Location of long-lost British submarine identified off Greek coast

The British submarine HMS Triumph was lost in mysterious circumstances off the coast of Greece in 1942. Now she has been located, after a search lasting more than 25 years.

The submarine, which was involved in various special operations during the early years of the Second World War, was found by Greek researcher Kostas Thoktaridis and his team on the bed of the Aegean Sea earlier this summer.

Thoktaridis described the search, which began in 1998, as the ‘hardest and most expensive mission I have ever carried out’.

Launched in 1939, Triumph carried out 20 successful military missions, mostly in the Mediterranean region, between 1939 and 1941, including the sinking of the Italian submarine Salpa in June 1941.

Her fateful 21st mission involved the liberation of 30 British fugitives on the Greek island of Antiparos in December 1941. A team of Special Operation Executive (SOE) and MI9 officers was landed on 29 December, but the pick-up scheduled for a fortnight later never occurred.

Instead, the SOE team members on the island were arrested. Secret papers carried by one of the agents, containing the names of 37 members of the Greek resistance in Athens, fell into enemy hands. All 37 of them were executed.

The closed engine-room hatch of HMS Triumph. She carried out several successful missions in the early years of the Second World War, before sinking in January 1942. Image: ROV Services

Fate soon accounted for Triumph, too, although the exact circumstances of her sinking are unclear. She was last spotted in early January 1942 by an Italian pilot four nautical miles south-east of Cape Sounion on Attica – a piece of information gleaned from the ‘extensive study of the archives’ that helped Thoktaridis identify Triumph’s final resting place.

By 23 January 1942, she had been declared lost by the British Admiralty, with all 64 crew assumed dead.

The submarine was found dozens of nautical miles from land, on the seabed under open water, with an 8° starboard list. According to Thoktaridis, she sank due to a powerful explosion in the fore, although he cause of this explosion is still unclear.

‘Our research continues, chiefly on a historic level as new evidence and facts come to light,’ he said.

Previous attempts by various teams from the United Kingdom, Malta, and Russia to locate Triumph all ended without success.