Introduction

The southern Kent coastline between Dungeness and Deal, including Dover and Folkestone is a wreck divers’ paradise and has some of the best scuba diving in the world, not just the UK. There are more shipwrecks in these waters than any part of Britain. The English Channel has always been the bastion of our defences and as a result, the Straight of Dover has been a regular battleground and the shipwreck casualties litter the seabed, put to their final resting place by mine, torpedo, cannonball, mortar shell, fireships, machine gun and aircraft bombs.

That said, not all on the seabed is the result of war or battle as the English Channel can experience fierce tides and storm. In the says of sail, the Downs and similar anchorages were supposed to be a safe haven, but many of them perished. Similar, the Goodwin Sands or ‘great ship swallower’ has claimed its victim due to navigation error and at a conservative estimate, it is said that there are over 2,500 ships entombed in the shifting sands since records began.

English Channel Shipwreck Map

HMS Brazen (H80) [+1940]

British Navy Destroyer; 1928; Palmer & Co; 1.360 tons; 323x32x12; 34.000 shp; 35 knots; turbine engines; 3 drum boilers; four 4.7 in guns; rwo 2 pdr; five m.g.; 8 T.T The destroyer Brazen was engaged in convoy work in the North Sea when she was attacked by German bombers on July 21st, 1940. She shot down three aircraft before she was hit and badly damaged. An attempt was made to tow her but this proved impossible and she was abandoned and sank some hours after the attack. Read more at Wrecksite.EU
HMS Brazen (H80)
Great visibility as she lays six miles out of Dover on a gravel and shingle seabed. The main deck area is clear, with torpedo tubes and gun mounts clearly visible. Lots of history to this local wreck as well which makes it a great first dive. Broken into 3 parts you will need to cross the sandbanks between the main area to get the best from this WWII shipwreck. The visibility is often good in this area and with only 24m to 28m of depth, dive time is long as well. Lots of brass still in place a maybe the occasional lobster!

SV Preussen (Preußen) [+1910]

The “Preussen” or Preußen in German and as written on the vessel. Named after the German state and kingdom of Prussia, she was the world’s only ship of this class with five masts carrying six square sails on each mast, some 5,081 tons and five masts, 408 foot long with a beam of 52 foot and a draught of 27. She was carrying a general cargo including cement and 100 pianos from Hamburg to Valparaiso when she collided with the cross channel steamer, “Brighton” on 5th November 1910.

The Preussen was badly damaged and started to take on water. A plethora of tugs tried to get Captain Nissen and his ship into Dover, but the towlines snapped in the gale and she drove ashore in Crab Bay. The German crew stayed aboard and the Kaiser sent a telegram of encouragement, but she was too badly damaged on the rocks to be moved.

Preussen After Collision 1910

Today her wreckage is still there, broadside on the great chalk cliffs. Steel plates littler the bottom amid the seaweed, the outline of the cement barrels run the length of the forehold though most of the pianos were salvaged.

Well broken up, the Preussen can be seen at a low spring tide and although not an ideal wreck to dive, she is one example of over 350 shipwecks and other marks in the region of Folkestone and Dover.

SS Maloja [+1916]

The SS Maloja is a classic P&O steamer, had a dazzling profile combined with a complex character. Actually an enlarged 19th Century liner, the Maloja’s interior was distinctly “Mark Twain.” The First Class Music Room, complete with a baby grand piano, was located on an open gallery over the dining saloon, its long tables furnished with rows of fixed, revolving chairs.

SS Maloja - 1916

A remarkable photograph, exclusively secured by “Daily Mail” of the scene immediately after the vessel’s final plunge. Tugs, Pinnaces, Destroyers and patrol boats are seen engaged in the work of picking up survivors. The swirl of the water, marking the spot where the liner sank, is distinctly visible in the picture. Just beyond are to be noticed pieces of wreckage to which survivors are clinging, and a number of small boats engaged in the rescue work.

Maloja Rescue
Sunk on 27th February 1916, this P&O liner is a very impressive site. Now laying around 4 miles from Dover in 24 to 30m of water, this impressive wreck is best dived when the inshore visibility is know to be good. The origins of this vessel are clear to see, with passenger artefacts and personnel possession being seen on the wreck. Now well dispersed and flattened she make a great local dive, as with the right gas mix you can have over an hour of exploration time.

SS Pommerania [+1878]

Not to be confused with the similar sounding “Pomeranian” dived out or Weymouth and Portland, the SS Pommerania was a German ocean liner built in 1873. Owned by Hapag, she measured 360 feet by 40 feet at 3,382 grt and carried 109 passengers. Produced 600 horsepower from a two-cylinder compound engine. She sank on 26th November 1878 in a collision with the British iron barque Moel Eilian off Dover. 48 lives were lost.

SS Pommerania

A ferry token to cross the river Elbe in Hamburg was found on the Pommerania. Crell’s Dampffähre – valid for one journey.

From early times many boats crossed the River Elbe near Hamburg and the rise of its harbour made it necessary for millions of men to be transported over the water by ferry each year. From known tokens we already have the names of some of the owners of these ferry boats: P. Gall (Smith 390 D), Grell (not “Crell” – Smith 390 E,F) and Gebr. Luders (Smith 390 B,C).

The company that owned the SS Pommerania was HAPAG which is Hamburg American. We guess the boat builder workers used to use the steam ferry to get to work.

Crell's Dampffähre

As an immigrant ship, sailing for the Hamburg-Amerika Line under the command of Captain Schwensen, she made regular trips between New York and Hamburg via Plymouth. On 25th November 1878, she was hit amidships on her starboard by the iron-hulled Welsh barque Moel Eilian off Folkestone and sank in less than half an hour. The Moel Eilian was too badly damaged to assist, barely making it to Dover. Fortunately, the steamer Glengarry was nearby and came to the rescue. The wreck today is one of the most dived in the area due to her size, cargo, and that she was a liner! Clock parts and all manner of artefacts have been seen on or around the wreck site. Depth is 25 to 31 m. She lies around 5 miles from Dover hence the visibility is often good.

HMS Hermes [+1914]

Ten ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Hermes, the messenger god of Greek mythology. Built by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd of Glasgow in 1898, this HMS Hermes was was a Highflyer-class cruiser launched in 1898, converted into an experimental seaplane tender in 1913 and sunk by German U-boat U-27 on 31st October 1914 (Bernd Wegener), 8 miles WNW of Calais at Ruylingen Bank. Twenty two persons were lost. Read more at Wrecksite.EU

HMS Hermes 1914
HMS Hermes, Dar es Salaam, before 1913.
This rarely dived wreck is around 16 miles or so from Dover on the French side, thus special permission is required to dive her. Now laying upside down in 24m to 28m of water she is a spectacular dive with swim throughs near the stern and midships area. Lots to see and photograph but it’s a long ride there and back. So make sure you bare this in mind! But its well worth it if the weather is good.

HMS Flirt [1916]

HMS Flirt was a Star-class destroyer (three-funnelled C-type). She was launched by Palmers in 1897 and served in the great war patrolling the Strait of Dover as part of the Dover Patrol. Her service came to an end when on 27 October 1916 during the Battle of Dover Strait she was torpedoed and sunk by German destroyers. Read more at Wrecksite.EU and dive log.

Not for the faint hearted this one!Depth 38m and about 12 miles out of Dover near the centre of the shipping lanes. But if you go, what a reward you can have. Dripping with all sorts of things you can expect to see on any HMS. Be mindful of the large net over the centre section of the wreck, but it’s been there for a long time so shouldn’t pose a problem with entanglement. Lots of shell cases litter the surrounding seabed, but she only stands about 2mtrs proud. Limited bottom time due to depth – No DSMBs on this dive as we are too close to shipping lanes. A long way there and back, but the visibility is nearly always excellent!

SM UB-78 [+1918]

Mined and sunk with all hands while traveling through the Straits of Dover into the English Channel from occupied Flanders. The Royal Navy had a poor understanding of when specific Flanders-based U-boats sailed and their assigned patrol areas, and thus did not realize that the submarine that they believed had sunk on a mine on 19th April 1918 was UB-78. Identity confirmed by local divers from markings on the U-boat’s propellers. Read more at Wrecksite.EU  and dive log.

This wreck site is one of the very best examples if you like subs. The main body of the vessel is intact , but the aft section is detached and lying on the seabed just a few metres away as are the two rudders. Conning tower and gun are still in place along with and open hatch aft, which I presume would be to load the torpedoes. The main section forward is in remarkably good condition with the bow torpedo tubes being clearly visible along with the hydroplanes. Depth 24m to the top and 28m to the seabed.

SS Cuvier [+1900]

The SS Cuvier was am iron screw steamer weighing 2,000 tons and sank on 9th March 1900 after collision with the SS Dovre off East Goodwin Sands, 38 lives lost. The captain and 37 men of the crew were drowned. The Dovre did not stand by and offer assistance. Following the collision the survivors stated that she blew her whistle for assistance, and shortly afterwards settled down by the stern and sank. Most of the men were in their bunks. Read more at Wrecksite.EU

A Collision occurred at approx 5am with the SS Dovre, a Norwegian steamer, carrying coal from Burntisland (near Kirkcaldy in Fife) to Dieppe. The SS Dovre arrived in Dieppe with considerable damage, but no reports from her that she’d stopped after collision.The SS Windsor picked up the second mate and 2 other seaman,from a capsized lifeboat at 7am, all the others presumed drowned. The captain and 3rd mate were seen to jump from the bridge, but presumably did not survive. Following the collision (on the starboard quarter) the survivors stated that she blew her whistle for assistance, and shortly afterwards settled down by the stern and sank. Most of the men were in their bunks. A court case followed but on 14th May the local court in Dieppe found the SS Cuvier alone to blame for the collision and awarded the SS Dovre damages, demurrage and indemnity. The wreck today is 9 miles from Dover and very intact, laying in a max of 46m in the scour with the shallowest part of the wreck around 37m. Heavy damage to bow area. Some superstructure is still intact with swimthroughs along the main deck area. Holds can be entered with caution. Cargo includes plate, crockery. glasswear etc. One of my favourite dives, but be remember the depth. There is so much to see and do, time runs away with you! Up and down the shot. Absolutely no DSMBs as we are very close to shipping lanes.

SS Unity [+1918]

The three steamers Equity, Liberty and Unity were acquired from the Co-Operative Wholesale Society in 1906; they had been built in 1888, 1900 and 1902 respectively for Goole-Hamburg services. Unity was a war loss in 1918, the others survived until 1932, when they were sold to Italian owners.

SS Unity 1918

Built by Murdoch & Murray, Port Glasgow in 1902 and owned at the time of her loss by Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company, Goole, the SS Unity was a British steamer of 1,091 tons. On 2nd May 1918, she was on a voyage from Newhaven to Calais with a cargo of ordinance and sunk by the German U-boat UB-57, nine miles southeast of Folkestone. Twelve lives were lost though her Captain was amongst the survivors.

SM UB-55 [+1918]

She operated as part of the Flanders Flotilla based in Zeebrugge. On 22nd Apri 1918, the German submarine UB-55, built in 1916 by Weser A. G. was sunk by a mine. Between 15 and 20 men escaped from the sinking submarine, but only 8 were found alive by the British trawler Mate . One of the men died on the ship while being transported to Dover. Read more at Wrecksite.EU

Mined while outbound in Strait of Dover, this wreck lies in 34m and stands 4m proud some 7 miles out from Dover. The aft of the sub is in good condition and the conning tower and periscope are still in place. The forward section is badly broken up and there is a large debris field in this area. It is a great wreck to look at, but treat with respect as it is a war grave. Lots of interesting area to photograph, especially the conning tower lights that still have the glass intact.