Date
25 July 2017
A name plate and a commodore’s pennant (left inset, top and bottom) were among the items found in the seabed near the suspected resting place of HMS Tamar (inset right). Photos: HKEJ, wikipedia, HK Govt
A name plate and a commodore’s pennant (left inset, top and bottom) were among the items found in the seabed near the suspected resting place of HMS Tamar (inset right). Photos: HKEJ, wikipedia, HK Govt

Shipwreck found in 2014 could be HMS Tamar: preliminary report

A large metal object that was found in 2014 in the seabed near the Wan Chai coastline, along with other stuff that was discovered later, is very likely the wreck of HMS Tamar, a famous British troop carrier from World War II, a preliminary archaeological assessment report says. 

According to a 41-page report that was posted Tuesday on the website of the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD), the buried object could be the wreck of the military vessel that was deliberately sunk by British forces in 1941 to prevent its seizure by invading Japanese troops.

The metal object, which is about 40 meters long and 11 meters wide, with corrosion and cracks in certain parts, could be part of the material that formed the bottom of HMS Tamar, a marine archaeologist said in the report.

The report also notes that some copper alloy items found in the seabed seemed to belong to British soldiers. Among the items discovered, there was a lock, a commodore’s pennant and a name plate.

Yet, the marine archaeologist who wrote the report said the objects, by themselves, are not good enough to conclusively confirm the wreck’s identity, news website hk01.com reports.

HMS Tamar had been permanently stationed in Hong Kong since 1897 before it was ordered destroyed toward the end of 1941. 

The ship was scuttled on Dec. 12 as authorities feared that it would otherwise be captured and used by the invading Japanese military. 

The ship’s bell, nameplate or other unique identifier are needed to reach a conclusion, although the location where the objects were found matched where the ship sank, the expert said.

In late 2014, a contractor unearthed a big object beneath the seabed while dredging near the old Wan Chai ferry pier amid work on the Central-Wan Chai bypass construction project.

In March 2015, the CEDD commissioned a marine archaeologist to conduct a preliminary assessment.

Following the initial findings, the CEDD said on Tuesday that it will shortly commission a detailed marine archaeological investigation of the metal object to ascertain its identity and heritage value.

Andrew Lam, who chairs the Antiquities Advisory Board, was quoted by Ming Pao Daily as saying that the agency’s members will go through the report in an official meeting.

He said it is too early to talk about conservation efforts as it needs to be clarified first whether the wreck would belong to Hong Kong or the UK.

Historian Siu Kwok-kin said the discovered objects will have great historical value if it can be proved that they came from a vessel that was tasked with protection of Hong Kong during the war.

The objects will be deemed precious even if they came from a vessel other than HMS Tamar, he said.

In related news, lawmaker Tanya Chan demanded an explanation from the CEDD as to why it took one-and-a-half years for the report to be made public.

She also accused the government of failing to carry out proper archaeological assessment before starting engineering work on the Central-Wan Chai bypass road project.

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TL/AC/RC

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