Gairsoppa gives up bullion
70 years after sinking

GairsoppaWar Roebuck was a small cargo vessel built at Palmers, Jarrow in 1918. With the end of the Great War she was acquired by British India and was completed as Gairsoppa. Taken over at the outbreak of World War II, she sailed in several convoys before joining Convoy SL64 in February 1941, sailing from Calcutta, India to Liverpool, UK. Running low on coal while off the coast of Ireland, Gairsoppa separated from the convoy and headed for Galway, some 300 miles away, for more fuel. She was attacked and torpedoed by U-101 in the early hours of 17th February 1941, and sank within 20 minutes. Although 3 lifeboats got away, only one person survived, Second Officer Ayres; 83 others were lost.

Gairsoppa silver barsWhat made her of special interest was that she was carrying some 7 million ounces (200 tons) of silver, worth at that time over £600,000. In 2010 the UK government awarded a salvage contract to Odyssey to find the wreck and salvage the bullion. The company quickly found the wreck and began operations, and by July 2013 had recovered over110 tons, estimated at £137 million ($210 million) at current value.