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Hms Hampshire: Birsay Bay, Atlantic

Cruiser (20th Century)

Site Name Hms Hampshire: Birsay Bay, Atlantic

Classification Cruiser (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Borough Of Birsay; Brough Of Birsay; Marwick Head; Brough Head Light; Hms Hampshire

Canmore ID 102221

Site Number HY22NW 8001

NGR HY 20190 26414

Datum WGS84 - Lat/Long


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Maritime - Orkney
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Maritime
  • Former County Not Applicable

Archaeology Notes

HY22NW 8001 2000 2644

N59 07.065 W3 23.843

NLO: Birsay [name: HY 28 25]

Birsay Bay [name centred HY 234 271]

Marwick Head [name: HY 226 256]

Brough Head [name: HY 234 286]

Brough of Birsay [name: HY 234 285].

Formerly entered as Site no. 8756 at cited location HY 2009 2649 [N59 7.0917 W3 23.75].

For (associated) Kitchener Monument (or Memorial) on Marwick Head (HY 2266 2511), see HY22NW 66.

(Dived 1977, 1979 and 1983).

G Ridley 1992.

Quality of fix = D

Horizontal Datum = OGB

General water depth = 55

Orientation of keel/wreck = 330/150

This wreck has been designated a controlled site under The Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 (Designation of

Vessels and Controlled Sites) Order 2009.

Circumstances of Loss Details


The armoured cruiser HMS HAMPSHIRE struck a mine laid by the German submarine U75 and sank with a great loss of life.

Source: Dictionary of Disasters at Sea.

The position of loss given at the Court of Enquiry is '[about 1.5 miles off the shore between the Borough of Birsay and Marwick Head'. Sub. Lt Spence, RNR gives the position as 'bearing WNW [magnetic] and 2 miles from Marwick Head', but he also states that 'she bore west [magnetic] from the centre of Birsay Bay'. Two positions - a) 59 07 00N, 003 25 10W, and b) 59 07 20N, 003 25 30W were given by Lt Riddel, RN at the Court of Enquiry.

Source: papers now with Public Records Office, Kew.

Surveying Details


9 July 1926. The Court of Enquiry position of about 1.5 miles offshore is accepted, which gives approximately 59 07 30N, 003 23 00W.

3 June 1957. A request to purchase the wreck was from Mr W Johnston.

8 August 1967. The vessel will not be sold due to the great loss of life. It is now regarded as a naval grave.

23 August 1979. The site is now confirmed as a designated war grave.

Report by DCSE Procurement Executive, 15 August 1979.

18 September 1979. The site is reported to have been filmed by a German film company in 1977 and 1979. Naval law was approached for any positional data that may be available.

11 Augsut 1983. It is report that divers from the Swedish motor salvage vessel 'STENA WORKHORSE' have landed artifacts, including a propeller, from this wreck without first having obtained permission. They have been instructed by MOD to replace them.

Report from BBC Radio 4, 10 August 1983 and Naval Law telecommunication 11 August 1983.

5 August 1992. The site was located in August 1983 at decca [n scot] red a 18.92, green a 37.97 using a rov. It lies with its keel on an approximate orientation of 150/330 degrees with an opening in hull near starboard quarter. Masts and other debris lies to the east of the wreck.

Report by motor salvage sessel STENA WORKHORSE - includes drawing dated 8 August 1983.

Hydrographic Office, 1995.

(Classified as cruiser: date of loss cited as 5 June 1916). HMS Hampshire: this warship was mined between Marwick Head and the Brough of Birsay, about 2 miles offshore.

Registration: London. Built 1903. 10850 tons displacement. Length: 135m. Beam: 21m.

(Location of loss cited as N59 7.5 W3 23.0).

I G Whittaker 1998.

(Proposed for designation as a Controlled Site under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986). The armoured cruiser HMS Hampshire was detached from the Grand Fleet for the special duty of conveying Lord Kitchener and his staff to Russia. She left Scapa Flow on 5 June 1916. A gale rendered the destroyer escort useless and they returned to Scapa; the Hampshire carried on alone. At about 7.40pm HMS Hampshire hit a mine and sank.

Of the complement of 655 men and 7 passengers, only 12 men survived. Lord Kitchener and his staff all perished.

[The citation by MOD of this wreck as lying within Scapa Flow is erroneous].

Information from MOD (Military Maritime Graves consultation) per Mr I Oxley (Historic Scotland), 7 February 2002.

This wreck has been designated a Controlled Site under the Protection of Military Remains ACT (PMRA), 1986.

(Historic connection with Lord Kitchener noted: comprehensive list of Controlled Sites in article).

Source: Stuart Bryan in Nautical Archaeology, 2001.3, p. 12.

NMRS, MS/2745.

Location cited (statutory instrument) as N59 07.065 W3 23.843 [HY 2000 2644].

Information from Mr P Macdonald (MOD, Military Maritime Graves), 14 October 2002.

Length: 475ft (144.8m)

Beam: 68ft 6ins (19.2m)

Displacement: 10,850 tons

Propulsion: 4-cylinder triple-expansion engines, 2 screws, 21,000 hp, 22.25 kts

Guns: 4 x 7.5 ins (19cm); 6x6 ins (15cm); 2 x 12 pdr and smaller weapons

Torpedo tubes: 2 x 18ins (46cm)

Armour: belt 6ins (15cm); deck 2ins (5cm)

Complement: 655-700

This armoured cruiser of the Devonshire class was built by Armstrong Whitworth on the Tyne and completed in 1905. She served in China and the Far East (unsuccessfully chasing the raiding cruiser Emden) in 1914, on Northern patrols in 1915, and also at the Battle of Jutland (31 May 1916) but was mined on 5 June 1916 while en route to Russia with Lord Kitchener embarked.

The stated location of the loss lies about 8km SW of Brough Head, Birsay, and 5 km WNW of Marwick Head, within an area of limited soundings. The seabed across this area appears to be a mixture of sand and shell. Macdonald depicts the wreck as lying inverted but nearly level with severe damage at the bows and some plating loss aft. He locates the loss at N59 7.03 W3 23.76 [HY 2008 2637] and cites the seabed as shale.

(Illustrated by Macdonald: photograph in service and underwater artist's impression).

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 14 October 2002 and 15 November 2002.

H M Le Fleming 1961; G Bennett 1983; R Macdonald 1998; M Brown and P Meehan 2002.

H O Chart no. 1954 (1982, revised 1993).

Material reported under RoW amnesty (2001):

A435 1 silver fish knife: from seabed.

NMRS, MS/829/33.

Plans and photographs of this vessel are held in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

(For online catalogue of negatives, see

Information from Ms G Fabri (NMM), 7 November 2003.

Listed as Designated controlled site under PMRA 1986.

(Area within 300m distance around N59 7.065 W3 23.843).



Reference (2011)

Whittaker ID : 283


Latitude : 590730

Longitude : 32300

Date Built : 1903

Registration : LONDON


Tonnage : 10850

Tonnage Code : D

Length : 135

Beam : 21

Draught : 8m

Position : Position Approximate

Loss Day : 5

Loss Month : 6

Loss Year : 1916

Comment : Mined between Marwick Head and Brough of Birsay approx 2 miles offshore

Reference (19 April 2012)

UKHO Identifier : 000421

Feature Class : Wreck

Wreck Category : Non-dangerous wreck

State : LIVE

Status : Historic

Classification : Unclassified

Position (Lat/long) : 59.11706,-3.39566

Horizontal Datum : ETRS 1989

WGS84 Position (Lat/long) : 59.11706,-3.39566

WGS84 Origin : Block Shift

Previous Position : 59.11712,-3.39577

Position Method : Differential Global Positioning System

Position Quality : Surveyed

Position Accuracy : 3.0

Depth : 48.0

Depth Method : Found by multi-beam

Depth Quality : Least depth known

Water Depth : 58

Water Level Effect : Always under water/submerged

Vertical Datum : Lowest Astronomical Tide




Length : 137.2

Beam : 20.7

Draught : 7.6

Sonar Length : 146.0

Sonar Width : 24.0

Shadow Height : 5.0

Orientation : 152.0

Tonnage : 10850

Tonnage Type : Displacement

Date Sunk : 05/06/1916

Sonar Signal Strength : Strong

Scour Depth : 2.0

Scour Length : 5.0

Scour Orientation : 45.0

Reference (March 2012)

Sitename : HMS Hampshire: Birsy Bay, Atlantic

Source :

Approaches to the Orkney Islands in WGS1984 at 15 m resolution Bathymetry Id 20097029,,2009


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