Royal Navy submarine P36 – sunk in April 1942 and raised in the summer of 1958

Richard Maddox

BRITISH ‘U’ CLASS SUBMARINE P36 was laid down in July 1940 at the Vickers shipyard at Barrow-in-Furness on Britain’s northwest coast and commissioned into the Royal Navy in September 1941.

After working up at HMS Dolphin at Gosport, Hampshire England and Holy Loch in Scotland and a patrol off southwest Ireland the boat left Portsmouth, England for the Mediterranean where it was to become part of the ‘Fighting Tenth’ – the 10th Flotilla – based at Malta.

During the voyage P36 landed two agents on the Mediterranean coast of France, near Monte Carlo. (1) (2)

On 22 March 1942 P36 took part in an attack on an Italian Littorio class battleship and its accompaning cruisers and destroyers.

The Italian ships made a counter-attack which lasted for six hours and P36 received some damage. (3) (4)

The boat returned to Malta without further incident.

A number of boats moored at HMS Talbot submarine depot, Malta in January 1943. Image Copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference A 14389. Original source http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205147558.

A number of boats moored at HMS Talbot submarine depot, Malta in January 1943. Image Copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference A 14389. Original source http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205147558.

In Malta P36 was moored alongside the Lazaretto on Manoel Island in Marsamxett Harbour.

The former hospital and quarentine facility – which dates from the 17 century – was taken over by the British Admiralty in 1939 for use as a submarine depot and named HMS Talbot. (5)

While at HMS Talbot on 1 April 1942 it was attacked and sunk in an air raid – luckily without any casualties – and remained submerged for sixteen years.

THE RAISING OF 'U' class HM Submarine P36 in Marsamxett Harbour, Malta, showing the stern and a propeller coming clear of the water and damage to the sail or conning tower area. Image Copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference A 34076. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205164291.

THE RAISING OF ‘U’ class HM Submarine P36 in Marsamxett Harbour, Malta, showing the stern and a propeller coming clear of the water and damage to the sail or conning tower area. Image Copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference A 34076. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205164291.

Fifteen years later P36 did claim a casualty when in October 1957 Jack Cresdee, a diver on salvage vessel HMS Sea Salvor was killed carrying out a survey of the wreck. (6) (7)

The salvage operation was carried out using two specialist lifting craft, LC23 and LC24.

ANOTHER VIEW of P36s stern section as the vessel comes to the surface in the summer of 1958 after sixteen years on the seabed. Specialist vessels lift the submarine near the former HMS Talbot in Marsamxett Harbour, Malta. Image copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference A 34075. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205164290.

ANOTHER VIEW of P36s stern section as the vessel comes to the surface in the summer of 1958 after sixteen years on the seabed. Specialist vessels lift the submarine near the former HMS Talbot in Marsamxett Harbour, Malta. Image copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference A 34075. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205164290.

Over a period of weeks and nineteen seperate lifts during July and August the boat was raised, coming to the surface on 7 August 1958. Two weeks later the boat was towed to waters north of the island and sunk for the final time. (8)

Peter Farquar Flett, Senior Marine Salvage Officer, Mediterranean and Malta had overall responsibility for the salvage operation. Before the war he was a police officer with the London Metropolitan Police service.

He served in the Royal Naval Reserve during the Second World War, rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander and a leading salvage expert. (9)

In 1957 had was honoured with the Order of the British Empire (OBE), Civil Division in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for, the award being published in the London Gazette Supplement dated 13 June 1957. (10)

Peter Flett died in 1992. (11) 

Sources

(1) https://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chrono-12SS-09U-HMS_P36.htm – retrieved 17 June 2019

(2) https://www.uboat.net/allies/warships/ship/3546.html – retrieved 17 June 2019

(3) https://www.alamy.com/aug-08-1958-hm-submarined-p-36-salvaged-from-lazarette-creek-malta-image69353210.html – retrieved 17 June 2019

(4) https://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chrono-12SS-09U-HMS_P36.htm – retrieved 17 June 2019

(5) http://www.midimalta.com/en/the-lazaretto – retrieved 17 June 2019

(6) https://www.militaryimages.net/media/d819-cresdee-jack-john-richard.130569/ – retrieved 17 June 2019

(7) http://www.historicalrfa.org/rfa-sea-salvor-ships-details – retrieved 17 June 2019

(8) http://u-boat.com.mt/the-loss-and-aftermath-of-h-m-submarine-p36/ – retrieved 17 June 2019

(9) https://www.buckieheritage.org/pdf/1992.pdf – retrieved 17 June 2019

(10) https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/41089/supplement/3380/data.pdf – retrieved 17 June 2019

(11) https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/N13700278 – retrieved 17 June 2019

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