British Navy, seaplane carrier (ex protected cruiser);Built in 1898; Fairfield Co.; 5,600 tons; 350x54x22; 10,000 i.h.p.; 20-5 knots; triple-expansion engines; Babcock boilers; eleven 6 in. guns, eight 3 in., six 3pdr., 2 m.g., 2 T.T.
The cruiser HMS Hermes had seen nearly 14 varied years service by the outbreak of the First World War. She had started life as a protected cruiser and is historically notable for being refitted in April-May 1913 to act as the first experimental seaplane carrier of the Royal Navy, with a launching platform and room to stow 3 seaplanes. The program involved taking obsolete protected cruisers and converting them into experimental seaplane ships by being fitted with canvas aircraft shelters fore and aft, flying-off platforms, and hoisting booms. She was initially used as a trials ship for seaplanes, to test launching and recovery methods, and to develop tactics for use of aircraft in fleet operations. She was the first of three modified Eclipse class cruisers, commonly known as the Highflyer class. This equipment was removed in 1913 but refitted in 1914. She was converted back into a cruiser and commissioned in May 1913, but taken out of service at the end of the year and placed in reserve. She was brought back into service on the outbreak of World War I as a seaplane tender.
The ship was one of the early victims of submarine warfare. On October 30th, 1914, Captained by C. R. Lambe she arrived at Dunkirk bringing seaplanes from Portsmouth. The presence of German submarines in the Straits of Dover had been reported on the 29th, and the greatest vigilance was maintained. She cleared Dunkirk for Dover on the early morning of the 31st and, when some eight miles W.N.W. of Calais, was attacked by the submarine, U-27 (commander Wegener), which hit her with two torpedoes. Despite her injuries Hermes remained afloat for nearly two hours. Of her complement over 400, including Capt. Lambe, were taken off by the South Eastern and Chatham Railway Companies steamship Invicta, and two destroyers.
Diving: Today the wreck is inverted and slightly twisted with her Port side largely on the seabed, the wreck is very clean of silt and although covered in fishing lines and lost hooks and lures is really hazard free as these are easy to avoid.
A maximum depth of 32m, however most of the length the max is only 29-30m with the hull rising up to 22m, the interesting side is the Starboard side which is generally clear of the seabed.
The engine room and stern area are very open and easy to look into and there is a companionway running just inside the starboard side from the break which is roughly amidships.
The stern is quite broken up but the bows are intact and there are plenty of Guns and other fittings to see, including the very prominent round crows nests that can be seen in the pictures below.
On my 2nd dive on her we had 12-15m of viz, and she is a truly stunning wreck in these conditions.
Permission is required to dive this wreck from the French authorities and we are happy to pass on the contact details and information requirements. You will also be required to book in with Cape Griz Nez when on site diving in accordance with SOLAS5.