Members of Severnside Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC Branch No. 364) from Bristol have visited the ship wreck site of the SS Baygitano in Dorset to commemorate her sinking one hundred years ago. The merchant navy vessel, which was on route from Le Havre to Swansea to collect coal, was sunk in British waters by enemy action during the Great War at 11:45 am on 18 March 1918. The wreck now lies around 20 metres down on the seabed about 1.5 miles South of the Cobb at Lyme Regis, Dorset.
Scuba divers from various branches of the British Sub-Aqua Club were hoping to dive the wreck at 11:45 am on 18 March 2018. Unfortunately, the weather conditions were unsuitable on the day. On 14 April 2018, the conditions were much better and divers were able to make it to the wreck site in order to lay a wreath inside one of the ship’s boilers as well as a poem commemorating the sacrifice of merchant navy seamen in WWI and WWII. Severnside Sub-Aqua Club ‘adopted’ the shipwreck in 2012 as part of the Nautical Archaeology Society’s ‘adopt-a-wreck’ scheme aimed at encouraging understanding of Britain’s maritime heritage. Since then, club members have worked to find out more about the wreck and her crew to to promote respectful visits to the wreck site by divers as part of the Society’s Lost Beneath the Waves 1914-1918 initiative – see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-32380743.
“We were disappointed not to be able to dive the wreck site on the 100th anniversary of the sinking. However, the rain and snow hasn’t dampened our club members’ enthusiasm for diving on the wreck or learning more about its history and the vital role played by the merchant navy in the Great War. This will hopefully be the first of several planned trips to dive the wreck during its centenary year and to commemorate the contribution and sacrifice of all those who lost their lives during that terrible conflict.” said Nigel Braybrooke – Adopt-a-Wreck Project Coordinator, Severnside Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC Branch No. 364)
Members from Severnside Sub-Aqua Club were delighted to be joined on the dive by members from North Dorset Sub Aqua Club. It is hoped to encourage more diving on the wreck during the year. Divers have left a long blue line with floats tied in to the wreck attached securely to an eye-ring on one of the main boilers to make it easier to dive the wreck. Any clubs with their own RIBs wanting to join in on any future diving with Severnside Sub-Aqua Club can email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out when dates are announced.
“The sinking of the SS Baygitano one hundred years ago is a part of Lyme Regis’ history but so easily forgotten as the wreck now lies underwater. The wreck is not recognised as a war grave because the only two casualties from the ship wreck, the First Mate Frederick Rudolph Richards and Fourth Engineer Harold John Chinn, were not serving members of the armed services. Club members felt that it was appropriate to lay a wreath in their memory and in commemoration of the conflicts in which so many people have lost their lives.” said Leon R Smith – Club Chair and Dive Manager, Severnside Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC Branch No. 364)
In 2015 the project was awarded the Society’s ‘Adopt a Wreck Award’ for the project. The judges said: “The SS Baygitano is a great UK wreck dive within the limits of BSAC Ocean Divers and trainees under supervision and in a sheltered location. However, the wreck is often overlooked as a potential dive site or, otherwise, only ever dived as a back-up site in case of poor weather or unsuitable tides. The club wanted to change that by finding out a bit more about her fascinating history and then publishing their findings as widely as possible using TV, Radio, and online including social media. Their project demonstrates how, by adopting a wreck, it can be used to involve all interested parties, both divers and non-divers, in ‘Diving with a Purpose’. However the club does not want people to forget that the Baygitano is also the final resting place of two of the 12,000 men of the Mercantile Fleet who lost their lives providing vital supplies to enable the Allies’ final victory in the Great War.”
The project has also been recognised previously by the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC Wreck Award and Heinke Trophy Judges’ Commendation) and the Sports + Recreation Alliance (Innovative Project Award).
You can find out more about Severnside Sub-Aqua Club in their Meet Our Club feature here on Scubaverse: www.scubaverse.com/meet-club-severnside-sub-aqua-club or visit their website: www.severnsidesac.com.