Some South Devon Wrecks
This is a very popular wreck. The Maine
was torpedoed on March 23rd 1917 by the U boat
UC-17. Despite a determined rescue operation, she sank "gracefully,
upright and on an even keel" just offshore from
Mill Cove. For a while her 2 masts emerged 12 ft
waves, but she is now a good exercise in wreck location.
The wreck lies at 50.12.750
03.50.960 at a depth
of around 35m, upright on an even keel and about
the sea bed. The Maine is a big boat - just under
with a beam of 46 ft.
The Maine was "discovered"
by Torbay BSAC in 1961. They own the wreck having paid 100
pounds for her. The club salvaged the bronze propeller, and
in 1983 they brought up the spare iron propeller off her deck
which is now displayed in a shopping centre in Paignton.
Fierce tidal streams mean that diving
the Maine requires good preparation. Slack water lasts about
40 minutes either 3 hrs before or after high tide. Diving
outside these times is usually a frustrating experience
as the currents tend to force you to a boring drift dive
across a fairly featureless sea bed.
Although the ship was robust she is
beginning to deteriorate. In the mid 80s her decks were
largely intact which meant that entering the dark holds was
quite exciting. In those days you could even find unopened
bottles of champagne inside her. Unfortunately, the decks
have now largely collapsed - which despite opening up the
wreck - has robbed her of some of the atmosphere she has.
Nonetheless, there is a lot to see on this wreck. The bows
are the shallowest part and still support a loading gantry on
the tip. There is a large anchor still strapped on the
outside. The first hold supports a large population of fish
and in good light is a memorable sight. The
engine room is well exposed and worth careful investigation.
The boilers are massive. Her stern
section is largely intact with some nice guard rails. The diver can also swim down to the
seabed by the stern, sit on the prop shaft, look upwards and see a superb sight
as the curve of the overhanging counter stern lies above.
"The wreck (from the stern):-
The stern of the Maine is beginning to collapse, some of
the debris is now lying on the seabed at 35m. The propellor was
salvaged some time ago, and this was probably the cause of the
damage here. If the diver swims "up" the stern, there is now a
hole which allows entry into the rear of the ship. The 4.7 inch
gun was also recovered.
The diver can take two paths here. One is on the deck,
the diver drops from the poop deck to the main deck, and passes
over or past the open hold hatches. This rear part of the ship
is in a good state, with no major structural collapse. The rear
mast can now be seen lying across the corner of one of these
holds and to starboard. The diver then swims up over the
superstructure area, and then drops down again to face the two
The other route is through the rear holds and under the
superstructure (the route is shown in the following plan).
The diver can enter the wreck through an obvious hole in
the stern, passing inside and down into the rear-most hold. At
this rear-most region of the hold, the prop-shaft can be seen in
the centre of the ship. The "floor" of these rear holds is
covered with the ship's chalk cargo (that is what the rounded
white "pebbles" that cover the ground here are) and there is a
ladder passing up out of the hold. Through these two rear holds
there is plenty of light (the decks have rotted) and there is
easy exit up and out through the hatches. Moving forward from
the rear holds there are two options, and it must be noted that
through these next parts there is not the same amount of light
or overhead exits, and there is more silt in them than in the
holds. One route on the port side is pretty much a dead end, but
a hole at the bottom left allows entry into a room. The diver
can swim around this dark little room, but must go back out
through the same hole - the girders seem too close together at
the forward end to allow further travel. The other exit is
between the girders at the starboard side, also at the bottom.
The diver then swims through into another darkened room, but
this time you can swim past the engines and exit through the
next set of girders. The diver will now be facing the two main
boilers and is no longer inside enclosed spaces.
NOTE: This interior route is not a tight squeeze at any
time, even a fat diver with twin-15's can fit through these
To the starboard side of the boilers the diver can swim
down and out of the wreck through a hole in the side, and will
then be on the shell and sand seabed where there are collapsed
plates. Alternatively, the diver can swim over, between (which
is possible) or to starboard of the boilers to descend into the
shattered remains of number two hold. It is on the starboard
side of this hold that the torpedo hit, and the damage is easy
to see. There is no starboard side to the ship here, the hull
having collapsed to seabed level. On the port side, the hull is
reduced, but still present. Swimming forward, it is obvious
that, in complete contrast to the second hold, number one hold
is intact, and the hatch is off. The diver can swim around this
hold at three different levels (decks). Forward of this hold,
the intact foc'sle and bow stands up, and is the highest point
of the wreck. "
Richard Wood - May 2003
The Louis Sheid was a Belgian steamer
whose wrecking was the result of a rescue operation in mid
channel. In December 1939 the freighter Tajandoen was either
torpedoed by Prien (who had dispatched the Royal Oak at Scapa
Flow) or mined. The Louis Sheid helped to rescue the survivors,
for land in earnest. Heavy rain, a southerly gale and few
shore lights meant that they couldnt see the rocks
as the boat hurtled into the South Devon coast just by
All her crew plus the survivors from the Tajandoen were rescued
by a combination of lifeboats and shore based rocket rescue
apparatus. Despite attempts to refloat the Louis Sheid she
was wedged well into the rocks. Some salvage took place,
after fierce gales the boat split into two. Over the following
years a lot of salvage took place with even an aerial ropeway
contructed from the cliffs onto the wreck so as to take
The Louis Sheid was big 420ft
long with a beam of 55 ft. She lies at 50:15.686; 03:51.710
just off the Leas Foot beach at Thurlestone. The main part
of the wreck is the stern section. The remains of the bows lie embedded in
sand a little way off the main wreck.
The Sheid is a good shore dive. The
wreck can be dived at any state of the tide, but south westerlies
will blow the site right out. She is best dived from Leas
Foot beach which means parking in Thurlestone golf club and
then walking a short distance to the sandy shore. Until 1996,
the wreck was easily located by a stempost that emerged above
the waves at low water. Alas no more, so locating the wreck
while swimming in the water can be challenging. Once found,
the wreck is really superb. She lies upright in 10m of water.
She is well broken but the main lines of the boat can be pieced
together. The boilers are well preserved, as is the rudder
and part of the stern section. The wreck supports a good population
of wrasse, pollack and much other sea life. In the day time
the wreck is exceptionally colourful, while at night a different
atmosphere and a multitude of life presides.
The Louis Sheid is an excellent night
dive, and if dived at a full moon with good visibility is
This can be an excellent dive - especially when the
vis is good. The Bretagne was a schooner-rigged steamer that
collided with a French steamer some miles off Torbay in August
1918. Conditions were foggy so that the collision was unexpected
and severe for both boats. Unfortunately, the First Mate perished
with the Bretagne.
The wreck lies upright at 50:29:490 - 03:22:698 -
few miles east of Torbay. She lies in 30m of water
is 23m to her decks. There is a lot to see on the wreck.
Her deck and holds are quite well preserved as are
her deck handrails. The diver can descend down by her
and forage around the prop shaft around which there
bit of a silty scour. The wreck has a lot of atmosphere.
Like most wrecks, diving the Bretagne is best done
slack water, but diving is quite possible at most states
of the tide. The biggest problem is visibility. The
can be a darkish wreck to dive.
Bristol Aerospace BSAC own the wreck. More information
is available at:
Herzogin Cecilie was a beautiful Clipper ship. A Tea Clipper
that hurled across the world as she delivered goods from Australia
to Britain in under 90 days. She took part in the Australian
Grain Races - and she won 8 of them. She was a four masted
barque built in 1902 as a school ship for the North German
Lloyd Line. She was a little over 3000 tons, 320+ ft long
with a beam a little under 50 ft. Her sails were impressive.
When all were spread there was over an acre of canvas that
propelled her along. She only just missed the world record
at 21 knots.
In 1936 she sailed from Port Lincoln, Australia to
Falmouth in just 86 days - her fastest ever. She then pushed
forward up the English Channel. Rough seas and fog were her
nemesis. Close to Salcombe she hit the Hamstone. A lifeboat
arrived and together with cliff launched breeches buoys managed
to rescue all the crew and passengers. The problem was the
cargo of grain. It began to rot and apparently the smell was
appalling. The decks began to split under the strain of the
swollen grain. Much of the grain was removed by salvage operations
and it was then agreed to tow the boat into Salcombe out of
reach of strong seas. However, the Salcombe authorities were
nervous about the health threat of the rotting cargo so the
ship was beached in Starehole Bay just outside Salcombe. Most
of the remaining grain was washed out and eaten by seagulls.
However, Starehole Bay was not a safe harbour. The Cecilie
rested on a slight sandy bottom with a firm rocky base. In
July 1936 a strong south easterly gale finished the boat.
The sandy bottom was uprooted and the ship settled onto the
unforgiving rock. Her back was broken and after a few more
gales the boat sank below the waves.
Today, the Herzogin is a nice wreck dive at 50:12:49;
03:47:01. She is well broken up and it is virtually impossible
to picture the original graceful ship from the tangle of plates
and tubes that the diver encounters. Part of the problem is
the depth. It is difficult to reach 10m on this shallow site
and so she is well broken by the south easterly gales that
hurl into the bay. Another problem is the sand which liberally
covers much of the wreck. However, enough of the ship remains
to make this dive quite special - especially if the vis is good.
The bow is still recognisable. The anchor hole can
still be seen. But best of all this wreck is really pretty.
The light twinkles through the plates. There are swarms of
fish that tamely look at the inquisitive diver. The maze of
plates and wreckage challenges the diver's orientation. There
are some splendid iron tunnels within which the diver can
swim through with attendant wrasse. You can still see wooden
decking and a few of the great iron pulleys that hoisted the
large sails that propelled the Herzogin to world record speeds.
There is much to see.
The Herzogin is a reasonable second dive.
James Eagan Layne
The Eagan Layne is a well known wreck. Many people
have dived her over the last 35 years so that she is now
virtually a diver's national monument! This is largely because
upright on the sea bed at little more than 22 metres to the
bottom. She is easily accessed by dive boats from Plymouth
and is usually no problem to find owing to the dive boats
that congregate over her. If, however, your boat is the
first to arrive then
a large marker buoy moored permanently near her makes location
a fairly easy matter.
The Eagan Layne was an American Liberty ship charged
with the task of relaying supplies to Britain during World
War 2. Hundreds of these ships were built in the early 1940's
and they transported many men and supplies from America to
Britain. They were built rapidly and followed a rather ugly
prefabricated design. No awards were won for their elegance.
But they did the job, and Britain's war effort benefited
from their contribution. The Laine was built in December
1944 and by March 1945 she was engaged in convoying US Army
stores, motor boats and timber from Barry in South Wales
to Ghent. As she passed near to Plymouth she was torpedoed
a German U boat (U-1195) between holds 4 and 5 on the starboard
side. Her steering gear failed and she began to flood. She
was taken in tow to shallower water in Whitsand Bay where
she gently sank upright on a sandy bottom. There were no
and much of her cargo was salvaged.
For many years the wreck was easy to find since one
of her masts remained above the surface until the late 1970's.
She was in an excellent condition and apparently the torpedo
damage was easy to see. She is at 50:19:32; 04:04:42
(DMS). She is 440 ft long and was over 7000 tons gross weight.
She lies in 22 metres with about 11 metres to her deck. The
stern section of the wreck is separate from the main hull
and lies about 25 m to the south.
Although the Layne is deteriorating she is an
excellent dive. Usually, the diver will land on the deck
and navigate over to the guard-rails. Peering over, one
with a nice drop off' down to the sea bed. The sides of
the Layne are covered with white dead man's fingers. The
are intact and to swim around them on the sea bed and peer
upwards at the curve is memorable. Shoals of pollack and
around the wreckage and there is much to examine on the sea
bed. Inside the wreck, the holds are very accessible although
there is now a risk of falling metal. In the summer the
holds are full of fish. Each hold seems to contain a different
set of fish. There are masses of wreckage
and fitments strewn around. The engine room, pistons and
boilers are very obvious and there are still a couple of
bits of brass
to be found. Don't forget the stern section which is
separated from the main wreck by about 50m to the south westish.
There may be a line from the midsection that takes you there
otherwise follow the curving line of the prop shaft. It is
possible to dive the wreck by descending down the bows,
through the holds, turning off to the stern by the midships
port break, swim around the stern and returning to the bows
the same way.
The Eagan Layne is a superb night dive
- it is very quiet when you are down below the engine
room in the dark.
Another famous South Devon wreck which receives many
visits from divers. Unlike the Maine and James Eagan Layne
this wreck is fairly well broken and almost flattened against
the sea bed in places. However, she is an excellent dive
not least because of the many fish that swarm around and
The Persier was a 5000 ton British built merchantman.
She was built in Newcastle in 1919 and was sold to Belgium
shortly after. She traded all over the world, and even took
part at Dunkirk in 1940. She nearly sank while doing convoy
duty from America to Britain in 1941. She remainded stranded
off Iceland for over a year until she was towed back to Britain
to be repaired. In 1945 she set off from Cardiff on convoy
duty. Off Eddystone she met her nemesis from a couple of torpedoes
from UB-1017. Confusion reigned as lifeboats were launched
only to be shattered by her propellor. People were spilt out
over the heavy Force 7 seas. Support vessels managed to rescue
the crew and passengers. The Persier carried on alone drifting
into the night. She sank but no one knew where.
In 1969, a fisherman found the wreck in Bigbury Bay.
Divers from Plymouth Sound went down and brought up the ship's
bell. They bought the wreck for 300 pounds and still own her.
The Persier is at 50:17:06; 03:58:07 (DMS) at a maximum
depth of around 30m. Diving can be done at much any time
- there is
little tidal flow around her. She lies on a sandy-rocky bottom
with extensive and interesting reefs
around her. Her bows and stern are fairly recognisable, but
the midships is a mess of plates and wreckage (in the 70's
the Persier was an upright wreck not unlike the Maine today).
She lies roughly in a NE-SW orientation with her bows pointing
southwards. The bow is quite upright and stands some 10m
above the sea bed.
Three large boilers can be seen. The remains of
the engine with large pistons scattered over the wrecked
plates are easily found. There is an excellent swim through
part of the prop shaft chamber which leads straight to the
rudder which lies over a reef. Underneath the stern there
is a pretty fish filled chamber and just outside lie the
remains of the steering gear plus an odd shaped upright metal
pyramid that was a gun mount.
Best of all
are the fish. This is the place to observe myriads of
fish - some hunting others. Bib and pollack are especially
common. The visibility and water quality is usually quite
good, and some divers reckon this to be one of
the best wrecks in South Devon.
There is a lot to explore but given the depth she
needs a few dives before the diver can properly appreciate
her and navigate around.
There are a lot of South Devon wrecks caused by U
boat attack in 1917. The Riversdale's end came at the end
of the year during the night of December 18th. The armed merchant
steamer was going from Tyneside to Savona. Her route took
her past Start Point and this is where UB 31 picked her off.
A single torpedo hit her, but fortunately for most of the
crew the ship was run aground off Prawle Point. She was patched
up and optimistically towed off. She didn't get very far.
Within a mile her patch blew off and the Riversdale gently
sank in over 40m of water.
She lies upright on a light sandy bottom in an E
W axis. Her position is at 50:11:777 - 03:44:143 slightly
off Prawle Point. You need to dive at slack water otherwise
you'll suffer strong currents. It is 35m to her decks
and over 45m to the
sea bed. The Riversdale is a large wreck - over 300
In some ways she resembles the Maine. Her decks have
caved in, but she is a very intact and recognisable
wreck. She has large holds that can be swum into, although
care needs to be taken. A great iron propellor dominates
stern section and there are large quantities of coal
around and inside the wreck. In 2002 a
monofilament net was strewn across holds 3 and 4 on the port side.
Good dive planning is essential for this dive.
Torbay BSAC first dived the wreck and own her.
"The Riversdale lies upright on a sand & shell seabed at 47m (160ft) with
her stern to the SW (approximately). It is about 38m (130ft) to the
decks. The wreck from the stern;
There are bollards at the very stern, and a gun mount (post and gun are
gone) that is beginning to collapse into the deck - so lies at an angle.
To the port side of the gun mount there is a hole in the collapsing deck
which allows entry inside the stern. At the forward part of the stern
castle the mast has collapsed to starboard and hangs out at 90 degrees
over the side of the wreck. Descending to the holds it is apparent that
the decks (apart form a very small section between the stern castle and
number 4 hold on the port side) has disappeared - reputedly the work of
commercial coal salvage activities. CAUTION - During the year 2000 a
large monofilament net was draped inside the rear two holds, just inside
the port side, and continued up to the superstructure. Following these
mostly empty holds forward you come to the superstructure, which,
although tangled and twisted on the port side, still allows a "swim
through" inside its starboard side. Outside the wreck at this point (to
starboard at least) there are a number of plates on the seabed. Forward
of the superstrcture there is an exposed donkey boiler lying
across the ship. The deck around number 2 hold is missing, and the hold largely
empty, but the deck over number 1 hold is intact and that hold's
hatches are off. The wreck ends abruptly at the forward end of number
one hold. The entire bow and foc'sle lies on its side a short distance
to the NE (to starboard of straight ahead)."
Richard Wood - Oct 2000
The Elk is a small trawler of 108 ft length that was
mined in November 1940 just outside Plymouth Sound. For most
of her life she was a fishing vessel. She was built at Hull
in 1902 and until the 1st World War fished from Grimsby. In
1915 she was requisitioned as a minelayer and saw service
off the Dardanelles. During the interwar period she worked
off West Wales from Milford Haven, but in 1939 she became
The Elk was discovered in 1981. She lies upright
the Elk Reef at 50:18:427 - 04:10:314 (DMS) at a depth
on a sandy bottom. The wreck lies approximately N-S with bows to the north. For a few years she was in a good
of order. Being small, she could be easily dived and
cabin was a notably intact feature. Unfortunately,
suffered much over the last few years and is now a
of her original pristine self. Her brass has largely
as has much else. However, the diver can easily swim
the entire wreck and appreciate what a whole wreck
The Elk is a very popular dive. Much fish life, a large
conger and other things to see including artillery shells and other
The surrounding reef is excellent. Head SW from port side of the wreck and after 5 mins over the sand the reef appears. Some nice small drop offs. Top of the reef about 20m.
(The wreck is more flattened and elongated
than this sketch suggests).
This wreck needs good dive planning. She lies in a strong
tidal stream about 1 mile south off Start point. The Newholm
was a 3400 ton steamer that was mined on her way back to
Middlesborough in September 1917. Most of her crew perished in
The Newholm lies at 50:12:577 - 03:38:530.
She lies on a sandbank with her stern pointing northwards
towards the shore. Her decks are well bedded in with
sandbank with a starboard list of about 35 degrees. Her
is broken and there are a number of breaks in her hull
allow divers to penetrate part of the wreck. There are
number of holds some of which still contain the iron
the steamer was carrying. A couple of masts still stand
couple of metres proud. It is about 28m
to her stern rail, but around 35m to the more interesting
parts of the wreck. With the sand scours around the bows
and stern it is
possible to reach 40m plus.
It is worth diving below the stern rail to look at the rudder (twisted hard to the port) and parts of the propellor that appear above the sand. If the sand allows there is a swimthrough just in front of the rudder. Depth around 41m.
The bottom is light and owing to the heavy currents
is a well swept site. The sand banks up in different places at
various times. The wreck is firmly embedded in the sand but is
still a good dive with lots to see. It acts as a magnet for
wrasse and pouting that congregate around the wreck.
The Newholm lies in a strong tidal stream. It is best dived
at slack on neap tides. Experienced divers only. Phosphorus blocks
have been reported on this wreck. Looks like purple / orange
glass with no growth on it. Best left well alone!
"The Newholm lies upright, with a 30 degree (estimate) list to starboard.
The wreck lies approximately north-south with its stern to the
Under the stern is a scour to about 39m. Sand is "drifted up against the
(higher) port side, in places level with the decks. At the shallowest,
the port side deck rails are in about 28m. The is a scour at the
starboard (lower) side. The ship has broken her back over a sand bank,
with a deeper sections at each end, the most interesting parts of the
wreck are accessible as a 36m dive. Traveling from the stern notable
The counter stern has a gun post - complete with pivot - but no gun. There
is a stern "castle" which can be easily entered, but there is some rope
netting in there. You then pass number 4 hold which is open and filled
with sand (all 4 holds are open - the hatches are off). Between 4 and 3
holds is a large winch type machine, and some masts are sticking up
about 3m on the starboard side. Number 3 hold is also mostly filled with sand.
You then reach the midships superstructure area. From here the
wreck can be penetrated down the port side. The machinery and
boilers are buried. At the bow end of the superstructure region
there is a total break with a gap of about 5m between sections
of the wreck. At this point three decks of the superstructure
block are accessible looking to the stern at the port side.
Continuing forward, you can again penetrate down the port side
into number 2 and 1 holds - which still contain some iron
ore sticking out of the sand. At the forward end of number one hold
there is a total break with nothing but sand visible, the entire fo'csle
is absent (reputedly in 44m somewhere).
NOTE: It should be noted that the
sand around the Newholm shifts from year to year, so that the
amount of this wreck above the sand will change. Reports
the 1960's quote a similar amount of wreck visible as today,
but some reports from the 1980s say that the entire stern
poop-deck were submerged in the sand. "
Richard Wood - Oct 2000
Picture by Frederick Tones
The Lord Stewart lies offshore from Watcombe between
Teignmouth and Torquay. She was an armed merchantman of 250ft
length that was torpedoed in September 1918. She was on her
way from Cherbourg to Barry. One crewman perished in the
She can be found at 50:29:35; 03:16:55 (DMS). She is upright
on a dark bottom at 37m. The wreck is 9m high and there is
lots to see although the wreck is usually quite dark. Visibility
is not superb.
"The Lord Stewart was torpedoed in 1918 while (and
in spite of being) well escorted. Her killer was UB-104, and
while this U-boat may be unfamiliar to Devon's divers, her
commander certainly isn't, many of the Salcombe and Dartmouth
wrecks are courtesy of Oberleutnant Bieber (in his previous boat
The Lord Stewart lies upright on a fairly muddy seabed at
37m, it is about 25-28m to the highest parts around the
superstructure or gun post, and about 31-33m to the decks. Viz
is often better than on her closest neighbours, but that isn't
saying much! CAUTION - there is often a
lot of fishing line about, draped around most the high parts of
The wreck (from the stern).
Swimming over the stern the rudders can be seen - this
wreck has not sunk into the silt very far. Back up on the wreck
the stern castle is intact, even if the poop deck is beginning
to fall down inside. There is a gun mount here, but no post or
gun. Descending forward past the ladder on the port side to the
intact main deck, you can see the uncovered hatches to both
holds 3 & 4. The holds themselves are silted up (with the
usual soft sticky stuff so beloved of western Lyme Bay). There
is a winch still in between these rear holds. At the forward end
of these rear holds there are some small hatches in the deck.
Travelling forward, the superstructure rises up. There are
a number of cavities that allow you to see through the
superstructure, but most seem too netted and tangled in
fishing-line to allow a diver to swim through. On the starboard
side of the superstructure, the hull plates are breaking away,
allowing a good look into the ship.
Forward of the superstructure, on the port side (where
the torpedo hit), the hull plates are collapsing and lie at and
angle. Today they have sea-fans growing on them. On the
starboard side forward of the bridge, the hull is also somewhat
reduced, and on this side the collapsed mast leads out and down
to the seabed. Travelling forward again, you ascend once more to
the intact bow. The bow still has some of its wooden decking,
and both bow anchors are in place."
Richard Wood - Nov 2001
The Skaala met her end from a German torpedo
on December 26th 1917. One man perished in the attack. The
Skaala was a Norwegian steamer that was carrying coal from
Port Talbot to Rouen. She is 230 ft long and 35 ft wide.
The wreck can be found at 50:11:759
- 03:49:684 in 47m of water and is not far from
the Maine. The wreck lies upright with a slight list
Her superstructure is collapsing around the engine
Visibility is usually rather good although care must
of tides. There are lots of heavy coal briquettes in
The Skaala is a good deep dive. Her holds
are open and there is little net on her. The sea bottom is
clean and well swept. Her propellor is iron.
The Skaala lies upright in one piece, with some list to
port. She is about 5 metres proud of a coarse sand seabed at 47m
(155ft). The coal bricks (a.k.a. "patent fuel") are
The counter-stern of the Skaala still has a propellor and
rudder. On the seabed at this position is some collapsed
wreckage and a small admiralty pattern anchor (?). There is no
gun, she was unarmed. Moving forward are the rear hold(s?) -
full of the square coal bricks. Moving towards the
superstructure, you reach the torpedo hole on the starboard
side. You can now swim up the bridge deck, which is collapsing
into the hole, a hatch on the starboard side allowing a limited
Immediately forward of the bridge deck, the boilers
can be seen. There are two forward holds, equally full of coal
bricks, which can be swam through. At the forward end of these holds, a ladder passes up to
the bow. The enclosed deck here can also be swam through.
Outside the bow, both anchors still hang in place.
Richard Wood - August 2001
The Glocliffe was a 2200 ton steamer that
was torpedoed in August 1917. She was carrying coal from
Barry. The wreck lies off Torbay at 50
27.12; 003 17.38 (WGS84) and is a typical Lyme Bay wreck.
"The Glocliffe lies on her port side on a silty
seabed at 40 metres. The least depth to her starboard deck rails
and bilge keel is about 33m. Because of her orientation care
must be taken not to swim into the holds or superstructure
without realising. As for many other Lyme Bay wrecks the viz.
can be low, and there are copious amounts of net and fishing
line present. She was sunk by UB-40 (Oberleutnant Howaldt - a
winner of the Blue Max).
From the bow. The bow of the Glocliffe has been covered
in monofilament net this year (2001), but the intact starboard
rail of the foc'sle deck slopes up to about 33m from its point.
The foc'sle deck ends with a small step 'down' to the upper deck
and 2 open holds, along the seabed can be found the winches and
forward mast. The superstructure is intact and in place, not
swept off like so many of the upright wrecks. The bridge and
accommodation areas are easy to inspect.
Swimming over the side of the wreck (ie. the top) from
the superstructure is not the dull thankless task you might
think. The bilge keel is interrupted by a large hole into the
engine and boiler rooms, courtesy of the torpedo that sank the
Rear of the superstructure there are again two more
holds, again with winches and mast projecting out on the seabed.
At the rear of these holds there is a step "up" to the
poop deck, complete with bollards and the 12pdr gun still on its
post - but with a huge rope trawl net over it. This net stands
several metres up from the gun with floats at the top, and
covers the breech mechanism as though it were a fishnet
stocking. Whoever said guns weren't sexy?"
Richard Wood - November 2001
The Rosehill is a popular wreck
but without the right marks the wreck isn't easy to find. She
was an armed merchant ship that was torpedoed by U40 in September
1917 whilst travelling from Cardiff to Plymouth. Despite
the damage she limped on towards Plymouth before she expired
some 2 miles south of Portwrinkle off the Cornish coast.
The James Egan Layne is about 2 miles to the east.
She lies along a SE-NW axis on a reef with
lots of large rocks around. Her bows lie SE and her stern NW.
Depth is about 29m and her 2 boilers stand proud at around
24m. Marks are 50:19:40; 04:18:25. She was
over 300 ft long and had a gross tonnage of nearly 3000 tons.
Not a small ship.
As a dive the Rosehill resembles the Persier.
Apart from the boilers she is well flattened and some of
the wreckage is not easy to identify at first. You get the
feeling that much lies underneath the steel plates that lie
along the reef. The Rosehill abounds with fish - lots of
them - poor cod, bass, pollack, wrasse, conger and many others.
The fish seem quite
curious and certainly unfazed by divers. To watch the shoals
of fish swirling around the boilers is a splendid sight.
There are some large conger on the wreck. The plates are
covered with fan coral that wave gently in the currents that
flow along the wreck. One dive plan is to descend down to
the boilers and head SE along the plates until you get to
the bows wherein you can easily see the anchor embedded into
the plates plus part of a mast. Then head back NW past the
boilers to the stern. The stern section is well defined.
Here there is a gun that is quite impressive. The steering
gear, rudder and part of her propellor are clearly seen.
Despite the fact that the wreck lies on a
reef a fine sediment is easily stirred up which - if a herd of
wildebeest divers have already preceded your dive - can lower
the visibility dramatically. In any case visibility can often
be quite poor on this wreck. Nonetheless, this is a very good
As the 'glamour-girl' of the Salcombe wrecks, the Medina
was not the usual tramp steamer found plying the channel,
12,350 ton P & O liner, with construction so lavish that
she had served her time as a royal yacht! She was on her way
Sydney, Australia (via several other stops - with the Viceroy
of India's personal cargo aboard) when she lined herself up
sights of Oberleutnant Bieber's UB-31. Fitted with
quadruple-expansion steam engines, the Medina was capable of
19 knots, and fitted with a 4.7 inch gun, she would have been
than a match for the UB-31 on the surface. U-boat attacks on
liners are thus always stealth ambushes, and if the torpedo
isn't made to count, the liner will get away. In this case, the
torpedo slammed into the rear of the engine room, disabling
big liner and sealing her fate. Fortunately, the Medina
had put most of her passengers ashore in Plymouth, and in less
than an hour she was abandoned.
Six engine-room crew killed in the initial explosion were the
She lies in 64m, 4 miles off Start Point at 50 12.25 : 03
32.11 (DMS). She is 550ft long and 63ft wide.
Any diver who mistakes this huge liner for one of the tramp
in the area
advanced signs of nitrogen-narcosis!
There have been attempts to salvage any valuable cargo from
the Medina. Official salvages have not been very
profitable, but rumours persist of unofficial successes.
There have been a number of diving incidents on this deep
"The Medina lies upright and very proud of the seabed,
with about a 10-15 degree list to port. The seabed here
metres, so if the Medina had been a normal sized vessel she may
well have been un-diveable on air. As it is you will land
deck with 52m ... er, sorry, I mean 50m of course - honest ...
showing on your dive-computer. Due to the depth it is very
difficult to take in much of this immense wreck on any single
dive, and so this description only covers the
part of the wreck.
The highest part of this area of the Medina is the
bridge. There is access inside the bridge here, and with the
correct lighting (preferably divers torches on the outside) the
glass windows along the front can be seen. Down each side of the
bridge are the passengers covered walkways all very accessible.
From the starboard (higher) side walkway there are hatches
allowing access down into the wreck. Further back on the
starboard side it is reported that there is an open boarding
Forward of the bridge, in the centre of a large area of
deck, is the cargo-hold. Several decks are visible going down
inside the wreck here (as are the lost crab-pots inside).
Further forward, beyond a definite ridge there are winches, and
derrick cranes are still standing proud. The bow of the Medina
will come as something of a surprise, simply because of its
size. Almost able to be mistaken as a 'break' because the curve
is so slow and the angle about 90 degrees, the port anchor can
be seen protruding out from the hull at the edge of your vision
below you. At this stage your twenty minutes is likely to be up,
and the forty minute trip to the surface must commence.
NOTE: Many divers rate the Medina
as the best wreck dive in South Devon waters. Certainly, she is
a major contender for this title, more is accessible than on the
Empress of India (a battleship lying upside down in Lyme Bay's
silt). She is definitely, however, on the limits of air diving!
Certainly most Medina dives will involve use of oxygen-rich
decompression mixtures. "
Richard Wood - May 2003
The Totnes Castle was a paddle steamer owned
by the River Dart Steamboat Company that carried day-trippers
from Dartmouth to Totnes. The 91 ton boat was built in 1923,
was 108 ft long and took holidaymakers on trips up the Dart to
Totnes and back until the end of the summer season of 1963. At
the end of her working life she was converted into a
restaurant but in 1964 as she was being towed from Dartmouth
to Plymouth to be broken up, she broke her tow and sank in
Bigbury Bay. She lay forgotten until 1994, when the survey
vessel Gleaner found her. Her position is 50 15.375N: 003
58.841W and slack (springs) is HW + 2.45 to HW + 3.5
The wreck lies in 44m of water - and sits
upright in a hollow on the shingle seabed, from which she is
3m proud. Her superstructure is missing, but her engine
pistons can be clearly seen lying crosswise to the boat and in
front of the single boiler. The steel hull and paddle wheels
are still intact (although the paddle wheels are broken and
levelled off), but the teak decking has gone, which allows
easy access to all areas of the ship. The bows are in good
condition and the forward hold can be easily entered. The
stern is more broken up and in some places lies nearly
parallel with the sea bed. There is a stern spar outside the
wreck on the starboard side.
A great dive rather resembling the Elk with
usually good visibility and plenty of fish life including some
friendly congers and cod. The small size of the wreck means
that divers have sufficient bottom time to swim around.
Unfortunately, the severe storms of 2014 seem to have trounched the Totnes Castle. There is not so much to see there now.
The Oregon was an 800 ton steel hulled sailing
barque not unlike the Cutty Sark that is on show at Greenwich.
She sank in 1890 after having struck a reef just offshore
from Thurlestone. Despite the injury she put off to sea but
she was leaking and was swamped by the high seas.
She lies in 34m of water on a dark gravelly
bottom at 50 14.685 : 03 56.375. Her sides have collapsed
and she is spread over the seabed with just 2-3m up
at the bows and stern. Therefore, she is not an easy wreck
to find since she doesn't show up very well on the echo sounder.
The wreckage is compact and it is easy to fin from the bows
too much deco time.
There is lots to see on the Oregon since the
wreckage is well laid out. At the bows is a large anchor
and a short way behind it is
a good example of an old style anchor winch. The forward
hatch cover is uplifted on its side and along the collapsed
remains of the Oregon's masts. Amidships there is a cylindrical
tank, a winch and plenty of plates. The stern has an impressive
rudder half submerged in the seabed while the steering
gear is still attached to the rudder post. The wreck has
of pouting that swim all around you as you fin along the
wreck. There are many sea fans on the rusty plates.
The Dartmouth Unidentified
Not much is known about this ship, which is why she is
termed the Unidentified. She is also known as the "Diver
trainer" wreck because the navy has described it as "much
swum over by sub aqua enthusiasts". She is almost certainly
a casualty of the German submarine attacks
during WW1 and she could be the Greatham steamer that was
sunk in January 1918 whilst travelling from Grimsby to Bordeaux
with a cargo of coal. The Greatham was 290ft long with a
beam of 38ft and a weight of 2338 tons
She lies in 47m of murky green water at 50 17.58 : 03 30.30
- just where the Dart river ends up depositing its sediments.
all around her since the wreck has sunk 7m down into the
mud which is about 40m deep around her.
Slack water is about 2 hrs before HW. She lies upright
and in fairly good condition in a NNW - SSE direction. She
section (covered with dead man's fingers)
that has a couple of swim throughs at around 38m. The holds
are silted up. The stern section is fairly extant, but there
is a distinct
break just fore of the bridge that goes down to a dark 47m.
Little is known about the bow
section. Shell cases have been recovered from the stern in
This is not
a trivial dive. Apart from the depth, visibility is often
not very good and the naval description of "much swum
probably an accurate description. This is not a wreck to
penetrate, and finning down into the sheer scour is not for
hearted. A memorable and interesting wreck.
This was a "U" class Royal Navy submarine that was scuttled
in 54m of water for use as a asdic training target in 1957.
She was built in 1943 and saw some service with the Greek
Navy. By 1953 she was obsolete.
The boat is easy to locate on the echo sounder owing to
her size. She
lies 8m upright in 54m of water on a shaley bottom - 50 12.46:
04 00.36 and is a superb dive. Most parts of this 200ft submarine
can be easily explored. The bows are distinct with clearly
seen torpedo tubes. The conning tower extends 8m from the
bottom and the diver can just about stand in it and imagine
the vessel heading out along the water. Obviously the narcosis
Unicorn - Tile wreck
This 134 ton rear engined steamer sank on 8th April
1923 by suddenly plunging into the water in heavy seas
south of Rame Head.
She was carrying a cargo of bricks and tiles from Plymouth
to Jersey. She was 28m long and 6m wide, built in
and had a 3 cylinder triple expansion engine.
She lies just over 50m deep at 50°16.937':
on a silty bottom. Stacks of red roof tiles lie
the wreck. Single boiler, and engine are still there
forward of the stern. Hull quite broken, but part
stern listing to starboard and more intact. Propellor
and rudder still present. An anchor near the bow,
the bow is not recognisable as it has broken and
into the silt. Only the stern shows appreciably on
a sounder. Some old net on her. Lot of congers and
other life on the wreck. The stern stands up to 3m
The SS Wreathier was built in
1897 in Stockton, Teeside and was an 852 gross tonnage schooner
rigged steamship owned by Allen Adams & Co. Ltd of Southampton.
She was 61m long, with a beam of 9.4m and was defensively
armed with a single 18pdr gun on the stern.
She was on route from Barry
Dock in Wales to Rouen, with a cargo of 886t of coal when,
on the 3rd December 1917, she was torpedoed by German submarine
UB-35 (the same submarine sank the Skaala in almost the same
location just 23 days later) and sunk about 1 mile West of
Prawle Point. The torpedo hit on the starboard side in number
three hold and the ship began to sink rapidly. The master
came on deck with thoughts of trying to beach the ship, but
decided to abandon ship when he realised that the after deck
was already underwater (the torpedo hit at 4.15pm and the
ship sank at 4.25pm, just 10 minutes later). 3 lives were
lost in the attack, the chief engineer, Robert George, Eli
Walker, a donkeyman, and Davey House, a gunner.
The wreck is in a general depth
of 52m at 50 10.714N; 003 49.695W (WGS84). The forecastle
is intact, upright and still has railings
and anchors in place, standing some 6-8m proud of
the seabed, but the hull behind this is starting to collapse
in towards the holds. Immediately astern of the holds there
is a large spherical water tank and then the large single
boiler. There is wreckage off to the
starboard side here, possibly parts of the swept off superstructure.
The triple expansion engine sits upright and intact behind
the boiler, but from here to the stern the wreck is completely
broken, presumably as a result of a combination of the explosion
from the torpedo and the resulting stern first sinking. The
prop shaft is clearly discernable in the wreckage and can
easily be followed, although it is broken with an overlapping
section partway along, and veers off to starboard just short
of the stern, which is in 51m or so. The
starboard side of the rear holds is completely entangled
in a large net. There is reportedly a gun on its stern,
although we didn't see it. She was positively identified
in 1984 when the bell was recovered. (Richard Wood, Allen
Murray - 2007)
UB-35 sank a total of 43 ships
during her career, with a gross tonnage of 49,002t.
served in the U-Flottille Flandern from July 1917,
transfered from the U-Flottille Kurland. On this patrol,
she had freed herself from nets in the Dover straights
had an encounter with the Q-ship Carrigan Head. She
and sank 7 ships for 6870t, all in the Salcombe area.
had also taken on board survivors from the Brixham
Rion, who were present when she torpedoed Wreathier.
men were well treated and released later. Unfortunately,
this gallantry did not save her English speaking captain
or his crew, as the boat was sunk by HMS Leven on
26th January 1918 whilst attempting to run the Dover
The Charlwood was an iron sailing barque built
at Sunderland by
William Doxford and Sons in 1877. She was 60m long and 10m wide and weighed
in at around 850 tons. The boat was en route
from Antwerp to Valparaiso when she collided SW of the Eddystone with the
British steamer Boston (going from Cardiff to London)
on 26th October 1891 at 4:45am. The Charlwood foundered
almost immediately after the collision with a loss
of 16 lives - only an apprentice and the Captain's
daughter were saved. The vessel
was carrying glass cargo and the wreck
is packed to the brim with a variety of Victorian
tumblers, wine glasses, decanters, plates, cups, bottles
and sheet glass.
The Charlwood lies 5m upright on a
63m seabed at 50 11.431N; 04 22.106W. Much of
the wreck stands well clear although towards the
stern the wreck has collapsed. The bow seems squared
off as if it has broken and collapsed foreward of
the first bulkhead. In this collapsed area can be
seen the base of the bowsprit. On the Starboard side
forward of the main collapsed area are a number of
barrels. The stern area is much flatter although
there appears to be a rudder laying on its starboard
side under other debris.
In some ways the Charlwood resembles the Elk but
with the holds crammed with glass. Some divers think
it looks like a council skip full of "Victorian petrol
station quality glass". The wreck abounds in fish – lots
of wrasse and a conger or two. Visibility is often
very good on this wreck.
The Rame Head barge
The barge may
be the Leen that sank 22nd Nov 1905 en route from Rotterdam
to Briton Ferry. There was a Force 9 WxS blowing that
night. If the Leen, then she is about 150 tons.
The barge lies upright in about 33m and stands up
to 2m proud and is in a good state of preservation.
50º 18.368N – 04º14.765W
(D M.MM, WGS84). The wreck is about 7m wide, maybe
25m long. It is constructed mainly around a large rectangular
cargo hold, the fore and aft bulkheads of which form
enclosed areas at the bow and stern. There is a hatch
down into this forward space. There must have been
hatch covers on the barge since there’s a central
rod that runs the length of the barge with gearing
on at least one end. There is a hole in the rear bulkhead
of the above forward space, giving a view into and
through to the open sea via a large gap in the
starboard side. There’s the remains of what looks
to have been a water tank near one of the bulkheads.
Rivets have been used in constructing the barge.
Lots of life on the wreck including
some large schooling bib and at least 3 congers. There
are a lot of large plumose anemones along the central
rod and cross members. Also large colonies of the Oaten
pipes hydroid – Tubularia indivisa (long stalky
creatures with single polyps on the ends) and pink
seafans, some with egg masses of the seafan nudibranch
The area around the barge has been used extensively
for dumping. Finds have included silver forks and spoons,
glassware and clay pipes. The area also has large amounts
of explosives and ammunition dumped both individially
and in boxes.
The Ambassador was
a steel screw steamship of 2,572 tons, length
300 ft., breadth 39 ft. and hold depth 24 ft.
She was built at Willington Quay by the Tyne Iron Shipbuilding
Company in 1888. She was schooner-rigged, and fitted
with three vertical inverted triple-expansion engines
of 220 hp combined.
The Ambassador left Odessa, bound
for Hamburg, on the 3rd September 1891, with a
cargo of 3050 tons of grain, 350 tons of bone dust
and a crew of 27 hands, including the master, Mr. James
Aikman. She foundered on 19th Sept 1891
off Bolt Head as a result of striking some sunken wreckage
or waterlogged vessel at 3am. The crew tried to get
back to Plymouth by reversing the boat around but
the aft bulkheads were filling with water and by 5am
the engines failed. All hands then left the boat and
watched as she sunk some 3 miles south of Bolt Head.
They then set a course for Salcombe where everyone
The wreck is about 100m long in 50m on a light
sandy bottom lying E-W with the bows to the west
50:11:529 N - 03:49:782 W. A small donkey boiler
sits amidships forward of the two main boilers. Well
preserved triple expansion engine which has collapsed
to starboard . Spare prop on deck with a superb prop
standing upright at the end of the prop shaft. The
collapsed stern is on its starboard side and the
small rudder is detached from the hull and lying
on the seabed a few meters from the prop. Small prop
shaft with no apparent shaft tunnel which disappears
under wreckage shortly before the stern. Winches
and hatch covers with a number of raised cargo hatches.
A large foremast lays across the wreck off to starboard.
The bow seems to be upright but is very collapsed
and so it is difficult to be sure, there are two
large anchors in their hawspipes here as well as
a number of anchors within the wreckage which may
have been spares. The decks are collapsed so a bit
like the Rosehill in that respect. But much lighter
than the Rosehill (or the nearby Skaala) - MR,
RK - 2008.
(In short its like the Elk, only 3 times
as long and a bit deeper. With two more boilers,
and its a lot more broken up.)
here for an excellent page on ship machinery layout,
boiler designs and engine designs. Useful information for
any wreck diver.