Family members and a contingent of Royal Navy submariners travelled to Malta to commemorate the lost crew and passengers of HMS Urge. A series of events were organised by the Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit of Heritage Malta and Francis Dickinson, the grandson of the Commanding Officer of HMS Urge. Lt. Cdr. Edward Philip Tomkinson. The event week kicked-off on Sunday 23 April 2022 with a memorial service at St Paul’s Pro-Cathedral and the dedication of a plaque in memory of those that served on HMS Urge.
On that same day, a memorial plaque was laid directly on the wreck site by a Heritage Malta dive team. A white ensign was also brought down to the wreck, unfurled and later recovered by the divers to be presented to the Commodore of the Royal Navy submarine service as a symbolic gesture.
The Royal Navy and visiting families were also invited to the Archaeology Centre at the University of Malta for a talk on HMS Urge presented by Prof. Timmy Gambin. New footage from the site was presented, showing the placement of a memorial plaque and the unfurling of the ensign.
Diving operations on HMS Urge continued the next day with the placement of a custom-made metal grid to close-off access to the submarine. The location where the mine struck HMS Urge caused the bow of the submarine to break off on impact with the seabed, leaving the bulkhead doors accessible. The design and placement of a metal grid – sheathed in plastic piping to avoid contact between old and new metal – was a major diving operation that successfully closed-off access to the interior of the site.
A reception for HMS Urge family relatives and the Royal Navy Contingent was organised at the residence of the British High Commissioner on Tuesday 26 April. The Digitisation Unit at Heritage Malta set up a Dive into History 360 session, enabling the families to explore the wreck site of HMS Urge in an almost first-person experience. Heritage Malta received an overwhelmingly positive response, with many family members emotional at the prospect of ‘visiting’ the last resting place of their ancestors.
A wreath laying ceremony was organised on the morning of Wednesday 27 April – the 80th anniversary of the loss of HMS Urge. An Armed Forces of Malta Patrol boat and two chartered yachts left the Grand Harbour and met at the wreck site, where a team of divers was carrying out the last of the planned HMS Urge dives. Wreaths and white lilies were placed over the site by dignitaries and the families.
The commemoration week culminated in the ceremonial unveiling of a monument at Fort St Elmo. The event was held under the patronage of H.E. The President of Malta, Dr George Vella, and saw many distinguished guests including Heritage Malta’s top management, the British High Commissioner Ms Cathy Ward, the Minister for Culture Dr Owen Bonnici, the Commodore of the Royal Navy Submarine Services and the Commander of the Armed Forces of Malta. A number of speeches were given, followed by the unveiling of the monument and the placing of wreaths. A small reception hosted by Heritage Malta was held at Piazza D’Armi at Fort St Elmo and offered the perfect ending to a week packed full of events!
In remembrance of HMS Urge, her crew and passengers.