Estonian navy finds WWI-era British shipwrecks

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The Estonian navy said Monday it had located the wrecks of three British ships that sunk after hitting mines as they helped the Baltic state fight for independence in the wake of World War I.

The navy said in a statement that the remains of the three vessels, HMS Cassandra, HMS Myrtle and HMS Gentian, had been found off Saaremaa Island in western Estonia.

They lie at depths of between 60 and 100 metres (200 and 330 feet), it said.

"We are confident that these are the British ships in question which were lost during the war of independence," the navy's chief of staff Commander Ivo Vark said.

The Estonians carried out the search based on almost century-old data from the British navy.

"Considering the navigation devices of the period, the data were surprisingly precise," said Vark.

The ships were part of a squadron sent to help Estonia, which declared independence as the Tsarist Russian empire collapsed during World War I.

Between 1918 and 1920, the newborn state faced assaults from both Bolshevik Russia and Baltic German units trying to control the region.

HMS Cassandra sank in December 1918. Ten crew died.

HMS Myrtle and HMS Gentian went down in July 1919 with the loss of a total nine crew.

© 2010 AFP

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