First World War sub found after 93 years
SLEEK, silent and submerged, it was Winston Churchill's secret weapon against the Kaiser's navy. The British naval submarine HMS E18 was the scourge of the Baltic during the First World War until it went missing, presumed sunk. Yet now, more than 90 years later the wreck has been found off the coast of Estonia.
The submarine was one of a handful dispatched by Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, to disrupt German deliveries of iron ore from Sweden and to provide support to the Russian navy.
Yet HMS E18 with its complement of three officers and 28 ratings went out on patrol in May 1916 and was never seen again.
Now the submarine's wreck has been found by a Swedish survey vessel, the MV Triad, with the assistance of the great-grandson of one of the sub's former crew.
The survey vessel deployed a remote-operated vehicle and obtained the first pictures showing the 181ft-long submarine in remarkably good condition. The Baltic water is cold, brackish and anoxic, which means wrecks suffer less rust and degradation than in other seas.
Darren Brown, an airline engineer from Melbourne, has spent years researching the submarine's history as his great-grandfather, Signalman Albert Robinson survived the loss of E18 because he fell ill with appendicitis shortly before its last patrol and was confined to his bed.
The owner of the survey company, Carl Douglas, said the discovery was the fruition of almost a decade of work. "We will now complete our mission to document this wreck and inform the relevant authorities," he said. "We want to investigate the exact cause of the sinking – and to honour the fallen by telling their story."
E18 left its base in the Russian port of Reval – now Tallinn, the capital of Estonia – on the evening of 25 May, 1916 and headed west. The following day she was reported to have engaged and torpedoed a German ship. A few days later, possibly 2 June, she is believed to have struck a German mine and sunk with all hands.
Following the submarine's loss, Tsar Nicholas of Russia awarded posthumous medals to the crew. Luke Landale, the First Lieutenant, was awarded the Order of St Vladimir. He was just 27 years old.
The submarine was found last weekend close to the Estonian island of Hiiumaa. Photographs from the seabed show the submarine with its hatch open, suggesting that it was sailing on the surface when it hit the mine.
David Hill, an expert in E-class submarines, said: "Without a shadow of doubt they do show an E-class and certain details indicate that it is probably E18."
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