“Crikey,” I thought, “one hundred years ago today that German U-boat was awfully close to the English coast.” I suddenly felt a bit vulnerable. World War I happened right here—just off the peaceful Dorset shore, not in some far-off French trench. A century ago today, I could well be on a sinking ship. Or dead.
HMHS Britannic was the largest ship to sink during World War I. (Weighting in at almost 50,000-tons she was also the largest ship in the world).
Many argue she is one of the most beautiful, intact, well-preserved passenger liners accessible to divers. It is little wonder that these factors, and the story behind her construction and sinking continue to capture divers imagination.
It is hard to put into words what I was feeling at this stage. I was descending the shot line in approximately 15m visibility and an image started to appear. Not the random wreckage you often see, or even the straight lines of a cargo ship, instead these were two long barrels. This was no ordinary wreck—I was looking at the ‘X’ Turret of HMS Invincible.
Through the centuries in Greece, Kea Island’s renowned statue, the Lion of Kea (one cannot see him from the shore, but I know he is there), continues to smile and look askance upon human vanity—exactly the same way he did in 1916, when during World War I, hospital ships were hit by mines and tragically sank in the Kea Channel. These ships, now wrecks, include HMHS Britannic and SS Burdigala.
The 400-ton Russian submarine, commissioned in 1911, was the biggest in the pre-revolutionary Russian navy. During the first world war, she served in the Baltic Fleet making 16 patrols and unsuccessfully attacked the German coastal defence ship SMS Beowulf.
In November 1915 during her 17th patrol, she struck a mine and sank near Hiiumaa with the loss of all 35 seamen and came to rest at a depth of about 30 meters.