On 16th April, 1951 HMS/M AFFRAY, disappeared while on a training exercise in the English Channel. Failing to make her scheduled radio report, the search for the sunken submarine continued for over three months in an area rich in wrecks. Each sonar contact – 161 in total – meant sending down a diver to eyeball the wreckage and ascertain whether it was that of the submarine, AFFRAY.
On the 14th June 1951 another sonar contact showed wreckage lying at nearly 300 feet. The diver – wearing standard dress and the Siebe Gorman oxy-helium helmet – reported seeing what could have been a submarine before being swept away by the fierce current.
Unwilling to wait until the next slack water, it was decided to trial an experimental underwater television camera that, because of its frail, cumbersome nature and difficulty of handling, had lain on board, unused, during the earlier weeks of searching.
The camera’s operator was former wartime diving legend, ‘Buster’ Crabbe, now a civilian (and who was later to disappear while on a spying mission beneath a Russian cruiser). The television camera was carefully lowered while ‘Buster’ and his assistant manned the controls of the monitor receiver.
Very dramatically the first picture to be seen as the camera approached the wreck was the name ‘AFFRAY’ on the conning tower before the camera, too, was swept away down tide. (The actual image was reversed, and showed the name, ‘YARFFA’.)