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So far we have found four wrecks within one mile south of the lighthouse. We are trying to identify them when we have time, but having no knowledge of boats or ships, our observations are purely from an uninformed layman's point of view, so please feel free to let us know where we go wrong.

Many thanks.

Wreck A is only a small jumble of mangled iron, not actually identifiable to us as a boat of any kind.

Wreck B was only visible as the outline of a boat formed by the tops of the ribs protruding from the sand. That was until September 2003 when the tides removed a lot of sand and exposed a lot more of the wreck. It is an impressive iron boat 69 paces long (approx 200 feet) showing a twin wall construction and several bulkheads. There is what appears to be a jumble of iron pipes rather medusa-like in the centre of the ship, and what looks like lots of iron balls fused together into one solid mass. More detail to follow when we identify what these things are. Next to the ship is what looks like a small lifeboat adjacent to the wreck, but as it is also of iron construction, I wouldn't have thought it could be a lifeboat. Any ideas?

Here's an email from Roger Mathison regarding wreck B. Many thanks for the feedback Roger.
Your photos of wreck B look consistent with HMS Erne which was 'wrecked at Rattray Head' 6/2/1915 in an easterly gale with no loss of life - she went aground and was abandoned with back broken.

The photos show what was clearly a steel ship with very fine 'lines' forward ie: built for speed, not cargo use & your size ties in nicely with the Erne - she was 68mts long & had beam of 7mts. The Erne was a fairly old ship when wrecked (built 1903 as a Type 'E' Palmer Class Destroyer) and was probably stripped of armament, engines etc where she lay. The 'lifeboat' looks to be remains of a donkey boiler. Photo 7 shows what looks to be curved base of a scotch boiler - presumably she would have had four originally.

Here is an extract from "The Fairlies of Rattray Head" by John H Bruce.
"It was during the First World War that the 'Torpedo Boat' ran ashore, the Rattray folk called it that name. It's lying about half a mile South of the lighthouse very close in. I have seen the top of her great steam engine and boiler, and occasionally her outline, depending on the tide. It must have been quite a boat of size. H.M.S. Earn was her name. A man called Alex Baird from Peterhead bought her for scrap but didn't make a penny off it as he had no idea how to salvage her."

Wreck C also looks much like wreck B did before the tidal excavation. Not much else to say at the moment.

Wreck D is something rather special. It is huge! A tearoom visitor identified it as the Excelsior of Laurwig, a 462grt Norwegian barque built in 1869. She was carrying a cargo of phosphate rock when she ran aground between Scotstown Head and Rattray Head on 22nd November 1881. 13 crew were saved. You can see Val in some photos for scale. Photo 12 shows a hole through the iron and wood double wall hull, and 13 shows the hull in better detail. Photo 15 is tilted to show the angle of the decking relative to the beach.

Here are some wreck details found while researching the internet. I have simply copied details from those sites and have included their website addresses as a credit to those sites and for those of you interested in further research.

HMS Erne. 6th February 1915. This River class destroyer, of 550 tons, built by Palmers and launched on 14th January 1903 was wrecked when she ran aground on Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire, Scotland in bad weather. There was, however, no loss of life and the wreck was later broken up in situ.

Section 5. E class, ex-Rivers, 32 ships, 6 lost - 550-590t, 4-12pdr/2-18in tt, launched 1903-05. Built as Hawthorn Leslie, Laird, Palmer, Thorneycroft, White. Yarrow, "Rivers". In 1912, all grouped as "E" class
ERNE, 6th February 1915, Scottish North Sea coast, on Rattray Head, NE Aberdeenshire (c 57.40’N, 01.50’W) - aground and wrecked. A severe easterly gale drove "Erne" (and two other vessels) ashore in this area; reportedly there was no loss of life from her approximate crew of 70

INQUIRY AT ABERDEEN [Excerpt from the Banffshire Journal, January 28, 1896]
"Yesterday, before Sheriff Brown and a Jury in the Aberdeen Sheriff Court, under the Fatal Accidents Inquiry (Scotland) Act, 1895, an Inquiry was held in regard to the deaths of ... Marshall Geddie, seaman, Banff ... [crew] of the ill-fated schooner 'Swift' of Banff, which was lost at Scotston Head, near Peterhead, on Wednesday, 15th instant, while on a voyage from Banff to Leith with a cargo of grain. The 'Swift' belonged to Messrs Wm. Geddie & Son, lately shipbuilders at Banff Harbour... There was also lost by the sinking of the ship Alexander Geddie, ship carpenter, brother of the seaman Marshall Geddie and son of the owner... The first witness called was John Geddie (38), ship carpenter, Banff, brother of two of the deceased, and son of the owner... William Guy, coastguard officer at Rattray Head, testified, 'A heavy squall of snow came on. The vessel was in the midst of the snowstorm, and during that time the men furled the topsail. I saw the men through a glass. The vessel, when the snowstorm cleared away, was close to Rattray Briggs and inside the buoy, being rather dangerously near the shore. She cleared Rattray Briggs, and, hugging the land, continued in that way until within two miles of Scotston Head, the tide being half-ebb or quarter-ebb, setting the ship in towards the bay. When within two miles of Scotston Head, the vessel's head was out to sea, making a fair wind, and after being on that course for about four minutes, her head came round to starboard, facing the rock. I summoned the Life-Saving Apparatus Company, and during the time I had, left with the rocket party. I went to the scene of the wreck and attempted to communicate with the ship by rocket, but could not, the distance being too great. I then sent a man to summon the lifeboat. When the ship struck, the exact time, as I noted it, was as near as possible four o'clock. I saw no appearance of any one on board when she struck or afterwards. The two seas which struck her after she grounded were sufficient to sweep off the crew, and no man could ever have lived under them....' [It was found the crewmen] 'had been drowned...off the coast of Aberdeenshire in a gale of great severity' ... The case lasted for little over an hour."
[Article courtesy Dorothy Geddie, Edinburgh.]

At Rattray Head the steamship Baron Minto was lost in Strathbeg Bay in 1940. Rattray Briggs has more rocky gulleys and inlets with sandy basins and kelp forests.

1865 Dec 24 Wilhelmina of Neisdum, 1 saved Dutch schooner with a cargo of linseed stranded on the east side of Rattray Head
1872 Nov 21 Cyrene of Sunderland, assisted 353t barque built 1867 with a cargo of rails and coal, wrecked at Rattray Head
1881 Nov 22 Excelsior of Laurwig, 13 saved 462grt Norwegian barque built 1869, with a cargo of phosphate rock, ran aground between Scotstown and Rattray Heads
1914 Oct 29 Blankan of Oscarhaven and a shore boat, 21 saved 1471grt Swedish steamer Blanka built Newcastle 1889, Umea to Hull with deals, battens and boards, ran aground 2 miles north of Rattray Head in NE gale at 3.00am
1916 Oct 28 Kiev of Odessa, 74 saved 5566grt steamship Kiev built in 1896 by J & G Thomson of Glasgow for Russian owners. She stranded on Rattray Briggs while en route from Archangel to Leith with a general cargo. Of the 69 crew and 22 passengers, 8 lives were lost.
1926 Mar 13 Bragi of Stettin, stood by vessel 850grt Hamburg-registered steamship Bragi ran aground 150 yds north of Rattray lighthouse, en route from Methil to the Faroes with a cargo of coal and coke. The lifeboat was unable to approach the vessel because of the breaking waves, and the crew were taken off by LSA.
1939 Jul 13 Ocean Harvest of Great Yarmouth, 10 saved 95grt steam drifter built 1913, ran aground at Rattray Head
1939 Oct 30 Cairnmona of Newcastle, 42 saved 4666grt steamship built 1918 by Sunderland S.B.Co., she was torpedoed 3 miles east of Rattray Head by the U-13 whilst en route from Montreal and Halifax to Leith and Newcastle with a general cargo, including wheat, zinc and copper ingots. Three of the crew were lost, but 42 were rescued by the Aberdeen trawler River Lossie and the Peterhead lifeboat
1940 Sep 26 Port Dennison of London, landed 8, rescued 2 8043grt steamer from London to Aukland with general cargo, torpedoed and machine-gunned by Luftwaffe off Rattray Head, 16 of her crew were lost
1940 Sep 30 Lisbon, Simonburn, Baron Minto, Patio (93 saved as follows)
Lisbon: 1984grt Ellerman steamer built 1920, en route from Lisbon to London with general cargo, driven ashore at Rattray Head.
Patia: 5355grt Liverpool steamer aground at Rattray Head.
Baron Minto: 4637grt Ardrossan steamer built in 1937, en route from Texas to Hull with a cargo of scrap, she was driven ashore at Strathbeg Bay.
Simonburn: 5213 grt steamer built 1925, from Montreal to London with wheat, driven ashore at Rattray, then drifted off and sank four miles off Rattray Head.

Guido (1) Built: 1913 Service: 1915 torpedoed and sunk off Rattray Head. 2,093 tons
Thurso (2) Built: 1909 Service: 1916 shelled and sunk by U-Boat off Rattray Head. 1,244 tons

UNION 1866
The UNION was a 2,800 gross ton ship, length 325ft x beam 40ft, clipper stem, one funnel, two masts (rigged for sail), iron construction, single screw and a speed of 11 knots. There was accommodation for 60-1st, 120-2nd and 700-3rd class passengers. Built by Caird & Co, Greenock, she was launched on 27th Oct.1866 for North German Lloyd of Bremen. Her maiden voyage started on 13th Jan.1867 when she sailed from Bremen for Southampton and New York. On 28th Nov.1870 she was wrecked on Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire with no loss of life. [North Atlantic Seaway by N.R.P.Bonsor, vol.2,p.545]

1870. November 30th A large Prussian steamer with emigrants on Rattray, about 450 passengers and crew brought to Peterhead.
The Franco-Prussian War began in the summer of 1870 and during the months that followed floods of emigrants left war-torn Europe for North America.
The SS Union of Breman was heading north through what was then The German Ocean when a storm forced her onto the shores of Rattray Head, just north of Peterhead. The passengers and crew were brought to Peterhead where they stayed for ten days before being taken aboard The Hansa, to continue their voyage to New York. Through the years hundreds of ships and boats had been wrecked on the Buchan coast, with nowhere to run should the weather break, the busy sea traffic of the day was at the mercy of the elements. The incident involving the SS Union was one of the many that persuaded the Government that a Harbour of Refuge should be built at Peterhead's South Bay and that a lighthouse should be erected to help ships keep clear of the dangerous rocks and shallows around Rattray Head.

SS Union

SS Union, Norddeutscher Lloyd line. Years of service 1867-1870. 2800 tons, 330x40 ft., 1 funnel, 2 masts, iron hull, speed 11 knots. Sister ship to Hansa, America, Hermann, Deutschland, Wesser.. SS Union was wrecked near Peterhead on Nov. 28, 1870. (Ref; Gibbs, Passenger Liners of the Western Ocean) [Posted to The ShipsList by Paul Petersen - 23 November 1997]
The "Union" was built by Caird & Co, Greenock in 1866 for Norddeutscher Lloyd [North German Lloyd] of Bremen. She was a 2,800 gross ton ship, length 325ft x beam 40ft, clipper stem, one funnel, two masts, iron construction, single screw and a speed of 11 knots. There was accommodation for 60-1st, 120-2nd and 700-3rd class passengers. Launched on 27/10/1866, she sailed from Bremen on her maiden voyage to Southampton and New York on 13/1/1867. On 28/11/1870 she was wrecked on Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire, Scotland with no loss of life. [North Atlantic Seaway by N.R.P.Bonsor, vol.2, p.545] [Posted to The ShipsList by Ted Finch - 24 November 1997]

War Wensum, Coaster, engine amidships, 1381 tons, Length 271ft, Beam 38.1ft, Builder: Caledon SB & Engineering Co. Ltd, Dundee. Completed: June 1919 as DUNDEE, Dundee, Perth & London Shipping Co;
1933 ALCORA, Mossgiel SS Co (J.Bruce & Co), Glasgow; 30.10.1940 ashore near Rattray Head, total loss.

Year 1940.August the 26th.Off Rattray Head. German torpedoe bombers attacked and sank the cargo liner REMUERA, 11,445 gross tons, belonging to the New Zealand Shipping Co., bound from New Zealand to London with a refrigerated cargo.

Also attacked and sunk, just off Rattray Head, was the cargo ship, Cape York, 5,025 gr tons belonging to the Lyle Shipping Co., bound from
Vancouver to Hull with grain and timber. Both crews were rescued.

Wreck A
Photo Album
Click to see the Wreck A photo album.

Wreck B
Photo Album
Click to see the Wreck B photo album.

Wreck C
Photo Album
Click to see the Wreck C photo album.

Wreck D
Photo Album
Click to see the Wreck D photo album.


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Rob & Val Keeble, Lighthouse Cottages, Rattray Head, Rattray, Peterhead, Aberdeenshire. AB42 3HA
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