First World War Wreck gets Virtual Restoration


First World War Wreck gets Virtual Restoration Off Coast of Yorkshire

HMS Falmouth

The original appearance of a ship from the Battle of Jutland has been recreated, superimposed on the wreck that still lies on the seabed off the Yorkshire coast where the ship finally sank after being hit by German torpedoes for a third time.

The warship HMS Falmouth is the only substantial wreck of a Royal Navy ship from the battle still lying in English waters.  The ship has been recreated digitally by Historic England as a 3D image strikingly superimposed above its present state, based on recent survey work of the wreck, which lies in shallow water in Bridlington Bay.

Falmouth was among 250 ships, with more than 100,000 crew from the British and German navies, that fought in the only major sea battle of the war, off the Danish coast on 31 May 1916.  More than 6,000 British and 2,500 German sailors died in the battle, which was fought in such foggy conditions that although the consensus was that the British won, the outcome was unclear even to the combatants and is debated among naval historians to this day.

Falmouth fought as part of Admiral Beattie’s battle cruiser fleet, and torpedoed the German cruiser Lutzow, sustaining only minor damage to its superstructure.

On 19 August it was sailing south with the fleet when it was hit by two torpedoes fired by a German submarine.  Twelve of the crew were killed, but most were rescued, and the damaged ship continued with a skeleton crew.  The following day it was torpedoed again.

“That was really it for the ship, though most of the crew were saved as it listed over and sank quite slowly,” said Wayne Cocroft, a historian at Historic England.  “Divers were sent down immediately and retrieved some of the guns, and there was more salvage work – really scrap metal strippers – in the 1930s, but most of the wreck remains intact where it sank.”

The seabed survey of the wreck was carried out with the Coastguard Agency, and the 3D model made using a three-metre model of the ship that is now part of the Imperial War Museum collection and on display at the Chatham Historic Dockyard museum.

The only intact veteran of the battle, HMS Caroline, has been restored in Belfast docks, where it was opened as an outstation of the Museum of the Royal Navy to mark the battle’s anniversary.  A leaflet on the history of HMS Falmouth can be downloaded from the Historic England website.

A more humble ship from the war, a trawler refitted as a minesweeper, whose wreck was rediscovered two years ago off the Dorset coast, has been given official protection by the government to guard it from illegal salvage divers.

The steam trawler Arfon was built at Goole in east Yorkshire in 1908, and worked out of Portland harbour during the war, sweeping mines laid by German U-boats out of the shipping lanes.  In April 1917 the inevitable happened: it struck a mine and sank fast, with the loss of 10 of the crew of 13.  It was rediscovered off St Alban’s Head with its minesweeping gear, deck gun, port holes and engine room still intact.

Joe Flatman, head of listing at Historic England, said: “The Arfon shipwreck is a rare survivor of a type of vessel once very common around the coastline of Britain but which has now entirely disappeared, surviving only in documents and as wrecks like this one.”

The crews of these vessels faced great dangers, he said.  “Trawlers, minesweepers and other coastal patrol vessels played a crucial role in keeping the sea lanes around the British Isles open during both world wars, a part of the war effort that is often overlooked.”

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Source: The Guardian


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