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 Technical Diving
 Technical Diving - Wreck Diving
 Wrecks of 9 ships escorted by HMS HERMES - found
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30+ Posts

51 Posts

Posted - 19 May 2012 :  2:01:18 PM
Originally posted by TwoDogs1969

Originally posted by feli

Hermes is of course the best needs as many as ten dives or even more !!
British Sergeant I should say the 2nd best !! 14m to the top 27 to the borttom !! Needs a few dives to explore.

MFA Athelstane - Resting at 42m. Most difficult dive to organize !!

Holyhok at 42m -

All deep wrecks are in excellent condition.

All other boiler wrecks are not very deep. One dive on each will suffice.

Fishermen and aquarium fish collectors have salvaged the canons and some propellers from the boiler wrecks.

Five wrecks out of the Nine are in good shape.

Happy diving.

Are they intact? Can you penetrate? Can you post some pics so before we put up some dosh we know if its worth coming to dive?

Richard Taylor
600+ Posts

620 Posts

Posted - 23 May 2012 :  2:01:07 PM
Originally posted by scoobaman

This all sounds too good to be true, I'll be interested to see any unbiased reports.


Having dived the Hermes I have to say that it is a stunning wreck. It is not suitable for all divers as it requires twins, should be done with Nitrox deco and can have quite demanding currents on it (though at other times there are none!).

The wreck offers good penetration at depth (50-55m) but experience and training recommended. You can still see a lot from the outside. Many artifacts are visible because the wreck is protected, something all divers should be mindful of (and respectful as it is a war grave). Fish life is excellent as is macro on the upper section of the hull.

The 8-12m wreck on the close reef is a great shallow dive, broken up and accessable to all divers. Boilers, ribs, broken hull, engine works, winches and small swim throughs with (amazingly) sone nice fish life around.

The boats are small and rudimentary and consideration needs to be made for the limiting operations. Due to condistions (you have to cross a river bar to get to the ocean & generally high winds in the late afternoon) double dives are planned on a group basis early morning & afternoon.

Accomodations are comfortable and clean, if basic, but do have air con and showers & toilets. Electricity can fluctuate but there is a generator on site to help. Air fills, O2 and Helium all on site (He needs to be arranged beforehand).

Kitchen and dining area is rural. Staff friendly and helpful.

Site is located on a sand spit outside a small town in Eastern Sri Lanka. Area was subject to civil war with Tamils and then devestated by Tsunami so infrastructure is being rebuilt.

It is well worthy the trip and Feli does a good job under circumstances that most operators in Australia would be at a loss to deal with. As long as you have a flexible attitude, appreciate that weather & currents can dictate dives and accept that you are in a 2nd-3rd world country with different culture and methods then you will do well.

I for one definitley look forward to returning one day!!


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228 Posts

Posted - 24 May 2012 :  3:36:25 PM
Thanks Richard..Time for me to start saving the bucks..

30+ Posts

51 Posts

Posted - 11 June 2012 :  02:49:58 AM
Hi divers,

We are now diving the Hermes. To see the latest

pictu click the link below.

Visibility 40 m Plus.

30+ Posts

51 Posts

Posted - 13 June 2012 :  8:55:46 PM
Hi Terry,

You will be here in August. We are ready to show you the wreck hermes and a few others. At present we have groups diving.

Excellent vis. 40 m plus.

Sea a link below.

See you in Augtust

30+ Posts

51 Posts

Posted - 12 August 2012 :  11:46:39 PM
HI Terry,

Just less than a week. Current strong at times. Top vis was 30m plus. Bottom was poor for about a month. It was less than 15.

Today it was good bottom over 20m. Hope it will further improve.

temp 1t 48m 28 C

Wish you a safe flt.

30+ Posts

64 Posts

Posted - 14 August 2012 :  01:39:02 AM
Just a quick note to support Richard's earlier comments and add some of my own. I've been back about three weeks now.

Yes the accommodation is basic but functional. Rooms and bathrooms are clean with a working aircon. Hot water is solar so luke warm in the morning and very hot in the afternoon.

Food was great local curries. Plenty of it and no one got sick or stomach upsets.

Diving support is again basic but functional. Only AL 80 s are available so this can make for workable but bulky deco setups if using EAN 50 and 100. Plenty of complete doubles and deco cylinders were available for our group of three plus Feli. Helium is available though relatively expensive due to the logistics of importing and transport to site. Book ahead if its required. We used our own He and O2 analysers. Two electric and one petrol compressors produced clean air. CO readings on the electrics were consistently 0ppm and the petrol produced 2 to 4 ppm. The electrics easily kept up with our small group. The petrol did when the power dropped out but would have struggled with a larger group. Having said that the power only failed once during the week long trip. I understand a generator is on its way. Blending and fills are via partial pressure top ups and an analogue whip. BYO digital whip if you are anal about blend %ages.

The boats are 25HP fibreglass and easily cope with the short trip out to the Hermes. Be mindful that the vibration during travel can undo DIN threads and the like. Do the normal checks pre-dive. Bring suitable protection for cameras and fragiles. Surface conditions are much better in the morning than afternoon. Many mornings are glass flat. Feli will drop you EXACTLY where you want to go. All our drops were within 5m of the intended target. The boats are crewed by one "captain". They are generally careful with the gear but use common sense with dangling regs or fragile cameras etc. We found a drifting deco much easier to enter the boat in the afternoon or when there was a little current rather than the boat being tied to the anchor and us being buffeted by chop or current.

The Hermes is absolutely stunnning both as a wreck and more so the amount of fish life on and in it. I'll repeat the comments about taking only photos. Penetrations are not especially difficult. Though watch out for the amount of old line inside. There is no monofilament or nets outside. Average depths for us were in the 45-48m range. Vis was variable but generally quite good. Not always present but allow for currents between 6 and 21m and temperatures down to 24 degrees. 27 to 30 degrees was the norm.

The other dives where very different to the Hermes. Much shallower and spread out. Lots of nooks and crannies to spend plenty of time.

My overall comments: a brilliant dive destination and Feli does a good job considering the lack of infrastructure locally.

Some things to consider:

If you need everything to run to plan and to have the finer things in life remote Eastern Srilanka may not be for you. If you are adaptable and reasonable you will be rewarded with an exceptional destination

The current facilities are clean and functional but quite small by dive "Resorts" standards. If you are coming as a large group and need special gasses or equipmnent or have very tight tollerances then give plenty of notice, discuss what is required and be prepare to bring some of your own specialised gear (eg He analyser, digital fill whips etc). Above all be flexible and be prepared to help out if required. We had a great time. Having said that I could see someone expecting military precision and having everything laid on getting very frustrated.

1200+ Posts

2309 Posts

Posted - 14 August 2012 :  2:27:31 PM
Thanks for your great report Mike. Did you experience temps of 24 while you were there 3 weeks ago? We are planning on taking 3mm long suits but may add in a sharkskin top as well. Were the stage kits on the tanks okay? Reasonable bolt snaps? Not suicide or butterfly clips? We are taking our own O2 analysers but thinking might take stage kits. Our TA has arranged a 30kg luggage limit for us on Singapore airlines
I like the idea of going somewhere a bit different/remote. Then have a relaxing Maldives live aboard to follow :)
yeh biggest concern is the number of tanks and fills with our group of 11.
4 more sleeps.... :)

Edited by - Alien on 14 August 2012 2:31:30 PM

30+ Posts

64 Posts

Posted - 14 August 2012 :  11:17:42 PM
Temps were variable throughout the dive. Generally it was quite warm in the 27 degrees plus range but be prepared for some cold layers down to 24/25 degrees. I wore a long 3mm with a 3mm hooded vest. I didn't over heat but did welcome the extra layer at times. Keep in mind that I live in Indonesia so feel the cold. One thing I didnt mention was bring and use sun cream. Towards the end of the stay, I was using gloves just to stop the top of my hands getting burnt in the clear water during the 6m deco stops. Perhaps I'm just getting soft..

Stage rigging was intact but a bit ratty. There were a few suicide clips. I brought my own. Between 11 someone can bring some tape and markers for labelling.

My bag was 32kgs with 5 regs, 3 stage kits, canister light, jet fins and all the toys for penetration. Washing is available locally or just rinse in the shower. Everything sun dries very quickly so not a lot of clothing is required unless you have another stop before or after Batti. A visit into town will be at most a couple of beers and a meal. Sundays finest is not required.

What configuration are you diving? Refilling 11 twinsets of trimix plus decos during the surface interval will be a big ask with the existing infrastructure. Apparently power failures can be planned for as power is rationed with warning. Ask Feli and plan for it. The small petrol compressor will take forever to fill 11 twins. Consider turning some empty oxygen and/or helium cylinders into a small bank.

With 11 going talk to everyone and share spares. Feli has basic tools but you can't just walk to the local shop if something breaks. Beyond spare parts the other things I would share amongst a group of this size would be a couple of oxygen and helium analysers. Bring a CO analyser if you have one for piece of mind. An extra digital fill whip will help accurate blends and speed fills. Again consider a DIY bank. We also had a trash bag filler to allow partially filled trimix cylinder to be transferred to fill another. Helium is expensive so this prevents dumping gas.

Probably the biggest thing is simply for the group to have their act together during the interval. Know who is doing what. It doesn't have to be boot camp but if some can help out then that will make life easier. Conversely if 11 people are in the fill shed you will be tripping over each over. Consider breaking the group up and diving at staggered times. Remember that if you are out too late in the afternoon the conditions may become quite rough.

Most importantly, enjoy the trip. I did.....

30+ Posts

51 Posts

Posted - 15 August 2012 :  12:23:23 AM
Hi Terri,

Greetings from Sri lanka. Just a couple of more sleepless nights !!

You will be over here to dive. Me and my team will do our best to make your stay a memorable one.

This year we have had a three groups with 10 pax in each group.
Now it's going to be one more. No problem.

We have one O2 analyzer and a Helium analyzer. Bought online last week.

I will use an air bank as well apart form the compressors.
We will be ready to depart at 0700 hrs for the first dive.
0600 hrs breakfast. Boys will start loading the cylinders from 06.30 on wards and we can depart at 0700 hrs.
Return around 0900 - 0915 hrs. We can start topping up immediately.
We can use both compressors and top up 12 twins in two hours.

11.30 early lunch and depart at 12.30hrs for the 2nd dive.
Two of the boat capt. will do the compressor handling.

Every evening we will fill the nitrox to 200 bar.
I use the same for three dives. Some divers use the 200 bar for two dives. But we will make sure that you have more than 140b of Nitrox. If the pressure is less than 140 we bleed a little and add 30 - 40 bar of O2 and top of with air.
We have been doing this.

Your Tour Leader will bring some breakaway clips single enders.

Wish you a pleasant flt.
Tec Deep Instr.

30+ Posts

51 Posts

Posted - 15 August 2012 :  01:28:10 AM
Hi Mark,

Greetings from me and my team to you. We admire your excellent diving skills and thanks a lot for visiting sri lanka.

You and your buddies had a lot respect to the Wreck HMS Hermes which is a war grave.

All the groups so far enjoyed the dives and paid a lot of respect to the wreck hermes. Only one group of divers tried to take artifacts away and I was compelled to prevent same. That triggered the negative reports.

From my point of view the wreck Hermes should remain untouched and and undisturbed for ever.

Feli & the team at sri

1200+ Posts

2309 Posts

Posted - 15 August 2012 :  1:11:56 PM
Thanks mike. we are a group that travel together a lot and pitch in. We are diving back gas air with 50% deco so sounds ok for us. How much was your He? See you soon Feli.

30+ Posts

64 Posts

Posted - 15 August 2012 :  3:31:01 PM
Terri, check your emails.

1200+ Posts

2309 Posts

Posted - 16 August 2012 :  09:35:48 AM
Didnt receive anything

30+ Posts

64 Posts

Posted - 16 August 2012 :  10:53:31 AM
Originally posted by Alien

Didnt receive anything

9 cents a litre. Worked out to about $1300 for the week on 21/30 twins with the occasional extra stage of BG. I was sucking the TMX down to fumes outside before heading up.

30+ Posts

51 Posts

Posted - 16 August 2012 :  9:56:00 PM
Hi Terri,

We have many wrecks to dive. Some of these are no yet identified.

The following wrecks have been identified.

1) Wreck HMS Hermes.

2) British Seargent.

3) Lady Macalom

4) Lady Blake

5) MFA Atjhelstane.

6) Covett Holyhok.

Wrecks yet to be identified.

7) Thethathivu wreck. (three boilers)

8 and 9) Batticaloa Boiler wrecks.

10) Wreck in Kalmunai.

11) Another Wreck in Kalmunai

12) Wreck in Kalkuda.

Soem divers are un der the impression that the Big boiler wreck
in BAtticaloa should be the wreck of Sir John Jackson.

LOA 109 m

The length is ok But need to find the engine details.

Has the ship sir John Jackson got three five boilers and to props ??
If yes it is the wreck of sir John Jackson which ran a ground on the 27th of Sept 1908.

Need some help to identify.

Happy diving

30+ Posts

64 Posts

Posted - 31 August 2012 :  09:06:15 AM

How is/did it go? Was the large group OK?

30+ Posts

51 Posts

Posted - 03 September 2012 :  8:56:06 PM
Hi hermes divers

Here is an article written by an eye witness
who had been a 16 year old youth during the Indian ocean raid.

When Warrick, Paul and the Info group came to the Deep Sea Resort in 2011 we met Mr. prince Casinader.
Ex Principal of the Methodist college in Batticaloa and Ex Member of the Parliament in Sri lanka.


As I read Ruhanie Pereras article titled DEEP INTO THE HISTORY in the SUNDAY TIMES OF September 11th this year, in a flash back my thoughts went back to April 1942 sixty six years ago, where in the eastern town of Sri Lanka, the capital of the east, as a young school boy, men and women had gathered at a cemetery there as three badly decomposed bodies of three Australian sailors were laid to rest, with only two name boards K.A.Vatcher and the other Lewis, while the 3rd grave was of the unknown naval sailor, whose name disc tied on his wrist had broken away, defying indication. The three were supposed to be from the Australian war ship possibly the H.M.s.Vampire.
The bodies had been swashed ashore off Batticaloa from the scene where the one handed sea battle had taken place, when the Japanese warplanes mercilessly bombed the war ships of the British eastern fleet.
At the nerve center of Batticaloas Government center the Batticaloa Dutch fort known as Kachcheri (land registry). The officials all ran out of their desks where from this grand stand they could clearly see like a swarm of angry bees the Japanese bombers attacking especially the H.M.S.Hermes.
Amoung the few survivors was the Navigation officer of the Hermes Mr.Black who had managed to swim ashore as the Gallant ship sank not far away from the Batticaloa Bar light house. His report was very revealing.
Glancing up I saw the first attack developing out nof the Sun. By 10.55 A.M. five minutes after the first attack where the bombs hit the Gallant ship, the Hermes sank quite within a few miles off Batticaloa.
Many corpses were washed ashore and about 10 of the crew of the crew were able to swim Ashore.
This Navigation officer later reached a high position in the Judicial Services of Englandas a Judge and Commissioner at the old Bailyon every annivasary of the tragedy Mr.Black unfailingly published an IN MEMORIAM in one of the english papers.
AND SHIPMATES - N The Captain of the ship had in true British tradition had gone down with the ship to his watery grave.
After the attack on Trincomalee on the 9th April 1942 Admiral Sir James somerville ordered the ships to get out of Trincomalee hence the Hermes and its escort ship H.M.A.S VAMPIRE dashed out along the East coast and met their waterloo.
The Hermes had adisplacemnt of 10,950 Tons and 12,900 with full load. Her overall length was 598 ft. Her beam was 70ft. She was powered by Parsons ngeared Turbines and her speed was 25 knots, built to carry 15 to 20 air crafts. Her complement was to be 551 to 664. After the wreck and loss of the ship, the British Admiralty built another air craft carrier naming that too as Hermes and this air craft carrier palyed a leading role in the Battle of the Falklands.
The wreck of this historical ship lies cheek by jowl along the village of Navalady which was smashed by the recent Tsunami blast, where even a sea cottage I had was blasted. This place full of Fishermen - over the years saw several of these fishermen , going by catamaran, dynamiting parts of the ship closer to the shore and selling same to local black smiths. Once I alerted the Police of this kind of blatant blast of historical objects. A few years ago a Sub Inspector of the Police at Batticaloa lay an ambush and caught a group bringing the spoils of the dynamited propellor and as the police rushed in, they left their spoils and took to their heels.
The recoverd popollor lay on the varandah of the old Batticaloa Police station and later produced in courts and haplessly sold for a song of a few rupees not realising the priceless worth of this historical object, where it lay at the Police station I have a photo, I took with my senior students standing around it.
I am told by fishermen that the wreck could still be seen unless of course the beastly TSUNAMI too shattered the remnants.
Prince Casinader
(Retired Principal)
Ex member of the parliament.

HI divers,
Here is a report from the retired school Principal Mr Prince Casinader who as a young boy witnessed the sea battle of the Indian ocean.
Happy reading F

A visit to the wreckage of aircraft carrier HMS Hermes.
By Felician Fernando,

The aircraft carrier HMS Hermes set sail from Trincomalee harbour on 09/04/1942 on a mission. A Japanese invasion was impending. About 70 carrier borne Japanese bombers had taken off from 3 Japanese carriers which had entered Bay of Bengal the week before attacked the Trincomalee harbour end other allied naval assets. The Japanese air fleet managed to sink this carrier and other destroyers during the attack. They attacked the Trincomalee harbour and the oil tank as well. The carrier is supposed to have got about 40 direct hits and sank within 10 minutes. From the complement of HMS Hermes 19 officers including the captain (R. J. Onslaw) of the ship and 278 ratings lost their lives. About 400 were rescued by a Hospital ship, Two or three days later three heavily decomposed bodies were found on the beach near the Batticaloa light house. Two of the bodies had the name tags and one was without a name tag. The photographer who managed to save his life visited the site along with his son on board a Sri Lankan naval vessel. The vessel midshipmen Capt. Edward Jayawardana had entered these details in his journal. Subsequently the son of the photographer wrote in a journal of the ill-fated carrier taking the notes his father made. He also revisited Sri Lanka along with his fathers ashes to dump it over the shipwreck to fulfill his fathers last wish. Incidentally Capt. Edward Jayawardana was again tasked to carry out this mission. These incidents are appended in the next edition of the journal of HMS Hermes.

I clarified the details obtained from the Internet regarding the positions from Capt. Edward Jayawardana. I was determined to visit this wreckage and made elaborate plans since this wreckage has a historic value. The mission was quite dangerous and life threatening as the wreckage was supposed to be lying at a depth of 60 meters according to the information. The PADI recreational dive planner limits its dives only up to 42 meters. The non-decompression limit is 9 minutes at this depth and any stay beyond that requires decompression stop starting at 9 - 12 meters. Depending on the length of stay.

The divers air consumption at this depth is normally very high due to high surrounding pressure which is about six times more than the surface. In my more than 2400 log dives, I had passed 40 meters about 45 times. Hence I was confident enough that I would not encounter any problems such as Nitrogen Narcosis, since during these dives I managed without any difficulties. Nitrogen Narcosis is the diver getting a feeling of intoxication, false safety, security and non responsiveness for buddys signals etc. due to the excess quantity of nitrogen in the blood stream.

On 14/04/02 my buddy and myself arrived at Batticaloa planning to dive next day. We managed to find a boat to transport us to the site. The boatmen were not familiar with the site since they havent fished in that area for many years. After a 45 minutes journey using the global positioning system we arrived at the approximate site. The echo sounder/ fish finder sounded a depth of 48 meters. I got the boatmen to shift the boat forward and backward and recorded the depth on both sides which was around 60 meters and laterally 48 meters. The position matched the details of Capt. Edward Jayawardana. We got the boatman to anchor, after determining that the boat was steady on anchor, we dropped the two additional tanks fitted with an extra primary and secondary air sources to a depth of 15 meters. Thereafter we got into our diving equipment carried out thorough functional checks and rolled over the boat to the deep sea. We directly swam to the anchor rope and started our descent.

Although the current was very strong we managed to descend along the anchor rope. My buddy was also an experienced PADI scuba diving instructor. We stopped at 15 meters to check the additional tanks and secured it to the anchor rope. After satisfying ourselves about the safety of the additional tanks we started descending from these additional tanks knowing the fact that they were our life saving equipment. After spending 20 minutes at a depth of 48 meters since we cannot arrive on the surface directly, as the excess nitrogen in our tissues would bring us to decompression sickness, which can be fatal. Upon descending up to 30 meters we could see the astonishing site of HMS Hermes which was my dream to explore lying in a majestic way. The environment had not caused any damages . The ship was very well intact. It had tilted portside to the ground.

There were large and tall gorgnia corals, giant seaferns all over the wreckage. These corals had grown uninterrupted over the past 60 years. There were large fish moving freely not caring about the two intruding divers. We saw fish like red snappers, larges Travelly (paraw) seer and Barrac We secured a rope to the anchor line and started moving along the wreckage of the ship. We observed an anti aircraft gun at the mid section. The corals were very fascinating. During my 2400 logged dives at places like Maldives, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and in local areas such as Negombo, down south , Trinco and in other places I had never sighted such beautifully grown Georgina corals. The fish like large Trivelly were not concerned about the divers presence. We were hovering at a depth of 48 meters without descending to the seabed.

The wreckage, which was in good shape, needs many more dives to explore fully. We managed only to explore 50m out of 195 meters. The ship had sunk tilting port side down. The depth to the starboard side was 48 meters and sand bottom/seabed is at a depth of 55 meters. After spending 20 minutes on the wreckage we started to ascend along the anchor rope. We stopped at the additional tanks and carried out decompression stops as required by our dive computers. The additional tanks were very handy since we had only about 70 bar left in our tanks when we reached the additional tanks.

It is pertinent to mention the 20-min spent at the wreckage was the most exciting and adventurous dive in my entire diving career. A dive to this wreck would be very interesting and an adventure for any experienced and nature loving diver. The surface current in this area is generally very strong, the water clear. Divers will have to be well prepared and physically fit and need to be well aware of technical diving.

In the whole world there are only two wreckage of aircraft carriers for recreational divers to see. This is certainly one of them and the other is supposed to be the USS Saratoga.

All other wreckages of aircraft carriers rest in unreachable depths for recreational divers. Upon developing the film role we understood that we should use very powerful strobes to get clear images.

The details of the ship is as follows. LOA 195 m Boa 22 m weight 10950 tons. Weapons 5.5 cannons. 4 anti aircraft guns and 12 aircrafts.

For more than three decades a dive to this historic wreckage was impossible due to the security situation. Now it has changed. An adventure technical dive to this historic wreckage has become major tourist attraction. Now the exact waypoint is marked in my instruments and this will enable me to reach the site with pinpoint accuracy.

The Australain destroyer "Vampire" which lost nine men is yet to be found. The aircraft carriers used by the Japanese force for these battles are supposed to have used by them to attack the Pearl Harbour as well.

30+ Posts

51 Posts

Posted - 03 September 2012 :  9:29:19 PM
Here you find more about the survivors of the Indian ocean raid
in 1942.


Deep into history
Shipwreck Detectives, a World War II documentary on the Battle of Ceylon, brings four veterans on a personal odyssey back to the shores of Sri Lanka, 60 years on
By Ruhanie Perera
From the moment I got off the plane and got into my first tuk-tuk I was hooked.

Julia Redwood, director of the documentary on the Battle of Ceylon which was filmed in Sri Lanka over the last month and one of the producers for the series Shipwreck Detectives sits on the terrace by the sea at the Galle Face Hotel. Her work in Sri Lanka complete, she finally has a moment to recount her experiences. The cinematic journey she describes is one that tells the story of a significant moment in Sri Lankas modern history a moment that has been recorded as the most dangerous moment of the Second World War, the Battle of Ceylon.

Perhaps it is poetic justice that this interview should have taken place so close to the sea for the focus of the film crews work here has been to uncover the stories of the sea

For the Shipwreck Detectives, their quests for wrecks lay emphasis on the idea that shipwrecks are not about treasure, but about history. The overall theme of the second series of Shipwreck Detectives, a three-part documentary on the maritime archaeology of Sri Lanka specifically centred on Galle and the Dutch colonial past in Sri Lanka, a 2000 BC shipwreck off Turkey and the Battle of Ceylon made for ABC Television and Discovery Canada, is thus about making people aware of history through shipwrecks, underscoring the significance of maritime heritage and the importance of protecting it.

Julia Redwood and Ed Punchard, the principal players in the Fremantle, Western Australia-based documentary production company Prospero Productions established in 1991 have always had a passion for telling stories and a passion for history, maritime history in particular. Ed, a North Sea diver was involved in what was considered the worlds worst off-shore oil disaster in 1988 in the North Sea and has an understanding of being shipwrecked and of losing mates at sea. The natural progression of which is the great affinity the team shares for shipwreck stories, for the stories of people who have survived shipwrecks and for the families and friends who have lost people at sea.

Three strands make up the Battle of Ceylon film, the working title of which is the most dangerous moment the search for two shipwrecks the HMS Hermes and the HMAS Vampire, the personal journeys of remembrance made by four war veterans and the historical analysis which involved researching the question why did Churchill call this the most dangerous moment and the exploration of the many Sri Lankan perspectives on the event through the stories of veterans and civilians who lived through the air raids of April 5 and 9, in 1942.

This story of the Battle of Ceylon is thus linked to the two shipwrecks, the HMS Hermes, an aircraft carrier that was a significant British vessel and the accompanying Australian destroyer, the HMAS Vampire, which were sunk on April 9, 1942 during the Japanese air raids over Colombo and Trincomalee. Says Julia, We discovered the story and loved it. It was tragic, dramatic and significant in terms of history, WWII history in particular and barely discussed.

Curiosity aroused, it was decided that through the Shipwreck Detectives a search would be carried out for the Hermes and the Vampire, the quest being to find the Vampire which had never been located and to relocate the Hermes which had been located off Batticaloa. Taking the lead in this adventure were maritime archaeologists from the Western Australian Maritime Museum; Jeremy Green, the head of Maritime Archaeology at the museum and Corioli Souter were no strangers to Sri Lankan maritime archaeology because of their work in the field of exploring the underwater archaeological potential of Sri Lanka with Somasiri Devendra, retired Lieutenant Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy, today a naval historian and maritime archaeologist.

This project carried out under his supervision (which involves the film being released with his authorisation) saw the diving expedition in Batticaloa make the discovery that the Hermes was not located where it was on the admiralty charts. The Vampire, unfortunately, could not be found. Says Devendra, Off the coast of Sri Lanka the continental shelf is very narrow and off Batticaloa there is a deep trench which comes very close to the shore and we think the Vampire may be there. The area is about 900 metres deep and locating it is impossible unless we had the equipment used in the search for the Titanic.

The Battle of Ceylon story, running for the duration of one television hour, approximately 52 minutes, traces also the intensely personal journeys of four war veterans who were survivors from the vessels. Stan Curtis and Alex Rusk (HMS Hermes) and Vince Cesari and Bill Price (HMAS Vampire), returned to Sri Lanka after 63 years, having never returned after the war. For these veterans, says Julia, who are in the twilight of their years, the autumn of their years, this could be the last time theyll get to tell their stories.

Retracing their steps from Colombo through Kandy to Trincomalee, the journey was for most of them a moment to relive events, points out Consultant Historian for the documentary Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe who worked closely with the veterans. This experience, he feels, also brought about some sense of conclusion at the latter stages of their lives and it perhaps may have even raised more questions questions which are unanswered to this day and perhaps never will be.

At the core of the historical strand of the documentary is one haunting question, why would Churchill call this the most dangerous moment. Presenting the many perspectives on the subject is Sergei, an individual with as Julia points out a passion for Sri Lanka. A Sri Lankan-born Australian, Sergei brings into the film a unique perspective because hes an outsider but hes from this place and he has an absolute passion and commitment to Sri Lanka.

In Colombo and Trincomalee, Sergei was brought in to explain the sequence of the tactical air raids and explain the overall strategic situation that faced Ceylon before and after the battle. The Japanese air raid over Colombo and Trincomalee was a strategic and tactical success but the Japanese failed in their main objective, which was to locate and destroy the British Eastern fleet. The Battle of Ceylon was considered by Winston Churchill to be the most dangerous moment of the Second World War for the British. Why? Until the first half of 1942, Germany and Japan were making steady territorial gains from North Africa, the Caucasus and the Indian Ocean. Ceylon was the weakest link in the defence perimeter. Most importantly, if the British lost control of Ceylon, they essentially lost control of the Indian Ocean, with the potential loss of India. For the British at that time everything in the East hinged on retaining the naval bases in Ceylon.

Introduced to Prospero Productions through Devendra, Sergeis primary role was to research the Japanese air raids of April 1942. In the documentary his was an interactive role that saw him cast as an on-screen character.
The research on the Battle of Ceylon, is as Sergei describes it, a work in progress. Its like trying to fit a jigsaw puzzle together with sections still missing. With limited historical information on Japanese perspectives of the operation, he is on the lookout for information on the Battle of Ceylon, by way of articles, film footage, letters, memoirs and photographs etc. He is also interested in finding out more about the role of the Ceylon Naval Volunteer Force (CNVF) and the Ceylon Garrison Artillery (CGA), that had featured prominently in the air raids. (Sergei can be contacted at or PO Box 251, Batman Victoria 3058, Australia.)

This documentary sets out to do more than simply document historical fact. It tries to bring about some resolution to an intensely personal moment that climaxes with the memorial mass at sea in Trincomalee when the Sri Lanka Navy took the veterans to pay their respects to their shipmates. The moment is a conclusion of sorts, emphasising the significance of journeys, both personal and political, remembrances and the silent promise that veteran and historian make to those who were lost in this historical moment that they shall not grow old

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Posted - 04 September 2012 :  4:09:43 PM
Originally posted by goferrin99


How is/did it go? Was the large group OK?

Went very well. Wreck was brill. Not much current. Mid level dirty water made for dark water on the bottom. Cleared up near the surface as the week went. Will post a more detailed report soon. Just got back from a week in the Maldives after Sri Lanka.
Had a wonderful time with Feli and his family. Food was wonderful, rooms cool, clean, boat guys fun, etc. Loved Sri Lanka would love to go back.
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