By -

Deep in the Red Sea is a cargo of Norton 16H motorcycles from World War II – with the wreck now a popular destination for deep-sea divers.

The Nortons, specially manufactured for military use, were consigned to Davy Jones’ locker with other military vehicles when SS Thistlegorm,  a British armed Merchant Navy ship, was sunk on October 6, 1941.

It went down after being bombed by the German Luftwaffe while at “safe anchor” near what has become the Egyptian tourist destination Sharm el-Sheikh on the Red Sea.

And in February 2018, a panoramic image of the cargo of Norton 16H motorcycles landed German Tobias Friedrich the title Underwater Photographer of the Year 2018.


Norton cargo found by Jacques Cousteau

The wreck of SS Thistlegorm was first re-discovered in the early fifties by TV documentary maker, marine conservation pioneer and co-developer of the aqua-lung, Jacques Cousteau.

He raised several items from the wreck, including a Norton, the captain’s safe, and the ship’s bell.

The SS Thistlegorm is now one of the most important and popular wreck diving sites in the world.

The award-winning picture, called Cycle War, triumphed over 5,000 images submitted for the competition by photographers throughout the world.


Norton pictures “stitched together” to make panorama

Friedrich said: “I had had this image in mind for a few years, but it is impossible to capture in one photo, because there is not space inside the wreck to photograph this scene in a single frame.

“My solution was to take a series pictures and stitch them together as a panorama.”

Chair of the Underwater Photographer of the Year 2018 judging panel, Peter Rowlands, said: “This is a quite extraordinary shot which must be viewed as large as possible.

“The artistic skill is to visualise such an image and the photographic talent is to achieve it.”


Norton picture “perfectly lit and composed”

Another judge added that the picture was “perfectly lit and composed” and predicted there would “never be a better shot” of the Norton cargo.

As well as the Nortons, the ship’s cargo included, Bedford trucks, Universal Carrier armoured vehicles, BSA motorcycles, Bren guns, cases of ammunition, and 0.303 rifles as well as radio equipment, Wellington boots, aircraft parts, railway wagons and two LMS Stanier Class 8F steam locomotives.

The locomotives were intended for Egyptian National Railways and the rest of the cargo was for the Allied forces in Egypt.

The Norton 16H was manufactured between 1911 and 1954 – the “H” denoting the Home Model as opposed to the “C”, for Continental export.

British Army ordered 100,000 Norton motorcycles

Norton was the main military motorcycle supplier prior to World War II and supplied almost 100,000 machines to the British Army after the outbreak of hostilities in September, 1939.

British Army Nortons were also supplied to Commonwealth forces such as Australia, New Zealand, India and Canada.

If you are lucky enough to own an ex-military Norton 16H you will be aware they are riding a classic from the heyday of British motorcycle manufacturing. Make sure it is suitably protected by getting a quote from Bikesure, the classic motorcycle insurance experts.

You May Also Like …

Norton enthusiast Ian Loram shares the highlights of his vintage collection

Bikesure announces sponsorship deal with Norton Motorcycles

Insurance, Motorbikes