Max Depth - 30m
Tonnage - 6953
Length - 415'
Date sunk - 26 May 1918
Type of vessel - Australian steam ship
How sunk – Torpedoed
Former names – None
Wreck height - 9m
The ‘Kyarra’ was a twin-masted schooner-rigged steamer. She was built in 1903 by the W. Denny Brothers ship builders, Dumbarton on the river Clyde, Scotland.
On 6 November 1914 she was requisitioned and converted into a hospital ship (HMAT A.55 Kyarra) for the purpose of transporting Australian medical units to Egypt. The hull was painted white with a large red cross on the side. In March 1915, ‘Kyarra’ was converted into a troop transport.
In the early morning of 26 May 1918, the Kyarra had cleared the Isle of Wight and was moving fast through calm seas around Anvil Point. Captain William Smith didn't know it, but German submarine captain Oberleutnant Johann Lohs was watching him through the periscope of UB-57. The Kyarra was struck by a torpedo portside amidships, killing 6 of her 126 crew members.
The ’Kyarra’ was carrying 2600 tons general and Australian mails, plus hospital supplies and medical staff. Sailing from Tilbury for Sydney, Australia, via Devonport to embark 1,000 Australian wounded. She was armed with a quick-firing gun mounted on her stern as a defence against U-boats.
She was covered from bow to stern in brass portholes. The 'Kyarra' (the name is aboriginal for a small fillet of opossum fur) traded between England and Australia under the flag of the Australasian Steam Navigation Company.
This is a very popular wreck, allowing trainee sports divers to build up depth experience and making an enjoyable accessible dive for those who are more experienced. The holds still contain perfume, champagne, stout, red wine, and vinegar bottles. Sealing wax, medical supplies, dentists porcelain teeth, collar studs, gold, silver and brass watches, pipes, fountain pens, lead printing blocks, printing paper, copper pipe, dinner sets, comic books, silk, fabric, brass picture frames and hockey sticks. There is still a lot of cargo on this wreck. The list of items found grows longer every week.
This wreck was not discovered until the late 1960's by a member of the Kingston and Elmbridge BSAC club (London) and later bought by the group under the name of ‘Kyarra salvage ltd’.
The ‘Kyarra’ is one of the best known wrecks on the south coast. This ship belongs to Kingston & Elmbridge Sub aqua club but all the cargo belongs to HM Government so all finds must be reported to Receiver of Wrecks.
The below videos was very kindly filmed and edited by James Clark.
We would like to thank Ann Weightman for allowing us to see some of her late husband's (Dave Weightman) collection of Kyarra treasures. Here are some photos:
The below photos were very kindly sent to us by Stuart Hawes.
The below photos were very kindly sent to us by David Jones (Edenbridge/Croytech BSAC)