KendallQ

Kendall McDonald, a former Fleet Street editor, has been diving (and writing about it) for more than 45 years. He has been DIVERs wreck expert since 1960.
COLLAPSE WHEN YOUR BACK IS TURNED  
I am a graduate student in maritime studies at East Carolina University and am gathering information for my thesis on metal-hulled shipwrecks from 1850. I have seen your Wreck Tours on Divernet and would appreciate an update on how some of these wrecks are holding up.
Jackie Piero


 You mention the Oregon, Bretagne, Rondo and Hispania. I think you can take it that these ships are more or less exactly the same today, but obviously the older the wreck, the more likely it is to suddenly collapse. This change can, of course, take place between dives!
Take, for example, the 3616 ton steamer Maine, which will be 100 years old next year. Despite the fact that the vessel was sunk by a torpedo in her port side in 1917 off the coast of South Devon, and has been lying in 37m ever since, the wreck has amazed divers over the years by the way in which the hull has stood up, despite the daily broadside pressure of big tidal flows.
John Liddiard tells me that, when he dived the Maine recently, everything looked as normal in the bow area, with the torpedo hole near No 2 hold the only sign of major damage.
However, when he went back the next day there had been a large collapse on the starboard side opposite the torpedo hole, making it look as though the bow had broken away, though in fact it is still firmly attached.
Kitcheners ship  
One of my relatives is said to have been on board HMS Hampshire when she sank on 5 June, 1916 after hitting German mines laid by U75 off Marwick Head, Orkney. How can I get a list of those who perished to show to my family and confirm that this is true
Claire of Leicester


 There were only 12 survivors from the crew of 655 aboard the 10,850 ton cruiser, which was taking Lord Kitchener to Russia to discover the reasons for a series of Russian army defeats. Kitchener and his staff were all lost. The survivors were aboard a raft originally carrying more than 50 men.
Write to the Public Record Office, which holds the Admiralty casualty lists and crew-lists of WW1, giving it your relatives name and any other details, at Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Surrey TW9 4DU. It is very helpful.
The Hampshire has been dived in recent years and not long ago there was a big row over the salvage of items from the ship, regarded as a war grave.

Disaster movie - with nudity  
Do you have any information on the Rothsay Castle, which sank with the loss of 128 souls on a trip from Liverpool to Beaumaris on 17 August, 1831 I am researching it for a book and film and would like to dive the site.
Peter Bennett


You wont have any trouble finding full details of this wooden paddle-steamers loss. She sank on the sandbank known as Dutchmans Reef at the entrance to the Menai Strait just after midnight, so may be recorded as 18 August. What a film it will make!
One of the oldest of the Clydes commercial steamers, Rothsay Castle was finally used for taking sightseeing trips from Liverpool to Beaumaris. She was unseaworthy and her captain and mate were drunk when she ran into a full gale some15 miles out of Liverpool.
The captain refused the passengers requests to turn back, her only boat had a hole in it, the engines failed when the fires were swamped, the passengers manned the pumps until floating ashes choked the suction, the only bucket for bailing fell overboard, and she hit and broke up. The ships band played through to the end.
You will have no trouble finding a heroine for your film. Nine of the 23 survivors from 150 aboard were rescued from the drifting broken-off poop, and among them was a Miss Whittaker.
The men on the poop had a strange argument about the propriety of asking Miss Whittaker to give them her skirts to use as a sail. But one report notes that Miss Whittaker was a lady of spirit and also divested herself of her garters. This will obviously supply you with todays obligatory nude scenes.
There is a good report of the sinking and the inquest held at Beaumaris in Shipwrecks of North Wales by Ivor Wynne Jones (David and Charles, 1973) and more detail and other sources in Volume 5 of the Shipwreck Index of the British Isles by Richard and Bridget Larn (Lloyds Register of Shipping, 2000). Im not aware of any diving on the wreck.
Destroyers destruction  
I am trying to find details of HMS Keith, sunk on 1 June, 1940 by German bombers at Dunkirk. My grandad was Stoker Petty Officer Henry John Davis and he died on the ship. Anything you can tell me about the sinking, location of the wreck and diving detail would be a great help.
Jacqueline Rushton


 The 1400 ton destroyer Keith was one of the ships evacuating the British Army from Dunkirk. On 1 June, 1940, she was attacked by about 40 Stuka dive-bombers near La Panne while in company with the destroyer Basilisk and the minesweepers Skipjack and Salamander. All four ships were laden with troops.
Keith was severely damaged and set on fire. She anchored off Bray and most of the troops were taken off safely, together with the surviving crew, before she sank at 9.40am. About 36 of the crew had been killed on board, but another 100 were lost when the tug St Abbs, which had picked up survivors from the Keith, also sank after a direct hit by a bomb. Basilisk was also sunk and so was Skipjack. Keiths position is 51 06N; 02 32E, though very little remains because of heavy post-war metal salvage.
Remains of the Warspite  
Do you have any info on the state of the battleship HMS Warspite off St Michaels Mount A location, depth and any other details would be helpful.
Steve Witt


After her guns had been taken out, in April 1947, Warspite was sent under tow from Portsmouth to the breakers on the Clyde. However, she didnt get far and, after breaking her tow in a gale, ran aground in Prussia Cove near Helston in Cornwall. Her hull was so badly damaged that it was clear she wouldnt make it to the Clyde, so she was towed off and beached by St Michaels Mount. Over the next five years she was broken up for scrap.
There are still some interesting bits left behind at 50 07.08N; 05 28.85W in just 8m. Two boilers and massive chunks of twisted steel stand proud of the seabed, but buried is most of the double bottom of the 600ft monster.
Many divers in the past have used underwater metal detectors to find brass nameplates, gauges, handles, scuttles and Admiralty-issue cutlery.
Colchester call  
Can you help me find out about HMS Colchester I believe that she sank just off Cornwall. Is she a protected wreck Has anyone found her
John Thompson


I keep hearing rumours that Colchester, a fourth-rate English man o war of 48 guns, has been found by divers, but no one seems to be able to confirm this.
This 696 ton, 131ft-long warship, which had a beam of 34ft, set sail from Ireland at the end of 1703 and headed for Plymouth, where she was to link with the English fleet for the war against Spain. However, she ran into the same huge storms in the Channel which had already forced the English fleet back into port.
There are two versions of her loss. One says she foundered in Whitesand Bay, Cornwall, in great winds and seas on New Years Day, 1704, with the loss of all 170 crew including her captain David Wavell. The other version gives the same date, but says that she drove ashore near Lands End with the same loss of all hands.
The Whitesand Bay wreck seems the more likely, particularly as part of a bronze cannon of about the right date was found on the beach in the bay a few years ago.