HMS Nessus was a steel ‘M’ Class destroyer launched in August 1915 from the yard of Swan Hunter Wigham Richardson, Wallsend. Her dimensions were 264.9′ x 26.4′ x 8.7′, with a tonnage of 1025dt. She was powered by 3 steam turbines developing 25,000shp. Her main armament was 3 @ quick firing 4 inch Mk IV guns, 3 @ single quick firing 2pdr anti-aircraft Mk II guns and 2 @ twin 21 inch torpedo tubes.
On the afternoon of 7th September, 1918 the 11,000 ton 1st class cruiser HMS Amphitrite completed minelaying operations in the North Sea and set a zig-zag course for her home base at Rosyth. Stationed off her port and starboard bows respectively her two ‘M’ class escort destroyers Maenad and Nessus set a parallel course about five cables from Amphitrite steaming at sixteen knots. The sea was smooth, wind south by east force three or four.
At around 14:30pm the ships ran into a bank of fog and Amphitrite signalled to her escorts that she would stop zig-zagging until the visibility cleared. Fifteen minutes later the Nessus and Amphitrite lost sight of each other and Nessus slowed to eleven knots and altered course nine degrees to port to drop astern of Amphitrite. At 15:01 Nessus sighted Amphitrite again but to the horror of Lieutenant Hugh Raymond DSC, RN, in command aboard the destroyer, Amphitrite was bearing down on them. Both commanders took immediate avoiding action, Amphitrite turning to port and then reversing engines, Nessus turning to starboard and putting engines full ahead, but it was too late. Amphitrite crashed into Nessus’ port side midships – the reported position of the collision was 58°32’N, 00°29’W.
Aboard Nessus both engines were stopped as the damage was assessed by the crew and the captain. The news was not good – the ship’s port side was dented heavily and there was a large hole in the aft boiler room which was quickly flooded. The bulkhead between the boiler room and the engine room was badly buckled and there was a further hole below the waterline in the engine room. Most of the rivets in the ship’s side at the engine room were started and there was six feet of water in that compartment. However, Lieutenant Raymond believed he could keep his ship afloat to be towed north to Scapa Flow. Maenad commanded by Lieutenant R Izat RN, took her in tow and the two ships headed north at about seven knots.
The voyage north went well to the extent that, at 16:15pm the following day, Amphitrite left the two ships to return to Rosyth. However, at 19:00 a signal was received from Senior Officer, Orkneys warning of the approach of bad weather and ordering the removal of Nessus’ crew if required. By 21:00 the weather had indeed deteriorated and the two ships ‘hove to.’ At 04:00 HMS Paladin and the tug Labour arrived on the scene and the tug succeeded in getting another line aboard the destroyer. The weather continued to deteriorate all night until, at 08:50, Nessus’ pumps stopped and the water began to gain quickly and the ship began to settle. The remaining officers and crew were taken off by Paladin and, at 10:25 on the 8th Nessus sank – the position was noted as 58°33’N, 02°12’45″W.
A wreck of a destroyer-like vessel was located in position 58°37.026’N, 002°31.217’W in 65 metres oriented 151/331 degrees and was positively identified following a dive in 2008 as Nessus from the distinctive arrangement of her 4 inch guns. She sits upright on the seabed and although the outline of a WW1 destroyer is evident she has collapsed in multiple places along the length of the ship.