Digital resources

Casualty Returns

The Casualty Returns, or Wreck Returns as they are sometimes referred to, record the wrecking of vessels worldwide within incremental periods.

The Casualty Returns refer to the total losses of ocean going merchant ships over 100 gross tonnes. The Returns were published quarterly and annually, recording losses according to flag and cause of loss. Early Quarterly Returns give figures for steam and sailing vessels by flag and cause of loss, and for total tonnage owned in each country. Later editions also show the year of build (since 1928) and ship type (since 1939).

Early Annual Summaries, published since 1891, give total number of losses for the year for steam and sailing vessels by flag and cause of loss. Later issues also include analyses by size, principal type and age (since 1967) and world maps showing approximate positions of ships foundered, burnt, wrecked and lost by collision during that year (since 1970). Details of ships not already included in the quarterly returns were also given. Since 1984 the Returns have only been published annually.

An index to ships named in each year’s return is available from 1950 to date. The records have been computerised since 1980. An approximate date of loss, therefore, must be known or obtained by tracing the vessel through the Register of Ships.

Quarterly and annual casualty returns were published through both world wars. Details of war losses, however, were limited after March 1915 and during the Second World War to name, tonnage and flag only. From 1940 to 1977, the unpublished wreck books gave more detailed information on total losses and on casualties that were expected and became total losses.

The Returns, along with information contained within the World Fleet Statistics are a useful research resource for students studying maritime history.

This collection is under Lloyd's Register copyright until the year 2000.