ARMISTICE 100: The ship sunk off the Northumberland coast the day before war ended

The last ship to be sunk during the First World War went down off the north Northumberland coast just 24 hours before peace broke out.

Thursday, 8th November 2018, 12:07 pm
Updated Thursday, 8th November 2018, 12:28 pm
The Farne Islands. Picture by Jane Coltman

HMS Ascot, a Racecourse-class minesweeper of the Royal Navy, was torpedoed by UB-67 off the Farne Islands on November 10, 1918 - the day before Armistice was signed.

Fifty-three men lost their lives.

HMS Ascot

She was at sea around six or seven miles off Seahouses, when she was spotted by a German Submarine UB67 patrolling in the area, commanded by Oberleutnant Zur See Hellmuth Von Doemming and a torpedo was fired.

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The Keeper on the Lonsgtone Lighthouse heard the explosion, and reported that he thought a vessel had struck a mine, and requested lifeboats to launch. The Seahouses (then known as North Sunderland) and Holy Island Lifeboats were launched. A steam tug also responded. However, despite their best efforts in searching the location, no survivors were found.

One crew member of HMS Ascot was Able Seaman John Matthew Postlethwaite of Liverpool. His memorial can be found at Plymouth Naval Memorial.

His descendants, Paul King and family, visited Seahouses in late May 2016, to make a donation in memory of Mr King's late wife Dorothy, and mentioned the Ascot story, althoughtheir information was very scant and incomplete.

The RNLI was able to research far deeper, and located the RNLI Service Return at Seahouses Lifeboat Station. It provided them with a photocopy and other documentation that we had discovered from non-RNLI sources. Further research on the internet revealed the story as now known.

The family have expressed a wish to mark the centenary of the loss of the crew of HMS Ascot, including A/S Postlethwaite.The family hope to go to the wreck site aboard a local passenger vessel at approximately 2.30pm on Saturday to carry out a short service of remembrance on the centenary of the sinking, and spread some flowers.

A local member of the clergy will be present and The Last Post will be played on a cornet. Seahouses Lifeboat will also be at the site, to also spread some flowers, because of the RNLI involvement at the sinking.