Divers Find WWII Shipwreck Of Amphibious Assault Ship Off Cornwall

Divers believe they may have stumbled upon one of the six Royal Navy vessels lost off Cornwall in a forgotten war tragedy. Half a dozen giant landing crafts were reportedly lost off Land’s End in 1944 (October) as a storm struck their convoy, claiming the lives of over 50 sailors of the Royal Navy.

A team of divers – the Gasperados – operating in Newquay on the boat Atlantic Diver decided to take the plunge off the English mainland’s westernmost tip in the hope of discovering a shipwreck.
They did not locate it, but about 100 meters down, in an undisclosed spot, they came across a different wreck – most likely an amphibious vessel.

Credit – Underwater imagery: Rick Ayrton.

To identify it, they took the advice of Dr Harry Bennett, an Associate Professor of History at Plymouth University. He mentioned that it could be one of six Landing Craft Tanks (abbreviated LCTs) that was lost. At the same time, it was being towed in 1944 to Asia in anticipation of the planned invasion of Japan (Operation Downfall, which was scheduled for 1945/1946).

With Allied troops on Germany’s soil and France liberated by the autumn of 1944, the decisions were taken to refurbish/upgrade/repair the 650-ton vessels and prepare them for the long journey to the Far East theatre of war.

Around mid-October 1944, the ninth LCT Flotilla vessels departed from ports in Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland to link up with the convoy OS92/KMS66 and set sail for the Mediterranean and Asia. The landing crafts were never equipped for such voyages – or poor weather; older LCTs could not withstand wind above Force 4, newer ones Force 6.

Around October 18 or 19, 1944, the convoy got stuck in an Atlantic storm off the Cornish peninsula. The winds are estimated at Force 9 – up to 55mph speeds – and rough mountainous seas. The six landing craft tanks – 7015, 7014, 494, 491, 488, and 480 – were lost in the storm, going down with all or some of their crew members. Even though about 100 sailors could be saved in horrifying conditions, 55 individuals – including some on warships trying to help in the rescue were washed overboard – lost their lives.

No one has seen the missing vessels since 1944 (October) – until today. Gasperado’s Steve Mortimer said that as divers, they never take for granted that they can come to discover the eventual resting places of sailors who lost their lives fighting for the country.

He added that they were privileged to suggest that they may have discovered the remains of LCT 488 or, if not that vessel, a similar craft from WWII. Dr Bennett added that this tragic tale of the lost convoy of landing craft tanks, which the wreck brings, is a brutal reminder that amid war, our mariners had to contend with the old enemies of overwhelming storms and the cruel sea to a sometimes deadly impact.

Further investigation and diving are needed to identify the wreck formally. For those interested in the divers’ work until now, they will be presenting at the Guz. Tech diving conference on 25 November at Plymouth University.

Reference: Diver Net, Royal Navy

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