10 Interesting Facts About SS Gairsoppa

Exhibition Officer Emma shares interesting facts you probably didn't know about the wartime ship SS Gairsoppa.

In 1941 the SS Gairsoppa was sunk just before it reached the shores of Britain. In 2012 the wreck was discovered and revealed hundreds of letters never delivered to their destinations. As vital to the British war effort as the ship’s silver, tea and iron, these letters bring to light the hopes and frustrations of life in India during the Second World War – from soldiers and families to businesses and missionaries.

Did you know that:


The SS Gairsoppa left Calcutta on 5 December 1940.


On 14 Feb 1941 Captain Gerlad Hyland realised that the Gairsoppa’s coal reserves were too low to reach London and so the ship changed course for Galway.


It was just three days from safety when it was hit by a torpedo from a German U-Boat.


It was carrying 2,817 silver bars, or 110 tons worth!

Silver Ingot


It was carrying enough tea for 65% of Britain’s entire population at the time.

One of Tea Containers


There were 86 crew on board, only 1 survived, Second Mate Richard Ayres.


Along with the silver, iron and tea, the Gairsoppa was carrying over 700 letters.

Business Correspondence recovered from the shipwreck


It sank to a depth of 4,700 metres – half a mile deeper than the wreck of the Titanic.


It took the unmanned remote-controlled underwater vehicles used on the recovery 4 hours to reach the wreck.

Gairsoppa Recovery


The loss of silver was the heaviest for Britain during the Second World War.

Our immersive new exhibition brings to life the people writing these letters and raises their voices from the deep. Read the letters in a ship-shaped display case marvelling at how they have survived underwater for 70 years. Explore hidden information on graphic panels with UV torches and listen to extracts from the letters inside a water-themed booth.

– Emma Harper, Exhibitions Officer