Rathlin Island WreckList
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Vessel Type:

Armoured Cruiser

Location:Co. Antrim
Date of Loss:2nd October 1917Place:Church Bay, Rathlin Island
Cause of Loss:TorpedoedBoat Dive from:Ballycastle
Charted Depth:18mIrish O.S. Map:Discovery Series No. 5
Height of Wreck:3-4m Admiralty Chart No:2798
Hull Material:Armour platingLatitude (GPS):55 17.224 North
Type of Seabed:Sand over clayLongitude (GPS):06 12.561 West
Average Visibility:6 - 10mDiving Experience:Novice
Image available?Yes - see below
Diving Information:  
  • The remains of the wreck were blown up in 1979 by the Royal Navy.
  • It now resembles a large scrap yard more than anything else. The 6ins. guns are still visible.
  • Plenty to see with lots of nooks and crannies to be explored.
  • Can be dived at any state of the tide, but make sure the anchor is secure as the wind can blow the boat off station.
  • The wreck lies 200m north of a South Cardinal Buoy outside the entrance to the harbour.
  • There is a fee to to use the slip at Ballycastle Harbour.
  • Warning!! Ammunition lying around - it could be in a dangerous state.
Historical Information:
  • The "Drake" was a four funnelled Armoured Cruiser of 14100 tons, she had spent the war years on Atlantic patrol, escorting convoys.
  • Built at Pembroke Dockyard in 1902, she measured 500 x 71 x 26ft. and was powered by triple-expansion engines with Belleville boilers. These generated 30,557 I.H.P., giving a maximum speed of 24 knots.
  • Her weapons consisted of - two 9.2in guns, sixteen 6in., fourteen 12-pounders, three 3-pounders, 2 torpedo tubes, two maxims and a compliment of 900 men.
  • While protecting the west bound Convoy HH24, she was torpedoed by U-boat U-79, five miles north of Rathlin.
  • The original intention was to beach her in Church Bay, but she rolled over and sank before she reached the shore. Out of 900 crew, 19 were killed in the incident.
  • She was commanded by Captain S.H. Radcliffe.
  • Sporadic salvage operations commenced in 1920.   Eventually, after having been a continual hazard to shipping, the Navy blew her up during the latter part of the 1970's.

Neal James Armstrong - by permission


Randal Armstrong Collection

A photo of a photograph hanging in McQuaig's Bar, Rathlin Island


Sandy Roberts - by permission


by kind permission of Dr. Edward J. Bourke


By kind permission of Dr. Edward J. Bourke


Randal Armstrong Collection

H.M.S. Drake porthole containing a photo of the "Drake" - McQuaig's Bar, Rathlin Island







Ryan Mc Stravick of Lisburn SAC

Source Publications:
"Dictionary of Disasters at Sea during the Age of Steam 1824 - 1962"
Charles Hocking
London Stamp Exchange 1989 - ISBN: 0948130474
"Shipwreck Index of Ireland"
Richard & Bridget Larn
Lloyd's Register - Fairplay Ltd 2002 - ISBN: 1900839970
"Shipwrecks of the Irish Coast 932 - 1997"
Edward J. Bourke
Edward J. Bourke 1998 - ISBN: 0952302713
"Shipwrecks of the Ulster Coast"
Ian Wilson
Impact Printing 1997 - ISBN: 0948154993
"The Cruise of H.M.S. Drake"
J.A. Minter (1907)
"The Fighting Ship in the Royal Navy"
E.H.H. Archibald
Blandford Press 1984 - ISBN: 0713713488
"The Harsh Winds of Rathlin"
Tommy Cecil
Impact Printing 1990 - ISBN: 0948154659
Other Sources:
Randal Armstrong
Castlereagh SAC (1990)
Royal Navy
Hydrographic Department (1970)
Vic Foster
Castlereagh SAC (1996)

Rathlin Island WreckList

Last update - 06-Apr-2009

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