The tragic search for HMS Affray

In BSD journal No76 of 1952, there is a brief review of the March 1952 edition of “La Radiesthesie Pour Tous”, that mentions a dowser’s successful attempt to locate the Affray, the last Royal Navy submarine to be lost at sea.

The story is both remarkable but ultimately tragic. In the following post, I have also drawn on the following Wikipedia entry:

The submarine was on manoeuvres off the south coast of the UK, with 75 sailors on board. It was last seen on the 16th April 1951 and dived at 9pm that night. The vessel was reported missing at 8am the next morning. Apparently, this immediately became sensational news in the UK. It was estimated that there was only 48 hours to locate the sub.

The French dowser, a Mr Terroir, stepped up to the plate, though only an amateur dowser of four years. He used a photograph together with a road map of France, to locate the vessel. He traced its last movements from the Isle of Wight and on April 20th, three days after being reported missing, he located her position as being NW of the Isle of Alderney, at a depth of 75m.  And furthermore, at that time, he found that three men on board had died.

He informed the British consulate, who agreed to contact the Admiralty. In the event, this never happened and it was not until June 14 of that year, when the Affray was finally located; a feat made particularly difficult because of the many shipwrecks littering the English Channel. It was initially believed to have sunk off the Nab Tower, at the entrance to the Solent, but was found in 86m on the edge of Hurd’s Deep, a valley in the floor of the English Channel. The consulate later informed Mr Terroir that the information that he had provided had been factually correct.

According to Wikipedia, the cause of the sinking appears to be unclear, but interestingly, the Royal Navy conducted a scan of the interior of the vessel which indicated  “ that at least one compartment flooded and some of the crew had drowned when she first hit the bottom”. This is presumably consistent with the dowser’s findings.

As a postscript, I include the following strange tale from the Wiki article: “Another strange event was that the wife of a skipper of one of Affray’s sister submarines claimed to have seen a ghost in a dripping wet submarine officer’s uniform telling her the location of the sunken sub (this position later turned out to be correct)— she recognised him as an officer who had died during the Second World War, not a crew member of Affray.”