A Royal Navy tug which supported Atlantic convoys during the Second World War has been found on the seabed, 74 years after its mysterious sinking.
The remains of the Empire Wold were found by a survey vessel operated by the Icelandic coastguard in Faxa Bay, not far from the capital Reykjavik.
The boat disappeared in 1944 while on its way to assist the Shirvan, a tanker which had been attacked off Iceland by a German U-boat.
Some historians believed the Empire Wold had also fallen victim to Germany’s U-300.
But when the U-300 was itself sunk off Gibraltar and its crew interrogated, they were adamant they had not sunk the tug.
The Icelandic coastguard initially came across what looked like the outline of tug using sonar, but were quickly able to identify it as a wreck by sending down minisubs.
Once one of the subs went down with an onboard camera, they found out the name of the ship and set about investigating what happened to it.
An extensive survey of the sunken vessel found no sign of an explosion and after examining weather reports from the night it went down, the research team concluded it had probably foundered in heavy seas and high winds.
Some 16 sailors were lost as a result of the sinking – seven Royal Navy seamen and nine Merchant Navy personnel.
Among them was second engineer Oswin ‘Happy Harry’ Green, who was married to an Icelandic woman and had a nine-month-old daughter at the time of his death.
His widow, Maria Elisabet Frederiksen, still lives in Iceland at the age of 94, after raising the daughter Thorunn Elisabet Green.
Ms Green told Iceland’s national broadcaster RUV she was shocked when she found out the tug had been located after so long, but she was relieved it had not been attacked as she had feared.
“Naturally, I didn’t mind [being told]. You really don’t expect to get such news,” she said.
“I’m just happy to hear that [it wasn’t attacked]. I feel better than [I would have done if] they had been attacked. It’s a terrible thought.”
Gwennie Wilson, whose brother was on the ship, posted on the Navy News Facebook page that the discovery had helped give her closure.
She wrote: “My only brother ‘sonny’ w.j.Jewiss was lost to us on board the Empire Wold. Still to today miss him, and this story broke my heart, but at this same time has given a closure.
“As to what happen to a dear brother… rest in peace sonny, with your brave brave crew mates… Gwennie x”
According to the Thames Tugs website, several London-owned or managed tugs were based in Reykjavik during the Second World War, to assist with the convoys.
The Icelandic capital was an essential staging post for the hundreds of ships that were making daily Atlantic crossings from the US to the UK bringing food and arms.
The Battle of the Atlantic, as the fight to keep the convoys moving was known, led to the deaths of more than 100,000 sailors on both sides.
The 107ft, 269-ton Empire Wold had been built and launched in Sunderland in 1942, one of the Empire ships built or requisitioned by the British government to take part in the war effort – of which the Empire Windrush was probably the most famous.
The wreck is now protected by law because it is the last resting place of Royal Navy sailors and its precise location is not being revealed by the Icelandic authorities.