26/05/2016 12:38 BST | Updated 26/05/2016 12:53 BST

WWII British Submarine HMS P311 Found Off Italian Coast 'With 71 Bodies Inside'

An Italian diver believes he has located a long-lost British submarine which was downed off Sardinia during World War II.

Massimo Bondone says the bodies of the 71 crew, who also vanished with the HMS P311, are still inside it.

Bondone told the La Nuova Sardegna daily he found the P311 at a depth of 80 meters (262 feet) off the isle of Tavolara during a dive last weekend.

Forces TV
The wreck was found off the isle of Tavolara by diver Massimo Bondone

Likening the sub to a “huge steel coffin”, he said: “It looks like it probably went down with the air sealed inside, leaving the crew to die eventually from oxygen deprivation.

“Immediately I thought of the destiny of the men who met their deaths down there. It was a fate shared by so many men, submariners in particular, on both sides of the conflict.”

Forces TV
The submarine is believed to have been hit by a mine in December 1942

Bondone is a seasoned wreck-diver and has previously found the remains of UJ 2208, a German submarine chaser off the coast of Genoa, Forces TV writes.

Paola Pegoraro of the Orso diving club, which provided logistics for the dive, told The Associated Press the sub was positively identified by the two Chariot "human torpedoes" affixed to the outside.

"We are examining our records to determine whether or not this is a Royal Navy submarine," a British Navy spokesman said on Wednesday.

Picture Post via Getty Images
A British submarine returning from patrol docks next to a ship off the coast of British in 1940 

The spokesman stressed that if it is indeed the P311, the wreck belongs to Britain and any possible remains on board must be respected.

The P311 left Malta in December 1942 with 71 crew on board to take part in Operation Principle, an Allied attack on Italian warships off Sardinia.

According to, the “nothing was heard from her after 31st December and it is believed she was mined when attempting to pass through the Straits of Bonifacio.”