Wreck of World War One ship HMS Cassandra surveyed by HMS Echo

Sailors on HMS Echo paid their respects to those lost when cruiser HMS Cassandra sank in the turbulent aftermath of the Great War.

The Devonport-based survey ship spent the beginning of the year on operations in the Baltic and took some time to investigate several wrecks in the region.

One of those was C-Class cruiser HMS Cassandra which was lost on December 5 1918. Using Echo’s multibeam echo sounder, her sailors were able to get imagery of Cassandra lying on her starboard side with approximately 20 metres of her bow section missing.

Conditions meant the sensor’s imagery were not as clear as usual but they show the violent demise of the cruiser which sank when she struck a mine. Eleven of her crew died.

Surveyor Petty Officer Kirsty Warford said: “Of all the wrecks in the Baltic, I was most interested in HMS Cassandra. It was very sombre to see the images of the wreck appear as Echo sailed over the site where she sunk, with the ship’s company pausing to think of those who perished.”

It was very sombre to see the images of the wreck appear as Echo sailed over the site where she sunk

Surveyor Petty Officer Kirsty Warford

HMS Cassandra was launched in 1916 and commissioned into the Royal Navy in June 1917, seeing active service in the last two years of World War 1.

Following the end of the war, the cruiser was part of a British force dispatched to the Baltic as part of the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War. A key aim of the intervention was to support the independence of the newly founded Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia against the Bolsheviks.

On December 5 1918, the British force was on passage to Tallinn, when Cassandra struck a mine near the Estonian island of Saaremaa. The ship sunk quickly, with 10 of her 400 crew killed during the initial explosion and one falling overboard in the rescue attempt.

The wreck of HMS Cassandra is close to the wrecks of two other Royal Navy ships, minesweepers HMS Myrtle and HMS Gentian which also struck mines, both sinking within moments of each other on July 15 1919.

They were attempting to clear a passage to supply the Estonian Government with vital supplies to continue the fight for independence.

The ships were part of a large squadron deployed in the period from November 1918 to February 1920. In addition to Cassandra, Gentian and Myrtle, losses included two V-class destroyers and several coastal gun and torpedo boats, while the submarine L55 was lost with all hands.

Total British losses in the campaign were 107 Royal Navy personnel and five from the Royal Air Force. Their deaths are commemorated on a memorial plaque at Portsmouth Cathedral.

The discovery of the wreck sites was announced in August 2010 by the Estonian Navy and Estonian Maritime Museum.