Gavin Greig (ggreig) wrote,
Gavin Greig

HMS Success: Epic Fail

Hmmm. Although the title of the post is meant to refer to HMS Success, I can’t help feeling a little of it rebounds on me; having walked along the beach many times over the fifteen years I’ve lived here, you would think that I should have noticed the destroyer there.

HMS Success was a turtleback torpedo boat destroyer of the Lively class (later redesignated as a B-class) built in 1901. You can see an example of a turtleback destroyer (of a different class) on the Wikipedia page for the Havock class destroyer. (Edit: Subsequently found some pictures of HMS Success itself.) The “turtle back”, a design feature introduced in the 1890s, is the curved deck stretching back from the bow, and it was abandoned before the First World War.

In the small hours of the morning of 27th December 1914, while sailing from Aberdeen to Rosyth, it ran aground on the beach at Kingsbarns. All sixty-seven crew were taken off by the Crail and St. Andrews lifeboats. It must have been a bit rough, as two lifeboat-men were washed overboard (but rescued) and the Crail lifeboat was incapacitated. As it turned out over the next few days, it was not going to be possible to refloat the Success.

And she’s still there – or as much of her as couldn’t be salvaged for scrap. I had no idea of this until the recent publication of a book about the history of the village. Today, I thought I’d take a walk down there and see whether I could locate the wreck.

I found it. Having checked the tide tables for when low tide would be, it was just possible to spot the highest parts of what’s left:

Screw/rudder assembly of HMS Success

Maybe not too much of a Fail on my part then!

Those two seaweed covered blobs in the middle of shot are part of the steel assembly that supported the screws and rudder. Apparently, when there’s a particularly low tide, you can see where these descend into the sand a couple of feet further down. If there’s a particularly low tide and the shifting of the sand is in your favour, you can make out the engine mountings, something of the propeller shafts, and the keel, which points out to sea.

Interesting to note that it’s therefore the stern that’s closest to the beach; I wonder whether they realised what was happening and nearly made it; or did they drift into the current position after the bow hit further out? I’m inclined to think it might be the latter, especially as there’s a rocky bar further out that they must have passed by some sort of fortune, good or ill.

If you want to go look for yourself some time, it’s on Kingsbarns beach, just Crail-wards of the bathing danger marker pole:

HMS Success - Location of the wreck

Tags: books, history, kingsbarns, photography, steampunk

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