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Tragic Iolaire among 15 new shipwrecks protected

The final resting places of 571 people who lost their lives at sea around the UK will be protected by the Ministry of Defence.

The wrecks of another 15 ships and submarines – including seven U-boats – will be given additional legal protection by Whitehall as it adds to an already-extensive list of hallowed sites enshrined in UK law.

Among the shipwrecks now covered by the 1986 Protection of Military Remains Act is one of Scotland’s worst wartime tragedies.

The yacht Iolaire struck rocks close to Stornoway harbour while carrying servicemen back to the Isle of Lewis at the end of the Great War.

The bulk of the new wrecks encompassed by the act are Great War vintage, but two long-forgotten former French warships lost during the Battle of Britain.

Of the 284 men aboard, 201 were lost in the disaster, which occurred in the small hours of New Year’s Day 1919 and still casts a shadow over the Isles of Lewis and Harris to this day; the 100th anniversary of the tragedy drew huge crowds of islanders paying their respects alongside the Lord of the Isles – as Prince Charles is known in the Hebrides.

Also afforded added protection are seven German U-boats lost around the UK between 1914 and 1918, mostly to mines, but also U-87, depth-charged, shelled and rammed by patrol vessels HMS P56 and HMS Buttercup on Christmas Day 1917 – just hours after it had torpedoed a liner bound for Liverpool.

The submarine sank 15 miles north of Fishguard, taking all 43 men aboard with it. Its wreck was found two years ago by experts from Bangor University.

The bulk of the new wrecks encompassed by the act are Great War vintage, but two long-forgotten former French warships lost during the Battle of Britain.

Submarine chasers Chasseurs 06 and 07 escaped the fall of France and were taken over by British crews, who took them on patrol in Weymouth Bay on the night of October 11-12 1940.

The craft were pounced on by German motorboats and sunk. While several sailors were taken prisoner by the Germans, some men refused to surrender and chose to go down with their ships.

All the newly-listed wrecks are being designated ‘protected places’ – the sites can visited by divers on a ‘look but don’t touch or enter’ basis – with the exception of the remains of HMS B2.

One of Britain’s second generation submarines, she was lost with 15 crew when she collided with the German liner SS Amerika northeast of Dover in October 1912.

Her wreck site is now a ‘controlled site’ – the highest level of protection, akin to HMS Royal Oak in Scotland; no diving is allowed with the permission of the MOD.

Other wrecks now covered by the act:

HMS C29: C-class submarine lost with all 17 crew to a mine east of the present-day Ravenspurn North gas field

HMS D5: Hit a mine while chasing German raiders who bombarded Great Yarmouth in November 1914

HMS E6: Also the vicitm of a mine off Harwich on Boxing Day 1915. Thirty men lost.

UB-109: Mined near Dover in August 1918 with the loss of 29 crew.

UB-31: Lost in the Dover Barrage in May 1918. All 28 aboard perished.

UB-41: Mined in Robin Hood’s Bay in October 1917. Twenty-four crew killed.

UB-75: Hit a mine off Bridlington in December 1917; 34 lives lost.

UB-78: Possibly hit a mine which blew her stern off in the Channel in April 1918. All 35 crew killed.       

UB-107: Lost to unknown cause(s) off Flamborough Head in late July/early August 1918, taking 38 men with her.

HMT Ullswater, a trawler used on convoy escort duties in World War 2, torpedoed by E-boats in the Channel in November 1942 with the loss of 34 lives

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