Seventy-three years after mysteriously vanishing in the Mediterranean, the legendary British P311 World War Two submarine has been found.
In a discovery that will help to lay decades of speculation to rest, an Italian scuba diver found the vessel 90 metres below the surface of the sea, not far from the Sardinian coast.
In doing so, 58-year old Massimo Domenico Bondone, an experienced diver from the city of Genoa, has unearthed the Holy Grail in his salvaging community, next to the island of Tavolara.
HMS P311 went missing in January 1943 along with 71 crew members. The discovery has confirmed that every one of them perished after Mr Bondone found them still inside the submarine on the Gallurese seabed, which acted as a huge steel coffin depriving them of oxygen.
“Now you think of the fate of those who fell to their death down there – a fate shared by many people of different nationalities, submariners in particular,” Mr Bondone told the Italian newspaper La Nuova Sardegna.
The submarine is thought to have sunk from colliding after fishermen reported a loud roar at the time of the disapperence, over the din of a stormy night. But, until now, nobody had been able to find it.
“I am a strong believer that the wrecks are still alive, they are a link from past to present”
Massimo Domenico Bondone
Mr Bondone began diving at the age of 18 and since then has discovered a wide variety of shipwrecks, many of which relate to the second world war including a UJ 2208 German anti-submarine vessel off the coast of Genoa.
And, for him, diving is a mission.
“I am a strong believer that the wrecks are still alive, they are a link from past to present,” he has previously said.
“If we don’t find them, identify them and document their story, we lose the history of the ships and the men who built them and sailed with them.
“We don’t have much time, maybe a few decades and then time and the elements of Nature will prevail. I believe that history is not only made by masters and admirals, the last sailor too must be remembered,” he said.
HMS P311 was a T-class submarine and the only boat of her class never to be given a name. She was to have been called Tutankhamen but was lost before being formally named.
Picture: A torpedo is loaded onto P311 from the Submarine Depot Ship HMS Forth at Holy Loch, Scotland, in 1942.