The KT is here, in Sestri Levante, in the Gulf of Tigullio. Punta Manara and, above all, the wonderful Bay of Silence give a special charm to this place. Almost like a fairytale. Today, the sea is crossed by small and large yachts. At one time, during the Second World War, it was the scene of bloody battles. The memory of these tragedies is preserved in its depths. Many wrecks of military ships lie below. Anemones, sponges and other encrusting organisms have covered them, giving them a new life.
The history of the KT of Sestri Levante
The cruising yacht “Eros” and its requisition
The history of the KT of Sestri Levante is very particular and fascinating. Here in Sestri, this story was not even known. Many thought that the sunken ship was a submarine. And it had been given, quite arbitrarily, the generic name of KT. Or Krieg Transporte, a means of war transport.
In fact, this ship was born as a very luxurious cruising yacht, in 1926. It was commissioned by the French banker and baron Henri de Rothschild. It was baptized “Eros” when it was launched.
Unfortunately for the baron and for his friends, the pleasure trips ended soon, in 1939. The Czechoslovak crisis began to worry the French government, to the point of requisitioning it. It got renamed by the French navy as AD 227 and sent to Corsica.
It returned to the rightful owner for a very short period, she is definitively requisitioned and sent to Tangier with the name AD 196.
The appearance of the luxurious yacht changed immediately after the installation of a cannon. It became, in effect, a convoy escort ship.
“Incomprise II” and “” UJ2216 “
Subsequently, the KT of Sestri Levante was used in coastal surveillance and got renamed less anonymously “Incomprise II“.
Germany quickly began to occupy the other European nations and France was also militarily overwhelmed. The Incomprise was captured and enlisted in the German navy and inserted into the Uj-22 flotilla. Its name became UJ2216 and it would remain so until it sunk.
What was left of the old layout had definitively been eliminated. Several machine guns and a stern cannon got installed. The radar and the technical instrumentation made it a real submarine fighter.
After the replacement of the old engines, it got sent to Genoa to patrol the Ligurian coast.
The sinking of the KT of Sestri Levante
On the evening of September 13, 1944, the Uj2216 was on a mission off the coast of La Spezia. Its job was to escort two minelayers. A light wind was blowing off the ground and the clear sky was illuminated by a high moon. The two escorted ships were laying a new mine barrage. They were sighted and attacked by an enemy plane when the job was done. The reaction of the German ships was immediate. The first attack was foiled.
They quickly returned to the coast, towards Genoa. A few hours later, a new attack. From the sea, focused and well organized. The listening devices detected the noises of the enemy propellers and the sailors saw two silhouettes on the horizon. The first two torpedoes were avoided.
The radio operator intercepted allied communications. The attack was led by four lookouts. The commander of UJ2216 ordered to open fire. But soon the listening system perceived the sinister hum of the enemy torpedoes. Their wakes parade alongside the starboard and port sides. When it looked like the danger had been escaped, an explosion stroke it. One of the torpedoes landed. The first explosion triggered two more, involving the UJ2216 war material. The stern was almost completely cut off by the rest of the ship which began to slide slowly towards the bottom. The sky of Punta Manara lighted up day by day by the fire triggered by the explosions. The surviving soldiers jumped into the sea and were rescued by the two minelayers. There are 57 castaways. A small lookout came out of the small port of Sestri Levante and retrieved another nine while another six swim to the coast.
The next day, some fishermen found some lifeless bodies. In total there were six dead and seventeen missing.
Today, the KT lies peacefully on the sand at a depth of 58 meters.
A curious coincidence
I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but I realized that I usually dive on the KT of Sestri Levante during the second week of June. I realized this by looking at the photographs stored on my smartphone. There are some made by boat, a few years ago. My dive buddies and I were eating cherries. Unequivocal sign of the period of the year. Then I found others, from previous or subsequent years. They are all dated in the same period.
June 24, 2021
In order not to deny this tradition, this year I planned the dive on the KT of Sestri Levante on St. John’s Day. June 24.
My dive buddies come from afar and got trapped in the hellish traffic of the Ligurian highways. I avoid their legitimate curses here.
The fact is that the dive got postponed to the afternoon. The cassandras remind me that one only goes to KT in the morning. Because in the afternoon the visibility is worse. Never as this time will they be wrong!!
I began to see its outline as soon as I passed the depth of 20 meters. Below me the KT showed all its majesty. I clearly distinguished its prow, oriented towards the open sea. Clouds of damselfish were dancing covering its structure.
I glided over the command castle and moved towards the deck. I passed by the turret that houses the marvelous 37mm binary machine gun. The play of light gave it a shiny charm.
I continued flying over the main bridge following the features of the old wooden cladding. A sign of the time that was. When the KT was a luxurious yacht and it was called Eros.
I penetrated her interior, more for an exercise in style than for real interest. Once out, I headed for the bow. Visibility allowed me to move away a little. To enjoy the spectacle of the view from the bow. The two anchors are still in place and the chain is well positioned in the cubia eye.
Then I traveled on the side of the bulwarks. Now colonized by oysters and encrusted with sponges. Splendid spirographs rise. On the main deck some redfish were resting in the shade of the bollards.
I went back to the command castle and head towards the stern. I walked the corridors that run along the sides of the ship. Unfortunately, too many abandoned peaks make the path difficult. The engine room, open on both sides, today offers beautiful plays of light. Just beyond the place of the explosion, with a ripped ladder. Mute witness of the disaster that was.
We went back …
A quick check on the dive computer and I realized that the time had come for the ascent.
I saw two other twin machine guns. Unfortunately they were also trapped by fishing nets and some fishing line. Then I rose in altitude and conquered the top of the ascent. In about forty minutes, by boat, we would exchange our impressions.
The support team and diving center
The handful of divers who, on this serene day of San Giovanni in 2021, went into the water to dive on the KT of Sestri Levante is made up of Roberto Bottini, Marco Colgiago and Gianluca Recita of XR Scubacademy, by Andrea Di Vaira of the Atlantis Underwater Club and by myself.
Portofino, owned by the brothers Alessandro and Luca Boschi, offered us the necessary support. Their staff, as always, was far too exemplary. Their headquarters, at the port of Lavagna, are very convenient for reaching the wrecks of Sestri Levante.
Their final aperitif was a worthy conclusion to a day that I dedicated to what I really like to do. Go underwater.