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Scuba Diving Norway, Europe

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Dive Site: M.S. Hamburg

Location: Lofoten, Norway, Europe

Description: German fish factory ship

Depth: 7 - 25 metres (23 - 82 feet)

Visibility: 15 metres (50 feet)

Rating: ***

The M.S. Hamburg was a German fish factory ship used for transporting fish oil and glycerine (used in the construction of munitions) during the Second World War. On March 1st 1941 a Special Services Battalion designated No.3 and No.4 Commando and lead by Lt Colonel Durnford-Slater and Lt Colonel Lister respectively left the Faroe Islands for the Norwegian coast. Comprising some 500 British Special Forces Commandos and 50 Norwegian Sailors the fleet had originally left Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands in February under the command of Brigadier Haydon. Preparations complete, HMS Queen Emma, Princess Beatrix and a naval escort of 5 British Destroyers arrived for the first raid on the Lofoten Islands Operation Claymore on March 4th 1941. The Germans were taken completely by surprise assuming no one would attempt a raid in such foul weather conditions and within hours German officers and soldiers were rounded up. 11 factories (800,000 gallons of herring oil) and 5 ships were systematically destroyed (including the M.S. Hamburg which was sunk by one of the British destroyers whilst she was moored in the harbour). Also recovered from the trawler Krebs were a set of rotors for a German Enigma coding machine which we dispatched to Bletchley Park where they aided greatly in code breaking. In total 225 Germans & 60 collaborators were taken prisoner and 314 Norwegian volunteers were given passage to UK based Norwegian forces. There was not a single British loss and the destruction of key German glycerine producing factories and ships gave a great boost to the Commandos morale and indeed the UK.

The wreck of the M.S. Hamburg now lies on her starboard side in 25 metres of water in the harbour. The port side of the wreckage starts as shallow as 7 metres towards the bow (depending on the tide) and the wreck is very well preserved. We dived here at night - well 3.30pm, although it was pitch black - and although the short journey out in the RIB was extremely rough, once in the harbour surface conditions were calm and there was no current on the wreck. There were several shot lines on the wreck and we descended down the port bow line and dropped to the seafloor on the keel side of the wreck. First exploring the keel there were vivid pinks and oranges clearly illuminated by our torches. Small starfish, anemones, urchins and hermit crabs littered the hull. Heading deck side many of the features of this wreck are intact; hatches are open inviting penetration onto the empty holds. Winches, superstructure, masts and the bridge are all in place and all with a bright pink coating of sea life, although some of rear section has been cut away. Slowly ascending we made our way back along the top (port) of the vessel whilst peering into open portholes. The visibility was excellent although we were told it can suffer due to the location within the harbour.

Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Diver

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