A pair of scuba diving brothers made an incredible discovery when they uncovered a royal shipwreck from 1682, only to have to keep it a secret for 15 years.
Lincoln and Julian Barwell found the wreck of the HMS Gloucester, a ship which had sunk while carrying the future King James II, after a search that lasted four years and covered 5,000 nautical miles.
However, their incredible discovery was actually made all the way back in 2007 and they have been keeping it a secret for the past 15 years.
The brothers had spent years searching for the ship, helped by their late father Michael and former Royal Navy diver James Little.
The sensitivity of the shipwreck's site and the need to protect an 'at risk' discovery meant they had to keep things under wraps for years.
Lincoln explained that they had been on their fourth dive looking for the ship when they finally found it.
He said: "We were starting to believe that we were not going to find her, we’d dived so much and just found sand.
"On my descent to the seabed, the first thing I spotted were large cannon laying on white sand, it was awe-inspiring and really beautiful.
“It instantly felt like a privilege to be there, it was so exciting."
An exhibition of artefacts recovered from the shipwreck is due to go on display in Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery in Spring 2023.
Professor Claire Jowitt, a maritime history expert at the University of East Anglia, said this was the most significant historic maritime discovery since the Tudor warship Mary Rose was raised from the sea in 1982.
The HMS Gloucester was a 50 gun frigate built during the 1650s that participated in a number of battles against Spanish and Dutch fleets.
The ship was on a voyage to Edinburgh in 1682 when it struck a sandbank 28 miles off Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, and began to sink with between 130 and 250 people dying in the wreck.
Aboard the ship was the future King James II, then Duke of York, who was journeying to Edinburgh to collect his pregnant wife.
Many lives were lost because protocol dictated nobody could abandon ship before royalty while he didn't leave until the last minute.
Blame for the shipwreck instead fell on captain James Ayres who was court-martialled and imprisoned, a fortunate verdict considering the future king wanted him executed.
Also rescued from the ship was John Churchill, one of Britain's greatest soldiers and an ancestor of Winston Churchill.
Famous diarist Samuel Pepys, on another ship in the same fleet, witnessed the wreck and recounted that survivors were 'half dead' when they were rescued from the waves.
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Topics: UK News