REMARKABLE pictures have emerged of the underwater grave of Lord Kitchener and 736 other men who perished when their warship hit a mine 100 years ago this month.
Kitchener, who was the Secretary of State for War and a Field Marshal when he died in 1916, has been remembered ever since as the face in the iconic “Your country needs you” posters.
He perished on June 5 that year when the HMS Hampshire hit a German mine off Orkney and sank in 15 minutes.
Now a diving team have released amazing new pictures of the wreck after getting special permission to visit the official war grave.
Lord Kitchener’s death – less than a month before the Battle of the Somme – came as a huge blow to the British public at the time.
As a war grave the wreck of the Hampshire is generally off-limits to divers and researchers.
But earlier this year MoD chiefs granted a special licence to a team to record the historic wreck before it is lost to the rough Scottish seas for good.
Now incredible images have been released – showing the full wreckage of the 473ft armoured cruiser.
Specialist divers – lead by Scotsman Rod Macdonald – have now catalogued the ruins of the ship 500 hours of footage and a complete 3D scan of the vessel, as well as a stunning set of photos.
Their work has recorded the ship in incredible detail – from the propellor, to the portholes and even some of the smaller weapons on board.
It has also been established that the ship sank in an unusual way.
Because of her length, and the fact that she sank in just 230 ft (68m) of water, her bow hit the seabed whilst her stern was above the waves.
She sank in just 15 minutes – and when crews tried to lower lifeboats they were dashed against the side of the ship by high waves.
Only 12 members of crew survived the wreck, Kitchener – who was on a secret mission to the UK’s Russian allies at the time – and his whole staff were lost in the tragedy.
The research crew have spent more than 200 hours on the wreck – located in an area exposed to strong tidal currents and storms, making it a difficult task.
Mr Macdonald said: “The point of this is it’s the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Hampshire and she’s decaying quickly.”
The point of the project – according to him – has been to “record her at 100”.
Kitchener was killed en route to a diplomatic meeting with Tsar Nicholas II.
Because the mission was veiled in secrecy the death of Kitchener has sparked various conspiracy theories – including that Kitchener was assassinated by the Germans or even Winston Churchill.
Others claim that the wreck of the Hampshire shows blast fragments indicating the explosion came from inside the hull.
But Mr Macdonald is adamant that there is no evidence of foul play in the sinking of HMS Hampshire.
He explained: “There is nothing out of the unexpected on the wreck to suggest this was anything other than a mine explosion.
“You can still see that the hull was almost intact from the stern up to just in front of the conning tower.
“Our survey dives were not intended to prove or disprove any old conspiracy theories. We were conducting a survey of the present condition of the wreck – but our findings tally exactly with the cause of the sinking being a mine.”
He also said the survey confirmed that the ship overturned to starboard as it sank – as guns and other loose deck inventory was found to have fallen to the seabed on that side as she went down.
Mr Macdonald went on: “The story of HMS Hampshire is of historical importance and her loss forms an important element of the WWI naval story.”
“In recognition of this, the prestigious Explorers Club awarded the expedition Explorers Club flag number 192.
“All major explorations since the early 1900s have carried with them an Explorers Club flag, including expeditions to the poles, Everest and the Moon.
“Number 192 was carrIed on 22 expeditions to polar regions, the Himalayas and has crossed the Atlantic twice by hot air balloon.”
The wreck of the Hampshire was placed under official government protection in 2002 – but prior to that was dived only sporadically in the 90s.
It is now a “controlled site” under the Protection of Military Remains Act – meaning it can only be visited by those with express permission in the form of a licence.