The 'Shirala'

Well within striking distance of Littlehampton the British Liner Shirala has over the years has been the focus of the much charterboat and RIB diving activity due to its close proximity of the southcoast lauchsites. Measuring in at 400ft x 50ft, and at 5,306 tons, the Shirala, was on its way from London to Bombay, carrying a valuable general cargo which included, diamonds, ivory, telescopes, binoculars, medical supplies, musical instruments, and spares for lorries and cars, including tyres, axles, radiators, and munitions destined for the Indian Army.

Bexley BSAC

Shirala was sent to the bottom by a german torpedo on the 2 July, 1918, 8 crew were killed. Interestingly the ship was yet another victim of WWI U-Boat ace, Oberleutnant Johann Lohs in UB-57. He was responsible for sinking over 140,000tons of shipping, along his main hunting ground between Dover and the Isle of the Wight. Other well known ships that fell victim to Lohs are the Kyarra, Moldavia, Glenlee and the City of Brisbane - one of the clubs favourite Newhaven dives.

If you are interested in the toot, sorry that’s artefacts’ see Barry for a personal tour of his study. Baz has found or acquired several bits n bobs including a pair of binoculars, porthole glass and marmalade jars, collected when the wreck was producing artefacts’ practically on every dive. Nowadays the wreck produces the occasional perfume bottle or medical accessory, so take down a bucket and spade and be prepared to root around for anything now. Rumour has it the bell has never been found.

I’ve found the viz to be hit and miss in this area, such is the case that a dive here can produce 2m of viz in apparent favourable conditions, yet travel 3miles down the road to a local reef, the viz can, frustratingly be over 10m! I’ve not had success with viz so my notes are taken mainly from other accounts. As the wreck was salvaged with explosives, crane and grab, much of what is left lies scattered and broken with the most discernable part being the stern which rises 6-8m. The bow is in one piece and still has teak in situ on the fo'c's'le.

I think on its day this is still a great dive, with the added bonus of a trinket or two. Although much dived the sands in the area do shift around opening up and also covering different parts of the wreck. Hence it is always worth a rummage, especially after winter storms, who knows you may find the elusive ship’s bell. As a popular fishing mark, there is monofilament to catch the unwary. Big shoals of pouting seem to be the mainstay of the fish and good congers have been caught from this wreck.

Depths: 23m-28m (LW / HW)
Profile: 8 metres proud
Position: 50 40.85N 000 35.40W. Bows to the south
Distance: 7.2nm SSW from Littlehampton:
Slack: approx 1hr before HW / HW+5

R.Nokes - May 2010

*Wreck exact position is available on request. If you are a member of another club and would like to exchange GPS codes, we would like to hear from you.