The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

HMS Pheasant

Built on the Clyde and launched on the 23rd of October 1916 she later became a unit of the 15th Destroyer Flotilla, part of the Grand Fleet based at Scapa Flow.  On the 1st of March 1917 she sailed to conduct the `Hoy Patrol’ a local patrol around Hoy. During the week she lay at anchor in the Flow at night and patrolled outside Hoy Sound by day.  She was ordered to send a weather report at 5.30am as the commodore of Destroyers planned to hold gunnery practice for his ships.

She was seen by the Signal Station at Stromness at 5.30am and at 06.10 am a loud explosion was heard.  Men on two trawlers anchored inshore heard the explosion and from one of the trawlers they could see black smoke.

One of the trawlers (the Grouse) immediately set out in the direction of the smoke but found nothing. The ship had disappeared. Later that morning a group of minesweeping trawlers discovered a patch of oil and wreckage and the body of midshipman Cotter was found wearing two lifebelts. At least 88 men had been on board but his was the only body recovered. He is buried in the Lyness Naval Cemetery.

It was assumed that the ship had struck a mine, possibly one that had broken loose from the Whiten Bank field (a British defense) which was laid in the winter of 1915-16. Another suggestion is that she was sunk by UC-43 – a submarine minelayer. It is known that this submarine sailed on the 25th of February and she was sunk by HM Submarine G-13 off Shetland on the 10th of March.

The wreck was discovered by divers from the Army Sub-Aqua Club in 1996 after locating it through towed sonar in the location derived from the original records. They found the ship in 82 metres of water. The forward part of her was destroyed, the hull lay on its side and the deck had become separated and was badly broken up.

 A list of those lost can be viewed by clicking on the link at the side of the page.