Culture

HMS Pheasant (1917) #OnThisDay

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.

Despite the ensuing explosion being reported by the watch of  the Trawler HMT Grouse this message was not relayed to her skipper until 08.00. And 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’.’

A maritime survey conducted by Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA), the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and SULA Diving  located the remains of the First World War destroyer HMS Pheasant.

HMS Pheasant- Multibeam Echosound Image. Copyright ORCA
HMS Pheasant- Multibeam Echosound Image. Copyright ORCA

The research  was a collaborative effort involving many organisations: Sandra Henry of UHI Archaeology Institute,ORCA (Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology), the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, Kevin Heath of SULA Diving, Historic Environment Scotland, Marine Scotland, Ulster University, Heriot-Watt University, University of Dundee, and Seatronics – an Acteon company.

The wreck , is protected as a designated vessel under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. The archaeological maritime survey  was conducted from the decks of the Marine Scotland vessel MV Scotia. The Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 means it can be dived but not entered or disturbed without permission from the Ministry of Defence.

The project was conducted under licence from the Ministry of Defence.

Marine Scotland Survey Vessel. MV Scotia
Marine Scotland Survey Vessel. MV Scotia

Eighty nine crew were aboard HMS Pheasant when she was lost. Only one body was recovered: that of Midshipman Reginald Alexander Cotter RNR. He was 20 years old and he is buried in the military cemetery at Lyness, Hoy, Orkney.

Any individual, group or organisation requiring a copy of a printed leaflet about HMS Pheasant please email: fiona@theorkneynews.scot stating how many would be required. Postage is free.

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