DIVERS have discovered the final resting place of 58 British sailors who died 77 years ago during World War II when their submarine was sunk by the German military.
HMS Narwhal was found accidentally by a group of divers searching for the remains of a lost Polish sub.
It went down with all hands 225 kilometres off the east coast of Scotland in July 1940 during the Battle of Britain.
The sunken submarine was spotted using 3D radar scanning technology and appears to be lying intact beneath 94 metres of water.
The submarine left its base in Blyth, Northumberland, and was tasked with the job of laying mines off German-occupied Norway. But the Germans had cracked the Royal Navy’s secret codes and were aware of Narwhal’s potential route.
It was intercepted by a Dornier bomber and attacked on July 23.
Earlier this year, members of Santi Diving, a Polish-based group of deep-sea explorers, were carrying out a search for ORP Orzel (Eagle) when they found the Narwhal.
The Orzel has been missing since escaping the German invasion of Poland in 1939. Polish divers have spent the last 10 years looking for it without success.
Having made the potentially historic discovery the team are now looking to find the families of the 58 men whose remains are inside the wreck.
Tomasz Stachura, one of the divers behind the expedition, said: “We are very interested in any contact with HMS Narwhal staff relatives as it would be good to hear their stories.
“While we were searching for the ORP Eagle we found an unknown sub at a depth of around 308ft deep.
“At first we hoped it could be the Eagle, one of our own Polish submarines, but we soon found that the wreck was 13ft longer then Eagle, thus excluding it from the sought-after submarine.
“A better candidate for this wreck was the 290ft-long HMS Narwhal, a mine-laying submarine lost on in the vicinity patrol sometime after July 22, 1940.”
However, Stachura said more information was needed to decide if the wreck is definitely HMS Narwhal.
“As far as we know the location of HMS Narwhal is still unknown,” he added.
“In my opinion, some further research on the wreck would be advisable to ensure that the identity of this wreck can be established for sure. Hopefully this can help in confirming the fate of the crew lost with the submarine.”
The area it was found in along with the length and shape of the wreck appear to confirm it is the Narwhal.
It was one of the Royal Navy’s most fierce submarines during the 1930s and was fitted with 12 torpedoes as well as a four-inch gun.
It was skippered by Lieutenant Commander Ronald Burch.
HMS Narwhal is believed to have sunk a German U-boat called U-1, the first submarine built by the Third Reich which disappeared on patrol on April 6, 1940.
George Malcomson, creator of archives with the National Museum of the Royal Navy, said several British submarines that are still missing to this day.
He said: “There were lots of British submarines and ships that were lost, not just during the Second World War, but the First World War also.
“During WWI there were 54 that went missing and that increased to around 70 during WWII.
“The problem is that they head into patrol areas, don’t come back, and no one knows what happened to them.
“Finding them involves looking at enemy records among various other things, and in recent years there has been a steady trickle of submarine and shipwrecks being found.”
However, there is a lot more work to be done.
“The Polish team who discovered the Narwhal are so passionate about finding the Eagle and have a burning desire to locate it,” Malcomson said.