The Himalaya Project - Evidence

From Mr. G.H. Carter:

“The Himalaya sank on the 5th June 1941, bombed by a Junkers 88 from 500ft at 21.20 hours”
(I would Iike to acknowledge the help of Mr. Carter, who is preparing a history of Portland and who has subsequently given me much information on the area.)

From Mrs D. Monger:

“My husband who was Trinity Pilot at the time she (the Himalaya) sank, could tell you that she lay with her masts above water all the war and was then blown up by the Admiralty salvage people after the war. He thinks the wreck you are interested in is either the Links or the Countess of Erne -they both broke adrift before the war, one drifting through the north ship channel, one going ashore on the breakwater about a cables length to the westward of a pierhead.” (the Links was in fact the Minx, another coal hulk.)

Frorn Mr. D.W. Bray:

“I was working as a temporary signaller with the RN. I was 15 at the time and in the Scout movement. I was signalling from the top of the Northe Fort when the old coal hulk was bombed and sunk. We saw the German planes flying over the oil tanks and saw the bombs dropping. At first we thought they were after the oil tanks. The bombs were delayed action and as far as I can remember there were 6 or 8 bombs, most going in the water. Incidentally on the wireless next day ‘Lord Haw Haw’ claimed that German aircraft had sunk the aircraft carrier Ark Royal in Portland Harbour.”

Condensing the information received, it seemed most likely that the wreck on the breakwater was the Countess of Erne and that the Himalaya had been sunk somewhere in mid harbour, had lain with her masts above water throughout the war, and had finally been blown flat after the war.

Extract from ‘Railway and other Steamers’ by C.L.D. Duckworth & G.E. Langmuir:

Figurehead - Graham BowsherFigurehead - Graham Bowsher“P.S. Countess of Erne built at Dublin in 1868 this steamer had the reputation of being the fastest in the L.N.W. fleet. She was employed on the Dublin route till 1873 when she was transferred to the Greenore station. About 1890 she was reduced to a coalhulkand for many years lay in Portland Roads”.

“Data: Owners Chester & Holyhead Railway Co.; Builders Walpole Webb & Co. Dublin; Type Iron Paddle Steamer; Engine Builders Fawcett Preston & Co.; Length 241.4ft; Beam 29ft; Displacement 14.3ft; Tonnage (gross) 830 tons; Nett H.P. 300.”

I wrote back to everyone who had contacted me, thanking them for their letters. To try and locate the position of the Himalaya I enclosed a photostat copy of Portland Harbour and s.a.e. and asked if they would mark on the chart where they thought the ship had sunk. Also, I tried to encourage them to mark down any other wrecks they might know about. I was beginning to realise that I now had introductions to several interesting people. The result of this approach was not too successful. I got as many different positions as I had charts–only to be expected I suppose.

We did plan a search, however, in what seemed the most likely area. lt was what I choose to call a swastika pattern. Four pairs of divers set off along the cardinal points, each pair going 100 fin strokes turning right 90° doing a further 100 fin strokes, turning right, doing 50 fin strokes and finally one more right turn and 100 fin strokes. lt doesn’t cover the ground very efficiently but I reckoned good enough to find a wreck over 100 yards long. In half an hour 8 divers can cover about 20,000 square yards. We found nothing.

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