Newton Stewart Sub Aqua Club - BSAC branch 1853

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Landing Craft ADC527

The A.D.C. 527 (Ammunition Dumping Craft) lies inverted in 42 metres of water south of Burrow Head on a sloping sand / broken shell / gravel sea bed.  The very strong tidal streams in the area make this a slack water dive only and it is usually advisable to dive the wreck on Neap tides or at times of low tidal range.  Slack water occurs about one and a half hours before the stated slack water for the Isle of Whithorn.  Visibility on the wreck can vary considerably depending upon the river outflow from Wigtown Bay.  It can also change dramatically during the dive itself as the tide turns and clear flood tide water replaces the murky ebb water.

A.D.C. 527 is a big vessel at 187 feet 3 inches long with a beam of 38 feet 9 inches and was originally a Landing Craft Tank Mark 4 capable of carrying a cargo of 360 tons,  equivalent to 9 Sherman tanks. She was built in 1942 by McClellans of Glasgow and was powered by two 460 hp Paxman diesel engines giving a top speed of 10 knots. Experience during the 1942 Dieppe Raid revealed shortcomings in the manoeuvring ability of these vessels and this may have been a contributory factor in her loss.   To circumnavigate the whole wreck in one dive without accumulating considerable decompression time is barely possible, and it is better to inspect the vessel in sections on a number of dives.

The bow of the vessel (1) is at the top of a sloping sea bed and is a good place to start the tour.  The huge bow ramp is easily identifiable with its grip strips on the leading edge.  Moving back along the starboard side (as the vessel lies) you can see the chains for lowering the ramp (2) and the fitments with the leather dampers still in place on the edges of the ramp and the hull side.  Here the box sections of the hull stand about 2 metres proud of the sea bed.  They are largely intact, but the weight of the vessel has caused them to sag in places.  This is one of the locations where a lateral crack along the bottom shows where the vessel has broken its back.

The sides plates in the area you are coming to have fallen away (3) giving a good view inside the wreck where access ladders are visible among the tangled girders.  This was the location of one of the original forward gun platforms.  Proceeding aft along the rubbing strake it is possible to look in at areas where the side plates have rotted away.   It may be possible to penetrate the wreck through some of these gaps, but the stability of the wreck needs to be assessed first.

On the long fin down this starboard side (4) you can see the wreck lift off the sea bed where the lower centre gunwale is, although the gap here is only a couple of feet high.  Eventually you come to the rear of the vessel (5) where the main super structure is located.  Here the sides of the vessel soar up to nearly 4 metres in height, as this is where it is sitting on its upturned armoured bridge.  Here also is another area where the weight of the suspended vessel has caused it to break its back.

Just aft of this area the vessel is considerably broken up.  The actual bottom edge of the vessel hanging above you takes a right angled turn seemingly heading to the other side.  The corner here is a fretwork of open girders with a tangle of collapsed plates and fittings lying on the sea bed beneath.  Out to the side are what look like the remains of the life raft stanchions and at the very rear the angular stern gunwale section can be seen lying upside down with a pair of bollards attached.

Looking up you can see a narrow strip of the bottom of the vessel hanging 3 metres above you.  Rising to examine this you will see that it is the reinforced section of the hull which supports the prop shafts and propellers (6) with the keel running between them.  The port (as it lies) section has sagged under the weight of the propeller, compared to the starboard,  but on both sides it is easy to see the prop shafts coming out of their conical farings stretching away to the prop shaft supports and the one metre diameter bronze three bladed propellers.  It is interesting that both propellers are identical and not counter rotating as one would expect on a twin screwed vessel.   (Was this a war time economy measure on limited use vessels which obviated the need for more complex gear boxes, or was it something to do with the vessels having to drag themselves off beaches, identical screws giving more bite?)

Proceeding forward now to the port (as it lies side) you see beneath you a tangle of collapsed plates and girders (7) with the bottom edge of the vessel going off to your left for about 4 metres before making a right angled turn to follow the actual side of the wreck.  In this area the hull plates have corroded and fallen away giving access to what may have been the galley.  Here are plates and heaps of artefacts waiting to be examined.

As you move down the port side the fallen and corroded hull plates give views into the interior of the wreck (8) where what seem like spare propellers have been seen.  Again access here to the interior of the vessel may be possible once the stability of the wreck has been assessed.

After a long swim you eventually reach the bow ramp once again where you can cross the surprisingly wide vessel to your starting point.  As this is a newly discovered wreck with few dives conducted on it additional information and details will be added as and when it is known.

To find out more about this wreck, have a look at it’s wreck history page.

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