Maritime Archaeology Updates

Diving Deeper with the Maritime Archaeology Trust

Category: First World War

Tolkien arrives in Southampton on hospital ship: 100 years ago today

100 years ago today (09/11/1916), 24 year old 2nd Lieutenant John Ronald Reuel Tolkien arrived in Southampton, one of the hundreds of wounded and ill servicemen returning home aboard the Hospital Ship Asturiashmhs-asturias-2-1914-1917t-1

The Asturias was the third hospital ship to arrive in Southampton that day, the majority of injured coming fresh from the battles raging on the Somme. Tolkien had fought on the Somme and evaded injury, but four months of living in lice infested trenches had resulted in Trench Fever. Tolkien was taken by ambulance train from the battlefield to a hospital in Le Touquet where he remained for a week, but when his condition worsened he was ordered back to Blighty, sailing from Le Havre. On arrival in Southampton, ambulance trains were waiting to transport the patients to hospitals around the country, as close as possible to their home towns. Tolkien was put on a train bound for Birmingham where he would be reunited with his wife (whom he had barely seen since their wedding the year before). So efficient was the wartime transport system, that this whole journey was completed in a single day.

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Tolkien 1916

Tolkien spent the remainder of the war between hospital and Home Service camps. Although unable to fully shake off the illness, the lice probably saved his life, as following his departure, the remainder of his battalion, 11th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, 74th Brigade, were sent to Ypres where they were almost completely wiped out.

In his biography, Tolkien states that by 1918 all but one of his closest friends were dead. It was during the war years that he began to write. His experiences on the battlefields infused in his writing, evident in his most famous works: The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-55). To read more about Tolkien’s war click here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-one/inside-first-world-war/part-two/10356085/jrr-tolkien-war.html

With hammocks for 1200 patients, the Asturias was one of the largest of the 77 Royal Navy Hospital Ships operating in WW1. The Asturias was one of many hospital ships sailing daily between Le Havre and Southampton. However being on board a hospital ship was no guarantee of safety. 24 hospital ships were sunk by enemy action with huge loss of life. The Asturias was no exception, torpedoed off the Devon coast on the 20th March 1917. Click here to read about the fate of the Asturias. http://forgottenwrecks.maritimearchaeologytrust.org/asturias

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Reproduced with the permission of Mike Greaves ASGFA www.greaves2connections.com

Lost beneath the waves: Ancient Landscapes and Wartime Wrecks

On Sunday 16th October, Garry Momber, Director of the Maritime Archaeology Trust, will be speaking at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival.

Garry’s talk will cover two archaeological projects of major interest and importance to the Island:

Bouldnor Cliff: A submerged pre-historic site eleven meters below the surface and approximately 250 metres offshore of Bouldnor, near Yarmouth. Excavations have been continuing at Bouldnor Cliff since the 8,000 year old Mesolithic settlement was first identified in 1999, when a lobster was seen throwing Stone Age worked flints from its burrow. Since then the site has yielded numerous secrets. The material so far recovered has already demonstrated that the technology of the era was 2,000 years ahead of what archaeologists previously believed.

HLF Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War: With over 1000 wartime wrecks along England’s south coast alone, the conflict of WW1 has left a rich legacy and many associated stories of bravery and sacrifice. These underwater memorials represent the vestiges of a vital, yet little known, struggle that took place on a daily basis, just off our shores.

Time: 10.30 – 11.30 am

Location: Northwood House, Isle of Wight

Cost: £8.50

Book your tickets here!

Remembering crew of newly designated wreck of HMT Arfon – mined 1917

HMT Arfon has been in the news recently, the wreck having been identified off Dorset by Martin, Bryan and the team at Swanage Boat Charters. It subsequently became the 52nd site to be designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 (https://historicengland.org.uk/whats-new/news/Arfon-Wreck-Protected) meaning that a licence is required to dive the site.

Ten of the Arfon’s 13 crew were killed when the vessel hit a mine while minesweeping in April 1917 and they have now been added to a new Community on the Imperial War Museum’s ‘Lives of the First World War’ digital memorial. The Maritime Archaeology Trust’s HLF Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War project has created the Community and hopes that relatives of the Arfon’s crew, a number of whom are known to exist, may be able to add to the crews’ Life Story pages, with photos and information.

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The Arfon’s boiler, May 2016. Image: Maritime Archaeology Trust

The three crew members who survived the tragic accident will soon be added to the Community which can be found at:  https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/community/3850

In May of this year, MAT divers were excited to be able to join Swanage Boat Charters for a dive on the wreck of the Arfon. We were able to assist with taking survey photographs of some of the fascinating features, fixtures and fittings on this well preserved site. Unfortunately, the conditions were not quite clear enough to gain the photographs needed for producing a full 3D model of the site on this occasion.

Model volunteer!

Ken Manchip from the Fareham and District Model Engineering Society tells us how he ended up volunteering for the Maritime Archaeology Trust:

“The road leading to my building of the model steam pinnace started when the Fareham and District Model Engineering Society that I am a member of, played host to a representative of the Marine Archaeologist Trust, how gave us a talk on the underwater world in the Solent: identifying and investigating wrecks. This was received so well that we have left the door open for a return visit.

One of the sites the Trust have been researching and surveying in Gosport, Hampshire is the hulked remains of a steam pinnace that would have been in use during the First World War, Steam Pinnace 704. The Trust identified a model kit for a similar vessel and they thought such a model would be a suitable and beneficial aid for public outreach.

They approached the Model Engineering Society to see if we might be able to help with the building and as the representative of the Society’s Marine group the task was presented to me and I very willingly took up the challenge.

The model kit duly arrived and was found to be a wooden plank on frame, vacuum formed plastic superstructure, and plastic fittings, which I am familiar with. The kit included a side view plan and short explanation of stage build.

Described as a beginner’s kit, it very quickly became obvious that without considerable experience, skills and tooling, this build would have taken more than a month of approximately 2 hours a day and the end result would have been quite different! As with other models that I have been involved in, patience is the main skill to get one through. The moment you recognise what is in hand and where it is expected to go, is magic.

I enjoyed the challenge of building the steam pinnace model, which led me to surf the net to learn more of the history of the naval Pinnaces. The model will be exhibited at the Fareham and District Model Engineering Society Open Weekend at the end of July, before the Trust takes possession for use in their public outreach activities.

And what’s next for me? Maybe I will try the earlier 19th century model?…….”

Ken Manchip, Fareham and District Model Engineering Society

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You can see Ken’s steam pinnace model on the weekend of 30/31st July at the Fareham and District Model Engineering Society open weekend:

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Forgotten Wrecks of the Devon Coast: Geophysics and Diving

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Distribution of First World War wrecks within the Devon study area (image credit: Contains public sector information, licensed under the Open Government Licence v2.0, from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency).

As part of the Forgotten Wrecks project this summer the Maritime Archaeology Trust sent out a team of divers to find and document a number of WW1 wrecks off the South Devon Coast. In order to assist the divers in finding these wrecks bathymetric maps were consulted. Much like navigational charts used by mariners these maps show the topographic features of the seafloor. However, modern techniques such as multibeam bathymetry, paint a far higher resolution image of the seafloor with measurements made every few metres.  As a result, even fine details such as the orientation of shipwrecks and the positions of larger objects such as boilers and anchors on these sites, can be seen.

Within the area surveyed by the Maritime Coastguard Agency between 2012 and 2015 (data freely available from aws2.caris.com) 31 of the 48 wrecks which had been identified as lying within the south Devon study area reviewed ahead of diving operations were visible.

Once identified a zoomed in map was created of each wreck. The examples shown here are of the British Navy trawler, the Benton Castle and cargo ship, the Newholm. Both of which sank after hitting mines, leading to the loss of 30 lives in total. These images and images of the other wrecks were used by the diving team to help select individual sites to dive and then plan their dives more effectively.

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Geophysical survey image of the Benton Castle (image credit: Contains public sector information, licensed under the Open Government Licence v2.0, from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency).

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Geophysical survey image of the Newholm (image credit: Contains public sector information, licensed under the Open Government Licence v2.0, from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency).

The dive team operated out of Dartmouth using Falcon Diving Charters (http://falcondivingcharters.com/) during the week of 27th June to the 1st July. Despite some challenging weather conditions the team managed to reach a number of the Forgotten Wrecks to undertake survey and photogrammetric recording.

Written by Amelia Astley

To find out more about the Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War project, click here.

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Diver photographs detail of the wreck structure of the Newholm.

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Marine life encrusts the remains of the wreck of the Benton Castle.

 

Discovery Bus: Dartmouth area schools

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Are you involved with a school in Dartmouth or the surrounding area? Would you like the Discovery Bus to visit your school?

We are going to be in the area the week beginning 27th June 2016 and are looking for a number of schools who may be interested in a free session on maritime archaeology and the Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War. Sessions available for all age ranges, single classes, or whole year groups. During the session, students will be introduced to maritime archaeology, get to handle real archaeological artefacts from First World War shipwrecks, try on dive kit, and explore what it’s like to be a maritime archaeologist.

For more information or to book a session, please email Jasmine at jns@maritimearchaeologytrust.org or ring us on 02380 237300.