THEY are the heroic misplaced souls of one of many Royal Navy’s crack submarines, who went lacking on a top-secret World Battle Two mission greater than 80 years in the past.
The 64 younger males of HMS Triumph shared a exceptional 36 medals for bravery earlier than they vanished with out hint within the Aegean Sea in January 1942.
However HMS Triumph has now been discovered, together with her crew sealed within the tomb of their sunken sub 666ft beneath the floor.
And as we speak households of those that died inform The Solar of their reduction and unhappiness because it was introduced final week that the ultimate resting place had been found by veteran Greek wreck diver Kostas Thoctarides.
Haunting photographs from a remotely operated automobile present her metal hull nearly intact, hatches sealed shut.
Gav Don, a former Royal Navy officer whose uncle Lt Robert Douglas-Don died on Triumph, mentioned: “It’s a very poignant second. Inside that boat, only a few toes from the digicam, are the graves of our boys.”
Jane Swan, whose uncle, Ready Seaman Arthur Collins, 31, died on Triumph, mentioned: “We have now been ready for information all our lives. Now we now have a solution. Arthur and his crewmates are collectively.”
The photographs launched by Kostas are the primary affirmation of Triumph’s destiny since she went lacking.
Describing how he discovered the sub, Kostas instructed The Solar it marked the top of an exhausting search lasting nearly 25 years.
Lengthy quest for fact
He mentioned: “Triumph was for me a lifetime aim. When the strict emerged from the darkish abyss of the Aegean Sea on the monitor, I had little doubt I used to be lastly wanting on the legendary submarine. It was very transferring.
“I used to be in awe that I had the chance, in any case these years of analysis, to witness this picture.”
For greater than 150 kinfolk of the crew across the UK, that is the top to their lengthy quest for fact.
Triumph was one of many Royal Navy’s most profitable World War Two subs, sinking 15 enemy ships in simply eight months.
Kostas mentioned there was no escape for the crew because the 1,300-ton, 275ft sub sank.
He added: “My opinion is that each one 64 heroes are within the submarine, as they had been in a deep dive and all hatches are closed.
“HMS Triumph have to be handled with the respect and sanctity that it deserves as a maritime battle grave.”
For kinfolk of the crew — former Metropolis employee Gav has been in touch with greater than 150 — the discover has triggered blended feelings.
There’s reduction the lads have been discovered however unhappiness over their courageous sacrifice and tragic last moments.
Lucie Winter, 49, from Oxford, whose nice uncle Ready Seaman Billy Corridor, 21, from Burton-on-Trent, died on the sub, mentioned: “There was by no means any closure so it’s notably poignant now that we all know. Billy remains to be very a lot a part of our household.
“His mom died when he was younger so my grandmother helped deliver him up.
“They had been very shut and it was devastating for my grandmother when he was misplaced. If you see the wreck, it’s laborious to consider such a grotesque finish.
“Billy was so younger, only a school-boy when he joined up. However they had been so courageous, they knew the dangers and the probabilities of by no means coming again.”
Candid photos of Billy and his crewmates within the weeks and months earlier than the tragedy present them smiling and laughing, having fun with shore depart or with household at residence, courageous younger males who volunteered for some of the harmful duties within the British services in World Battle Two.
Her crew had even stuffed presents into the cramped quarters for his or her households at residence.
However on the final minute one other sub suffered a technical downside and her crew was ordered to make yet one more hazardous mission earlier than their depart.
Jane Swan, niece of Lt Edward “Arthur” Collins, 25, from Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, has his final letters despatched earlier than the fateful journey. Arthur was on his first submarine mission.
Jane, 75, from Lancaster, mentioned: “My mom Evelyn and her brother Arthur had been very shut and so affectionate.
“He would write repeatedly. Just a few days earlier than they sailed he wrote from Alexandria.
“He mentioned he had been purchasing for some good sports activities sneakers, and that there was loads of fruit and eggs.
“Then there was nothing extra. My mom’s letters had been simply returned. That was the top. However he lived on in our household.”
Arthur’s sweetheart Dorothy died in 2020, aged 106, by no means understanding what had occurred to her boyfriend. The identical was sadly true for the opposite crew’s wives, girlfriends and oldsters.
A number of the households nonetheless have the letter of condolence they acquired from King George VI. Kostas added: “Triumph seems to have sunk because of a strong explosion within the fore part however the trigger remains to be unclear.”
Quickly after beginning her descent to the underside, her crew would have realised there was no escape.
For Gav, the destiny of Triumph is a stark reminder of the toll the battle took on the courageous younger males who signed up for the Royal Navy’s submarine service.
He mentioned: “Firstly of the battle there have been 2,500 males, serving in round 70 Royal Navy subs. Of these, on the finish of the battle there have been 150 left within the service.
The attrition charge was astronomically excessive. Virtually 80 per cent had been misplaced.” Gav’s uncle, gunnery officer Lt Robert Don, was an instance of the bravery of those that served.
Earlier than his loss of life, aged simply 24, Lt Don was a Dunkirk veteran and had gained an astonishing three Distinguished Service Crosses for bravery, together with one from the Battle of River Plate in 1939 when Nazi battleship Admiral Graf Spee was pursued by British warships earlier than being intentionally sunk by its crew off Uruguay in South America.
Gav mentioned: “His story is remark-able however this was true of so lots of Triumph’s crew.
“The crew as a complete had already gained 36 medals earlier than they had been misplaced. They had been extremely courageous younger males.”
Janet Noble, 62, from Gateshead, whose grandfather George “Harry” Cross, 31, died, mentioned in his last moments she hoped he felt near his beloved spouse Kitty and two younger kids Brian and Brenda — who would turn out to be her mum.
An image taken shortly earlier than the final journey exhibits Harry smiling as he enjoys a beer in Alexandria.
Janet mentioned: “You’ll all the time surprise what occurred on the finish. Perhaps we’ll discover some solutions however a few of it we’ll in all probability by no means know.
“Did they know what was taking place? Was he fascinated by Kitty, Brian and Brenda?
“My gran stored a trunk within the bed room of Harry’s letters and mementos. There has all the time been this lacking a part of life.
For me, it’s updating historical past, filling in an vital hole. And it’s a reminder as we speak of what service actually meant, what these males did within the battle.
“Harry has 5 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and 5 great-great-grandchildren. That’s his legacy and it lives on.”
Gav, who has devoted years of painstaking analysis to pulling collectively the story of the Triumph’s crew and her destiny, shaped the HMS Triumph Households Affiliation ten years in the past.
He has helped deliver collectively kinfolk of those that had served and died on the sub.
Following the wreck’s discovery, Gav is now organising a visit to the location for the households. There they’ll maintain a service of remembrance and drop wreaths into the ocean for his or her family members.
Lucie instructed how she intends to take her teenage daughter Ella, 17, and son Tommy, 16, on the pilgrimage to Greece.
She mentioned: “We might be there. Billy stays a part of our household. My daughter Ella and, particularly son Tommy, find out about him and Tommy has been with us to a service.
“What has been so particular about that is assembly the opposite households and sharing this. And in addition the exceptional work by Kostas and his staff and Gav. We are going to always remember that.”
The households are additionally in contact with the crew of the present HMS Triumph, a nuclear submarine based mostly in Scotland at Faslane, Argyll and Bute.
An image of the earlier Triumph’s World Battle Two crew hangs on the wall of their mess.
The wreck, whose precise location is thought solely to Kostas and his shut staff, is now formally designated as a battle grave by the Ministry of Defence and guarded by strict archaeology legal guidelines by the Greek authorities.
For Gav and the households, her discovery closes an intriguing however deeply private and infrequently heart-breaking chapter of their lives.
He mentioned: “For all of us there has all the time been a way of a gap, a niche, within the household historical past, one thing lacking.
“Due to the work of Kostas we at the moment are in a position to fill that hole. It’s the finish of a really lengthy quest.”
FINAL DASH TO SEA
It was a deadly and demanding a part of the battle effort because the British tried to determine hyperlinks with the Greek resistance and rescue escaped Allied prisoners of battle after the autumn of Greece.
The plan was for Triumph to return 14 days later to gather them from a secret provide base stacked with gasoline and arms, codenamed Coney Island.
It was a harmful journey, however one her crew had made a number of occasions.
The beginning of the mission went nicely. The brokers, led by Lt George Atkinson, had been set down and the sub got down to hunt enemy ships earlier than she was because of return to gather the escaped PoWs.
Tragically, the mission was to turn out to be a catastrophe on land and at sea.
Inside days the brokers had been captured after a gun battle with Italian troopers.
In opposition to orders, Lt Atkinson had a listing of Greek resistance fighters on him, which was handed to the German secret police, the Gestapo.
Atkinson was later tried as a spy by the Italians and executed in 1943. The botched mission badly broken relations between the Greek resistance and the British.
Because the spies confronted catastrophe onshore, the Triumph was additionally heading for hassle.
On January 9, 1942, as she ready to return to Antiparos, the final identified sighting of her was made when she attacked an enemy ship off Cape Sounion. Her torpedo missed, exploding in a fireball on the Aegean coast beneath the eyes of German army outposts.
It’s thought she dived and made a splash for security out to sea. It was there she met her destiny.