Video of BBC news item on the presentation of Jamies plaque find on the Oceana back to the Sherwood Foresters Regiment.
It Had To Be Done
On 29 January 1819 the 45th (Nottinghamshire) Regiment sailed from Cork for foreign service and did not return to England until 24 March 1838 - an absence from home of 19 years and two months. During that period it served in Ceylon, Burma and India suffering a very large number of deaths among its members, mainly through disease. In November 1836 it marched out of its last long term station of Secunderabad, India prior to returning to England. At that time arrangements were made for a memorial to be erected to commemorate the 1494 men, women and children of the Regiment who had died between 1819 and 1836.
In 1881 the 45th Regiment amalgamated with the 95th (Derbyshire) Regiment to form the Sherwood Foresters. In March 1909 the 1st Battalion The Sherwood Foresters, the direct successor to the 45th, was also stationed in Secunderabad where it served until December 1912. Although history does not relate, it is surmised from later evidence that a decision was made to put up a memorial plaque again commemorating those of the 45th who had died previously. An order for its manufacture must have been placed with a firm in England for such a brass plaque was aboard the SS Oceana, along with £750,000 worth of gold and silver ingots, when she sailed from Tilbury on 15 March 1912 bound for Bombay. Unfortunately, in the early morning of 16 March she was in collision with the German barque Pisagua which was beating up the Channel. The Oceana sank with the loss of seven passengers and crew. The Pisagua was towed to Dover. Subsequently most of the gold and silver was salvaged. Evidently the 1st Battalion, having learned of the disaster, arranged for a replacement memorial tablet to be produced because the Regimental history records that on 17 November 1912 the Battalion paraded 'as strong as possible' for the unveiling of the tablet in St John's Church in Secunderabad.
DISCOVERY OF 45TH REGIMENT MEMORIAL PLAQUE IN WRECKAGE OF SS OCEANA
ACCOUNT BY JAMIE SMITH, THE FINDER
The plaque was firmly stuck in the seabed with other wreckage just to the side of the wreck, it must have fallen out when the wreck was opened up, possibly from dispersal works.
I just saw the top edge of it sticking out, gave it a clump with my Archaeological hammer, then cleaned off the marine growth and I could then see it was brass, so a good 'Heave Ho' and lot of wriggling it started to come out of the sea bed. I was a bit surprised how big it was! Then I saw some of the lettering and knew it was some thing special. The next problem was how to get it up, there were only the four small screw holes in the corners, so they were no help. Luckily I had invested in some large net bags, only just big enough to accommodate the 20 by 30 inch plaque, a lift bag was attached and it was sent up to surface for inspection.
On 4 August 2009 Jamie Smith, the Diving Officer of the Tunbridge Wells Sub-Aqua Diving Club discovered the original brass plaque part-protruding from the seabed near the wreck of the Oceana and managed to recover it. The Diving Club generously waived its rights and decided to donate it to the Museum. The Receiver of Wreck gave permission for it to be donated to the Regimental Museum recognising that it was the appropriate recipient. The donation took place at 1215 pm Friday 9 October 2009 at Foresters House.