I happened to be reading a post on a Goodwin Sands Facebook Group about the SS W.A. Scholten that collided with the Rosa Mary on 19th November 1887. I’ve not dived the Scholten as yet, so the story did interest me. The Scholten was carrying 210 passengers and crew and with 78 rescued by the British steamship Ebro, the remaining men, women and children perished in freezing waters alongside Captain Taat and the First Officer also succumb.

Thinking the Rosa Mary sank too, I was researching the Wrecksite.EU website and brought up the Hydrographic Charts. I could see the location of the Scholten but then read from the Goodwin Sands article that the Rosa Mary remained water tight and made port at Dover.

Anyway and that aside, there was the name of a wreck that appeared on that same Hydrographic Chart that I did not recognise. Listed some 3NM NE of the Scholten was the MV Hawarden Castle. Wrecksite.EU, citing a “British motor-schooner” as built in 1907 and lost in September 1939 while en-route from Nieuwpoort to London with a cargo of cement and/or bricks and probably sunk by mine as laid by U-Boat U-17. More interestingly, she was missing!

The first question that occurred to me was “What is a motor schooner?” and an observation that those co-ordinates are incomplete. First port of call, jolly ol’ Google.

MV Harwarden Castle

From Uboat.Net as that seemed to be the source of many other articles, the Hawarden Castle was built as a German sailing vessel named in 1907 named “Emma Linnemann” and renamed “Columbus” in 1910. Not to be confused with other vessels of the same name, our Hawarden Castle was seized at Antwerp when the First World War broke out and after the war, she was converted to a motor merchant. In 1924 she sold to Britain and renamed Hawarden Castle. These details seem to correlate with similar details of shipbuilder, owner and names on Wrecksite.EU.

On 13 September 1939 the Hawarden Castle (Master William Worrall, DSC) left Nieuwpoort and was reported missing thereafter without a trace. The ship probably hit a mine laid on 5th September by U-17 east of South Foreland, as the finding of a small unidentified wreck littered by yellow bricks in 51°07N 01°27E indicates.

Searching for her call sign MNDJ, two sites appear showing similar details but more importantly a Lloyds Register entry from Google Books that confirms her two previous names as Columbus and Emma Linnermann, of 210 gross and 147 net tons, built 1907 by C Lühring of Hammelwarden and of length 115.5 feet, width of 24.1 feet and draft of 9.4 feet. The port is stated as Chester.

Lloyds Register Hawarden Castle

This document from the National Archives records the last sailing of the Hawarden Castle on 13th September 1939, her last and faitful crossing with the loss of all six men including her owner and captain, William Worrall. The MV Hawarden Castle would have been an early casualty of WWII, sunk just 13 days after the outbreak on 1st September 1939.

Where Is She?

As you will probably know, GPS coordinates are usually expressed as the combination of latitude and longitude. Latitude and longitude are broken into degrees, minutes, seconds and directions, starting with latitude. With both Uboat.Net and Wrecksite.EU stating the same 51°07N 01°27E degrees and minutes, but no seconds.

One degree of latitude equals approximately 364,000 feet (69 miles), one minute equals 6,068 feet (1.15 miles), and one-second equals 101 feet. One-degree of longitude equals 288,200 feet (54.6 miles), one minute equals 4,800 feet (0.91 mile), and one second equals 80 feet. With seconds spanning 000 to 999, we have an area of (999 x 101) x (999 x 80)  feet to explore or easier, 1 minute of longitude and 1 minute of latitude or 1.15 miles x 0.91 miles, equating 1.0465 square miles of seabed.

My plan therefore was to plot four points on the Hydrographic Chart at to form a tile:

  • 51°07.000N 01°27.000E
  • 51°07.000N 01°27.999E
  • 51°07.999N 01°27.000E
  • 51°07.999N 01°27.999E

What can be easily seen is that there are no unidentified wrecks within this tile. The red mark to the bottom is the Controlled Site of the HMS-B2 submarine and the red mark to the top is SS The Queen. The blue mark to the top left is unidentified and 0.7NM west, there are two other blue unidentified marks.

Hawarden Castle GPS Tile

This ship was probably sunk by a mine of U-17 as the finding of a small unidentified wreck littered by yellow bricks in this position indicates.

But here’s the rub. Plotting a course from Nieuwpoort to the Thames Estuary, it takes us nowhere near this tile. The course is far north of the Goodwin Sands while this tile is 18NM SW on the southern tip of the Goodwins. Could any of these three further western blue unidentified marks be the MV Hawarden Castle or will this be a wild goose chase with more research needed?  Uboat.Net and Wrecksite.EU must have researched those Hawarden Castle coordinates, but there is talk of yellow bricks in that tile. Once thing’s for sure, we need to don our drysuits and follow that yellow brick road.

Captain William Worrall RNR, DSC

Master and owner of the Hawarden Castle was William Worrall is consolidated at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, aged 49, he was one of six souls who perished 13th September 1939 and commemorated at the Tower Hill Memorial, panel 56.

William Worrall was born in 1890 at Connahs Quay, Flintshire, the son of Thomas & Elizabeth Alice Worrall (nee Marrow). He went to sea at the age of 12 with his grandfather, Captain Marrow, Master and owner of the Ryelands sailing ship, later becoming part owner and Master of the vessel. He obtained his foreign master’s certificate in steam in 1915, and served aboard the minesweeper HMS Zaria throughout the war, from October 1915 until February 1919. After the war he served with various shipping lines and later with the Castle Line of Liverpool in the Far East. In about 1926 he purchased a three-masted sailing ship, the war prize Emma Linnemann, and renamed her the Hawarden Castle. In her he traded between Nieuwpoort, Belgium, and Greenwich, thrice weekly. The Hawarden Castle departed Nieuwpoort on 13th September 1939, loaded with cement and/or bricks and failed to arrive at her destination. The cause of her loss was never established though the likelihood is that she was sunk by mine.

William Worrall - Hawarden Castle
William Worrall - Hawarden Castle

In September 2001, a Great War D.S.C. group of eight medals awarded to Lieutenant William Worrall, Royal Naval Reserve, later Master and owner of the MV Hawarden Castle was sold by auction for a hammer price of £1,500. The lot included a Distinguished Service Cross, G.V.R.; 1914-15 Star (Lieut., R.N.R.); British War and Victory Medals (Lieut., R.N.R.); Mercantile Marine War Medal (William Worrell); 1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star; War Medal, together with registered packet for Great War medals, named condolence slip and card box of issue for Second War medals addressed to his wife, several photographs, Master’s certificate and other documents.

Family History

The 1891 census shows the Worrall family living at Wepre Terrace, Northop, Flintshire (Wepre is in Connah’s Quay, but at the time, it came under Northop). Head of the household was Thomas Worrall, aged 31 and a Bricklayer who had been born in Hooton, Cheshire. His new wife Elizabeth A. was 26 and had been born in Connah’s Quay, as was their son William was age 1. By 1901 they had moved to 26, High Street, Connah’s Quay. Thomas was now 41 but still a Bricklayer, Elizabeth was now 36 and William aged 11 had been joined by a brother Thomas age 7, both born in Connah’s Quay. On this census Elizabeth Alice’s parents, William & Martha Marrow and her sister Martha, 19 were living next door at No. 28, High Street.

The 1911 census tells us more about the family, they had moved again, this time to 25 Ryeland Street, Shotton. Thomas, 51, still a bricklayer, tells us that they had been married for 22 years. Elizabeth Alice, 46 tells us they had had 4 children. This was crossed out and 3 written. Three who were still living, but they had adopted a daughter Elizabeth Mary Worrall, age 11 born Belgrave, London. Thomas, 17 a Bricklayer’s Apprentice and his brother John Marrow Worrall, 9, had both been born in Shotton.
William Worrall was off at sea by at least 1909, age 19, as he is seen on the crew lists of both the” Dominic” and the “Gregory” that year sailing from Liverpool. By 1911 he had his 2nd Mate Certificate and by 1913 he had his Certificate for First Mate.

William met and married Amy Joy Reney in the summer of 1927. Two years later his father Thomas died. Their daughter Jean Worrall was born on the 15th March 1928. Her address being 42 Mold Road, Connah’s Quay. I think this was their only child.

The National Register taken on the 29th September 1939 shows Amy J Worrall of 42 Mold Road, Connah’s Quay, tells us her date of birth is the 24th September 1896 and like all married women on this register who did not have a specific job, described themselves as doing “Female Unpaid Domestic Duties”. She states that she is married, so she may not have been contacted to tell her that her husband William was lost at sea on the 13th September 1939.

William’s mother; Elizabeth Alice died 19th May 1941. His wife, Amy Joy Worrall never remarried as her death is recorded in Holywell and her probate gives the date of her death of died 8th February 1974.