A SPECIAL commemoration to mark the centenary of the sinking of a WW1 minesweeping trawler takes place this month.
The Arfon, a rare steam trawler fitted out for military use, worked out of Portland Naval Base during the First World War, sweeping mines laid by German U-boats along the shipping lanes.
Tragically, it struck a mine in April 1917 and rapidly sank with the loss of 10 of the crew of 13.
It lay undiscovered until it was found off St Alban’s Head near Swanage in 2014.
The finders of the wreck, Martin and Bryan Jones, of Swanage Boat Charters, have organised a centenary event on Sunday, April 30.
They have invited the descendants of three of the Arfon’s crew - skipper John Abrams, second hand Edward Youngs, and cook/deckhand James Doy.
“We plan to take 11 people out on a boat to the site of the wreckage. The Arfon hit a mine at approximately 9.40am so we’re going to be there within minutes of the actual centenary.
“My son and I recovered the steam whistle from the wreck – one of the first pieces to be found. It’s been restored and, currently, the valve is with Swanage Steam Railway.
“We want to sound the whistle at the time of the sinking, using Morse code for the word ‘mine’.”
The rare and well-preserved wreck is said to be vulnerable to treasure hunters. Last year it was afforded special status from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England. It means access to it will be restricted.
The trawler’s key features such as its mine-sweeping gear, deck gun, portholes and engine room are still intact on the seabed.
Most of the wrecks around the coast that date from this period have been salvaged for their fixtures and fittings. The Arfon is unique in that it had been untouched for 100 years. It is considered to be vulnerable to souvenir hunters and uncontrolled salvage.
Joe Flatman, head of listing programmes at Historic England, said previously that the Arfon was a “rare survivor of a type of vessel once very common around the coastline of Britain but which has now entirely disappeared, surviving only in documents and as wrecks like this one.”
As part of the centenary event, an information plaque overlooking the site of the Arfon will be unveiled.