Posted on November 1, 2019
With the Mediterranean island under siege by the Nazis, HMS Urge set sail for Egypt on 27 April 1942 with more than 40 people on board. It failed to reach the city of Alexandria on the rendezvous date of 6 May and its fate has been unknown until now.
The breakthrough came when the grandson of HMS Urge’s commander this summer asked University of Malta experts to search an area that was heavily mined during the war. A sonar image found a sub-shaped object 130m (426ft) down and two miles off the coast, with an unmanned craft sent down to explore the site.
“The damage to the bow shows a very violent explosion … indicating that the ship would have sunk very fast giving no chance to anybody to survive from this tragedy,” said Professor Timmy Gambin, who led the mission. “Besides the damage on the bow, the wreck is in absolutely fantastic condition. It is sitting upright on the seabed, very proud, in the direction that it was ordered to take on its way to Alexandria,” he told Maltese broadcaster PBS.
The university said the UK Ministry of Defence had confirmed the wreck is the missing submarine.
Professor Gambin said HMS Urge was probably hit by a mine while it was still on the surface, shortly after leaving Malta under the cover of darkness.
A ceremony is planned for next year to declare the site an official war grave and it is hoped the daughter of the Urge’s captain, Lieutenant-Commander E.P. Tomkinson, will be there.
HMS Urge was part of the Royal Navy’s 10th flotilla, and was involved in many successful attacks against enemy shipping in the Mediterranean. Days before it went missing, it sunk Italian cruiser Giovanni Delle Bande Nere near Sicily.
Amongst those on board the Urge was war reporter Bernard Gray – the only British journalist believed to have died on a submarine during the Second World War.