Belfast Telegraph

Ships ledger gives fascinating insight into the secrets of the doomed HMS Drake ... thanks to a mystery donor

By Claire Williamson

It's a fascinating insight in to the day-to-day workings of the ill-fated HMS Drake - discovered in an unlikely place.

A stunning log book detailing everything from naval manoeuvres to star constellations is being offered for auction after it was handed in to an Oxfam shop in England by a mystery donor.

The book charts a section of the ship's life from 1907-1909, the decade before HMS Drake was torpedoed by a German U-boat on October 2, 1917, five miles north of Rathlin Island.

The beautiful ledger, which runs to about 300 pages, was handed in by an anonymous donor who wanted it to raise money for Oxfam.

The manager of the Oxfam shop in Kentish town London, Keith Matthews, would like the book to be auctioned to raise money for the fight against Ebola.

He said: "Every now and again they come in and donate books. This is the first nautical one they donated and I was completely knocked out by it and just thought it was so special."

Mr Matthews has said he feels the logbook belongs back in Northern Ireland.

"We want to see how many people are interested and we will choose a day and then we go on from there."

He added: "My heart tells me it belongs to Ireland because of all those people who died there."

Mr Matthews says he was stunned by the detail of the logbook.

He said: "It's such a beautiful ledger. It has hand-painted watercolour tinted maps of naval manoeuvres. It's the first two years of the ship's life.

"It includes the daily entries, every time something was happening on the ship the person would write it down in the logbook. It has star constellations as well, which I've ever seen before. Also, if anything was broken on the ship, it has hand-sketched diagrams in unbelievable detail of the broken piece and the fixed piece with notes as well as to how that part was fixed."

Mr Matthews would like to hold an auction and wants to "start the ball rolling of interested parties."

He said: "I know a lot of people have gone down diving on the wreck, and I know a lot of people have a huge affection for this ship. It does have a Titanic link because one of its duties was to escort the Titanic's sister ship, The Olympic, to Liverpool.

"I don't know whether the people on Rathlin Island would want the log book for their museum. We want to have an open auction so that anyone can bid for it. I don't want it to go to private dealers."

Mr Matthews thinks the log book would be a great way of generating funds to fight the Ebola outbreak. He said: "This would be a very good showpiece to help that charitable cause."

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