The Malta Independent 17 August 2019, Saturday

Belgian appeals for Nato and EU help to document wreck of Malta-based sub lost off Libya in WW2

Michael Carabott Wednesday, 9 September 2015, 09:15 Last update: about 5 years ago

A Belgian diver claims he has found the wreck of a submarine that left Malta in 1942 and was sunk off the coast of Libya, appealing for NATO and the EU help to document the wreck because it is located in a “modern day war zone”.

In 1942, the state of the art submarine the HMS Urge left the Grand Harbour to go on a hunting trip near Egypt as the British 8th Army pitted its might against the combined forces of Adolf Hitler and Mussolini in North Africa.

The vessel never made it. She stopped transmitting on 29 April and sank without a trace, taking with her 29 crew and 10 passengers. In Naval parlance, she sank with the loss of all hands.

It was previously thought that HMS Urge was struck by a mine as she left Malta. Minesweeping operations were few and far between at the time as Malta was under severe pressure from the Axis, at the height of the second siege of Malta. Between 1940 and 1942, the Axis flew over 3,000 bombing raids over the islands and mines were deployed to prevent any reinforcements or replenishments of fuel and supplies. The siege effectively ended in November 1942 as the Axis switched their attention to trying to keep control of its territory in North Africa.

But Belgian diver Jean-Pierre Misson has trawled through numerous German war time records and found that the submarine was sunk by an Italian dive bomber off the coast of Libya and sank off Ras el Hilal, which lies roughly halfway between Benghazi and Tobruk. It also lies some 50 kilometres East of Darnah, where Islamic State has gained a foothold in Libya.

British submarines were based in Manoel Island during WW2

According to war records, the submarine engaged a number of transport ships on the surface, and that is when she was hit by the bomb.

The 76-year-old diver said that he has done what he could do on his own, but said that the ongoing instability and conflict in Libya, coupled with the threat of pirates, smugglers and fundamentalists means that no peaceful identification and recovery operation can take place.

He expressed hope that one day, NATO and Europe can organise a mission to scan the seabed and find the wreck, bringing peace to the families of HMS Urge once and for all. 

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