The keel of Subchaser CH5 was laid down in 1938 and the ship launched on 3 April 1939 from the A C de France shipyard at Dunkerque (Dunkirk), France. She was the first of her class which was based on the CH1. The ship was completed in 1940. The new ship was 35.5 metres at the waterline (37.1 metres overall), 5.66 metres wide with a draught of 1.95 metres. She displaced 107 tons standard, 137 tons full load.
CH5 was powered by two MAN diesel engines of 1,130 hp (total) driving twin props. She could carry 5.5 tons of diesel giving a range of 1,200 nautical miles at eight knots. Maximum speed was 16 knots. Her armament was one 75/35 M1897 gun and two 8/80 guns (I have also read it was 75mm field gun, one 2-pounder, two 20mm Oerlikons, four machine guns), four depth charge throwers, one depth charge rack with 10 depth charges (I think this is what 1 DCR (10) means). She was crewed by 23 sailors.
|This is CH12, identical to CH5, later HMS Carentan|
On 3 July 1940 CH5 and six of her sisterships were seized by Great Britain and it seems to have been renamed HMS Carentan (I have also seen it written as Carantan). Five of the sisterships were seized by Germany and became German naval vessels.
In 1943 she was handed to the Forces Navales Francaises Libres ("Free French Naval Forces"). It is not clear if she was renamed back to CH5 or left as HMS Carentan. There may also have been some changes to her armaments around this time. It is said that a large gun was installed at the bow, perhaps too large for this small warship (which was very narrow).
On 21 December 1943 the Carentan was escorting the submarine HMS Rorqual from Portland for Portsmouth. There was a bad gale blowing and as she approached Swanage on the south coast of England, she turned over in the heavy seas and sank. Of the 23 crew on board, 17 died. The other six were rescued, one by HMS Rorqual and five who were clinging to the upturned hull were rescued by the lifeboat from Swanage. The lifeboat crew returned to Swanage to get cutting gear from a local garage and then returned to the Carentan in the gale to try to rescue the sailors trapped in the upturned ship. Unfortunately she had already slipped to her final resting place.
It has been speculated that the very heavy gun mounted on the bow made her unstable and in the heavy seas, she was pushed over so far she could not recover.
The wreck is now owned by Swanage skipper, Eddie Bennet. He raised the big gun from the bow (I think it may be on Swanage Pier) as well as both propellers. Today she lies about two kilometres south-east of Anvil Point, Swanage. She is on her port side on a bottom composed of rock and slate and faces the east. A GPS of N50° 34.986' W01° 56.210' will put you over the wreck and near a buoy. She is not far from the magnificent wreck of HMAT Kyarra.
|A map of the sites at Swanage - Swanage is located above the n in Down|
Used courtesy of Divers Down dive shop, Swanage
The shotline buoy is located to the rear of the engines on the hull bottom. The depth here is 29 metres. From here, head towards the bow along the hull bottom. In front of the engines go up over the broken bottom and you will see a large winch. I did not see any anchors, but they may be there.
Off the deck side there is a mount for a small gun. Back towards the stern is the engine room where you can see the starboard diesel engine. The port one is located under this and is not really visible. On the bottom off the engine room is a toilet and hand basin. What appears to be the bridge is also located here (presumably the toilet and basin were inside).
Behind the top engine you can see the flywheel and the prop shaft. Past here there is another gun, this time with the barrel facing up. The stern is past here, very broken up. You can see the rudder arm and the top of the rudder is visible. Most is buried under rock. You can see the end of the starboard prop shaft and the A-frame. Part of the port A-frame is also visible.
|The profile from my dive computer for our dive on HMS Carentan |
As this is not a very big wreck, you can easily swim back to the bow again. From there, you can shoot an SMB and ascend. As the wreck is very flat, you average about 28 metres for the dive. We did 21 minutes on air and needed to do one minute at nine metres and four minutes at six metres (we were doing our shallow deco at six rather than three). Visibility was not great at five metres (but locals thought it this was good) and the water temperature was just over 18°C in late August. A very nice dive.