HMS Olympus memorial

Submariners from HM Naval Base Clyde recently travelled to Malta to commemorate HMS Olympus which was sunk during World War Two.

The submariners from HMS Vengeance and HMS Artful visited Ta' Xbiex in May to remember the Odin class submarine and the 89 men who perished when she was struck by a mine soon after leaving Valletta Grand Harbour on May 8, 1942.

Marine archaeologist Dr Tim Gambin and his team discovered the vessel in 2011 and as they were confirming the exact submarine they had found, they learned the unfortunate story behind the events which led to the sinking of HMS Olympus.

HMS Olympus was an Odin class submarine and had been protecting shipping convoys through the Mediterranean Sea during WW2. On this occasion she was transporting surviving crew members of stricken submarines back to the UK, in order for them to crew the replacement submarines being built back in the UK. HMS Olympus had a crew of 55 men plus an additional 43 submariners being returned to the UK.

The evening before she set sail there was a suspicion of some German activity outside of Valletta Grand Harbour but no threatening issues were reported to the submarine's commanding officer Lt Cdr Herbert G. Dymott.

From the discovery of HMS Olympus right up to the ceremonial unveiling of the monument the passion, pride and enthusiasm of Dr Gambin and his team and the AFM has been humbling, admirable and infectious

Lt Waddington

As she set sail on the morning of the 8th May 1942, shortly after leaving the harbour she struck a mine and began to sink, the men who managed to escape the submarine still had a seven mile swim to shore ahead of them. The blazing fires of the German bombings on the main land provided a light to guide them. Unfortunately only nine men made it back to land, the remaining 89 men perished at sea in what turned out to be the single biggest submarine tragedy of WW2.

Dr Tim Gambin, who led the team who discovered the HMS Olympus said: "After learning of the tragedy I felt it only right that a memorial be erected in memory of the ultimate sacrifice these men made in serving the people of Great Britain and Malta.

Crew members of HMS Vengeance and HMS Artful as well as members of Armed Forces Malta (AFM) took part in an at sea remembrance service. This included a wreath laying over the wreck site by the British High Commissioner, Commander S Johnson (SubFlot), HMS Vengeance, HMS Artful, AFM, and We Remember Submariners.

This was followed by a ceremonial volley of cannon fire from the wall of Valetta's Grand Harbour, much to the delight of the many visitors in the area.

The ceremonial unveiling of the monument capped a memorable week for the submariners. The AFM band and guard were impeccable and the evening service provided a poignant memory of those lost in the HMS Olympus tragedy.

"From the discovery of HMS Olympus right up to the ceremonial unveiling of the monument the passion, pride and enthusiasm of Dr Gambin and his team and the AFM has been humbling, admirable and infectious," said Lt Waddington, a crew member of HMS Vengeance who attended the memorial.

"In order that the memorial could be designed, constructed and erected without undue delay Dr Timmy Gambin has financed this project. We would like to thank him for the work he has done and continues to undertake."