Images from the Wick Society’s Johnston Collection- The Bengt Sture
by Alan Calder
Browsing in the Wick Society’s Johnston Collection provides a constant stream of interesting images that shine a light on hidden details of our local heritage and that of others. In the case of the image showing the Bengt Sture unloading wood at the South Quay of Wick Harbour, it reminded me of a student summer holiday job in a team moving wood from the quay and building stacks near the sawmill in Lower Pulteney for ‘ Mr Davie Logie’.
The Johnston photograph shows the Bengt Sture unloading staves (for barrels) and battens at the South Quay. Harbour records in the Wick Archives confirm her date of arrival as October 3rd 1936, on her sole visit to the town. Further down the quay the SS Halladale, a frequent visitor to the port, is loading a cargo of salt (in barrels) and empty herring barrels. Behind the SS Halladale lies a steam drifter, with WK 127 inscribed on her funnel. This is the Laurelia, built in Wick in 1908 and finally broken up for scrap in Orkney in 1937.
Switching to Google gave a lot more details. The cargo steamer ( 872 ton, 64.7x9.63m ) was originally built in 1917 for Danish owners by Unterweser at Lehe near Bremerhaven in Germany. It then passed through various German hands before being renamed the Bengt Sture registered to Swedish owners at the port of Trelleborg, on the southern tip of Sweden in 1930. The peaceful scene of the Swedish ship in Wick Harbour in 1936, is in stark contrast to her subsequent fate in WWII.
On October 28th 1942, the Bengt Sture left the German controlled port of Danzig for Oxelosund in south west Sweden with a cargo of coal. She was torpedoed at 23.19h by the Soviet Shchuka (pike) Class U-boat SC 406, north west of the Stilo lighthouse, violating Swedish neutrality. It is reported that most of the crew of 15 were killed, but some survived to be taken back to Leningrad and never seen again. SC 406 had previously been attacked by the Swedish Navy on July 21st 1942. The Soviet U-boat was eventually sunk by the Finnish ship Riilahti off Steinskar Island in the Gulf of Finland on May 26th 1943.
'The Stuart Agenda' by Alan Calder at willowmoonpublishing.com, Barnes and Noble and Amazon.