Isle Of Wight Shipwrecks: Between The Wars

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Between The Wars

After the Great War there were very few shipwrecks around the Island's coast as trade declined. In June 1921, the steam-trawler Lois came ashore at Chale Bay and was marooned on the shingle. She was salvaged, but grounded on a nearby sandbank, and abandoned. On the 16th August 1921, the former German Imperial Battlecruiser S.M.S. Baden was used as target practice for the Royal Navy, testing her armour against British shells. She was then scuttled in St. Catherine's Deep.


On the 3rd march 1930 the Capable became lost in a heavy fog and was wrecked upon the Atherfield Ledge. In the attempt to rescue the men onboard, the motorised Yarmouth lifeboat became stuck on the Brook Ledge. The old, oar-powered Brook lifeboat then went to the site of the Capable, only to discover that those onboard had been rescued by the Blackgang Life Saving Apparatus rocket crew.

The Capable was towed to Southampton for repairs. After 4 days work by engineers from Cowes shipyards and 150 soldiers from Parkhurst Barracks, the Yarmouth lifeboat was finally rescued and refloated.


On Sunday the 5th May 1932, the 2,600 ton steamer Roumelian carrying 56 passengers and crew was involved in an accident on the edge of Island waters.

25 mile South-West of the Needles, she collided with the S.S. St. Nazare, which received little damage and continued on the journey. The Roumelian, however, slowly began to flood, and made for the safety of the Solent while her captain radioed for help. The Yarmouth lifeboat rendezvoused with the Roumelian, and guided her through the Needles passage. However, her pumps failed, and the Roumelian sank near the Hampstead Ledge, between Yarmouth and Newtown. She was eventually salvaged and repaired in London, but two crew members died in the attempt.

The Britannia

Near St. Catherine's lies the remains of the Royal Cutter Britannia, the most famous yacht to be sunk off the Island's waters.

Design Of The Britannia

The Britannia was commissioned by the Prince of Wales, later to become, King Edward VII, and was designed by G.L. Watson, one of the finest yacht designers of his time, at a cost of £10,000. The yacht was launched from the Partick yard on the Clyde in April 1893.

She was the epitome of perfection in yacht design, having a long out-curving stem, high rig and great sail area, a vast improvement of the clipper bowed yachts of the time. Her career started as it continued, easily winning her first off-shore race against Valkyrie II, Calluna and Iverna. By the end of her first year's racing Britannia had scored thirty-three wins from forty-three starts. In her second season she won all seven races for the big class yachts on the French Riviera, and then beat the 1893 America's Cup winner Vigilant in home waters.

Success Of The Britannia

Her later career involved her being used as a practice yacht for Sir Thomas Lipton's first America's Cup challenger Shamrock I, and after Edward VIII's coronation to be used as the royal cruising yacht.

After the death of Edward VII, the Britannia was inherited by King George V, a keen yachtsman who had been Patron and Commodore of the Royal Harwich Yacht Club. In 1913 she was back on the racing scene, although during the Great War she rested unattended in a mud berth, until the King brought her out for racing again in 1920.

Her return to the sport was spectacular. Despite having what was considered to be an out-dated rig she met the challenge from the fastest modern yachts, including cutters Nyria and White Heather, and the American schooner Westward.

The Britannia was so succesful that she underwent a refit to prepare her for the 1922 racing season. In 1923 she won twenty-three flags out of twenty-six starts, a spectacular achievement for a thirty year old yacht.

The End Of The Britannia

By 1934, though, her age began to show as she was outclassed by the new 'J' class yachts being built. Her last race was sailed at Cowes in 1935.

King George V died on the 20th January 1935, and it was decided that his beloved yacht would follow him to the grave. With all her spars, gear and refinements stripped away1, her bare hull was towed from Cowes at midnight on July 9th, 1936, past the Needles Lighthouse and St. Catherine's Point to a position south of the Isle of Wight. There she was scuttled and sent to rest beneath the waves, with a simple garland of flowers placed on her stem-head.

In the four decades of her racing career she had won 231 races and came second and third in 129.

Luigi Accame

Around 10pm on the 6th April 1937 the 5,000 ton Italian steamer Luigi Accame, carrying iron ore to Rotterdam, ploughed into Rocken End. All the crew were rescued by the lifeboats, and the ship was, by the end of May, refloated and taken to Southampton for repairs, and sold to a Dutch company. She was later sunk by a German armed merchantmen during World War Two.

Isle Of Wight Shipwrecks

1Many of which still survive, for example her main saloon doors are now housed in the Royal Harwich Yacht Club library.

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