Experiencing submerged historical sites from World War I – a Legacy calling for Peace

It is possible to visit the submerged heritage from WWI and to experience the atmosphere of history and tragic loss caused by war that the authentic sites exude. While some artefacts can be seen in maritime or military museums, others can be seen in their original location on the seabed. No artefacts, however, should be taken from the sites by a non-scientist in order to avoid potentially damaging them and risking the loss of their historical context.

Visiting the Wrecks in situ

© M- Spencer
Divers visiting a hospital barge from the World War I, off Anzac Cove, Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey.

The most shallow part of the site where the battle of Jutland occurred lies at a depth between 50 and 60 meters on Dogger bank. This is relatively deep for the average leisure diver and the wrecks should ideally be visited only by experienced professional divers.

More easily accessible, in comparison, are the submerged sites of Gallipoli and especially of Scapa Flow. Several diving tour companies specialize in organizing underwater tourist excursions to discover these underwater cultural heritage sites.

At the Gallipoli site, visitors can experience the wrecks and grave sites of troops from  Australia and New Zealand who arrived in Europe to fight with the Allies. French and English wrecks are also located at Gallipoli. A variety of boats can be viewed at this site including: troop transport boats, gunboats, supply boats, etc.

At Scapa Flow, well preserved warships from both world wars can be seen. Some of them are lying on their side, making it possible for divers to see inside the wreck. There are vessels of the British Royal Navy; 3 German battleships: the König, the Kronprinz Wilhelm and the Markgraf; four light cruisers: Brummer, Dresden, Cöln and Karlsruhe, V83 and S54 destroyers; one UB -116 submarine; and 4,600 ton gun turrets of the Bayern. 3 block ships scuttled by the British to prevent penetration of submarines into Burra Sound are also visible: the Tabarka, Doyal and Gobernador Boris.

Near the island of Heloland, the Mainz, a German light cruiser, can be visited under water.

The French ship called Zélée can be visited near Papeete, Tahiti.

Museums on Underwater Cultural Heritage from World War I

Parts of World War I heritage are protected and displayed in museums all over the world. They have been analyzed and studied; historians and curators have been able to learn more about the war and discover new facets of the events which took place.

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Anzac Cottage

Anzac Cottage is a historic house built in 1916. The house was built in one day by a team of over 200 volunteers with donated building materials. It is Australia's first war memorial dedicated to World War I (Anzac veterans) and was built to house a returned Gallipoli war veteran. The first veteran to live in the house was C.J. Porter, who lived there for many years with his family. The house is now the headquarters of the Vietnam Veterans' Association of Australia (Western Australia branch).

ANZAC Memorial

The building, with its interior sculptures and bas relief panels by Raynor Hoff, commemorates the courage and sacrifices of those who fought in World War I. Exhibition showcases within the Memorial show various aspects of the life of servicemen and women in times of war. A permanent ongoing photographic exhibition depicts the nine conflicts in which Australians participated between 1885 and 1972.

Western Australian Museum

The museum shows items from the German-built SS Emden: The Emden lies near Cocos Islands, on the south side of North Keeling Island, where it ran aground to avoid sinking after a naval engagement with the Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney I on 9 November 1914. The items include a brass valve, a brass shell casing fragment, a brass valve wheel and a ship model of the SS Emden.

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Strandingsmuseum, Thorsminde, Jutland, Denmark

The museum presents the history and everyday life along the west coast of Jutland. Its collections encompass among others some artefacts from the Jutland wrecks, including SM-U59's deck gun.

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Great Britain

National Museums and Galleries, Liverpool

Known as National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, it contains also a maritime museum, which shows shipwreck artefacts, for example from the SS Politician. A gallery tells the stories of the Titanic, the Lusitania and the Empress of Ireland.

The Maritime Archives and Library holds a small selection of published histories and other publications on open access (see Biographical research into the King's Regiment for further details). In addition the First World War Battalion war diaries and casualty books are also available at the Maritime Archives and Library. These typed copies contain a daily record of the activities of each Battalion. Officers will be frequently mentioned, other ranks less so. The originals of all war diaries are held at the National Archives, Kew

Royal Navy Museum

Almost a century old, the cruiser HMS Caroline, the last ship to have participated in the great naval battle of Jutland in 1916, sees here its preservation ensured.

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Musée de la Marine, Paris

The museum is conceived as a centre for maritime culture dating from 1748 onwards and has several dependences exhibiting among others replica ships of French vessels that took part or sank in WWI. The museum also houses uniforms and belongings of persons having taken part in the naval battles.

Musée de la Grande Guerre, Meaux

This museum houses among others US, British and German navy uniforms, a marine socket shell, a

A searchlight used on a French boat, a Sextant and Posters and prints related to the naval and submarine war as well as various documentation on the same topic (postcards, photographs etc.).

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Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum, Bremerhaven

The German Maritime Museum focuses on central European shipping. It houses among others:

- a 8.8 gun of a German submarine,
- uniforms,
- an original shipyard model of the submarine U-1,
- recent models of WWI German navy ships
- and other items.

Apart of the submarine gun which was saved in the 1960’s from being scrapped with the remains of the salvaged submarine from the mouth of river Weser none of the items is from underwater provenance.

Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr, Dresden

The bell of 115 kilo of the SMS Dresden, which sank during the battle of the Falklands Islands, is to be seen in Germany in the Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr in the city of Dresden.

Deutsches Marinemuseum

Deutsches Marinemuseum diplays artefacts from the Imperial Navy. Some of them are from warships that have been dismantled after the war.

  • Pieces from the battle-cruiser SMS Goeben, which served under a different name in Turkey in WWI.
  • the ship´s bell from SMS Oldenburg
  • artifacts from submarines of that era
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Cobh Museum

This museum on Cobh's maritime history shows among others artefacts from the Lusitania disaster, model boats, ships, and paintings as well as personal belongings and miniature ships from WWI. It also shows an unfinished model of the hospital ship St. Andrew and gives the history of the US Naval presence in Queenstown during WWI and details the co-operation between the British and US Navies during that period.

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New Zealand

Torpedo Bay - Navy Museum

The Navy Museum is New Zealand's national repository for its naval heritage. It shows among others:

  • A knife given to Mrs Woods in Singapore in 1940 made from metal taken from the Emden wreck on Cocos Island with wooden pouch and silver ferrules. Part of personal collection EZW 025.
  • An engineroom telegraph bell reputedly from German Submarine U 92 made from brass on a brass stand said to have been captured in the North Sea in 1917. U 92 was mined and reported missing on 9 September 1918 in the North Sea.
  • Barometer salvaged from the German Cruiser Emden scuttled at Scapa Flow 21 June 1919.
  • A solid brass hose of SMS Emden sunk by HMAS Sydney.
  • Linen Label printed "SMS Emden". Believed to have been souvenired by Mr Lockyer- Williams who was stationed at the Cocus Islands at the time of the action. He visited the wreck after the action in search of souviners of which this is one. Rust stain on RH Side of the centre.
  • Linen Labels printed "SMS Emden".
  • Crockery jug from the Cable Ship Iris, recovered from the seabed near the main gate to HMNZS Philomel 1981.
  • Set of fish knives and forks taken from the scuttled German Cruiser Emden at Scapa Flow on 21 June 1919 by Officers from HMS Resolution who used them in their own mess.
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Gallipoli Kabatepe Museum

The museum (Kabatepe Tanitma Merkezi) hosts numerous relics from the campaign including weapons, uniforms, ammunition, letters written by soldiers to their families, photographs, and private belongings such as shaving tools, cocoa tins, and leather flasks among them. There are also more shocking artifacts such as three bullets which hit each other in midair, the skull of a Turkish soldier with a bullet hole in the forehead, and the shoe of a soldier still a bone from the owner's foot still in it.

Update: The Kabatepe Museum closed to visitors in September 2010 and will be demolished. A Gallipoli-themed simulation centre will take its place. Meanwhile, the exhibits have all been transported to the headquarters of the Gallipoli Peninsula Park authority at Camburnu, about 1 km south of Eceabat, and are on display there.

Istanbul naval museum - Exhibition of Canakkale Naval Victory

In this exhibition, World War I and Canakkale Naval Victory are illustrated by historical objects, including the full models of Cruiser Mecidiye, Cruiser Hamidiye, Cruiser Yavuz, Cruiser Midilli, Armored Battleship Turgut Reis, Armored Battleship Mesudiye, Torpedo Cruiser Berk-i Satvet, Submarine Corporal Mustecip, Destroyer Muavenet-i Milliye, Torpedoboat Sultanhisar, Hospital ship Resitpasa and Mine-layer Nusret, the enemy Armored Ship Bouvet which sank after having collided with the mines laid by Mine-Layer Nusret during the First World War, the British Armored Battleship Goliath which was sunk at Morto Bay by a torpedo launched from the Destroyer Muavenet-i Milliye during the First World War, the British Armored Ship Triumph which was sunk by the German Submarine U-51 on May 25th, 1915 during the First World War, the British Armored Ship Irresistible which sank after having collided with the mines laid by Mine-Layer Nusret in Erenkoy Bay, the Canakkale Strait on March 7th-8th, 1915 during the First World War, various parts of the several ships which played important role in these wars, log books, navigational instruments used at these ships, ensigns, paintings and photographs about war and these ships, objects removed from the sunken ships, bullet pieces, bullet cartridges, bayonets, various bombs, cannons, rifles, pistols, maps and several objects belonging to Ottoman Naval Society are displayed in this exhibition.

A rifle belongs to British Submarine E-15’s officer, which was grounded at Kepez Feneri and then sank at Canakkale on 18-19 April 1915 during the First World War.

See Exhibitions and collections linked to World War I in Turkey.

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