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Royal Navy Loss List

As part of a team undertaking the 2001 UNESCO Convention Impact Review for the United Kingdom, MAST has recently both funded and undertaken a major assessment of the international spread of UK sovereign wrecks.

The aim of the Impact Review project is to produce an objective evidential assessment of the impacts of the ratification of the Convention for the UK.

This assessment, which has been called the Royal Navy Loss List, shows that there are over 4,700 Royal Naval wrecks scattered across the oceans of the world, covering the period between 1512 and 1945.

Other members of the team include archaeologist John Gribble, Bob Yorke of the Joint Nautical Archaeology Policy Committee (JNAPC), Dave Parham, senior lecturer at Bournemouth University, Mike Williams, maritime lawyer and research fellow at Plymouth University, Virginia Dellino-Musgrave of Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology (HWTMA), Anthony Firth of Fjordr and Simon Davidson of Wessex Archaeology.

Download the Impact Review for the United Kingdom (PDF), a report undertaken by the UK UNESCO 2001 Convention Review Group

The Royal Navy Loss List searchable database

To develop this database as a research tool, MAST would be interested in learning of any Royal Navy wrecks that have been subject to archaeological investigation and of any publications that have resulted from research from these investigations.

WWII battleship sinkingA sailboat fighting though the storm2 sailboats fighting though the storm

About the Royal Navy Loss List

The Royal Navy (RN) Loss List (LL), from 1512-1947, is compiled from the volumes and websites listed below from the earliest known RN wreck. The accuracy is only as good as these sources which have been thoroughly transcribed and cross-checked. There will be inevitable transcription errors. The LL includes minimal detail on the loss (ie. manner of loss except on the rare occasion that a specific position is known; also noted is manner of loss, if known ie. if burnt, scuttled, foundered etc.). In most cases it is unclear from the sources whether the ship was lost in the territorial waters of the country in question, in the EEZ or in international waters. In many cases ships are lost in channels between two countries, eg. the River Plate with Argentina and Uruguay on opposite sides, or for example in the ambiguity of the Dover Straits or the English Channel.

Therefore this work has taken the 'best guess' approach where the location of the wreck is relatively clear. In some cases the location can not be guessed and so the wreck is characterised as 'location unknown'. Wrecks are in international waters when it is not possible to assign a state without doubt. In the case of the English Channel, wrecks have been position in the UK EEZ. The EEZ of non UK countries are not included.

Any site which is known to have undergone any kind of physical investigation is noted to highlight to researchers that publications are available. No attempt was made to try to list each one as it is felt this is the researcher's domain.

Countries to are signators to the UNESCO Conevention on Underwater Cultural Heritage are also noted.


Exclusive Economic Zone, Territorial seas or international waters

Where the source specifically states ‘on’ a coast or specific location, it has been assumed that the wreck is in that country’s territorial waters. If, however, ‘off’ is used, or where no specific location is named, then the wreck is assumed to be in that country’s EEZ. Wrecks stated as being in the North Sea are included in the international listing. Wrecks potentially in UK overseas territories are marked as being in the EEZ as there is insufficient data to state otherwise.

Those ships not included in the LL are those rebuilt, hulked or have become blockships.

MAST hopes this will be a powerful research tool, amassing for the first time all RN losses in one place. It realises that there will be gaps and would gratefully receive any comments. Equally if researchers have details on any RN ships that are not listed, or further information to add to the list on any already listed, please contact MAST at MAST also asks that if this resource is used in any publication and public talk, that it is acknowledged.


MAST would be very grateful for any financial contribution you might be able to make towards this research. Thank you in advance.

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