The British tanker British Splendour is yet another victim of the shooting gallery of the Atlantic. A 441 foot ship heavily laden with badly needed gasoline for the war in Europe the British Splendour had an extremely heavy escort for one ship. She was escorted by the armed trawler HMS St. Zeno and had a total of eight guns and an additional seven lookouts. Alas this was to be of no help to the luckless ship. At around ten p.m. on the night of April 7, 1942 the ship, under the command of Captain John Hall, was cruising approximately two miles north of the Diamond Shoals buoy. The weather was clear and seas were smooth, visibility was excellent and still no one saw the U-552 when it fired the shot that sank the British Splendour.
The U-552, under the command of Oberleutnant Erich Topp, would have a very productive voyage. Sinking five vessels on this deployment. Topp was a very aggressive captain as demonstrated by his sinking of the U.S. Destroyer Reuben James six weeks before America entered the war. His torpedo struck the engine room of the British Splendour on the port side aft, killing the men inside and blowing the skylight off the roof of the engine room. Captain Hall ordered the ship abandoned and an SOS be sent, forty-one men survived the sinking of the ship. The St. Zeno then began an ultimately unsuccessful search for the u-boat and then commenced rescue operation shortly afterwards.
Two hours after the torpedo was fired all the crewmembers were rescued and the bow barely showed above water. The ship came to rest in 110 feet of water about 14 southwest of Ocracoke inlet. Basically intact the ship has several large hole including a tear on the amidships starboard side and a hole in the port side engine room where the torpedo struck. The wreck of the British Splendour starts about 75 feet below water and continues to the sand at 100 feet. There are washouts around the wreck to 110 feet. The vessel lie about four hours from Beaufort and is not visited very frequently during the summer.