Submarine found 70 years after sinking

HMS Olympus struck a mine on May 8, 1942 while leaving the British naval base in the Grand Harbor of Malta

HMS Olympus struck a mine on May 8, 1942 while leaving the British naval base in the Grand Harbor of Malta

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THE wreckage of a Second World War submarine has been discovered in the depths of the Mediterranean.

HMS Olympus struck a sea mine in the early hours of May 8, 1942, shortly after she left Malta under the cover of darkness.

The boat’s whereabouts remained a mystery for almost 70 years until a team of explorers announced they had found her this week.

A total of 89 men perished in what was one of the worst naval disasters of the war. Only 11 of the vessel’s 100 crew members survived after swimming seven miles back to the shore.

Olympus was stationed out of Malta but many of her crew trained in Gosport and lived in the Portsmouth area.

Archivist George Malcolmson, of the Royal Naval Submarine Museum in Gosport, said: ‘In terms of men killed, the loss of HMS Olympus ranks as one of the worst Royal Navy wartime submarine losses.

‘There were just 11 survivors. One of these was the famous Gordon Selby, a legend in the submarine service for surviving the sinking of several boats during the war.

‘Gordon once told me that his lasting memory of the sinking of Olympus was looking back at the submarine as she settled in the water and there he saw a mass of boots and shoes neatly placed in one long line on the upper deck casing.

‘The footwear was placed there by the survivors of the initial mine explosion before they abandoned the submarine and took to the water.’

The exact spot where the 283ft-long submarine sank in the Mediterranean Sea had remained a mystery for 70 years. That was until a marine archaeology survey team confirmed they had discovered the Olympus’ resting place using side-scan sonar to survey the seabed.

Timmy Gambin, the archaeological director of Florida-based Aurora Trust, said: ‘Armed with our research on the features of the submarine, where the guns were, the placing and types of the rudder and propeller, we were able to identify her.

‘Except for the damage from the mine she was in pristine condition, sitting upright as if she’d been placed on the seabed.’

Olympus is in the best condition of any wreck found by the Aurora Trust with almost no underwater growth on it.

The footage confirmed that Olympus’ propeller remains intact and her hatch open.

The hole caused by the mine can be seen on bottom of the submarine. Also visible are the boat’s deck guns, radio antennas and machine guns.

The site is due to be formally designated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and is being treated with ‘every sensitivity possible,’ Mr Gambin said.

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