The Moncousu was steel steamship of 862 net tons and launched in 1912 from the yard of Mackay Brothers, Alloa. She was launched as the Nestor and later changed her name to Moncousu when she moved to French ownership. Her dimensions were 235.2′ x 36.0′ x 16.3′.
The wreck of the Moncousu lying in the shallows of the Sound of Gigha has its origin in the port of Plymouth. She had been requisitioned by the Ministry of Shipping for war service and was used as an ammunition storage ship in that port. Plymouth was one of the key British ports on the English Channel and was often the target of German air raids. In the darkness of the night of 28/29 April 1941 during one of these raids the Moncousu was badly damaged and as a result she foundered the following day off Bull Point.
The majority of the ammunition aboard was recovered soon after and it was expected that the ship itself would soon be raised. She was to lie underwater for almost two years as it was not until February 1943 that she was finally brought to the surface. She was then towed to shallow water where she was allowed to settle down again in fifteen feet of water. After some repairs she was pumped out and, on 23rd March, she was finally refloated again. Unfortunately, due to the pressures of the war, no dry dock could be found to bring her ashore for proper repairs and so, on 10 April it was decided that she would be towed north and used as a target for bombing practice.
She left Plymouth in tow on 14 October and was moored in the Sound of Gigha a few days later within the Ballure live firing and bombing range. For some months she was used as a target for live bombs and by 5 January 1944 was so damaged that she was reported to be sinking. It was hoped that she could be beached and repaired enough to continue as a floating target but, before the tug sent to tow her ashore into Gigha’s East Tarbet Bay arrived, she settled and sank. It was decided to leave her where she lay as the water was shallow and she could still be used as a target. The hulk was in continual use for the remainder of the war and was then salvaged for scrap after the conclusion of the hostilities.
The Wreck Today
The small amount of wreckage that remains of the Moncousu lies in shallow water between Gigha and the west Kintyre coast in position 55° 42.631’N, 005°39.859’W (GPS). The seabed depth here is 10 metres with few pieces standing anymore than 2 metres high. The wreckage is covered in dead men’s fingers and populated by some large, friendly wrasse but the silty nature of the seabed means that the visibility can quickly diminish as the diver explores the area. Apart from sections of hull the only discernible piece of wreckage is the torn but just recognisable ships boiler.
This wreck is best kept for days when weather conditions preclude the west side of Gigha. Having said this, when sea conditions out west are poor so the visibility reduces close to the shore in the Sound of Gigha. The pictures above show what can be expected if conditions are reasonable.