The RMS Lanfranc was built in 1907 for the Booth Steamship Company by the Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. The Lanfranc 418ft in length, had a beam of 52ft and a draft of 27ft, She was powered by her triple expansion engines giving her a top speed of 15 knots.
During the 1st World War the RMS Lanfranc was requisitioned by the British government and converted into a Hospital Ship.
It was the 17th April 1917 when the Lanfranc set sail for Southampton from Le Havre, loaded with wounded, she was carrying 234 wounded British soldiers & 167 wounded German prisoners of war, she carried 52 medical staff & there were 123 ship’s crew. The time was 19.40 hours and Lanfranc was approximately 1/3 of the way through her journey to Southampton when there was an almighty explosion, she had been struck by a torpedo on the port side between the engine room and number 3 hold. It was quite clear that the ship was doomed, as she started to settle by the stern.
The master gave the order to prepare lifeboats and to abandon ship. The two escort ship’s that had been in convoy with Lanfranc, came in and prepared to receive the casualties. Of the 576 persons onboard that evening only 34 lost their lives, 14 British wounded, 15 German wounded and 5 crew, the Hospital Ship Lanfranc had sunk in just over 1 hour.
Today the wreck of the Lanfranc lies 40 miles south of Brighton in a LW depth of 52mtrs, she is sitting upright and fairly intact, there is a break half way along where the torpedo impact occurred. She is an awesome sight to behold, sitting there so impressively, some 10mtrs of the seabed, The stern area is upright and very much intact, with access through a sky light, it is possible to descend down through a couple of decks into what one can only presume as the dining area, going by the amount of crockery scattered around. Looking at the sides of the ship, you can see the portholes still in place, sweeping right around the stern. As you make your way forward along the deck, towards the break, you can see the decking collapsing down, in on it’s self. At the, break debris litters the sea bed with ginger beer bottles spilling out and spare porthole glass scattered around.
As you make your way to the bow, the ship comes back into her glory, upright, intact and steaming along, as you drift pass the starboard bow’s, take a step back and look at the awesome sight and you might just see her name, bold as brass in 18″ high letters “LANFRANC”, an amazing sight. Great care must be taken when diving this monster of a wreck as fishing line and nets have been caught on the wreck over the years. If you have never seen big fish on a wreck before, then you will now. Believe all the hype, this is a wreck divers must.
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