KT12
KT12s wheelhouse has collapsed forwards.



CONSIDER THE BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC. Allied convoys and their escorts beating off attacks from German U-boats both singly and in wolf-packs, barely enough supplies getting through for Britain to survive.
Then, in the Mediterranean, a similar battle on a smaller and more vicious scale, with Allied convoys striving to keep Malta supplied against non-stop U-boat and air attack.
On a trip to Sardinia, my eyes were opened to a complementary campaign operating at the same time in the same areas of sea, but where the tables were turned. British submarines were doing their best to disrupt coastal traffic around Italy and cut off supplies to Rommels forces in North Africa.
Almost straight out from Orosei on Sardinias east coast, the wreck of the German military transport KT12 lies on a flat sandy seabed in just over 30m.
With typical clear blue Mediterranean visibility, its a magnificent wreck. If it were off Englands South Coast, it would be as busy as the Kyarra or James Eagan Layne. If it were in the Red Sea, it would be a smaller German version of the Thistlegorm and be inundated by divers.

THE 834-TONNE KRIEGTRANSPORT 12 was built in Livorno, Italy, and commissioned to the Kriegsmarine on 19 May, 1943.
It was on its maiden voyage with a cargo of fuel and vehicles for North Africa when, on 10 June, it was torpedoed by the submarine HMS Safari.
And that introduces another name that makes the KT12 a bit special. HMS Safari was one of the Royal Navys most successful submarines in the Med. First under the command of Cdr Ben Bryant, then under Lt RB Lakin, Safari sank 34 enemy ships totalling 85,000 tons.
It was under Lakins command that Safari torpedoed the KT12. I learned about Safari from two biographies, One Man Band by Bryant, who left Safari in May 1943, and Crash Dive by telegraphist Arthur P Dickson, who served on her throughout the war.
Intrigued, I contacted the RN Submarine Museum at Gosport. Safaris patrol reports were kept at the National Archive in Kew, I was told, but archivist George Malcolmson kindly sent me copies of the relevant pages.
HMS Safari returned to port in Algiers on 15 June, and Captain GBH Fawkes, Commander of the flotilla, summarised the attack in his report of 4 July:
At 1155 on June 10th, when off Cape Comino, Safari got her well-earned reward, when a KT ship (KT12 painted on the bows) escorted by an E-boat was sighted and attacked at 600 yards range. Three torpedoes were fired spread over 1 1/3 lengths, as although the range was close, the commanding officer was not confident of his speed estimation. One torpedo hit and the target was seen to sink at 1300.
Such reports were secret, so the crew did not know all the details. In Crash Dive, Dickson writes: I was relieved at midday and as I went ford the klaxon sounded, so I went back to my telegraphs. Asdic reported an HE which on sighting proved to be a big, single-funnelled vessel which was very low in the water. It had an E-boat escort.
We started the attack, which I hoped would turn out better than the last. Within 10 minutes of closing up we had fired three torpedoes and waited. Yes! A hit, although two torpedoes were faulty, which seemed unbelievable after all the hard work we put in earlier.
We dived down, levelling off at 100ft, and waited a few minutes in silence. We then came quietly up to periscope depth to be told that she was ablaze from stem to stern, and she must have been carrying oil, as the smoke was dense black. The Captain said that while he was plotting the attack he could see that her upper deck was filled with lorries.
He ordered for gun action to finish off the E-boat but after checking via the periscope cancelled it as there was not only the E-boat but also another vessel going round and getting the survivors out of the water. While observing this, he exclaimed that she was sinking bow first and then that she had gone.
Down periscope take her down. Someone was firing a machine-gun towards us, possibly having seen our scope wash, or else some machine-gun ammunition went off on the stricken ship. Either way, we levelled off at 100ft and the Captain said that she had been about 1200 tons, so it was another bar for the flag.
Later in my bunk I heard distant explosions, which could have been generated by an aircraft sighted going round in circles about five miles away in the area we had just left.
British torpedoes had a reputation for being unreliable. Both Bryant and Dickson describe hand-picking torpedoes from the depot ship and checking them thoroughly to try to reduce failures.
It isnt surprising that the crew assumed that misses from that close were due to torpedo failures.

HOWEVER, TONI FROM RIO BIANCA DIVING in Orosei, my guide for the day, says that two unexploded torpedoes drove ashore on the beach at Orosei and were eagerly inspected by young boys from the village.
An interesting aside is that Cdr Bryant once deliberately set a torpedo to run shallow, and hit a German tank unloading on a beach in North Africa!
With the torpedo explosion breaking the KT12 in two at the forward hold, the wreck is actually two dives. Toni and I begin with a dive on the bow section - the part that sank immediately.
A light surface current disappears as soon as we are 5m down. I can see the outline of the bow at 30m on the sand for the whole of the descent.
It really is just the bow - the pointy bit on its port side and absolutely nothing aft of the forecastle. The forward hold must have been broken to pieces. All the usual bow fittings remain in place, anchors tight in their hawse pipes with chain stretched across the winch, bollards on either side.
After a quick inspection of the bow, Toni leads me out across the sand, forward and a little to port. Its a good job he is guiding because I would instinctively have looked aft for more wreckage - pretty much the opposite direction.
Without its bow, the aft part of the KT12 remained afloat for 40 minutes, slowly drifting north-east while the drums of petrol burned and exploded, vehicles and equipment from the cargo falling overboard as this section of the ship tipped and got lower in the water.
We soon come to a trail of vehicles and crumpled fuel drums, several truck chassis and finally an intact and upright generator trailer.
At 30m there is little point following the debris all the way to the stern 500m away, so after a few minutes on the generator we turn back to the bow, where I quickly finish my film before ascending.
A few hours later, were above the stern. Below us, the line is tied off to some vehicles on the sand that I cant quite identify. Rather than hit 30m straight off, we cut across to the intact and upright wreck that is easily visible off to one side.

WE BEGIN AT THE FRONT of this section, just forward of the winches and the foot of the main mast between the two holds. Forwards is a pretty clean cut across the ship, leaving the front of the hold open to swim through.
Inside is a desert, with occasional fuel drums poking from the sand. I suppose everything else had plenty of time to roll out as the stern slowly sank.
The rear superstructure is long and flat, incorporating the boilers and twin steam engines. Over the stern and on the seabed, both propellers and, between them, a single rudder are still in place.
Everything inside is easily accessible where interior walls have rotted away. We drop between the engines, then back up to the galley, easily identified by the solid iron Aga-style cooker, its door open.
The wheelhouse is well-broken, but above the stern the spokes of the auxiliary steering remain. A 75mm main gun is still in place above the superstructure, with posts for mounting machine-guns spread around the periphery.
Heading back to the line, I dip again to check out the vehicles I had missed earlier. Its a pair of wheeled cranes or excavators, then another truck chassis off in the direction of the bow.
HMS Safari survived the patrol, the Mediterranean and the war, only to sink while under tow to the breakers in January 1946.
The wreck is now in 44m, about 12 miles off St Albans Head in Dorset. Dave Saywell, skipper of the James Alexander in Poole, bought the wreck in the 1980s and reports that it is listing more than 30 to port, with the outer hull starting to decay, though the inner hull remains intact.
Useful fittings such as propellers, periscopes and the gun were removed before Safari was sold for breaking. The top of the wreck is at 38m and Im told it teems with congers.
My to do list just keeps getting longer and longer.

A
A set of engine-room gauges.
An
An Aga cooker in the galley.
75mm
75mm gun.
Vent
Vent covers on the stern deck of the KT12

FACTFILE

GETTING THERE: From Stansted with Ryan Air, www.ryanair.com. Other airlines from Gatwick and regional airports.
DIVING & ACCOMMODATION: Ria Bianca Diving, www.riabianca.com. Antheas Diving, www.antheasdiving.com. Book diving and accommodation through Location Sardinia, 01494 601012, www.locationsardinia.com. Diving HMS Safari: JA Diving, Poole, 01202 743925, www.jadiving.co.uk, www.deepsea.co.uk/boats/jamesalexander.
WHEN TO GO: Diving is available year round. Conditions get cooler in winter when cold winds roll down from the Alps.
PRICES: Without flights: 7 nights half-board in a 4* hotel and 10 dives with equipment from £495; self-catering (four sharing) from £370 (low season). From May to October, three nights half-board and four dives with equipment from £260.
FURTHER INFORMATION: Crash Dive by Arthur P Dickson (Sutton Publishing); One Man Band by Ben Bryant (William Kimber). Royal Navy Submarine Museum, www.rnsubmus.co.uk.

HMS Safari, June 10th
0415. Dived. Patrolled in the Gulf of Orosei.
1155. Sighted 1,200 ton fast coaster rounding Cape Cominio, southbound escort by an apparent E-boat.
1219. Fired 3 torpedoes at 600 yards. 1 hit centre of ship. Took usual avoiding action after firing.
1226. At periscope depth. Engine room and after part of ship burning furiously. Cargo appeared to be M.T. and cased petrol. Remainder of ship awash. Many small conflagrations on the surface of the water up to 4 cables away, amid which the E-boat could be seen rescuing grimy survivors.
1230. Stand by gun action. Closed E-boat.
1235. E-boat turned out to be a grey rescue launch, unarmed except for two machine guns. Decided to leave them to their humanitarian occupation. Turned away to seaward to seek 100 fathom line about 5 miles away.
1240. Put periscope up at 1/2 speed group down. Hot machine gun fire promptly opened on it by rescue boat.
1300. Ship sank in position 40.21 N. 09.45 E. Proceeded southwards in Gulf of Orosei.
1415. Cant 506B, white painted, arrived over bay and dropped several bombs five miles away.
2200. Surfaced. Proceeded to seaward to charge.

DATA
Enemy - 1200 ton laden coaster. Speed 15 knots. Course 220 dgs. T.A. 105 degrees. D.A. 18 degrees. Range 600 yards. Torpedoes fired - 3. Point of Aim -1/6 ahead, centre of ship, 1/6 astern. Depth - 6 feet. Speed 45 knots. Average firing interval - 5 seconds.

RESULT
1 hit. Ship Sank.