Divers from BSAC’s iDive – Ipswich Dive Club – have laid an underwater wreath in memory of almost 1,500 men who died in a First World War U-boat attack 101 years ago. The wreath was laid on the HMS Cressy, which was sunk along with two other cruisers, the HMS Hogue and HMS Aboukir, off the coast of Holland in the early hours of September 22, 1914. iDive has now launched an appeal for information to help find out more about the crews on three ships sunk in the attack, which resulted in a larger loss of life than the sinking of the Titanic.
The three ageing vessels were part of a patrol controversially nick-named the ‘Live Bait Squadron’, which patrolled the North Sea but was considered vulnerable to attack from German war ships and submarines.
The honour of laying the wreath went to diver Carol Wood, 56, from Southwold, a British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) Sports Diver and member of Ipswich Dive Club (iDive), whose god-daughter’s great-great-grandfather, William Henry King, perished in the attack.
As many as 837 survivors were rescued by British trawlers and Dutch merchant ships but 1,459 men, mainly reservists and cadets, lost their lives.
Carol Wood decided to join the diving expedition, led by Dutch diver Bart Goedmakers, as she wanted to tackle something different and more challenging.
And Carol, who began diving in 1993, wanted to lay a wreath on the shipwreck after discovering, by pure chance, her god-daughter’s great-great-grandfather, William Henry King, who had been rescued from the Aboukir, perished when the Hogue was sunk.
Carol said: “The purpose of the Live Bait Squadron 2015 expedition was to visit these three rarely visited wrecks, conduct a survey on their condition, clean up any fishing nets and mark the loss of life as part of the Lost Beneath the Waves project.
“It’s a fascinating story and has really been pushed under the carpet so to speak. There seemed to be no real purpose for the patrols and a court of inquiry later accepted that the Admiralty had persisted with a patrol that was dangerous and of limited value and against the advice of senior seagoing officers.”
She added: “It was incredible to find out I had a connection, however small, to one of those that lost their lives in the disaster.”
Research by the Dutch based Livebait Squadron Society has already been used to help make a documentary about the sinking of the three cruisers and more stories are being gathered for the LSS website.
Carol also appealed for anyone who may have information about crew members on the cruisers to get in touch. Carol said: “The club is keen to hear from relatives of those who died and the survivors to piece together memories before they fade into history.
“We are supporting the Livebait Squadron Society in trying to gather information about who the men were, and any photographs or recorded memories or what happened that day.
“I’m so pleased I decided to join the Live Bait Squadron 2015 expedition. It was fascinating and I’m honoured to have been able to remember all those that lost their lives by laying a wreath on one of the wrecks.”
Dave Lock, iDive Diving Officer and BSAC Council member said: “This expedition showed BSAC at its best.
“There were 12 divers from 7 different clubs working together and supporting each other. The diving grades and experience varied greatly from a second level diver qualification with 400 dives to probably the most qualified and experienced divers and instructors in BSAC.
“We all worked together, sometimes in some pretty rough seas to meet a common objective. My thanks to all the team.”
More information can be found on the Livebait Squadron Society website here.