Latitude 50° 18.416 N
Longitude 004° 10.304 W
Depth 28m
Accuracy 5m
Location Description South east of Penlee Point
Reference UKHO 17643, NMR 832097 and 1479237
Craft type Trawler
Date built 1902
Date of loss 27 November 1940
Manner of loss Mined
Outcome Abandoned
Construction Steel
Propulsion Steam
Nationality British
Departure port Plymouth
Destination port Plymouth
Hull length 33.1m
Hull beam 6.4m
Hull displacement 181 tons (gross), 70 tons (net)
Armament 1 x 6 pdr
Crew 10
Built Cook, Welton & Gemmel Ltd., Beverley, Hull
Master J.S. Bush
Owners Royal Navy


The side trawler Elk was built by Cook, Welton & Gemmel Ltd. at Beverley near Hull in the north of England. She was launched on 21st August 1902 as yard number 329 [13] and official number 113235. The 33m long vessel was built from steel with a displacement of 181 tons (gross) and 70 tons (net) and she had a crew of 10.

The Elk was powered by a 62 hp triple expansion steam engine built by Amos & Smith in Hull, fed by a single coal fired boiler driving a single screw. She was also ketch rigged with a foresail, mainsail and mizzen.

The Elk had a number of owners in her long life. Her first owner was Morris & Fisher in Grimsby where she operated under the port number GY1235. Elk was hired as a minesweeper from 1914 to 1918, renamed Elk II in 1918, and reverted to the name Elk on return to her owner Victoria Steam Fishing, in Grimsby managed by William Hill. In 1929 she was registered in Milford to Oliver Curphey in Hakin with port number M36 where she landed fish between October 1929 and January 1932. In June 1932 the Elk was sold to the well known boat operator William Nichols in Plymouth who was also the skipper.

The Elk was hired by the Admiralty as a danlayer in November 1939 becoming HMT Elk with captain J. S. Bush RNR, pennant number FY 4.24 and armed with one 6 pdr gun. A danlayer would follow a minesweeper laying dan buoys used to mark the swept channels. During this time Charles Walter Albert Chapple was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for work done during minesweeping trials on the ship. After just one year of servive the Elk was sunk by a mine off Plymouth on 27 November 1940 but fortunately all of the crew were saved.

A picture of a trawler called the Elk on many web sites about this ship show a vessel with port number H440, but this shows a different vessel that was built in Glasgow and scrapped in 1933.

Similar Ships

The shipbuilders Cook, Welton & Gemmel Ltd constructed thousands of vessels and many of them were wrecked and still remain on the seabed. The Elk is similar to the Sheraton on Hunstanton Beach that was built by the same shipyard five years later than the Elk. The steam trawler Viola was also built by the same company in 1906 and she is still afloat at Grytviken, a deserted whaling station in Cumberland Bay on the remote South Atlantic island of South Georgia.

Diving the Elk

HMT Elk was located in 1981, she lies upright on a flat sandy seabed on a heading of 320 degrees. To the south and west 60m away from the wreck is the large expanse of Elk reef. The first divers to see her reported that the superstructure had sheared away with nothing remaining above deck level.

Today the remains of the Elk are still upright on a sandy seabed, largely complete but missing the deck superstructure, deck and masts. Starting from the bows at deck level, a depth of 25.4m plus tide height, you first notice the stem post sticking up above deck level as the gunwales have long since fallen away. Aft from that can be seen the anchor windlass still firmly fixed to the deck beams, the wooden decking is gone so you can easily access the inside of the ship. The inside of the hull is full of sand to a depth of approximately 2m leaving 3m space between the sediment and the deck above in the empty holds. Further aft at deck level are a pair of bollards each side and a big trawl gear winch in the centre of the deck. The engine room is now completely open but filled with sand, much collapsed since Peter Mitchell in 1986 described access to the engine room via a hole in the starboard side. The top of the single large boiler can be seen and aft of that is the top of the triple expansion steam engine with its three cylinders of different sizes. The stern is largely intact where the remains of the steering quadrant can be seen. Over the stern rail and down to the seabed you can just see the top of the rudder post showing above the sand under the stern counter. On either side of the ship lies debris from the vessel, masts and sections of the upperworks while at the bows a 2m deep scour pit has formed so the Elk's forefoot and keel can be seen.

The Elk is being studied by BSAC25 under the Nautical Archaeology Society Adopt-a-Wreck Scheme.

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Elk 1


Elk 2

Milford Trawlers

Elk 3


Elk 4

Side scan sonar image of the Elk in 2011, Copyright The SHIPS Project