Port en Bessin Shipwrecks

 

uss-susan-b-anthonySusan B Anthony -  This American troop  ship was almost 500ft long and had a beam  of 33ft she was Built in 1930 at Camden,  New Jersey and weighed in at 8183 tons.  She saw service in North Africa, Sicily and  then as a  transport ship  between the United  States & the UK ferrying  troops and supplies  in preperation for the big  push into  Europe and Operation Overlord. 

In the early hours off the 7th June 1944 Susan B Anthony was approaching Omaha Beach, It was 08.20am when she struck the mine under No4 hold, the ship began to list almost immediately and fire broke out and spread in the engine & fire rooms. The ship settled quickly and on an even keel some 8 miles north of port en Bessin in only 30mtrs of water. Being such a large ship she rested on the bottom with her decks above water allowing landing crafts to come alongside and evacuate the crew & troops to land.  

AmmunitionToday the wreck of the Susan B rests in 30mtrs of  water with her bow laying on its port side with  large  deck guns still in place, the main body of the ship is upright and the stern is pretty broken up and like  a  scrap yard. There are some  amazing  swim  throughs on this  wreck but great care must be  taken, this is a fabulous dive with big guns anti-  aircraft guns and ammunitions spread around. Sea  life is good with the  usual fish and plenty of  lobsters, crabs &  scallops throughout the wreckage. 

 

HMS-Empire-Broadsword HMS Empire Broadsword- is another great  wreck, she stands an impressive 15mtrs off  the seabed and lays on her starboard side.

 On the 2nd July almost a month after D-Day  the Broadsword was again back at Omaha  beach landing troops and equipment when  she struck 2 mines, the explosions lifted the  ship and broke her back and she settled on  the seabed very quickly in only 25mtrs water.

The wreck lies east/west and on her stbd side, she is broken just aft of the engine room & it is possible to access the engine & boiler rooms although great care must be taken as the years of strong tides, gales and shallow depth has weakend the structure. 

From stern to bow there is much to see and explore, a massive rudder starts you off but no prop, this has been salvaged. A Large 4″ deck gun dominates the stern, pointing skywards as if ready to fire with lots of ammo scattered around. You pass the engine room area and come accross the bridge area, still large and pretty together giving great access & penetration just be careful. On the fore deck again there are more guns, big 4-inch and the smaller anti-aircraft guns and yes more munitions. This is a great dive in a really good depth.

HMS-LST-523 HMS Landing Ship Tank 523 - There are plenty off landing crafts littering the Bay de Seine and probably the most impressive is the LST523 with its cargo of sherman tanks tipped out onto the seabed like a spilt toybox. She also struck a mine and sank swiftly in only 30mtrs of water to the seabed; the stern section is upside down with 2 bare prop shafts and 2 rudders in place however the 2 props have been easily salvaged. As you go forward the LST comes upright but quite broken. It is possible to access the stern area where boxes of shells lay in amongst the masses off fish lurking inside especially the big bass.

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                                                Landing Craft Rocket                                                                                              Landing Ship Tank

HMS Computator – This British armed trawler was lost on 21st January 1945 after being in collision with HMS Vanoc 24 miles to the north of Port en Bessin, she now rests in 36mtrs at Low water. The actual wreck is sitting upright and very intact and is a superb dive.

HMS Minster – On 8th June 1944 HMS Minster struck a mine off Utah Beach and sank swiftly A former cargo ship built in 1924 for the Southern Railway Co Ltd, she was hired by the RN as a net layer in 1940. Today the wreck off the Minster lies close to the wreck off the USS Meredith and in 20mtrs. 

Amsterdam HMHS Amsterdam – Built in the 1930′s she  started life as a passenger ferry on the  Harwich to Hook of Holland route. At the  outbreak of the war she was converted to a  troop ship and was based on the south coast  at Southampton, the Amsterdam treveled to  the Shetlands & Orkney Isles transporting  troops between the Islands and the main  land before returning back down south to be  used as a troop ship for Operation Overlord. 

On 5th June 1944 the Amsterdam sailed from Weymouth with the American 2nd US Rangers on route for Normandie and their fated assault on Point De Hoc to silence the big guns on top of the cliffs, this proved to be a bloody battle with many casualties.

The Amsterdam then returned back to her home on the Clyde where she was built in 1930 to be converted to a hospital ship and become HMHS Amsterdam, On the 7th August in thick fog she was off Juno Beach carrying wounded and prisoners of war back to the UK when in the early hours she struck 2 mines, virtually all the passengers and crew were transferred to other ships before HMHS Amsterdam sank in 25mtrs of water 5 miles to the north from Arromanche. 

This 350ft wreck lays east/west and on her port side, she is quite broken and spread over an area yet still quite recognizable, The bow & stern of the ship area prominent with the superstructure collapsed down and scattered in big chunks the engine room & the hold areas are accessible.   

 uss-meredith-2USS Meredith - On 6th June 1944 the  American destroyer  USS  Meredith gave  gunfire support to the  landing forces on  Utah Beach and early in  the morning of the  following day. whilst she was patrolling the  offshore waters as a screening vessel she  struck an enemy mine and was severely  damaged, the result of the explosion was  the loss of seven killed and over 50  wounded and missing, The USS Meredith  was towed to an anchorage in the Bay de Seine to be salvaged. However, on the morning of 9 June, her seams were further opened by an enemy bombing raid and shortly after she broke in two without warning and sank.

USS-Tide USS Tide – An American Auk  class Minesweeper built in 1942 with  armaments off 2 x 3″ guns & 2 x 40mm and  2 x 20mm anti aircraft guns. Whilst carrying  out sweeping duties off Utah & Omaha  beaches on the 7th June the USS Tide  struck a mine killing the ships commanding  officer Lt Commander George  Crane instantly, the explosion broke  the ship back and whilst under tow by USS  Swift she broke in two pieces and sank.  Today the broken & scattered remains of  USS Tide lie 3 miles nrth from Grandcamp  Maisy in 15mtrs, a good rummage dive 

SGB7 SGB7 – Lost on the 19th June 1942 the  wreck of Steam Gun Boat No7 rests in  32mtrs on a sand & shingle sea bed, the  ship is very open and stands up about  4mtr high with her engine & boiler visible  amongst the debris of boxes and live  shells. Most of the  structure has now  collapsed down and covered by shingle but  is still a very interesting dive. There is lots  of life on this wreck and is very good for  seeing crabs, lobsters & Plaice. 

German Patrol Boat – A small distance from SGB7 is the remains of a German patrol boat, not much is known about this wreck or to her identity, but only that it is German due to the markings seen on the wreck. Lots to see & loads of fish in 30mtrs 

Barsac Barsac - A French ship sunk in 1918 whilst  carrying a cargo Nickel Ore by the German  submarine UB80, she was on passage from  Noumea to Le Havre on 11th January 1918.

 This wreck is big standing 10mtrs high and  intact albeit from the port stern area which  took the torpedo. You can access the bridge  and accommodation areas & up on top is a  ships compass, stuck in place for all to see,  Up on the bows is a deck gun with 3″ shells laying around but one caution is the amount of trawl net draped over the front so be careful.

 

SS-Norfolk S.S. Norfolk – This big ship was built in  Seattle  Washington, USA in 1918 for the  Norwegian  government. She was 410ft  long and had a  beam of 54ft she spent  most of her life transporting supplies  through the Mediterranean before seeing  action off the Normandy beaches where she  struck a mine, after that it was decided to  use the Norfolk as a blockship for the  American Mulberry A off Omaha beach.

Today the wreck of SS Norfolk sits upright in only 20mtrs of water and stands some 6mtrs high in places, you can swim from Bow to Stern dropping into the 4 holds engine space and accommodation area. She rests on the side of a big sand bank that shifts covers and uncovers. The marine life onboard can be exceptional and is a favorite with local Bass fisherman

ss-dungrangeSS Brackenfield & SS Dungrange – These 2 ships were in a 20 ship convoy leaving from Southampton bound for Normandy when at 3.00am in the morning they came under attached from German E boats from the 2nd M.T.B. flotilla based at Boulogne. The ships were loaded with a volatile cargo of fuel & munitions and when attacked both ships sank in minutes. Today these ships rest in 42mtrs one lays at 45 degrees on her port side the other has her bows upside down and then twist back and opens up and accessible, because there 2 wrecks are 30miles offshore we only visit them on channel crossings or when the conditions allow but when we do the marine life is phenomenal with loads to see from crabs & lobsters to big fish Ling, Bass, Pollack & congers. We have lots of targets in this area still to be explored.

HMS-Fratton HMS Fratton – She was built in 1925 for  the Southern Railway Co as a cross  channel ferry to operate from Dover &  Folkestone. The Fratton took part in the  evacuation of the Channel Islands in  1942 and then as a general duties ship by  the Royal Navy until 1944 when she was  used as a control ship off Gold Beach  during Operation Overlord.

On the 18th August 1944 HMS Fratton was once again off the Normandie coast this time being used as an examination vessel, In the early hours an explosion ripped through the Port stern section of the ship as she triggered an acoustic mine. The vessel began to sink almost immediately and the order to abandon ship was given, 38 of the ships crew were picked up by motor launches however 31 crew members lost their lives.

The wreck now lies in 20mtrs and stands about 5mtrs high, she is still reasonably intact with large areas still recognizable, lots of fish and marine life especially big Bass. 

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Mulberry units & Bridge Sections – There is always the danger when diving new marks that you might end up diving a large lump of square concrete or a some barges or even some bridge sections but for me its the excitement of the new undived wreck even if it does turn out to be something without an engine because you need to view every wreck for what it is and the marine life on new wrecks can be phenomenal & i get to cross them off my list.

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There are lots of unknown targets that we have still to look at and groups willing to be adventurous diving guinea pigs the results can be rewarding

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