Halcyon Class Minesweepers HMS Sphinx - Sinking
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Wreck of HMS Sphinx - Halcyon Class Minesweeper

The sombre spectacle of the wrecked minesweeper HMS Sphinx - minus her bow section - at the foot of cliffs at Occumster. Evidence of leaked oil is apparent on the shingle beach and from the sheen on the surface of the sea. This photograph was loaned by Lybster man George Carter.

Source John O'Groat Journal Feb 7th 2003


Source: ADM 1/10785

Reports on the wreck

1446 5th Feb 1940 

Signal From RA Invergordon 

District Officer Wick reports wreck of SPHINX ashore one mile North Lybster, bottom up. Watch has been arranged .


1000 7th February 1940

 Signal from RA Invergordon to C in C Rosyth

Officer at Lybster reports wreck of SPHINX bottom up at foot of steep cliff, one and a half miles North of Lybster. Little likelihood of wreck moving except possibly at high water springs. Upper works appear to have completely gone. Certain CBs have been recovered. Understand ACOS has signalled report made by NOIC Thurso, and has instructed Mr McKenzie of metal industries Salvage Company to visit wreck today, Wednesday.



I have to report that between 11am and 1pm on 7th inst. I carried out a survey of HMS SPHINX with a view to possible salvage.

Survey commenced at approximately high water and was completed when tide had been ebbing for two hours.

The vessel lies bottom up on a rocky shore about 1 mile north of Lybster. She is broadside on to the shore in a small gully at the foot of cliffs 100 to 150 feet high and is completely exposed to all winds from NE through E to SSW but sheltered from all other winds.

The forward part of the vessel as far aft as station 25 bulkhead is broken completely off and was not visible in the vicinity.

There was about 5 feet of water on the inshore side and about 9 feet on the seaward (port) side. The inshore side will ebb practically dry at low water.

Two large vertical fractures 8 feet by 2 feet can be seen abreast the engine room, and the ships side is badly crushed and corrugated in the vicinity.

All bridge superstructure and possibly part of the bridge deck appear to be torn away. Port propeller is broken and a 4 wire, presumably a towing hawser was wrapped around same.

From observations made I have arrived at the following conclusions:-

1)   The vessel may be considered a constructive total loss, and as a wartime salvage proposition is not worth considering.

2)   Damage is so extensive that even if salvage was possible , the cost of same plus the cost of  reconstruction would be prohibitive.

3)   The vessel will probably drive further inshore or break up during the first Easterly gale  at Spring tides.

4)   If the confidential books are still in the ship, it should be possible to recover them, either by burning holes through the hull or if necessary by divers.

5)   If the vessel breaks up even her present position, live ammunition may be scattered about the beach and become a source of danger.  

T M McKenzie

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