Kendall McDonald, a former Fleet Street editor, has been diving (and writing about it) for more than 45 years. He has been DIVERs wreck expert since 1960.
The To settle an argument between two villages in South Devon, can any diver give us a bar of soap with written proof that he or she obtained it from the wreck of the Persier, which sank off Bigbury, South Devon in 1945 Derrick Yeoman, Thurlestone, Devon

Theres a lot more behind this question than you might think. The Persier was torpedoed by U-1017 on 11 February 1945, when she was near the Eddystone on her way to take relief supplies to the newly liberated Belgians. In her holds were 2200 tons of soap, 6 tons of electrical parts, 16 tons of leather, 9 tons of baby food, 5 tons of woollen blankets, 968 tons of canned meat, 1186 tons of dried egg, 8 tons of lorry parts and 16 tons of rationing stamps.
She finally sank off Challaborough in the night after being abandoned by her crew. No one saw her go down, but locals soon found the cargo being washed up on their beaches.
The residents of the cheek-by-jowl villages of Bigbury, Bantham, Thurlestone and South Milton naturally regarded the tins of food and the soap as their birthright, but the Customs men had other ideas. They nicked and fined quite a few they caught with the goods, but a lot of the soap and tins were nestled safely away under thatched roofs.
Today an inter-village battle of the soaps has broken out, frothed up by local newspaper reports that South Milton villagers have found some of the old green Fairy soap and propose to auction it for their church funds.
No, they cant, say Thurlestones wartime beachcombers, because the soap wasnt green, but big hunks of Sunlight yellow and, whats more, they are going to auction some of the real stuff for their church funds.
To add to the local lather, Proctor and Gamble claims that the green variety is indeed its own product of the time and has given150 to South Milton church.
I have dived the Persier many times. We banned divers from bringing up great lumps of oozing, yellow, foul-smelling soap because of the mess it made in the dive boat, but some bars probably slipped ashore. So has any diver got a nice piece which he is prepared to hurl into this Battle of the Soaps- with, of course, a signed certificate of origin
From Norfolk to Argonaut  
Can you help me find out about the steam yacht Argonaut, lying in Rye Bay, Sussex I am looking for her plans and would like to know which shipyard built her
David, London

The Yes, I can help you. Youll find the full story in my book Great British Wrecks, Volume Two (Underwater World Publications; 1986; ISBN 0 946020 08 6) which, as it is out of print, youll have to beg, borrow or steal, though your local library might be able to help you.
You clearly plan some serious diving on the Argonaut, so I suggest you first contact divers John Nightingale, Ian ORiley and Malcolm Ilott, its owners.
The luxury steam yacht Argonaut was the first package-tour holiday ship run by Dr Henry Lunn of Lunns Tours and later Lunn Poly fame. ÒLunns SteamerÓ, as she became known, made her first cruise for Lunn in 1898 and sank in Rye Bay, Sussex, after many similar cruises, following a collision in thick fog with the 2355-ton steamer Kingswell in the early morning of 29 September, 1908.
All aboard were saved. She is at 50 48.55N; 00 50.53E.
The Argonaut was built by R and H Green Ltd at Blackwall on the Thames for Money Wigram & Co Ltd, which called her Norfolk. She was launched in 1879 and six years later sold and renamed La Plata.
In 1893 she became the Orienta. In 1895 she was the Norse King. And in 1898 she finally settled on being called the Argonaut!

The sub that hung around too long  
Where can I find info on the WW1 U-boat UC-38, sunk in Greek waters in 1917
AZ, Greece

The UC-38 was one of nine minelayer submarines sent to the Mediterranean from German ports in early 1917 to join seven other UC boats already there.
Allied shipping losses in the Med soared. Only increased anti-submarine patrols and a new complete convoy system slowed the losses. In the autumn of 1917, General Allenby was advancing victoriously in Palestine and needed a mass of old Allied warships to protect his seaward flank. UC-38 was the only one of the submarines attracted to these easy kills.
Oberleutnant Hans Wendlandt, commanding UC-38, sank two in one day on 11 November- the 748-ton destroyer HMS Staunch and a monitor, M15, with the loss of 35 of their crews- then returned to his base at Cattaro for more fuel, mines and torpedoes.
On 14 December, 1917, he torpedoed the old French cruiser Chateaurenault , which had been converted to a fast troop transport, but made the mistake of hanging around to see her sink.
When she didnt, after 50 minutes, he fired a second torpedo which missed.
The French destroyer escorts, Lansquenet and Mameluk, had seen the wake of the second torpedo and raced back along its line dropping depth charges.
At the first explosion, all the U-boats clocks stopped. Water started coming through the motor room torpedo-hatch, which had buckled. More depth charges and a main motor failed, stopping the pump. A back-up pump also failed and the lights went out.
UC-38 was now on one motor and down by the stern as the water came in. Wendlandt ordered the crew forward to restore her trim, but the second motor failed. He then blew all tanks and she shot to the surface, where the crew jumped overboard as the destroyers gunfire sank her. There were 25 survivors, including the Oberleutnant, of her crew of 29.
More details, if you need them, are available from Horst Bredow, U-Boot Archiv, Bahnhofstrasse 57, 27478 Cuxhaven, Altenbruch, Germany.

Carbon dating  
TheCan you tell me anything about the shipwreck which is visible at low tide in Compton Bay, Isle of Wight Is it called the Carbon
Paul Tribble, Herts

I received your question while working with Martin Pritchard to revise our Diver Guide- Dive Wight and Hampshire. When its complete, youll find the Carbon, a 185-ton steam tug, in the guide, together with 300 other wrecks.
The Carbon is at 50 39.20N; 01 28.10W in Compton Bay. The tug, originally called the John Hollway, was bought by the Royal Navy in 1900.
She was 72ft long with a beam of 17ft and, at the end of her long career with the Navy, she was under tow south of the Isle of Wight when, in the early hours of 10 November, 1947, the tow parted in heavy weather and the unmanned tug was lost in the darkness.
She was found aground and full of water in the shallows, but an attempt to refloat her the following day failed and she was abandoned.
Storm seas soon demolished her wooden superstructure, but parts of the vessel can still be seen at low water.