HMS Thistlegorm is the world's most frequently dived shipwreck. The ship sunk on October 6, 1941 when it was bombed while at anchor. It can be found less than two miles from the Egyptian resort town of Sharm El Sheikh.
Constructed by Joseph Thompson & Sons (Wearside, England) , this 128m long and 18m wide British steam ship sank at anchor only 18 months after its launch in April, 1940, before the conclusion of her fourth voyage.
Although privately owned (and therefore not classified as a naval vessel) this 5,000 tonne ship was armed with a 4" anti aircraft gun and a heavy calibre machine gun attached after construction for war duty.
The Thistlegorm set sail on her final voyage from Glasgow on June, 2 1941 destined for Alexandria. She was carrying supplies to relieve the 8th Army in preparation for, Operation Crusade.
As the Germans controlled the Mediterranean sea during this period, the ship had to sail in a convoy across the cape until it reached the Red Sea. In September, Captain Ellis laid anchor north of the Straits of Gubal at what is now known as Shag Rock near what is now Ras Mohamed National Park.
The Suez Canal at that point was closed as a result of a ship colision. For two weeks the ship stood moored at this supposedly safe position awaiting instructions to proceed through the canal. Thistlegorm was a sitting target for two German bombers returning from Crete; they dropped two 1000 Lb bombs directly onto the ship.
These bombs penetrated No 4 Hold detonating a large amount of ammunition. The explosion was so forceful that it launched two railway carriages stacked on deck into the air. They currently stand upright alongside the wreck at a depth of 33m.
Thistlegorm sank immediately leaving no time for the crew to operate the life boats. Instead, they jumped into the water and were later rescued by the HMS Carlisle, another British ship moored nearby.
The shipwreck was re-discovered in 1956 by Jacques Cousteau. Because of the Arab-Israeli Wars that was waging nearby, Cousteau declined to publish the precise location of the wreck, which was subsequently left unexplored.
The wreck was re-discovered in 1993, just as the Sinai Peninsula's diving industry started to flourish. Thistlegorm is currently the area's major diving attraction. It is possible to swim through the well preserved holds which are still full of 2nd world war artefacts such as ammunition, rifles, BSA motorcycles and trucks.