Asia Dive News : Thai company seeks to salvage submerged WWII weapons
A Thai marine-supply company based in southern Phuket is seeking permission to salvage what it believes are two British "human torpedoes" that have been lying in the sea near Phuket since World War II, local media Saturday reported.
Phuket's Governor Udomsak Asavarangura was quoted by English newspaper the Nation as saying that East Marine Corp. had sent a letter requesting permission to salvage the two human torpedoes, or Chariots, believed to belong to the British Royal Navy.
The Chariots sank near Dok Mai Island of Phuket Province during a mission in World War Two.
However, authorities in Phuket would first like East Marine to get British government confirmation that the two vessels really belonged to the British Royal Navy. "We need to have the evidence first, otherwise it could create problems for us later if the torpedoes are found to belong to another country," Udomsak said.
Manned torpedoes were secret naval weapons commissioned during World War II. The British versions were electrically propelled mini-submarines with two crewmen equipped with diving suits riding astride.
They steered the vessel at slow speed to the enemy ship. A detachable warhead was then used as a limpet mine after which the crew rode the "torpedo" away.
The device was carried by another vessel, usually a normal submarine, and launched near the target. The idea was successfully applied by the Italian navy early in World War II and then copied by the British when they discovered the Italian operations.
Some records say the British submarine Trenchant carried two Mk- 2 Chariots for a mission at Phuket harbor on Oct. 27-28, 1944.
Udomsak said the salvaging of the Chariots was related to national security, the environment and archaeology, and hence the province had to first consult several agencies, such as the Fine Arts Department, the National Resources and Environment Ministry and the Harbor Department.
The Chariots are archaeological finds under the authority of Thai Fine Arts Department, as they have been submerged in Thai waters for more than 60 years, Udomsak said.
"We also have to study the environmental effects," he said. "We still need information about how deep the naval weapons are under the water and how thick is the soil burying them."