HMS Warwick Deeping Background
The Warwick Deeping lies in 37m completely upright and largely intact on a gravel seabed with some scour apparent. Some depth charges lie off the stern on the seabed, the ship was identified through the recovery of the ship's bell and builder's nameplate. This site information has been provided by Mr David Wendes, who has also carried out extensive archival research on the vessel. The results of this research can be viewed in: Wendes, D. 2006. South Coast Shipwrecks off East Dorset and Wight: 1870-1979.
No previous archaeological survey has been made of the wreck site, but it is a popular dive site and has been frequently dived by sports divers. A series of artefacts have been retrieved from the site and reported to the Receiver of Wreck as part of the Wreck Amnesty in 2001. These include a brass window; 6 x .50 shell cases; a porcelain bayonet fuse; and a towel rail, a deadlight porthole, and an ink well.
Warwick Deeping was a steam trawler built in December 1934 by Cochrane and Sons Ltd in Selby. It measured 155ft 8in by 26ft 1in by 14ft 1in and had a gross tonnage of 445. It was powered by a triple expansion three cylinder engine and one single engine boiler, providing 111 nominal hp. Originally owned by the Newington Steam Trawling Company ltd, Warwick Deeping was purchased by the Admiralty in August 1939. It was refitted as an anti-submarine vessel and armed with a 4in forecastle gun and a twin barrelled 5in machine gun.
The steam trawler Warwick Deeping after refit as anti-submarine vessel (copyright Alec Gill and Jim Fuller, from Archive of D. Wendes)
On Friday 11th October, 1940, the Warwick Deeping, in company with a similar vessel, the Listrac, left Portsmouth to patrol around the Isle of Wight. The crew was 25 strong, commanded by Royal Navy Reserve officer John Bruce. At 10.35pm the two boats were approximately ten miles south of St Catherine's Point. The weather was recorded as calm and the bright moon gave good visibility of two to three miles.
At 10.35pm a lookout on the Warwick Deeping spotted ships on the port quarter. Within seconds the two ships found themselves under fire and splashes appeared around the ships. Listrac, wrongly believing they may friendly vessels, lit its recognition lights. Shortly after however it was struck by shells that appeared to blow it up. In reality it did not totally explode, but such severe damage was done to it that it began to sink. The German S-boats attacking the trawlers continued to fire at it until it sank. 11 men died.
About two to three minutes after the first shots were fired, the Warwick Deeping was hit for the first time. One shell wrecked the forecastle gun and another hit below the water line on the port side. An emergency radio broadcast was made and the ship began zigzagging in a belated attempt to escape north. The bow was down and the ship was labouring, but Bruce hoped he might be able to beach the ship. Twenty minutes later it was evident that this was a forlorn hope and the crew abandoned ship. The Warwick Deeping sank unseen, presumably in the early hours of the 12 October. A motor boat from Ventnor towed the crew's rafts to the shore, there were no casualties.