Friday, May 05, 2006

Salvage plan for 'human torpedoes'


Bangkok Post
By Achadtaya Chuenniran
May 05, 2006

Phuket - A British company wants to salvage two ''human torpedo'' submersibles which sank off Phuket during the Second World War. East Marine SBS Co claims the two powered, manned torpedoes, known as chariots, are Britain's national assets. They are thought to be lying at the bottom of the sea near Dok Mai island.

Phuket governor Udomsak Assawarangkul said if the submersibles belonged to Britain as claimed, the firm must get an official letter from the British government before seeking Thailand's permission to salvage them.

Under Thai law, the team needs approval from the Fine Arts Department. Any salvage must comply with the Thai Navigation Act, the Historical Sites and Ancient Artifacts Act and regulations of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment.

The governor spoke after meeting with Capt Chris Parton, managing director of East Marine, who sought the governor's backing to raise the two craft. Mr Udomsak pledged full cooperation.

Surin Peerakulpisut, head of the Region 5 water transport office, said the submersibles were each about nine metres long and weighed 850kg, and were clad in steel almost 3cm thick.

On Oct 27-28, 1944 the British submarine Trenchant launched two Mk 2 chariots nicknamed "Tiny" and "Slasher", each carrying two frogmen, to attack two Italian ships in Phuket harbour.

Six hours later the frogmen rode their craft back to the submarine. The chariots were eventually jettisoned so the submarine could more easily avoid a Japanese naval vessel in the area, according to war records.



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