HMS P 555. EX S Class, US Submarine [34M] – (Detail in Dive Dorset: 104, p94 – 50 30.87N; 02 33.43W) – Sunk by Royal Navy as an ASDIC target. (LARN, Trim: & Clarke: have the date of scuttling 25/08/1947. SRN: Vol. 1 p405. & Divers Guide; Weymouth & Portland: p27.
Built by: Bethlehem Steel Corp. (Quincy, Massachusetts, U.S.A.)
USS S-24 was transferred to the Royal Navy at New London on 10 August 1942. P 555 arrived in the U.K. in October 1942 and joined the 7th Flotilla at Holy Loch as a anti-submarine warfare training boat. She was decommissioned into reserve in May 1944. She was returned to the United states Navy on 20 December 1944. She was sunk on 28 April 1947 as an asdic target south west of Portland in position 50º30’87″N, 02º33’43″W.
Article from Diver magazine written by John Liddiard.
Rod Thompson, skipper of Out-Rage, suggested the P555. Rod has a particular interest in this sub because his father Leslie served on it as engine-room Chief Petty Officer during World War Two.
The P555 was originally the US Navy submarine S24, a design dating from WW1 and transferred to the Royal Navy under Lend Lease during WW2.
Rod found out about his father’s connection with the P555 only in 1992, many years after Rod had first dived it. It was a family Christmas and Leslie was browsing through a copy of Dive Dorset from Rod’s bookshelf when he exclaimed: “I served on that boat. We used to call it the State Express, after the American cigarette brand.”
It was only a short posting in 1944, just six weeks while Leslie’s usual submarine HMS Unbending was being refitted (when he later returned to shipbuilding work on Tyneside he witnessed Unbending being towed in for scrap).
The P555 was nominally returned to US ownership in 1945, but ended up being scuttled as a sonar target on 25 August 1947, about four miles west of Portland Bill.
It’s a perfect diving day and Rod schedules our journey to get on site early, allowing plenty of time to shot the wreck. An intact submarine lying along the tide is not the easiest of targets to shot, because there isn’t much for the shot to hook onto. Rod takes his time and makes three or four drops before he is happy.
We have a few minutes to chill out while waiting for perfectly slack water, then I get to dive first and make sure the shot is in. Rod’s efforts have paid off, and as my eyes adjust to the gloom I see the line draped perfectly across the conning tower.
I quickly tie it in and release the float so that the other divers know it is OK to come down.
The dive averages about 10m deeper than the M2, with the conning tower at 36m, the deck at 40m and the seabed at 45m. I take my time swimming the length of the wreck, knowing that even with an average depth of 40m I will have plenty of time to see it all without getting into silly amounts of decompression.
After 55 years sitting in the current off Portland Bill, the P555 remains in almost pristine shape. Some obvious bits like propellers and the 4in deck gun were removed before it was sunk, the wooden deck planking has rotted and some of the thinner metal trim has rusted through, but you don’t get many wrecks in such good condition as this.
Hatches are intact, periscope housings in place, propeller-shafts and control rods stick out of the stern alongside intact hydroplanes and rudder. At the bow the forward hydroplanes are retracted, with a small anchor recessed on the starboard side and four torpedo tubes below, two on each side. A wedge-shaped section is missing from the upper tip of the bow; I would guess that this is where the sonar was removed.
Sessile life is a dense covering of hydroids with a scattering of small anemones, particularly at the bow and stern.
About HM S/M 555 from Silent Warriors Vol 2:
Type: P551 Type, ex US – S-Class submarine. Pennant: No.P555. Builders: Fore River Shipbuilding Co., Bethlehem shipyard, Quincy, MA, USA. Keel laid: on November 1st 1918. Launched: as S.24 (Pendent No.SS-129) on 27 June 1922. Commissioned: by Lt. Cdr. Louis E. Denfield on 24 August 1923.
Hull: single. Type: American ‘S’ Class lease-lend, non-government designed submarine of the EBCo type, sponsored by Mrs. Herbert B. Loper. Surface displacement: 854-tons.
U/Dt: 1,062-tons. LBD: 66.87m × 6.29m × 4.80m. Machinery: 2 × 600hp 8cyl “NELSECO” diesels. Props: 2-bronze. S/Sp: 13kts. Op/R: 8,000-n.miles @ 10kts. Sub/R: 150-sea-miles? @ 5kts. U/Power: 2 × 750bhp “Ridgeway Dynamo & Electrical” electric motors gave 11-kts.
Batteries: lead/acid. Fuel/Cap: 168-tons. Armament: 4 × 53.34cm (21in) bow torpedo tubes. Torpedoes: 12 × 53.34cm (21in). Guns: 1 × 101.6mm (4in /50) Quick Firing (QF) deck gun. Ammo: 90-rounds 101mm. Mines: none. Diving: maximum diving depth 60.96m (200ft). Complement: 42 (originally 4-officers and 28-ratings).
The USS S.24 operated from New London and Connecticut during 1923 and 1924, but in February 1924, also served at the islands of St. Thomas and US Virgin Island. From 6 to 13 March 1924 she made a visit to Trinidad, then to the Panama Canal area during the April 1924. From 27 April to May 1925 she across the Pacific and visited Hawaii. Additional service was seen around the Panama Canal area between February and March 1926 and yet again in February 1929. S.24 made more visits to Hawaii during 1927 and 1928, but twice the following year, 1929.
The next principal ports that S.24 was to serve in, up until early 1930, was San Diego, San Pedro, and Mare Island. On December 1st 1930, she sailed from San Diego and on the 12th, reached Pearl Harbour. This remained her base until 15 October 1938 when she left and returned to New London, arriving on 4 January 1939. New London became her new base, but the boat was just partially crewed from April 1st until 1 July 1940, when she resumed full duties. The Panama Canal area was cruised from late December 1941 and up to May 1942 and she sailed back to New London on the 21st. S.24 was decommissioned at New London on 10 August 1942 and struck from the US Navy list on 11 September 1942. In October 1942, now commissioned into the Royal Navy as HM S/M P555, she was transferred under the Lend-lease agreement to Britain, along with five other American ‘S’ Class submarines.
P555 spent most of her Royal Navy time in home waters attached to HMS CYCLOPS, 7th Flotilla, at Rothesay, after initially being posted to Freetown Sierra Leone for ASW training. She was used for ASW training and usually under the command of a new submarine CO, to give them experience before going on to the real thing. She had the nickname of “State Express” after the famous American cigarette brand of the time “State Express 555”. The commanding officers changed about every six to eight weeks and Lt. Edward Young RNVR took command of P555 on the March 26th 1943. (The first Volunteer Reserve Officer to take command of a Royal Navy submarine was Lt. Frederick Henry Sherwood RCNVR who assumed command of P556 on 15 March 1943.)
P555 was the only submarine out of the six ‘S’ Class lease-lend boats to serve on frontline duties. In 1944, P555 was slightly damaged in a collision in the Clyde and she was found to be too uneconomic to remain in service. She was ‘paid off’ for return to the USN administration on 20 December 1944, but the US Navy had no further use for such an aging submarine, so she was struck from their list.
On 25 April
1947, P555 was towed out and intentionally sunk as ASDIC target by the Royal Navy, off Portland Bill.
Day of Loss: 28
Month of Loss: 4
Year of Loss: 1947
Longitude: 50 30.87
Latitude: 02 33.43
Approximate Depth: 34
Aliases, aka: S-24