Second World War Malta Submarine Wreck Confirmed as Lost Britsh Vessel 

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HMS Urge with her captain, Lieutenant-Commander Edward P Tomkinson (Photo: Francis Dickenson)

The wreck of a Second World War British submarine that was discovered off the coast of Malta in 2019 had formally been identified as HMS Urge, sunk after striking a German mine in April 1942, shortly after leaving the Grand Harbour of the Port of Valetta.

The fate of HMS Urge had been uncertain until the discovery of the wreck by divers from the University of Malta. Official records show that she left Malta on 27 April 1942 with 29 crew and 10 passengers, scheduled to arrive in Alexandria on 6 May, but was reported as overdue when she failed to arrive. 

The damage to the wreck indicated that she was sunk while still at the surface, shortly after departure. There were no survivors. 

HMS Urge was formally identified in April by divers from the University of Malta, working in partnership with the Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit of Heritage Malta. Underwater footage of the wreck recorded by the team clearly shows the name of the submarine and the damage caused by the blast.

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The nameplate of HMS Urge remains clearly visible (Photo: Malta Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit)

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A 3D render of HMS Urge shows the submarine to be virtually intact (Picture: Malta Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit)

'The damage was where it was expected to be, on the starboard waterline,' said Professor Timmy Gambin of the University of Malta's Department of Classics and Archaeology. 'The blast pene­trated both layers of the submarine which means water went inside. This means that any organic material – like fabric and human remains – would have only been preserved if covered in silt.'

There had been some speculation that HMS Urge had actually sunk near Marsa el Hilal, off the coast of Libya, after a Belgian explorer reported the discovery of a British submarine close to the wreck of a German U-Boat in 2015, although the claim was disputed based on previous sonar surveys of the location. The confirmation of the name of the submarine brings closure to almost 80 years of uncertainty.

“When we found it in 2019 there was no doubt in my mind [that it was HMS Urge,' said Professor Gambin, 'but some people continued to question it, and this caused anguish to the families. Now that has been settled once and for all.'

'We already knew this was the wreck of Urge, but to see the letters so clearly gives important further clarity,' said Francis Dickinson, grandson of HMS Urge’s captain, Lieutenant-Commander Edward P Tomkinson. 'The commitment of the University of Malta team to this work means a lot to the families of those lost on HMS Urge.'

Apart from the damage to the bow section of the ship, the wreck of HMS Urge is otherwise in excellent condition. Diving the interior of the war grave will not be permitted. 


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