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Wednesday, 27 June, 2001, 14:24 GMT 15:24 UK
Divers find destroyer wreck
HMS Exmouth
HMS Exmouth sank with the loss of 189 crew members
The wreck of a Second World War destroyer sunk off the Scottish coast with the loss of 189 crew members has been found more than 50 years later.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed on Wednesday that a three-year quest had ended with the discovery of HMS Exmouth.

Divers found the vessel, which was torpedoed by a German U-boat in January 1940, off the coast of Wick, Caithness.

It is most fitting that the site has been transformed from one of death and destruction to a scene of tranquility and life

Alex Deas, diver
A plaque of remembrance was placed on the wreck in memory of those who died when the vessel went down.

The operation to find the wreck was backed by the Ministry of Defence and the relatives of the victims.

Members of the European Technical Dive Centre, based at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Isles, found the destroyer.

Diver Mark Reeves said it had been "blown apart" by the impact of the torpedo.

He said: "It was obvious from our survey the destroyer sank immediately.

"Large quantities of live munitions are strewn over the vessel."

MV Loyal Mediator
The team quickly gained a strong reading
He said researchers had been working on the project for some time, and came up with a position for the wreck.

Within 20 minutes of arriving at the site, the sophisticated equipment on board the divers' vessel, the MV Loyal Mediator, detected a strong reading.

They followed that reading and passed right over the top of the destroyer.

Alex Deas, another member of the diving team, said: "The wreck had become an underwater garden of stunning beauty, covered with bright hydroids, anemones and starfish.

"I have never seen so much sea life on any other wreck in the world.

It was obvious from our survey the destroyer sank immediately

Mark Reeves, diver
"It is most fitting that the site has been transformed from one of death and destruction to a scene of tranquility and life."

The Exmouth sank with the loss of all its crew as it was escorting the Cyprian Prince, a merchant vessel loaded with supplies for building wartime defences, from Aberdeen to Scapa Flow on 21 January, 1940.

The bodies of 15 crew members were washed ashore a week later.

They were buried at a mass grave in Wick, but they were not individually identified.

An MoD spokesman said discussions were now under way to consider the Exmouth's status as a war grave.

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