The Caroline / North Sea

We had decided to search for a wreck in an area known by local fishermen as Four Wrecks, just six miles east of Flamborough Head. We arrived just before slack water and marked the wreck, which showed up quite well on the echo-sounder.
We anchored in with the RIB’s bows facing Flamborough Head. There was still a touch of flood-tide running but it was a beautiful sunny morning – the cliffs and lighthouse seemed extra-white, and the sea was like glass.
Full of excitement at the thought of diving a new wreck, Pud and I kitted up, and over the side we went.
We found ourselves in the bow area, with glass glinting back at us in our torch-lights. On closer inspection we found this to be both wine bottles and square, clear bottles with the words “Camp Coffee” written on them. We also found some large stone jugs.
Continuing on our way we saw lobsters, crabs, fish and old lost fishing-gear hung off the engine and boilers like spider’s web. We carried on to the stern area and came across a deck-gun that had fallen out onto the seabed, with a few empty shells scattered around.
We had a quick look around the gun, then moved to the port side of the engine.
It was there that we found a large hole in the vessel’s side. Peering in through the gap, we found more stone jugs encased in baskets and all stacked together. Part of the ship’s binnacle was also there.
We checked our computers, as our bottom time was nearly up. We tied off our waster into the wreck and made our way back up the line. After our deco stops we surfaced, dekitted and had a quick debrief about what we had found.
While the other two were getting ready for their dive, we decided that we would call this one the Camp Coffee Wreck.
We dived there several times in the ensuing weeks, and on one occasion I happened to come in from a different angle, just forward of the engine, and saw to my surprise the bell, stuck fast in the hold winch.
I couldn’t believe we had not found it before, with all the dives we had done on the wreck. It took some persuasion to prise it free, but the anchor-line wasn’t too far away so I put it on a bag, clipped it to the line and sent it to the surface.
Another day dawned and we were on what we now knew was the Caroline.
Built in 1878 at 679 tonnes gross, she sank on 25 August, 1918, after colliding with the ss Merida.
On this dive, while moving round to the port side of the engine, I saw something end-on to me that looked like the tip of a cannon barrel sticking out from under a steel plate.
I slid my hand down each side, felt the trunnions and knew at once what I had found. I don’t know where I got the strength from, but I lifted the plate off the cannon to reveal a porthole.
Now what was I to do I had a lifting-bag, but no anchor-line or waster-line. Then, out of the gloom, came a light. It was my mate Pud – with a waster-line.
I gave him a grateful hug and quickly tied the line and lifting-bag to the cannon. I half-inflated the bag and motioned to Pud that I was off up to the surface. After the mandatory deco-stops I climbed into the boat and told the other divers, Graham and Daz, what we had found.
So we pulled on the line and brought the cannon to the surface. What a memorable wreck this one had turned out to be for us all! We still visit it to this day, when tides and weather permit.
After more diving in this area we found there to be only two wrecks, not four, so we had also solved a mystery for the local fishermen.
The Caroline’s bell now resides in the Ship Inn at Dunswell, Beverley, near Hull. It’s on loan to the landlord John – whose wife’s name happens to be Caroline.

HMS Speedy / North Sea

HMS Speedy was a torpedo boat destroyer (TBD) built in 1893 by Thornycroft and converted for minesweeping duties at the start of World War One.
On 3 September, 1914, she was called to help the minesweeper-trawler Lindsell, which had struck a mine in the West Sole shipping area, 30 miles east of Spurn Point.
Before Speedy could go to the Lindsell’s assistance, however, her crew had to pull in her own minesweeping gear. In the process, she dragged a mine onto her own starboard propeller, causing her to sink.
We had decided to move further off the Humber estuary and dive a different area.
As we moved east to dive trawlers, coasters and other large vessels, we eventually came across HMS Speedy.
It was a beautiful morning, with a flat, oily sea. We had anchored in and Ron and I were ready, so over the side we went.
Pulling ourselves down the line in good vis, it wasn’t long before we were able to see the highest part of the wreck – which turned out to be two engines (methinks those of HMS Fairy and HMS Falcon, two WW1 destroyers we had found earlier).
We checked that the anchor was OK and went our separate ways to explore the wreck. Ron went towards the stern and I finned to the bow area, where I came across two large portholes with deadlight covers on. I had a pull at one of them, and it seemed to weigh a ton.
On I went, and found piles and piles of shells and, not far from them, a large gun that turned out to be a 4.7in. I continued to the bow area and saw some porthole glass and a pile of anchor-chain.
I turned and headed back down the wreck, but swimming just a few metres away from its port side. It was here that I picked up the head of the ship’s telegraph and, not far away, its stand.
I carried on towards the engines and swam between them, as there was plenty of room. What a sight! Return telegraphs, steam gauges and lots of brass was glinting in my torch-light.
I went on past two large condensers before bumping into Ron.
He grabbed me, and I knew he was as excited as I was at finding what to us was
a new wreck. He guided me to another 4.7in gun, and then showed me the damage where the mine had hit, blowing the starboard propeller off.
We looked to where the port shaft was and, sure enough, there were the port prop blades, sticking out of the sand.
We would go on to dive the Speedy for weeks, later with some friends from Manchester on their boat Sultan Venture, and on one occasion while looking in a hole for a lobster I found the ship’s bell.
It had no name on it, only the War Department arrow.
Over the years I have had people contact me about the story of HMS Speedy and Lindsell, and on one occasion we were able to take a woman who had lost a relative on the Lindsell to the wreck to lay a wreath.
A man whose grandfather had served on HMS Speedy also contacted me, and I was able to send him lots of pictures of the ship and of the bell. His grandfather had survived the sinking.

Big East Newk / North Sea

Big East Newk, another Flamborough Head wreck, I can only think got its name from local fishermen using marks on the nearby cliffs. We dived this one in 2013.
It marked up off the seabed some 10-15m, and is quite a lump.
Darren and I pulled ourselves down the anchor-line to a depth of 54m. We couldn’t tell where we were, but knew we were on a large ship. We came across the usual sea life and lost fishing-gear, and did our good deed for the day by releasing trapped lobsters and crabs from some old lost crab-pots caught fast in the wreck.
The odd ling and cod poked their heads out of the many holes on the wreck.
We carried on up the wreck and came to an old ship’s wheel, with the Kelvin’s Balls [a pair of compensating magnets] from the binnacle laid on the seabed.
We had a pull at the wheel, but it was hard fast. Coming across a few large brass valves and copper piping, I thought we must be nearing the engine area.
Then Darren flashed his torch at me and onto his contents gauge. It was quite a low reading, so we headed back. Darren wasn’t rigged properly for those depths, so we played it safe and made our way back to the anchor and up the line.

AFTER OUR DECO-STOPS, we climbed into the boat and set off back to our boat compound at Bridlington, still excited about what to us was a new wreck.
We started yarning and rattling on about the ifs and buts of our dive, and looked forward to diving there again, as we had hardly seen anything on it, and certainly knew nothing about it.
A week passed before the conditions were right to dive the site again. We anchored into this large lump of a wreck, and Graham, Pud and I headed down the line, leaving Barry and Daz, who had drawn the short straw, in the RIB.
On reaching the anchor I thought we had got our GPS numbers wrong. The wreck we were on wasn’t the one I had dived with Darren!
I couldn’t understand it, but carried on down the port side of what to me was a stern-engined coaster. Continuing towards the bows, I found a dark shadow looming over us. Then, suddenly, as my torch lit up this large lump of wreckage looming ahead like a brick wall, there it was – the Big East Newk.
Graham and Pud were oblivious to my confusion, as they hadn’t been on the first dive. I started to fin up and over this wreckage, and couldn’t believe where I dropped down to on the other side.
I had landed on the ship’s wheel and the Kelvin’s Balls, where Darren and I had finished our dive the week before.
Now we had two wrecks, one stuck in the other, and another mystery!
I surfaced and told the story to the boys, who also found it puzzling, I have spoken to local fishermen about the find, but none had heard about any collisions of this type in either world war.
We intend to dive these wrecks again this year to see if we can put a name to either of them.

Tredegar Hall / North Sea

The Tredegar Hall was built in Sunderland in 1906 by Doxford & Son Ltd for the shipping company E Nicholl of Cardiff. She was one of the turret deck steamers, vessels that had a peculiar shape to their upper deck structure.
The turret deck design helped to make savings on canal and harbour dues, and 176 were built, the last in 1911.
Tredegar Hall’s gross tonnage was 3764 and she was 342ft long, with a 47ft beam and 25ft depth.
She had two boilers, one donkey boiler and a three-cycle triple-expansion engine, and was armed for defence, with a 4.7in gun on her stern. She was skippered by Captain A O Welch,
On 23 October, 1917, she was carrying iron ore when she was sunk by the German submarine UB57 in Bridlington Bay, four miles south of Flamborough Head. A torpedo slammed into her port side near the engine-room, causing huge damage.
Three crewmen were lost as the ship sank in 22m at 54 00 80N, 000 00 49 W. Forty minutes later, a minesweeper picked up Captain Welch and the remaining 24 crew, and they were landed at Grimsby.

WE FIRST DIVED WHAT is commonly called by local fishermen the Ore Ship back in the early 1970s, after searching for it for some time with a compass and sounder (no GPS in those days).
We had just dived HMS Falmouth and were on our way back to our boat compound in our RIB when we saw a blue and white fishing coble just to the north of us.
“Let’s ask if he knows where the Ore Wreck is,” I suggested to my fellow-divers Mike and Nev.
So we asked Derek Gates, skipper of the Joshann and fondly known as Sooty, if he could put us on the wreck.
“Yes, I’ve lost some crab-pots in it – can you get them back for me” he asked.
“No problem,” I replied, and we arranged to meet on the wreck next day.
When we arrived, Derek had his pot-line hung on his aft cleat, with the last of the flood tide just trickling through. It was a beautiful morning, with the sun beating down on a flat oily sea.
Full of excitement at the thought of diving a new wreck, we quickly pulled our diving gear on and dropped in over the side. Pulling myself down the pot-line and nearing the wreck I noticed a lot of movement ahead, and had to blink a few times, thinking I must be narked.
All became clear, literally, as two large boilers loomed out of the gloom. I soon realised what the movement was – I had just swum through a large shoal of cod.
We freed Derek’s pots, and then started to explore the wreck. There were certainly plenty of fish on it, the likes of which I haven’t seen since.
Swimming around you couldn’t miss the cargo, either. There were mounds of iron ore all over the seabed, and the two large boilers were a very impressive sight with the cod shoaling around them.
We found the propshaft and followed it to find a large steel propeller, then decided to swim towards the bows and came to the boilers again.
That’s when something caught my eye. I had a little dig and a pull and found what would turn out, after cleaning, to be the maker’s plate, carrying the words “Doxford’s Patents Turret Deck Steamer”.
We carried on and came across two wolf-fish sheltering in the iron ore – they startled me with their gaping mouths full of urchin-crushing teeth.
We found our way back to our anchor-line. My air was running low as I surfaced, but we were all happy with our new wreck to dive. Derek had got his crab-pots back, and it had been good day all round.
After the dive we decided to do a spot of fishing ourselves, and quickly filled the bottom of the boat with cod.
Derek and I went on to become good friends over the years, and we had some good times together, him losing fishing-gear and us retrieving it for him.
We didn’t mind, because we knew it could mean another wreck to research and explore. It’s always satisfying to put a name to an otherwise unknown wreck.
Occasionally we still dive the Tredegar Hall with our friends Mike and his wife Ann, and on one particular dive, to Mike’s amazement, Ann found and recovered the ship’s whistle!
The wreck still makes for an interesting dive today – at 22m it’s at a decent depth for trainee wreck-divers.