Max Depth: 52m | Temp: 15°C (16Apr2022)

Naval Characteristics

The British cable steamship “Retriever” was constructed at the shipyard “Goole Shipbuilding & Repairing Co. Ltd.” situated along the River Dutch in Goole, Yorkshire, Great Britain. It was commissioned by the “West Coast of America Telegraph Company” in 1909 and was a small vessel with an overall length of 57.97 meters, a beam of 8.62 meters, and a draft of 4.72 meters.

It had a total tonnage of 674 gross tons, and net tonnage of 331 tons, and was registered with the British ship classification society Lloyd’s Register as No129024 (classed Lloyd’s 100 A1). Propelled by a single-shaft propeller, it was driven by a double-cylinder reciprocating engine, a single boiler, generating 91 NHP, giving it a maximum speed of 9.5 knots.


The Retriever (3) was the third cable-laying vessel in history to bear the same name, following the Retriever (1), it was built in 1878 and the Retriever (2) was constructed in 1879. It was also the first of the two similar-type vessels launched at the Goole shipyard. The second was the Transmitter, slightly larger with a total length of 63.52 meters.

Its base was in the port of Callao in Lima, Peru, where, on behalf of the “West Coast of America Telegraph Company,” it spent its first 20 years of service in the Pacific. One of its significant endeavors during that period was performing works and repairs on the Valparaiso – Lima cable line.

The “West Coast of America Company,” since 1902, was part of the “Eastern & Associated Telegraph Companies,” which merged on April 8, 1929, with a series of companies to create the “Imperial & International Communications Ltd.” The Retriever then became part of an expanded fleet, undertaking missions in the West Indies, the Mediterranean, and the Red Sea.

During the period 1929 – 1932, the “Imperial & International Communications Ltd.” acquired four more companies, and on May 24, 1934, it was renamed “Cable & Wireless Ltd.”

The Evolution of the Telegraph in Greece until World War II

The presence of British companies in Greece played a decisive role in the telecommunications industry in Greece.

The beginning was on March 20, 1859, when, under the premiership of Athanasios Miaoulis, the law “On the purchase and installation of submarine electric cable from Piraeus to Syros” was passed.

A few days later, on 24 March 1859, a contract was signed between the Greek state and the company R.S.Newall & Co. for the acquisition of the Chios – Syros cable line.

In November 1859, the C/S “Elba” laid the first submarine cable line in Greece (Piraeus – Syros – Chios), allowing Greece to connect with Constantinople, Smyrna, Crete, and Alexandria.

Gradually, the islands were connected to mainland Greece, as well as to the international network of the Mediterranean.

After successive mergers of companies, in 1878, the “Eastern Telegraph Company Limited,” the largest telegraphic company of the time, undertook to complete the submarine network of Greece, both domestically and internationally, as well as to maintain these lines.

In 1902, this company, along with others, created the “Eastern & Associated Telegraph Companies,” which, through acquisitions and mergers of companies, evolved into the “Cable & Wireless Ltd.” in 1934, as mentioned earlier in the previous section.

In 1934, the C/S “Retriever” arrived in our country to install the submarine cable line Delos – Mykonos on behalf of the Greek Government.

Finally, in 1940, Greece was connected to Great Britain via wireless telegraphy, while in the same year, the telecommunication stations of Thessaloniki and 18 more islands were handed over to the Greek state.

The Action of C/S “Retriever” in World War II

With the onset of World War II, the British government did not proceed to nationalize, as it had the right to do, the telecommunications companies. Thus, Cable & Wireless found itself operating under its administration and without governmental interventions. Its human resources, network, and fleet were placed in service of defending the British Empire and the needs of the war.

The cable-laying ships were called upon to participate in a series of critical missions during the war. The most common tasks included repairs of cables due to natural deterioration or sabotage, the relocation of lines to avoid detection and destruction by the enemy, the destruction of enemy cables, or their use for the needs of the allies, and finally, laying subsea loops for the detection and locating of enemy submarines.

The British Admiralty, together with the company’s management, jointly decided on the execution of each mission, taking into account potential losses and the significance of the desired outcome.

The cable ships operated either independently or escorted by warships for their safety. Most missions were difficult, and time-consuming, regardless of weather conditions, and left the ships exposed to enemy aggression.

In 1939, the company had seven ships and, as needed, chartered vessels from other companies. The crews, apart from the officers, who were English, usually came from the countries where these operations were conducted.

In June 1940, the Retriever, coming from Brazil, passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and entered the Mediterranean, which had begun to ignite. Initially, it participated in the destruction of the cable line between Italy and Spain and then continued to be actively involved in a rapidly evolving front.

The sinking of the ship

At dawn on April 6, 1941, the German ambassador to Athens, Viktor von Erdmann, delivers the German declaration of war to the prime minister’s residence and to Alexandros Koryzis. Immediately, Operation “Marita” is put into action, and the German invasion begins with the attack of German troops through Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, the German air force conducts bombings and air raids on urban centers, the port of Piraeus, and the naval base of Salamis, aiming to disrupt Greek infrastructure and morale.

From the first day of the invasion, at 21:20, a swarm of 31 German bombers approaches Piraeus from the west. Eleven He-111 H-6 aircraft, launched from Austria, and twenty Ju-88 A-4 aircraft, launched from Catania, Sicily, led by one of Luftwaffe’s most effective pilots, Hans Joachim Hermann, begin the bombardment of Piraeus port and simultaneously conduct heavy bombings on its facilities and docked ships, causing extensive destruction.

The declaration of war finds the C/S “Retriever” carrying out operations in the Gulf of Thermaikos, escorted by the Greek torpedo boat “Arethousa.” A few days later, on the night of April 11, 1941, it is en route from Lemnos to Piraeus. Having completed another mission for the Combined Signals Board, it sails into the Saronic Gulf as part of a convoy consisting of a Greek cargo ship and two Greek destroyers, possibly the “Psara” and “Koundouriotis.” Approaching the area where they would anchor outside Piraeus, they receive a signal of an impending German air raid, and anti-aircraft fire begins from the coast. German bombers appear, hammering Piraeus port for yet another night.

The two destroyers receive orders to abandon the convoy, and the C/S “Retriever” is ordered to move between Piraeus and the naval fort of Flevon. Shortly before midnight, the cable ship is spotted off Glyfada. It comes under attack from a German aircraft, which manages to approach it unseen and deliver the fatal blow.

The machine guns of the aircraft are deafening, and four bombs are released from its bomb bay. The first two miss, the third hits the left lifeboat, while the fourth penetrates the main deck and explodes in the forward engine room, blowing up the ship’s hull, which begins to sink rapidly.

The crew manages to lower the remaining three lifeboats, one of which is damaged by the blasts the ship endured. The sub-lieutenant, along with the officers and petty officers, organize the abandonment of the vessel and are the last to leave it.

Captain Cecil Arnold Foy returns to the sinking ship to rescue the telegraphist, who cannot swim and has returned to the bridge to retrieve the ship’s documents. Suddenly, the bow takes a steep tilt, and the ship rapidly sinks, dragging both unfortunate men into the watery grave.

The weather was stormy, with strong winds and intense waves. In these difficult conditions, those who managed to board the lifeboats tried to save the rest of the crew who had fallen into the sea.

The sub-lieutenant struggles with the waves and is rescued by the destroyer “Thyella” after being in the water for at least three whole hours.

A vivid account of the events comes from Maltese Michael Mallia, a crew member and survivor of the shipwreck, through the narration of his son Joseph Mallia, who heard it from his father as a young man.

“That day, after the attack, although he was badly injured, he managed to get on a lifeboat which was almost sunk. He closed the drain in the hull and removed as much water as possible with a bucket.

Then he started to search for survivors. He was able to get twelve more sailors on board the lifeboat, but sadly he could not find his friend Paul Abela and was not able to save him.

My father said that it was dark, but in the distance every now and then they could see a light flashing. They started rowing towards that light, and luckily it was a hospital on an island.

As soon as they reached shore my father lost consciousness because he had lost so much blood from his injuries. He was hit in the leg by splinters from the explosion and had two big cuts – as he used to say, the cuts in his leg looked like two bananas – and his elbow bone was protruding through the skin.

He awoke to find himself being treated in the hospital, and survived the rest of the war.”

Eleven members of the crew, out of a total of 46 men, consisting of Britons, Maltese, Egyptians, and Greeks, were the tragic toll of the shipwreck. Among them was the Greek Athanasios Chrysoloras, 28 years old.

The captain of the C/S “Retriever” was posthumously awarded the Lloyd’s War Medal for Bravery at Sea for his heroism during the sinking of the ship.

The Salvage of the Ship

During the period 1959 – 1960, the C/S “Retriever” was located in the Saronic Gulf and identified by its bell. The Naval Salvage Fund (N.S.F.), which had ownership of all shipwrecks of merchant vessels that occurred between 1830 and 1951, according to legislative decree 2648/1953, proceeded with the auction and sale of the wreck to private individuals. As expected, what presented the greatest interest to the bidders was the cargo of the ship, which contained large quantities of copper, most of which was salvaged.

Pieces of the ship followed, specifically the stern’s last meters along with the propeller, as well as the bow’s last meters. The stern section of the superstructure was blown up, while the engine room was salvaged in its entirety, along with most of the central shaft.

Research and Identification

In 2007 the diving team Wreck Diving, in collaboration with the Ephorate of Maritime Antiquities of the Ministry of Culture, dived, explored, and identified the C/S “Retriever”, revealing after 66 years the history of this unique and rare ship.

Members of this expedition were: Antonis Hatziantoniou, Achim Schloeffel, Giorgos Kamarinos, Eleni Tsopuroopoulou, Kostas Mylonakis, Nikolas Vasilatos & Sarantis Malafouris.

Diving and field research continued by the team and members of these expeditions were also: Areti Komninu, Yannis Roussounelos, Thanos Kopitsas, Nikos Karatzas & Panos Tsitimakis.

The wreck today

The wreck of the C/S “Retriever” rests upright on a sandy seabed, with its bow facing north and its axis pointing northwest to northeast. The maximum depth of the wreck is 52 meters, and the minimum is 44 meters.

What strikes the diver at first glance is the rounded mouths of the hawse pipes located on the deck, and then the hawsers themselves with their circular shape, suitable for stacking cables.

At the level of the superstructure and on its right side, the vertical rupture in the cable ship’s hull is visible, the result of the shock wave from the fatal blow to the bow hold.

The wooden deck, now completely dissolved, combined with the salvaged parts of the wreck, makes penetration into the ship’s interior very easy.

Behind the salvaged section of the superstructure was the engine room, which is now completely absent, so all that remains are scattered metal parts left after extensive salvage operations.

Heading towards the stern of the wreck, we encounter the remaining stern hawse pipe, which we can easily enter into.

On the left side of the ship, where the engine room is completely absent, we find metal parts and a small part of the cargo scattered in the sand.

The remaining parts of the wreck are still in their original position, testifying to this special type of ship that is very difficult to find in the Greek seas.

Diving conditions vary depending on the time of visit. Rarely will one encounter ideal visibility conditions, which are usually reduced and do not exceed 2-3 meters, especially when strong southerly winds prevail. There are generally no strong currents in the area, which are minimal to moderate.

The fact that it is located very close to the coastline of the southern suburbs of Athens and serves as a well-known point for local fishermen has turned the wreck into a collection point for nets and fishing gear, requiring special attention from its underwater visitors.


Our dive team visited the wreck of the C/S “Retriever” in two different periods.

We want to thank Nikos Vardakas, owner of Scubalife Diving Center, and Marios Papavasiliou, owner of Diver’s Corner Diving Center, for their support and exemplary organization of these dives.

Finally, we would like to thank Nautilus Dive Center and its owner Vassilis Tsiaris for the continuous support of our team.

In the dives that took place on 16Apr22 & 14Oct23, the following participated:
Akis Seasidis, Andreas Andrikopulos, Vassilis Tsiaris, Errikos Kranidiotis, Stelios Stamatakis, Nikolas Margaritis, Nikos Kriezis, Nick Charakakos, and Christos Michail.

Historical and archival research: Andreas Andrikopoulos







“The Bombing of Piraeus on April 6, 1941” by Aris Bilalis (first published in the magazine “Naval Greece” in 2014)

The History of Telecommunications in Greece from 1859 to 1949

Tripontikas, Panagiotis (2016) Shipwrecks in the Greek seas 1830-1951 – The underwater property of M.T.N. & N.A.T.

Ntounis, Christos (2000), Shipwrecks in the Greek Seas 1900-1950, Volume A, Athens: FINATEC AE.

CS Retriever

loading map - please wait...

CS Retriever 37.844050, 23.704733

The Shipwreck Today