The Sinking of the Submarine HMS Thetis
The Thetis reached its diving position and at about 2.00 pm Commander Guy Bolus signalled the beginning of the dive and informed that the submarine would be underwater for three hours. The tug Grebecock, commanded by Lieutenant Coltart, went to a position half a mile away, but it was not anchored and so it continued to drift away from the dive area and eventually lost the position of the submarine when this submerged. This error contributed to the series of blunders that ended up in the tragedy which ensued, as it delayed the rescue operation which could have saved the loss of so many lives.
Before the Thetis started the dive, the Grebecock offered the Cammell Laird workers the opportunity to leave the submarine, but all of the 50 non-crew people chose to stay on board. Once the dive started, the Thetis remained too light to submerge. The people on board the tug Grebecock noticed that for 25 minutes the Thetis struggled to submerge. Then, suddenly, she went under. After a series of errors the Thetis bow hit the bottom of the Sea 14 miles out at sea, north-east of Anglesey's Point Lynas Light.
Support From Llandudno Lifeboat
Thetis Rescue Attempt
Operation Subsmash was put into action, with Captain I.A.McIntyre in charge, but his efforts to save the people inside the sub went awry. The commander of the Grebecock had left the tug to drift out of position and so the exact position of the Thetis was not known. Aircraft flew over the area and located the submarine, but then called inaccurate locations. Cutting equipment was not ordered until it was too late. A salvage ship arrived in time to attach a wire hawser around the stern of the submarine and then with the help of winches an effort was made to pull the sub back to the surface. However, the strain on the wire cable was too much, the hawser snapped and Thetis sank to the bottom. Naval divers who could have helped were stranded on the Clyde waiting for civilian colliers to load their ships' bunkers. Nobody had the bright idea to fly them to the disaster area. On Saturday 3rd June 1939, the Admiralty announced that all hope of further survivors would be abandoned.
Recovering the Thetis