H.P. Lovecraft, "The White Ship"
During the summer of 2012 we dived the wreck of a British WWII Algerine class minesweeper, the HMS Regulus. Being conveniently close to the Ginette site, the project admittedly started as a side note to our diving this latter wreck. She is not a new find since Regulus had already been dived, identified and photographed by UFR team; we therefore consider our involvment sort of a complementary effort to their own research.
Wrecks that will be presented under the heading of 'Various' are wrecks that we have occasionally dived all over Greece. They are either not concentrated in any particular area or were not the object of a dedicated full blown project. Some of these remain ongoing concerns.
Although the wreck of the HMS Regulus is rather far from our home base, we decided to research her for a number of reasons. First, it is the wreck of a warship. Second, the condition of the wreck is remarkably good. Third, Regulus was hit while participating in the post-war mine clearing of the Greek seas, one of the most notable chapters in the history of WWII in Greece. The operation was as massive - it covered the entirety of the Greek seas and lasted for several years1 - as it was important. Sea transport capability was vital in the case of war-devastated Greece; rebuilding the country would be impossible without first freeing her seas and port approaches from thousands of mines. That being the context in which we are approaching the particular wreck, we shall try as a first step to present some basic facts about the ship and her wreck.
The Algerine class of minesweepers was a design introduced after the outbreak of the Second World War and more specifically in late 1940 as existing ships delegated to minesweeping duties were realized to be insufficient in both numbers and capabilities. Overall, 110 ships of the class were constructed, of which 98 entered service with the British Royal Navy2. As regards their specifications, the Algerines were of about 68.60 meters length overall, displaced 1162 tons3 and had a speed of 16.50 knots. They were manned with 8 to 10 Officers and 110 to 115 ratings. Their armament consisted of a 4 inch gun mounted on their forecastle deck, single or twin Oerlikon A/A guns (many later ships were fitted with single Bofors), depth charge rails and throwers, as well as minesweeping equipment for moored, magnetic and acoustic mines4.
HMS Regulus (J327) was built at Toronto Shipbuilding Co. of Ontario. Her keel was laid on the 15th of April 1943 and she was completed on the 20th May, 1944. She arrived at Londonderry in August to join the 8th flotilla. After a short working up period, Regulus arrived in Gibraltar in late September. During November her flotilla was engaged in minesweeping off Malta, in early December the ships were ordered to Taranto and on the 4th of January to Corfu. At that point, three of them were left at Taranto and were subsequently sent to Malta for repairs. The remaining four, including Regulus together with a few other ships including a group of BYMS, arrived off Corfu on the 5th and began sweeping. On the 12th and at around 12:55 hrs Regulus which was the leading ship hit a mine at her stern area, possibly with one of her propellers. Five people onboard were injured and there was one fatality. Her crew tried to stop the water ingress and pump her dry. She was also taken under tow. However, shortly afterwards Regulus started settling by the stern and developed an increasing starboard list. Subsequently the tow was cut and her crew abandoned her. She sunk about an hour after hitting the mine. Sweeping in the area was discontinued with a total of 79 mines been accounted for until that time. As the ship was supposed to be in a swept area, a number of possibilities were considered during subsequent investigations; one, recent bad weather had shifted the buoys marking the swept channel, two, a mine was floated but was not noticed during the previoys days' operations, three, the mine eluded the previous days' sweeps, four, an error was made during the marking of the swept area, five, a positioning error during the sweeping operations left a gap. Out of these, the Board concluded that number four or five were the most likely. It was also held during the same investigations that by means of better damage control the ship may have been saved, however its organization onboard left much to be desired.
The wreck lies upright at a depth of about 60 meters in a general S-N direction. While mid water visibility is excellent, once closer to the bottom, fine silt - which will be disturbed by even the slightest current - limits it to a few meters or worse, such change occurring often within minutes. The Algerines built design was that of a raised deck extending for the three quarters of the ship and then dropping down to the minesweeping deck for about the last quarter of the ship's length. That lower aft area is often impossible to explore due to poor visibility. As regards the wreck's general condition, she is pretty much intact but with a lot of netting and fishing line caught on her.
In summary the wreck of the HMS Regulus is an ongoing project for the team. Being somewhat away from our base we shall be trying to visit her when the opportunity arises and at the same time extend the presentation of our documentary research. Archival and published material on both the ship and the historical context of her loss is readily available.
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