Darwin war history
Written by Norman Cramp, Director of the Darwin Military Museum.
In early August 2018, a friend of the Museum dropped in with a strange metal object that he thought had some military connection, although he couldn’t explain why as he did not know what the object was, or used to be used for. The Museum’s Curators took on the challenge by starting the research process, although there was a reasonably firm view as to what the items had been.
To add some broader interest to the process, visitors to the Museum were asked for their opinion as to what the object was – and there were some very interesting suggestions made! As you would have guessed, it didn’t take long for the object to be identified as a World War Two (WW2) depth charge.
The UFO (Unidentified Fearsome Object) dropped off at DMM in August 2018.
The depth charge is an anti-submarine attack weapon and is intended to destroy the targeted submarine when submerged.
The depth charge is effective against the submarine by being dropped, or launched, into the sea and detonating at a set depth following which the submarine is subjected to powerful and destructive hydraulic shock.
Most depth charges utilise high explosive charges loaded into to the body of the device which is ignited by means of a fuse set to activate at a certain depth.
Each depth charge creates another shock wave until such time as the submarine’s hull fractures and begins to take on water. Many submarines sink outright whilst others surface with the intent of either fighting off the attackers or allowing the crew to escape before the submarine is scuttled.
Depth charges were developed and utilised in the first instance during World War One (WW1) as the first and most effective method of attacking submerged submarines. They were widely used in WW1 and WW2 being widely used by all/most combatant nations in WW2.
They remained on ‘active service’ throughout the Cold War but as no fighting erupted, there is no record of any being deployed.
The deployment of depth charges is quite versatile given they can be dropped or launched from ships or dropped from aircraft and/or helicopters. Depth charge attack would be a submariner’s worse fear and nightmare I would imagine!
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