HMS EXPLORERA Personal experience by George Brian Brown


Further to the article on experimental submarines in Volume 1 Edition 2 of Dits from the Shack (attached at the back), I can fill in some real experiences of life on-board and explain some incidents referred to.

I joined HMS Explorer in early 1960 as an ME1. She was in Barrow coming to the end of her final refit. Explorer and Excalibur did turn about doing 18 months running and 18 refitting. I thought this was quite a short turnaround until I had been on-board for about 6 months.

On joining in Barrow it soon became apparent that very little previous submarine training and experience could be called upon. It was a very steep learning curve. Apart from there being a hull and some very basic fittings, it was a totally different animal. Worryingly, the escape equipment was top of the range and quite prominent, as was the fire fighting equipment, some of which was new to me. Escape and fire drills were regular and detailed. I was to find out why!!

It was a very small submarine with a small crew, most of which were clankies, followed by greenies and a smattering of sailors. The hull was long and narrow with a straight passage along the Starboard side. It was possible to see the engine room plates from the fore-ends, small messes and the control room were in between. There were no weapons. The fore-ends housed a straight six diesel generator which looked to be so old it might have been cobbled together by the inventor himself. Messes were only sufficient to cater for a duty watch overnight situation, the galley was very small and basic, I’ve seen better ones in caravans! The control room was equally as basic with simple ‘tapper gear’ for steering and planes. Search periscope, radar and radio masts were all that went up and down controlled from the ‘wreckers’ panel along with valves for fwd. and aft ballast tanks. All central external tanks were reserved for main propulsion fuel, 100% Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) or High Test Peroxide (HTP) as it was more generally referred to. The conning tower hatch led up through a very small fin to a cramped bridge. The watch officer had to stand astride the upper hatch, the lookout stood in the radar well. Then came the business end. The rear half of the hull was crammed with an unbelievable maze of stainless steel pipes and pressure chambers snaking all over the place beneath which were two saturated steam Frigate turbines driving the twin shafts. All was controlled from the plate’s fwd of a bulkhead and access door which had a viewing port. The whole bulkhead was another unexplainable mass of gauges, dials and handwheels operating valves inside the engine room via extended spindles. What I done to deserve this.

Each boat had a dedicated tender. Ours was Minor 8, lovingly called ‘Maggie’, a good sized MFV converted to provide bunk spaces, accommodation, good galley and small workshop. Minor 8 also acted as a berthing tug and was manned by the ships company on a rotational basis so we all got a bit of skimmer time. Spabeck and Kingfisher were no longer involved.

The time came to sail. We all moved out of digs and onto Minor 8 tied outboard of the boat. We did our own catering, so stocked up from local butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. The freezer was a large domestic chest freezer strapped down on the quarterdeck of Minor 8 and covered by an awning to keep most of the weather off. It slowly dawned on me that we could do pretty well what we wanted. No-one else was interested. Fred Carnot came to mind


THE STAGE IS SET. WE LEAVE BARROW FOR FASLANE. THIS IS WHERE THE STORY REALLY STARTS!!!


As if a sign of things to come, the trip to Faslane didn’t go entirely to plan. To be honest – NOTHING – went to plan. We were delayed leaving Barrow by some problem with Tugs/Dock gates or whatever. We had no HTP on board. That left the old diesel which provided a top speed of about 6 knots going downhill with a following wind. We eventually escaped from Barrow and plodded North duly ushered and fussed around by Maggie (Minor 8). We arrived off Arran at about slack water. A third of the way up the Clyde a full ebb was flowing which flushed us straight out again, backwards into the Irish Sea. We battled back in and caught the flood timed making good speed towards our private jetty in the Garelock. This turned out to be a small timber jetty, just big enough for the boat and was a few hundred yards south of HMS ADAMANT the squadron depot ship. This was deemed a safe enough distance from Adamant and the rest of the boats on trots alongside and was where the ‘E’ boats had been banished to after Explorers HTP fuel had spontaneously exploded alongside in the trot during the first commission. This had almost lifted the boat out of the water and upset everyone for miles around, in particular the other boats in the trot and the squadron Admiral.

On arrival the welcoming committee had long ago got fed up and gone home never to return. Fortunately, the old MOD PLOD, in an unusual moment of inquisitiveness, looked out of the steamed up window in his shack by the gate and spotted this long black thing sneaking up to the empty jets he’d been guarding for the last few weeks and duly plodded down to help out by putting the hawsers over the bollards. There were 3 of these guys working a strange rotational system. They looked as though they should have retired years ago, were partial to duty free cigarettes and the occasional tot during the festive season. They had never been known to stop and search any crew member, but those gates didn’t get away once!! Who says ‘Up the Creek’ wasn’t true?

We settled down to a steady routine of maintenance and training on both the boat and Maggie tied outboard. Everything seemed to be organised by the Chief Tiff, a dour lanky man with a limp. SPO ordered the stokers about as there was no Chief Stoker. To date I had not seen an Engineer Officer. Apparently we did have one but he showed little interest in the boat and preferred to pass his time either on leave or in the Wardroom on Maggie writing a book. Everyone seems quite happy with this arrangement.

Being a new kid on the block, someone decided I should do a stint as Senior Rates Messman. Though not particularly keen on the idea, on consideration it would mean I would spend all my time on Maggie and got off doing trot sentry in the middle of the night under the incessant ‘Scottish sunshine’ as well as giving me more time to swat up and chase systems. The first 24 hours went well. I quickly learned the routine and everyone seemed happy. On the second day at supper time, a particularly obnoxious young tiff yelled across the mess –‘Oi you, gimme that f*****g tomato sauce, chop chop’. Obeying the last order I duly dispatched the required item at a rate of knots. The bottle struck him on the shoulder and then smashed on the deck. I beat a hasty retreat. The next morning I got to meet the MEO. After being marched in by SPO and off-capping I saw before me a young long haired Lt in well-worn unironed overalls. He looked more like a hippy. I was severely spoken too (though he seemed to have a little smile on his face). He then promoted me to heads and bilges. It turned out that this was Lt John Pratt (honest) who wrote under the name of John Winton. His third book ‘Down the Hatch’ was published about 6 months later.

After a few days I was relieved of my most important heads and bilges duties because another stoker had blotted his copybook. I was now detailed as fuelling party. A large shiny road tanker arrived on the jetty with a police escort. The fuelling party consisted of two stokers to manhandle the hose while kellick stoker made the connection and controlled the fuelling above with SPO below. For this operation we were dressed in head to toe white plastic “spacesuits” complete with breathing gear and visor. The kellick removed the fuel connection cover on the after casing and cleaned the screw connection with lint free cloth and a cleaning agent. We then positioned the hose and the killick screwed it on which automatically opened the valves on the hose and deck connection, much like a Formula 1 car. The tanker driver opened his valve and the HTP flowed through into the system and large kidney shaped bags in the saddle tanks. On completion the tanker valve was shut and the kellick unscrewed the deck connection. This shut the valves on the hose and deck. Except it didn’t quite work correctly. A little dribble leaked from the hose valve, landed on the dirty cleaning cloth and exploded like nitro-glycerine. I let go of the hose and legged it fwd. The other stoker couldn’t hold it and the hose hit the casing and end fell into the water. The rest of the fuelling party legged it fwd. and the tanker driver hid behind his lorry. Nothing happened. Gingerly, all returned to their positions and the hose was pulled in and stowed. Apparently, when the hose hit the casing the valve sealed correctly. If it hadn’t, the dribbling fuel would have ignited on contact with the dirty sea water and gone off like a rocket engine, flailing all over the place. I had learned a valuable lesson. Don’t let go of the hose! I enquired as to the frequency of this event and was informed-“something ALWAYS goes wrong!”

The next day we stored ‘Maggie’. There didn’t seem to be much interest paid to food. Essentials like beer, rum, spirits and duty free cigarettes took precedence. We then slipped the jetty and took off on the diesel, helped by the ebb tide, to what was to be our normal base port. Campbeltown.

The reason Campbeltown was chosen was because it was close to our normal exercise area of the Irish Sea between Arran in the north and the Isle of Man in the south. Here the depth was 200 to 250 feet with a soft and sandy bottom. We could also get to it in reasonable time on the diesel without being restricted by tides in the Clyde.

On arrival in Campbeltown we tied up in the middle of the town among all the fishing boats. It was years later that the concrete fuelling jetty was built. We were under strict orders not to let on to the local population, particularly the fishermen, that we could explode at any time without warning!

We were welcomed by everyone. We brought a boost to the local economy. It was now that we stored ‘Maggie’ with food. There wasn’t much to store. Fresh mild, fruit and vegetables, bread, etc., were delivered on a regular basis, even the newspaper boy arrived each morning. This was all paid for from our daily food allowance. We only ate the finest. Fish of all types featured heavily on the menu, was top quality and was so fresh it was sometimes still flapping. This was paid for by the more sensible currency of cigarettes and rum. A submarine sweater would feed the whole crew for about a month. I could get used to this life. Not a Reggie, Mod plod or Customs officer to be seen! We spent our working training on flashing up ‘The Plant’, fire and escape drills !?!?!?!?!?

One morning we slipped the jetty leaving Maggie behind with the 3rd watch to prepare and cook dinner.

Over the years, modifications had been made to improve performance. This was mainly to do with streamlining. The large and bulky aft planes and rudder were thinned and reduced in surface area by about half. The fore planes were equally reduced but now, above about 15 knots, they withdrew under the casing. The bow was trimmed to a more slender “butter knife” shape, there being no sonar to worry about. Other bits and pieces added to the overall effect.

We shut down the diesel, dived on our small batter, flashed up both plants, worked up to over 20 knots, caught fire, so did an emergency plant shut down and surfaced, flashed up the diesel for ventilation, entered and put the fire out and limped back to Maggie for repairs, dinner and refreshments. Not necessarily in that order!

The fire had been caused by a leaking HTP injector union spraying onto the lagging at the top of the chamber and was fairly easily rectified. Lagging was repaired. On the sailor’s side, a paint job was required on the fin. All the black paint from top to bottom and about 2 foot wide had peeled off the leading edge leaving a nice yellow vertical band which prompted a few questions from the fishermen.

A few days later we slipped again in the hope of completing our work up trials. The same procedure was followed. Diesel shut down, dive on the battery, catch a trim, flash up both plants and work up speed. Over 15 knots withdraw fore planes. 25 knots and power to spare. The most delicate touch was needed on the aft planes to maintain depth. We must have ploughed many furrows in the bottom of the Irish Sea and traumatised any amount of crabs, lobsters, flatfish and the like.

We maxed out at a fraction over 30 knots and began shutting down just as the fire broke out. It was on the other Catalyst chamber and was not too bad so we surfaced in a more controlled manner before entering the compartment and extinguishing it.

We plodded back home to Maggie to celebrate taking over the “Blue Riband” from Excalibur which had gone into Barrow. It was 1960 and we were the fastest submarine in the world.

Plant repairs were made, lagging renewed and painted. The sailors put another coat of black paint to the front edge of the fin and we were ready to go and do something useful.

So were did all this power come from? Though not trained on the system, by working on it fixing steam leaks and assisting the tiffs repairing HTP and diesel injectors, studying drawings etc., I gleaned the following:

Combustion Chamber

The Catalyst chamber was the heart of the plant (see illustration). Kingstons were shut at the bottom of the saddle tanks and a small pressure applied squeezing the plastic bags and forcing the HTP up into the inboard system. Throtle valves were then opened and the HTP was injected into the top of the Catalys chamber onto the activated charcoal. This resulted in a controlled explosion. One oxygen atom was extracted in this process leaving the remainder, pure water in the form of superheated steam and flame to pass down through the perforated support plate. Here diesel was injected via another throttle valve, self igniting due to the high temperature and flame from above and acting like an afterburner on a jet engine, further increasing temperature and pressure and now including carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. This mixture then passed to another chamber were demineralised water was injected via another throttle valve thus reducing the steam temperature, and greatly increasing the volume to saturated steam suitable for the turbines driving the propeller shaft. Part and Starboard sides were independent with two tiffs juggling the throttle valves and the Chief tiff orchestrating proceedings to maintain equal steam to Port and Starboard turbines and therefore equal shaft speed. More HTP injected, bigger controlled explosion, more diesel higher temperature and pressure, more water injection more saturated steam therefore more power and speed. The exhaust steam was then condensed in the normal manner and pumped into the storage tank. We would deliberately start off with this tank almost empty because the condensate now included the pure water part of the HTP. The tank gradually filled to overflowing into the domestic system. Carbon Monoxide and Dioxide was extracted from the top of the condenser, compressed and pumped overboard out of exhaust pipes in the after casing exactly like a traditional diesel boat. The only difference being there was no smoke to be seen.

Some Boffin somewhere had decided that the huge and rapid temperature and pressure changes occurring in the Catalyst Chamber could only stand so many cycles before it started cracking up. 18 months was chosen as the time to fit a new one, hence the short operating time between refits.

We now got into a steady routine of visiting Faslane to refuel, then returning to our little hideaway at Campbeltown. If there was a little drip or so from the refuelling hose when disconnecting we learned how to accidentally stagger a bit and make the kellick dance around the firecrackers. We also got a bit blasé putting engine room fires out. They couldn’t really do much damage, there was nothing there to burn. Once the leaking fuel had been shut off it dwindled to nothing.

Whenever we were in Faslane we would get a few people away on leave or weekend. This would usually involve those returning having to take the one service a day, 8 or 10 hour train trip from Glasgow to Campbeltown.

The first job, acting independently, was a run to test and calibrate equipment being fitted to Dreadnought. Some boffins came on board with a load of black boxes, wares and bits and pieces. A couple of days later they were ready to go.

We headed off to our normal area, dived and spent the next 5 hours zooming around the Irish Sea in various directions and various speeds up to about 25 Knots. After about 5 hours we were low on fuel, the boffins were chuffed and we were chuffed, we hadn’t had a problem with the plant. We surfaced, called Maggie to follow us and set off back up the Clyde to drop the boffins off and refuel.

The elation didn’t last for long! On rounding a bend half way up the Clyde we were confronted by what can only be described as “The Fleet Review” bearing down on us at a rate of knots. Everything that could move was there. Frigates, submarines, tugs, tenders, MFV’s, even Adamant itself (The first time she had moved in over two years). On enquiring as to what was going off, we were informed that they were looking for us!!!!!.

The ‘E’ Boats were fitted with three Indicator Buoys, Fwd, Aft and a Central one just aft of the fin. Fore and Aft could easily be seen and looked to be normal, by hanging over the side of the fin the Central one could be seen and it was missing. This had either broken loose due to high speed, or more likely, had not been secured properly after the last exercise. In any event it had deployed, got to the end of its tethering wire and snapped off. The buoy had been bobbing around in the Irish Sea somewhere for a few hours while we blissfully zoomed around patting ourselves on the back!!! The missing buoy had been located by a Nimrod and SUBSUNK declared. OOPS!

Once the signal traffic had reduced from furnace temperature to quite hot, everyone took a deep breath and headed back home. We quietly tied up to our little jetty and decided it might not be a good idea to go ashore for a beer that night! Our Captain looked very smart with sword and medals when he went for breakfast with the Admiral the next morning!

As soon as possible we quietly slunk away to our friendly fishing fleet to let the dust settle and wait for our next job. This was to be an anti-submarine exercise involving 3 frigates trying to corner a high speed target. A date was set about 2 weeks away. (We rarely did more than 1 or 2 days a month at sea). It was decided we should have a ‘jolly’ for a few days. There wasn’t much option due to the limited speed on our clunky old diesel. Londonderry was chosen. After a pleasant day cruising we tied up in Derry with Maggie alongside and settled down to a change of air, language and beer. Apparently it was a time of rising tension with the IRA or whatever so we got a visit from the local constabulary with maps andlists of areas we should avoid. This all got a bit too long winded, Murphy’s Bar just outside the dock gates was good enough for us, and the local ‘ladies’ didn’t have any problem finding us. I suppose the bad guys didn’t either!

Unfortunately, the 1st Lieutenant took the advice a little more seriously and beefed up security. The trot sentry now had to wear a belt, gaiters and a tin had and look menacing with a sub-machine gun hanging over his shoulder. We even underwent training on “Rules of Engagement” :- If fired upon, get below as quickly as possible, find the duty officer (waking him if necessary), get the ammunition locker opened, load the magazine, sign for the bullets, go back up onto the casing, fit the magazine, cock the weapon and, after issuing a warning in a load voice, return fire !?!? I often wonder if that 1st Lt made it much further up the ladder.

Back to work in our Anti-Submarine training role with the occasional day for boffins to test or calibrate something. The former involved Frigates, Helicopters, Nimrods, Submarines or any combination from one to all.

By now our Captain had gone native, too much time spent with the fishing boat skippers in the ‘Cod and Kipper’ spinning salty dits I think. His foul weather gear now consisted of a long bright yellow oilskin coat with matching sou-wester. He was not very tall and quite stocky – the spitting image of the Fishermans Friend advertisement. Actually, from what I saw he was quite a friendly and easy going Captain. Whenever we surfaced he was first up to the bridge with the lookout to make sure all was well before handing over to a junior officer.

Towards the end of one exercise, what had going very well, a small fire broke out at the top of a Catalyst Chamber. It didn’t seem to be too bad so we did a controlled shut-down and surface, It was pouring with rain so the Captain went up to the bridge in his bright yellow kit. We unclipped the Plant room door and threw it open to put out the dwindling fire. We were starting forward when quite a violent explosion occurred, blowing us back onto the plates. The explosive gasses took the path of least resistance – up the conning tower, ballooning out the Captains raincoat like a parachute and popping him up and out of the bridge. The lookout grabbed an ankle and pulled him back. He landed heavily hanging over one side of the fin, cracking a few ribs. We didn’t see the Fishermans Friend kit again.

We eventually put out the fire and ventilated the compartment. Most of the lagging was missing from the chamber. Further investigation revealed a drip from a lover joint on one of the diesel injectors. This had gone unnoticed for who knows how long due to the lagging. A very large part of the internal lagging had become diesel soaked just waiting for all the right conditions to come together to ignite. As usual, the repair was not particularly difficult; the re-lagging just took a little longer.

We had now done about 6 months operating and someone decided we should have an official jolly. We were to have a few days in Copenhagen. Great idea, welcomed all round but a bit of a logistical challenge on the catering front. Because we looked after Maggie the compliment was somewhat more than 49, probably about 60. These were split roughly into 3 watches. As we were only a day runner, 2 watches was sufficient to operate the boat (except for a handful of key personnel), the remainder would be on Maggie, either on leave, steaming or alongside maintaining. The boat only had a small domestic type fridge on board. The trip to Copenhagen, given fair conditions, would take 6 or 7 days. The chef would be on board so if he was imaginative enough in feeding about 40 on a camping stove for a week he might even get his own bunk, the rest would be hot-bunking. I was on the boat for the trip out which went quite smoothly but oh so slowly. The pot mess, tinned bacon and sausages were pretty good too.

We had a good time in Copenhagen being looked after very well by the locals and even getting a good brewery run in at a place that probably does the best brewery runs in the world. We set off for home loaded with goodies for our nearest and dearest. I was on Maggie for the trip home, looking forward to the cruise. The boat led off with Maggie a respectable distance behind. We had just entered the Kattegat heading north when we got a message from the boat to investigate something floating off to starboard that looked to be a body. It was. A middle aged male in swimming trunks, well bloated with bits missing where fish, crabs, seagulls or any other variety of marine life had had a go at it. It also stank to high heaven. We were told to recover it and take it back to Copenhagen. Thanks!!!. With bits of netting and heaving lines we managed to get it onto the starboard waist. The netting and ropes sank deep into the soggy flesh. The stench was horrendous. We covered it with canvas and retired to the quarterdeck gagging. The Ensign was lowered to half mast and we headed back south. The recovery party was rewarded with “Splice The Main Brace” which we just about managed to keep down and after a while began to feel better. On arrival the authorities, dressed in all the right kit and facemasks removed the body. We then scrubbed the deck down with every type of smelly stuff we could lay our hands on while the necessary paperwork was being sorted. Eventually the Ensign as raised to full mast and we headed off to chase down the boat. We hadn’t been going for long before a signal came through from the boat telling us the old diesel had broken down big time and she was heading for Gothenburg on the battery. We were to meet up there and make repairs. WAS THIS TO BE ANOTHER JOLLY??

The boat had reached Gothenburg about half an hour before we caught up with it. We tied up outboard, passed over her gangway, rigged the necessary cables and provided power both for normal domestics and to charge a pretty flat battery.

As we had arrived unannounced, there was no welcoming committee. The Captain and a junior officer set off to find the Harbourmaster and contact the British Consulate to get the organisation rolling.

As stated earlier the old diesel was a straight six. The cylinder heads come in units of two (3 blocks in all). The centre unit, No 3 and 4 cylinders had cracked across the middle causing the joints to leak and flood the two cylinders with salt cooling water. We would need a new cylinder head block, oil filter and all the necessary seals and joins as well as flushing fluid to get rid of the salt and a few gallons of new oil. The necessary requests were sent off. The reply was “Not available at MOD, investigating source”. In other words, checking back at Vickers, don’t hold your breath!

The domestic side started to get sorted out. Power supplies, water, telephone etc and the local press got the message. This was a great help. We started getting offers of entertainment. Everyone was broke after Copenhagen and the British Consul hadn’t come across with any cash yet. The second jolly of the month had started. It lasted 2 weeks or so. Then the spare bits arrived. 24 hours later we were ready to go. The intention being to head straight to Faslane to fuel up and then to Campbeltown ready to get back to work. Maggie was low on diesel, due to all the extra time and usage keeping the boat supplied, so consideration was being given to call into Wick on the way past and top up (Ping-Ping-Ping !?!?).

We duly arrived back without incident to our jetty in Faslane to be greeted by HM Custom and Excise. They left dejected very soon afterwards with only half a dozen or so having anything to declare. We blamed the high cost of beer in Copenhagen and Gothenburg. The truth being Wick Post Office did about a year’s worth of business in an hour while Maggie was topping up.

The Campbeltown/Anti-Submarine/Faslane routine continued. It was impossible to know where we would be more than a couple of weeks head. The only fixed date on my calendar was to get married on 19th November back home in Nottinghamshire. As it turned out we were in Campbeltown (sods law). My best mate on board, Jim Pickering, was to be my best man. We got everything sorted and packed ready for the train to Glasgow in the morning then set off on my stag night. There’s not a lot to do in Campbeltown on a stag night so after a few drams here and there we finished up in the local hop where all the girls wiggled around their handbags in the middle of the floor while the chaps ogled them through the bottom of their beer glasses. Jim and I were well oiled when the “Scratcher” of the boat came over and said “I’ll liven this stag night up for you Buster”. He then pulled out a hand grenade and assured us not to worry because it wasn’t primed!! He jumped up, screaming and shouting to get everyone’s attention, held the grenade above his head, pulled the pin and rolled the grenade into the middle of the floor. My literary talents can’t possibly do justice to the mayhem that ensued. Whatever you can imagine – it was funnier! Jim and I were falling off our seats with laughter when the local Gestapo came in. It was obvious who was guilty, we were the only ones left, even “Scratcher” had done a runner. He must have picked up the grenade before he left because none was found. It gets cold in those cells at night. After interrogation in the morning I was released in time to catch the train. They were still working on Jim’s fingernails so he missed it. I arrived home needing a best man in about 6 hours time. I called on one of my old school mates, Melvyn. He know about as much as I did about what was going off but he turned up on time in his finest get-up. I was in my sailor suit with a white tiddly tape bow, Melvyn was in his teddy Boy outfit. Maroon jacket, yellow waistcoat, drainpipe trousers, brothel creepers, string tie and Tony Curtis Haircut. Thank heaven we couldn’t afford a colour photographer. When I returned I went to Faslane where the boat was expected to be. It wasn’t there. For some reason it was still in Campbeltown. I had missed the train so started ‘Thumbing it’. I arrived at about 5AM in a fish lorry, 24 hours late. I got my head down and a couple of hours later was rudely awakened by SPO yelling at me “Buster, get up you lazy sod, you forgot to pick up your station card when you got back yesterday”. They had all covered for me, thanks SPO, I then saw Jim who had been released through lack of evidence. So a good time was had by all really!

Probably one of the most frightening and potentially dangerous incidents to occur, alluded to in the HMS EXPLORER page at the end, was the evacuation to the casing because the boat was filled with fumes. It happened on a Friday afternoon when we had finished an Anti-Submarine exercise fairly early

wedding

The exercise had gone well and the plant had behaved itself. For some reason the Captain wanted to get back to Faslane as soon as possible. We surfaced, called Maggie to follow and set off on the diesel. We had some HTP left so the Captain decided to flash up the plants so speed our way. We were soon creaming along at about 15 knots. I was on watch in the diesel room fwd providing domestic power and charging the battery. It was a beautiful day with a strong Westerly breeze helping us along. Part way up the Clyde a slight change of course put the breeze dead astern and it must have been a 16 knot breeze. In the diesel room I felt my chest tightening up and I started panting. I looked down the passage and saw bodies falling to the deck in the Control room, and beyond, the Chief tiff on the deck plates doing an emergency plant shut down and frantically signalling to me to shut the diesel down. In retrospect this was the wrong thing to do. Shut down the plant – yes, but leave the diesel running. The boat came to a halt, hatches were opened and those that could still move staggered onto the casing dragging others with them as best they could. I was gasping for breath in the forends and got the order to restart the diesel to ventilate the boat. It took quite a while for everyone to return to normal, those in the Control room that had flaked out were helped along using escape masks.

That slight change in course putting the breeze dead astern meant that the Carbon Monoxide and Dioxide being pumped out from the aft casing now built up into a deadly invisible cloud that slowly made its way fwd and was sucked down the tower by the diesel and spread throughout the boat

We eventually continued on our way. Did we get to Faslane any earlier? Who cares!

I had picked up my hook by now and it was coming towards the end of the commission. I got a draft back to the real Navy. ALARIC, a pretty old Admiralty “A”, and the learning started all over again. But who could ever forget an 18 month commission like that?


In conclusion, at the end of WW2, the Brits had captured the German HTP submarine. They were also using HTP for many other weapons. Tanks, aircraft, rockets and shells etc.. An agreement was made with our American cousins that we continued to Investigate the potential of HTP while they concentrated on Nuclear power and we would share the results.


The HTP plant could certainly be made to work and provide enormous acceleration and speed but with an endurance of 5 or 6 hours it was far from practical for use in a submarine though believers tried to convince Their Lords that a mini-plant could be developed and fitted to all future submarines as a one-of, 30 minute or so “let’s get out of here quick system”. I don’t think so and apparently neither did anyone else


There’s no doubt that HTP made for lethal weapons, usually against oneselves!?!?

Copyright © Dave Andrew


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