A team of divers from Southsea Sub-Aqua Club spent their summer exploring local dive sites to identify a number of wrecks which are believed to be linked to the WW2 invasion of Normandy - code-named Operation Neptune.

They hope to locate and identify the wreck of a landing craft tank (LCT) which capsized on the morning of 6th June 1944, spilling its cargo of tanks and bulldozers into the sea. The divers also surveyed a number of Thames barges or 'dumb lighters' which were requisitioned by the Royal Navy to be used to transport tons of supplies to the invading allied forces. The wrecks lie ten miles offshore in Bracklesham Bay, West Sussex.

Last year the dive team solved the mystery of how the tanks and bulldozers had come to rest on the sea bed more than 20m (65 feet) below the surface. As a result of their work the divers have the documentary evidence to prove that they were lost from a landing craft tank (LCT) and not from a Mulberry harbour bridge section as previously believed. The tanks were found to be rare Centaur tanks belonging to the Royal Marines and the bulldozers were to be used by Canadian troops to clear the beaches.

The landing craft tank was due to be in the first phase of the D Day assault at ‘H Hour’. The Centaur tanks were to use their powerful Howitzer 95mm guns to take out enemy gun positions. Their LCT(A) was specially adapted with ramps so that the guns fired from the craft as it approached the beach. Research into the War Diaries for Second RM Armoured Support Group, who took part in the D-Day landings at Juno Beach supporting Canadian forces, confirmed that LCT(A) 2428 was forced to turn back half way across the channel after engine trouble and reported two Centaurs as being lost at sea. The weather was very bad during the crossing and a further War Diary entry confirms that the LCT(A) capsized whilst under tow. All crew, RM and Canadian personnel were rescued.

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The following is an abstract of the 2010 report on the wreck of HM Submarine A1 submitted by the Licensee (our own DO, Martin Davies).

Research

This year has seen more research into the sinking of A1 and documents from National Archives have been studied in order to gain more knowledge about the submarine, the initial sinking with the Berwick Castle and how it came to its final resting place.

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The following is an abstract of the 2009 report on the wreck of HM Submarine A1 submitted by the Licensee (our own DO, Martin Davies).

There are varying degrees of sediment build up on and in the wreck, but from the measurement points taken the general levels on the outside of the hull ranges from 1/4" to 1½", this is highly mobile sediment that is disturbed very easily by the slightest movement of water.

Sediment build up

Figure 14 shows the sample area on the port side just below the Conning tower, Figure 15 shows the sample area forward of the torpedo loading hatches and Figure 16 shows the sample area to the rear of the conning tower.

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Hope CoveHope Cove has been a favourite destination of SSAC for a number of years. The base is Shippen House, a 10 bed holiday home with excellent facilities overlooking the beach at Hope Cove in South Devon. It is also an opportunity to exercise the club rib away from its home base.

Friday – The journey from Portsmouth is about 4 – 5 hours. The boat arrives mid-afternoon and everyone settles into Shippen House ready for diving the next day. It’s a nice warm and sunny day. Doug rigs up a router to give house wide wi-fi access and we have our own internet café for the week.

Saturday – Diving the Maine. It’s dark and murky due to the rain water run-off from the land. The two rib trips to the wreck were disappointing. James, Louis and Nick do a shore dive from Outer Hope beach to check equipment and buoyancy. This was a lovely sunny weekend and a wonderful sandy beach to enjoy when not diving or coxing the boat. Martin sets up his portable compressor to provide air. We also have a J cylinder of O2 to blend Nitrox mixes.

Sunday – Today we dived the Persier. Calm seas, sunshine and blue skies provide more promising conditions. There was good visibility on the wreck. Two trips were made to the wreck in Bigbury Bay. We also completed two drift dives in kelp close in to the cliffs along Bolt Tail during late afternoon and early evening.

Monday – Blown out and a lazy day.

Tuesday – Blown out again. Walk along Bolt Tail to Soar Mill Cove and Port Light hotel on Bolberry Down. We stop on the way back at the Port Light hotel for lunch. This was a former Golf course pavilion opened in 1907 and later used by the RAF in WWII as an airfield.

Wednesday – Dived the Persier in the morning and a sandy bottom in the vicinity of the Jebba wreck in the afternoon. Visibility on Persier was great, but the sandy bottom drift was nothing to write home about.

Thursday – Up early for a dive on the Maine. We sneak in another dive on the Maine before the weather worsens. This time the visibility is excellent and we have a most enjoyable dive. Later we haul out the boat and bring it back to the house for a good wash down.

Friday – Up early to clean the house and pack. We are away by 0930 and it is over for another year.

  • All aboard the Skylark!
  • From Hope Cove 2012
  • Surveying the submarine.
  • Hope Cove_4

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After the glorious start to April, Easter 2012 saw a return to more traditional bank holiday weather. However a few days off meant that we could finish the final preparations for the RIB, including fitting-out a replacement braked trailer.
 
Easter Sunday saw ten divers visit Kimmeridge for an early season dip which also proved a great opportunity to test the trailer. With the big spring tides associated with Easter the trailer performed admirably when recovering the boat. Thanks to Phil and 'Chip Fat'.
 
Under the water - vis was a little disappointing (3m) and water temperature 10C, but there was an unusual sight - fossils in the reef rocks.  

21 March 2013

It's spring 2013 and SSAC's club house is hosting first aid training for divers. On Thursday, there is a practical rescue and first aid refresher for club members with a talk by a British Heart Foundation instructor. On Monday a rescue skills refresher takes place in the club training pool.

Saturday sees the Oxygen Administration course for the Southern Region. After a day packed with essential theory and hands on practical sessions, eleven divers successfully demonstrated the skills required and are now able to administer oxygen to divers suffering from decompression illness (DCI). A team of SSAC instructors comprised of Dave Purvis, Dave Sawdon, Jenny and Rob Watkins were joined by BSAC Southern Region Coach Clive Puddifoot to deliver the course to students from across the Southern Region and beyond.

Well done to all those who passed the course!

 

17 March 2013

Southsea Sub Aqua Club hosted nineteen enthusiastic people who spent a chilly day learning how to rescue a seal, a dolphin and a pilot whale that had beached themselves on top of Portsdown Hill! As part of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), trainee Marine Mammal Medics learnt how to 'jump' a seal, move a dolphin and inflate a pontoon to support a whale.

SSAC diving instructors Jenny and Rob Watkins are also trained instructors in the skills and techniques required to deal with a marine mammal in distress. For more information visit the BDMLR website.

BDMLR Training Day BDMLR Training Day