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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Scuba diving the M2 Part 2

The M2 submarine has a special place in the hearts of British scuba divers.

The intact vessel that lies intact and upright in 34m-ish of water in solemn tribute to the bravery of submariners everywhere.

The wreck, covered in marine growth from spending 70 years on the seabed, it's conning tower now populated with shoals of fish where the crew once stood, and one grainy black and white image is the window we have into the world.

Until now. Thanks to Rich Doram (who dived the M2 with us last month but stayed down much longer than I managed) we have another glimpse with the video tucked away on YouTube.

For those who might not have seen the earlier post, the M2 was fitted with a small Parnall Peto seaplane in a hanger located in front of the conning tower. The idea was for the plane to launch, complete it's mission and be winched back abroad so the sub could dive without the enemy knowing where it had come from.

Unfortunately, the sub was lost with all crew in 1932.

Thanks to BomberGuy who posted the vid, there are a few more details of the plane, the M2 and the accident which I shall quickly recap here.

The aircraft was launched using a compressed air catapult mounted on the forward casing of the submarine within a few minutes of surfacing and recovered using a crane, such as on the HMS M2, after landing alongside.

After the accidental sinking of HMS M1 in 1925, M2 and her sister M3 were taken out of service and reassigned for experimental use. She had her gun removed and it was replaced by a small aircraft hangar to carry the small seaplane.

The M2 left her base at Portland on 29 January 1932, for an exercise in West Bay. Her last communication was a radio message at 10:11 to announce that she would dive at 10:30 am. The captain of a passing merchant ship mentioned that he had seen a large submarine dive stern first at around 11:15.

The submarine was found on 3 February, eight days after her loss, the hangar door was found open and the aircraft still in it.

Two explanations for the sinking have been advanced. The most popular is that since the crew were always trying to beat their record time for launching the aircraft, they had simply opened the hangar door on surfacing whilst the deck was still awash and it flooded taking the sub down to the seabed.

The other theory is that the flooding of the hangar was due to failure of the stern hydroplanes.

The normal procedure for launching the aircraft was to hold the boat on the surface using the hydroplanes whilst the hangar door was opened and the aircraft launched because of the time needed to clear the ballast tanks.

Failure of the rear hydroplanes would have sent the stern down as observed by the merchant officers and water would have eventually entered the hangar.

The submarine currently lies upright on the sea bed at ( 50°34′34″N, 2°32′55″W) OSGB36.

It's worth checking out the YouTube vid as there are some messages from relatives of the crew.

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