An attempt to identify the wreck

Only limited archaeological evidence could be collected during the survey. However, we know that the wreck is of remains of a riveted iron or steel steam or sailing vessel which was built at the end of the 19th or the beginning of the 20th century. Hall’s patent stockless anchor was first used in 1886.
 
The general vessel dimensions are: LOA (length over all) 63m, BOA (breadth over all) 8-10m and D (depth in hold) around 5-6m.
 
Although difficult to determine from the available evidence, the general hull shape suggests a steamship rather than a sailing vessel.
 
The extensive damage to the hull amidships on the port side suggests how the vessel was lost. The hull is bent inward in this area, suggesting an impact perhaps caused by a shell, torpedo, or a collision with another ship.
 
Because only limited archaeological evidence is available, the only possible approach to identifying the WA 1002 was to search lists of lost vessels for the general area, such as Richard Larn’s Shipwreck Index. Any vessels that match the dimensions and date of the wreck can then be checked against the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) shipwreck database to see whether they have been identified. Dive guides and the National Monuments Record (NMR) can be also checked.
 
This process only leaves a few candidates.
 
The Hall’s patent anchor shows that the ship sank after 1885. As the loss is not recorded, it is seems likely that the vessel sank in either of the two World Wars. In these wars the amount of shipping being sunk made the keeping of accurate records very difficult.
 
The following vessels have been identified as possible candidates for WA 1002:
 
Vessel Name
Vessel type
Vessel dimensions (m)
Date of sinking
Recorded Sinking Location/ Position
Peter der Grosse
Steamship
LBD 60.65 x 8.65 x 6.33
03/ 1893
Beachy Head Offshore, not known
Gotthard
Steamship
LBD 73.24 x 10.72 x 6.22
03.09.1916
Beachy Head Offshore, 45nm or 25nm SW
Polpedn
Steamship
LBD 78.57 x 11.06 x 5.15
14.11.1916
Littlehampton Offshore, 20nm S, 50.27.30N, 00.30W
Houlgate
Steamship
LBD ?, 929t net
22.11.1916
Beachy Head Offshore, 24nm WSW?

 

The Peter der Grosse

The Russian steamship Peter der Grosse sank following a collision with the German Preussen on the way from Hamburg, Germany, to Greenock in Scotland. The vessel was registered in St Petersburg and owned by the St. Petersburg Dampfschiff Gesellschaft (Steamship Company).
 
The ship was built in Germany in 1872 by the Norddeutsche Schiffbau Aktiengesellschaft in Kiel. The iron steamship was equipped with two boilers and a two cylinder compound steam engine. No further details about the position of the collision with the Preussen could be found.
 

The Gotthard

The Norwegian steamer Gotthard was torpedoed by UB-25 en route from Middlesbrough, England to Rouen in France with a cargo of cast iron pigs and sulphate. The Gotthard was built in Christiania, Denmark, in 1906. She had a single boiler and a three cylinder triple expansion steam engine.
 
Two different positions of sinking are recorded for the Gotthard. The English position would put the wreck much further to the South than WA 1002. However, the position given in the Norwegian sources would put the wreck in approximately the right area. The Gotthard is 10m longer than the length of WA 1002 measured on the multibeam data, but this difference could be explained by the apparent damage to the stern area.
 

The Polpedn

The Polpedn, a steel steamer owned by Farrar, Groves & Co Ltd., London, was sailing in ballast from Dunkirk in France to Ayr, Scotland when she was attacked by UB-38. The vessel was torpedoed amidships on the port side and sank within five minutes.
 
The Polpedn was an Admiralty prize (ex Thor), equipped with a three cylinder triple expansion steam engine and a single boiler. Although the recorded sinking position is a fair distance from the position of WA 1002, this might be explained by inaccurate positioning due to the rush in which the crew abandoned ship.
 
As with the Gotthard, a difference in length between the Polpedn and WA 1002 could be due to the damaged stern on WA 1002. The damaged midship section observed on the wreck would be consistent with the torpedo damage sustained by the Polpedn.
 

The Houlgate

The Houlgate was a Canadian steamer of 929 tons net, owned by a French company at the time of sinking. The vessel was en route from Montreal, Canada to Le Havre, France, with a cargo of coal, when she was shelled by a German submarine.
 
There are conflicting reports. The crew abandoned ship and watched it sink after an explosion in the boiler room. However, a British patrol ship reported finding the Houlgate deserted the next morning but it sank shortly afterwards. The vessel dimensions are given as 73m x 12m x 4.5m.
 
It is difficult to narrow down the search any further and securely identify wreck WA 1002 without additional archaeological evidence. All four of the vessels could, in terms of their size and date, be matched with WA 1002 and all are reported to have sunk in the approximate area of WA 1002. In addition, all were subject to damage of some sort, which could be consistent with the damage observed on the wreck.