Dublin Wreck Diving: HMS. Vanguard.

Sep 14 2012 Posted by Office Administraton

 Dive site.

HMS. Vanguard.

Diving Grade required: 

Very experienced. Depth, current, conditions and obstructions make for a dangerous site.


Location: Bray head 12miles East by North53° 12′ 45.288″ N,0 5° 46′ 14.808″ W
Access: Rib from Dun Laoghaire.1.5 hours before High Water1    hour before Low Water.
Minimum Depth to Wreck 34mts avg
Maximum Depth to Seabed: 48mts avg. Sand and Shale
Average Visibility: 5m+. Effort made 2011 to clear some nets and ropes from around cabin and bridge and main battery area’s.


Travel  time to site:        Approx. 40 minutes from Dun Laoghaire in calm conditions


Precautions:                   Wreck can be misleading and very easy to find yourself inside the hull of this ship unintentionally.


History of Wreck:

Refs UKHO wreck no 009100209. Chart symbol Wk 21.5mts


The jewel of the crown for the era, Vanguard is Audacious class iron clad battle ship. Built in 1870 by Laird’s at Birkenhead she measured L.85mts x B.16mts x D.8mts.  Captained by R.Dawkins with a working crew of 400. Vanguard was sailing en route from Kingstown (Dun-Laoighaire) to Queenstown (Cobh) in a convoy of sail with six other vessels including the warships Warrior, Achilles, Hector and the Iron Duke. Just after the convoy slowed to enter a fog bank the Vanguard veered to port to avoid collision with a sailing- boat. Vanguard struck broadside on the port side of the Iron duke. The steel ram fitted below the waterline of the Iron Duke pierced the armour and flooded the engine room in minutes. The crew took to lifeboats after order to abandon ship. All crew were subsequently picked up by the Iron Duke and Hermes. The HMS vanguard sank stern first in just over an hour. Captain Dawkins was court marshalled for negligence and charged with the sinking of Vanguard. There was no loss of life except for the death of the captain’s Jack Russell dog.


Diving the Wreck:


HMS Vanguard is now lying on a sand and shale sea bed and tilting to the starboard side. Vanguard is laying bow to stern on a north south transit. The solid construction of the Vanguard has ensured she has stayed in reasonably good condition coming off the seabed apx 18mts to top at the forward battery.


Forward Gun battery to bow

The wreck is most often shot at the highest point – the port side of the gun battery. Landing here, you can look down through holes in the battery roof to the upper deck, where the four 9-inch guns are still in place. The lower part of the now cut-down iron main mast lies across the battery and over to the starboard side. If you follow the mast, you can drop over the side of the ship and see the five starboard-side 9-inch guns poking out of their gun ports on the main and upper decks though these have been somewhat covered in sand over recent years.

Going forward from top of the gun battery, you drop about 2-3m to the main deck. Moving forward, you come to the forward steam capstan and then the cut-down forward mast. The access holds and hatches are still in place and in the most cases open. A lot of netting and ropes in this area.

Back up on the upper deck, to the left and forward of the mast you find one of the 64-pounder guns and two massive anchors resting on the deck against the port gunwale. Carry on in the lee of the overhanging gunwale, past the cat’s head (the jutting spar for raising the anchor) and you reach the bow, which is still intact and standing high above the seabed. Descending, you see the concave curve of the bow, designed for ramming other ships. Right at the bottom, wedged between the bow and the seabed is another anchor from the starboard side. Again this is dependent on conditions

Diving the Aft-section;

Battery box to stern.


Again starting your dive on the highest point of the gun battery, but going sternwards, you will find a large crack across the ship, just forward of the gun battery’s stern bulkhead. Dropping down to the main deck level here, you can look forward into the gun battery with its big guns and piles of artillery shells. The port stern-most gun on the main deck has dropped down a deck, leaving a cavernous space ahead of it. Descending further into the crack brings you out of the starboard side of the ship to the seabed.

Sternwards of the crack, going over the battery bulkhead or through one of the open doors, you come to a sunken area above the engine room. The stern capstan is here, fallen over and lying parallel with the deck. Continuing, you pass the upper deck steering wheel and the mizzen mast. On the main deck, on either side were the quarters where the officers slept. Just ahead was the ward room where they took their meals, and further aft, the captain’s cabin at the stern of the ship. The upper deck in this area has partly collapsed, and large sections of the port gunwale have fallen flat, so it’s hard to distinguish between what stood on the upper and main decks.

Going over the port side of the ship, you see that the hull is still fully intact. As you drop down, you find the port prop shaft housing as it flares out from the hull. Following this sternwards, you reach a pair of weird-looking propellers. These have two blunt-ended blades each, and are mounted one just in front of the other, with the blades aligned. Just aft is the rudder, which pivoted on a rod running down its centre. The starboard props are mostly buried in the sand.


Diving considerations

A note of caution; The Vanguard can still be a very dark and challenging dive. It has many open hatches and holes It is very easy to find yourself inside the hull of this ship unintentionally. The Vanguard is also a long way out to sea, only reachable comfortably in good weather. Strong tidal currents mean you have to judge slack correctly, and you’re best diving on neap tides. Best visibility is on low water, just coming off neaps.














Notes for reference and additional information.




Lloyds shipwrecks of the Irish Sea

HMS Vanguard The Life and Times of the Last Battleship