The Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War was a Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) project from 2014-2018, coinciding with the centenary of the Great War.
At the heart of the project was a desire 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 like Jutland, historic remains from the war lie, largely forgotten, in and around our seas, rivers and estuaries. South Coast wreck sites which include merchant and naval ships, passenger, troop and hospital ships, ports, wharfs, buildings and foreshore hulks are often 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. With over 1,100 wartime wrecks along England’s south coast alone, the conflict has left a rich heritage legacy and many associated stories of bravery and sacrifice. These underwater memorials represent the vestiges of a vital, yet little known, struggle that took place on a daily basis, just off our shores.
With the dedicated work of volunteers who have researched, recorded wrecks and artefacts, wrote reports and worked tirelessly, the Maritime Archaeology Trust has transformed this information into educational resources, exhibits to engage the public, videos, talks and presentations, and touring exhibitions at venues across all six of England’s Southern counties. The final result of this project is an accessible database which provides information regarding the shipwrecks, associated finds and additional relative information to provide a lasting legacy of information and learning resources relating to the First World War wrecks for future generations.
All of the project outputs are currently hosted on the project website. This includes articles and archaeological reports, educational resources, audio and video, and all of the project booklets.
With the dedicated and tireless help of our volunteers, the stories of the 1100 First World War shipwrecks along the south coast of the UK has been brought together for the first time.
For some vessels, details of their whole lives have been readily accessible, captured in official reports, newspapers, personal accounts, and even photographs. Their stories are often tragic, but just as much filled with courage, tenacity, and even, sometimes, a little bit of humour. For other ships, many of the details of the construction and service have gone unrecorded and unremaked. For these vessels, we have gathered what sparse details we can. Their names, at least, will be remembered.
The results of this research are available in our interactive map viewer and database.