Divers explore World War II HMS Olympus wreck

HMS Olympus is an Odin-class British submarine built in the 1920s and sunk in 1942 by an enemy mine. It is now being explored by local divers off the coast of Malta which is south of Sicily.

During the war, HMS Olympus was despatched to the Mediterranean and fell victim to several attacks. One in 1940 when she was bombed by the Italian air force while docked at Malta and a second time in 1941 during a battle with an Italian merchant ship. After both conflicts, the submarine was repaired and returned to service. However a year later in 1942, the Olympus hit an enemy mine and sank just off the coast of Malta.

At the time, the vessel had been shipping goods through to Malta, but it became harder and harder to get convoys through due to enemy presence in the area. On its last trip, the HMS Olympus set off from Malta heading to Gibraltar mainly to transport crew from other submarines. Of the total 98 crew on board, only nine survived. They swam seven miles back to the Maltese coast.

The wreck of the submarine was found in 2011 when ocean archaeologist, Tim Gambin, and a team of researchers discovered the wreck at around 120 meters below sea level using sonar equipment. Now Tim and his team are returning to explore the wreckage in greater detail and to retrieve vital information about its damage, the Times of Malta.com reports.

The site also has the status of a war grave, therefore the team are cautious about being non-intrusive and that the wreckage is treated with respect.

Odin-class submarines like the HMS Olympus were built for longer distances than earlier models. They were built to descend by 500 ft, were armed with eight torpedoes, and the first in the British Navy that enabled radio communications at periscope depth.

HMS Olympus was commissioned in 1930, weighed more than 1,500 tons and was around 86 meters in length. She could reach a high speed of 17.5 knots surfaced and 8 knots when submerged.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE