Bow section of WWI Royal Navy destroyer found after 103 years

HMS Albacore shortly after it struck a German mine off Orkney on March 9, 1917 (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

A group of shipwreck hunters has found the bow section of a World War I Royal Navy destroyer that was torn off in an explosion off Scotland 103 years prior.

The bow of the B-class destroyer HMS Albacore had ended up on the seabed off the Orkney coast after the vessel came in contact with a German mine on March 9, 1917.

The destroyer had earlier left its anchorage in Inganess Bay, just east of Orkney’s capital Kirkwall, to intercept a suspected German submarine sighted patrolling off the island’s east coast.

Albacore got no further than the entrance when it struck a mine laid by the German U-boat UC-55. The blast tore the bow section as far back as the bridge and killed 18 sailors.

The destroyer was towed back to harbour and subsequently repaired, returning to duty four months later. The bodies of only three sailors were recovered as the remainder were trapped in the bow as it sank to the seabed.

The bow was discovered only recently by a team from local contractor Sula Diving, which had originally set out to locate the wreck of the 17th Century prison ship Crown of London.

In the course of the search for the prison ship, the team came across an unrecorded wreck which turned out to be Albacore‘s bow.

What remains of Albacore lies around 30 metres down, is about 18 metres long and 12 metres wide, and may in time be protected by the government.

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