The SS Express: A Century-Old Mystery Resolved Off Orkney

The SS Express: A Century-Old Mystery Resolved Off Orkney

Divers locate the wreck of the SS Express, bringing closure to the Orkney community over a tragic event from 1918.

SS Express sank off Orkney in 1918 under circumstances which has been a topic of debate for over a century

A team of British divers have identified the wreck of the SS Express, a ship that sank off Orkney in 1918, resulting in the loss of 13 lives. The vessel, which had been a vital lifeline connecting Orkney to mainland Scotland, met its unfortunate end following a collision with another ship, the HMS Grenville.

The SS Express was more than just a cargo vessel; it symbolised a connection, employment, and sustenance for the people of Orkney. The loss was deeply felt, especially since most of those who perished were local men, with the exception of two Royal Navy personnel serving as gunners.

Sense of closure

Will Schwarz, the expedition leader, expressed the team's elation at the discovery, stating they were "absolutely bouncing" with joy. Their meticulous planning bore fruit on the second day of their expedition, 10 miles southeast of Copinsay. Schwarz highlighted the significance of the find, noting its poignant nature, as it offers the local community a sense of closure regarding the fate of their ancestors.

Rick Ayrton, one of the divers, captured striking images of the wreck. He remarked on the exceptional water clarity north of Scapa Flow, which, combined with modern torches, allowed for the retrieval of vivid images of these long-lost ships.

The circumstances surrounding the SS Express's sinking have been a topic of debate for over a century. Investigations revealed that the two vessels struggled to spot each other on that fateful night. The HMS Grenville, a Royal Navy destroyer, was travelling without lights when it collided with the Express. The aftermath saw legal action by the SS Express's owners, but the court ruled the collision unavoidable.

The discovery of the SS Express serves as a poignant reminder of the past, bridging the gap between history and the present, and offering solace to the descendants of those lost.