‘Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War’ (Stephen Fisher)

Steve Fisher, a historical investigator for the Maritime Archaeology Trust, kindly agreed to speak with our group about the Trust’s newest project, ‘Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War’.


When thinking about World War I, often the first thing that comes to mind are the trenches, and rightly so. However, because of this, WWI at sea is often forgotten, despite the fact that there are many moments that parallel World War II’s famous moments. For example, more U-boats sank ships during WWI than WWII. Furthermore, technology that is often linked with WWII was actually first used during WWI: depth charges, torpedo boats and aircraft carriers to name a few.

England saw a high amount of ship loss during WWI, with about 4,200 ships lost (with more than half of these merchant vessels). There are currently an estimated 3,000 shipwrecks in British water from 1914-1918. Looking at all of these ships would be near impossible in the four year time limit of their Heritage Lottery funding. Therefore, this project is narrowing in its focus to those wrecks found on the south coast of England. Of these wrecks, the three countries who a the most represented are Britain (550 wrecks), Norway (80 wrecks) and Germany (60 wrecks). Coming up on the centenary of their sinking, many of these ships are protected under UNESCO laws. However, UNESCO cannot protect them from the currents and other natural elements destroying the ships. It is because of this fact that this project is so important not only to the understanding of WWI, but also to the creation of an accurate historical record. The plan is to create a ‘virtual dive’ website, much like the one created for the ‘Archaeological Atlas of the 2 Seas’ project.

The most recent updates can be found at the ‘Forgotten Wrecks’ website: www.forgottenwrecks.org