KendallQ

Kendall McDonald, a former Fleet Street editor, has been diving (and writing about it) for more than 45 years. He has been DIVERs wreck expert since 1960.
HOW DO WE FIND CLYDE U-BOAT  
Has anyone dived the U-33, which is located in the Clyde Estuary south of Pladda, and got spot-on numbers Weve tried diving her with what we thought was a reliable position, but to no avail.
Iain McArthur.


The U-33 left Wilhelmshaven on 5 February, 1940, under the command of Kapitänleutnant Hans von Dresky. It had a crew of 43, many of them Iron Cross holders from earlier successful attacks on Allied shipping. This time she was to lay mines in the Clyde - a dangerous mission, as the estuary was well defended and patrolled.
     Von Dresky and his mines arrived on 12 February and ran straight into the path of HMS Gleaner, a Navy minesweeper, commanded by Lt-Commander Hugh Price.
     Gleaner got the first sonar contact at 2.50am. Three patterns of depth charges ruptured the U-boats main tanks and finally brought her to the surface.
     As her crew started to surrender, von Dresky set off scuttling charges. U-33 sank almost gently out of sight.
     Gleaner and other ships picked up 20 survivors and a number of bodies, which were buried in a communal grave in a Greenock cemetery.
     There was a rumour that the whole U-boat was lifted soon after her loss to recover her Enigma machine - two of its rotors were found on a crew-member when rescued.
     The U-33, an Atlantic VIIA U-boat of 625 tons, was built in 1937, was 212ft long, carried three torpedoes and 18 mines, and was armed with a 3.5in gun and 250 rounds for it. The story of her sinking is well told in Clyde Shipwrecks, the standard work for wreck diving the area, written by divers Peter Moir and Ian Crawford (01475 520141). Its now in its third edition.
     The wreck of U-33 has been well-dived. It lies with its bow to the north-east, sitting up 5m from the muddy seabed in 57m, five miles south of Pladda.
     Moir and Crawford assure me that they have always found it at 55 21.494N; 05 01.759W.
     It is still largely intact, despite the depth-charging and scuttling charges. Its gun is still in place. The hull is heavily encrusted with growths which, be warned, hold a fine silt that drastically reduces visibility when disturbed.
     Peter Moir tells me that the last time he was down on U-33, he noticed a leak that sends oil to the surface. Which might be another way of finding the wreck!
Donegals downfall  
On a recent trip out of Littlehampton, we dived the Donegal. Its about 25 miles out on the Back of the Wight in 50m. Can you give me some details so that I can complete my log
John B


With the help of Martin Pritchard, who co-authored Dive Wight and Hampshire with me and is one of the most experienced dive-boat skippers on the island (01983 525169), I hope this will help you:
     The 1885 ton Donegal is often referred to as a hospital ship, but was in fact an armed transport used as a casualty clearing ship.
     She was a passenger steamer, built by J Caird & Co for the Midland Railway Co in 1904. At the outbreak of war in 1914, she was taken over by the Admiralty as a transport and armed.
     Donegal was 331ft long, with a beam of 42ft, and drew a little over 17ft. On 17 April, 1917, she was carrying 639 casualties, 33 of which were stretcher cases, a medical officer and four stretcher-bearers from Le Havre to Southampton. Two destroyers were escorting Donegal.
     At 7.43pm, Captain John Jackson saw a torpedo track 400m away on his port side, astern of one of his escorts.
     I immediately gave the order to the helmsman: hard to starboard, Jackson reported later. However, it was too late and my ship was struck near the port propeller, with the result that the stern was practically blown away and carried with it the 13-pounder gun, which had only been mounted the day before. One of the gunners who was standing by it is missing and must have been killed...
     Donegal began sinking so quickly that the destroyer HMS Jackal got alongside only by smashing the port lifeboats out of the way. This enabled some 500 troops and crew to be taken off. Other boats picked up more. At 8.33pm, Donegal lurched violently to starboard, throwing those left aboard into the moderate sea as she sank. Eleven of her 69 crew and 26 of the wounded soldiers were lost.
     The U-boat was UC-21, under Oberleutnant Von Zerboni di Sposetti.
Hospital ships dont carry guns  
Divers often seem to think alike. No sooner had I replied to John Bs question about the Donegal than I received another question on casualty clearing ships and hospital ships: Why was Oberleutnant Johann Lohs in UB-57 not put on Britains list of German war criminals for sinking the 6593-ton passenger and cargo liner Kyarra

Kyarra has often been described as a hospital ship since her sinking on 26 May, 1918, near Anvil Point, after being ordered to Devonport to pick up 1000 war-wounded Aussie soldiers and return them to Sydney.
     But as in the case of Oberleutnant von Zerboni di Sposetti, who sank the Donegal, Lohs was not named as a war criminal because the Kyarra was not marked as a hospital ship at the time. Also she had, the previous year, been converted to an armed casualty clearing ship with the mounting of a 4.7in quick-firing gun on her stern to defend herself against U-boats.
     That gun was recovered from the wreck by divers, who often call Kyarra the ship made of brass. No expense was spared, and everything that could be made of brass was, when Denny Bros launched her in Dumbarton on 2 February, 1903.
     Its still a great dive, maximum depth 32m, and often visited by divers in boats from Swanage.
Looking for Magic  
I was a member of the ships company aboard HMS Magic, a Fleet minesweeper taking part in the D-Day landings. We were torpedoed and sunk a month later. For years I have tried to find a photo of my old ship afloat, but must accept now that none exist. Then my grandson sent me a copy of the DIVER Travel Guide, which mentions diving wrecks off the Normandy coast. Have any divers taken underwater photos of Magic I am now 80 and living in Australia but would happily meet any reasonable costs. When we were torpedoed, I was on watch in the radar shack on the starboard side just below the bridge, and got off the sinking ship on that side, so a photo of that area would be preferable, but after 61 years any picture would be greatly prized.
     Can you help me
Terence E Smith


I dont like to raise your hopes, but Magic has often been dived and British divers with pictures will be keen to help you. Magic has a special claim to fame, as the first ship to be sunk by a German human torpedo.
     These neger weapons - adapted submarine torpedoes - were launched from the German-occupied north shore of the Seine. They could not submerge but could travel for up to 10 hours on the surface at 3 knots steered by a single crewman, who slid off on nearing the target and hoped to be picked up later.
     The negers were not generally very successful, but Magic was at anchor at 3.55am on 6 July when she was struck and sank rapidly. Mike Rowley, skipper of Maureen, has dived the wreck recently. He says it lies eight miles north-north-east of Ouistreham, almost upside-down, 6m proud of the seabed in a general depth of 32m.
     There is a break amidships and another at the stern, and the wreck is covered in soft corals.
     Mike Rowley will try for a photo, but if anyone else can help Terence Edward Smith MBE, contact him at Villa 123, Henry Kendall Bayside, 157 Marconi Road, Bonnells Bay, NSW 2264, Australia (tel 0002 4973 9558).