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Historic England Research Records

Simon Bolivar

Hob Uid: 908117
Location :
Grid Ref : TM4867719603
Summary : Remains of 1939 wreck of Dutch liner which capsized and foundered 13 miles due east of Frinton-on-Sea after being mined, positively identified with an unbroken chain of recording going back to November 1939, with sufficient confidence in the position to undertake her dispersal in 1959. Her location is close north of the present location of the Trinity buoy as at November 2016. Constructed of steel in 1927, she was a steam-driven vessel.
More information : Wreck Site and Archaeological Remains:

Method of Fix: 10 (1)
Horizontal Datum: OSGB (1)
Vertical Datum: LAT (1)(3)
Quality of Depth: Swept by wire (1)(3)

Wreck charted at time of record compilation in 1992 in position 51 49.150N 001 36.525E (OSGB), (1) Position recorded as 51 49.186N 001 36.518E, then as 51 49.177N 001 36.441E (WGS 84). (3)(4)

Seen to be located approximately 13 nautical miles due east of Frinton-on-Sea, and located close north of the present-day Trinity Buoy, as at November 2016. (4)

28-NOV-1939: Notice to mariners issued, later cancelled. (3)(4)

16-APR-1940: Charted as non-dangerous wreck. (3)(4)

07-SEP-1959: Dispersed to 45ft. (1)(3)(4)

15-FEB-1961: Wire drift sweep. Clear 41ft, foul 42ft. Least
echosounder depth 50ft, in general depth 60ft. Scour 62ft. Wreck
extends in pieces 600ft. Orientated 071/251 degrees. (1)(3)(4)

19-OCT-1967: Seabed very uneven in area. Wreck not found. (1)(3)(4)

14-AUG-1973: Position 51 49 09N, 001 36 32E. Thorough search by echosounder revealed no definite wreck contact. It appears to have been engulfed by sandwaves. (1)(3)(4)

12-JUN-1974: Conspicuous wreckage, seen on trace, when searched for with side scan sonar. No definite wreck contact on echosounder. Wreckage appears covered by sandwaves. Least depth of wreckage 15.2m in 17.8m. Large sand ridge with only 13.6m over it runs parallel to line of wreckage, about 270m to SW. (1)(3)(4)

05-APR-1976: Located. Very broken up. (1)(3)(4)

01-AUG-1978: Examined. Wreck completely broken up. Only slight
evidence of foul area on side scan sonar trace in 51 49 08N, 001 36 38E. Least depth over sand peak in area - 15m in general depth 18m. Lies on fringe of area of sandwaves. (1)(3)(4)

25-MAR-1980: Examined in 51 49 08.8N, 001 36 32.7E. Least echosounder depth 14.3m in general depth 17.5m. No scour. Side scan sonar height 3m, length 350ft, beam 50ft, lying 045/225
degrees in sandwave area. (1)(3)(4)

11-JAN-1982: Shown as wreck 13.9m in 51 49 09.0N, 001 36 33.5E. (1)(3)(4)

16-SEP-1982: Examined in 51 49 09N, 001 36 34E. Swept clear at
12.1m, foul at 12.5m. Least echosounder depth 13.6m in general depth 16m. No scour. Lies in several parts, the main orientated 045/225 degrees, in a sandbank and partially buried. Full extent of wreckage hard to judge but sandbank appears to be 80m long x 20m wide. Gives poor sonar return. Wire sweep carried out with ships at wide spacing and so some sagging of sweep wire may have occurred. (1)(3)(4)

27-SEP-1983: Examined in 51 49 09N, 001 36 32E. Swept clear at
13.1, foul at 13.3m. Least echosounder depth 13.6m In general depth 17-18m. Poor side scan sonar contact. Close sounding shows wreckage extending E/W for 120m. (1)(3)(4)

31-AUG-1987: Examined in 51 49 09N, 001 36 34E. Least echosounder depth 13.8m in general depth 17.5m. No scour. An area of sonar contacts - some 140 x 50m - which give no sonar shadow. Magnetometer indicates iron content of 160 to 310 tons. Wreckage aligned 070/250 degrees. (1)(3)(4)

13-JUL-1990: Examined 51 49 09N, 001 36 32E. Least echosounder depth 13.7m in general depth 17.5m. No scour. Area of broken-up wreckage, approximately 80 x 30m orientated 020/200 degrees, lying in rippled sand. Large magnetic anomaly. (1)(3)(4)

13-SEP-1991: Examined in 51 49 09.2N, 001 36 31.5E. Swept clear at 15.4m, foul at 15.7m. Least echosounder depth 15.6m in general depth 17m. Large dispersed contact, lying 030/210 degrees, which has formed its own shoal patch where sand has built up around it. (1)(3)(4)

01-SEP-1993: Located in 51 49 09.7N 001 36 32.6E. Least echosounder depth 15.7m in general depth 18m. (3)(4)

14-APR-1997: Examined in 51 49 08.8N 001 36 32E. Swept clear 13.5m, foul 13.8m. Least echosounder depth 15.1m in general depth 17.5m. No scour. DCS3 height 1m. Broken wreckage covering 70m x 20m. Lying 045/225 degrees. Entirely buried by sediment. Large magnetic anomaly. (3)(4)

11-SEP-2001: Examined in 51 49.181N 00136.419E (WGS 84). Swept clear 15.4m, foul 15.7m. Least echosounder depth 15.4m in general depth 17m. No scour. Length 75m, width 20m. Moderate magnetic anomaly. Almost entirely buried. All that remains is a debris field. Lies on the eastern edge of a sandwave, above which the wreck stands less than half a metre proud. (3)(4)

28-JUL-2005: Examined in 51 49.177N 001 36.446E. Least multibeam depth 15.11m in general depth 17.5m. No scour. Length 50m, width 40m, height 2.4m. Lies 080/260 degrees. Strong magnetic anomaly. Partially buried wreckage. (3)(4)

20-AUG-2006: Located in 51 49.186N 001 36.5177E. Least multibeam depth 14.24m in general depth 18m. No scour. Length 160m, width 30m, height 3.8m. Lies 072/252 degrees. Wreck seems to be split into two sections with the W half charted and E half not. Shoalest sounding of 14.24m lies on the E part. (3)(4)

04-AUG-2009: Examined in 51 49.188N 001 36.518E. Least multibeam depth 15.60m in general depth 16.6m. No scour. Length 120m, width 16m, height 1m. Lies 080/260 degrees. Appears to be well broken with two sections either side of a sandwave. Shoalest depth on sandwave which crosses the wreck is 14.82m. (3)(4)

14-NOV-2010: Least multibeam depth 15.58m in 51 49.181N 001 36.439E on SW side of contact. Controlling depth 15.03m on sandwave between the two debris fields. Length 97m, width 16m, height 1.2 to 1.4m. Lies 080/260 degrees. (3)(4)

14-OCT-2012: Located in 51 49.177N 001 36.441E. Least multibeam depth 15.85m in general depth 17m. No scour. Length 40m, width 22m, height 1.6m. Lies 070/250 degrees. No magnetic anomaly. Lies 94 m west of listed position. (3)(4)

04-FEB-2014: Examined in 51 49.187N 001 36.518E. Least multibeam depth 15.29m in general depth 17m. Scour 1.3m deep, height 1.4m. Large magnetic anomaly, scattered debris. (3)(4)

07-JAN-2016: Wreck examined in 51 49.177N 001 36.441E. Least multibeam depth 15.5m, covered by sandwave. (3)(4)

Wreck Event and Documentary Evidence:

Primary Sources:


'The Dutch liner SIMON BOLIVAR (8.309 tons), outward-bound from Holland to the WEst Indies, with about 400 people on board, including many women and children, struck a German mine in the North Sea on Saturday and sank. The provisional casualty list is:-

Known Dead: 1 British, 7 others, Total 8
Missing: 32 British, 98 others, Total 130
Survivors: 48 British, 214 others, Total 262

'The 262 survivors, of whom 140 were members of the crew, were landed on Saturday night at Harwich. Many were badly injured. Some were removed to local hospitals and the others who were able to travel were brought by train to London, where a number received treatment at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, while others who were uninjured were accommodated in hotels.

'A provisional list of survivors issued by the owners' London agents last night states that of the 82 passengers who went from London to Holland to embark 50 have been accounted for, including one who is dead. The list gives the names of 182 survivors who are now in London, 14 who are at Colchester, 17 who are at Dovercourt, and 49 at Harwich, a total of 262. In addition to the 48 British survivors, there are about 150 Dutch and a number of Germans, Spaniards, Norwegians, Swiss and a Columbian.

'Bodies landed at Harwich included those of three men, three women, a girl, and a boy. One was identified as that of Mr H S Batt.

'An official statement from the Admiralty read: -

"The mining of the Dutch passenger ship SIMON BOLIVAR off the East Coast of England is a further example of the utter disregard of international law and the dictates of humanity shown by the present German Government. The mines were laid without any notification in the channel followed by merchant shipping both British and neutral, and there is no doubt that they were laid for the specific purpose of destroying such shipping."


'Some survivors expressed the view that the liner had been torpedoed. In official circles in London yesterday it was stated that there was no doubt that the vessel had been struck by a German mine. There are no British mines in the vicinity where the vessel was struck. It is hardly common sense to imagine that a maritime nation should illegally lay mines in channels extensively used by its own shipping . . .


'It appears that the sudden explosion lifted the bows of the ship out of the water, and she began to sink immediately. Destroyers and other vessels were soon on the scene. Captain H Voorspuiy, the master of the liner, was killed on the bridge. The chief officer was rescued.

'Boats were lowered on the starboard side. An attempt was made to lower the boats on the port side, but the ship had canted and there was some difficulty doing so. There was a second violent explosion some little time after the first, and shortly afterwards the ship capsized. Officers of the ship stated that the vessel was struck on the port and starboard sides, which suggested that the damage was caused by mines. It was believed that the mines had been put down overnight.' (7), p6


'The survivors of the sunk Dutch liner SIMON BOLIVAR who arrived in London on Saturday included a number of children and babies in arms. Of 107 survivors taken to St. Bartholomew's Hospital 91 were discharged yesterday. Arrangements were made yesterday by the Netherlands Legation, in conjunction with the owners of the SIMON BOLIVAR, for the transfer of survivors from hospital and from the hotel to which they were originally taken to various hotels in London.

'According to one of the survivors, there was a haze at the time, and no ships could be seen. Within 20 minutes the liner was surrounded by ships, and the work of rescue was carried out with remarkable expedition. The arrival of the survivors at Harwich was awaited by doctors and ambulances . . .

'The wireless operator, a Dutchman, who was in his cabin when the explosions occurred, said: - "I tried to radio an SOS but my instruments would not respond. The masts had been blown down, power cut off, and the wireless damaged beyond repair. It was useless staying in the cabin, and just before she went down I went over the side. I was in the water about four hours before I was picked up."

A survivor said: - "Some of the lifeboats could not be lowered properly, and others were affected by the second explosion, which came within 15 minutes. I saw about 80 people in the water and the sea was covered with oil. We were almost stationary when the explosion occurred and we were in shallow water. Even when the boat went down her upper structure was still above the water level."

'Mr D H Tucker, who was returning to his work on a sugar estate in the West Indies, said: "I had been playing a ball game on the games deck and afterwards went for a stroll round. Suddenly an explosion rocked the ship. When I pulled myself together I saw two or three men who had been standing not far from me mown down like ninepins. They were dead. Luckily I found my wife and daughter. My daughter got away in one of the boats, but there was no room for my wife and myself. The only thing to do was climb down a rope into the sea. My wife was not too keen about that, as she cannot swim. I dropped into the water first and she followed. I managed to support her until we got hold of some wreckage. We were taken aboard a trawler and rigged out with clothing. The sailors were very good to us." '

'A West Indian passenger, who lost his wife and two children in the disaster, rescued from the sea a three-year-old white child. Almost overcome with grief, he said he would like to adopt the child he had rescued.

'A Czech woman passenger said: - "I shall never forget the sight of women, clutching their babies in their arms, being drowned before my eyes."

'Mr Sydney Preece, who was going to Trinidad, and who, with his three-year old child Elizabeth, was rescued by a British vessel, said he seized a board, which is used in a deck game and is like a box, placed the child in it, and sent it into the water, swimming beside it himself. The child behaved remarkably well and said, "Are we going to Trinidad in this, daddy?"

A list of passengers accounted for follows. (7), p8

Photograph of survivors in hospital and stock photo of the ship. (7), p10

18-NOV-1939: Dutch vessel SIMON BOLIVAR mined in 51 49 30N, 1 41E, while en route from Amsterdam for Paramaribo with passengers, whisky, silk veils and personal effects. 84 missing. The wreck lies in 51 49 1N, 1 36 5E. To be dispersed. (8)

Secondary Sources:

SIMON BOLIVAR had 400 people on board; 84 Lives lost, including the Captain. Voyage stated as Netherlands to Paramaribo. (2)

Tonnage quoted as 8309 tons. (2)

'The liner SIMON BOLIVAR, Capt. H. Voorspuiy, was on a voyage from Holland to Paramaribo. On November 18th, 1939, she struck a mine off Harwich. The liner carried 400 persons, passengers and crew. The explosion was of such violence that many persons on deck were killed, and Capt. Voorspuiy was mortally wounded and died very soon afterwards. The SIMON BOLIVAR's masts were blown down and she began to settle by the stern, there being considerable difficulty in getting out the boats. The ship's radio was damaged by the explosion and the S.O.S. could not be sent out, nevertheless other vessels were quickly on the spot. About 15 minutes after the first explosion there came a second one which hastened the end of the ship, and badly damaged some of the remaining lifeboats. The evidence of the ship's officers was that the vessel struck two mines, one on the port side and one on the starboard, there being an interval of about a quarter-of-an-hour between the strikings. Later the SIMON BOLIVAR sank by the stern with the loss of 84 lives.' (2)

Built as SIMON BOLIVAR 1927 (5), for Koninklijke Nederlandsche Stoomboot Mij, (6) 7906 tons gross, 128m long x 18m beam. (5)

Mined on 18-NOV-1939 by mines laid the previous day, in position 51 49N 001 41E, while en route from Amsterdam to Curacao with passengers and general cargo. (5)

Built: 1927 (2)(5)
Builder: Rotterdam Droogdok Maats (2)
Propulsion: Triple expansion engines (2); single quadruple-expansion engine (5)
Engine HP: 856 nhp (2)
Top Speed: 14 knots (2)
Master: Capt. H Voorspuiy (2)
On board: 400 (2)
Lives Lost: 84 (2)(8)
Owner: Koninklijke Nederlandsche Stoomb Maats (2); NV Koninklijke Nederlandsche Stoomboot Mij (6)

Date of Loss Qualifier: Actual date of loss

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Source details : Examination of Historic England deskGIS SeaZone layer, 03-NOV-2016
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Source details : < http://miramarshipindex.org.nz/ship/show?nameid=78457&shipid=77293 > accessed on 03-NOV-2016
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Source details : 20-NOV-1939, No.48,467
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Early 20th Century
Display Date : Built 1927
Monument End Date : 1927
Monument Start Date : 1927
Monument Type : Liner, Cargo Vessel, Passenger Vessel
Evidence : Scattered Vessel Structure
Monument Period Name : Mid 20th Century
Display Date : Dispersed 1959
Monument End Date : 1959
Monument Start Date : 1959
Monument Type : Liner, Passenger Vessel, Cargo Vessel
Evidence : Scattered Vessel Structure
Monument Period Name : Second World War
Display Date : Lost 1939
Monument End Date : 1939
Monument Start Date : 1939
Monument Type : Liner, Cargo Vessel, Passenger Vessel
Evidence : Scattered Vessel Structure

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Hydrographic Office Number
External Cross Reference Number : 12312411
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Admiralty Chart
External Cross Reference Number : 1183a 15-07-83
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Admiralty Chart
External Cross Reference Number : 1406 16-05-69
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Admiralty Chart
External Cross Reference Number : 1610 18-02-77
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Admiralty Chart
External Cross Reference Number : 1975 02-11-73
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Admiralty Chart
External Cross Reference Number : 2052 15-02-74
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Hydrographic Office Number
External Cross Reference Number : 14517
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : TM 41 NE 5
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments :
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :