THEY were once key parts of the British war effort thought lost underwater.
Now the Maritime Archaeology Trust has been given a £1.1m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to search The Solent for sunken First World War ships.
The Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War project will begin this spring and spend four years searching 700 wreck sites across the south coast, including merchant, naval, passenger, troop and hospital ships.
Garry Momber, director of the trust, formerly known as the Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology, said: “I am delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund is supporting this project. These wrecks are subject to corrosion and the impact of our changing seas so it is only a matter of time before many of these sites could become scattered elements on the seabed.
“There is a real risk that knowledge of these wrecks, if not fully researched, could be lost forever.”
Stuart McLeod, head of Heritage Lottery Fund South East, added: “Forgotten Wrecks will open up a part of our wartime heritage that has remained largely under-researched and undervalued. The immense contribution to the war effort made at sea and the thousands of people who lost their lives just off our shores deserve to be remembered.
“This project will gather valuable information on the hundreds of wrecks that lie beneath the waves and piece together their journeys and the stories of those that sailed and fought on them.”
It is the latest project celebrating the centenary of the First World War that the HLF has invested in and adds to the £47m granted so far.
The project will also involve Hampshire schools with youngsters encouraged to take an active role in research.