Approximate location of the  Protée wreck in Marseille.


On 6 April 1995, acting on information supplied by fishermen and diving in the submersible Remora 2000, the director of the Comex company discovered the wreck of the Protée. She was sitting more or less upright in 125 m of water on the Les Blauquières plateau, twenty miles off Marseilles. Her sail or conning tower was damaged but all the hatches were closed and the wreck was in a remarkable state of preservation. The vessel still contained the corpses of her crew and would be declared an ‘underwater war grave’ by the French Navy.

The Protée was one of thirty-one ‘cruiser submarines’ which entered service between 1931 and 1939. Measuring 92 m in length and 8 m in the beam, these submarines could dive to a depth of 80 m. Construction on the Protée started on 4 October 1928, under hull number Q155, and she was launched on 31 July 1930. She was assigned to Toulon and entered service in late 1932. After various operations in the Mediterranean, she joined the Force X squadron of the French Liberation Army in 1943.

On 18 December 1943 Protée set sail on a mission off Marseilles, and disappeared. More details of her disappearance would not emerge for at least another fifty years. She undoubtedly collided with a mine as she surfaced near the French coast.

The Protée at sea.

© Marine nationale