News, WW2

‘Vanished’ HMS Regent Found After 80 Years

  • On 18th April, 1943, HMS Regent went missing during World War Two.
  • In November 2022, Italian Naval League divers discovered the wreckage 19 miles from Monopoli.
  • The dimensions of the wreckage match that of HMS Regent. However, there is no confirmation yet.
  • The family of Willian Trice, the submarine’s chief engine room artificer, hopes to get closure from this discovery.

On 18th April, 1943, HMS Regent, a submarine of the Royal Navy, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Historians believe the 62-man submarine sank after striking a mine near the coast of Monopoli, Italy.

In November 2022, several divers claimed to have discovered a shipwreck off Italy’s Adriatic coast. Moreover, they have reasons to believe that the wreckage belongs to HMS Regent.

The Last Journey of HMS Regent

The wreck of HMS Regent
The wreck of HMS Regent was discovered in 2022. Image Credit: Stefania Bellesso

HMS Regent was set to return to her base in Beirut, Lebanon, by May 1st, 1943. However, the ship never arrived. What we do know though is that on 18th April, 1943, an unidentified submarine attacked an Italian convoy. After firing torpedos there was an underwater explosion that was heard on the coast of Italy, which led the Royal Navy to believe that the HMS Regent was lost forever.

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Consequently, four bodies were recovered from the shore south of Monopoli in the following weeks. Three of the bodies were found dressed in the Davis Submerged Escape apparatus used by British submariners at that time. Unfortunately, the bodies – buried in the Bari War Cemetery – were never identified.

The Alleged Discovery

On 19th November, divers of the Italian Naval League discovered the long-lost wreckage. The shipwreck has been found just off the coast of Villanova di Ostuni, 19 miles from Monopoli.

Fabio Bisciotti, the Italian Naval League Marine Explorer, found the wreck upside-down at a depth of 246 feet [75 meters]. Although unidentifiable at first glance, a closer look at the hull, stern, and bow shows that the wreck has a British submarine design.

HMS Regent
Rainbow-class submarine HMS Regent (N41) during WW2

According to Bisciotti, the dimensions of the wreck symbolize a British submarine typical of the period. The vessel has six torpedo tubes, three on either side: something that was commonplace to the British submarines in World War Two. On the other hand, the German U-boats and Italian submarines had only four torpedoes — two on each side.

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Bisciotti’s team — which includes Stefania Bellesso and Michele Favaron — were able to obtain footage of the wreck. This video shows that the vessel had been a victim of an underwater explosion.

The Wreck Lies Upside Down

Interestingly, the footage supports the theory that a mine struck HMS Regent in April 1943. The location and deployment records also point in the same direction: the wreck belongs to HMS Regent.

Biscotti explained, “Mathematically, it’s not an opinion. If we want to talk about this wreck, it’s surely the Regent because nobody else was in this area. In April 1943, watching all the diaries of the submarines from Great Britain in the Mediterranean Sea, only the Regent was patrolling the area.”

However, the wreckage lies upside down, with its critical section buried under the seafloor, making it difficult to confirm the discovery at present.

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A Royal Navy spokesperson said, “We appreciate the efforts to locate the wreck of HMS Regent, which, even after the passage of eight decades, would bring a sense of closure to the families and descendants of those tragically lost when she sank. We are also especially grateful for all the efforts made in protecting the last resting place of those who gave their lives in the service of our country.”

William Trice

William Trice was the submarine’s chief engine room artificer. According to his family, the trauma of Trice’s death has reverberated through generations.

Trice’s son Barry spent years investigating the disappearance of HMS Regent. He passed away in 2003 and passed on the mantle to his son Dick, 57, who moved with his family from Birmingham to Adelaide, South Australia, in 2012.

Dick Trice shared, “My stepmother said the only time she ever saw my dad upset and cry was when he told her his emotions about his father. It’s a funny thing — it’s like learned grief. I feel grief about the grandparent I never had, a sense of loss from someone I’ve never met. It’s like this grief that’s just rolling through the generations.”