On this day in history : 17th April 1951 – British submarine, ‘The Affray’, goes missing off the south coast of England…. It is feared all 75 crew members onboard are dead….

HMS Affray – Royal Navy photos – Public domain

The Amphion-class submarine belonged to the 5th Submarine Flotilla and had been commissioned on the 25th of November 1945…. She had left Portsmouth at around 4pm on the 16th of April 1951 on her way to a simulated war mission exercise – ‘Spring Train’…. Onboard was a reduced crew of 50 – as opposed to the usual 61 – but she also carried 25 naval officers undergoing training….

The Affray had submerged at 9.15pm around 30 miles south of the Isle of Wight – the last sighting of her had been by the destroyer HMS Contest, which was returning to Portsmouth…. The submarine was due to resurface at 8.30am on the 17th of April – but failed to appear….her position was unknown….

Crew of HMS Affray – Lieutenant John Blackburn (far right) was in command at the time of the disaster – Fair use

A large search party, led by HMS Agincourt and comprising of 24 ships and submarines from Britain, France, Belgium and the United States set out….accompanied by as many aircraft as could be mustered up…. It was thought the crew onboard the Affray could survive up to three days…. At one point in the search two of the searching ships received a morse code signal, reading ‘We are trapped on the bottom’ – but it gave no help in locating them…. After three days the search was scaled down….

The Affray was eventually found two months later, 46 miles south of Portland, in 300ft of water – making it impossible to recover, due to the depth…. Remote control cameras were used during an investigation that was to last for three months…. One theory was that the submarine’s battery had exploded…. But the main conclusion was that the ‘snort mast’ (the tube allowing the Diesel engine to ‘breathe’) had snapped – allowing water to flood in….

Wreck of the Affray, as taken by remote control camera – Fair use

It was to be the worst British submarine disaster since World War 2….

A strange event occurred shortly after the time of the incident…. The wife of the captain of one of the Affray’s sister submarines experienced a visit from a ghost…. Dressed in dripping wet submarine officer’s uniform, she recognised him as an officer who had been killed during WW2 – and not from the crew of the Affray…. He told her the location of the missing submarine – and when it was eventually found – the location proved to be correct….

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