Plate recovered from the wreck
[30M] – General
Cargo. (Good detail in Dive Dorset: 187 p143 & Clarke: GPS; 50 32.48N; 02 16.03W) Also LARN) – Hit mine and sunk 7.5 miles ENE of Portland Bill. Four ships lifeboats were reported by the Coastguard. Weymouth Lifeboat found that they had been taken in tow by a Greek steamship.
Letter from Philippe Delgoffe (Minor edits only)
B 2970 Schilde Antwerp
First of all I was surprised to find the location of the M/V ALEX VAN OPSTAL on the internet and now I can find the boat on the map. It feels strange because it happens many years ago and my grandfather dies all many years. I held the information for him.
In 1937 the CMB ( Compagnie Maritime Belge) starts with new boats the mixed cargo (goods and persons) built in Naskow Skibwaerf Denemark (DK) . Empty : 5833 ton and full 8300 ton.
Length : 128m ,large: 17m,depth 8,92 m. Diesel engine “ Burmeister &Wain 5 cylinders ,2 stroke motor 5800 pk. Speed : 15 knots. Crew 57 persons and 12 passengers. Destination: Antwerp –New York – Antwerp. Travel : 17 times to the USA. Captain : Vital DELGOFFE.
The 3rd September 1939 the French and British government declare the war on Germany after the invasion of Poland on 1st Sept. 1939. Belgium was still not in war. The German Kriegsmarine used 57 U-boots and 15 were in the sea at that time. The 3rd September 1939 M/V ATHENIA was attacked after some hours of war declaration by U30 at about 150 miles West of the Hebrides Isles ( 112 persons were killed from the 1418 persons on board).
Coming from Albania (USA) with 3200 ton of grain ,they left New York September the 6th, and received per mail the orders to put a Belgium flag in front and paint Belgium on the boat to recognise the nationality (Belgium was still not in war at that time). They receive also the order (near Biscops) all boats needs to pass Down for inspection. Near Bishop Rock they move to Weymouth for inspection the 15 September 1939 before Belgium war declaration! They passed the Lizard , the sea was good, force 3 windspeed, cross Start Point enter the Loch and pass Shambles Light Vessel (South). An explosion occurred and the boat lifted out of the water. All doors, radiators, windows were broken. The captain gave the order after quick inspection to try to reach the Shambles sandbank (without luck). At 20h/20h30 the 15th September 1939 the ALEX Van Opstal disappeared. 6 persons were wounded. The 10th September 1939 the German U-boat U26 put 18 mines near Portland and sunk 4 boats.
15 September M/V ALEX VAN OPSTAL
20 September Kitty Hawk ( Trailer Naval UK –Auxiliary)
09 October M/V Binnendyk
22 November M. V. Helena
The U26 sunk near BISHOP Rock the 3th July 1940 by an U.K. Corvette :HMS Gladiolus in combination with aeroplanes RAF. The U 26 Captain EWERTH German dies in 1943 November 30th with his U850 boat position ( 3254N-03701W) by American bombers ( CVBE _9BOGUE). After the 15 September the Belgium Government was also involved in the War.
Refs. Farr: p56; Divers Guide; Weymouth & Portland: Ed 5 p31 Wk.28.
Grahame Knott database
Day of Loss: 15
Month of Loss: 9
Year of Loss: 1939
Longitude: 50 32.48
Latitude: 02 16.03
Approximate Depth: 30