The Vanguard was a British battleship which now lies in 34 metres of water two miles north of Flotta. On Monday the 9th of July, she was lying at anchor when just before midnight, there was a series of explosions on board the ship. She sank almost instantly, killing the 843 men on board. Only two men survived.
It is thought a fire in an adjacent compartment had overheated cordite in one of Vanguard’s magazines, causing the explosion. This spread rapidly to other magazines and the ship was blown apart. Men on watch on other nearby ships reported seeing the Vanguard disintegrate into a cloud of blazing debris, most of which rained down on the surrounding sea and ships. Some debris fell on to onto Flotta and set the heather alight.
One of those who saw the events of July 9, 1917, unfold was Signalman Charles Mynott who was aboard HMS Marlborough.
'I was on watch between 8pm and midnight and was facing HMS Vanguard and saw her start to explode, first aft, two amidships, three foc’sle and then one huge explosion. I awoke the signal boatswain, who was asleep on the bridge.'
Diving within 100 metres of the ship is strictly forbidden. It is said that there is much wreckage, live ammunition, capstans and so forth that are littering the sea bed. The bows still stand intact and are the final resting place of some of those 800 people who perished with her.
If you would like to find out more about the HMS Vanguard, click on the links on the right.