SS Empire Heritage and the Sherman tanks of Malin Head

  • SS Empire Heritage sank by the German sub U-482 on 8th September 1944
  • Wreck lies 15 miles northwest of Malin Head, Donegal
  • Was carrying Sherman tanks for the Allied war effort

SS Empire Heritage, built 1930 by Armstrong Whitworth & Co. Ltd. in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, started life as Tafelberg, a 15,000-ton steam tanker and was used in South Africa as whale factory ship until January 1941 when it was hit by a mine. A year later, the wreckage was refloated and the ship salvaged. She was repaired, re-purposed and renamed Empire Heritage by the Ministry of War Transport (MoWT) and returned to service in February 1943. An unintentional casualty of war in her first life, she would fall foul of a more pointed and specific attack in her second incarnation.

tafel

The South African Tafelberg Before being requisitioned for the war

In early September 1944 she was en route from New York to Liverpool carrying a heavy cargo of war supplies including Sherman tanks, half-tracks and trucks.

By 8th September, she was 15 miles northwest of Malin Head and it was here her journey would end. She was torpedoed by the German sub U-482; two torpedoes struck and she went down fast with her cargo and a loss of 113 lives.  An escort ship, Pinto, attempted to rescue the survivors but was also hit and sank in the same attack.

Survivors from both ships were picked up and rescued by HMS Northern Wave and taken ashore at Derry.

ss empire

Diver explores the cargo of the SS Empire heritage

The SS Empire and her cargo lay silently beneath the waves until 1995 when she was rediscovered by divers. The tanks and trucks are still visible scattered on the seabed next to the wreck. Undisturbed for decades these untouched instruments of war look eerie in their watery graveyard, a chilling reminder of a world at war.

Image Barry McGill

Sherman tanks litter the seabed (Image Barry McGill)

The wreck is 70 metres down and regarded as one of Europe’s best dives sites. The pictures of the lost wreck and her cargo are spectacular.

ss empire

70 years underwater in 70 metres of water

About the Author

Daniel Farrell
Interested in all things on the Irish coast and sharing the best of it. // Email: Daniel@coastmonkey.ie // Follow on Twitter: @DanielsSeaViews

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