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You are in: Wear > History > Local History > The sinking of a Sunderland steamship.

Wreck of the T.R.Thompson

Wreck of the T.R.Thompson

The sinking of a Sunderland steamship.

Built in 1897 by Short Brothers of Sunderland, the T.R Thompson came to grief ten miles off the Sussex coast, a victim of U-Boat 57. With BBC help, a descendent of one of the crew who perished has been traced.

It was Good Friday, 1918.

At ten to four in the early morning of 29 March the SS T.R. Thompson was torpedoed by a German U-boat, ten miles out into the English Channel.

She sank so quickly that 33 of her 36 crew were killed. It's said the three survivors could remember only an enormous explosion and then finding themselves in the water.


The steamship T.R.Thompson

They were rescued by a trawler which had been nearby and had heard the explosion.

The steamship had been taking a cargo of iron ore from Algeria to Middlesbrough when she was torpedoed by UB-57, a u-boat responsible for a great number of sinkings along the south coast during the World War I.

Search for relatives

The wreck's position has been known since the 1980s and, four years ago, it was adopted by Meridian Divers who've been exploring the site and searching for descendents of the crew.

Their project was featured on BBC Radio Newcastle and BBC Look North and they were contacted by Norman Jack from Sunderland.

Railing of the wreck of the T.R.Thompson

Railing of the wreck of the T.R.Thompson

Mr Jack, who's 76, knew that his great uncle's son, Leslie Jack, died on board, but had no idea there were divers at the wreck until he heard the news on the BBC.

Tad Taberer, from Meridian Divers, says: "When we set up the project to look into the T.R. Thompson and find out about its history, one of the main objectives was to find relatives of somebody who actually went down and this has been amazing to actually have somebody contact us. It's the first one we've managed to find.

"Mr Jack has got lots of information which we haven't got so he's going to be sending us that and ultimately what we want to do is... bring him back down to the south coast and take him out in the boat to the wreck site."

Visiting a watery grave

Mr Jack was keen to sail out into the English Channel to pay his respects.

The wreck's winch

The wreck's winch.

"Tad did mention it when I first spoke to him and he said he would like us to go down and they would take me out to the wreck and, I don't know, and throw a bunch of flowers or whatever.

Mr Jack has now visited the wreck site to lay a wreath.

He says: "I think of my own father and he would have loved that as a recognition, a funeral, a memorial, whichever way you put it.

"We've all contributed something in life. They contributed and gave their lives for their contribution. That's a bit special. That's a bit extra."

See Look North's video by clicking on the link below.

Stern of the wreck of the T.R.Thompson

Stern of the wreck

The story of the Jack family goes further than the T.R. Thompson though. Leslie's father, Andrew - Norman Jack's Great Uncle - also died at sea.

Andrew was on the George Royal when it went down in 1915. He'd been transferred when his own ship had been shelled and damaged in Hartlepool and couldn't sail.

Mr Jack says: "Initially it was a bit exciting, you know, the family things we'd been looking into, family tree etcetera. And then it was a bit emotional when you start to look at dates. Leslie was drowned, then, at 17. His father had been drowned three years earlier in another shipping incident and his mother died three years later in 1921 and it was a whole tragedy...that for 70 years I didn't know about."

Mr Jack and Tad Taberer are both interested to find out the origins of the T.R. Thompson's name. If you have any clues, do send them to

last updated: 25/07/2008 at 17:46
created: 15/04/2008

You are in: Wear > History > Local History > The sinking of a Sunderland steamship.

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