MORE than a hundred divers from all over the UK, and as far afield as the Netherlands, converged on Abercastle last week for a ten-day dive focussed on the wreck of the SS Leysian.

The Leysian was a 4,703-ton steamship taken into service as a prize of war by the British. From 1915 to 1917 she was used to transport pack animals from America to assist with the front-line war effort in Europe and north Africa.

But on February 20 1917, having unloaded a cargo of pack animals in Belfast, she was returning to America when she ran into the cliffs in Abercastle Bay and was wrecked.

There are conflicting accounts associated with the wrecking, the most common being that she mistook Strumble Head for St. David's Head in fog.

However, other accounts refer to her being chased onto the rocks by a German U-boat, the compass having been tampered with, and a mutiny on board.

No lives were lost and the 400ft vessel, half the size of the Titanic, sat upright in shallow water spanning Abercastle bay for around eight months until she eventually sank during an Autumn storm, around eight months later.

Groups of divers from 14 different dive centres went to the depths of the bay to record parts of the enormous wreck during the dive which was organised by the Nautical Archaeology Society and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales as part of the U Boat project.

A talk by Ian Cundy, the Nautical Archaeology Society's regional co-ordinator for Wales, packed Mathry village hall with locals turning up to find out more and to exchange stories and display artefacts salvaged from the wreck and passed down by their relatives.

"The dive went really well, apart from the unseasonal weather," said Ian. "All the data will now be be collected and a site plan created."

Ian is still appealing for any historical photos connected with the wreck.

"She sat across the bay for eight months," he said. "We haven't got a single photo from that time. This is one of the things we are appealing to local people for."

Anyone with any local information on the wreck, or photos of the SS Leysian in the bay, can e-mail Ian on or ring 01684 574774.