The sea has its secrets

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THE WRECK of World War One naval cruiser H M S Falmouth lies on the bottom of Bridlington Bay.

She is in just 17 metres of water, approximately five and a half miles south of Bridlington Harbour and three and a half miles east of Skipsea. She may be one of hundreds of wrecks but she is one of the most popular with diving enthusiasts, who have visited the site since the early 1970s.

Bill Woolford of the East Yorks Sub Heritage Exploration Group, takes up her story ...

IN August 1916, the 5,252 Weymouth light cruiser squadron ship, with 376 crew on board, was twice torpedoed by German U-boats off the coast of Northumberland, causing her crew to take to the lifeboats.

A trawler was able to take away the injured or wounded and some naval reserves.

However, two stokers were killed in the attack. They were wrapped in white sheets, weighted down with fire bars, and buried at sea.

Whilst being towed nearer the Yorkshire coast, she was hit by two more German torpedoes just off Flamborough Head.

Despite having a six destroyer escort screen, dropping depth chargers to fend off the German U-boats Raiders, she sank in Bridlington bay.

She was commanded by J D Edwards, and is 450ft long with a 48ft beam, with a top speed - from her steam turbine engines - of 27 knots.

HMS Falmouth was rejoining the fleet after driving off a couple of Zeppelins. Steaming along at 26 knots, two torpedo tracks were seen - one missed and the other struck the fore end, lifting it four feet in the air.

A further torpedo hit the stern section and it was then that the crew took to the boats.

Bull Woolford writes: “We first dived HMS Falmouth in 1973 after looking for it for quite some time.

“In the summer of 1976, the wreck was visible from the surface.

“Today she is unrecognisable after considerable salvage over the years. The admiralty salvaged her props, guns, torpedo tubes etc.

“Later, local Bridlington business man, John Deheer, was responsible for some more salvage on HMS Falmouth, after forming his own company, The John Deheer Tug and Lighter Co; and went on to be awarded the contract from the Royal Air Force to recover ditched aircraft off the Yorkshire coast.

“She is well broken, laying in a north-south altitude on a gravel and sandy sea bed.

“There’s always plenty of fish shoaling around and the usual crab or lobster can be found.

“The odd artefacts keep turning up; about four years ago after some scratching around on the wreck, we pulled a hard hat divers knife out of the silt and, in the early 70s, a silver communion chalice and plate were found.

“My thanks go to local diver Mike Raddley for his help with this article, Admiralty letters, plans and photos.

I hope you have found the story as interesting as we do.”