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Underwater WWII Graveyard: The SS Thistlegorm

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Underwater WWII Graveyard: The SS Thistlegorm
Underwater WWII Graveyard: The SS Thistlegorm

While WWII is one of the most heavily documented wars in history, with plenty of artifacts preserved for future generations to learn, one of the most interesting is the SS Thistlegorm. What’s even more surprising is that the vessel wasn’t a military boat but instead a private shipping vessel sunk by a German fighter plane on October 6, 1941.

Desert storm trading cards were a thing and they’re truly wild.

Despite being a civilian craft, the Thistlegorm was laden with equipment and supplies for British troops fighting in North Africa. With the Mediterranean Sea squarely controlled by the Italians and Germans, the captain of the ship decided to go the long but supposedly safer route around the southern tip of Africa, then into the Red Sea to port in Alexandria, Egypt.

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However, that plan went awry when the Thislegorm was involved in a collision in the Suez Canal and had to be moored. That meant it was a sitting duck as two German Hienkel HE III planes left Crete in search of the famous Queen Mary.

They never located their intended target, but one of the bombers spotted the stationary Thistlegorm, dropping two bombs on the British vessel, one of them a direct hit. That explosion ignited the many munitions being carried onboard, causing the ship to sink rapidly as four sailors and five Royal Navy gun crew members were killed in the blasts.

Today, over 80 years after the tragic sinking of the SS Thistlegorm divers still explore the wreckage. Tanks and two locomotives can be found outside the ship, with motorcycles, cars, and other military vehicles on the inside. The metal is covered in corrosion and deposits, and while the tires might look like they’re in surprisingly good condition, we’re sure if someone were to haul them out of the water they would fall apart rapidly.

The sunken vessel is like an underwater tribute to WWII, a piece of the past surprisingly well preserved and ready to teach current generations what things were like during the last great war.

As time marches on, the Thistlegorm and its contents will inevitably deteriorate to the point they’re beyond recognition. Thankfully, dive teams have documented the wreckage many times over, sharing videos online so others can see the wartime graveyard sitting beneath the surface of the Red Sea.

Images via f64se/YouTube