HMS Stubborn (Malta — 180 fsw)


Before diving the Stubborn, my friend John Entwistle said to me “it is just a metal tube, right?” My answer was “yes, but…”

The Stubborn was a S-class submarine in the British fleet that launched on 11 Nov 1942.

The Stubborn spent most of her early career close to home operating off the Scandavian coast and then went to the Pacific Far East. She had a few attacks against German submarines but never scored a hit but she was responsible for sinking a couple German merchant ships.

During a clash with a German convoy off Norway, she was heavily damaged and her aft hydroplanes were jammed “hard-adive” forcing her to dive deep. She also had some internal flooding and some propeller damage. She plummeted to 400 feet and then the captain blew the main ballast to get her to the surface — only to dive hard again to 500 feet which was 200 feet deeper than her designed depth. What a roller-coaster ride that must have been. She survived the attack and had to be towed home for major repairs.

She then stopped in Malta during a transit through the Suez Canal and spent time patrolling with the allied navies against the Japan Imperial Navy. During this time, she suffered the worst attack of the war and lost her tail fin which had the aft hydroplanes and rudder due to depth charges — but also from hitting the bottom at 550 feet (again, her max design depth was 300 feet).

She sailed back and returned to Malta but they realized the damages were worse than originally though and decided agains trying to repair her again. They stripped all the important equipment and on 30 April 1946, the Stubborn was sunk as a practice target for the British Anti-Submarine Division active submarine detection device (ASDIC) that was being secretly developed.

The Stubborn rested on the ocean floor for almost 50 years before divers discovered here in 1994 — much to everybody’s surprise. Nobody in the Maltese diving community knew that suck a wreck was so close to shore.

The Dive

The Stubborn is in great condition since it was purposefully sunk. It lists about 10 degrees to the starboard. There are three escape hatches that are all open but they are pretty narrow and apparently there is a lot of sedimentation on the inside so we didn’t do any penetration (but I did get a number of good pictures of the hatches).

The wreck is 217 feet long and has a beam of 23.5 feet. So, it is reasonably big wreck to explore. The highlights of the wreck are the six torpedo tubs in the front (3 port, 3 starboard), the conning tower and the open hatches, the propeller in the stern and the one torpedo tube in the back.

The Malta Tourism Authority has built a 3D photogrammetry model which gives a good overview of the wreck:

The Stubborn sits in about 180 feet of water with the top of the wreck at about 150 feet so it is definitely a technical dive. I tend to prefer wrecks that are sunk due to wartime damage; however, the HMS Stubborn is a very cool wreck to dive. Given the great visibility, you can see almost the entirety of the submarine and it makes for a very impressive site. I highly recommend diving it if you have the qualifications.


Below are photos of the wreck. There are some natural light photos and some of the details that are with my Retra strobes.

View from the stern towards the conning tower when I first dropped down
Sense of Scale : Note my dive buddy John Entwistle in the sand taking a picture looking up at the conning tower
Looking up from the deck behind the conning tower
Conning Tower
Hatch at the front of the conning tower
Hatch in front of the conning tower (also note John taking photos on the right)
Tight Fit! Looking down into the hatch in the photo above
Looking towards the bow. Not sure if that is a hatch or not.
Bow section. Note the diving plane on the starboard side.
The “Business End” of the Stubborn. Note the three torpedo tube slots.
Conning Tower from the bow to stern
Prop and Rudder at the Stern

Along the way, I also met a few friends inhabiting the wreck:

Friendly Eel getting ready to man the torpedos!
This hermit crab was near the conning tower so I’m assuming he or she is the new Captain of the HMS Stubborn!


Wikipedia HMS Stubborn

Dive Systems Malta

Underwater Malta

Wikipedia ASDIC

3 thoughts on “HMS Stubborn (Malta — 180 fsw)

    1. It varies quite a bit depending upon the time of year and depth. I put some details on the Trip Report post I made earlier. Here is an excerpt:

      “The water temp on the bottom (60m / 200ft) on most of our dives was between 58-60F. The water started to get warmer from about 50-70 feet and above. In fact, in some cases, you could see the “shimmer” in the water where the two different temperatures mixed. The temperature on my 20 foot deco stop was usually about 75-77F which is quite a bit of difference from down below.”

      Needless to say, I was in a drysuit. 🙂

      – brett

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