Shipwreck spelling sparks Facebook debate

Crowds watch the stricken vessel from Eastbourne seafront
Crowds watch the stricken vessel from Eastbourne seafront
  • Fishermen and historians clash over name of sunken ship
  • Vessel went down after being bombed by enemy aircraft
  • Parts of the wreckage can still be seen at low tide

A spirited debate has broken out over the correct spelling of a shipwreck sunk off the coast of Eastbourne.

Last month marked the 75th anniversary of the sinking of SS Barnhill, or SS Barn Hill, off the coast of Langney after it was bombed by the Germans at Beachy Head.

A memorial was held and interpretation board showing it as SS Barn Hill unveiled close to the site near Macquarie Quay – where parts of the wreckage can still be seen at low tide – organised by the Barn Hill Project Group.

But since then controversy has raged as to whether the vessel, bombed on March 20 1940, was one word or two.

Local fishermen and RNLI stalwarts believe it is one word as does the Ministry of Defence and the government’s national archive.

Brian and Geoff Allchorn, Steve Holter, Mike Newton-Smith, whose family had the salvage rights of the wreckage, and lifeboat stalwarts say it was the SS Barnhill.

Steve Holter said, “I spent many hours with Mike Newton-Smith and his paperwork including Lloyds of London said SS Barnhill and the two pictures of the ship, one of the stern, showed a single word.”

But Andy Saunders, military historian and editor of Britain at War who wrote the text for the interpretation board, and others say it SS Barn Hill.

Andy said, “Having examined a variety of official sources, and consulted various official bodies since the 1980s, the conclusion I inescapably reached was that she was Barn Hill. In putting this project together it was the intention of the voluntary hard working project team that the loss of this vessel, her crew and merchant seamen who died were all appropriately remembered, I would always go with the weight of evidence. We researched in 1992 all other vessels operated by Counties Shipping Management Co Ltd were named ‘blank’ Hill. Among them was Pine Hill, Harrow Hill, Beech Hill thus further indication that it was Barn Hill and not Barnhill.”