A Second World War landing craft, originally reported to have sunk near the Isle of Man, has been found off the coast of Wales.
The discovery was made by researchers from Bournemouth University and Bangor University as part of a research project funded by the Leverhulme Trust. ‘Echoes from the Deep: modern reflections on our maritime past’ is aiming to establish whether remote sensing can be used to rapidly create an inventory of shipwrecks at a regional or national scale. The craft was identified through multibeam sonar data collected off Bardsey Island, Wales.
The wreck’s dimensions (58m long and 10m wide) and general appearance in the sonar data suggested that it was likely to be an LCT (landing craft tank), designed to land armoured vehicles during amphibious operations. Archival research determined that it was most likely LCT 326, which was part of the 7th LCT Flotilla, which set sail on 31 January 1943 under the watch of HMS Cotillion, on a transit cruise from Troon, Scotland, to Appledore, Devon.
Documents in the National Archives report that the weather was ‘heavy’, and the flotilla moved slowly, passing the Ise of Man at daylight on 1 February. LCT 326 was observed still with the convoy at 6.30pm, just north-west of Bardsey. This was the last time the landing craft was seen. However, in the list of Second World War losses published by the Admiralty in 1946, LCT 326 was listed as lost off the coast of the Isle of Man.
This was disproved when the wreck was identified 25 miles south of where LCT 326 had last been seen, by Bardsey Island, in near-perfect line with the flotilla’s course. The craft is lying in 90m of water, and is split into two halves, 130m apart, on the seabed. It is impossible to say exactly what happened, but although mine explosion or collision cannot be ruled out, it is thought most likely that it was simply a marine accident caused by the rough conditions.
The location of the wreck will be reported to the Admiralty so that records can be corrected and the final resting-place of the craft’s 14 crew accurately documented.