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Pictures from the Heritage Archives

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Shell Casing art, perhaps more commonly known as Trench art is the subject of our jotting this week.

Armstrong Siddeley Heritage Trust has been entrusted with the safe keeping of a number of items relating to Armstrong Siddeley and Bristol Siddeley from the former collection of the now sadly closed Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust museum. Pictured below, and found amongst the smaller artefacts is a cut down shell case bearing the inscription, Wardroom. H.M.S. SPHINX.’

It would seem that this Sphinx was the fourth ship, so named, to bear the H.M.S. prefix. The first, a 24 gun sixth rate frigate, was launched in 1748 during the reign of George II. The second, a 20 gun sixth rate frigate, was commissioned in 1775 during the reign of George III.

During Queen Victoria’s reign in 1882 a composite paddle vessel was launched and finally on the 7th February 1939 during the reign of George VI, HMS Sphinx, a Halcyon-Class Minesweeper took to the water in the yard of William Hamilton at Port Glasgow, Scotland

After trials the 875 tons ship costing over £100,000 to build operated out of ports on the south east coast of England and was transferred to Invergordon on 3rd January 1940 along with sister ships Halcyon and Skipjack. Just one month later on the 3rd of February while sweeping about 15 miles north of Kinnaird Head in heavy seas and a snow storm, two Dornier bombers spotted the ships and launched an attack. A bomb struck the Sphinx, tore through the bridge, killing Commander Taylor and four other men. It then passed through the upper deck and exploded in the forward mess deck. As the engines had been put out of action a tow was attempted, but conditions were such that by the afternoon of the 4th the Sphinx had to be abandoned. Five officers and 49 ratings lost their lives and there were 49 survivors.

This was the first loss of a Fleet Minesweeper during WW2


The name Sphinx was carried forward on 20th April 1941 when given to an Accommodation Camp at Alexandrea, Egypt, on commissioning for use by the Mediterranean Fleet.

So the Sphinx returned to its homeland and today we have this poignant reminder of the bravery and dedication of the men of our Royal Navy.


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