Tribute laid on tragic wreck

10:42am Tuesday 4th September 2007

By Ian McDonald

A WHITE ensign was today being laid over the wreck of Portland submarine M2 to mark the 75th anniversary of the disaster.

Ministry of Defence personnel and recreational divers were visiting the vessel, which sank during exercises off Lyme Bay, for the commemoration today.

The diving operation is the highlight of a series of events planned by the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) this autumn.

The entire crew of 60 sailors and airmen died when the unique aeroplane-launching submarine sank in 1932.

It is believed the disaster happened because the vessel's hangar doors were opened before it properly surfaced.

Last November the wreck was designated as protected under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.

NAS project manager Mark Beattie-Edwards said: "We wish not only to remember the 60 sailors and airmen who lost their lives in the disaster but also to remind people of her protected status."

The flag is being laid on behalf of the project partners - the NAS, the Fleet Air Arm Museum and the Dorset branch of the Submariners' Association.

Branch president and former naval commander Rupert Best said the group is most grateful' to the NAS for its efforts to commemorate the 75th anniversary.

He said: "In the early days submarines often operated at the limits of technology and lives were lost as new concepts and techniques were developed and brave men explored the operational and technical boundaries of undersea warfare.

"Today's submariners are the inheritors and beneficiaries of their dedication and professionalism.

"M2 was a unique example of a new design in an age of innovation and we honour her crew and all those submariners who died for their country in peacetime, just as we grieve for the families they left behind."

A memorial service has been planned to commemorate the Royal Navy's abandonment of its salvage attempts in December 1932.

It will take place at St Andrew's Church in Southwell, Portland, on December 9.

Other activities include the production of a Christmas card based on one sent 75 years ago by M2 crewman Jack Lewis.

The cards will be available to by from the NAS and other project partners during December.

The Fleet Air Arm Museum also plans to host an exhibition on the disaster from January next year.

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