January 22, 2018
Chronicle Journal (A2)
Discovery of previously lost TR4 of Port Arthur
By Nick Sottile
Thousands of men and women from Port Arthur, Fort William and the region served in the armed forces during the First World War. The poppy was adopted as a national symbol of remembrance in Port Arthur in 1921.This monthly column will share stories and photos about life here in Thunder Bay and overseas during World War One.
While the whereabouts of two ships, the Inkerman and Cerisoles, built in the Lakehead during the First World War remains unknown, divers have recently identified another lost minesweepers.
After nearly 30 years of uncertainty, divers from Chester, England, have identified a wreck off the coast of Anglesey Island, Wales as the TR-4, a former minesweeper that originated in Port Arthur. Built at Port Arthur Shipbuilding Company, the TR-4 was one of 14 such vessels produced by the company for the department of Naval Services (British Admiralty) between 1917 and 1919. Completed on May 24, 1917, and delivered on November 27 of that year, the sturdy ship was 38m long and 7m wide with a gross tonnage of 271.
In 1926, after World War I had ended and the ship was no longer needed for military service, it was sold to Boston Deep Sea Fishing & Ice Co. and modified from an instrument of war into a fishing boat. For the following two years, the newly named ‘Cartagena’ would serve the company in the waters off of the coast of its new home port at Fleetwood, England.
In 1928, the ship was sold once again, this time to Argentina (some say Brazil). On its way to South America however, the Cartagena would vanish before reaching its destination.
The Cartagena left Fleetwood on January 15, 1928, in the charge of a deep-sea pilot named Peter Peterson. With the pilot, a skipper, and crew of 12 men, it was bound for Rio de Janeiro to be handed over to its new owners. During the early stages of the trip, a westerly gale blew in and appeared to swallow the ship. This was the last time that the Cartagena was ever seen.
It was believed that she foundered in the Irish Sea somewhere near Liverpool Bay between Lune Deeps and Hough Skerries. While the finding of a lifeboat, a barrel of oil, and a lifebuoy belonging to the Cartagena in Llandudno and Carnforth respectively shortly after its disappearance seemed to confirm this fact, the exact whereabouts of the ship would remain unknown for more than 70 years.
The key to the mystery of the Cartagena was the discovery of a bell with the inscription ‘TR4’ on it in the late 1980s. The wreck the bell was found with had been known locally for many years as the Kincorth. However, the bell and subsequent inscription would help researchers discover the ship’s true identity.
Through research done over the past three years, including correspondence with the Thunder Bay Museum Director/Curator Tory Tronrud, members of the Chester SAC have been able to confirm that the wreck off the coast of Anglesey, Wales, is indeed the Cartagena, previously the TR-4, built in Port Arthur in 1917.
Currently, this team of researchers and divers is attempting to discover what in fact caused the wreck of the TR-4. The fact that the lifeboat that washed up in Llandudno in 1928 still had the canvas cover on it proves the disaster that took the ship was so sudden that there was no time for the crew to escape. Upon inspection by the divers however, no damage to the wreck was found to support this claim. While the cause of the wreck still remains a mystery, at least the location of the final resting place of the TR-4 has finally been established.
This article runs on the fourth Monday of each month. Nick Sottile is a contributor to the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project committee. Please visit www.tbayworldwarone.com for more information about this project or to contribute personal stories and photos.