SS Kyarra & Kingston BSAC
Members may be aware that a member from the Shrewsbury branch of BSAC is doing some research on the SS Kyarra, which most current branch members believe is owned wholly by our branch, and over the years this has caused some confusion, so I thought I would take this opportunity to clarify the situation.
(c) Rod Macdonald and reproduced from Dive England’s Greatest Wrecks by permission.
This 6935 ton steel cargo & passenger luxury liner, Kyarra was a beautiful twin masted schooner/rigged steamer built on the River Clyde, Scotland in 1903 for the Australian United Seam Navigation Co Ltd. After 10 years carrying cargo & passengers around Australia she was requisitioned by the British Gov in Oct 1914, painted white with large red crosses and fitted out as a hospital ship.
Later in the war in 1918, after an eventful career which includes services at Gallipoli, she arrived in London and was loaded with a general cargo to be shipped back to Australia along with a large no of war wounded being repatriated. On 24th May 1918 she sailed from Tilbury for Devonport, Plymouth towards the western end of the Channel where she was to embark her human cargo. On 26th May 1918, however, before she could do so, she was attacked and fatally wounded by UB-57 near Swanage, and sent to the bottom. Her exact position at the time unknown.
She then laid undetected until 1967 when Kingston’s involvement began.
In July 1967 members of Kingston Branch namely, Ron Blake, Linden Blake, Adrian Bradley, Dave Wakeman, Bill Foley & 2 members of Hounslow Branch, Charlie Stoltz & John Coheagan were in Swanage diving from an inflatable trying to locate the wreck of the Carantan. After some considerable time of searching they picked up a wreck on the echo sounder and believing they had found the Carantan, prepared to dive. Ron & Linden Blake were the first to descend only to discover the wreck that they were diving was not the Carantan but the Kyarra. They discovered this by the brass name on the bow of the ship which at the time was still intact.
They were excited by their find and formed a company called the Kyarra Salvage Association with the intention at the time of salvaging the vessel. As time went on both Adrian Warren and Peter Barrett (Kingston members) were given shares.
In approx 1974, with the help of Commander Alan Bax and Owen Ganda from Fort Bovisand, they blew the prop off with the intention of salvaging. Unfortunately it lay on the sea bed for a further 2 years until under somewhat controversial circumstances, Dave Wakeman (one of the Kingston consortium)decided to salvage it. There was some heated discussion about his actions but later the proceeds were paid fully into the consortium funds.
In 1977 I was diving the wreck with Dave Taylor and Julian Banford when Julian discovered the bronze bell of the Kyarra. This bell to this day is held on behalf of the Kyarra Salvage Association by Dave Wakeman.
This was the situation right up until the 1990’s when due to the retirement of various consortium members, it was suggested that ownership of the wreck of the Kyarra should be transferred in the name of the Kingston & Elmbridge BSAC. This once again caused some controversy between some of the original members of the Kyrra Salvage Association. However, 3 members namely Ron & Linden Blake & Adrian Warren decided to sell their shares for £1 each to Kingston & Elmbridge Dive Club. Therefore to clarify the situation and to avoid any confusion, the exact position is that the Kingston Branch own 3/9ths of the vessel and ex members of Kingston still to this day own 6/9ths (majority shares).
Today the wreck of the Kyarra lies in 30 metres of water just a short boat ride out of Swanage. Her rotting remains are perhaps England’s most visited wreck site and draws 1000’s of divers to her each year. Members of Kingston branch and Kyarra Salvage Association welcome divers to this wreck but request that no items be removed to preserve what remains there in good condition for all to enjoy.