During the search for a missing submarine, many strange things happened - including the sighting of a ghostly apparition.

As HMS Affray slipped away from her Gosport berth on April 16, 1951, little did anyone know that this sleek grey submarine would never return home. Sadly, neither she nor any of her crew were ever seen again.

As the skipper and his team of more than 70 personnel embarked on a routine exercise, expectations were that nothing would deviate from the plan.

Early in the evening, not far away from the Isle of Wight, the captain gave the signal to notify that HMS Affray was about to dive and stay below sea level until 8.30am the following day.

That was her final contact, for the vessel and all passengers were swallowed by the sea in one of Britain's most devastating maritime accidents since the Second World War.

Although hope for her safe return was initially high, it soon became apparent that Affray had likely encountered an "accident". As dread of her destiny grew, the possibility of a positive outcome seemed increasingly unlikely.

For eight long weeks the Channel was searched by air and sea for any signs of the missing submarine. Finally, after an extensive exploration of more than 1,000 miles beneath the surface, it was located approximately 16 miles north-west from the island of Alderney in 23 fathoms of water.

It was during these two months that inexplicable occurrences took place.

Sonar detected a massive object found on the bottom of the sea bed; but the search vessel, realising it could not have been Affray, owing to its size, continued on. 

When it returned several days later to establish what it was, it had disappeared without trace.

Another strange event was the wife of a skipper of one of Affray’s sister boats claimed to have seen a ghost in a dripping wet submarine officer's uniform telling her the location of the sunken sub.

Some believe this position later turned out to be correct and the woman recognised him as an officer who had died during the Second World War.

As the mission to locate the missing submarine was underway, the Daily Echo chartered an aircraft, which took off from Southampton Airport, and sent Salisbury-born journalist Terence Lancaster to the skies above the massive expanse of water.

Daily Echo: HMS Affray

“I have been flying in a specially chartered Echo search plane over the rescue area, but watchers in our aircraft had no luck in their wave-by-wave lookout for a slick of oil, a red and yellow buoy or the bobbing heads of survivors in their rubberised-nylon immersion suits,” wrote the reporter.

“A hundred feet below me, at a point about 35 miles south-west of the Needles, we could see submarines, destroyers, minesweepers and frigates circling tensely. And somewhere 200 feet in the sea below them, it was hoped lay HMS Affray and 75 men alive or dead.

“We were low enough to read the name, Trespasser, on one submarine and see ratings clinging to the periscope housing as they swept the sea with binoculars.

“Outside the actual search area the many-masted radar ship Boxer was using its special equipment, some of it still secret, and the deep-diving vessel, Reclaim was standing by. Other ships nearby carried doctors, nursing orderlies and medical supplies.”

He concluded: “Sombre skies above the rescue craft provided an appropriate backcloth for the dwindling hopes of the workers.”

Later Terence, who died in October 2007, would go on to become one of the most highly respected journalists and influential columnists in Fleet Street, but back in 1951 he held the role at the Daily Echo as the newspaper’s air reporter.

In the wake of Affray's discovery, a Board of Inquiry was assembled to investigate why the submarine had vanished without a trace. Unfortunately, their findings concluded that it was beyond comprehension and no definitive answer could be given.

She has never been raised in an effort to determine the cause and so the submarine remains undisturbed for all time as a maritime grave.