HIS face became synonymous with the First World War and his death, along with 736 other men, while on a secret mission spawned numerous conspiracy theories.

While some believed that Lord Kitchener was the victim of a German spy attack, others claimed he was assassinated in a plot led by Winston Churchill or that he had actually survived the sinking of his warship, HMS Hampshire.

Now, 100 years on, remarkable pictures have emerged of the underwater grave of the men who perished when their warship hit a German mine off Orkney.

Specialist divers – led by Rod Macdonald – have catalogued the ruins of the ship with 500 hours of footage and a complete 3D scan of the vessel, as well as a stunning set of photos.

Their work has recorded the ship in incredible detail – from the propeller, to the portholes and even some of the smaller weapons on board.

Mr Macdonald said: “The story of HMS Hampshire is of historical importance and her loss forms an important element of the WWI naval story.

“It’s the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Hampshire and she’s decaying quickly.”

Lord Kitchener, who was the Secretary of State for War and a Field Marshal, died on June 5, 1916 when the HMS Hampshire hit a German mine off Orkney and sank in 15 minutes.

The death of the man whose face appeared in the "your country needs you" posters came as a huge blow to the British public, less than a month before the Battle of the Somme.

As a war grave, the wreck of the Hampshire is generally off-limits to divers and researchers.

But earlier this year Ministry of Defence chiefs granted a special licence to a team to record the historic wreck before it is lost to the rough Scottish seas for good.

Now the resulting images have been released – showing the full wreckage of the 473ft armoured cruiser.

It has also been established that the ship sank in an unusual way.

Because of the length, and the fact that the vessel sank in just 230ft of water, the bow hit the seabed whilst the stern was above the waves.

HMS Hampshire sank in just 15 minutes – and when crews tried to lower lifeboats they were dashed against the side of the ship by high waves.

Only 12 members of crew survived the wreck. Kitchener – who was on a secret mission to the UK’s Russian allies at the time – and his whole staff were lost in the tragedy.

The research crew have spent more than 200 hours on the wreck, which is located in an area exposed to strong tidal currents and storms.

Kitchener was killed en route to a diplomatic meeting with Tsar Nicholas II and the secret nature of his mission has led to various conspiracy theories, including that the explosion came from inside the hull.

Questions were also raised about the whereabouts of the gold the ship was said to have been carrying at the time.

But Mr Macdonald said: “There is nothing out of the unexpected on the wreck to suggest this was anything other than a mine explosion.

“You can still see that the hull was almost intact from the stern up to just in front of the conning tower.

“Our survey dives were not intended to prove or disprove any old conspiracy theories. We were conducting a survey of the present condition of the wreck - but our findings tally exactly with the cause of the sinking being a mine.”