Thursday, May 7, 2015

Royal Navy sub lost at sea for 74 years discovered off Libya

HMS Urge paid for by South Wales town of Bridgend before sinking without trace in Mediterranean in 1942 is discovered 160ft below.

HMS Urge which has been found of the coast of Libya after being lost at sea 73 Years ago
HMS Urge which has been found of the coast of Libya after being lost at sea 73 Years ago Photo: 

Wales News Service Ltd
7 May 2015
A Royal Navy submarine paid for by a town holding dances and whist drives has been discovered more than 70 years after it vanished during the Second World War.
The British submarine HMS Urge was paid for by the townspeople of Bridgend, South Wales, but sunk without trace in the Mediterranean in 1942.
It disappeared while making a voyage from the island of Malta to the Egyptian city of Alexandria - and families of the 29 crew and 10 passengers never knew what happened.
For more than 70 years, its resting place has remained a mystery. But it has finally been found by a 76-year-old scuba diver who has discovered its wreck 160ft (50m) below the waves off the Libyan coast.
Sonar image of HMS Urge
The remarkable find by Belgian diver Jean-Pierre Misson has finally allowed the families of the lost men to know their fate - they sank after being dive-bombed by an Italian bi-plane.
HMS Urge cost £300,000 in 1941 - more than £12m today - and was built thanks to the townspeople of Bridgend's efforts during a National Warship Week, where cities and towns across the country raised money to fund the building of ships and weapons.
They raised the money through a series of "grand dances", whist drive card tournaments, art exhibitions and a football match.
The people of Bridgend adopted the submarine and its 29 crew after it was completed and regularly sent them parcels of food and luxuries - until they vanished without trace on 29 April 1942.
Mr Misson said: "I really do not know how the relatives of the captain and crew of HMS Urge will take it - they might have been content knowing their loved ones were somewhere in the huge ocean rather than being too close to fanatics in Libya.
"Mind you, there is no chance the wreck will ever be the target of any desecration as it is just too deep and difficult to find.
"My hope is that one day Europe or NATO will organize a visit to the submarine in the bay, to remember and honour all those men as their sacrifice has brought the longtime peace under the European flag."

The bay where HMS Urge was found in Tobruk, Libya

He discovered the wreck using a sonar system off the coast of Libya at Ras el Hilal near Derna - now occupied by Islamic State militants.
The submarine had been attacking and sinking Italian shipping vessels from its base in Malta throughout 1941 and 1942 in an attempt to block them resupplying Field Marshal Rommel and his feared Nazi troops in North Africa.
On 27 April 1942, Captain EP Tomkinson, his 29 crew and 10 passengers aboard HMS Urge left Malta for their new base in Egypt.
They failed to arrive at Alexandria on 6 May 1942 and were reported overdue on that day. Official sources have long attributed her loss to a mine outside Malta but another theory based on German naval reports holds that on 29 April - two days after leaving Malta - HMS Urge attacked the Italian sailing vessel San Giusto off Ras el Hilal.
In the immediate area was a small convoy of three German MFPs, escorted by an Italian CR.42 biplane. As Urge attacked San Giusto, the biplane dive-bombed Urge, sinking her with the loss of all hands.
After the discovery of the wreck in the same area as the sinking reported by the German navy, it is now believed to be the most likely cause of its demise.

Captain of HMS Urge Edward Philip Tomkinson

In the whole of the Second World War, only one unofficial passenger set sail on a British Submarine. He was Bernard Gray, a war correspondent billed as "the man who goes everywhere".
An hour before he sailed on the fateful voyage, he wrote to his wife: "My own darling, I'm going away now on a trip which is dangerous. It's the last thing of its kind I shall ever do. I'm doing this for the children."

Bernard Gray a journalist who was onboard the submarine

Dive archaeologist Mr Misson discovered the wreck on a sonar reading while diving in 2012, but as the security situation in the country quickly collapsed after the downfall of Colonel Gaddafi he could not dive on the site.
The experienced diver returned to the sonar pictures earlier this year and has identified the wreck as HMS Urge from its distinctive U-class shape and corroborating German naval reports in the area.
Mr Misson said: "I very much regret it does not seem anyone can reach this place in Libya any time soon. The area is totally out of bounds and at 76 my only hope is to reach HMS Urge in another lifetime.
"I have put in a statement of identification to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Submariners Associations UK, Royal Navy Submarine Museum and Bridgend Register Office. I hope I have fulfilled all my obligations to the families of the crew." 

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