that we had identified the “half wreck”. However several new pieces of evidence came to hand. Firstly, after Jims death I was given an insight into more details of the salvage. Jims diary stated that the foundering took place “AS THEY NEARED RAS BANAS.” Then, while exploring the “half wreck” we found another manufacturers plate this one was inscribed “JOHN DICKINSON LTD, SUNDERLAND” 1912 and inscribed with a yard number.

After many years of searching, tracing lost records and the invaluable help of the TYNE/WEAR ARCHIVES and the GUILDHALL LIBRARY the “half wreck” has now been positively identified as the SS TURBO.

What remains of the ATLAS now is a section of pipebridge, some plating and small pieces of hull lying in 4-6mtrs in a sandy bay within the Ras Banas headland.. Salvage and a build up of sand over the years have reduced the wreckage

to something of a snorkelling scrapyard.

The diaries of Jim Develyn who was involved in many salvage opperations during the second worls war(Inverlane. Oslofjord, Atlas) have revealed a fascinatining insight into the attemped recovery of the Atlas.A full story will appear soon.


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