Tag Archive | lost submarine

The Admiralty must love their Brazilian allies right about now

The Royal Navy and Marinha do Brasil have extensive ties going back to the 19th Century.

It should be remembered that the battle of Jutland had a Brazilain battleship sailing for the British. HMS Agincourt, with her impressive battery of 14x 12-inch guns, had originally been ordered in 1911 as Rio de Janeiro from the British company Armstrong Whitworth. Of note, the Latin American country’s two previous battleships, Minas Geraes, and São Paulo, were also built at Armstrong.

However, Brazil recently apparently promised Argentina not one but two new (by Argie standards) submarines. According to Janes:

The Brazilian Navy has agreed to transfer two Tupi class submarines – Type 209/1400 – to Argentina, following a meeting between Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and his Argentine counterpart, Mauricio Macro.

The deal includes a potential future transfer of an additional two boats.

Brazilian submarine, Tupi-class Type 209 S Tikuna (S34)

The Argentine Navy has fielded 11 submarines over the years, but only two of these, a Type 209 (ARA Salta S31) and a Type 1700 (ARA Santa Cruz S41) are still active, and those only marginally. There has been lots of crowing in sub circles that ARA San Juan (S42), tragically lost in an accident at sea last year, suffered from poor maintenance and probably shouldn’t have been at sea.

The Argentine-Brazil sub deal could end up with four boats transferred in all, with an overhaul in Brazil prior to transfer. A quartet certified pre-owned German 209s could provide the Brits a good bit of heartburn in a Falklands Redux situation.

No comment from the First Sea Lord or MoD…who must be super happy they sold the RN’s gently used helicopter carrier HMS Ocean–now NAeL Atlântico (AND 140) to Brazil late last year for the military equivalent of couch change.

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019: The ‘$2 million Fighting Monster’

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019: The ‘$2 million Fighting Monster’

NH 108456 (2000×1043)

Here we see the S-class submarine USS S-49 (SS-160), one of the last class of “pig boats” commissioned with letters rather than names, in heavy seas during her brief time in the Navy. Somehow, after a short and unlucky naval career, S-49 was sold to a huckster who turned her into a (sometimes) floating tourist trap that wound up taking his case to the Supreme Court.

True story.

The S-class, or “Sugar” boats, were actually three different variants designed by Simon Lake Co, Electric Boat, and the Bureau of Construction and Repair (BuC&R) in the last days of the Great War in which U.S.-made submarines had a poor record. Looking for a better showing in these new boats, of which 65 were planned, and 51 completed in several subgroups. These small 1,000~ ton diesel-electrics took to the sea in the 1920s and they made up the backbone of the U.S. submarine fleet before the larger “fleet” type boats of the 1930s came online.

The hero of our tale, USS S-49, was 231-feet oal, could dive to 200 feet and travel at a blistering 14.5-knots on the surface on her two 900hp diesel engines and two Westinghouse electric motors for 11-knots submerged. Armament was a quartet of 21-inch bow tubes with a dozen fish and a 4″/50 cal popgun on deck for those special moments. Crew? Just 42 officers and men.

Laid down on 22 October 1920 by the Lake Torpedo Boat Co., Bridgeport, Conn., she commissioned on 5 June 1922 and soon joined New London’s experimental unit, Submarine Division Zero, operating in that role in a series of tests and evaluations into 1926.

U.S. Submarine S-49, during launching NH 108460

This made her one of the most well-photographed of these early submarines.

USS S-49 (SS-160), 1922-1931. NH 108464

USS S-49 (SS-160) NH 108465, on the surface, note her 4″ gun

NH 108462 USS S-49 (SS-160), at periscope depth

NH 108463 USS S-49 (SS-160), with decks awash

NH 108455 USS S-49 (SS-160), looking like she could beat her 14.5-kn max speed

NH 1374 USS S-49 (SS-160). What is the bluejacket on her bow doing?

Then, in early 1926, all hell broke loose.

Per DANFS:

At about 0750 on Tuesday, 20 April, S-49’s engines were started. Seven minutes later, just as a pilot cell cover was removed to test the specific gravity of the electrolyte, the forward battery exploded. The hydrogen gas explosion destroyed the cells in the forward half of the battery and forced up the battery deck. Ten men were injured. Two others were gassed during rescue operations. Four of the twelve died of their injuries.

The battery compartment was sealed and kept shut until mid-afternoon when the outboard battery vent was opened. During the night, the submarine took on a slight list to port and air pressure was used to keep ballast. At about 0515 on the 21st, a second explosion occurred in the battery room when wash from vessels departing for torpedo practice rocked S-49. The compartment was resealed for another few hours, after which the work of clearing the wreckage was begun.

Repaired and operational again by early 1927, S-49 made a cruise to the Florida Keys that Spring for exercises and then, on return to New London, was sent with her twin sister S-50 to red lead row in Philly in March to be placed in mothballs. Decommissioned 2 August 1927, she was stricken in 1931 to help bring down the Navy’s tonnage after the London Naval Conference.

S-49 was subsequently sold to the Boston Iron and Metal Co., Baltimore, Md., on 25 May 1931– but she was not to be scrapped.

You see, a Florida man by the name of “Capt. F.J. Christensen” purchased the gently-used boat as a hulk for a cost of $25,000 (about $400K in today’s dollars) in 1936 and soon put her to work as a privately-owned tourist attraction in the Great Lakes and East Coast, shuffling her between Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark, Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo, Boston, and New York, among others.

For this purpose, she was disarmed, her engines disabled, most of her bunks pulled out (the class was notoriously cramped), registered as a “yacht” to comply with Canadian regulations on warships on the Lakes, and billed as “The $2,000,000 Fighting Monster.”

(Archives of the Supreme Court)

Admission to, “See how men live in a Hell Diver!” was 25-cents for adults, 15 for kiddies, with a souvenir book and other trinkets for sale on board for an added fee.

Privately owned sub S-49, open to the public at Point-o-Pines in Revere, near Boston, Aug 1931. Via Leslie Jones: The Cameraman

Ashore at Revere by Leslie Jones. Note that her torpedo door is open

U.S. Submarine S-49, at Great Lakes Exposition- Cleveland. NH 108461

From her souvenir keepsake book:

USS S-49 was only the second U.S. Navy submarine to be privately owned after naval service– with the first being former Warship Wednesday alum, the O-class diesel-electric submarine USS O-12 (SS-73), which was stricken on 29 July 1930 and leased for $1 per year (with a maximum of five years in options) to Simon Lake’s company for use as a private research submarine. Dubbed the Nautilus, O-12 was to explore the Arctic but instead only made it as far as Norway before the venture tanked and she was sunk in deep water on the Navy’s insistence.

As for Christensen, he flew under the radar and continued in his operation for almost four years until he crossed paths with NYPD Police Commissioner Lewis “Nightstick” Valentine who, appointed in 1934 by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, ran the agency for over a decade before heading to Post-War Tokyo to take over the Metropolitan Police Department there with MacArthur’s blessing. The fuzz brought the submarine owner’s “sandwich men” on charges in 1940 of distributing illegal handbills (the above advert) in a case that went all the way to the nation’s high court in 1942– with the Supremes backing Valentine.

With a war on and Christensen facing mounting legal bills, after all, you can’t fight city hall, he sold the immobile submarine back to the Navy who dubbed it floating equipment and intended to use it for experimental work at the Naval Mine Warfare Proving Ground, Solomons, Md.

However, she sank on the way in 132-feet of water while under tow off Port Patience in the Patuxent River.

She is an active, though advanced, dive site today.

As for her sisters, though obsolete, several S-boats remained on the Navy List and served the Navy well in both the Atlantic and Pacific (including several lost to accidents) during WWII. A half-dozen were even transferred to the Royal Navy as Lend-Lease including class leader and the former submersible aircraft carrier, USS S-1.

None of these hardy, if somewhat unlucky, craft endure though Pigboats.com keeps their memory alive.

Specs:


Displacement: 876 tons surfaced; 1,092 tons submerged
Length: 231 feet
Beam: 21 feet 9 inches
Draft: 13 feet 4 inches
Propulsion: 2 × MAN diesels, 900 hp each; 2 × Westinghouse electric motors, 447 kW each; 120-cell Exide battery; two shafts.
Speed: 14.5 knots surfaced; 11 knots submerged
Bunkerage: 148 tons oil fuel
Range: 5,000 nautical miles at 10 knots surfaced
Test depth: 200 ft. (61 m)
Armament (as built): 4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (bow, 12 torpedoes)
1 × 4 inch (102 mm)/50 caliber Mark 9 “wet mount” deck gun
Crew: 42 officers and men

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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The 44 brave submariners aboard San Juan have been located

Just over a year after the German-made Type TR-1700 SSK ARA San Juan (S-42) went missing with 44 souls aboard, she has been found.

The sad news from Ocean Infinity:

Ocean Infinity, the seabed exploration company, confirms that it has found ARA San Juan, the Argentine Navy submarine which was lost on 15 November 2017.

In the early hours of 17 November, after two months of seabed search, Ocean Infinity located what has now been confirmed as the wreckage of the ARA San Juan. The submarine was found in a ravine in 920m of water, approximately 600 km east of Comodoro Rivadavia in the Atlantic Ocean.

Oliver Plunkett, Ocean Infinity’s CEO, said:

“Our thoughts are with the many families affected by this terrible tragedy. We sincerely hope that locating the resting place of the ARA San Juan will be of some comfort to them at what must be a profoundly difficult time. Furthermore, we hope our work will lead to their questions being answered and lessons learned which help to prevent anything similar from happening again.

We have received a huge amount of help from many parties who we would like to thank. We are particularly grateful to the Argentinian Navy whose constant support and encouragement was invaluable. In addition, the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy, via the UK Ambassador in Buenos Aires, made a very significant contribution. Numerous others, including the US Navy’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving, have supported us with expert opinion and analysis. Finally, I would like to extend a special thank you to the whole Ocean Infinity team, especially those offshore as well as our project leaders Andy Sherrell and Nick Lambert, who have all worked tirelessly for this result.”

Ocean Infinity used five Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) to carry out the search, which was conducted by a team of approximately 60 crew members on board Seabed Constructor. In addition, three officers of the Argentine Navy and four family members of the crew of the ARA San Juan joined Seabed Constructor to observe the search operation

For the San Juan: Eternal Father, Strong to Save, as performed by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and chorus.

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018: One of the luckier sugars

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018: One of the luckier sugars

Photo by famed Boston Herald cameraman Leslie Jones via The Boston Public Library, colorized by my friend and the most excellent Postales Navales https://www.facebook.com/Postales-Navales-100381150365520/

Here we see the somber crew of the early “Government-type” S-class diesel-electric submarine USS S-8 (SS-113) — back when the Navy just gave ’em numbers– as she pulls into Boston’s Charlestown Navy Yard some 90-years ago today: 3 January 1928, in the twilight of her career. They are no doubt still reeling from the loss of her close sister, S-4 (SS-109) just two weeks prior, to which the boat stood by to help rescue surviviors without success.

The S-class, or “Sugar” boats, were actually three different variants designed by Simon Lake Co, Electric Boat, and the Bureau of Construction and Repair (BuC&R) in the last days of the Great War in which U.S.-made submarines had a poor record. Looking for a better showing in these new boats, of which 65 were planned, and 51 completed in several subgroups. These small 1,000~ ton diesel-electrics took to the sea in the 1920s and they made up the backbone of the U.S. submarine fleet before the larger “fleet” type boats of the 1930s came online.

The hero of our tale, USS S-8, was 231-feet oal, could dive to 200 feet and travel at a blistering 15-knots on the surface on her twin MAN 8-cylinder 4-stroke direct-drive diesel engines and two Westinghouse electric motors for 11-knots submerged. Armament was a quartet of 21-inch bow tubes with a dozen fish and a 4″/50 cal popgun on deck for those special moments. Crew? Just 38 officers and men.

Her Government-type sister, USS S-4 (SS-109) Interior view, looking aft in the Crew’s Quarters (Battery Room), 25 December 1919. Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine. Note folding chairs and tables, coffee pot, Christmas decorations door to the Control Room. NH 41847

USS S-4 Description: (Submarine # 109) Interior view, looking forward in the Crew’s Quarters (Battery Room), 25 December 1919. Taken by the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine. Note folding chairs, table, benches, and berths; also Christmas decorations. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 41848

S-8 was technically a war baby.  A BuC&R design Government-type boat, she was laid down 9 November 1918 at Portsmouth Navy Yard, just 48-hours before the Armistice. Commissioned 1 October 1920, she was attached along with several of her sister ships (including the ill-fated Portsmouth-built USS S-4 whose interior is above) to SubDiv 12 and, together with SubDiv18, sailed slowly and in formation from Maine via the Panama Canal to Cavite Naval Station with stops in California and Hawaii.

USS S-8 (SS-113) Underway during the 1920s. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 41749

In all, the journey from Portsmouth to the Philippines took a full year, but according to DANFS, “set a record for American submarines, at that time, as the longest cruise ever undertaken. Other submarines, which had operated on the Asiatic station prior to this, were transported overseas on the decks of colliers.”

S-8 and her sisters formed SubFlot 3, operating in the P.I. and the coast of China while forward deployed for three years, the salad days of her career.

USS S-8 (SS-113) At the Cavite Navy Yard, Philippine Islands, circa 1921-1924. Note the awning and the type’s “chisel” bow. Collection of Chief Engineman Virgil Breland, USN. Donated by Mrs. E.H. Breland, 1979. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 103259

Submarine tender USS Camden (AS-6) Photographed circa the middle or later 1920s, with ten S type submarines alongside. The submarines are (on Camden’s starboard side, from left to right): USS S-18 (SS-123); unidentified Electric Boat type S-boat; USS S-19 (SS-124); USS S-12 (SS-117); and an unidentified Government type S-boat. (on Camden’s port side, from left to right): unidentified Government type S-boat; USS S-7 (SS-112); USS S-8 (SS-113); USS S-9 (SS-114); and USS S-3 (SS-107). Note the awnings. Collection of Vice Admiral Dixwell Ketcham, USN. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 100459

By Christmas 1924, S-8 was at Mare Island, California and was a West Coast boat for a minute before chopping to the Panama Canal for a while.

Submarine tender USS Holland (AS-3) in the Canal Zone, with several S type submarines alongside, circa 1926. Note the Submarine Division Eleven insignia on the fairwaters of the two inboard subs. Submarines present are (from inboard to outboard): unidentified; USS S-25 (SS-130); USS S-7 (SS-112); USS S-4 (SS-109); USS S-6 (SS-111); and USS S-8 (SS-113). U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 53436

May 1927 found S-8 and several her SubFlot 3 alumni sisters stationed on the East Coast at the big submarine base in New London.

It was during this time that tragedy occurred off New England.

On 17 December 1927, sister USS S-4, while surfacing from a submerged run over the measured-mile off Provincetown, Cape Cod, Mass., was accidentally rammed and sunk by the U.S. Coast Guard-manned destroyer USS Paulding (DD-22/CG-17), killing all on board. An inquiry later absolved the Coast Guard of blame.

As noted by Naval History.org, “The two ships had no idea the other would be there.”

Per DANFS on the incident:

The only thing to surface, as Paulding stopped and lowered lifeboats, was a small amount of oil and air bubbles. Rescue and salvage operations were commenced, only to be thwarted by severe weather setting in. Gallant efforts were made to rescue six known survivors trapped in the forward torpedo room, who had exchanged a series of signals with divers, by tapping on the hull. However, despite the efforts, the men were lost. S-4 was finally raised on 17 March 1928 and towed to the Boston Navy Yard for drydocking. She was decommissioned on the 19th.

Diver descending on the wreck of the USS S-4 from USS Falcon (AM-28)

Half submerged S-4 sub after accident. Charlestown Navy Yard – Pier 4 Leslie Jones Boston Public Library 3 12 1928

USS S-4 Description: (SS-109) Interior of the Battery Room, looking aft and to port, 23 March 1928. Taken while she was in dry dock at the Boston Navy Yard, Charlestown, Massachusetts, after being salvaged off Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she had been sunk in collision with USCGC Paulding on 17 December 1927. The irregular object running the length of the compartment, just above the lockers on the right (port) side, is the collapsed ventilator duct through which water entered the Control Room. Into this duct water forced the curtain and flag, which clogged the valve on the after side of the bulkhead, preventing it from closing. It was this water which forced the abandonment of the Control Room. S-4 flooded through a hole, made by Paulding’s bow, in the forward starboard side of the Battery Room. See Photo # NH 41847 and Photo # NH 41848 for photographs of the Battery Room, taken when S-4 was first completed. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 41833

SS-8 went to the aid of her sister, but it was to no avail.

Sub S-8 at the Navy Yard after standing by S-4 off Provincetown when she was rammed and sent to the bottom by USS Paulding. Leslie Jones, Boston Herald Photographer, via Boston Public Library collection.

U.S. sub S-8, Charlestown Navy Yard Jan 15, 1928. Leslie Jones, Boston Herald Photographer, via Boston Public Library collection.

U.S. sub S-8, Charlestown Navy Yard Jan 15, 1928. Leslie Jones, Boston Herald Photographer, via Boston Public Library collection.

With just a decade of service under their belt, the age of the Sugar boats was rapidly coming to an end as the Depression loomed, and precious Navy Department dollars were spent elsewhere on more modern designs. Three others of the class were lost in peacetime accidents– S-5, S-48, and S-51— while a number were scrapped wholesale in the 1930s.

Departing New London on 22 October 1930, S-8 sailed to Philadelphia where she was decommissioned on 11 April 1931.

Subs S-3/S-6/S-7/S-8/S-9 going out of commission at Philadelphia Navy Yard. Leslie Jones, Boston Herald Photographer, via Boston Public Library collection.

She was struck from the Navy list on 25 January 1937 and scrapped.

Though obsolete, several S-boats remained on the Navy List and served the Navy well in both the Atlantic and Pacific (including several lost to accidents) during WWII. A half-dozen were even transferred to the Royal Navy as Lend-Lease including class leader and former submersible aircraft carrier, USS S-1.

None of these hardy, if somewhat unlucky, craft endure though Pigboats.com keeps their memory alive.

Specs: (Government-type S-class boats which included USS S-4-9 & 14-17)


Displacement: 876 tons surfaced; 1,092 tons submerged
Length: 231 feet (70.4 m)
Beam: 21 feet 9 inches (6.6 m)
Draft: 13 feet 4 inches (4.1 m)
Propulsion: 2 × MAN diesels, 1,000 hp (746 kW) each; 2 × Westinghouse electric motors, 600 hp (447 kW) each; 120-cell Exide battery; two shafts.
Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h) surfaced; 11 knots (20 km/h) submerged
Bunkerage: 148 tons oil fuel
Range: 5,000 nautical miles (9,000 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h) surfaced
Test depth: 200 ft. (61 m)
Armament (as built): 4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (bow, 12 torpedoes)
1 × 4 inch (102 mm)/50 caliber Mark 9 “wet mount” deck gun
Crew: 38 (later 42) officers and men

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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HMS Simoom found

Turkish wreck-hunter Selcuk Kolay has found what he believes to be the Royal Navy’s long-lost S-class submarine HMS Simoom (P225) about 6 nautical miles north-west of the Turkish Aegean island of Bozcaada (Tenedos) in 67 meters of water.

As reported by DiverNet:

The forward hydroplanes were of a folding type found on British submarines, and the single external torpedo-tube visible at the stern was also typical of S-Class subs.

Kolay reported extensive damage near the starboard hydroplane, probably caused by a surface mine. The fact that the hydroplanes were folded underlined that the sub would have been navigating at the surface when hit.

The conning tower was covered by fishing-net, but the 3in deck gun was still recognizable in front of it.

Only two British submarines were known to have been lost in the area, and the number of torpedo tubes and absence of a gun platform among other factors suggested that the find was Simoom (named after a desert wind) rather than HMS Trooper.

tower
Built at Cammell Laird Shipyard (Birkenhead, U.K.) P.75/Simoom was commissioned 30 Dec 1942.

As noted by Uboat.net, her first war patrol off Northern Norway to provide cover for convoy operations to and from Northern Russia in early 1943 was uneventful as was her second in the Bay of Biscay. Transferring to the still very active Med, her third patrol, off the West coasts of Corsica and Sardinia was a bust.

Her 4th, providing coverage for the invasion of Sicly harassed some coastal shipping and in the end she would sink the destroyer Italian Vincenzo Gioberti in her eight month of service on 9 August 1943. Other rather sedate patrols followed.

The end of her tale came just three months later:

2 Nov 1943
HMS Simoom (Lt. G.D.N. Milner, DSC, RN) departed Port Said for 7th war patrol (5th in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol between Naxos and Mikonos, Greece. At 1142B/2 she reported that she did not hold the letter coordinates for November and would use those of October. This prompted Captain S.1 to communicate them the following evening.

On the 5th she was ordered to patrol off the Dardanelles, five nautical miles west of Tenedos.

On the 13th she was ordered to leave her patrol area PM on the 15th passing between Psara and Khios, through 35°06’N, 26°44’E and then on the surface from 34°25’N, 29°59′ E. She was due in Beirut at 0901B/20 but this was later corrected to the 19th.

Simoom did not show up at Beirut. She was declared overdue on 23 November 1943.

At 1729 hours, on 15 November, the German submarine U-565 (KL Fritz Henning) fired a single stern torpedo from 2000 metres at a target described as “probably a submarine” on course 250°, one hit was heard after 3 minutes and 48 seconds. The position recorded was Quadrat CO 3381 (36°51’N, 27°22’E or off the east coast of Kos) and it is unlikely that HMS Simoom was in the area. Post-war analysis concluded that she was probably mined on 4 November 1943 on a new minefield laid off Donoussa Island (ca. 37°06’N, 25°50’E).

However in 2016 the wreck of HMS Simoom was found off Tenedos Island (Bozcaada) by a diving team lead by Turkish wreck-hunter Selcuk Kolay. There was extensive damage near the starboard hydroplane. Most likely Simoom had hit a mine while running on the surface. The mine Simoom hit was probably one from a minefield laid by the German minelayer Bulgaria and the Italian torpedo boats Monzambano and Calatafimi in September 1941.

Vale, Simoom and her 48 officers and men.

ss_hms_simoon

Cruiser-killer HMS Urge rediscovered after 74 years overdue

When compared to the large U.S. fleet boats used in the Pacific in WWII, the Royal Navy’s 49 U-class submarines were downright tiny. At just 700-tons submerged and 191-feet oal, these boats were originally designed as coastal training subs. However, with the Italians and Germans giving the UK a run for their money in the Med, the Brits started churning these craft out in numbers.

Armed with a half dozen 21-inch tubes, they could carry 8 warshot torpedoes and a 3-inch pop gun on deck. They gave a good account of themselves, sinking a large number of Axis transports and freighters carrying much-needed supplies to Rommel and his Italian compatriots in North Africa– although they suffered severe losses of their own, with 19 U-class sisters going down during the war.

Photograph FL 3433 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 8308-29)

Photograph FL 3433 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 8308-29)

This brings us to HMS Urge. Commissioned 12 December 1940 at Vickers, she lasted 17 action-packed months during which she managed to torpedo the Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto, damaging her in the First Battle of Sirte. She had better luck on 1 April, 1942 when she torpedoed and sank the 6844-ton Italian Giussano-class light cruiser Giovanni delle Bande Nere.

The  Regia Marina's Giovanni delle Bande Nere, some 10-times HMS Urge's size, was bushwacked by the hearty British submarine with two torpedos and sent to the bottom on April Fools Day, 1942, breaking in half and taking 381 Italian sailors with her.

The Regia Marina’s Giovanni delle Bande Nere, some 10-times HMS Urge’s size, was bushwacked by the hearty British submarine with two torpedos and sent to the bottom on April Fools Day, 1942, breaking in half and taking 381 Italian sailors with her.

However, Urge went missing at the end of that month and was never heard from again.

— That is until 76-year old Belgian diver Jean-Pierre Misson, poking around off Tobruk, Libya, came across something very submarine-like. It now appears that Italian dive bombers reaped retribution for their lost cruiser.

62482464_HMS-Urge-_3295219b

The rest here

3 subs in a bunker…

When the Germans took to realizing in 1940 that their ports and strategic manufacturing centers were very much capable of being targeted by Allied bombers, they began to move all sorts of things underground and hidden in the trees. In the Hartz Mountains there was a hidden airfield on a mountain top where new Messerschmidts would take off from just hours after being built. Other sites hid rocket construction. At Hamburg, Bremen, and Heligoland, giant covered bunkers for U boats were constructed, followed quickly by even more massive sites on the French Atlantic coast.

The Hamburg U-boat pen complex, Elbe II on the southern bank of the Elbe river at the Vulkanhafen, included covered locks, construction bunkers where new boats were made in dry dock, fitting out areas for after they were launched, and magazine and fueling piers.

In 1945 when the Brits took the port, they blew up the 20+ foot thick concrete roofs that had withstood multiple bomber attacks. In 1985 a group of researchers penetrated the bunker area, which was still filled with water at low tide, and found a trio of Uncle Donitz’s bad asses, the ultra-modern Type XXI U-boat, still at the docks.

Elbe2

treasure hunter with a torch hard at work...

treasure hunter with a torch hard at work…

These ships, U-3506, U-2505 and U-3004, had never seen service and had been in use mainly as training ships. That wasn’t unusual for the class as of the 118 that were built/building, just four actually saw a combat patrol. When the Allies got close to the bunker, their crews scuttled them on 2 May 1945 and they were largely unusable when the roof came down anyway.

german xxi uboat

If you don’t know about the Type XXI, it was among the most advanced of its day, with a 2000-ton submersible that could submerge to over 700-feet, travel 15,500 nautical miles, remain underwater for weeks due to their novel new snorkel systems, and hear 360-degrees due to their large sonar array. In fact they were so well made that the U.S. Navy took all the good parts of these boats and added them in GUPPY upgrades to Gato and Balao class subs while the Soviets and Chinese later just copied the whole design as the Whiskey, Zulu and Romeo/Ming series smoker boats of the Cold War era.

elbe2_3506_carl1
But don’t get your hopes up about going to Hamburg and getting to see this lost trio of Nassy subs. They were raided over the years by scrappers unknown who largely walked off with anything they could manhandle up a ladder, and in the 1990s the entire bunker, which today rests under a parking-lot, was filled solid with gravel and concrete, turning it into a sarcophagus.

Meh…

More on the Elbe bunker here,  here and here

The former massive pens at Brest in France are off-limits as they are still on an active naval base but here is a video of them:

The Valentin submarine pens in Bremen, are still around too but don’t have any subs in them.

However the North Koreans and Chinese still operate a bunch of WWII-era technology Romeo/Mings, and they really do look fun…

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stands on the conning tower of a Romeo-class submarine during his inspection of the Korean People's Army Naval Unit 167 in this undated photo released June 16, 2014.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stands on the conning tower of a Romeo-class submarine during his inspection of the Korean People’s Army Naval Unit 167 in this undated photo released June 16, 2014.

 

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