The Isles of Scilly is to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the British Navy’s worst peacetime martime disaster with a series of events in October.

A large proportion of the British Navy fleet was returning from Gibraltar on 22 October 1707 when its longitude was misjudged in poor visibility.

The flagship Association along with three other ships in the fleet were wrecked on the western approaches with the loss of an estimated 1,600 men.

Legend states that Sir Cloudisley Shovell, the fleet’s commander and the most respected officer of the time, was washed up on Porth Hellick beach on St Mary’s, where he survived until a local woman killed him to steal his ring.

He was buried in a simple grave at Porth Hellick, but later exhumed and buried in Westminster Abbey.

The wrecks led to the offer of a prize for an instrument to measure longitude.

Among guest speakers on the subject in October will be Dava Sobel, US author of the best-selling book ‘Longitude?, and Astronomer Royal Sir Arnold Wolfendale.

76-year-old veteran diver and wrecks expert Richard Larn, from St Mary’s, and John Taylor, a horologist and expert on John Harrison - the English carpenter who finally solved ?the longitude problem? - will also appear.

Larn and the late Navy diver Roy Graham initiated the research and successful search for the wrecks, said Phillip Hygate, chief executive of Islands’ council, which is putting together the events.

The speeches will be followed by a visit by the fishery patrol vessel HMS Mersey and the laying of wreaths near the Gilstone rock.

The Association’s sternboard, which has been housed in the main Penzance magistrates’ court, is also expected to be on show in an exhibition, opening in August, of finds from the four wrecks.

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