• Home
  • Underground war and technical innovations
  • The Great War at sea
  • A forgotten naval war, a neglected historical heritage

While the subaquatic heritage of the Great War remains broadly underappreciated, the data gathered over the past 30 years by the DRASSM has done much to raise the profile of these forgotten artefacts. Two factors have combined to make this possible. Firstly, the DRASSM has been lucky enough to receive support and information from a great number of recreational divers who for many years have taken a keen interest in locating and identifying Great War wrecks. Subsequently, this project of documentation has been the catalyst for a gradual realisation of the historical and symbolic significance of this sunken heritage, to the extent that the diving community has started working to protect the wrecks, leading to a significant decrease in pillaging.

The enormous number of vessels lost at sea during the First World War (almost ten thousand) is a direct result of the use of underwater weaponry, which increased steadily throughout the conflict: primarily submarines and mines. Almost 7000 boats were sunk by submarines during the Great War, of which 2000 went down in French waters. The submarines themselves were not spared from the carnage, with the majority of their number also lost during the war.

In spite of the protective measures put in place, and reinforced year after year, this heritage remains in a fragile position on account of the multiple threats it faces: marine corrosion, damage from commercial fishing and work undertaken to improve the coastline.