VIDEO: Divers deliver poignant memorial beneath the ocean

A diving team have commemorated the tragic sinking of a First World War ship with a unique underwater memorial.

Monday, 24th September 2018, 10:53 am
Updated Monday, 24th September 2018, 12:12 pm
The Lancashire divers ahead of their HMS Otranto dive

Over 400 men lost their lives when HMS Otranto sank after a collision with another ship, off the west coast of Islay, in October 1918.

Almost a century on from the tragic day, Appley Bridge-based Northern Divers teamed up with the Badlads diving group to remember the loss of 413 people in a special underwater ceremony.

The team make an annual dive to the shipwreck in the summer, and have an extensive knowledge of the area both above and below the surface.

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The Lancashire divers ahead of their HMS Otranto dive

However, aware of the centenary anniversary and that they have had a rare privilege to see where the Otranto lies now, the Badlads team decided that placing remembrance flags, recording and mapping the remains would be a fitting tribute.

The group embarked on a 54-hour underwater expedition, capturing stunning but eery footage of the foundered ship and came across the striking scene of a soldier’s boot.

Mike Armitage, one of the Badlads group said: “The boot was one of the most striking sights, because you see it and it really makes you wonder, what happened to the owner – was he one of the lucky survivors? Was he one of the servicemen who perished? Seeing that made it very real for us divers.”

The group then placed British and American flags on top of one of Otranto’s guns.

Dive to the Otranto

Jeff Kenrick, another diver, said: “It’s an incredible place to dive, I felt very privileged to be part of it this year particularly. For me, the most striking thing is that the site is teeming with sea life.

“Lobsters, corals and fish have all just accepted it part of their environment now.”

On their last day diving, the team recovered the flags to reveal the gun, now free of kelp and showing the six-inch gun breech open, ready for loading.

During their trip, the team also visited the Museum of Islay Life so they could learn more about the personal experiences of witnesses and survivors of the tragedy.

They then went to the Otranto and Tuscania memorial erected by the American National Red Cross on The Mull of Oa and observed a minute’s silence.