Team hope to find missing spy sub
For years leading marine biologist Keith Hiscock has been running his own private research - to find a missing Royal Navy spy submarine which sank in 1914 without a trace. His grandfather was one of the 25 men lost.
And today (Tuesday 13 September 2016) he will join a Dutch dive team to investigate a wreck which he hopes will finally solve the mystery of the fate of D2.
The official record has it listed as ‘sunk in the North Sea, cause unknown’.
Keith, 68, from Plymouth, had nearly given up hope of tracing the sub after his lengthy research had failed to unearth any clues - but a chance encounter with a colleague may provide the answer and lead to the final resting place of his grandfather Arthur Hiscock who was a 34-year-old petty officer when the sub sank.
He said: ‘Finding D2 would be a great thing for me and my family. The location, and how she was lost, have been a mystery for more than 100 years – too long. I’ve always wondered exactly how he lost his life. Now I’ll hopefully find out.
‘It will be a mystery solved. I don’t have any emotional attachment to him but I’m very aware that his remains may lie inside that submarine. It is a war grave and we will treat it with due respect.’
MoD records suggest that on the day D2 was sunk – November 25, 1914 – the submarine was spying on enemy warships in the area.
Ministry of Defence records suggest that the day D2 was sunk the submarine was spying on enemy warships off the East Frisians a chain of islands off the coasts of Holland and Germany.
Documents suggest the role of the 600-ton vessel was to monitor German shipping movements to and from Hamburg. Keith found one report claiming that it had been hit by an enemy patrol boat, although no clear evidence has emerged.
Keith, former head of the Marine Nature Conservation Review of Great Britain, began researching D2 in earnest three years ago.
He attended conferences, researched naval records, contacted professional Dutch diving companies and even asked British energy company Dong – which has a base on the East Frisians – if it knew of a wreck within its offshore wind farm. All leads drew a blank until a chance meeting on a train with his friend and former colleague Dr Chris Pater, head of marine planning at Historic England. Months earlier they had briefly discussed the search for D2. Dr Pater revealed he was travelling to a European conference and offered to approach colleagues at the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency.
They uncovered the charts and images revealing a wreck of the right shape and size in the precise area where she the submarine was believed to have been lost. It is lying on a level seabed in 32m of water off the East Frisians.
Sonar images show the dimensions of a 164ft submarine-shaped vessel that closely match those of D2.
A team of Dutch wreck divers has been licensed to explore the site and, after hearing Keith’s story, they agreed he could join them.
Keith said:‘She could have been swamped by heavy seas. We can’t know until we see the hull.
‘But it’s clear she was spying on German shipping at the very start of the war. The Navy could not have known what fate befell her. All they knew was that she hadn’t come back.
‘Hopefully modern hydrographic survey methods and alertness by those interested in history and artefacts may finally have found her.’