Guildford divers receive Duke of Edinburgh’s praise for torpedoed trawler project

PUBLISHED: 14:45 11 December 2013 | UPDATED: 14:45 11 December 2013

Members of Guildford SAC with the Duke of Edinburgh

Members of Guildford SAC with the Duke of Edinburgh


Members of the Guildford branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) visited Buckingham Palace to receive an award for their work with the sunken minesweeper, HMT Pine, a study which also qualified for a £1,000 Jubilee Trust grant.

Project HMT Pine - led by Chris Bessant, project leader; Nick Fox, researcher and dive leader; and Anne-Marie Mason, project and dive manager - was runner-up in the Duke of Edinburgh’s prize for the British Sub-Aqua Jubilee Trust.

Anne-Marie Mason, a Faculty manager at the University of Surrey, and a club member since 1990, was among the members who went to Buckingham Palace to collect the prize.

“It was an amazing experience and the Duke chatted to each of us,” she says. “The adjudication considered it was an exceptionally well thought out and executed project carried out by marine archaeological amateurs.”

Now members of Surrey’s oldest scuba diving club plan a commemorative dive to the wreck, which lies about six miles off Selsey Bill, on Friday January 31, the 70th anniversary of its sinking by a German E-boat during convoy duties which cost 10 crew members their lives.

His Majesty’s Trawler Pine was launched in 1940, one of 20 Tree Class Trawlers, built by Hall Russell in Aberdeen, thanks to £62,000 raised by the people of Gillingham (Dorset) to pay for a ship as part of their war effort.

On January 30, 1944, it was amongst 10 merchant vessels and seven escorts - Convoy W-243 – which left Southend.

The three armed trawlers were on minesweeping duties when a pack of German fast attack E-boats spotted them and quickly fired torpedoes, one of which hit the Pine blowing the bow off and killing 10 men.

With 27 survivors lifted to safety, the remains of the Pine were towed first towards Newhaven and then Portsmouth, but about six miles from Selsey Bill on January 31 she sank. Its bow has never been found but is believed to be off Eastbourne.

“In 2007, Guildford BSAC adopted the HMT Pine as part of the Nautical Archaeological Society Adopt-a-Wreck scheme, which was launched in 2000,” says Anne-Marie.

“To invigorate diving energy into the club, and get people diving with a purpose, it was suggested making the Pine part of the club’s diving agenda, and thus HMT Pine – Project 2012 was born.”

Poor weather dogged the diving programme and prevented a planned commemorative service in November to link with Remembrance Sunday but now the wreath laying service is planned for this coming January.

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