The Royal Navy has made a 3D animation of the remains of one of the ‘forgotten ships’, as the Royal Navy called it, sunk during the Battle of Jutland May 31, 1916.
This is the armoured cruiser HMS Defence, blown up a little after 6pm on May 31 with the loss of every soul aboard – between 893 and 903 men.
Her wreck was surveyed by HMS Echo this time last year – one of 21 sites visited by the Devonport-based ship in preparation for this month’s centenary commemorations (among other achievements she located the wreck of the only German capital ship sunk in the battle, SMS Lützow).
The masses of data gathered by her Kongsberg EM710 and Sidescan Sonar 2094 produced some haunting 3D colour imagery of the wrecks – the first time the ships of Jutland had been scanned in such detail.
In the 12 months since, Echo’s computer systems have continued to crunch the data – resulting here in the 3D model of the wreck of Defence.
The cruiser’s demise was one of the most terrible moments in the battle – every man who witnessed her spirited charge against the German lines, followed by her cataclysmic destruction commented on it.
Capt Raymond Poland, a turret commander on battleship HMS Warspite, was impressed by the “very gallant show” Defence made. His delight instantly turned to horror as she was hit by three German salvoes in quick succession and the cruiser seemingly disintegrated, her crushed bow sticking out of the North Sea at a 60-degree angle before sinking.
“I nearly vomited,” Poland wrote to his brother. “God it was an awful sight.”
Echo found Defence just 500 yards from the spot she was listed as sinking some 100 miles west of the coast of Jutland.
The wreck lies in 51 metres (167ft) of water, rising ten metres off the seabed. Despite eyewitness accounts describing the cruiser’s total destruction, Defence is rather more intact.
“The wreck appears to be separated into three distinct pieces, sitting upright on her hull, with part of the bow and stern separated from the main superstructure,” said Lt Matt Cullen.