The grandson of a wartime Royal Navy lieutenant commander has dived to the sunken submarine where his grandfather served and left behind a poignant gift – a bottle of the seaman’s own blend of whisky.

Nick Christie’s grandfather George was second in command of HMS Stubborn, an S-class submarine that was sunk off Malta on April 30, 1946, as an ASDIC (sonar) target.

“My grandfather went on to form the North of Scotland Distilling Co. & The Speyside Distillery. The small green bottle was his own blend, of which I have a small supply left. I dropped a bottle into Stubborn’s conning tower hatch and watched the bottle disappear deep into the submarine,” Nick recounted moments after the dive.

In May, Nick sailed to Malta from Scotland on his late grandfather’s vintage sailing yacht, the Cruinneag III.

The aim was to come to Malta to dive down to the submarine that his beloved grandfather served on during the war when it operated off the Scandinavian coast and in the Pacific Far East. 

For this to be possible, Nick had to brush up on his rusty scuba-diving skills since the wreck is at a 57-metre depth, located about 5.6km north-east off St Paul’s Bay.

With the support of a team from Dive Systems Malta and a friend, Nick went down to the Stubborn on Friday. During his 20-minute dive, he managed to stand on the conning tower – the same place where his grandfather is seen standing in a black-and-white photo treasured by Nick.

Nick Christie with a postcard of the HMS Stubborn, where his grandfather served. Photo: Nick ChristieNick Christie with a postcard of the HMS Stubborn, where his grandfather served. Photo: Nick Christie

“Dropping down from the surface, the ocean out there was so blue and got ever darker and colder as I fell,” he said.

“I immediately went to the conning tower and actually spent over half my time there.”

A conning tower is a raised platform on a submarine where an officer-in-charge can control the vessel by giving orders.

“I stood where my grandfather stood in my photo when they returned and he learned of my mother’s upcoming existence. I was able to leave the whisky, fly our flag and even show the others where the name ‘Stubborn’ still exists after more than 75 years,” he says.

Nick was referring to the flag of the Royal Highland Yacht Club, which both he and his grandfather were members. 

“We have a long history with the RHYC, and my grandfather was very proud to fly their club flag from any boat he was in command of. I continue this practice,” he says.

Nick’s grandfather was “like a father” to him. His mother, Gay, married an American man and Nick lived in Philadelphia until his parents separated when he was about seven. He then moved to Scotland, close to Glasgow, with his mother.

“My grandfather became like a father figure. He taught me how to sail and so much more. He passed on his love for sailing,” he says, adding that he was brought up hearing stories about the Stubborn. “The Stubborn has been part of my life since forever. My grandfather kept many pieces of the Stubborn,” he said.

Nick Christie drops a bottle of his grandfather’s whisky on to the wreck of the HMS Stubborn.Nick Christie drops a bottle of his grandfather’s whisky on to the wreck of the HMS Stubborn.

“Inside the submarine, there was a wardroom where they made the big decisions. In it, there was a plaque with the name Stubborn and a picture of a mule. This plaque is on Cruinneag and it has been there since I was little.”

His grandfather, who died in 2011, had bought the Cruinneag after the war, in 1952, as a pleasure boat. He then sold it in 1997 and Nick bought it back in 2009.

“I am incredibly happy and thankful to all those people and organisations who made this dream come true, and I am looking forward to telling my six-year-old inquisitive son all about my adventure.

“Maybe one day Caspar George will return here to Malta and dive Stubborn for himself,” he said.

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