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Wreck of a German warship from 1878 protected

The wreck of the 19th century German warship SMS Grosser Kurfürst, lying on the seabed off the coast of Kent, has been placed under protection by British authorities. The ship, whose wreck lies near Folkestone, was accidentally sunk by another German ship. Nearly 300 sailors died. Now their final resting place will be treated as
Published: June 19, 2020 - 00:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 20:08
Wreck of a German warship from 1878 protected

The wreck of the 19th century German warship SMS Grosser Kurfürst, lying on the seabed off the coast of Kent, has been placed under protection by British authorities. The ship, whose wreck lies near Folkestone, was accidentally sunk by another German ship. Nearly 300 sailors died. Now their final resting place will be treated as a war grave.

The tragedy occurred when the experimental ironclad SMS Grosser Kurfürst was accidentally rammed by another German ship, the König Wilhelm, while preparing for a naval exercise off the coast of England. Unluckily, the König Wilhelm had a specially reinforced bow, designed to ram and sink enemy ships.

On 31 May 1878, the hull of the SMS Grosser Kurfürst was literally ripped to shreds and the ship sank in an instant, taking 284 crew members with it. Many of the bodies of the German sailors were recovered from the water and buried in the local Cheriton Road Cemetery in Folkestone, where a large memorial still stands in their honour.

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The wreck has now been given legal protection and added to England’s National Heritage List as a Grade II listed monument. The wreck will still be accessible to divers, but new conservation measures will give it a higher level of protection, especially when it comes to the equipment and artefacts on site.

The SMS Grosser Kurfürst was itself an extremely interesting design, created in a time of enormous change, when wooden ships were being replaced by iron and steel ones. At that time, there was no shortage of experiments and innovative solutions, an example of which was the German vessel. Already in the course of construction, modifications were made by installing a pair of rotating turrets with two cannons.

“This historic shipwreck tells the story of Germany’s growing naval power in the late 19th century when Britain and Germany were on friendly terms,” – said Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England

Interestingly, this is the only ship not of the British Royal Navy to have sunk in English waters between 1860 and 1913.

Source: bbc.com

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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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