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Latitude 50° 19.926 N
Longitude 004° 08.523 W
Depth 10m plus tide height
Accuracy 5m (SHIPS)
Location Description East end of Breakwater
Reference UKHO 17662
Seabed type Reef and sand
Burial extent Partial
Site energy Moderately low (sand)
Exposure Submerged
Integrity Partial
Craft type Fishing Trawler
Date built 1909
Date of loss 24 December 1916
Manner of loss Mined?
Outcome Abandoned
Construction Steel
Propulsion Steam
Nationality United Kingdom
Hull length 33m
Hull beam 6.4m
Hull draft 3.5m
Hull displacement 187 gross 69.8 net
Crew 9
Built Smith’s Dock Co., North Shields
Master Unknown
Owners Royal Navy

HMT Abelard

Lying close to the east end of the Plymouth Breakwater, HMT Abelard was a side trawler built in 1909 by Smith’s Dock Company of North Shields (Yard no. 392) for F.R. Greenish & E. Gerrish of Milford with official No: 128744.  A single decked ketch rigged fishing trawler of 187 tons (gross) 69.8 (net), the vessel was 111 feet long, 21 feet in breadth and 11.7 feet in depth with a quarterdeck 65 ft. long.  The screw propeller was powered by a 64 hp triple expansion steam engine which gave a maximum speed of 10 kt.  The engine was made by W.V.V. Lidgerwood of Glasgow and the boiler by R. Stephenson & Co. Ltd., Hebburn.

The Abelard landed fish at Milford between February 1909 and August 1914 with port registration M. 17. After the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the Royal Navy requisitioned the vessel to be used as a general work vessel and mine sweeper. Registered as Admiralty No. 151 she was fitted with a single 6 pdr gun as armament.  The Abelard was the first local trawler to be called up for charter by the Royal Navy.

The Abelard served the Royal Navy until Christmas Eve of 1916, when it wrecked near the Plymouth breakwater. Though it is possible that the vessel struck a mine, it was wrecked so close to the Breakwater that this may not be the case.  Originally showing 8 feet above the surface the Royal Navy began salvage efforts immediately but they had ceased by 11 January 1917. 

Labourer Philip Sydney was on board when the Abelard sank and died four days later, he is buried in Weston Mill cemetary.

Diving the Abelard

The remains of the Abelard sit on sand in 10m depth, just off of the large boulders forming the southern face of the Breakwater and alongside a large rock to the west. Although heavily salvaged, this 34m long wreck is not as widely scattered as some of the other Plymouth wartime wreck sites.  The most obvious feature is the 3m high boiler which sits proud of the seabed and large holes in the casing allow access to the inside making it a good subject for photography. To the south of the boiler towards the remains of the bow is a 20m long section of collapsed hull covered in kelp and weed, this is easily identified from outside the wreck as the hull disappears into the seabed.  The anchor windlass is visible at the southern end and marks the remains of the bow itself.  On the starboard side can be seen remains of trawl gear and bollards lying on the broken and collapsed metal plates of her hull.  Little is visible of the stern section aft of the boiler but some may be hidden in the sand, the engine, steering gear and propeller appear to have been salvaged.

Images

Abelard

Site plan for HMT Abelard

Abelard

The remains of HMT Abelard on the seabed (SHIPS Project)