Boat Diving

SCHNELLBOOT

near Valletta, Malta

Schnellboot

Photo credit: D. Gration & University of Malta 

Schnellboot S-31 was part of a sub-group of eight boats (S-30 to S-37) which had been under construction for the Chinese Nationalist Government, but at the outbreak of World War II, they were impounded and completed for the German Navy, the Kriegsmarine. She was built by the shipyard of Lurssen at Vegesack Beckedorf, Germany, launched in October 1939, and commissioned on 28 December of that same year. Measuring 32.76 metres long, she had a complement of 21 men.

Immediately, she joined the 2 Schnellboot Flotilla at the North Sea in Ostee. In the May 1940, she succeeded in seriously damaging the British destroyer HMS Kelly, which had to be towed home. This incident highlighted the capabilities and danger of the Schnellboots. In early 1941, the boats of type S-30 were handed over to the 3 Schellboot Flotilla. After the end of the Baltic operation, the 3 Schnellboot Flotilla was released from its service at the end of September 1941, and assigned to the Mediterranean. Their new base was Augusta on the east coast of Sicily for its proximity to Malta. From June to September 1941 British aircraft, submarines, and surface vessels from Malta successfully threatened Afrika Korps and attacked Rommel’s supply lines.

During the afternoon of 9 May 1942, intelligence from the Luftwaffe indicated that HMS Welshman was making a solo run from Gibraltar to Malta carrying vital supplies that had to be stopped from reaching the besieged island. While S-54S-56S-57, and S-58 loaded with torpedoes left Porto Empedocle to intercept the HMS Welshman, from the North East, three other Schnellboots carrying mines, S-31S-34 and S-61 left Augusta with orders to lay their mines directly in the harbor entrance of Valletta. The Schnellboots were laying the minefield which was in the shape of an isosceles triangle. Suddenly one minute after the laying of mines, the S-31 exploded, probably due to hitting one of her own mines which had cut loose from the mooring ring. The boat broke up at once and sank, S-61 managed to save 13 survivors.

Warnings:

  • War Grave
  • Unexploded ordnance

This is one of the wrecks managed by the Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit (UCHU) within Heritage Malta. For information regarding other wrecks managed by Heritage Malta, click here.

Contact Information

  • Contact: Heritage Malta - Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit
  • Phone: +356 79004141

General Information

  • Maximum Depth in Metres: 65
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