Richard Larn

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Richard James Vincent Larn, OBE (born 1931[1]) is a retired Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy, a businessman and maritime history writer who is widely regarded as one of Britain's leading historic shipwreck experts.


Career at Sea[edit]

Born in Norfolk and raised in Great Yarmouth before being evacuated to Oxford during the Second World War,[1] he went to a sea training school (TS. Mercury, Hamble) at the age of 14.[2] Larn taught himself to dive in 1947, using a German-made Dräger U-boat escape set in the River Thames. He then joined the Merchant Navy where he served his apprenticeship as a deck-officer with the South American Saint Line[3] and eventually became 2nd Mate.[2] In 1950 he transferred to the Royal Navy where he stayed for 22 years. As a Chief Petty Officer Mechanician/diver he served in Korea and participated in technical diving involved in recovering ram-jet un-manned target drone off Malta being dropped from a helicopter up to five miles offshore, and with Petty Officer John Guppy was possibly the first divers in the Royal Navy to operate using diving apparatus from helicopters, long before SAR divers. Expeditions all over the world.[3]

In 1957 he became a BSAC member, and served as BSAC Deputy Diving Officer in 1961 and 1962.[3] Larn was also among the instigating members of NACSAC,the Royal Navy Sub-Aqua Club, which was established in the early 1960s with Lieutenant Roy Graham as its first chairman, and Larn as its Diving Officer.[4] One of the club's first major projects was to send a team of divers to the Isles of Scilly off the coast of Cornwall to find an historic Royal Navy ship, like HMS Association, a 90-gun ship of the line lost in the great naval disaster of 1707.[5][6] In 1964 about ten NACSAC members, including Larn,[7] arrived on Scilly – thought at that time to be only the second group of divers ever to come there. Their initial dives sparked off a long chain of navy visits that continued for four years.[5] In 1964, 1965 and 1966[8] the divers could only get out to the Western Rocks, but hardly around the Gilstone Ledge,[5] where a later expedition managed to locate the wreck of HMS Association in 1967; Larn was not present in 1967 having been given a "pier-head jump" to HMS Bulwark in Singapore.[9]

After the Navy[edit]

In 1972 Larn left the Royal Navy as a Chief Petty Officer to pursue a career in private business. He founded a commercial diving training centre Prodive Ltd. in Falmouth,[3] which aimed at improving the training standard of professional deep sea divers in the oil and gas offshore industry. Prodive Ltd became one of only three diver training establishments in the UK approved to operate training to HSE Standards, and train Government sponsored students. In 1976 he established the Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Centre which grew out of his own collection of sea artifacts which he ran until 1998.[2] Living in Charlestown for 31 years,[1] he was joint owner and curator of one of the largest collections of shipwreck artefacts on public display in Europe.[2] Larn and his wife Bridget then moved to the Isles of Scilly in 1986,[1] where they lived from 1986 to 1991 during which they set up and ran the Longstone Heritage Centre.[3] on the island of St. Mary's, retaining their interest in Charlestown. Lloyd's Register then offered Larn a writing contract to produce a multi-volume series recording known shipwrecks around Gt. Britain & Ireland, which necessitated he and his wife sell their business in the Scillies and move back to the mainland.

Together with his wife he has written over 58 books and countless articles on maritime history and archaeology, shipwrecks and the sea. Their 'Shipwreck Index of the British Isles'(Vol's 1-6) a monumental work with details of 45,000 ships, for Lloyd's Register of Shipping, was used by the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments (now English Heritage)to establish the NMR(National Maritime Record), followed by a similar record for both the Scottish and Welsh Governments.[2]

In retirement, Larn is still active in diving, mostly in the Isles of Scilly where he contributes a regular column on maritime history in the local magazine Scilly Now & Then. His other interests include figurehead and ship carving.[3] When in 2007 the council of Scilly commemorated the 300th anniversary of the great naval disaster of 1707,[10][11] Larn was among the principal organisers and also gave public lectures, as did Dava Sobel, author of Longitude, and Sir Arnold Wolfendale, the 14th Astronomer Royal.[12]


Besides receiving awards from diving and maritime history associations, Larn was made a Cornish Bard by the Gorsedd of Cornwall at Redruth in 2006.[2] In the Birthday Honours 2009 he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for "services to nautical archaeology and marine heritage".[1] awarded the USA's 'Knight of Mark Twain'(1970)


Note: this list is not complete

  • Admiral Shovell's Treasure and Shipwreck in the Isles of Scilly. Peter McBride & Richard Larn. Shipwreck & Marine, 1999
  • Charlestown – the History of a Cornish Seaport. Villiers Publications, 1994
  • Cornish Shipwrecks – the Isles of Scilly. David & Charles, 1971 & 1979 (2nd ed.)
  • Cornish Shipwrecks – the South Coast. Richard Larn & Clive Carter. David & Charles, 1969 & 1971 Pan paperback editions, 1973 & 1976
  • Devon Shipwrecks. David & Charles, 1974 & 1977. Pan paper-back editions, 1974 & 1977
  • Goodwin Sands Shipwrecks. David & Charles, 1977 & 1979
  • Ships, Shipwrecks and Maritime incidents in the Isles of Scilly. Museum Pub. No. 3 (for the Isles of Scilly Museum Council), 1999
  • Shipwrecks at Land's End Richard Larn & Edwin Mills Clark. Doble & Brendon, 1970
  • Shipwrecks of Devon. Countryside Books, 1996 (2nd ed.)
  • Shipwrecks of Great Britain & Ireland. David & Charles, 1981
  • Shipwrecks of the Goodwin Sands. Beresford Books, 1995 (2nd ed.)
  • Shipwrecks of the Isles of Scilly. Shipwreck & Marine, 1999 (4th ed.)
  • Shipwrecks of the Isles of Scilly. Thomas & Lochar, 1993 (3rd ed.)
  • Sir Clowdisley Shovell's Disaster in the Isles of Scilly Richard Larn & Peter McBride. Western Litho Plymouth, 1985
  • The Cita – Scilly's own 'Whisky Galore' wreck. Shipwreck & Marine, 1997 & 1998 (2nd ed.)
  • The Commercial Diving Manual. Richard Larn & Rex Whistler. David & Charles, 1984, 1989 & 1993 (3rd ed.)
  • The Diver Guide to South Cornwall. Underwater Publications, 1983, 1987 & 1996
  • The Diver Guide to the Isles of Scilly & North Cornwall. Underwater Publications, 2002
  • The Wrecks of Scilly, Shipwreck & Marine, 2010
  • Shipwreck Index of the British Isles – Lloyd's Register of Shipping
  • Tor Mark Press Series:
    • Shipwrecks around Land's End, 1989
    • Shipwrecks – St. Ives to Bude, 1990
    • Shipwrecks Around Mount's Bay, 1991
    • Shipwrecks Around the Lizard, 1992
    • Shipwrecks – Falmouth to Looe, 1993
    • Shipwrecks of North Devon, 1999
    • Shipwrecks of South Devon, 2000
    • Charlestown – a Visitors Guide, 1994
  • Shipwreck & Marine Publishing
    • Poor England has lost so Many Men, 2007
    • Cornwall's Shipwrecks – the North Coast, 2009
    • Cornwall's Shipwrecks – the South Coast, 2009
    • Henry Trengrouse – a biography, 2006
    • Wreck & Rescue round the Cornish Coast, 2006
    • Augustus John Smith – a short biography, 2013
    • Built on Scilly – a history of ship building on the islands, 2013

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Honours: Cornwall's finest recognised, Western Morning News, 13 June 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Larn's biography on the website of Shipwrecks UK Ltd, retrieved February 10, 2010. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "shipwrecksukcom" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page). Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "shipwrecksukcom" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page). Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "shipwrecksukcom" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  3. ^ a b c d e f Larn's biography on the website of the International Shipwreck Conference, retrieved February 10, 2010.
  4. ^ Graham had begun his diving career as an engineer officer while assigned to the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious and was at one time the only Fleet Air Arm officer with a naval diving qualification. See the interview with Roy Graham in December 2005. In retirement, he (then a Commander, RN) and his wife Grace moved to the Isles of Scilly where they ran a holiday guest house and became active in developing tourism on the Isles. He died in 2007 shortly before the 300th anniversary of the great naval disaster of 1707.
  5. ^ a b c Wreck of the fleet and treasures of the deep, The Islander 3, Autumn/Winter 2007.
  6. ^ The HMS Association Treasure Wreck, Scilly Isles
  7. ^ Statement by PS Hygate, Chief Executive for the Tricentenary of the Wreck of the Association.
  8. ^ The annual expedition in 1966 was announced as a search for the wreck of the Association. Plans to find it had existed before, but until then the dives in the Isles of Scilly had largely discovered modern wrecks. See the List of shipwrecks of the Isles of Scilly.
  9. ^ BSAC Pioneers on the British Sub-Aqua Club website.
  10. ^ Council of the Scilly Isles website.
  11. ^ A detailed programme of these events, as organised by the Scilly local council, can be found here.
  12. ^ Shipwrecks UK Ltd web page, retrieved February 10, 2010.

External links[edit]