Wreck Tour 71: The Verona

The Verona Wreck Tour

A fast luxury yacht with guns – the Verona is an intriguing prospect, says JOHN LIDDIARD. Mined in 1917, it lies in 39m out from Lossiemouth. Illustration by MAX ELLIS

With all the fittings of a luxury yacht, advanced engineering and added guns all crammed into a space that can be explored without getting too far into decompression, the Verona has the right ingredients for an inspiring wreck-dive.

A buoyline is maintained tied to the wooden H-post on the bow deck, hidden in this view (1). Forward of this, the clipper-styled bowsprit (2) reaches out covered in dead men’s fingers, a symbol of the Verona’s fast speed – for her size and age – of 14 knots.

a porcelain toilet bowl with painted blue pattern inside
Anchor below the bow, too modern to be one of Verona’s

The whole bow is leaning well over to starboard. Behind the H-post, the anchor-winch is beginning to fall apart, the base and main spindle still attached to the teak deck, while two smaller spindles have fallen to the seabed at 39m, again out of sight on this view (3).

Staying on the starboard side near the seabed for now, a pair of small bollards have also tumbled loose from the less-substantial deck behind the anchor-winch. Then comes the first of the Verona’s guns, the barrel pointing aft (4).

Cutting through the now-broken wreck to the port side, white porcelain showing up among the debris represents the remains of two toilet-bowls and a hand-basin, the toilet-bowls intricately decorated with blue line patterns (5). It’s a reminder of the opulence of the original yacht. The hull of the Verona is broken across here.

the anchor winch
Porcelain toilet-bowl with painted blue pattern inside

Though the bow has fallen well over to starboard, aft from the heads it is more upright and a little over to port. Just aft of the break, a plate with a solid ring in it (6) might have been part of the base for the gun-mount. Aft from here, the deck-ribs have fallen into the hull, sloping up to the higher starboard side to form a triangular section.

Arriving at the boilers, you’ll see that the donkey-boiler is a domed upright design (7), while the main boiler is a more obvious Scotch type (8), though rather large for the size of the Verona, and another indication of her speed.

The three fire-holes are lined upright to the port side of the wreck, indicating that the boiler has rolled 90° to starboard since the Verona was almost blown in two by a mine in 1917. Twenty-three lives were lost, so the wreck is a war grave and should be treated with appropriate respect. Inverness BSAC, which owns the wreck, requests that items are not removed.

The break is just aft of the boiler, with the aft section of the wreck 60 to 70° out of line with the forward part. The Verona’s wheelhouse would have been above the boiler, and just to the port of the boiler a plate off the side of the wreck partially covers the ship’s wheel (9).

Getting back to the main lay of the wreck, the hull aft of here is also twisted well over to port, though more broken up than the forward part (10).

Off the port side again, a rectangular box has partially spilled some glass plates onto the sand (11). That’s a bit of a mystery until the original plans of the Verona are examined, revealing that there was a photographer’s darkroom in this part of the yacht. These plates are most likely photographic plates that would have been stored in a lead-lined box.

Back on the main body of the wreck, the aft facilities are marked by another porcelain toilet-bowl with the blue-painted pattern (12), standing upright on its section of deck.

Like the hull forward of it, the stern has fallen to port, with a second gun lying on the seabed with its barrel pointing off the stern (13).

Just away from the tip of the barrel, a tube with narrow pistons along either side of it forms part of the steering-engine (14), the opposing pistons being powered by steam to assist the turning of the rudder.
The curved outline of the stern can just about be made out where it has broken down and fallen across the rudder, leaving the top of the rudder-post protruding from below the overall jumble of wreckage (15).

A slight break in the wreckage just forward of this provides a window through which the propeller can be seen, with the curved edge of one blade standing up beneath the remains of the Verona’s deck (16).

Moving back towards the centre of the wreck and towards the starboard side, a long section of keel (17) shows that the aft part of the Verona was well over on the port side before it collapsed in.

The Verona’s engine (18) is partly obscured by a plate from the keel and is in line with the forward section of the wreck. The break in the propeller-shaft is obscured by the plates of the fallen keel.

The engine is one of the most obviously unusual aspects of the Verona’s engineering. It is a four-cylinder quadruple-expansion engine, with the cylinders arranged side by side in two pairs. Behind the engine, a perforated disc is part of the telegraph repeater.

Staying on the keel side of the wreck, big chunks of coal are spread along the seabed behind and below the boiler (19).

The journey from the boiler back to the bow is largely a matter of revisiting all the goodies you passed on the way out, including the donkey-boiler, gun-mount and the blue-painted toilet-bowls. For a small variation, take in the port side of the bow, which is covered in more yellow and white dead men’s fingers all the way round to the bowsprit, then head back to the H-post and the line.


The luxury steam-yacht Tighnamara was a fine example of what Scottish shipbuilders could do when backed by copious quantities of Victorian money, writes Kendall McDonald. She was launched into the Clyde at Greenock in 1890, and when completed was an elegant, 50m twin-masted schooner shape, with her single funnel amidships.

Most of her fittings were solid brass, and even her toilets were highly decorated with blue flowers in the loo and curling blue foliage running riot around the china wash-basins, a sure sign in those days that she was the plaything of a seriously rich man.

She was also a good sea-boat, and ideal for cruising among the Western Isles. So it’s hard to understand why none of her owners kept her for more than a few years. Each one changed her name, so she became successively Katoomba, then Lord Byron, then Imogen. Another change of owner meant that when the Admiralty hired her for war work in November of 1914, she kept her latest name.

HM Yacht Verona was soon ordered to round Scotland and take up anti-submarine patrol duties off the east coast from a base in the Moray Firth. There she was suitably equipped to attack any U-boat she might meet, with small guns on her counter-stern and two more at the bow, near her long bowsprit. Later she was modified to take a single depth-charge, which was simply rolled over her stern.

She was never to use the guns or her depth-charge against any of the big mine-laying UC-class boats that were sinking large numbers of Allied ships in small minefields laid off the Scottish coast.

Verona hit a German mine in the early morning of 24 February, 1917 when patrolling some four miles south-east of Tarbat Ness. She sank in less than a minute.

Wreck Tour The Verona


GETTING THERE: Take the A941 from Elgin to Lossiemouth. In Lossiemouth, follow the waterfront along the west side of the river, past the first part of the harbour, then left to the second part. Top Cat is berthed at the end of the pontoon on the north side of the basin.

TIDES: There is little current at any state of the tide.

HOW TO FIND IT: The Verona lies pointing roughly south, GPS position 57 51.64N 03 38.61W (degrees, minutes and decimals). There are no convenient transits, so you have to search with a GPS and echo-sounder.

DIVING & AIR : Moray Diving, Top Cat, skipper Bill Ruck, 01309 690421, 07775 802963.

LAUNCHING : RIBs can be launched in the harbour at Lossiemouth.

ACCOMMODATIONAberdeen and Grampian Tourist Board, Elgin office, 01343 542666.

QUALIFICATIONS: The Verona is small enough to be dived as a no-stop dive, though more realistically a moderate amount of deco will be required.

FURTHER INFORMATION: Admiralty Charts 115 Moray Firth; 222 Buckie to Fraserburgh; 223 Dunrobin Point to Buckie. Ordnance Survey Map 28 Elgin and Dufftown.

PROS: Lots of unusual features. Slack water is not required.

CONS: A little bit deeper than many divers are comfortable with.

Thanks to Bill Ruck, John Leigh and Tim Walsh

Appeared in Diver January 2005

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