First World War shipwrecks map goes online

By Rosemary Collins, 1 November 2018 - 5:40pm

Following four years of research, the Maritime Archaeology Trust has launched a fully interactive map displaying the sites of nearly 1,200 First World War shipwrecks

A diver explores the SS Alaunia, which sank after hitting a mine in 1916
A diver explores the SS Alaunia, which sank after hitting a mine in 1916 (Credit: Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War)

The sites of shipwrecks from the First World War can now be discovered on a new online map.

Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War has published the results of its database as an interactive map at the conclusion of its four-year project.

The map charts the locations of just under 1,200 sites, including 39 coastal sites and 1,130 wrecks such as ocean liners, merchant vessels, fishing trawlers, seaplane lighters, airships, submarines, and troop and hospital ships.

During the First World War shipwrecks off the coast of Britain were common, whether due to accidents or enemy attacks by aerial bombardment, depth charges, gunfire or torpedoes. Many of the surviving wrecks and coastal sites are now in poor condition, and deteriorating rapidly.

Learn more about tracing your First World War ancestors in the November 2018 issue of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, on sale now

Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War was developed by the Maritime Archaeology Trust with money from the Heritage Lottery Fund to record these forgotten traces of the First World War before they are lost forever. It covers wrecks off the south coast, but there are many more in other parts of the sea around Britain.

During the 2014–2018 centenary of the First World War, 322 volunteers spent 1,821 days working on the project, including diving on wrecks, conducting fieldwork and surveys, and recording more than 700 new artefacts.

The project also carried out outreach sessions to schools and the general public, and organised 44 different exhibitions, which were attended by over half-a-million people.

Now, members of the public can search the map or click on the colour-coded dots to find out more information about the wrecks. The website lists details of each location, such as the type of vessel; her launch year; the flag she sailed under; the departure port and destination; the cargo; the name of the master; the number of crew; the date of loss; and the number of fatalities.

Information about the vessel and how she was wrecked is available too, as are an archaeological site report; photos of the wreck and of artefacts recovered; videos; and 3D site reports.

One of the wrecks, for example, is the SS Alaunia, a steamship owned by the Cunard Line that was requisitioned as a troop ship during the war. On 7 October 1916 the vessel departed New York for London, stopping to deposit most of her passengers at Falmouth. On 19 October Alaunia struck a mine, breaking her propeller shafts.

The 166 crew on board were evacuated before the ship sank, but two men drowned when a lifeboat capsized while it was being lowered. The wreck is now located between Beachy Head and Dungeness.

If you have new information, photos or video of any of the sites on the map, please email FWdatabase@maritimearchaeologytrust.org.
 

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