25/09/2017
Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

World War I destroyer HMS Pheasant location confirmed by maritime archaeology project

ecb6e565-2234-4a05-a055-9339d2510b9b

The exact location of the WW1 destroyer HMS Pheasant has been confirmed following a maritime archaeology project this summer.

Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA), the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and SULA Diving can now confirm that the archaeological maritime survey conducted last month from the decks of the Marine Scotland vessel MV Scotia has located the site of the First World War destroyer HMS Pheasant and for the first time the wreck can be viewed through the use of Multibeam Sonar technology.

The wreck itself is protected as a designated vessel under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 which means that it can be dived but not entered or disturbed without permission from the Ministry of Defence.

HMS Pheasant

HMS Pheasant was an M class destroyer built by Fairfield Shipyard on the Clyde and launched on 23rd October 1916. At 0.15 on the morning of 1st March 1917 the ship left Stromness to patrol the waters to the west of Orkney. Steaming down the west side of Hoy at full speed she most likely struck a mine off Rora Head close to the Old Man of Hoy that had been laid on the 21st January 1917 by German submarine U 80.

The Trawler HMT Grouse was at anchor under Rora Head due to the heavy sea prevailing at the time and two deck hands on watch reported an explosion and smoke at 06.00 but tragically the skipper was not informed till 08.00 when she proceeded to the area. The Trawler HMT Cairo which was patrolling in the Hoy Sound heard a faint explosion at 06.00 but took it to be gunfire and so remained on station off Stromness.

Maritime tragedy

The first reports only started coming in two hours after HMS Pheasant struck the mine when at 08.15 the trawler HMT Oropesa reported finding ‘’ Large quantities of oil and some wreckage one mile west of Old Man of Hoy.” The crew also picked up a life buoy marked HMS ‘Pheasant’.’
Eighty nine crew were aboard HMS Pheasant when she was lost. Only one body was recovered: that of Midshipman Reginald Campbell Cotter RNR. He was 20 years old and he is buried in the military cemetery at Lyness, Hoy, Orkney.

This year marks the centenary of the loss of HMS Pheasant and there is an initiative underway to develop a memorial on Hoy, Orkney to commemorate all those who lost their lives aboard. This is being led by Kinlay Francis, Orkney Uncovered and Kevin Heath, SULA Diving.

Project details

The project is led by Sandra Henry of UHI Archaeology Institute, ORCA (Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology), the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and Kevin Heath of SULA Diving who have brought together universities, commercial companies and government bodies including Historic Environment Scotland, Marine Scotland, Ulster University, Heriot-Watt University, University of Dundee, and Seatronics - an Acteon company.

(images copyright ORCA)

Back to "Scottish archaeology" Category

25/09/2017 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Recent Updates

Scottish astronomer Williamina Fleming died - On this day in history

Pioneering Scottish female astronomer Williamina Fleming died on 21 May 1911.


The Battle of Nechtansmere was fought - On this day in history

The Battle of Nechtansmere (or Blar Dhun Neachdain) was fought on 20 May 685AD. ...


Spotlight on Moidart History Group

The Moidart History Group is a research group that exists to preserve and explore the history of the area, ...


Author and diarist James Boswell died - On this day in history

Author and diarist James Boswell died on 19 May 1795, at the age of 54. ...


Other Articles

Photographer David Octavius Hill died - On this day in history

Pioneering photographer David Octavius Hill died on 17 May 1870.


Scottish explorer Sir Alexander Burnes was born - On this day in history

Scottish explorer Sir Alexander Burnes was born on 16 May 1805.


Mary Queen of Scots married her third husband - On this day in history

Mary Queen of Scots married her third husband, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell on 15 May 1567. ...


St Andrews Society of Golfers was founded - On this day in history

The St Andrews Society of Golfers was founded on 14 May 1754.