Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War

Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War

Image: Exploring the Londonier. Courtesy of Hamish Morrison

Heritage lottery fundedCheck out the project website here!

This Heritage Lottery Funded project will run from 2014 to 2018 and seeks to raise the profile of a currently under-represented aspect of the First World War. While attention is often focused on the Western Front and major naval battles, historic remains from the First World War lie forgotten in and around our seas, rivers and estuaries.

The remains of the steamer Venezuela, built in 1907, torpedoed off the Needles Lighthouse by UB-59 on 14th March 1918.

The conflict has left a rich heritage legacy in terms of maritime archaeological remains and many associated stories of bravery and sacrifice. These underwater memorials represent the vestiges of a vital maritime struggle of the First World War that was taking place on a daily basis, just off our shores.

The project’s timing is aligned with the Centenary of the First World War and over four years will focus on some of the 700 South Coast wreck sites which include merchant and naval ships, passenger, troop and hospital ships, ports, wharfs, buildings and foreshore hulks. Many of theses sites are unrecognised and unprotected and have been degrading and deteriorating due to natural and human processes, for approximately 100 years. As a result they are extremely fragile and, in many cases, this project represents a final opportunity to record what remains on the seabed and foreshore before it is lost forever. 

The HLF Forgotten Wrecks project will be working with schools, creating exhibitions, interpreting underwater sites online and providing research and fieldwork opportunities for volunteers. 

The HLF Forgotten Wrecks project will be working with schools, creating exhibitions, interpreting underwater sites online and providing research and fieldwork opportunities for volunteers. Photo courtesy of the Maritime Archaeology TrustVolunteers and young people along the South Coast will take an active role in the project and develop new skills in research and technology whilst learning how our national maritime heritage fits into the global historic picture. The Forgotten Wrecks project is engaging communities and volunteers to improve the research and knowledge of these archaeologically significant sites to feed into local, regional and national historic records. The information collected by the project will be made widely available through the internet and will be turned into an extensive range of educational resources and exhibits to engage the public. These will include videos, talks and presentations, publications, geocaches and 3D technology to bring underwater history to the surface. Temporary exhibitions will take place at venues across all six of England’s southern counties.

Furthermore, during the 100th anniversary of the First World War, the project will not only commemorate our maritime wartime heritage but will also provide a lasting legacy of information and learning resources on First World War wrecks for future generations.

Garry Momber, Director of the Maritime Archaeology Trust said:

“I am delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund is supporting this project. These wrecks are subject to corrosion and the impact of our changing seas so it is only a matter of time before many of these sites could become scattered elements on the seabed. There is a real risk that knowledge of these wrecks, if not fully researched, could be lost forever. This project is not only timely, but essential to help raise the profile of maritime conflicts in the history books of tomorrow.”

Stuart McLeod, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South East, said:

“Forgotten Wrecks will open up a part of our wartime heritage that has remained largely under-researched and undervalued. The immense contribution to the war effort made at sea and the thousands of people who lost their lives just off our shores deserve to be remembered. This project will gather valuable information on the hundreds of wrecks that lie beneath the waves and piece together their journeys and the stories of those that sailed and fought on them. We at the Heritage Lottery Fund have already invested £47m into projects commemorating the Centenary and will continue to help communities across the UK explore and understand how the conflict has shaped our modern world.” 

You can get a taste of just some of the First World War shipwrecks that we have already undertaken research on below:

 Sunk 1915

HMS Velox

Sunk 1918

SS Azemmour

Sunk 1918

SS Londonier

Sunk 1918

South Western

 Video: Courtesy of BBC South

 Volunteering opportunities

We are currently in the pre-project stage so volunteering opportunities have not yet been published.  If you are interested in volunteering please register below. We will keep you informed as and when roles become active. 

Register your email address


    First World War Centenary partnership

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