Submarines had a notoriously short lifespan. Out of the 49 U-class submarines built by Vickers Armstrong, only three would go on to survive World War II. HMS Urge was not one of them; its tragic destiny a mystery until 2019.

With an overall length of 58m, a beam of 4.90m and a draught of 4.62m, HMS Urge was laid down on 30 October 1939 and commissioned on 12 December 1940, under the command of Lieutenant EP Tomkinson as commanding officer.

For most of its service, HMS Urge operated in the Mediterranean, forming part of the 10th Submarine Flotilla based in Malta. The 630-tonne submarine had a top speed of 11 knots at the surface and 10 knots while submerged.

Near the Straits of Messina, on 14 December 1941, HMS Urge made history when it attacked the Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto the largest enemy battleship to be torpedoed at sea by the Royal Navy during the Second World War. Four months later, on 1 April 1942, HMS Urge torpedoed and sank the Italian cruiser Giovanni dell Bande Nere, losing over half of its crew. The wreck of the Italian cruiser was only first discovered in 2019, resting at a depth of 1,400 metres. Retribution came swiftly. Heavy aerial bombardment of the Grand Harbour necessitated the submarine’s evacuation to Alexandria.

However, just beyond the harbour, two minefields, one Italian and one German, lay in wait, and after leaving the safety of the port on 27 April 1942, HMS Urge was not heard from again. The fate of its 32-member crew and 12 passengers, including war correspondent Bernard Gray would remain an enigma until 2019, when the wreck site of the HMS Urge was discovered during a remote sensing survey conducted off the coast of Valletta, Malta.

On 27th April 2022, Heritage Malta and the relatives of those who lost their lives on HMS Urge participated in the ceremonial unveiling of a commemorative monument. The ceremony was held under the patronage of His Excellency The President of Malta, Dr George Vella.

HMS Urge

Delicate and Protected Marine Flora, Dive Site, War Grave, Unexploded Ordinance

Open to Divers through Registered Dive Centres and Clubs

Maximum Depth: 108 metres


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