Wartime airship crash off Exmouth coast revealed in new online map

A Submarine Scout Zero class airship patrols over merchant shipping. IWM (Q 20643).

A Submarine Scout Zero class airship patrols over merchant shipping. IWM (Q 20643). - Credit: IWM (Q 20643)

The new interactive map from the Forgotten Wrecks Project highlights the many WWI shipwrecks and archaeological sites off our coast.

SSZ 37 flies above a minelaying sloop. Airships were ideal escort craft and could even be launched

SSZ 37 flies above a minelaying sloop. Airships were ideal escort craft and could even be launched and recovered from ships at sea. IWM (Q 48005). - Credit: IWM (Q 48005)

The ill-fated final journey of a World War I airship which crashed near Exmouth has been retold in a new interactive map.

The Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War interactive map connects you to research, images, documents, 3D models and videos of more than 1,100 WWI shipwrecks and archaeological sites off the south coast of England.

On April 13, 1918, Submarine Scout Zero 15 set out from Bridport in Dorset.

The pilot, lieutenant G R J Parkinson, was accompanied by air mechanics R T James (engineer) and V H Hudson (wireless operator).

Diving on SS Alaunia, a requisitioned passenger liner turned troopship that struck a mine in Oct 191

Diving on SS Alaunia, a requisitioned passenger liner turned troopship that struck a mine in Oct 1916. Picture: Contributed. - Credit: Picture: Contributed.

At around 9.45pm, after the airship had been in the air for almost 15 hours, SSZ 15 was seen landing on the sea two miles south of Exmouth, probably as a result of engine failure.


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Rescue boats were sent out but on arriving at the airship the crew were nowhere to be found. They were officially reported as missing, presumed drowned.

The bodies of two of the crew were recovered but Valentine Hudson’s body was never found.

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This new resource brings together the results of the Maritime Archaeology Trust’s, Heritage Lottery funded Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War project.

The four-year project, coinciding with the centenary of the Great War, investigates the vital, yet little known, struggle that took place on a daily basis, off the south coast of Britain.

It tells extraordinary stories of the war: stories of the ships, their crews and their communities.

“Through a programme of fieldwork, research, exhibitions and outreach, and bringing together personal and family histories, with archival and archaeological research, the project records these fragile and largely overlooked sites and builds a clear picture of the nature and scale of this aspect of the war,” said a spokesman for the project.

“Together these sites highlight the people and vessels from across the world drawn into the conflict off Britain’s coast: the everyday extraordinary.”

The Forgotten Wrecks project is itself huge: 1,200 sites including 62 fieldwork sites, 200 new geophysical images, more than 700 artefacts recorded and 44 exhibitions with over half a million visitors.

Now the results of all of that research - geophysical images, dive videos of the wrecks, artefacts, historical photographs, 3D models and virtual underwater tours of sites, as well as site reports - and the extraordinary stories of these wrecks are available through the interactive map.

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