Oct 042016

Stern gun on the HMS Southwold

The HMS Southwold was a WWII British destroyer. Built during the war and launched in late 1941, she was sunk less than six months later on March 24th, 1942. She was tasked with escorting the crippled HMS Breconshire to Malta after leaving the convoy. As she attempted to pass a line to the Breconshire, she hit a British mine. The resulting explosion in the engine room killed five people on board. With her back up generator fired up and crew working to plug the leaks, the Southwold was taken under tow by a tug. Shortly thereafter her hull began to split in half and the remaining crew were transferred to another ship as she went down.

Pharmacy on the HMS Southwold

The split in the wreck means the bow and the stern of the ship are about 250m apart. Unless you have a handy scooter these are two separate dives. On this occasion we dived the stern, starting the dive by dropping down to see the propellors half buried in the seabed. From there it was up to the forward portion of the stern to examine the wreckage and destruction. The exposed portions of broken hull and bits of engine are a tangled mess as they lean out onto the sand.

It takes a little bit of effort to get inside the hull. After a swim through what was easily available, I retired to the top deck to find all the interesting things. On the port side there is a small room with shelves full of cans and little bottles that you can see in the second photo here. Towards the broken end of the ship on the top deck there is a whole arrangement of bathrooms – sinks, toilets and urinals that have mostly filled up with sealife. These are fun to swim through, and they’re definitely now a loo with a view.

Then of course there’s a big gun up on the top deck. The stern gun was a two barrel 4″ gun. It’s now encrusted with sponges and surrounded by little fish in the clear blue waters of Malta.

Toilets on the HMS Southwold

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