The Maritime Archaeology Trust's 3D model of the wreck of the steam drifter 'John Mitchell' can now be explored from every angle online (Image courtesy of MAT)

First World War shipwrecks revealed in 3D off England's south coast

Posted on on 02 December 2015
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Images of a fishing boat sunk while on war service with the British Navy in 1917 have been released by the Maritime Archaeology Trust as part of a project exploring WW1 shipwrecks off the English coast.

The remains of the drifter, John Mitchell, are revealed in a 3D digital model created from hundreds of photos taken by divers during exceptionally clear conditions in the summer of 2015.

Sunk in a collision with a steamer off Dorset in November 1917, the John Mitchell has been slowly breaking apart on the seabed for almost a century.

The steam-powered fishing boat was adapted for use by the Admiralty to maintain and patrol anti-submarine nets. 

It was among more than 1,000 vessels lost off England's south coast alone during the Great War, says the Southampton-based Maritime Archaeology Trust (MAT). 

The Trust's Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War project aims to raise awareness of them with an exploration programme running during the four-year Centenary. 

Amanda Bowens from MAT, said: "The John Mitchell model is offering new opportunities for presenting underwater sites to the general public. People are now able to explore the site as a diver could but with guaranteed excellent visibility and no need to get wet!"

The Royal Navy hired 1,300 commercial fishing drifters during the First World War, using them for minesweeping, escort, supply, repair and transport duties.

The wreck of the John Mitchell can explored online here.

More models are in development and will be available shortly.

A MAT diver examines the engine behind the boiler of the John Mitchell at a depth of 42 metres

The Maritime Archaeology Trust says it wants 'to raise the profile of a currently under-represented aspect of the Great War'.

Remains from the war lie, largely forgotten, in and around the seas, rivers and estuaries of the British Isles, the Trust points out.

"With over 1000 wartime wrecks along England’s south coast alone, the conflict has left a rich heritage legacy and many associated stories of bravery and sacrifice. These underwater memorials represent the vestiges of a vital, yet little known, struggle that took place on a daily basis, just off our shores. 

"Through a programme of fieldwork, research, temporary exhibitions and outreach, the project aims to engage communities and volunteers and provide a lasting legacy of information and learning resources relating to First World War wrecks for future generations."

'Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War' is funded by the UK's Heritage Lottery Fund. Exhibitions about the project are touring south coast counties of the UK. Read more about the steam drifter 'John Mitchell' here.

Also in Centenary News:

Survey reveals Irish Sea shipwrecks.

Information & images supplied by the Maritime Archaeology Trust

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News