Submarine riddle

posted in: Mini Memories 6

We’re nothing if not catholic in our interests here at Facts About Durban. This time it’s the riddle of one [or two] submarines which was [were] scuttled off Durban after WWII. I first became aware that at least one submarine had been scuttled after being sent a link to a picture of HMS Otus. The accompanying blurb said that the vessel had ended her days off Durban but, before I could save the picture, it was removed from the Web.

There things rested until a message from reader Warwick Chapman asking about the submarines HMS Otus and HMS Osiris and quoting from an article which said that both had been scuttled off Durban. Warwick then apparently put out the word on Twitter and received a reply from Sioux McKenna, sister of Grant McKenna who once worked for the museums department of the Ethekwini Municipality. She quoted Grant as follows:

“They were used for training in anti-submarine activities, and were stationed in Durban, which was where the SA Navy training was conducted [Simonstown was a RN base, and wasn’t used for seagoing training of this nature, because enemy submarines were operating there]. There are a couple of photos of HMS Osiris around, either at the Local History Museum or at Killie Campbell – I can’t remember. Otus is a mystery – I never spent time trying to confirm that she was scuttled in Durban, and saw some reports that she was cut up for scrap. Certainly I saw her Asdic board at a shop on Victoria embankment [in Durban. Ed.] in 2002; it was bought by someone on a cruise ship – nice souvenir! Their fuel tanks were prone to leaking when depth-charged, hence the decision not to keep them.”

The Submarine Heritage Centre website confirms that HMS Osiris (launched 1928) was based in Durban and scuttled there, but says she was the only one of the Odin Class submarines to survive the war.

There are many references on this site to vessels being deliberately scuttled, once they had reached their ‘sell by’ date, but I’m still amazed to think there was a time when this practice was more economical than breaking them up for scrap.

Can any reader throw more light on the Osiris/Otus mystery, or contribute a picture or two?

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6 Responses

  1. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Looking up Wiki on the internet, I see there is evidence of both the Otus and Osiris having a link to Durban. See the table below which refers to them.
    The information is:
    Ship Name, The Builders, When launched and Fate.
    Odin Chatham Dockyard 5 May 1928 Sunk by Italian destroyer Strale
    in the Gulf of Taranto, 14 June 1940
    Olympus William Beardmore and Company 11 December 1928 Mined off
    Malta, 8 May 1942
    Orpheus William Beardmore and Company 26 February 1929 Sunk by
    Italian destroyer Turbine in the
    Mediterranean, 19 June 1940
    Osiris Vickers, Barrow 19 May 1928 Scrapped in Durban
    September 1946.
    Oswald Vickers, Barrow 19 June 1928 Sunk by Italian
    destroyer Ugolino Vivaldi off Calbria, 1 August 1940
    Otus Vickers, Barrow 31 August 1928 Scuttled off September 1946 off Durban.

  2. John Taylor
    | Reply

    HMS Otus (N92) was indeed based in Durban. After being struck from the naval register it was sold in May 1946 to a R. Scott, and scuttled off Durban in September 1946.

    References for this are and, which has some good photos of both HMS Osiris and HMS Otus.

    • Allan Jackson

      Hi John
      Nice to hear from you again. Thanks for the info.

  3. Patrick Voorma
    | Reply

    Hi. We have just discovered the wreck of the HMS Otus off Durban She is in fairly good condition approx 8km SE of the harbour entrance lying in 105m.

  4. Allan Maclean
    | Reply

    Hi. Here is the latest footage of the HMS Otus as she is now at 105 meters off Durban. Footage taken by Patrick Voorma on our more recent dive on 13 August 2013.

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