Qualification Level: Ocean Diver
Depth Range: 7 – 24m
When to dive: Any state of the tide. There may be up to half a knot on big spring tides.
Key Features: Wreck, Lots to explore, many fish, good for photography
Chart Plotter Name: JAMES E LN
GPS Location:N50 19.5980’ W004 14.716’ or N50 19.601’ W004 14.723’ (Scuba Mag)
Launch Site Address: The Mountbatten Centre, 70 Lawrence Rd, Plymouth PL9 9SJ (may not be usable at low water)
Google Maps: Click For Map
Travel time from Boat Shed: 2 hrs, 103 miles
Site Facilities: Free wide slip, Free Parking car and trailer (Mountbatten Centre car park charges), Toilets, Air Fills Café/Bar, Pub, Pedestrian Ferry to The Barbican
Launch Fee: No charge
Distance over water:
Is it permanently bouyed: No
Air Fill: ‘In Deep’ at the Mountbatton Centre (01752 405 400) or Plymouth Diving Centre, Queen Anne’s Battery Marina (01752 263 900)
Coastguard 999 or 112 (both numbers function identically)
For advice on diving related incidents or urgent and emergency hyperbaric referrals including carbon monoxide poisoning in the South West of England contact DDRC on +44 (0)1752 209999
Hyperbaric Recompression Chambers:
DDRC: at Tamar Science Park, Derriford Road, Plymouth, PL6 8BQ. 24hr Advice Line – 01752 209 999
The Diver Clinic, 7 Parkstone Road (A350), Poole, Dorset, BH15 2NN. 24 hour cover Telephone: Day time – 01202 678278, Emergency 07770 423637 (answer service) A return call will be made
Wreck is 100 metres NE of the large red wreck boy in Whitsands Bay and lies roughly North-East to South-West with her bow towards the shore.
The stern section has broken away and lies some 15 to 30m away (depends who’s account you read) west-north-west from what’s left of the stern of the main wreck.
The James Egan Layne was a Liberty ship delivered on 18 December 1944 taking only 56 days in total to construct.
The final trip of her short life was to leave Barry in South Wales with a cargo of 4,500 tons of US Army Engineers equipment for Patton’s third army. The cargo included tank parts, jeeps, lorries, railway rolling stock, Bailey bridge sections as well as motorboats and lumber as deck cargo.
On 20th March she led an eastbound convoy heading up the English Channel from Milford Haven towards her final destination at Ghent in Belgium.
The sea on 21st March was calm but patchy fog made visibility difficult. At 1:30pm the convoy was sighted sailing 12 miles off Plymouth by Commander Heinz Buhse in U-boat U-399. A torpedo hit the starboard side of the ship just aft of the bulkhead between #4 and #5 holds, flooding the aft holds, blowing off hatch covers, cracking the hull on the port side and damaging the propeller shaft and steering gear. After fifteen minutes the crew abandoned ship. None were lost.
She was towed by tugs towards Plymouth but slowly sinking deeper by the stern they decided to beach her in Whitsand Bay to the west. At 7pm the ship grounded aft in 22m and eventually settled on the bottom.
Salvage work was carried out at various times over the years including Sports divers visiting the site and removing large quantity of the non-ferrous cargo, most of which was sent to the scrap yard. That’s how they financed their diving which first started on the wreck in 1954. The James Eagan Layne became one of, if not ‘the’ iconic UK wreck dive. As such it introduced literally thousands of UK divers to wreck diving and is now an intrinsic part of the history of the sport of recreational diving in the UK.
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