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24 September 2014
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  Inside Out - Yorkshire & Lincolnshire: Monday July 7, 2003


Photo gallery
Royal Navy cruiser
The ships were considered cutting edge when built
Exclusive photo gallery

It was the Royal Navy’s greatest disaster – fourteen hundred men died when one German U-boat sunk three British cruisers in an hour.

Now Inside Out can reveal exclusive images of the wrecks.

It was September 1914 and the three armoured cruisers HMS Cressy, Aboukir and Hogue were on patrol off the Dutch Coast.

They weren’t zig-zagging and were travelling with their water-tight doors open. They were oblivious to the danger that was about to confront them.

Not believing their luck were the crew of German submarine U-9. In less than an hour they’d torpedoed all three ships, sinking them one after the other.

Professor Eric Groves, a naval historian from Hull University says: "The main criticism after the event was why were they travelling so slowly, why did the other ships stop to pick up survivors and why weren’t the water tight doors closed?"

"I would put that down to experience… People were learning on the job what the dynamics of modern naval warfare would be."

Extreme dive

The wrecks lie twenty-five miles off the Dutch coast in 100 feet of water. It’s their extreme location that’s attracted Yorkshire divers Garry Hudson, Nick Pearce and Kevin Richardson.

The dive team spent three days exploring the wreck

The team spent three days diving the wrecks. Garry says, "It’s pretty extreme stuff, beyond what most sports divers can achieve."

"We had to take down extra tanks and a special mix of gasses that would enable us to stay down beyond our limits."


Nick says, "The wrecks aren’t in a very good shape."

"The weight of the guns meant they turned turtle when they sank, so most of the ships have been crushed under the hull."

"It’s a shame to think that in another fifty or sixty years time there won’t be much more left to see."

"It’s pretty eerie stuff down there when all you can hear is the sound of your bubbles. A lot of men and boys were on these boats. It’s hard to think what they went through so that we can have our freedom today."


Images from the wreck
Much of the ship has been crushed under the hull

Amongst the 800 survivors was 15 year-old Kit Wykeham Musgrave, who can lay claim to having been torpedoed on all three boats yet lived to tell the tale.

His daughter Pru Bailey-Hamilton says, "He went overboard when the Aboukir was going down and he swam like mad to get away from the suction."

"He was then just getting on board the Hogue and she was torpedoed. He then went and swam to the Cressy and she was also torpedoed."

"He eventually found a bit of driftwood, became unconscious and was eventually picked up by a Dutch trawler."

Garry Says, "The story of what happened to these three ships is amazing. One minute you’re on patrol, the next all hell breaks loose. It was one of those things that should never have happened and certainly didn’t happen again."

See also ...

BBC: World War One
BBC: The war at sea: 1914 - 1918

On the rest of the web
Royal Navy

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Colin Carroll
There are so many listed wrecks in the North sea (more than 300 between Spirn Point and Flamboro' Head alone! It is great to hear of new finds like this. I hope the idiots with lump hammers stay away.

Ted Andrews
I hope they had permission to dive on these ships as they are war graves. There is no mention of this in the article.

Carl Clayton
Very interesting report. My wife's grandfather served on HMS Amethyst which was operating with these ships in September 1914 but was not present when they were sunk.

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