12. The Swiss Navy

Happy New Year to you all.

In an example of the “history begins yesterday” approach the recording of post-1945 wrecks began in 2010, when something like 500 modern wrecks were input onto the National Record of the Historic Environment (now under the aegis of Historic England, but at the time when this post was originally written, part of English Heritage).

That old joke about the Swiss Navy isn’t quite as far fetched as you might think: in the 20th century there was, and indeed into the 21st there remains, a Swiss mercantile marine not confined to the shores of Lake Geneva!

Today’s wreck is the Nyon, a Swiss ship which foundered off Beachy Head with a cargo of Mercedes cars following a collision with the Jalazad in 1962. Not only was she Swiss-registered, she is unusual for another reason.

In fact, she is a double wreck, in fact, because part of her had been left behind when she was hauled off the Byrips off St. Abb’s Head, Scotland, in 1958, and so is in the records of the Canmore database (Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of Scotland) as a wreck. She was repaired and re-entered service until her final loss in the 1962 incident. This form of double wrecking in different locations at different times, though rare, does occasionally happen and we signpost as appropriate to other records, as in this instance.

This interesting picture story recounts this initial incident.

Similarly landlocked at first sight are the ships which used to belong to Austria-Hungary, but the Austro-Hungarian Empire was formerly much greater than the borders of the eponymous constituent countries today, and had an outlet to the sea at Trieste in modern Italy and at ports on the Croatian coast.

We know of at least 60 ships which either belonged to Austria-Hungary at the time of loss or had borne an Austro-Hungarian nationality at an earlier period. One of the latter was the Elmcrest, torpedoed in 1940, having formerly borne the Hungarian name of Auguszta Főhercegnő (Archduchess Augusta). In other words, within our records is a body of evidence for ships registered in countries that have never had (Switzerland), or formerly had (Austro-Hungary), an outlet to the sea.

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