ONE OF THE FRUSTRATING THINGS about diving off East Sussex is that many of its wrecks are either unidentified or misidentified.
Last time I dived from Eastbourne, it turned out that a wreck long known as the FD Lambert may well have fallen into the second category. The FD Lambert had a single boiler, while the wreck I dived had two side by side (Mysteries Multiplied, March 2008).
Which brings me to Jamie Smith and Tunbridge Wells SAC. Jamie buddied me on a dive from Newhaven a few years back (Between the Winds, May 2006) and has become one of the people I contact when I need help with wreck information in the area.
He and his colleagues dive extensively, and enjoy the challenge of identifying a wreck. They have identified several (listed on last page) and have a big file of work in progress, in which they detail clues to identity and record reasons why certain names are possible or ruled out.
Looking back to Mysteries Multiplied, Jamie currently suspects that the unknown mark JR1 may actually be the Horst Martini, but he is still seeking conclusive proof.
With a view to untangling some of this rats nest of wrecks, the Tunbridge Wells club invited me to join members for a few dives from their RIB out of Newhaven. It was meant to be a long weekend, but summer weather put a stop to that, and the Friday was cancelled before I left home.
Come Saturday morning, the sky has cleared and the wind slackened off just about enough for us to go diving, even if the ride is a bit wet.
Our first target is a wreck shown in Jamies file as DS271, after its reference in Dive Sussex. DS271 is an unidentified wreck the club began diving recently.
Its probably a trawler, and the members have a sketch to get me started.
The shot is spot on, across the deck and just forward of a big single boiler that fills the hull, and an oval hole in the deck for the funnel.

THERE IS LITTLE ROOM AND NO SIGN of a wheelhouse before a winch spans the open deck. Its the type of winch with a big cable-drum in the middle, not the simpler windlass used on cargo derricks. This wreck definitely looks like a trawler.
The deck forwards is mostly clear of obstructions; just a few small hatches along the centre-line and some bollards arranged in a chevron, another item of equipment found on trawlers.
Any last doubts disappear as we pass a trawl gallows fallen across the deck from the port side of the hull.
The bow has no forecastle, but is level with the main deck. Good features to aid identification are a small square skylight and a single anchor hawse hole on the port side. Returning on the starboard side, I venture out over the silt, but can find no sign of a starboard trawl gallows or wheelhouse.
Behind the boiler, the area that would have been the engine-room is a mess. Bearing in mind the intact state of the rest of the wreck, this sort of mess could have been caused only by a mine or torpedo explosion.
Searching the debris off the stern, I find another clue. When I first pick it out of the gloom I think it could be a gun mount, but getting closer and rotating it in my mind, I realise that it is in fact the helm, upside-down in the silt.
Back at Newhaven, we settle down in the sunshine at the Captains Table, the marina bar, café and restaurant.
I work on my sketch, and Jamie produces a photocopy of an old photograph and a set of ships plans.
The helm has sparked a connection in his mind. Could this be HMT Borneo, a wreck so far unlocated
It all adds up. The Borneo had a wheelhouse high and aft, behind the engine-room and boiler. The plans show trawl gallows only on the port side. They also show the small skylight at the bow, and a single anchor over the port side.
The layout of hatch-coamings in the deck match my sketch. We are unaware of any other trawlers of this unusual configuration wrecked in the area.
I have a copy of World War One Channel Wrecks with me. The Borneo struck a mine on 18 June, 1917. There was only one survivor, Matthew McCrindle, who was the lookout on the bow. He described the Borneo as being blown to pieces beneath him and sinking instantly. His description fits well with the devastated engine area.
Our second dive is on an upside-down steamship that TWSAC refers to as the Scallop Wreck. Shallower and a few miles closer to Beachy Head, visibility is considerably reduced.
Again Jamie has already sketched the wrecks general layout, but this time I am unable to add any details or provide further clues. Inversion makes it difficult in the first place, and with the decreased vis it isnt sensible to get inside and underneath to look at the engine and boiler.
For Sunday, the TWSAC crew have some other club projects in mind. One wreck was previously identified as the Clan MacMillan (though that is now known to be further down the Channel). The other is the Clodmoor, which they are sure it is not.
I would quite like to dive the Clodmoor, as it was a Doxford turret ship, a design with a hull fatter than the deck, briefly popular to get around Suez Canal toll fees based on deck area. The club has a position for another unidentified wreck that may be it.
Trouble is, after the low visibility found on the Scallop Wreck, we expect both sites to be very mucky. We need the deeper, clearer water further offshore.

THE NEW PLAN IS TO DIVE the Seven Seas. Its a known wreck, but its a few years since any of the members dived it. This 1194-ton steamship was torpedoed on 1 April, 1915, while in ballast from London for Liverpool.
Its the right decision. The visibility far enough offshore to get to 40m is considerably better than closer to Beachy Head.
I can see most of the way from one side of the Seven Seas to the other. In the remains of the forecastle, I pick out a toilet and grinding wheel that Jamie has tipped me off about, then I head aft - which is where I encounter an unexpected problem.
The Seven Seas is supposed to have two boilers and a triple-expansion engine. This wreck has a single boiler and a very obvious two-cylinder compound engine.
Having helped TWSAC to identify one wreck that was previously unidentified, I now seem to have unidentified a wreck that was previously identified! The aggregate score has slipped back to zero.
Coins have been recovered from the site, none later than 1918, so perhaps it was a World War One casualty or soon after. There is no obvious torpedo or mine damage, and no stern gun or gun-mount. Somewhere in the area, another wreck with two boilers and triple-expansion engine is the real Seven Seas. Its wishful thinking, but I cant help thinking back to the FD Lambert.
To wrap up the weekend, I dive with Meridian Divers. Originally associated with the Newhaven Scuba Centre, the club is now independent, but it has kept the club project, its adopted wreck the TR Thompson, a 3538-ton steamship torpedoed by UB57 early on 29 March, 1918.
Meridian had first invited me to take part in a club dive in 2004, but all attempts to visit the wreck had been blown out. I was looking forward to finally breaking my Thompson jinx.
As both TWSAC and Meridian dive out of Newhaven a lot, there is some crossover of members. We spent the previous evening with a joint club social at the Captains Table, eating, drinking a bit - but not too much - and talking about diving.
In the background a PC and projector played through photographs and videos that members of both clubs had taken of their local wrecks.
One video of the TR Thompson was stunningly clear. Taken on one of those rare days when vis reaches 20m-plus, it had really got me in the mood to dive it.
Meridians club project involves finding out as much as possible about the ship, the crew, UB57, the owners and the builders - an in-depth historical quest recorded on a blog.
The club was runner-up in the NAS Adopt a Wreck awards, and had been featured on BBC South-east TV. An overall survey is a work in progress. Some of the key features are plotted, and the members are slowly adding details.
I am hoping to help.
The dive becomes a joint club outing. TWSAC uses its RIB, while Meridian has the luxury of the charter-boat My Sharon, skippered by Ray Duff with retired diving-charter skipper Ray LeRiche as crew. Ray Duff normally only does angling charters, but makes an exception once or twice a year for his local clubs.

THE JINX IS BROKEN, though not banished. At 30m to the seabed, the TR Thompson is well within the silty coastal water. The vis is such that once Im on the wreck, I conclude that there is no point trying to add to the survey. Finding enough features to photograph will be difficult enough.
The survey plan to date gives me a pretty good idea of how to find my way about, even today. The wreck has a 4.7in stern gun, so I have to see it.
From the boilers I head aft past the fallen and upturned engine, then across a couple of holds to the stern. The first item that looks like a gun pokes from the remains of a deckhouse, and turns out to have the hub of a spoked wheel on the end. I have found the auxiliary steering.
Behind the deckhouse, the gun is much more obvious, its barrel pointing up at an angle, and the breech in among the debris of the deck.
If you know anything relating to the TR Thompson, its owners, crew or builders, Meridian Divers would like to hear from you.
And if you have any spidge, or other clues from any wreck in the area, TWSAC is trying to correlate everything, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Even a coin or broken tile can help.

TWSACs boat
In 1996, Tunbridge Wells SAC won a sports grant that helped it purchase a Ribcraft 6.8m RIB with inboard diesel. Last winter was time for a major re-fit. The RIB went back to Ribcraft for a new set of shiny black tubes, and club-members completely rewired the boat.

BEACHY HEAD WRECKS IDENTIFIED BY TUNBRIDGE WELLS SAC
Lancer II: This Admiralty trawler was sunk in a collision with HM Yacht Vagrant on the night of 18 July, 1918. The wreck was identified when the makers plate was recovered in 1988.
Avanturine: An Admiralty-requisitioned trawler working as a minesweeper, torpedoed by German E-boats on 1 December, 1943. Bow lettering with the ships name and a lantern bearing the name identified the wreck in 1992.
Harold: An 1107-ton iron steamship sunk in a collision on 11 June, 1889. Pottery with part of the name was found in 2005, then the identity was confirmed when the bell was found in 2008.
Mid Surrey: An 879-ton steamship sunk in a collision on 18 July, 1919. A makers plate from the boiler was found in 2006, but only three years later was this connected to the identity of the ship.
Borneo: Another WW1 casualty, the Admiralty Trawler Borneo struck a mine on 18 June, 1917. The Borneo had a distinctive configuration that was matched against details of the wreck.
FACTFILE
CLUBS: Tunbridge Wells SAC, www.twsac.org. Meridian Divers, www.meridiandivers.blogspot.com
AIR: Newhaven Scuba Centre, www.newhaven-scuba.co.uk. Brighton Dive Centre, www.thebrightondivecentre.co.uk.
DIVING: Boats from Brighton, Newhaven and Eastbourne. See Classified Ads for details.
FURTHER INFORMATION: Admiralty Chart 1652, Selsey Bill to Beachy Head. Admiralty Chart 536, Beachy Head to Dungeness. Ordnance Survey Map 198, Brighton & Lewis, Worthing, Horsham & Haywards Heath. Ordnance Survey Map 199, Eastbourne & Hastings, Crowborough, Battle & Heathfield. Dive Sussex, by Kendall McDonald. Shipwreck Index of the British Isles Vol 2, by Richard & Bridget Larn. World War One Channel Wrecks by Neil Maw. Newhaven Local & Maritime Museum, www.newhavenmuseum.co.uk.