The 5,100 ships lost by the Royal Navy can now be found in one location


HMS Ardent after a series of airstrikes by Argentine forces on May 21, 1982 (Royal Navy)

Posted on Jan 10, 2022 7:56 PM by

The maritime executive

The Royal Navy has been in business since the 16th century and over the years has lost its fair share of warships due to accidents and enemy fire. In collaboration with the Maritime Archeology Sea Trust, he compiled a comprehensive list of the thousands of vessels he has lost over the centuries, and he returned the database to the public for use in further research.

The Royal Navy‘s new casualty list covers around 5,100 warships and fleet auxiliaries lost in British naval service since 1512. It is limited to the Royal Navy’s own ships – not Royal Air Force ships, army, coast guard and merchant ships which may have had Royal Navy crew members. It excludes ships captured by the enemy, lost in the service of other navies or converted to merchant ships after their naval service.

Created by the Trust in 2011, the list was originally intended to help legal and conservation experts protect Royal Navy wrecks around the world. Its authors gradually understood that it would be of great interest to the general public and other historians, and they have now made it accessible to everyone.

The database is searchable by name, class and tonnage of a vessel. More specific queries – such as ships lost in French waters over the past 500 years (760) or the number of ships lost on D-Day (416) – are also possible.

The database is based on official documents, reference books, memoirs and eyewitness accounts. Archaeological reports and accounts from divers have been used to verify information on the survival of the remains of ships.

Even then, said Giles Richardson, the Trust’s senior archaeologist, the causes of many of the losses remain a mystery. More than half of the ships lost in WWII are classified as “unknown – lost in action” due to lack of information. Many of them are landing craft and other small ships lost in major operations including Dunkirk, Operation Torch and Operation Overlord: official loss reports were not made until months later. the facts, and all eyewitnesses had long since moved on to other wartime functions.

“Exploring contemporary accounts reveals that the boats officially recorded as ‘lost’ on the beaches of Normandy have suffered a wide variety of fates, including storm damage, mechanical failures and collisions,” said Richardson.

Statistics reveal the effects of changing naval technology. Until the turn of the 20th century, accidental shipwrecks – not battles – were responsible for the vast majority of casualties. This was radically reversed after 1900: conflicts account for three-quarters of all Royal Navy ships sunk since 1900.

Mines destroyed one in four Royal Navy ships sunk in both world wars, a sign of the effectiveness of simple mine warfare. The impact of air power can be seen in the difference in casualties between WWI and WWII: while only three percent of the Royal Navy ships lost in WWI fell victim to enemy aircraft, air power accounted for nearly a third of all casualties in WWII.

“The RN casualty list is an essential tool to begin to understand, find and manage these 5,100 wreck sites before they are lost forever,” said Director of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Professor Dominic Tweddle. “The UK has a huge, rich and incredibly diverse underwater heritage, from Bronze Age ships to WWII shipwrecks, and it’s a heritage that spans the globe. . . It is vital that these myriad wrecks are treated as seriously as the land archaeological sites and this fantastic list of losses compiled by MAST represents a huge step forward.

The list of losses can be viewed and viewed at:


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