The Greek Navy minesweeper “Nestos” wreck, sunk in 1941, unveiled by George Karelas

Research and photos by George Karelas submitted to and used by permission

Having done over 200 dives on the minesweeper Nestos, a WW2 wreck in the Gulf of Corinth with an easy access by the shoreand at accessible depth, I eventually got an idea of what the ship would have been like before it sank.

Η πλώρη του "Νέστος"
The bow of “Nestos”

There was no photo of the ship, but a photo from the war era helped to reveal the wreck and now we have a complete picture of it.

Το ναρκαλιευτικό "Νέστος" στο σημείο που βυθίστηκε.
Greek Navy minesweeper “Nestos” is sitting in the shallows, as her Captain tried to save her from sinking, after the Luftwaffe attack.

When the ship was sunk in April 1941 by the German air force in Psathopyrgos Achaia, part of the ship was sticking out of the water since the Captain managed to bring it in the shallows.

So this small part of the ship stood enough to reveal to us the full picture of the minesweeper and how it was before it sank. (Note: The ship finally sunk in deeper waters after the war when in the 1950s a crew tried to raise it. Today it is submerged in a sloping seabed at a depth of 26 to 45 m).

Η τοποθεσία του ναυαγίου σήμερα
The same area today. “Nestos” is now sunk at a depth of 26 to 45 metres below the surface.

So it all started when a photo of a sunken ship off the Greek coast from the time of the German invasion was auctioned online.

Εξαιρετικό φωτομωσαικό του ναυαγίου από την Ελένη Τσοπουροπούλου. Η ανεμοδόχος είναι ορατή
A photomosaic of the “Nestos” wreck, by Helen Tsopouropoulou 

Although the location is extremely familiar to me, it took me more than a while to initially identify the area. The low cloud cover in the period photo made me not recognize the landscape.
But at some point I came back and looking more closely I realized that it was the area of Fokida, opposite the picturesque village of Psathopyrgos.

A scuba diver is hovering over the stern of the “Nestos” wreck.

The wreck that can be seen in the photo could be one of the Nestos (Greek Navy minesweeper), Spetses (passenger steamer) and Athena S (merchant steamer) that were sunk in the area by the German air force and ended up in shallow waters off the coast of the area. Initially and with the in situ method, the Athena S ships were excluded (due to a position that is known and does not coincide but also due to the dissimilarity of the part of the ship that is distinguished) and then Spetses (due to the dissimilarity of the ship).

Φωτογραφία πλοίου παρόμοιου τύπου
A similar ship to “Nestos”.

Nestos lived which I had never imagined with two very tall air ducts* on either side of its bridge. So these air ducts would solve a mystery of many years.

Η ανεμοδόχος του "Νέστος" έχει πλέον πέσει.
The air duct has now fallen off the wreck.

Diving to certify the existence of the air ducts was carried out in August 2023. I knew where to focus my attention and indeed – as I remembered – a huge air duct to the left of the bridge is on the deck. It has bent from its base and fallen towards the stern.

On the other side of the bridge, the air duct is missing, while where it should be, there is a hole and a large sheet metal covering the area.

Σχέδιο πλοίου παρόμοιου τύπου με το "Νέστος"
Drawing of a ship similar to “Nestos”

A characteristic mast which can be seen in the photograph of the wreck and in the drawings of the Mersey type barges had a lantern at the top and was located on the left side of the bridge. At this point there are two vertical irons, but the pole with the lantern in Nestos should have been a little further back on the bridge and next to the funnel. Diving the wreck for over three decades I remember a very tall pole next to the chimney that no longer exists but can be seen in many photos and videos taken in the past.

O δύτης περνάει από στο σημείο που βρισκόταν η βάση της ανεμοδόχου και έχει λυγίσει και πέσει στο κατάστρωμα
A scuba diver examines the air duct, which has now fallen of its initial position.

In 1938, the government of Ioannis Metaxas, as part of the strengthening of the country’s army and fleet due to the fact that the dark clouds of the BPP had begun to gather, bought four minesweepers. They were given river names. Axios, Strymon Nestos and Aliakmon. The first two, as well as the second two, were very similar to each other, but as a couple they had important constructional differences. Researcher and author Aris Bilalis mentions in his article “Mine warfare ships in the 1940s”.

“…Greece acquired two British fishing vessels, the “LORD BRADBURY” and “LORD MERRIVALE”, with the intention of converting them into mine warfare vessels. Although the four fishing boats are often referred to as sisters, in reality they were two separate pairs of boats with quite a lot in common since they were built in the same shipyards. ‘LORD BRADBURY’ and ‘LORD MERRIVALE’ had been built 1925-262 at Cochrane & Sons for privateers as fishing vessels of 338 gross tonnage, 42.3m long and 7.3m beam…….When purchased in 1938 the four trawlers were converted for use as minesweepers and minesweepers capable of carrying 50 mines each while a 37mm ‘Rheinmetall’ anti-aircraft gun and an old-style machine gun were fitted. The mechanical grip installed enabled them to catch anchored contact mines.”
Aris Bilalis’ full article can be found in this issue of Naval Review

From photos we know that Axios and Strymon were one pair, for the other pair (Nestos and Aliakmon) there was no illustration, drawing or photograph. We now know that the Nestos and Aliakmon would be as shown in the photo (steamer Lord Talbot) and in the drawing (steamer Lord Heneace) two similar ships built in England as patrol boats and even minesweepers before the outbreak of the war and belonged to the Mersey class.

Το πηδάλιο στην πρύμνη
Close up of the steering mechanism in the stern of “Nestos”

* Air duct, a cylindrical construction, with a curved upper part and a wide opening, which is used to ventilate a closed space (on ships, mines, etc.).

Η γέφυρα και φουγάρο του ναυαγίου. Διακρίνεται και ο στύλος που σήμερα δεν υπάρχει
The bridge and funnel of “Nestos”.