Y1: Silence of the Deep, an Unknown WWII Story (Pics)

A pre-war photo of submarine Y1 "Lambros Katsonis." Photo: (From the Elias Tsoukalas Archive with the permission of his daughter, Bilio Tsoukala, Courtesy of Team Faos Productions)

ATHENS – After 75 years on the seabed of the Aegean Sea, the legendary World War II submarine Y1 – “Lambros Katsonis,” surfaces once again, through the ambitious documentary, entitled Y1: Silence of the Deep.

In order to complete the film, a crowdfunding campaign has already begun on the popular Indiegogo platform, as Mr. Themos Rizos, Public Relations and Campaign Coordinator for Y1: Silence of the Deep told The National Herald.

According to him, a survey of the submarine Y1 – “Katsonis,” which began in the autumn of 2016, has yielded significant results for the Greek team, a location and underwater filming operation.

In May 2018, Team Faos, the independent film production company, managed to record for the first time the wreck of the submarine, northwest of Skiathos, and at a depth of 253 meters (about 830 feet), with the valuable contribution of the Greek Navy. Remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) with cameras and lights were used for filming in the darkness on the seafloor.

Nearly two years before the operation, the production team searched archives, collected material, interviewed historians, and searched for relatives of crew members, drawing inspiration from Elias Tsoukalas’ award-winning book, Submarine Y1 – Lambros Katsonis.

An underwater image from the wreck. Photo: (Courtesy of Team Faos Productions)

Two key relatives, including the well-known journalist Bilio Tsoukala, daughter of Second-in-Command Elias Tsoukalas, agreed to participate as protagonists in the documentary, as the camera followed the journey of the heroic crew members of Y1 75 years ago.

On September 14, 1943, after a series of successful attacks against Axis ships, Greek submarine Y1 “Lambros Katsonis” was spotted and attacked by a German submarine chaser near the island of Skiathos. The Greek crew fought an uneven, epic battle; the men of Y1 wouldn’t give up even when they were left with just a small-caliber deck gun against the much larger and more effective German weapons. Finally, the enemy ship rammed and sank the submarine. During the battle, 32 men were killed or lost forever in the Aegean Sea; the Germans captured most of the survivors.

However, Second-in-Command Elias Tsoukalas and another two crew members survived and managed to swim for nine hours to reach the shore. They would later rejoin the Greek Naval Forces to keep fighting for the Allied cause.

The location of the Y1 “Katsonis” shipwreck remained a mystery for decades. Until now.

As noted on the Indiegogo page, “This film will not just be another history documentary; it will be a fascinating World War II story the world needs to know about; plus, a great underwater exploration film.

“We are Team Faos, an independent Greek production company. Although small, our team has vast experience in TV and film production, working mainly for major international broadcasters. In the past few years, we have invested almost all our profits in producing our own films. We have successfully produced three feature-length documentaries: Emery Tales (2015), Argo Navis (2016) and Down Time (to be released soon). Our films have won numerous awards in international festivals, including the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 18th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival for Argo Navis.

Elias Tsoukalas, one of the three survivors of the shipwreck and author of Submarine Y1 Lambros Katsonis. His daughter, Bilios Tsoukalas, is the main protagonist of the documentary and allowed the group access to her father’s great archive. Photo: (From the Elias Tsoukalas Archive with the permission of his daughter, Bilio Tsoukala, Courtesy of Team Faos Productions)

“Y1: Silence of the Deep is our fourth and most ambitious film to date; most of it was the result of very hard work by these three people: Executive Producer and Director of Photography Stelios Efstathopoulos, Director Philippos Vardakas, and Screenwriter Magda Georgiadou.

“It goes without saying that we had the invaluable help of many other professionals during filming, including a second camera team, a drone operator, assistant producers and directors, sound engineers, a ‘making of’ crew, and more. Many of them worked voluntarily because they fell in love with the Y1 story as much as we did.”

With 90 percent of the filming completed, the crowdfunding campaign will help with post-production and the completion of the film.

“First, with the Greek economy in this situation, investing in any long documentary needs a dose of madness. All the more so when we talk about a film that required, among other things, underwater filming at a depth of 250 meters! Only the wreck detection and filming operation cost about 30,000 €, an amount that in some other Greek production could cover all expenses for some other Greek productions,” Rizos told TNH.

He noted that “despite all the difficulties, exclusively with own resources, the team has managed to get close to finishing the filming after nearly 2.5 years of hard work. We expect that part of the up to now costs will be covered by ERT and the Greek Cinema Center, but a significant amount is still required for the completion of the post-production, i.e. editing, mixing, color correction, graphics and credit sequence design, etc. To gather this amount, the group decided to turn to the public, especially Greeks around the world, through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.”

A pre-war photo of submarine Y1 “Lambros Katsonis.” Photo: (Courtesy of Team Faos Productions)

“The goal is ambitious (36,000 €), but not unattainable. If a few hundred people believe in the project and contribute what they can, we can reach that goal. Almost 100 supporters from 15 countries have donated over 7,000 euros, which gives us hope but also the belief that we can reach the target by January 16, the end of the campaign,” Rizos said.

He continued, “It is important to mention a team decision: the names of all donors, even those who contribute 1 or 2 €, will be included in the end credits of the film. Of course, as usual in crowdfunding, higher contributions will receive additional perks such as the digital download of the film and the soundtrack, a signed poster or script, and other perks.”

Rizos concluded, “We believe that the story of submarine Y1-Katsonis is a small, but very important part of Greece’s history in the Second World War. However, it remains a relatively unknown story and is worth reaching a wider audience through a documentary made according to the highest international technical standards. In closing, I would like to warmly thank TNH for the opportunity it has given me to address the Greeks of the Omogeneia, who have proved they are always ready to support remarkable efforts in Greece in all areas. We hope that with their help we will complete a documentary worthy of the history of Y1-Katsonis and his heroic crew.”

More information is available online: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/y1-silence-of-the-deep-an-unknown-wwii-story#/.

A rare photograph of the crew on the submarine. Photo: (Courtesy of Team Faos Productions)

An underwater image from the wreck. Photo: (Courtesy of Team Faos Productions)
An underwater image from the wreck. Photo: (Courtesy of Team Faos Productions)
An underwater image from the wreck. Photo: (Courtesy of Team Faos Productions)
On the Naftilos, a few moments before the shipwreck was found. Among those shown are Stelios Efstathopoulos (Executive Producer and Director of Photography), second to the left, Philippos Vardakas (Director) and Bilio Tsoukala, Greek journalist and daughter of Second-in-Command Elias Tsoukalas, who survived the sinking of “Katsonis.” Photo: (Courtesy of Team Faos Productions)
The ROV with the camera just before diving. Photo: (Courtesy of Team Faos Productions)
The ROV diving to illuminate the wreck of Y1 at a depth of 253 meters. Photo: (Courtesy of Team Faos Productions)
An aerial photo of the Hellenic Navy’s Hydrographic Service ship “Naftilos” which was the base of operations for the tracking and filming mission. Photo: (Courtesy of Team Faos Productions)
A map of the successful attack of “Katsonis” against an Italian ship at the port of Gytheion in April 1943. Photo: (With permission from the Navy Archive / Team Faos Productions)