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Mark Milburn’s Cornish Wreck Ramblings, Part 3: Falmouth’s Ghosts of the Great War

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At the end of the Great War, the Kaiser’s high seas fleet was interned at Scapa Flow, Orkney. Due to some miscommunication or maybe a lack of communication, Rear Admiral von Reuter ordered the scuttling of the entire fleet. Most were removed straight away, except some of the vessels that were in deeper water. The German U-Boats in UK waters went to Harwich to surrender, receiving various fates over the next few years. Some were dispatched to Falmouth. The exact reason why any were sent to Falmouth does not seem to be documented too well. There are also misleading reports about the actual number sent – somewhere between five and nine. One supposedly broke its tow near Dodman point and started taking on water, so they used it for a bit of target practice; apparently it was easier to sink it than try and restart the tow.

There are two U-Boats near Dodman Point, UB113 and UB118. UB113 was on patrol when lost according to official records, and UB118 was part of the convoy to Falmouth. The remaining U-Boats ended up moored in Falmouth Bay, awaiting whatever their fate would be. There are stories that a south easterly wind arrived and the U-Boats came adrift from their moorings. The large waves drove them onto the rocks. What we do know is that there are the remains of five left in the area.

Although the reason for the U-Boats being sent to Falmouth is not documented, it may well be that what happened to them once they arrived was the actual reason for their trip. Naval records within the National Archive state that they were used in experiments to test for weaknesses in their construction. A huge lifting rig, Cyklops, carried them out into deep water, lowering them down to the seabed. Cyklops moved away. Charges were set off at various places around the U-Boats, and the subs were then recovered and inspected for damage. This was repeated several times for each of the submarines. At the end of the tests, they were dropped off close to the rocks on Pendennis. Within the National Archive, there is a photo of UB86 and the stern of Cyklop, captioned “BEACHING U.B.86. STERN OF CYKLOP”. They were then manually hauled up onto the rocks below the castle. The official records did not state whether this happened over a period of a few years, or if it was just the one occurrence.

The official records stated that UB86, UB97, UB112, UB106, UB100, UB128 & UC92 arrived at Falmouth. So what is left now?

Over the years, many photos were taken of the submarines. Most offered no clues as to what they were. One photo, from an unknown source, shows a U-Boat in a gully, with its stern out of the water. On the side of the conning tower, it’s markings of UB86 are visible. Quite a bit of the submarine remains underwater. On a very low spring tide, some of it is visible from the surface.

A lot of contemporary photographs showed UB86 with another submarine close by. Within the records at Historic England, they have a collection of photographs, taken by a British Naval submariner at the time. They are of UB86 and the other submarine, and one of the photos shows the markings of that submarine as UB112. There are some remains of this submarine left, although most of it lies close to the sea bed. Divers notice a large three pronged fork, which is the highest point of the wreckage that remains. It is thought to be part of the hydrovane’s mechanism.

A little further east of these two wrecked submarines, there are remains of two more. Most of the time these lie hidden under the sand, only becoming exposed after some storms. These are virtually impossible to identify, although one may be UB106, according to an excerpt from the National Archive.

Wessex Archaeology spent two days in July 2013 investigating the Castle Beach site, taking photos etc. I assisted and even revisited to go and take a couple of extra measurements for their official record. There are six circular features near the shore end of the sub, measuring 1m in diameter and 9m from front of the first to the rear of the last. This was the last piece of data required to determine that it is in fact UC92. The six circular features are the mine shafts; UC92 was the only mine layer out of the six. Records state it was lifted in 1971 and scrapped, although it looks like it wasn’t lifted, just dragged up onto Castle Beach. The stern lies at 50.147027, -5.055695, the bow at 50.147299, -5.055984, and it is visible on Bing maps or Google maps. On a low spring tide, the bow is visible out of the water.

Over the years the Falmouth U-Boats have had a hard time. They were gradually broken up and salvaged. Whatever was left was then possibly flattened by George Renton in 1966/7. Contracted by the Navy or maybe by the Harbour Master, George did a fine job of flattening the remains.

Details within the National Archive “Explosive trials on German submarines: 1921“ ref:ADM 189/102, are held at the National Archives in Kew.

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Find out more about Mark and Atlantic Scuba at www.atlanticscuba.co.uk.

Mark Milburn is the owner of Atlantic Scuba in Falmouth, Cornwall, England, and is an SDI/TDI/NAS/RYA Instructor and a Commercial Boat Skipper. Although often referred to as a maritime archaeologist, he prefers to call himself a wreck hunter. Find out more about Mark and Atlantic Scuba by visiting www.atlanticscuba.co.uk.

Marine Life & Conservation

Go Fish Free this February

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There are no longer plenty more fish in the sea! Fish Free February challenges you to help protect our oceans by removing seafood from your diet for 28 days and helping to raise awareness of the issues caused by intensive fishing practices.

Our oceans are in a state of global crisis, brought about by ocean warming, acidification, pollution, and habitat destruction. However, the biggest immediate threat to ocean life is from fisheries. Each year an estimated 1-2.7 trillion fish are caught for human consumption, though this figure does not include illegal fisheries, discarded fish, fish caught to be used as bait, or fish killed by not caught, so the real number is far higher. It is no wonder then, that today nearly 90% of the world’s marine stocks are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. If we do not act fast, overfishing and damaging fishing practices will soon destroy the ocean ecosystems which produce 80% of the oxygen in our atmosphere and provide three billion people with their primary source of protein.

Fish Free February, a UK-registered charity, is challenging people around the world to take action for marine life in a simple but effective way. Take the Fish Free February Pledge and drop seafood from your diet for one month, or beyond. Fish Free February wants to get people talking about the wide range of issues associated with industrial fishing practices and putting the well-being of our oceans at the forefront of dietary decision-making. A third of all wild-caught fish are used to create feed for livestock, so Fish Free February urges us to opt for plant-based dishes as a sustainable alternative to seafood, sharing our best fish-free recipes on social media with #FishFreeFebruary and nominating our friends to do the same.

“Not all fishing practices are bad” explains Simon Hilbourne, founder of Fish Free February. “Well-managed, small-scale fisheries that use selective fishing gears can be sustainable. However, most of the seafood in our diet comes from industrial fisheries which often prioritise profit over the well-being of our planet, resulting in multiple environmental challenges. In some cases, the fishing industry has even been linked to serious human rights issues such as forced labour and human trafficking! Fish Free February hopes to shed more light on fishing practices, create wider discussion around these issues, and offer solutions to benefit people, wildlife, and the natural environment.”

To learn more about these issues and to take the Fish Free February pledge visit www.fishfreefebruary.com

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The Diver Medic introduces new DEMR course

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The Diver Medic has developed a course suitable for every diver, or even surface support officer out there. The course will instil confidence and understanding of the subject your instructor may not have had the knowledge and skills to teach you unless they were DEMR trained themselves.

The Diver Medic DEMR Course – Diving Emergency Medical Responder Course is approved and written by Chantelle Newman – The Diver Medic Course Director and Founder.

The main objective is to ensure divers get the right treatment in the event of an accident or diving emergency, whether inland or in a remote location.

The Diver Medic is Agency neutral and their mission is to support all Agencies in the quest for better medical training and safety for all divers.

Is this course for you?

This qualification is for people who have a specific responsibility at work, or in voluntary and community activities to provide pre-hospital care to patients requiring emergency care/treatment.

For example, Liveaboard crew, Skippers, Captains, Dive Boat Crew, Dive Schools, Instructors, DiveMasters, Course Directors, CoastGuard, RNLI, Police Divers, Public Safety Divers, Tenders, Scientific Divers, Military Divers, Recreation, Technical, Cave, CCR Divers, Freediver, Surface support staff, Freediver competition crew, Lifeguards, ThemePark Divers, Aquarium staff, Explorers, Nurses, Doctors, EMS and more.!

Entry Requirements

Learners must be at least 18 years old on the first day of training. CPR and AED certified, basic understanding of First Aid Training

Instructors

If you are interested in becoming a TDM Diving Emergency Medical Responder Instructor you can apply to The Diver Medic by emailing info@thedivermedic.com with your resume and an introductory letter explaining why you should be considered you as an Instructors.

For more information visit www.thedivermedic.com

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Competitions

This is the perfect start to your 2021 diving season… and at an incredible lead-in price of just £885 per person.

Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. This itinerary takes in the wonderful South & St Johns from 26 February – 05 March 2021.  

Subject to availability – limited flight seats at this price so don't delay!

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk to book your spot!

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