A TEAM of North East divers has uncovered more history from a Second World War shipwreck.
Last week, The Journal told how Robert Lisle discovered a silver toasting cup which had lain beneath the waves since it sank with the MS Oslofjord in 1941.
Now his fellow divers have helped piece together the story of the last man to leave the troop carrier before it went to a watery grave.
Charles Franklyn Medicraft had served as a handyman on the doomed Oslofjord.
He often told his granddaughter Rose Crouchman stories of his terror as the Norwegian ship hit a mine on the entrance to the River Tyne.
And to his dying day he remembered how the rope burned his hands as he slid to the safety of a rescue boat in the stormy North Sea, the last man off the sinking ship.
Charles passed away in 1973, but Rose was desperate to find out more about his past.
“In November of 1940, Charles ended up in the Merchant Marines on the Oslofjord which the British had recently commissioned and outfitted to have troops and supplies sent to England,” explained Rose.
“When we were growing up he told us he was terrified when the mine hit the ship, and how he had burned the skin off his hands when he was sliding down a rope to get on the rescue ship.
“The crew was taken to Newcastle and stayed until January 1941. When he came home he was so happy, yet he cried as he told his wife Leona about the terrible things he saw there.”
From her home in Canada, Rose found the website of North Shields-based skipper Allan Lopez, who takes divers out in his boat Spellbinder II to explore the Oslofjord’s remains.
She began emailing him and he put her in touch with divers Ron Young and Neil Barton.
“He referred me to Ron who writes about shipwrecks,” said Rose. “Ron sent me the piece he had written on the ship and told me I could use it for my book.
“When I looked at the story I saw my grandfather’s name on the crewlist. It was an awesome moment.”
Neil then sent her two artefacts – a fork and a key – which he had rescued from the seabed while diving the Oslofjord wreck.
“It was another moment of sheer joy to touch the key, and know maybe my grandfather had it in his hands as a young man,” Rose said. “I cannot describe it any other way.”
She added: “I think my grandfather would be very happy that I am making this journey through his past with the help of these kind gentlemen.”
The MS Oslofjord was built as a luxury liner for the Norwegian American Line in 1938, but was fitted out as a troop ship for the war. As she headed for Newcastle in 1940, she hit a mine around two miles south east of the entrance to the River Tyne.
Officials wouldn’t allow the ship to be towed into harbour as they feared she might block the important port.
Instead, she was beached at South Shields. Oslofjord finally broke in two and capsized in bad weather in January 1941, and her remains are scattered along the North East coast.
The Journal told on Saturday how 70-year-old Robert had discovered a silver toasting cup from the wreckage during a North Sea dive.