In November 1942 His Majesty's Submarine P311 slipped quietly from her moorings in Malta. She was never to return. Now, 73 years after her disappearance en-route to Sardinia, the vessel and her entombed 71 man crew have apparently been found gently resting on the seabed, off the Italian island of Tavolara.
Discovered by scuba diver Massimo Domenico Bondone, P311 lies in 90 metres of water, encrusted in sea life having sunk to the bottom following the suspected collision with a mine in January of 1943.
Built in Barrow-in-Furness and under the command of Lieutenant R.D. Cayley, T Class Submarine P311 was to have become HMS Tutankhamen - she didn't survive long enough to officially be given the moniker, a name never shared either before or since by a Royal Navy vessel. She was lost on a mission to destroy two Italian cruisers with Chariot human-guided torpedoes mounted on her casing.
A seasoned wreck diver, Mr Bondone has previously found the resting place of UJ 2208, a German submarine chaser off the coast of Genoa. To him though finding such ships is more than a hobby:
I am a strong believer that the wrecks are still alive, they are a link from past to present.
If we don’t find them, identify them and document their story, we lose the history of the ships and the men who built them and sailed with them. We don’t have much time, maybe a few decades and then time and the elements of Nature will prevail. I believe that history is not only made by masters and admirals, the last sailor too must be remembered.
A Royal Navy spokesman, meanwhile, said: "We are examining our records to determine whether or not this is a Royal Navy submarine."
T Class, or Triton, submarines were designed in the 1930s. Powered by diesel-electric engines the 54 boats built played a major role in the Royal Navy's submarine operations throughout World War Two - a quarter of them never made it home.