In the eyes of the public driven by the media there is one English Channel aircraft story/mystery that stands out above all others, of course I am referring to the disappearance of Glenn Miller. As huge as this story is there are in my opinion several others that are just as worthy of attention and hopefully in time Deeper Dorset will be able to highlight that. In the last twenty years I have been approached several times with reference to carrying out a sidescan search looking for Glenn Miller’s Norseman aircraft, the latest discussion was only last year. There are without going into too much detail many reasons why a little guy like myself (David) would be better placed than a big concern (Goliath) to go looking and if ever I was to get involved it is that aspect that would drive me on! Up until recently being true to my Dorset roots there has been no reason to think much about it as there isn’t or at least wasn’t a Dorset link? Seems like now there is?? Apparently there is talk of a new search… So I wonder if anyone will pay me a few coppers to go and have a look or perhaps it’s best left in the hands of a specialist aircraft recovery group that has received millions in donations over the years but to date has found absolutely Diddley Squat on any of it’s projects. Just saying!
There is so much to look for and get involved with off this coastline it’s a job to know where to start, usually I just go with the flow and see what happens. For some reason just as well be the alignment of the stars as far as I am concerned the coming year is screaming aircraft. So apart from one project which is work in progress towards what we hope will be an excellent book we are exclusively on the case of sunken planes and stories that defy belief. Truth is very often stranger than fiction and it is the stories we are chasing down in memory of some extraordinary folks. A guy said to me recently why do you have to find the wreck sites before you tell the story? The answer is you don’t however we have good reason for wanting to which will all be revealed in the fullness of time. So how many planes are there in the sea off the Dorset coast? The section of database highlights just one bad day in WW2 there were many more. Then what of the inter war years and cold war period? The answer is many more than you realise. The Protection of Military Remains Act sounds impressive and all downed aircraft come under that but in fact it protects nothing which we will be demonstrating, roll on 2018.
Deeper Dorset supporter Agisoft, the folks behind the software that builds the 3D models we have come to love, has kindly converted their 12 month Photoscan Pro license to a permanent edition. Deeper Dorset are naturally delighted to receive support like this and it really lifts our spirits to see that a major player like Agisoft puts their faith in us. Exploring and documenting our maritime history is time consuming, hideously expensive and the big high profile wrecks get all the funding and support while we plug away as best we can in the real world of forgotten shipwrecks that sadly will not be there for future generations. All that said thanks to Agisoft the images will live on forever. http://www.agisoft.com
I received the following from Selwyn Williams, just goes to show you don’t always have to get wet to touch maritime history.
In 1982 I bought the rights to the Chesil Beach wreck of the Piedmont that we had found. She was a ship hired as a troop transport by the Transport Board in 1795 and she was part of a 300 strong fleet of naval ships and merchant ships destined to protect and take back any of the Islands in the West Indies from the French. This was similar to the Falklands expedition in 1982 and both had hospital ships as part of the fleet.
Over the years we undertook research in the archives as well as conducting an archaeological dig on the wreck and we are still looking for answers about the artefacts we found and also to the questions our research threw up.
Last year I went to Seville where the Archives of the Indies is situated as there is a strong Spanish American connection and I employed a researcher to go through the archives, which proved both very fruitful and fascinating. This opened up a rich historical thread that embellished and confirmed previous research I had already done.
Out of the blue I received an email via Grahame Knott’s Deeper Dorset website. A man called Xavier Cotter emailed Grahame saying what a great job Grahame was doing and asking if he knew anything about a wreck called the Piedmont. Grahame kindly forwarded it to me and a correspondence with Xavier has ensued.
It turns out that an ancestor of Xavier was the Captain of a ship called the Piemonte in the 1780s and the ship’s name would have been anglicised to the Piedmont as he thought the two ships were the same. This differs from our assumption of it being a British built ship so I am going back over previous research to see if this is confirmed. We know Alexander Davison, Nelson’s agent and benefactor, was engaged in hiring lots of the merchant ships, as well as providing cannons and small arms from Holland for the West Indies expedition, so he could well have bought the Piemonte.
Xavier had ship’s logs of its previous journeys to the East Indies and he also sent wonderful photos of a bust of his ancestor and the ship’s log book. (See above)
This shows that you never know when or where information about a wreck and its rich history may come from and this particular thread came as a result of putting wreck research into the public domain, something that is embedded within the ethos of Deeper Dorset. Grahame and I have always said that the real treasure of a wreck is its story and that evolves from its location and its artefacts, some of which need to be recovered but nowadays many, without that option, can be recorded and thus preserved by 3D photogrammetric models. Research follows to tell the full story and lots of ‘treasure’ is found in the archives.
Selwyn Williams October2017
Not as flukey as it might sound (get it) the anchorage around Portland Harbour is packed full of maritime history from the Civil war to the Cold war, check this out
If we find aircraft remains the first thing on our minds is who was the pilot, did he survive or did he go down with the plane? Here we have the reverse situation in that we know of a pilot with an improbable background but where is his downed ME109? Talk about unlucky he managed to get the aircraft down on the water and although injured get out onto the wing, however he remained attached to the aircraft by either clothing or webbing no one is sure and as the aircraft sank he was taken down with it. We suspect the propellor hub on the right is from his aircraft and I have merged it with a serviceable hub from an ME109 on the left for confirmation. The hub and two propellor blades were caught in a local boats fishing gear a couple of years back and after much discussion over where exactly it was recovered I think I now have a small enough area to sensibly search with sidescan. So why bother to look for the site? Quite simple really, the remains are the final chapter in a mans life a sad but nevertheless real memorial. Find them and I can use that as the catalyst to tell his story and bring closure to relatives. More details on another fisherman’s find tomorrow, it’s a wonder there is anything left on the seabed, leave it for future generations? No I don’t think so but at least all is protected by the Protection Of Military Remains Act……???
Dorset waters are the final resting place for many a brave pilot. It doesn’t matter to me if they are British, German, American or any other they were all young men doomed by those days of madness. The official line is that aircraft wreck sites are protected by the Protection Of Military Remains Act and they will be there for future generations, the reality is crash sites are slowly being swallowed by nature and quickly being destroyed by man. So does it matter and if it does who is to blame? Well for sure it is impossible to protect all these sites however it does seem somewhat disrespectful to not even try to raise awareness of the sites and in doing so tell the stories of those brave men rather than wave a big stick saying all is protected keep off move along which is just cloud cuckoo land. The pictures show the effects of fishing gear on a WW2 aircraft that has over recent years been literally pulled apart. I will highlight a couple more examples in the week as we prepare to go hunting aircraft with sidescan sonar.
3D photography and us have moved on in leaps and bounds since we first found this wreck in 2010. Named the Brandy wreck because the first thing diver Andy saw was a brandy bottle it is quite possible this site dates from the English Civil War period. Pictured is our good friend the late Andy White who was the first diver to set eyes on the wreck and picked up the afore mentioned bottle. Check out the link here for a little 3D history by Simon Brown.
The BBC featured our P47 story which we are still working on after many years in the hope of finding out who the pilot was.
Full report here
A great week’s diving. We dived some junk, we dived some real pieces of history and found ourselves in places no one has been before. We answered a few questions and closed the book on a couple of sites as well as opening the book and creating a new list of questions on another. We made progress with a project that will become the basis of a book and photogrammetry again proved it’s worth mapping finds. Folks got the chance to try their hand at metal detecting, we had a few laughs, we drank a few beers, even had an impromptu BBQ with live entertainment. Big thanks in no particular order to Cath, Hugh, Danny, Andy, Tapio, James, Simon, Rob, Nathan, Mike, Paul and inappropriate guy for a fun week. As for the picture… judge for yourself. Weymouth used to be the top destination for UK diving my how times have changed, however it is still here, I am still here and there is still much to offer UK diving, when UK diving wakes up again.
Great weekend to be out with Deeper Dorset and as most times when we came back between the piers each day we knew more than when we went out. For now we have to be a little quiet about the project we are working on as it will be the subject of a book and we want all the latest information and photographs to appear in that first for obvious reasons. Was a bit of a sad couple of days in some respects as it will probably be the last time I use Coastal Guardian in anger for exploration, she is a great boat with huge potential but really needs to be operating in the commercial world to make financial sense unless I manage to find a sugar Daddy!
The Caroline of Leigh was a Moody yacht that disappeared with four crew in December 1979. Nearly forty years later her remains still lie on the seabed south of Lulworth. Deeper Dorset are involved in a project that may even after all this time shed some more light on what happened that day. This video shows what remains of her bow and midship section, the stern keel and various other parts lay nearby. The video is a one shot quick survey for our project records with no edits and was filmed by Andy White. Tragically days after this video was made Andy died in a diving accident off the Devon Coast and we hope that a planned book will be dedicated to Andy and the four crew that perished when the Caroline was lost.
Caroline of Leigh