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Scuba park bid on Leros

- by Andy Cornish

At the wreck of one of Greece's legendary warships.

Scuba divers on holiday on the Greek island of Leros could soon be able to visit the site of one of Greece's legendary warships.

Vasilissa Olga or Queen Olga was a Greek destroyer named after Queen Olga of Greece that served with the Royal Hellenic Navy during the Second World War and was one of the country's most famous warships.

The ship was sunk by German Junkers bombers in 1943 and the commander, six officers and 65 crew perished in the Gulf of Lakki in Leros .

Visitors to the holiday resort of Lakki on Leros can see a monument that has been erected in honour of the ship and its crew.

Now tourism leaders on Leros want to create a 'diving park' so that scuba dicers can visit the wreck which still lies on the sea bed.

The mayor of Leros Kollias Michael has written the Greek chief of naval staff for permission to open the site so that divers can be taken on tours of the historic wreck.

In a letter he says the Leros municipal councils wants "to showcase our historical heritage is an enormous legacy for today and for future generations."

The island council wants to create a scuba park at the wreck of the destroyer " because beyond history will contribute effectively to the development of diving tourism on our island."

A recent relaxation of rules on diving in the Greek islands has opened up the tourist potential for many dive sites that were once ruled out of bounds for divers.

Many Greek islands are now creating special diving parks to promote underwater visits to historic sites and old shipwrecks are turning out to be one of the biggest attractions.

The Queen Olga is one of Greece's best remembered warships after seeing action across the Mediterranean during World War II.

Built at the Yarrow shipyard in Scotland she was the most modern ship of the Hellenic Navy at the outbreak of the war.

She carried out naval raids against Italian shipping, helped sink an Italian submarine off Malta and sank an Italian transport ship off the Libyan coast.

Olga also participated in the Allied invasion of Sicily and sank two German convoy ships near Astypalea.

During the Battle of Leros she was sunk by bombers in the Gulf of Lakki in Leros and the wreck has remained there ever since.

Relics from the ship and photos of the crew are on permanent exhibition in the Historical and Folk Art Museum of Leros in the resort at Alinda.

Each year on Leros the ship is commemorated with a local holiday and ceremonies are held to honour the ship and its crew.