The H.M.T.S. Alert was a cable laying ship completed in 1918 and sunk during WWII on February 24, 1945. During the sinking of this ship, all 59 hands, aged from 17 to 62 died. Many of the crew members were from the East Kent area, where a memorial plaque to the ship was dedicated on February 24, 2011. During its 27 years of service this ship provided several important tasks.
The H.M.T.S. Alert was built by shipbuilders Swan, Hunter and Wigman Richardson in 1918. The vessel weighed 941 tons and was designed for laying cable under the ocean. At that time it was built the primary cables being laid were telegraph cables. The ship was being used to repair telegraph cable off of Dodman, North Goodwin Sands when it was sunk. Its task on that day was the repair of the telegraph cable from Dumpton Gap, Kent to La Panne, Belgium, essential for the war communication.
In addition to being used to lay cable, the ship was used in the early PLUTO experiments where pipelines were laid under the ocean. When enemy forces cut off the fuel supplys, this pipeline provided valuable services, especially in June 1944.
The vessel that sunk the H.M.T.S. Alert was a small 2 man German Submarine. These small subs had a 17 ton displacement and carried tow G7e type torpedoes undlerslung to the sub. The subs were limited to a 300 km range on the surface and 63 when submerged. Their top speed was 7 knots at surface level and 3 knots when submerged. Some of the subs had additional storage tanks that doubled their range. These so called midget submarines were involved I several limited actions in the area, including the sinking of the H.M.T.S. Alert.
The H.M.T.S. Alert was not the intended target of the German sub. In fact, the submariners reported they had sunk the French destroyer La Combattante; however, this ship had been mined the night before.
The crew of the H.M.T.S. Alert included members of the Merchant Navy as well as the Royal Navy. These men played a vital part in the war efforts and gave the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. The sacrifice they made should be remembered by all.