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Maidan at The Red Sea Wreck Project

The Maidan was a “Steel Screw” Steam Cargo Ship of 8,205 GRT built at W. Hamilton & Co. (Glen Yard No. 231), Glasgow, Scotland in 1912 for T & J Brocklebank, Liverpool, London.

She was 152.4 meters in length, 17.7 meters in beam, and 10 meters in draught. Propulsion was provided by a steam engine connected to a single shaft. In 1919, the propulsion system was upgraded to a 4-cylinder quadruple-expansion steam engine built by D. Rowan and Co., Glasgow, Scotland which gave the Maidan a top speed of 13 knots.

During the early years of WWI, the Maidan was requisitioned for use by the Ministry of War Transport (MOWT) as a troop transport. She carried the Liverpool Scottish Regiment and the Queen’s Westminster Riflesinfantry battalions from Southampton on 01 November 1914 and delivered them to Le Havre on 03 November. These battalions were among the first infantry battalions to be landed in France.

In 1921, the ship changed captains, with Captain Nicholas Breen taking command. Captain Breen was, by all accounts, a trusted and experienced mariner. He was also known as a somewhat arrogant “know-it-all” that did not take advice from his officers. As captain of the Maidan, Captain Breen made several passages between European ports and India over the next 2 years.


Maidan at The Red Sea Wreck Project

The Final Voyage:
On 21 May 1923 the Maidan departed Calcutta enroute back to Europe loaded with 10,000 tons of cargo, with a stop in Ceylon on 27 May, Bombay on 05 June, then to the Gulf of Aden where the ship stopped at Port Sudan to take on bunkers (coal) and additional cargo on 07 June. Just after 0030 on the morning of 09 June, the Maidan departed Port Sudan on its way north to Suez at a speed of 10.5 knots. The weather that night was later described at the Board of Trade Enquiry as being “fine, clear, and moderate”. Bearings were taken on the Abington Reef Beacon at 0845, with a course change at 0945 to 025-degrees True. Ship’s Lat. and Long. were calculated where it was determined that the ship had travelled 118-miles from Port Sudan, followed later by a second change of ship’s heading.

The First Mate, after taking bearings on the Elba Mountains at 1815, found that the ship’s actual position was approximately 2.5 miles east of her intended route. Captain Breen was duly informed of this and chose to maintain the ship’s course and speed, and no other navigation fixes or bearings were taken afterwards.

Captain Breen went below at 2230, leaving orders to be contacted when ST. John’s Island was sighted (Note: St. John’s Island is now called Zabargad Island). At 0126 on 10 June, the Second Officer was the Officer of the Deck and sighted St. John’s Island almost dead ahead of the ship at an estimated distance of 8-10 miles. He ordered a course change of one point to Starboard and immediately contacted Captain Breen.

Captain Breen made no other course or speed changes, even though it was readily apparent that the ship was nowhere near it’s intended track.

Soon afterward, discolored water was seen off of the port bow, indicating a reef. The helm was immediately put hard over to port and engines reversed at full speed. The ship remained like this for approximately 4-minutes as the ship was still moving forward while taking off headway when suddenly she struck the reef at Rocky Island at 0139.

Attempts were then made to back the grounded ship off of the rest, but proved unsuccessful. At 1100 that morning most of the ship’s crew of 100, and the 7 passengers that were onboard, were put ashore at St. John’s Island where they were later picked up by the passing S.S. Warwickshire. Captain Breen and a limited amount of crew remained onboard the Maidan until is was clear that the ship was in danger of sinking. Only then did they transfer to the Warwickshire. At 1910 on 10 June 1923, the S.S. Maidan slipped off of the reef and into the depths. Settling on the bottom in what was determined as being “deep water”.
At the subsequent Board of Trade Enquiry proceedings it was found that Captain Breen had made two serious judgement errors. The first being that he did not take the variable sea currents present in the Red Sea into account and changing the ship’s course accordingly. And second, that once informed by the Second Officer concerning the course change after sighting St. John’s Island, Captain Breen failed to further alter the ship’s heading in order to ensure that the ship would be well clear of the island. Captain Nicholas Breen was censored by the Board and as a result, never went to sea again.

Diving Information

This is a dive for the Technical Divers out there. The wreck was discovered in 2003 by Grant Searancke and Kimmo Hagman. The wreck lies between 80 and 120 meters on the south side of Rocky Island and is nearly complete. It is a relatively undisturbed wreck and has only been visited by very few divers since it’s location was found.

About Author

Lee has been in the marketing industry for the last 15 years and now specializes in teaching marketing techniques to people in the scuba diving industry. He is founder of Dive Media Solutions which, in addition to providing complete marketing, media, communications and IT solutions exclusively for the scuba diving industry, also produces The Scuba News. You can connect with Lee via Twitter by following @DiveMedia


  1. In 1963-4 I was a Radio Officer serving in the Brocklebank Line. I came upon your Web site’s section on the wreck of the Maidan today having been attracted by her familiar name. When I was with Brocklebank’s, there had been three company ships named Maidan. The first was the subject of your article. The second was built in 1925 and sunk by shelling from the battleship Admiral Scheer in 1940 being lost with all hands. The third was built in 1946 and is a ship that I have been on .

    I believe the Maidan pictures on your site are of the Maidan (3). My photo, taken from the Manaar at anchor, when Maidan was leaving Colombo heading for Calcutta in 1964 shows her from the same perspective as one of your pictures.

    I can’t find any pictures of the original Maidan but a small copy of a painting of her is shown on the Tour Egypt web site.

    I understand that original Maidan was similar to the Mandasor and a photo of her can be found here:

    There is a measure of similarity between the photo and painting and the Mandasor photo gives a better idea of what the original Maidan would have looked like.

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