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The Bretagne

History of the Bretagne
The Bretagne was registered in Norway, requisitioned by the Ministry of War Transport, in 1916, who fitted her with a 12-pounder stern gun. 232 feet long with a beam of 35 feet. She has a 106hp engine, but could also put up a sail of 2000 square feet when necessary.

Collision with the Renee Marthe
On 10 August 1918 the Bretagne had been sailing in thick fog heading for Rouen moving slowly through the mine-free channel. The French steamer, the Renee Marthe appeared out of the fog at 10:30 hours and struck the Bretagne on her starboard side towards the stern. The Bretagnes steering was jammed in the collision and she began to take on water rapidly.
The Renee Marthe crawled to Dartmouth whilst a fishing trawler was able to come alongside and extract most of the crew and take her in tow. With three crew members left onboard, including her captain, J.W. Johannesson, attempting to free her steering gear she continued to take on more and more water until it began to lap over onto the deck. The first mate, Harry Watterson, quickly tried to retrieve his money from his cabin when a wave slammed the outer door shut locking him inside and the Bretagne slid quickly to the bottom. Today the Bretagne is owned by the Bristol Aerospace BSAC.

Dive Guide
The Bretagne is a small ship but is a premier dive site when the visibility is good. The wreck has several feet of silt inside her so caution should be taken not to stir this up. In places she is rusted through and there are many rusted / collapsed entry/exit points if any penetration of the wreck is attempted. Beware that the rusted holes have extremely sharp edges and wedges of phosphorous can be found amidships.
The depth to the shingle sea-bed is approx 25m with her deck only 18m from the surface; lying with her bow pointing to the south-west.

General Info

Tides: to be completed.
Getting there: Take the M5 and then the A38 towards Plymouth. Bear left onto the A381 to Totnes, Kingsbridge and Salcombe and follow the signs to Teignmouth and/or Babbacombe.
Diving and air:
Access to the sea along this stretch of coast is difficult, and most boats launch from either Exmouth or Brixham. Teignmouth does have a harbour although the entrance is tricky to use with shifting sand bars and strong tidal streams. Alternatives are to launch into the estuary from a large car park at The Point (southern end of the promenade); or from a slipway at Polly Steps at the western end of the Western Quay.
There are many hotels, B&Bs and campsites in the area. Contact Tourist Information on 01548 843927.
Reasonably experienced sport divers and above. It is NOT a dive for novices or newly qualified divers.
Further information:
Admiralty Chart 3315, Berry Head to Bill of Portland; Admiralty Chart 26 (Teignmouth and Tor Bay); Ordnance Survey map 192 and 202. Torbay and South Dartmoor area. Dive South Devon by Kendall McDonald; The Wreckers Guide to South Devon Vol 2, by Peter Mitchel. The Teighmouth Harbour Master can be contacted on 01626 773165 from his office on New Quay Road, Teignmouth.
Pros: Spectacular wreck for such a small ship and the visiibility can be excellent at times.
Cons: There may be fishing nets/lines around the wreck.

Copyright © 2007 Chippenham Diving Club - BSAC1622