The 160ft ship, a former collier which still had the appearance of a merchant vessel and whose Royal Navy crew were disguised as merchant sailors, was lost off the coast of Devon on July 30, 1918, after being attacked by a submarine which it, in turn, ambushed.They think they have found the ship.
As their vessel slowly sank from the damage caused by a German torpedo, which had also injured a number of sailors, the crew of the Stock Force remained hidden at their posts while the U-boat surfaced to finish them off with shellfire.
To coax the submarine close enough to be within range of its guns, a so-called “panic party” of sailors rowed away from the stricken ship, before turning back towards it. Taking the bait, the enemy submarine drew closer until the Stock Force’s weapons were revealed and it opened fire.
Three direct hits were made, one blowing off the periscope, another blowing up the conning tower and the third ripping into the hull of the submarine. Firing continued until the U-boat vanished beneath the surface.
During the action, one sailor on the Stock Force was forced to remain pinned under one of its guns, where he had been stuck since the torpedo hit. To avoid arousing the suspicion of the approaching Germans, he could not be rescued. By the time he was freed, he had almost drowned.
In the end, however, it was the British ship that went to the bottom, disappearing under the waves about four and half hours after the torpedo had struck. Her crew were rescued by trawlers and two torpedo boats. The submarine managed to limp back to its port.
More than 90 years later, a team of explorers believe they have found the wreck of the vessel (HMS STOCK FORCE) and will present their findings at the International Shipwreck Conference in Plymouth this week.The CO of the ship actually published a book after WWI, "Q" Boat Adventures. They even made a silent movie out of it that he had a role in.
Steven Mortimer, 46, a former corporate banker from Bristol, who led the team that found the vessel, said: “Q-ship crews became national heroes after the war and Harold Auten wrote his memoirs, which we were able to use to help us work out that we had the right wreck. There are many wrecks around our shores, but few with such a fantastic story as the Stock Force.”