The Acorn

The Acorn Part III: 2018

For our Christmas special, it’s my pleasure to welcome back Jordan Havell, now a regular guest blogger. I’m also delighted to let you know he received a ‘Highly Commended’ at the CBA awards, in the Young Archaeologist of the Year category.

He gives us an update on the Acorn, a barque in the ice trade, a suitably seasonal subject, which he first discussed in a blog for Christmas 2014, and recalls a dynamic year on the Lincolnshire coast.

Photograph of shipwreck timber seen from above, amid ridges and furrows in the sand with the tide flowing in and out.
Remains of the Acorn emerging from the sand, while marine life has been washed in, seen on 7 November 2018 © Jordan Havell

Jordan writes:

It is now 4 years since I wrote my first blog on the Acorn shipwreck.

Since then my family and I have watched as the wreck appears, disappears and reappears as a result of the tides causing the sand to shift. Photographs were taken each time the wreck was uncovered by the sea to be added to the national database.

Over the last year while doing this, we have noticed other archaeological finds, including a rather large piece of wreck washed up near Trusthorpe in May, and we were involved in recording and digitizing information on the wreck, including photogrammetry work. My mum and I found it after a local lady told us about it and we reported it to Historic England, Lincolnshire’s Finds Officer, Adam Daubney, and CITiZAN’s Andy Sherman for which I wrote a blog. A piece was taken for carbon dating. It is thought to be late 19th century/possibly early 20th. Merchants’ marks were recorded on this piece.

Other things found while doing various visits to the beach include: other ships’ timbers, possible aircraft fuselage pieces, copper sheathing from the hull of timber boats, large pieces of iron concretion, possibly from other local shipwrecks, worked flints, fossils, and Roman pottery. Parrel trucks and deadeyes from ships and even a possible sponge head from a cannon sponge were also among the objects found.

We have also seen much larger chunks of peat from the Lincolnshire Peat Shelf. These pieces have been much bigger than we have seen before. One day recently some of these large chunks were seen scattered right along the tideline for quite some distance.

Two fragments of dark brown peat, one large on left, smaller fragment to centre right, on sand
Fragments of peat washed up on 28 September 2018 © Jordan Havell

During March we saw the ‘Beast From the East’ affect our coastline. We saw hundreds upon thousands of stranded marine creatures, which was a shame to see. During this time we also saw many pieces of prehistoric forest timbers that we recorded and continue to do so.

Another day recently we saw salt lines across the beach – again, the first time we have seen something like this.

Shingle beach criss-crossed with white salt lines
Salt lines, Sutton-on-Sea beach, 2018. © Jordan Havell

I have attached some photos reflecting some of the above and of course some up-to-date pictures of the Acorn as she has recently given up more to see.

It’s amazing to see just how the tides have affected it over: over just a few days over the 21st to the 29th October 2018, the changes we could see were caused by shifting changes in the sand levels.

Acorn Oct 21 2018 1
The Acorn surrounded by water on 21 October 2018. © Jordan Havell

We took pictures on the 29th but couldn’t get as close due to the rising water levels around the wreck.

The Acorn 29th Oct 2018
The Acorn, 29 October 2018. © Jordan Havell

We will continue to monitor this wreck over the next few years in the hope that more starts to appear and I can then make another blog on it all to keep you up to date on it.

We’d like to thank Jordan for his detailed observations on the burial and exposure of this site over the last few years. It has turned into a fascinating case study on the processes and environmental context of wreck exposure in the inter-tidal zone on the east coast. It’s clear that the beach erosion revealing the Acorn and artefacts such as the Roman pottery (other Roman pottery was found locally in the 1950s) mirrors similar disturbances offshore, resulting in a variety of material being washed up.

We wish Jordan – and all our readers – a very happy festive season and all the best for 2019.

 

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Diary of the War: December 1918 and after

The Aftermath

Visitors to the Cenotaph in Whitehall may occasionally pass by and wonder why the end date of the First World War is inscribed as MCMXIX (1919) and not MCMXVIII (1918). Dating inscriptions on some war memorials follow this practice, while others adhere to the conventional dating (as we now understand it) of 1914-1918.

The usual explanation for the use of 1919 derives from the Armistice of 11 November 1918 being a cessation of hostilities, rather than a formal peace, which was delivered by the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919.

At the Armistice land soldiers could put down their guns and retire from their artillery posts at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 (although, as the recent commemorations have shown, there were pockets where it didn’t quite happen like that).

At sea the naval blockade of Germany would continue until Versailles. The threat of live hostile action was gone, but huge minefields remained a threat, their sweeping a laborious and ongoing task. Until well into 1920, mines regularly caused shipping casualties, resulting in a special section inserted into Lloyd’s War Losses devoted to “Vessels Sunk by Mines after Nov. 11th, 1918”. (1)

Thereafter shipping losses due to mines tailed off, but stray mines adrift from their original fields, and hence incapable of being swept up, since their locations were unknown, remained a persistent but deadly nuisance to shipping right up to 1925. The Swedish sailing vessel Hans, lost that year with the majority of her crew off Gotland, is the last reported mine casualty.

Within English waters, the post-war victims of mines included minesweepers: HMS Penarth, off the Yorkshire coast, 24 February 1919 and HMS Cupar, off Tynemouth, 5 May 1919. Among civilian shipping the English collier De Fontaine was mined off the coast of Kent on 16 November 1918, while the Norwegian cargo vessels Bonheur and Eidsfos sank after striking mines off Coquet Island on 23 December 1918. Trawlers faced particular dangers: Strathord brought up a mine in her trawl off the Yorkshire coast on 23 February 1920, ironically after having seen service as a minesweeper.

Occasionally fishing vessels could trawl up other relics of the war. On 20 November 1920, the Brixham trawler Our Laddie fouled a wreck and brought up ‘the 30ft section of a trawler’s mainmast, with shrouds and wire stays intact . . . where the mainmast was broken was found a huge piece of shrapnel.’ (2) The men of the Our Laddie identified the vessel as the remains of the General Leman, lost in a gunnery attack on 29 January 1918 on several fishing vessels off Start Point by UB-55.

The General Leman had belonged to Milford Haven but was clearly a sufficiently familiar sight off the coast of South Devon for the Brixham trawlermen to identify her mast – from among the several vessels of the fleet sunk on that day nearly three years previously. Possibly some of the men who hauled the mast aboard or those who saw it delivered to the Brixham quayside had been eyewitnesses to the incident and were able to piece together the identification.

There was also another group of vessels which would otherwise not have been lost in the seas around the United Kingdom during this period, had the war not taken place. Most famously, of course, the interned German High Seas Fleet was scuttled by order of Admiral Ludwig von Reuter on 21 June 1919 at Scapa Flow, Orkney, Scotland, where the remains of the battleships König, Kronprinz Wilhelm and Markgraf and the cruisers Brummer, Dresden, Karlsruhe and Köln are today protected under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

The events at Scapa Flow have tended to overshadow another group of German vessels in the historical record: the U-boats which began arriving at Harwich in groups from November 1918, to be surrendered outright. They were then disposed of by the Admiralty, chiefly by sale for breaking, although some were retained for the Admiralty’s own use in experiments and trials.

In contrast to the warships at Orkney, therefore, the wrecks of German origin within English waters during the post-war period principally comprise the remains of U-boats, although a few other German naval vessels are known, such as the cruiser SMS Baden, scuttled off St. Catherine’s Deep on 16 August 1921.

Some of the U-boats were expended in trials (for example, a group of five or six submarines beached at Falmouth following trials, then broken up, although some remains exist). Others, stripped of their engines, foundered or were driven ashore after parting tow en route to the breakers, such as U118 at Hastings in April 1919 (covered in a previous post). In other words, the sea effectively did the job of the breakers for them – to put the submarines entirely beyond use – although it must have been a source of chagrin to the commercial buyers, who had often purchased the hulls from the Admiralty for considerable sums.

Some of the German surface fleet also met similar fates within English waters. The torpedo boat destroyers S24 and T189 parted tow on 12 December 1920 and went ashore on Roundham Head and Preston Sands respectively while bound from Cherbourg for Teignmouth for scrap. Others still were simply abandoned and left to rot, such as the destroyers V44 and V82, identified at Whale Island, Portsmouth, in a piece of research published by the Maritime Archaeology Trust as part of the ‘Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War’ project in 2016 – check out their new interactive map viewer.

Aerial photograph of green saltmarsh with remains of submarine hull in centre, orientated NNW-SSE, the outline of the hull being broken at the upper right.
The remains of a U-boat, believed (at the present state of knowledge) to be UB-122, lie abandoned on Stoke Saltings, Medway, Kent. © Historic England 27196-027

The aim in writing this post is to make the reader aware of the wide variety of post-war shipping casualties, mercantile and naval: those which came about in clearing up the weapons of war, the painful reminders of past losses (as a 1938 fishing chart (3) had it, the East Coast was ‘one mass of wrecks’ of the Great War), and those which came about through the peace process.

The Diary of the First World War concludes here, but will of course remain archived on this blog for reference and we will continue to showcase the breadth and diversity of our maritime heritage around the coasts of England.

A new Diary of the Second World War, following a similar format, will commemce in September 2019 to commemorate the 80th anniversary of its outbreak in 1939.

(1) Lloyd’s of London. 1990 Lloyd’s War Losses: The First World War: Casualties to Shipping through Enemy Causes 1914-1918 (London: Lloyd’s of London Press Ltd.)

(2) Western Morning News, 15 November 1920, No.18,939, p4

(3) Close’s Fishermen’s Chart of the North Sea, 1938