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HER Number:MDV71237
Name:SS Persier Steamer, wrecked off Bigbury Bay


SS Persier, torpedoed in 1945, on the way to take food to the liberated people of Belgium.


Grid Reference:SX 58 44
Map Sheet:SX54SE
Admin AreaDevon
Ecclesiastical ParishOFFSHORE

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX64SW/131
  • Pastscape: 832194
  • Tide Project: 28/09/2020

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • WRECK (World War I - 1918 AD to 1918 AD (Throughout))

Full description

04/06/1992, Western Morning News (Article in Serial). SDV363859.

Liberty ship lying in 30m in Bigbury Bay

Larn, R., 1974, Devon Shipwrecks (Monograph). SDV741.

Built 1918 as War Buffalo, a WW1 standard b class ship of 5030 tons. Sold 1919 to Belgian maritime company, who renamed her Persier. Selected to be sunk as a block-ship in 1943 - all usable fittings removed and 6 foot holes cut in all bulkheads. Following a change in orders she was resealed, refitted, loaded with food and sailed for Belgium in February 1945, and torpedoed at Eddystone. Malfunction caused engines to continue running during disastrous evacuation, and she steamed towards shore, slowly sinking, until foundering in Bigbury Bay. Located in 1970, lying on her side with a 4" gun mounted on stern and 2 machine guns on bridge. A bell was recovered.

2001-2020, The Wreck Site Online Database (Website). SDV363841.

SS Persier was a 5,382 ton Belgian steamer, formerly called War Buffalo and built 1918. She was 400ftx52ft. with a 517hp triple-expansion engines. Armed with 4.7in gun on stern, two 20mm Oerlikons amidships. She carried a cargo of powdered egg, tinned meat, baby food and soap for starving Belgians and was on route from Cardiff for Antwerp. She was sunk on the 11th February, 1945, by torpedo from German submarine UB-1017.20 crew lost. Didn´t sink immediately, and propeller cut two packed lifeboats in half. Defensively armed merchant ship; Torpedoed near Eddystone; Engines restarted themselves.

Mcdonald, K., 2004, A Diver's Guide to the Shipwrecks of Bigbury Bay (Website). SDV321278.

Persier, torpedoed in February 1945, on the way to take food to the liberated people of Belgium. This 5382-ton Belgian steamer was four miles from the Eddystone in storm-force winds when torpedoed. Lies on the port side, with the central section collapsed inwards. Three boilers are clear, and the bronze propeller and guns have been salvaged.

National Monument Record, 2014, Pastscape (Website). SDV355682.

Completed after World War One, this steamship was re-named Persier in 1919 and had an uneventful career until 28.02.1941 when she went ashore in Iceland, was refloated, placed on the Kleppsvik Strand where she broke her back. Refloated 06.1942 she was towed to the Tyne and repaired. She left Cardiff on her last voyage on 08.02 taking food and supplies to the Belgium. There were 63 people on board, her crew, plus convoy No. BTC-65's senior officer, Commodore Wood, three of his signalmen, seven DEM's Gunners and survivors of the Leoroldville, the latter being repatriated after losing their ship in December 1944. Off the Eddystone, a submarine 's periscope was sighted, then the Persier was hit on the port side opposite No.2 hold by a torpedo, fired by the German submarine UB-1017 (Oberleutnant Riecken). In abandoning ship, everything went wrong, two lifeboats going through her propellor, since they were unable to stop her engine. She steamed abandoned till she sank.

She lies in 28 metres on her port side and very broken amidships, all her three guns have now been salvaged.

2020, Persier: Plymouth Sound Divers (Website). SDV363860.

The Belgian steamer Persier (originally built in 1918 as the War Buffalo) came to grief on 11 February 1945. The vessel was 3nm from the Eddystone, travelling as part of a convoy, when a torpedo struck her on the port side. The Persier did not sink immediately and, when she was last seen, sinking by the bow, the propeller was turning. Her route to her resting place in Bigbury Bay, some 10nm away is a mystery but the vessel eventually grounded on the reef in about 27m depth.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV321278Website: Mcdonald, K.. 2004. A Diver's Guide to the Shipwrecks of Bigbury Bay. http://www.divernetxtra.com. Printout + Digital.
SDV355682Website: National Monument Record. 2014. Pastscape. http://www.pastscape.org.uk. Website.
SDV363841Website: 2001-2020. The Wreck Site Online Database. https://wrecksite.eu/wreck. Digital.
SDV363860Website: 2020. Persier: Plymouth Sound Divers. https://www.plymouthdivers.org.uk/persier/.
SDV741Monograph: Larn, R.. 1974. Devon Shipwrecks. Devon Shipwrecks. Digital + hardback.

Associated Monuments: none recorded

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Sep 29 2020 11:09AM