On the afternoon of Nov 10 last year, a special ceremony took place off Sunderland to mark the sinking of the Royal Navy Racecourse class paddle minesweeper Ascot by a German submarine during the First World War.
The name ship of her 32-strong class, the Ascot had been about seven miles from Seahouses when she was spotted by the UB-67 and she was hit with what was thought to be the U-boat’s last torpedo and sank with the loss of all 53 crew.
The attack took place just a day before Nov 11, Armistice Day, and the Ascot was the last Royal Navy ship to be sunk by a submarine in the war. The RNLI said: “The torpedo explosion was so loud that it was heard by one of the keepers on the Longstone Lighthouse and he reported that a ship had hit a mine. He requested that lifeboats should be launched.
“The explosion was also heard on the shore and the Seahouses and Holy Island lifeboats were launched. The Seahouses Lifeboat Station was known as the North Sunderland station and its lifeboat was the Forster Fawcett and the Holy Island lifeboat was the Lizzie Porter (and was later stationed at Seahouses). Both were 35ft lifeboats powered by oars and sails. A steam tug also responded.
“The weather conditions were bad with gale force winds and poor visibility. The two lifeboats had difficult passages to reach the scene and searched the area, but no survivors were found.”
Both lifeboats returned to their stations but the steam tug had to assist the North Sunderland lifeboat back to shore. The U-boat surrendered on Nov 24 and was broken up at Swansea in 1922.
Among the Ascot’s crew who died was Able Seaman John Matthew Postlethwaite, of Liverpool, and his memorial can be found at Plymouth Naval Memorial. His descendents, Mr Paul King and his family, visited Seahouses in late May, 2016, to make a donation in memory of Mr King’s late wife Dorothy, and mentioned the Ascot story, although their information was incomplete.