A WEYMOUTH boat crew has helped make history with the discovery and protection of an incredible shipwreck - the Royal Navy's first-ever long range attack submarine, 'HMS D1.'

Wey Chieftain IV skipper Richard Bright-Paul has spoken of his amazement at the time the wreck was discovered, which came about after his boat was chartered by a team of expert technical divers on a project in conjunction with the Royal Navy.

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Led by wreck enthusiast Steve Mortimer, the excursion, which took place in 2018, involved surveying the protected battleship HMS Formidable, 30 miles off Portland.

During the trip Mr Mortimer revealed he had information about another potential shipwreck, tipped off by US-based WW1 submarine historian Michael Lowrey.

The little known site off the Devon coast had been thought to possibly be that of a German U-boat, but Mr Lowrey had doubts over the suggested identity of the U-boat.

Mr Bright Paul explained: "Our team decided to add a day to our schedule to locate and dive the wreck site using the skills of deep water photographers in our team.

"That evening after the dive, photographs and video footage were feverishly exchanged with Michael in the States.

"Michael's initial observations took us all by surprise - this was not a German U-boat at all. Features of the submarine simply didn't match German U-boat design.

"You can imagine our amazement when he reverted later saying this was not just a British submarine - but the landmark British submarine, HMS D1."

As a result of the discovery, the Government has now announced the wreck has been granted protected status as an ancient monument on the advice of Historic England.

Lead diver, Steve Mortimer, said: “Every diver dreams of identifying a historically important wreck.

“Expecting to find the remains of a German U-boat, we were thrilled to discover a ground-breaking British submarine instead.

“It’s tremendous that D1 is now protected but divers can still visit.”

HMS D1 was a pre-WW1 submarine developed in great secrecy and launched in 1908 during a period of enormous technological change.

It was launched during King Edward VII's reign, and the first British submarine to use wireless radio transmission and diesel engines - amid a host of other innovations.

At the outbreak of war in 1914, the submarine was assigned to protecting the coast of Dover from enemy invasion.

In September 1917, HMS D1 joined the Portsmouth local defence flotilla and a year later it was relegated to training duties.

Weeks before the end of the war, it was decommissioned and scuttled off the Dartmouth coast, and was later used as a target for Royal Navy training exercises involving the detection of enemy submarines.

"Incidentally, HMS Formidable was the first British battleship to be sunk by a German U-boat on 1st Jan 1915 - proof, if ever needed, that the submarine was coming of age when D1 was was developed," Richard Bright-Paul added.


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