During both the Great War and World War two, fishing trawlers, drifters and whalers were used as mine sweepers or ancillary vessels. During both wars, hundreds were put into service and many were lost. Falmouth Bay had it’s fair share. During the Great War, there were two trawlers that were lost, one due to hitting a mine, the other was lost after a collision.
On the 21st December 1916, the HMT St Ives struck a mine 2 miles WSW off St Anthony’s lighthouse, with the loss of all ten crew. The St Ives has never been found. On a dive in the area suggested by the naval report, I did find a dozen large cast iron blocks. After researching what they might be, we discarded ballast weights and cargo. As ballast, they would need to be movable, these iron blocks were roughly one ton each, not movable by the crew. As cargo, a dozen blocks weighing a ton each, wasn’t worth much, certainly not worth hiring a boat to transport them. More research into the actual vessel construction, found they could have been bow trim weights, to counteract the weight of the engine and boilers at the rear. This would be almost impossible to prove, without spending a lot of time hunting the area and still not finding any other items as proof.
The FV Tulip II collided with another vessel on 23rd August 1918, 3 miles WNW off St Anthony. There is little information available about what happened, or whether there were any casualties. The wreck has never been found. We do have a possible target area, a debris field spotted by an Olex system, half a mile from the collision location.
During WWII, there were five trawlers lost in the Falmouth area. The most confusing of these are the Sevra and AN2, it turns out they were sunk a hundred metres apart, two days apart. They both hit mines and the wreckage possibly ended up being mixed up. The Rinovia sank after hitting a mine too, it has become a popular deeper dive, lying around 50m. Lord Snowden sank in deep water after a collision with a Glasgow steamer, the Felspar. The Lord Snowden does get dived but is quite deep. The Almond hit a mine and sank in deep water in 1941, the bow and stern now lie around 200m apart. The Almond is rarely dived as it is quite deep and the two parts are so far apart.
So, in the main, the WWII trawler wrecks are in known locations. The wrecks from the Great War, are not. The trouble with the information we have is even more confusing, once we add in a discussion with a now ex diver. Within the bay there is a large oil tanker from WWII, the Caroni Rivers. Within the Caroni Rivers are the remains of a small steam vessel, thought to be a steam trawler, it could be any trawler.
The ex diver stated that in 1966, he was part of a group of divers, that removed a bronze deck gun from the trawler within the Caroni Rivers. Trawlers were not armed, except during the wars. The Caroni Rivers is around 1.5 miles from the last recorded positions of the St Ives and the Tulip II, around half way between them. There are no other trawlers missing, so what is the trawler within the Caroni Rivers? It has to be the St Ives or the Tulip II. The St Ives blew to pieces, so it is unlikely to be that. That leaves the Tulip II as the only possibility. One of the reasons I feel cautious about the Tulip II is not just the distance but the direction. Knowing the area, it is highly unlikely for the Tulip II to be blown in that direction. There is always the possibility that it tried to make it back to port, but without any confirmation of that it will remain a mystery.
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