Sunk twice.

Just before the start of WW2 Royal Navy suffered its worst ever submarine disaster just 12 miles off the Great Orme in Llandudno.


During the maiden voyage of HMS Thetis,103 men – nearly twice the number needed to crew her were on board. 69 of HMS Thetis’s crew were sailors, the rest were mainly engineers from Cammell Laird, observers and two catering staff to prepare a celebratory buffet on board.

Disaster struck when,the torpedo officer, opened the test cocks on the tubes to add weight to the submarine as it was having difficulty diving. Unfortunately, the test cock on tube number five was blocked by some paint so no water flowed out even though the bow cap was open. The inner door of the tube being opened, without knowing that outer torpedo doors were already open and the tubes full of seawater. The inrush of water caused the bow of the submarine to sink. It took over three and a half hours for the telegram raising the alarm to arrive at the Navy’s submarine headquarters in Gosport.


Submerged for 13 hours, oxygen on board was quickly running out. The crew became very sleepy and couldn’t think straight.3 men managed to escape through a hatch another 4 men died attempting to escape using the same route.A wire hawser was strung around the stricken submarine and held in place by a salvage ship. They planned to keep the stern up during the rising tide.However, the strain on the wire was too great and the hawser snapped, leaving HMS Thetis to sink to the bottom of the sea.


The bodies of the 99 men who suffocated remained inside Thetis for a further four months until the submarine was salvaged from the bottom of Liverpool Bay.


44 of those lost were interred in a mass grave above the town of Holyhead  where a memorial was dedicated on November 7 1947.

HMS Thetis was raised and eventually taken back to Birkenhead, and after an extensive rebuild was recommissioned as HMS Thunderbolt. A Italian corvette sank HMS Thunderbolt on 14 March 1943

3 thoughts on “Sunk twice.

  1. I’m privileged to be friends with 3 men, WW2 vets with 10th RWF, who as TA soldiers were mobilised to Anglesey in very early Sept 39 and who saw the sub from the shoreline, after it had been salvaged. We were having a beer a few months ago when they started recounting the story. What really made us shudder, was that it was recommissioned, and couldn’t imagine what it was like for the subsequent users of the sub, knowing its terrible history….Sadly which of course repeated itself. None of them realised it had been later sunk by the Italians, until I googled it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: below the sea | REFLECTIONS FROM MY WORLD

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