MalDia The renowned th Flotilla Royal Navy submarine HMS Urge mysteriously disappeared

The renowned th Flotilla Royal Navy submarine HMS Urge mysteriously disappeared

 

ALBERT FENECH

 

e/mail – salina46af@gmail.com

 

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MalDia HMS Urge one of the bravest submarines in the th Flotilla

HMS Urge one of the bravest submarines in the th Flotilla

On 27th April, 1942, at the height of World War II, the Royal Navy’s submarine HMS Urge left the Malta submarine depot base for Alexandria. The time was the height of the German and Italian naval and aerial siege around Malta, particularly at sea but simultaneously accompanied by almost constant aerial bombardment. 

The continual aerial bombing was so intense it led King George VI to make an unprecedented award to the Maltese Islands – the George Cross for bravery. This was made on 15th April, 1942 – 12 days earlier than the submarine’s departure.

MalDia Malta suffered devastating damages from Axis bombing in

Malta suffered devastating damages from Axis bombing in

In that spring of 1942 the Maltese Islands were so intensely bombed that the Royal Navy’s 10th Submarine Flotilla, more commonly known as the Fighting Tenth, were ordered to leave Malta and set up a new base in Alexandria, in Egypt. 

German and Italian bombing of Malta had damaged the Malta base of the Submarine Flotilla so severely that it made it impossible for operations to continue – despite the many successes achieved against Axis vessels supplying Rommel’s Afrika Corps in North Africa.

MalDia More intense damages in Sliema not far from where my parents families lived

More intense damages in Sliema not far from where my parents families lived

The submarines were ordered to depart periodically leaving a number of hours in between their departures. 

HMS Urge was one of the most successful in the submarine fleet and its time had come for departure and this would have allowed her crew some respite from the most intense warfare experienced by British submarines in WW2.

MalDia MALTA GC Malta awarded the George Cross for bravery on th April

MALTA GC Malta awarded the George Cross for bravery on th April

Thus, on that fateful and fatal day of 27th April, 1942, HMS Urge sailed into open waters with a crew of 32 but also carrying 11 other naval personnel and a journalist to her destination of Alexandria. 

Fate dictated otherwise and in her path she sailed into and struck a mine laid by German E boats on her course in the channel out of Malta. She sank quickly with no survivors, was never seen again and despite the passage of so many years, had not been located.

MalDia The official presentation of the George Cross in Palace Square Valletta

The official presentation of the George Cross in Palace Square Valletta

Last week it was announced that now, a marine archaeology survey team from the University of Malta, working in co-operation with Malta’s Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, has located the wreck of HMS Urge off the coast of Malta. 

Results from this search have established beyond doubt that on that day HMS Urge struck a German mine and sank. The wreck of the submarine was found standing upright and proud at a depth of 108 metres on the seabed, her deck gun facing forward.

MalDia The Malta RN Submarine Depot in heavily damaged

The Malta RN Submarine Depot in heavily damaged

Malta’s Professor Timmy Gambin, from the University’s Department of Classics and Archaeology, led the survey team, whose discovery finally resolves the question of how one of Britain’s most successful WW2 submarines was lost 77 years ago. 

Commenting on the discovery Gambin said that “the damage to the bow shows a very violent explosion where the entire bow section is detached from the rest of the submarine, indicating that the ship would have sunk very fast giving no chance to anybody to survive from this tragedy.”

MalDia HMS Urge anchored at the Submarine Depot

HMS Urge anchored at the Submarine Depot

Spellbinding images taken of the submarine show her standing defiant while accommodating a multitude of marine life, maintaining the vigilant stance for which she was so widely acclaimed. The bows of the submarine lie buried in the seabed following the impact of her descent from the surface. 

“Besides the damage on the bow, the wreck is in absolutely fantastic condition; it is sitting upright on the sea-bed, very proud, in the direction that it was ordered to take on its way to Alexandria. It is actually quite a poignant vision to see this submarine still upright and proud”, said Gambin.

MalDia Lt Commander Tomkinson captain of HMS Urge when it hit a German mine and sank without trace

Lt Commander Tomkinson captain of HMS Urge when it hit a German mine and sank without trace

The captain of the submarine was Lieutenant-Commander EP Tomkinson, DSO, RN. The submarine earned renown for successfully attacking an enemy battleship, cruiser, and merchant ships. 

HMS Urge had also landed British commandos in special operations; she had also participated in secret missions involving British Secret Intelligence Service agents on enemy coasts.

MalDia Professor Timmy Gambin led the team that found HMS Urge metres below sea level

Professor Timmy Gambin led the team that found HMS Urge metres below sea level

Her disappearance and final destination in 1942 had long been a mystery and was originally thought to have been off the Libyan coast. 

Having reviewed materials relating to the discovery, the UK Ministry of Defence has approved the research project’s conclusion that the wreck discovered is that of HMS Urge.

MalDia The damages incurred from the mine explosion

The damages incurred from the mine explosion

The wreck site is a war grave and will be protected under Maltese and international legislation. 

The crew of HMS Urge had formed bonds with the people of Malta. A memorial and public information on HMS Urge are now planned for April 2020 on the 78th anniversary of the loss.

MalDia Resting on the sea bottom for years turret gun still proudly pointing forward in defiance

Resting on the sea bottom for years turret gun still proudly pointing forward in defiance

Lieutenant-Commander Tomkinson’s daughter, Bridget Dickinson, said she is hoping that families of those lost will be able to join a commemoration to be held in Malta.

 

ALBERT FENECH

MalDia The wreck

The wreck

 

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MALTESE SAYING

 

“Crooks always move forward; the honest always fall behind”

 

A rueful lament that it does not pay to be honest!

 

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