HMS Perseus: The story of the sole survivor of a British submarine sunk in 1941 off Kefalonia, Ionian Sea, Greece

Shipwrecks, WW2 in Greece

By Pierre Kosmidis

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An incredible -yet true- story comes back to life through the book of Kostas Thoctarides and Rena Giatropoulou regarding the legendary submarine «HMS Perseus».

The book, published by the Hellenic Maritime Museum, contains 150 photos, documents for the loss of the submarine, and digital photos of “Perseus” exactly as it is lying on the seabed.

With the assistance of the Company for Tourist Development and Promotion of the island of Kefalonia and Skala Community, the research team identified and recorded on film for the first time since the sinking by an Italian mine on December 6, 1941, of the British submarine “HMS Perseus”, at a depth of 52 meters.

The naval tragedy that claimed the lives of 60 officers and sailors, including the Greek Lieutenant Nicolaos Merlin, became widely known thanks to the perseverance of Greek divers and the detailed historical research by Ms. Rena Giatropoulou.

The sole survivor
A single sailor, stoker John Cape, managed to escape from the sunken submarine and after an Odyssey that lasted for months, Cape found himself in Alexandria, Egypt.

The identification of the submarine, almost 60 years later, was based in part on the testimony of the sole survivor. The experienced diver Kostas Thoctarides notes: “When I first saw the picture of the submarine on the sonar display, my heart leaped”
“A wreck is not just a mass of steel, but has many human stories. We approached respectfully, in order not to disrupt the final resting place of the 60 souls who drowned that night of December 6, 1941.

I feel a moral obligation and ask divers not to remove anything from the wreck”.
The “Perseus” is resting on the sandy bottom, almost upright, with a slight right tilt 18 degrees.

The hole that was caused by the explosion of the mine is visible on the left side of the bow, the only visible damage to the steel hull with a length of almost 90 meters.

The manhole from which John Cape escaped is still open while inside the submarine broken instruments and clutter attest to the violence of the explosion that sank “Perseus”.

Today many certified recreational divers visit the wreck of the “Perseus”, which is now a popular diving destination in Kefalonia.

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The remains of the drowned sailors are scattered across the submarine’s floor

The identity of Perseus
The submarine HMS PERSEUS was designed in 1927 and built in England, shipyards Vickers – Armstrong in 1930. Type: PARTHIAN
Length: 88.4 meters
Displacement 1,475 tons on the surface and 2,040 tons submerged.