UK — Royal Navy wrecks discovered in the Baltic

The pre­vi­ous­ly unlo­cat­ed wrecks of light cruis­er HMS Cas­san­dra and Ara­bis-Class minesweep­er HMS Gen­tian have been dis­cov­ered off the coast of Esto­nia along with the miss­ing bow sec­tion of minesweep­er HMS Myr­tle.

Light cruiser HMS Cassandra
Light cruis­er HMS Cas­san­dra pic­tured pri­or to her sink­ing on the night of 5–6 Decem­ber 1918
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The 4,160-tonne HMS Cas­san­dra was sunk on the night of 5–6 Decem­ber 1918 off the west coast of Esto­nia, while the 1,250-tonne HMS Gen­tian was lost to a mine on 16 July 1919 as was the Aza­lea-Class minesweep­er HMS Myr­tle.

The ships were part of a large squadron deployed in the peri­od from Novem­ber 1918 to Feb­ru­ary 1920 under Rear Admi­ral Sir Edwyn Alexan­der-Sin­clair, and lat­ter­ly Rear Admi­ral Sir Wal­ter Cow­an, in order to sus­tain the new­ly-cre­at­ed state of Esto­nia in the face of Bol­she­vik attacks.

There were some live­ly sea actions, includ­ing raids into Bol­she­vik ports — one result­ing in the award of a Vic­to­ria Cross to one Lieu­tenant Augus­tus Agar, but there were also some sig­nif­i­cant loss­es, most­ly as a result of Ger­man-laid mines.

In addi­tion to the above ships, loss­es includ­ed two V Class destroy­ers and sev­er­al coastal gun and tor­pe­do boats, while the sub­ma­rine L55 was lost with all hands.

Total British loss­es in the cam­paign were 107 Roy­al Navy per­son­nel and five from the Roy­al Air Force.

The wrecks were locat­ed by the ex-Roy­al Navy mine­hunter HMS Brid­port, now Eston­ian Navy ship Ugan­di com­mand­ed by Lieu­tenant Com­man­der Vil­lu Kles­mann and his sonar team.

The oper­a­tion com­pletes a process start­ed by divers who found parts of the Myr­tle in 1937 and a lat­er team which attached a memo­r­i­al plaque to the ship’s sheared-off stern ten years ago.

Dis­cov­ery teams were aid­ed by the accu­ra­cy of Roy­al Navy nav­i­ga­tion in 1919, when the two small­er ships sank after hit­ting mines.

The coor­di­nates of the site made dur­ing the res­cue of Gentian’s and Myrtle’s crews by Rear Admi­ral Alexan­der-Sin­clair were sur­pris­ing­ly accu­rate, con­sid­er­ing meth­ods at the time.

The Cas­san­dra was sunk with the loss of 11 of her 400-strong crew, and the bod­ies of three crew of the Myr­tle and the Gen­tian are buried in the Eston­ian cap­i­tal, Tallinn, but not all were recov­ered.

The wrecks belong legal­ly to the British Gov­ern­ment and are now like­ly to be giv­en offi­cial pro­tec­tion as war graves.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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