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Site Details

© Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey licence number 0100022206

NPRN 274829

Map Reference SG61SE

Grid Reference SG6670613658

Unitary (Local) Authority Maritime

Old County Maritime

Community Maritime

Type of Site WRECK

Broad Class MARITIME

Period Modern

Site Description The wreck is reported to lie broken up and collapsed, lying with its keel orientated approximately east-west (reports vary from 045/290 degrees to115/295 degrees).

Event and Historical Information:
The KIRKBY was a steel-hulled steamship built by Ropner and So , Stockton on Tees, in 1891. Technical and configuration specifications are given as 3034gt, 1976nt; 315ft length x 40ft 5in breadth x 20ft 2in depth; 1 deck, 5 bulkheads, passenger deck 33ft, quarterdeck 98ft; screw propulsion powered by 2 boilers linked to triple expansion engine producing 256hp; machinery by Blair & Co Ltd., Stockton. In 1888, Robert Ropner had bought the Stockton yard of Matthew Pearse. Ropner was the son of a Prussian army officer who had stowed away on a Hamburg steamer in 1846 intending to pursue a life in the merchant navy. He changed his mind after the sea crossing and became first a baker and then, eventually, a partner in the ship-owning, coal exporting company of Thomas Appleby. In 1874 Ropner branched out on his own, establishing his own fleet of 5 vessels to work in the Baltic trade. Renamed Ropner and Son, the Pearse yard built four new steamers for the family fleet in 1889, and a further 18 steamers over the next 6 years, the KIRKBY being amongst them. At time of loss on 17 August 1915, the KIRKBY was still part of the Ropner fleet (Sir R Ropner & Co Ltd) and was carrying coal from Barry to Manchester. The ship was captured by U-38 and torpedoed 20miles west-southwest of Bardsey Island. This wreck, believed to be the KIRKBY, was examined by HMS BEAGLE in November 1980 and again in July 1981.
The KIRKBY and GLENBY (NPRN 274830), both owned by Ropner, were amongst 10 vessels sunk on 17 August by U38. The U-boat had begun its patrol in April in the North Sea, passing north around Scotland to then come south to cruise between southern Ireland and Ushant, France. This patrol accounted for 5 trawlers, 3 sailing vessels and 22 merchant ships. Max Valentiner and U38 go on to be amongst the five most successful commanders and German submarines of the Great War.

Sources include:
HMSO, 1988, British Vessels Lost at Sea 1914-18 and 1939-45, pg11
Koerver, H J, (ed), 2012, German Submarine Warfare 1914-18 in the eyes of British Intelligence, pg175
Larn and Larn Shipwreck Database 2002
Lloyds Casualty War Losses Return 1914-18 pg23
Lloyds Register of British and Foreign Shipping, 1 July 1915 - 30 June 1916, number 596 in K
Mercantile Navy List, 1900, pg196
Mercantile Navy List, 1910, pg281
Mercantile Navy List, 1915, pg322
UK Hydrographic Office Wrecks and Obstructions Database. © Crown Copyright and database rights. Reproduced by permission of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office and the UK Hydrographic Office (

WWW resources include:

Maritime Officer, RCAHMW, June 2019.