A PASSENGER ship built in Dumbarton in 1925 which was sunk by the Japanese in 1942 has emerged from the Indian Ocean at Sri Lanka after almost 76 years underwater.

The 8,000-ton SS Sagaing was brought to the surface after painstaking work by the Sri Lankan navy. In a testament to its Clydeside builders, the hull of the wreck was brought almost intact to the surface.

The Sagaing also has a strong link to one of the great sea adventures of modern times, told in the classic book Survive the Savage Sea by Dougal Robertson. The late author and sailor was on board the Sagaing when it was attacked.

The Sagaing was built at the Leven Shipyard of William Denny & Bros in Dumbarton for the British and Burmese Steam Navigation Company and the Burmah Steam Ship company managed by P Henderson and Co.

The ship was sunk in Trincomalee harbour in Sri Lanka after being bombed during Japan’s infamous Indian Ocean raid which also saw the sinking of the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, the heavy cruisers HMS Cornwall and Dorsetshire and more than 20 other Royal Navy ships and merchant vessels.

Most of the crew and passengers of the SS Sagaing escaped during the bombing raid but the ship itself was badly damaged and set on fire. It drifted into the Malay Cove in Trincomalee harbour and was later sunk by shellfire to act as a pier for other ships.

The Sri Lankan authorities need more space at Trincomalee, renowned as one of the world’s great natural harbours, and the decision was taken to raise the Saigang from its resting place more than 30 feet under the surface.

Work began last September and at one point involved almost 100 divers from the Sri Lankan Navy’s Eastern Command who strengthened the frame of the 452ft long wreck before raisingthe ship last week. The Sagaing had been involved in a tragic incident shortly after the start of the war. In October 1939 it was being pursued by a U-boat when some passengers panicked, got aboard a lifeboat and were lost at sea, the tragic irony being that the U-boat failed to carry out its attack.

On board the Sagaing when it was attacked and sunk was the Edinburgh-born Merchant Navy officer and author Dougal Robertson.

He escaped unhurt and later became famous when he and his family survived their schooner being sunk by a pod of killer whales in the Pacific Ocean during their round-the-world trip in 1972. His book Survive the Savage Sea about their 37-day ordeal on a liferaft was later made into a film.

The Sri Lankan navy (SLN) stated: “After a series of dedicated endeavours made along a period of five months, on 22nd March the wreck started to ascend to the surface proving the professionalism and instinct of SLN divers.”