Historic Marine Protected Area

Campania Historic MPAHMPA4

Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (https://portal.historicenvironment.scot/termsandconditions).


Date Added
Supplementary Information Updated
20th Century Military and Related: Shipwreck
Local Authority
NT 23780 83697
323780, 683697

The marine historic asset located within the Campania Historic MPA is the remains of a vessel, the Campania, lying wrecked on or in the seabed, objects formerly contained in the vessel and deposits or artefacts which evidence previous human activity on board the vessel.

Boundaries of Historic Marine Protected Area

The area of sea within a distance of 150 metres of position latitude 56° 02'.404 north, longitude 03° 13'.497 west.


The Scottish Ministers are satisfied that designation of the Campania Historic MPA is desirable for the purpose of preserving a marine historic asset of national importance which is located within the area. The wrecked vessel is the Campania, a former Cunard liner converted in 1914 as a Fleet Air Arm carrier. Campania dragged anchor in Burntisland Roads and sank after collision on 5 November 1918. The wreck site lies at a depth of 22-25m below chart datum, 1.7km SSE of the entrance to Burntisland harbour, Fife.

Statement of National Importance

The wreck of Campania is of national importance on several accounts. She represents the first of the steam-driven, steel-constructed transatlantic liners not to rely on auxiliary sail in support of her engines. The wreck also represents a unique survival of a Clydebuilt passenger liner subsequently modified to carry aircraft and have a permanent flight deck. She played an important part both in the international story of transatlantic passenger transport, and in the evolution of fleet air arm warfare during the 19th and 20th centuries. Although substantially damaged by clearance operations and salvage, significant elements of her hull structure and fittings appear to remain intact and this suggests that the wreck retains potential both to illustrate and add knowledge to our understanding of a very important period of UK maritime history.

The wreck of the Campania is located within a busy sea area. Designation as an Historic MPA can help to enhance appreciation of the significance of this site and to encourage responsible approaches to access, management and protection by sea users and relevant authorities.

Intrinsic characteristics

The substantially intact remains of the wreck of Campania survive as a large iron feature measuring approximately 190m in length NE-SW and 20m transversely. In places, the hull structure stands 12m above the seabed. One side of the vessel (probably the starboard) appears mostly intact and visible above the seabed; the bow, stern, and port side (probable) are partially embedded in sediment. Although cleared by explosives around 1921 because she represented a navigation hazard, and subject to some salvage of metals during the late 1940s and 1960s, sonar imagery confirms substantial survival today both of remaining deck structure features (including possible elements of the flight deck) and fittings (e.g the collapsed main mast and cranes fitted on either side of the vessel), and some debris surrounding the wreck. Below deck level, diver inspection of what was immediately visible during the late 1990s/early 2000s, confirmed presence of non-ferrous artefacts, together with existence of collapsed deck structures and a confusing jumble of ship’s structure and fittings. Given the size of the ship, and the wreck’s partial burial within a sediment-rich seabed environment, it seems likely the majority of below deck elements of the ship survive relatively untouched. As such, the site retains potential to add archaeological information to what is readily available in documentary sources about the design and construction of this former 19th - century Cunard passenger liner and about the modifications that took place when the Royal Navy purchased Campania from the ship breakers and converted her into an aircraft carrier in 1914. Reports that Rolls Royce Armoured vehicles may be located on the wreck are unconfirmed.

Contextual characteristics

The wrecking of Campania occurred as an accidental loss on the morning of 5 November 1918, shortly before Armistice, when she dragged her anchor in a sudden squall before colliding with the battleship Royal Oak and battle cruiser Glorious. No other losses occurred during this incident. However, given the location of this incident in the valued deep-water wartime anchorage of Burntisland roads, the wreck should be considered within the broader context of the wartime role of the Firth of Forth and its shoreline installations. The pre-war history of the ship adds further contextual significance - originally built as a passenger liner for Cunard’s Liverpool-New York service in 1893, as RMS Campania, she was the first of the transatlantic liners to rely on steam power alone, dispensing with auxiliary sail and having twin screws. There are ten other known wrecks of Cunard line ships in the waters around Great Britain and Ireland, including the Aurania (also in Scottish waters), and the Lusitania (off Ireland). Then, between 1914 and 1918, as HMS Campania, she played an integral part in the evolution of Royal Naval ship-borne air operations. The only aircraft carrier from World War One not to have been totally destroyed, the wreck of Campania today represents the only British survivor of the early development of aircraft carriers. Her development bridges the gap between Pegasus, the Royal Navy’s initial seaplane carrier, and Argus, the first vessel fitted with a full length flight deck and aircraft lift. At Scapa Flow on 5 May 1915, with the ship under way into a force 4 wind, Lieutenant Breeze successfully flew a Sopwith Schneider seaplane, fitted with wheels, off the deck of Campania. As such, she was the first ship to be modified to have a permanent flight deck and to have an aircraft take off from such a deck. Although aircraft had previously been launched from temporary flight decks on other vessels these were structures fitted retrospectively to enable warships to launch one or two aircraft for spotting purposes.

Associative characteristics

Campania was Clydebuilt by the famous yard of Fairfields in Govan and launched on 8 September 1892. Her conversion to an aircraft carrier at the took place at the equally famous shipyard of Cammel Laird at Birkenhead. Campania’s place in the histories of the transatlantic liners is well represented in a wide range of documentary and photographic sources and her design set the pattern for the traditional image of the luxury liners epitomised by the White Star Line and Cunard fleets into the second half of the 20th century. The wreck of Campania also has rich associations with the 'Blue Riband' award for the fastest transatlantic crossing by ship. As RMS Campania, she made her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York on 22 April 1893, and on her return, set a new record passage from New York to Queenstown (Ireland) in a time of 5 days 17 hours and 27 minutes. She held the Blue Riband from 1893 to 1894, losing it to her sister ship Lucania. Documentary sources also record her conversion to an aircraft carrier, and her service in Scapa Flow, which included sailing with the Grand Fleet to provide spotting aircraft for the Battle of Jutland in 1916. In the event, Campania did not make Jutland as her tired engines could not produce the 27 knots required to stay with the fleet and she was ordered to return to Scapa Flow, where she was stationed for the remainder of WW1.

Preservation Objective

The preservation objectives for the Campania Historic MPA and the marine historic asset are:

a) to minimise loss of the marine historic asset within the area;
b) to minimise deterioration of site condition of the marine historic asset;
c) to prevent the removal, wholly or partly, of the marine historic asset from within the Campania Historic MPA, except where the Scottish Ministers are satisfied that this is desirable for the purpose of making a significant contribution to the protection of the marine historic asset or to knowledge about marine cultural heritage;
d) to prevent the commercial exploitation of the marine historic asset for trade, speculation or its irretrievable dispersal other than provision of professional archaeological or public access which is consistent with preservation objectives a,b,c.

Preservation Objective Description

Preservation objectives guide the management of Historic MPAs according to the specific needs of individual areas. Objectives for the Campania Historic MPA are focused around minimising loss of marine historic assets in situ and minimising deterioration in site condition. Additional objectives set out instances where the recovery of marine historic assets (in whole or part) may be acceptable and to restrict commercial exploitation of marine historic assets for trade or speculation. To enable monitoring of progress against these objectives by Historic Environment Scotland, information relating to the survival of marine historic assets and site condition is set out in the table below, based on the results of geophysical surveys undertaken in in 2004 (Wessex Archaeology 2005) and 2008 (ADUS/Salvage and Marine), together with information resulting from periodic monitoring of the wreck as a result of its designation under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 (Archaeological Diving Unit various 1999-2000; Wessex Archaeology 2005).

ObjectiveCurrent indicator status and descriptorDetail in relation to baseline position
To minimise loss of the marine historic asset within the area

Survival - estimated at 41-60%

High resolution geophysical surveys undertaken in 2008 confirm that the structure of the wreck of Campania, measuring approximately 190m in length NE-SW and 20m transversely, appears to remain in one section. Although cleared by explosives around 1921 because she represented a navigation hazard, and subject to some salvage of metals during the late 1940s and 1960s, sonar imagery confirms that one side of the wreck (probably Campania's starboard side) is mostly intact, standing 12m above the seabed in places; the bow, stern, and port side (probable) are partially embedded in sediment. Identifiable deck structure features include possible elements of the flight deck and fittings (e.g cranes fitted on either side of the vessel). The main mast appears to have collapsed onto the south side of the wreck. Below deck level, diver inspection of what was immediately visible during the late 1990s/early 2000s, confirmed presence of non-ferrous artefacts, together with existence of collapsed deck structures and a confusing jumble of ship's structure and fittings. Given the size of the ship, and the wreck's partial burial within a sediment-rich seabed environment, it seems likely the majority of below deck elements of the ship will be relatively untouched. The whole structure is likely to be susceptible to ongoing corrosion-related deterioration through exposure to seawater (see detail site condition). There is some evidence of debris immediately surrounding the wreck which is presumed to be associated with the wreck. Anomalies 80m to the south and 200m to the west (outwith the protected area) may or may not be associated with the wreck.

To minimise deterior-ation in site condition of the marine historic asset

Generally unsatisfactory with major localised problems – ie. there is evidence of part collapse of structure and the likelihood of ongoing deterioration of this wreck due to natural processes

The seabed around the wreck shelves from 25m (to the S) to 20m (to the N) in depth. The bottom is muddy and mainly flat, with large areas of sand to the N of the wreck. Geophysics surveys indicate a scour mark around the wreck that extends up to 400m SW, by 300m NE. This is a result of tidal interaction with the wreck structure during both ebb and flood tidal flow. No scientific survey work has been undertaken aimed at understanding the condition of the hull structure on this wreck or nature and rate of natural processes affecting this. However, periodic surveys of wrecks of contemporary date in Scottish waters (for example the German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow), and even later vessels elsewhere (e.g USS Arizona, Pearl Harbour), have indicated evidence for ongoing deterioration of iron/steel wreck structures leading to cracking in hull fabric and eventual collapse of structures and fittings as a consequence of naturally occurring exposure to high levels of corrosion-related deterioration in sea-water. It seems likely that the condition of the wreck of Campania and factors affecting it will be broadly similar to this, and that a trajectory of continuing deterioration is to be expected.


Designation of the Campania Historic MPA places a duty on public authorities with functions capable of adversely affecting marine historic assets to carry out those functions in a way that best furthers or, where this is not possible, least hinders the stated preservation objectives. To fulfil this duty, public authorities must consider and implement changes in the way they carry out their functions to deliver benefits for/ minimise adverse effects on the Campania Historic MPA, taking advice from Historic Environment Scotland.

  • When preparing local development plans; marine plans; and fisheries management plans relevant to this location, as well as other programmes, policies and strategies, public authorities must take account of the preservation objectives for the Campania Historic MPA.

  • Competent authorities with responsibilities for issuing authorisation for all developments and licensable activities (for example, through marine licensing; planning permission; issuing of seabed leases) within and outwith the boundaries of the protected area must consider impacts on the preservation objectives for the Campania Historic MPA, taking advice from Historic Environment Scotland. Decisions must also be taken in accordance with the relevant marine plans and policies.

  • Where their functions or acts which they intend to undertake may significantly hinder the achievement of the preservation objectives for this Historic MPA, public authorities are required to notify Historic Environment Scotland. Historic Environment Scotland has 28 days to respond and public authorities must have regard to advice or guidance given by Historic Environment Scotland.



Operational Advice for the Proposed HMPA

The following advice is intended to enable sea-users and public authorities to prioritise beneficial management of activities that might otherwise hinder the preservation objectives for the Campania Historic MPA. The seabed within this area preserves archaeological remains that represent a finite, non-renewable resource, the survival of which could be affected by a complex interplay of processes originating from sources that may be naturally occurring (e.g. chemical, biological or physical factors) or man-made (Historic Scotland 2012a, 8). Table 2 indicates which key pressures are known currently although there are additional pressures which could hinder the preservation objectives were they to occur.

In summary, this site is considered most vulnerable to the following impacts from man-made operations:

Direct Impacts

Physical damage/loss/alteration arising a) from collision/abrasion by construction or extraction activities (e.g capital dredging), commercial fishing operations which impact on the seabed (particularly demersal trawling - e.g scallop dredging), and anchoring/mooring of vessels, all within the protected area; b) from selective removal of artefacts and/or excavation of sediments by diving/archaeological operations within the protected area.

Indirect Impacts

Alteration/loss of the marine historic asset arising from any construction/extraction/dumping at sea/commercial installation operations in the vicinity which might result in significant erosion of sediments within the area or changes to water chemistry such that these changes are likely to exacerbate corrosion-related degradation of the wreck significantly.


Historic Scotland's Strategic Heritage Management Team will be pleased to provide detailed operational advice where impacts are anticipated on a case by case basis. The basis for this advice is set out in the table below.


Operational advice following Historic MPA designation

Construction/ extraction/ dumping within the protected area

As the marine historic asset is considered highly vulnerable to such activities and the spatial footprint of this protected area is small, developers and sea-users will normally be advised to plan developments in a way that avoids the area, and any direct impacts, altogether. There may however be cases where emplacement of scientific monitoring equipment within the protected area is desirable to support preservation objectives (for example to aid monitoring).

Construction/ extraction/ dumping at sea/ operation of commercial installations in the vicinity

Proposals for such activities in the vicinity of the protected area (up to 1km distance) should assess likely impacts on hydrodynamic processes and on wreck corrosion processes within the protected area, and where appropriate, consider ways to mitigate the impacts concerned. Shoreline/marine developments in the vicinity are not anticipated to have any impact on 'setting'.

Recreational diving, bathing, within the protected area

Responsible recreational diving is encouraged. Feel free to take photographs or video during visits but do not recover artefacts, damage or disturb a marine historic asset. Any shot lines to aid diver access to the site should be carefully placed and not used as mooring lines for a dive vessel. Anyone diving within the protected area is encouraged to provide a brief report about their visit to Historic Environment Scotland, to assist in monitoring this important wreck. Should you wish to learn more about it, the Divebunker, Burntisland offers educational tours for divers.

Scientific and archaeological investigation of the marine historic asset within the protected area

Non-intrusive scientific/archaeological survey work is encouraged as is dissemination of the information and knowledge which results. However, intrusive activities, including archaeological excavation, sediment sampling, and recovery of objects of historic interest are subject to marine licensing, and you will need to apply to Marine Scotland Licensing Operations Team (MS-LOT) who will take advice from Historic Environment Scotland about whether these activities should proceed, subject to conditions.

Boating, vessel traffic, including anchoring and laying of moorings

Boating is generally encouraged providing that no damage or disturbance of the marine historic asset occurs. For example, boat owners should avoid use of anchors within the protected area except in instances of maritime distress to save life or secure the safety of a vessel. Laying of moorings should be avoided within the protected area. However, there may be instances where laying of temporary seabed moorings is desirable to support sustainable access to the site. Where this is the case, care should be taken to place moorings away from the known extent of archaeological remains.

Commercial fisheries

There is no evidence that pelagic/demersal fishing takes place over this site and any fishermen using bottom gear at this site risk loss of gear due to snagging on wreckage. As damage to the wreck can also occur, use of demersal techniques and also creels within the protected area is best avoided.



Admiralty, 1918, ADM156/90; ADM156/173: Board of Enquiry reports into collision of HMS Campania with HM ships Royal Oak and Glorious after dragging anchor. Documents archived with the National Archives, Kew

Larn, R, Larn, B 1998, Shipwreck Index of the British Isles: Volume 4, Scotland. London.

Layman, R D 1989, Before the Aircraft Carrier the Development of Aviation Vessels, 1849-1922, London.

Oxley, I 2003, 'Focal study: archaeological work in advance of the Fife Council shoreline management plan'. In Dawson, T 2003, Coastal Archaeology and Erosion in Scotland, Edinburgh: Historic Scotland, 177.

Warren, M D 1993, The Cunard Royal Mail Twin-screw Steamers Campania and Lucania, Sparkford: Patrick Stephens.

Online resources

Historic Scotland 2012, Guidelines on the Selection, Designation and Management of Historic Marine Protected Areas. Copy available at www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/historic-mpa-guidelines.pdf

Historic Scotland 2012a, Historic Marine Protected Areas, a guide for visitors, investigators and managers – copy available at www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/historic-mpa-leaflet.pdf

Scottish Government, 2010, Making the most of Scotland's seas – copy available at www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/04/01085908/2

Wessex Archaeology, 2005, Archaeological Services in relation to the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973): HMS Campania, Firth of Forth. Designated site assessment: full report. Ref: 53111.03p. Copy archived with RCAHMS and available at http://orapweb.rcahms.gov.uk/wp/00/WP000730.pdf

Wessex Archaeology, 2010, Existing designated historic assets: transition to Historic Marine Protected Areas and identification of biodiversity/geodiversity value. Prepared by Wessex Archaeology for Historic Scotland, August 2010. Ref:73210.04. Copy archived with RCAHMS and available http://lmid1a.rcahms.gov.uk/wp/00/WP000732.pdf

Wessex Archaeology, 2012, Characterising Scotland's marine archaeological resource. Prepared by Wessex Archaeology for Historic Scotland, January 2012. Ref: 76930.04 Copy archived with RCAHMS and available at http://lmid1a.rcahms.gov.uk/wp/00/WP000720.pdf

About Historic Marine Protected Areas

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

Historic marine protected areas are the way that marine historic assets of national importance which survive in Scottish territorial waters are protected by law under Part 5 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010.

We advise Marine Scotland on the importance of marine historic assets and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate sites. We assess marine historic assets using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

The information in the historic marine protected area record gives an indication of the national importance of the site(s). It is not a definitive account or a complete description of the site(s).

It is a criminal offence to intentionally or recklessly remove, alter or disturb marine historic assets, or carry out activities which could damage or interfere with a marine historic asset or significantly hinder a protected area's preservation objectives.

The historic marine protected area record provides guidance about what activities can take place at each site.

Planning permission or a marine licence (or both) may be required for carrying out work inside a historic marine protected area. Enquiries about planning permission should be made to the planning authority. Enquiries about marine licences should be made to Marine Scotland's Licensing Operations Team.

Find out more about historic marine protected areas and our other designations at www.historicenvironment.scot/advice-and-support. You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at designations@hes.scot.


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