Club divers have investigated and surveyed a WW2 landing craft that sank just a few miles from home after returning from the D-Day landings in 1944. The 58m-long Mk3 Landing Tank Craft (LCT) 427 was headed for Portsmouth after delivering its cargo of tanks to Sword Beach. It went down south-east of the Isle of Wight with all 13 crew after colliding with the battleship HMS Rodney. In an area normally out of bounds to diving because it lies in a main shipping lane, the wreck was surveyed by members of the British Sub-Aqua Clubs Southsea branch which, coincidentally, found the nearby Solents famous Mary Rose wreck. Southsea has examined landing craft before, having found the wreck of LCT 2428 in Sussexs Bracklesham Bay in 2009.
The latest project started after the clubs historical research at the Public Records Office in Kew established LCT 427s resting place, with a recorded wreck position. Permission was received from the Queens Harbour Master Portsmouth to carry out diving, if it was managed carefully around shipping movements. The survey, to be conducted on a look-dont-touch basis, also had the blessing of the Ministry of Defence and the LST & Landing Craft Association. Fourteen dives were made over a period of eight days. The two sections of the wreck lay upright at a depth of 30m, several hundred metres apart, said project leader Alison Mayor.
Diving conditions are challenging, with strong tides and poor visibility at times and also the risks associated with large vessels passing close by. The team recorded and photographed the atmospheric wreckage, which is in remarkable condition, complete with anti-aircraft guns and ammunition boxes. They examined carefully the area of the collision, and noted that the landing-craft door was open. Marine life, which included large shoals of fish, lobsters and other crustaceans, was also recorded. It is a real privilege to dive on such a wreck, especially knowing the circumstances of its loss, Mayor told Diver. Its a very moving experience when you swim around it, particularly the area of the break. The 14-strong team had gone about their business while according the site the respect it deserves, she said. The team did not gather any evidence that provided positive identification of the wreck but, given the historic records and the nature of their observations, they were 99.9% sure that the wreck was that of LCT 427.