DATELINE: 29th June 2001
Deep-diving technical divers have reported their discovery of HMS Indefatigable and HMS Defence, two major warships sunk during the Battle of Jutland off Denmark in 1916.
The wreck of HMS Indefatigable, one of three British cruisers to take part in the battle, was dived by Deep Blue Expeditions and the Starfish Enterprise diving team in mid-May.
Innes McCartney of Deep Blue Expeditions said the team had located "the last unfound British battle cruiser wreck in the world" and possibly the "largest unlocated navy war grave".
However, he also referred to the possibility that the wreck had been "subject to heavy commercial salvage in the past". Perhaps the wreck is best described as having been located for the first time by a group outside MoD and/or commercial salvage circles.
But if Britain's MoD has always known the ship's position, official records have been misleading.
"The wreck is around 5 miles from the Admiralty's original estimate of where she sank and even further from the most recent position given by the Hydrographic Office," said Innes McCartney.
The last ship in Admiral Beatty's line, steaming astern of HMS Invincible and HMS Queen Mary, Indefatigable was hit five times within minutes of the start of the battle, rolling to port and starting to sink by the stern before, according to witnesses, she blew up. When the smoke had cleared, she was gone.
"The battle-cruisers were not designed to withstand heavy shellfire from the larger German warships at Jutland," said McCartney. "Their use as ships of the line during the battle came in for harsh criticism at the time."
The Indefatigable was, he said, "heavily dispersed and not recognisable as a ship at all". But, he added, the remains had been identifiable by the size and shape of 12in and 4in guns. The ship was the only one sunk at Jutland to carry such armament.
McCartney said the divers had not interfered with the wreck. All but two of its 1019 crew died in the sinking.
Deep Blue followed up the Indefatigable find with the discovery of HMS Defence, an armoured cruiser which served as Sir Robert Arbuthnot's First Cruiser Squadron flagship.
The Defence, which was of an obsolete design by the time of the Battle of Jutland, was sunk by German shellfire with the loss of all 903 of her crew. She was reported to have blown apart as she sank, so the dive team was surprised to find a largely intact wreck, her four gun turrets still turned to port.
McCartney has reported that the wreck is the largest ship sunk at Jutland that appears not to have been salvaged. Other wrecks have had their propellers removed and been subject to "varying degrees of further interference".
Meanwhile McCartney's Operation Deadlight, to dive a fleet of captured German U-boats scuttled off Scotland at the end of WWII, has opened a website at www.operationdeadlight.co.uk