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Model of South Shields steamship captured and sunk in First World War expected to fetch thousands at auction

The detail on the model
The detail on the model

A shipbuilder’s model of an ill fated South Shields steamship - one of the first British ships captured and sunk by the Germans during the First World War - is set to fetch about five thousand pounds at an auction.

The intricate and painstakingly-made three feet seven-inch-long model in a glazed mahogany case, is of the Indian Prince, which was built by John Readhead & Sons at their South Shields yard in 1910.

The plaque on the model

The plaque on the model

Just four years after its launch, the Indian Prince was on its way from Bahia, Brazil, to New York ,with a cargo of coffee, when it was captured by the German cruiser Kronprintz Wilhelm.

After transferring the crew and cargo to their own ship, the Germans bombed and sank the Indian Prince on September 9, 1914, - just six weeks after Britain declared war on Germany.

The South Shields-made model is now up for sale and it is expected to fetch between £4,000 and £6,000 when it is auctioned by Bonhams

at Knightsbridge, London, on October 18.

The model of the Indian Prince

The model of the Indian Prince

Dockyard or builder’s models of newly constructed ships - particularly those from the early part of the twentieth century when the workmanship and attention to detail were of high quality – are much sought-after by collectors.

The lavish detail on the South Shields model reflects the pride of workmanship at the John Readhead & Sons yard at that time.

Such models were usually presented by yards for display in the owner’s boardroom.

Engineer John Readhead set up his own shipyard - Readhead & Softley - near South Shields harbour in 1865.

The partnership ended in 1872 and, in 1881, John Readhead moved upriver to the western part of South Shields next to Tyne Dock.

When Alderman John Readhead died in 1894, the family’s shipbuilding business – by now one of the biggest employers in South Shields and employing 1,300 men. was carried on by his sons, James, Robert, John and William.

In 1968, the Readhead yard was taken over by Swan Hunter.

The yard later became the home of McNulty Marine,