Navy scuba divers called in to help solve 100-year-old submarine mystery off UK

Divers from the Navy have helped solve a 100-year-old mystery by identifying a German submarine that had sunk off the coast of Britain.

The divers from Devonport Naval Base dove 70m under sea off the coast of Cornwall to ID the wreckage, which successfully settled a century-long debate between historians.

The Navy team brushed marine life and growth off of the sunken U-boat and then compared their findings with official records to confirm its identity.

All other German submarines were known to have surrendered at the end of the Great War or have there whereabouts known, which helped historians narrow this wreckage down to two crafts.

Official Royal Navy records identify the boat as U-93, which was rammed and sunk by merchant ship SS Braeneil on January 7, 1918.

The U-93 was assigned to operate off Brittany and subsequently sank two ships.

Another near identical wreck has been found near Calais and some experts believe it to be the boat's sister U-95.

US-based submarine historian Michael Lowrey, a WW1 expert behind the world-renowned Uboat.net website, asked local divers to solve the mystery.

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Diver Steve Mortimer overcame the challenges posed by the wreck's depth and strong currents off the Lizard, Cornwall, to conclusively prove the German submarine's identity.

Among the divers were Dr Fran Hockley and retired Army Air Corps Lieutenant Colonel Dom Robinson, civil servants employed at the Joint Service Sub Aqua Diving Centre in Devonport Dockyard.

Photographs and video from the dives are still being analysed to try to confirm the cause of sinking.

Dom said: "Although there is damage to the port side it wasn't particularly conclusive but we did find open hatches in the conning tower and engine room."

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"We think this confirms that it was sunk by ramming which destroyed the submarine's buoyancy system while concurrently pushing it under.

"Bitterly cold January sea water flooding into the open hatches must have been unimaginably horrendous for the crew and even those who managed to escape wouldn't have lasted long in the water.

"Reports from the steamer told of foreign voices in the darkness but in a period of unrestricted submarine warfare I can't imagine there was much sympathy for them."

All crew on the sunken U-boat were lost when the craft went down.

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