Wreck’s cargo still at sea

The Somali.
The Somali.

The mystery of strips of film washing up on a north Northumberland beach has been solved and the answer lies in a ship wrecked more than 70 years ago.

Last week, the Gazette reported that reader Mike Hosken was asking why he had found washed-out bits of film (such as that pictured right) on Annstead beach between Seahouses and Beadnell on a number of occasions during recent years.

Some of the 16mm film found on the beach.

Some of the 16mm film found on the beach.

Now, we have an answer and it is possibly more interesting than may have been expected.

Jimmy France, who runs Seahouses-based Luk Luk Productions, takes up the story.

“It comes from the sunken ship, the Somali,” he wrote.

“A few years back I was a cameraman for Studio Arts Television working on a Channel 4 documentary about the Somali, with producer Trevor Hearing.

Some of the 16mm film found on the beach.

Some of the 16mm film found on the beach.

“We interviewed a number of local people about the day the ship went down in the Second World War, just off the coast.

“My late mum remembered it well as she was a pupil at Beadnell school. Many windows were blown out in the village when the ship exploded.

“One local resident remembers feeling the blast as far away as Fleetham, near Swinhoe.

“Pencils, foreign banknotes, and film strips, as well as numerous other artefacts, were washed up on the local beaches.

“Local residents still have the odd piece of memorabilia, including pieces of film strip identical to the one in the picture.

“ITV Tyne Tees picked up on the story a few years later and myself and Shiela Matheson interviewed more people on the subject of the Somali.

“Again, tales of filmstrip being washed up, even today, were mentioned.”

The Somali, a large, powerful cargo ship, was heading towards Hong Kong when she fell victim to a squadron of Heinkel 111 bombers on March 27, 1941.

Following unsuccessful attempts to control the fire in her holds, an explosion broke the ship in two off Beadnell, where the wreck remains to this day as a popular diving site.

At the time she was carrying 9,000 tons of general cargo, 72 crew and 38 passengers, although no one was hurt.