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Divers have found the wreck of a British ship from 1799.

In the coastal waters of the Netherlands, near the island of Razende Bol, divers have discovered remains from the British Royal Navy ship HMS Apollo, which sank in 1799 during the Napoleonic Wars. The artefacts found included cannons and various military equipment, as well as many items of crew equipment. Amazingly, British insignia is still
Published: January 15, 2021 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 21:50
Divers have found the wreck of a British ship from 1799.

In the coastal waters of the Netherlands, near the island of Razende Bol, divers have discovered remains from the British Royal Navy ship HMS Apollo, which sank in 1799 during the Napoleonic Wars.

The artefacts found included cannons and various military equipment, as well as many items of crew equipment. Amazingly, British insignia is still visible on some of the artefacts. The discoveries were reported by local archaeological organisation Archaeology West-Friesland.

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monogrammed leather pouches and bayonet scabbards
Bayonet scabbards and leather pouches photo: Archaeologie West Friesland Newsflash

The fifth class frigate HMS Apollo was patrolling the North Sea coast on 6 January 1799 when, due to a navigational error, she landed in the shallows near the uninhabited island of Noorderhaaks. Captain Peter Halkett tried to save his ship by throwing all 42 guns and all supplies overboard, but was unable to pull her from the shoal.

Divers have found the wreck of a British ship from 1799.
Gilded monogram on the flap of a leather holdall photo Archeologie West-Friesland/Newsflash

The 270 Apollo crew members on board were rescued by a Prussian frigate, which dumped most of the cargo of wine it was carrying to make room and be able to accommodate them all on the return voyage to England.

I expect that many more objects will be found and excavated at the site in the coming years. In addition to cannons and other pieces of military equipment, the divers also found two leather cartridge pouches that would have been attached to a belt-pouch and worn on the hip, archaeologist Michiel Bartels said in a statement

The ship HMS Apollo was built in 1794 and met its fate just five years later when it crashed ashore trying to navigate the shallow waters surrounding Texel.

Bartels said the holds had a hardwood handle and allowed for 18 cartridges. The paper magazines contained a lead musket ball and exactly enough powder to fire it. The lockable flaps of the leather pouches were decorated with the stamped and gilded royal initials KG, belonging to the reigning monarch KingGeorge III.

HMS Apollo gun
One of HMS Apollo’s cannons found on the bottom photo by NorthSeaDivers/Newsflash

Archaeologists also recovered from the wreck two leather bayonet scabbards bearing the Royal Navy property brand ‘The Broad Arrow’ and the letters GR topped with a crown.

The Royal Navy warship HMS Apollo belonged to the “Artois” class. Apollo was one of nine frigates of the class built to a design by John Henslow in 1793. These ships were used in the Royal Navy during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.

sonar image of the wreck of HMS Apollo
Sonar scan of HMS Apollo photo RCE-Periplus/Newsflash

The wreck of HMS Apollo remained buried on the seabed for more than two centuries. Each year, tens of cubic metres of sediment are flushed away revealing wrecks that were lost in the region decades or hundreds of years earlier. Government institutions and amateur divers monitor the various wrecks and secure historic items.

Although all the objects discovered are owned by the UK, the Dutch municipality has asked to borrow them to create an exhibition at the Kaap Skil Museum in Oudeschild, Texel. The exhibition is due to open in the summer of 2021.

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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