Maritime Archaeology Updates

Diving Deeper with the Maritime Archaeology Trust

Category: Forgotten Wrecks

Chris Heal on ‘Sound of Hunger’

Our ‘Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War’ project volunteer, Chris Heal, writes about his research for the Trust and his new book Sound of Hunger.




After finishing his Doctorate at Bristol University, Chris Heal began volunteering with the Maritime Archaeology Trust’s Forgotten Shipwrecks project in 2016. The start of this project would bring him down an unexpected path towards the publication of a book, Sound of Hunger.


Chris was asked by the Maritime Archaeology Trust to research two different wrecks (SS Broomhill and SS Minerva). He found that the two wrecks were sunk on the same day by the same U-boat, UC 61, captain Georg Gerth. He decided to keep researching.

The remains of UC 61.

Every few months, as the sands shift, the remnants of UC 61 can still be found where it stranded in fog in July of 1917 on the beach at Wissant, a few miles south west of Calais near Cap Gris Nez. The Royal Navy declared that the intelligence gain from the wreck was minimal, particularly as the crew had blown up and set fire to the vessel before surrendering. What Chris found proved this propaganda wrong. The intelligence was substantial and led to the sinking of several more U-boats.

Georg’s older brother, Erich, was also a U-boat captain who joined the Kaiserlichen Marine two years earlier than Georg. While Georg fought off the south coast of England and the west coast of France, Erich spent his short U-boat career in the Mediterranean.


After the war, the two brothers lived different lives, Georg was a businessman who studied philosophy and enjoyed his privacy. Erich’s life was much faster and exciting. He followed Wilhelm Canaris, chief of the Nazi intelligence service in WWII, as a spy in South America; married a widowed countess; took part in the suppression of the Communist revolution in 1919, and was involved in the murder of Lenin’s protégés Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg; covertly helped prepare the second U-boat fleet for the next war; developed close contacts from Paris with Europe’s Catholic hierarchy, even to the pope-to-be, Eugenio Pacelli, in an attempt to stop the Second World War. In the 1930s, the family fell foul of National Socialist laws to cleanse German public life of all those with Jewish connections. He was murdered by the Gestapo in front of his son in Rome in 1943. Georg died in 1970, broken after the British firebombed his home in the hospital town of Würzburg in 1944.




We are very excited for Chris and his book, Sound of Hunger. We hope that you will take the time to learn more about the work he has done. Chris notes that this is ‘not a conventional history book, but a personal view of the events that were integral to the Gerth brothers, to see how they were changed by what they heard, were taught and experienced’. It is a true story about real people. ‘Sound of Hunger is unashamedly intimate in selection, perhaps eccentric in places; a personal journey that explains what was newly-found, how it was investigated and understood.’


Sound of Hunger was published in June this year by Unicorn Publishing to critical review. It is available from Unicorn and from many UK and US booksellers via Amazon.


This handsomely produced volume will be recognised as a distinctive and valuable contribution to the history of the First World War. Its author has been very careful in his research and shows both commendable levels of objectivity combined with real imaginative sympathy for his subjects in the writing. This is gripping stuff and should not disappoint its audiences. Four years into the publishing jamboree that is the War’s centenary here is a title that stands out and deserves its place on (and one hopes frequently off) the shelf.ˮ


A major contribution on WWI history. The author writes extremely well and his style is both lucid and engaging … Such a scholarly source book is a welcome addition to my bookshelf. An objective dispassionate foreigner’s view of the Gerth brothers’ history.ˮ

Barbican Library featuring Mike Greave’s London: An Artists Journey

There are only two more weeks left to take a trip to the Barbican Library to explore the artwork of our Artist in Residence, Mike Greaves. Mike has been volunteering with the Maritime Archaeology Trust since 2016 and has created over 50 beautiful and educational paintings for us. In June of 2014, Mike held his first successful solo exhibition entitled Rambling About London. He did not stop there! In June 2015, Mike presented a second solo exhibition of new work, entitled Revisiting Old Friends, at Southwark Cathedral. Since then he has been featured in a number of private commissions in London, Oxfordshire and Southampton.

Mike Greaves with his wife Kate and daughter Sarah.

Mike is currently presenting an exhibition at the Barbican museum, hosting a series of new ink and watercolour paintings that reflect the diversity of the extraordinary city of London- entitled London: An Artists Journey

Mike has kindly allowed the Maritime Archaeology Trust to include a small exhibition of artefacts recovered from the SS Camberwell, which hit a mine south east of the Isle of Wight in 1917 while on route from Middlesborough for London and then India with a general cargo. Seven crew members lost their lives in the sinking. The exhibition includes Mike’s rendition of the ship. Mike is also displaying paintings of the John Mitchell and the USS Jacob Jones, two other ships lost off the south coast during the First World War. When you visit the library, don’t forget to pick up our educational booklets on the USS Jacob Jones, War Graves from the First World War and Volunteering Matters, which tells of the many different ways volunteers have made the Forgotten Wrecks project possible. The artefacts on display have been loaned to us by Martin Woodward, owner of the Shipwreck Centre and Maritime Museum, Isle of Wight

SS Camberwell and associated artefacts on loan from Martin Woodward.

Don’t miss out on this exhibition! The painting are selling fast with 6 sold in the past week! To learn more about Mike Greaves work you can visit his website and can learn about other exhibitions and events happening at the Barbican 

How to get involved

You can become actively involved in the Maritime Archaeology Trust by becoming a Friend of the Trust, making a donation, or volunteering. By becoming a friend of the Maritime Archaeology Trust you will receive a membership pack, newsletters, updates direct to your inbox, a copy of the annual report and exclusive opportunities and offers as well as access to special events and activities for you and your family and most importantly, a chance to get involved in archaeological fieldwork both under water and on the foreshore. To find out more visit,

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.


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

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.


Reproduced with the permission of Mike Greaves ASGFA

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 ( 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.


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:

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:


Forgotten Wrecks of the Devon Coast: Geophysics and Diving


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 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.


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).


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 ( 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.


Diver photographs detail of the wreck structure of the Newholm.


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


Discovery Bus: Dartmouth area schools


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 or ring us on 02380 237300.