A COASTGUARD who became intrigued by a local shipwreck mystery has donated research that he spent years building up to a national museum.

Philip Chappell’s project on Landing Craft Tank 254 running aground off Chesil Beach on October 13, 1944, started off as a work assignment and evolved into a three-year passion.

Weymouth resident Mr Chappell, who works for the Portland Coastguard as a watch assistant, began researching the naval disaster in which 11 men died, as a station requirement.

He said: “I found out that two coastguards died as a result of a Looking Back piece in the Dorset Echo.

“It was the coastguard connection that interested me and as soon as I found out about the two coastguards, I delved into it because of the local interest.

“That’s when I decided to take it on as a personal research project and it took off.

“Before I knew it I had amassed rather a lot of information.”

Grandad Mr Chappell spent hours in Weymouth Library looking through microfiche and scouring through national archives and officer service records to find out more.

He researched the life of Captain John Legh, the first coastguard who died and whose body was never recovered from the sea.

A further development in the tale was a timely coincidence.

Mr Chappell said: “By sheer fluke a gentleman came to Portland Coastguard seeking information on this landing craft wreck.

“He turned out to be the step-son of one of the two coastguards who died.”

Plymouth resident Raymond Morris was the stepson of coastguard officer Robert Treadwell, who was found washed up in Chesil Cove the day after the disaster and was buried at the Verne Naval Cemetery on Portland.

Mr Chappell worked with Mr Morris to put together the collection of research notes, photographs and original documents on the shipwreck.

All the materials were handed over to the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, along with a Sea Gallantry Medal.

“Mr Morris had his stepfather’s medals and documentation and had no-one to leave the stuff to.

“It was a very rare Sea Gallantry Medal and it was always Raymond Morris’s desire to present it to the museum,” Mr Chappell said.

He added that he is thinking about taking the project even further.

“My wife Elizabeth was quite amused about how much time I spent on it,” he said.

“She’s kind of used to me doing that, I suppose I’m a bit of a history nut, very much an amateur historian. I’m now half interested in turning it into a book – it would be nice to have a crack at it.”