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The Silent Deep

written by Peter Hennesy and James Jinks

A personal commentary prepared by Peter D Hulme, with format advice from John Eade.

Confined mainly to the period before nuclear submarines came into service in the Royal Navy 'when the primary task of our submarine fleet is to hunt and kill other submarines'. 1948


I was rather surprised to find the Library in my town in central NZ, had obtained a copy of the book The Silent Deep, by Peter Hennessy and James Jinks. I hadn't expected to find this large specialised book of 823 pages that had I read so much about in media reviews and submarine media, so I borrowed it to see what it was all about. I couldn't help feeling it should have been published in two volumes, very tiring on the arms! I should be clear I believe most of my readers will not have this expensive book that they have no doubt heard about in the retired submariner's world, so I have included submarine comment that is mine alone, in response to various items covered by the book. I should point out I have mostly followed the content of the book by page order, with deviation from this when the subject seemed to need a more concentrated comment. On the whole the authors have presented most of the evidence of what might be kindly called, conflicting actions of the Admiralty in the early years of the Cold War, without drawing the conclusions I have chosen to make, having served in submarines for a good part of this early period and more importantly, spent the latter part of my retirement studying and writing about the submarine world of the 1948-1958 period, with the emphasise on propulsion. I found in these circumstance it was more convenient to write in the first person. I must emphasise that prior to reading this book I had not given much thought to the Admiralty submarine construction policy of the fifties, I was more interested in the submarine technology. I suggest that an attempt should be made by the reader to obtain a copy of The Silent Deep, perhaps from the local library or through a public library interloan service. The authors are by any standard, of eminent reputation when writing about major policy topics concerning the UK.

Background Notes

My interest is the history of the submarines of the Royal Navy in the period from the end of WW2 to the commissioning of the new Porpoise class, but extended to include the Porpoise class and following Oberon class. I got the impression from the book that this early period was fairly quickly got out of the way to move into the politics and operations in the new world of the nuclear submarine and ballistic nuclear missiles that might well be of more interest to the modern reader and seems expertly presented, in particular the nuclear submarine politics and economics. But my opinion is, that this post-war period starting about the the time of the Berlin airlift, was the most dangerous time in general and for submarines in particular The book is also very focused on officers as personalities, that's fine, there been many outstanding Captains, but I do think the place of the crew is important in the overall submarine story. I came across what I considered a number of significant errors and decided to note them by page number. Along with some pertinent appendices. I also place within the body of article, URLs for various articles that I think the reader will find expands any particular submarine topic in this commentary.

The book is subtitled The Royal Navy Submarine Service since 1945 and therefore should record and does, but not as fully as expected, the post war review by the Allied Navies of the impact of improved Allied radar, sonar and the long range aircraft on the WW2 Kriegsmarine U-Boats, desperately trying regain their early freedom of transit on the surface to the convoy routes and then seeking the convoys, by the fitting snorkel they had previously rejected together with improved radar detectors and incredible flak batteries on aft of the conning tower on what were relatively small submarines.

Fig 1. Type IXC/40 U-889. Surrendered Nova Scotia 1945 and fitted with Schnorchel radar and AA guns.
Fig 1. Type IXC/40 U-889. Surrendered Nova Scotia 1945 and fitted with Schnorchel radar and AA guns.

Clearly these changes merely delayed the defeat of the largest submarine fleet that had ever been formed, that had gone into battle determined to break the shipping link between the USA and the UK. Other urgent needs such as increased submerged speed and greater diving depth were obviously not achievable in the the existing U-boat without a new design, the Type XXI, a less than satisfactory adaptation of an HTP hull. After WW2 it was widely assumed that these additions to the Kriegsmarine U-Boat Fleet would also be adopted in the submarines of the Red Navy if the Soviet Union engaged in war with the Western Allies. As part of countering this new submarine threat, the RN and USN decided the submarine would be the leading counter weapon, a policy that influenced the shape of the post war submarine services of both the RN and the USN, but marked by the effect of the considerable financial resources of the USA compared to a near bankrupt UK, exhausted by war. The reason for this new policy is contained in the extract below.

Fig 6. Extract from
Fig 6. Extract from "Cold War Subamrines: The Design & Construction of US & Soviet Submarine" by Norman Polmar & Kenneth J Moore.

I also recommend a look at the Page 145-146 comments.

Despite my generally confining my comments to the earlier RN diesel submarine period, I felt I must draw the readers attention to Pages 170-173, when the RN got its first taste of the nuclear submarine in the form of the USS Nautilus and rapidly determined they must have one, or more.

Snorting And Radar

Apart from the experiences of war, the Royal Navy Submarines came out of WW2 with a major addition, RADAR, that developed into a telescopic mast antenna, that would prove most useful when at periscope depth. In the book the discussion of the development of RADAR etc is restricted to Pages 97-110.. that describe the 'Mystery Trips' of the mid-fifties. However I can say to my knowledge, that before 1950, all the Amphion Class diesel submarines were fitted with an ANF telescopic mast, Type 267 MW radar, Seaguard and Airguard antennas. The small Type 86M and Type 253 were mounted on top of the cross beam on the periscope standards. This was probably the same set-up on the unconverted T Class at about this time. My understanding regarding the extended and streamlined T Class, was that sonar was considered more important than radar in the new anti-submarine role. I suggest that in the mid-fifties or thereabouts, there would been some improvement in surface navigation radar and IFF between submarine and aircraft, but this is outside my field of interest. Though I can say it is recorded that the Type 291W Air Search, was the first radar fitted to RN Submarines in 1941-2.

The adoption of the Snort (RN nomenclature) by the RN Submarine Service in the immediate post period gave the diesel submarine the ability to transit and patrol using the snort without the former need to surface to charge the battery. This was not 100% achievable until new submarines became available, but despite this, the older snorting submarine brought about the post war need for improved detection tactics by the anti- submarine forces of both sides. Clearly snorting was the time when a submarine's diesel engines became audible to the sonar of searching escorts, 'The period of indiscretion' the term that came into use for the time of exposure while snorting. For the hunted submarine, the only practical reduction was to minimise this period. Effective reduction could only be achieved by large capacity batteries capable of being charged quickly while snorting and then return to quiet electric motor propulsion at depth, note the foreword by Commander Tall, RN in the article Snorting in the RN

The first new-build RN submarines actually designed and built with snort fitted, came in 1958 with the Porpoise Class that was improved into the very capable Oberon Class.

Notably, the basically similar USN new-build Tang class, came into service in 1951, with the telescopic snort mast that was widely fitted throughout the Fleet after WW2. See: Snorkel in the US Navy - 1945 onwards

General Comments On The 'The Silent Deep'

As I have already suggested, the description in The Silent Deep of the RN Submarine Service from 1948 to 1958 is in my opinion, not fully developed and often incorrect. For instance I was disappointed to see the major, indeed I would say inspired decision, to convert HMS Scotsman, 1948, to a fast trials submarine only got a quick mention in the book despite the major contribution of this trials submarine through 20 years of service, in the early days testing anti-cavitation cages round the screws, with a sight glass in the hull to view the screws and a microphone to hear screw noise. Plus many other tasks such as comparing sonar domes at high submerged speed, stainless steel versus fibre glass. Though limited in endurance she provided a fast escort target when nothing else of this speed was available, my article HMS Scotsman - 1948 Trials and Experimental Submarine. Note Page 688 incorrectly describes Scotsman and Seraph together with her sisters, badly mixing the data.

Also I believe that though the conversion of the Seraph was in 1944, followed by her sisters, more should have been said about this streamline conversion in service after WW2, for some years. This RN response to the Intel on the Type XXI U-Boat, was the beginning of the new age of the fast submerged submarine in the RN that carried on into what would become the Cold War. Trials with HM Submarine Seraph is a very good article by Lieutenant Commander Malcolm Llewellyn-Jones, MBE, MA, RN (Ret'd), now PhD. Also Fig. 6 in my Scotsman article on the Scotsman Trials it gives the technical details of the Seraph conversion.

Also I note that HMS Thule, an as-built Group 3 T Class that was temporarily fitted with Type 186 sonar for trials on her fore and aft casing, has not been mentioned, see Section 4a my article Diesel Submarines 1948 - 1958. The Type 186 hydrophones developed from the German GHG principle, were later fitted in a row, to the sides of the Streamlined P Class & O Class and possibly some streamlined Amphion Class sides, as longitudinal arrays. I believe this long range passive sonar was the first in the RN. It consisted of 48 hydrophones mounted in high and low frequency pairs on either side of the submarine. This line array of hydrophones suffers less attenuation loss than the directional transducers of other sets which operate on higher basic frequencies. To operate the set, the submarine reduced to the maximum self- quiet state (ultra quiet) and swept from side to side usually about 16 to 20 degrees per minute.

Fig 4: The dome for the 129 ASDIC set at the forward end of Telemachus ballast keel. The photograph was taken at Singapore in 1952 (Gus Briton).<br><br>Inside rotates a quartz/steel receiving transducer, controlled by an azimuth manual controller in the Control Room. There is also an oscillator for transmissions.
Fig 4: The dome for the 129 ASDIC set at the forward end of Telemachus ballast keel. The photograph was taken at Singapore in 1952 (Gus Briton).

Inside rotates a quartz/steel receiving transducer, controlled by an azimuth manual controller in the Control Room. There is also an oscillator for transmissions.

The Silent Deep doesn't attempt to answer this obvious question, why did the RN continue to maintain the old 'searchlight' type ASDIC from before WW2 when they had complete access to the German GHG sonar, and as I have already mentioned, fitted it to a trial submarine HMS Tradewind, another group 3 T Class (later used, moderately streamlined, for noise trials.) The RN was well aware that USN had quickly tested German sonar and commissioned a private US company to produce a copy of the captured U-Boat GHG sonar that would provide the foundation of USN submarine sonar engaged in the early years of the Cold war, particularly in the time when the USN built new submarines and modified a number WW2 Fleet submarines to be Hunter Killers of enemy submarines? Appendix F

Fig 3a. Cross section of a GHG hydrophone. (1) = membrane. (2) = crystal block (Elac). This figure shows an exposed view of the cross section of a hydroplane produced by the Elac company, the Rochelle crystal block (2) were built in multi layer stages.
Fig 3a. Cross section of a GHG hydrophone. (1) = membrane. (2) = crystal block (Elac). This figure shows an exposed view of the cross section of a hydroplane produced by the Elac company, the Rochelle crystal block (2) were built in multi layer stages.
Fig 3b. Late type VIIC and VIIC/41 U-boats were fitted with the GHG passive sonar array. It was fitted under the bow, below the torpedo tubes, as shown here on U-1105
Fig 3b. Late type VIIC and VIIC/41 U-boats were fitted with the GHG passive sonar array. It was fitted under the bow, below the torpedo tubes, as shown here on U-1105

My article on T Class Streamlining covers a variety of submarine topics in the early post war period. Also, I recently noted a comment by a technical author writing about the German GHG, that indicates the British were not prepared to sacrifice the active component of the ASDIC sets, even for a much improved all-passive sonar set.

The Enemy Submarine In The Cold War Of The Fifties

Soviet Project 613 Whisky Class
Soviet Project 613 Whisky Class

Extract from 'Cold War Submarines: Cold War Submarines: The Design & Construction of US & Soviet Submarine' By Norman Polmar, Kenneth J Moore. The authors of The Silent Deep also acknowledge this book as a source.

Project 613 (NATO Whiskey). Initiated in 1942 as Project 608, but was rejected and a redesign began in 1946 known a Project 613 under the supervision of Captain 1st Rank Vladimir N Peregudov, who incorporated several features derived after studies of Type VII C and Type XXI U-Boats. One of the former had been sunk by the Soviets in the Gulf of Finland on 30 July 1944 and subsequently salvaged and carefully examined.

The lead submarine, S80 was laid down 13th March 1950. Automatic welding and prefabrication were widely used and with the use of a completely welded hull using SKhL-4 alloy steel coupled with the design of its pressure hull, the Whiskey had a test depth of 655 feet and a working depth of 560 feet. Unfortunately, in achieving the greatest feasible operating depth while restricting displacement excessively constrained the crew accommodation. The Project 613 Whiskey introduced a new level of under water performance, incorporating many features that would be found in future generations of Soviet submarines.

When retracted, the various periscopes and masts were housed completely within the superstructure. The hull and fairwater were streamlined, and the stern was given a knife configuration, with a large rudder positioned after of the twin propellers. The propeller shafts were supported outside of the hull by horizontal stabilisers rather than struts, as were used on the RN Amphion Class and the US Fleet submarine. One of the benefits of the later single screw submarine in the West was the elimination of these brackets, with most of the shaft inside the hull.

Propulsion machinery, surface twin 2000hp diesel engines, surface two main motors each 1350shp plus two smaller creep motors 100shp (derived from U-Boats).

Two main battery groups of 112 cells. Later a snorkel system was installed. The propulsion could drive the Whiskey at 18.25 knots surfaced and 13 knots submerged.

Six torpedo tubes were fitted, four bow and two stern, with six reloads forward. The tubes were fitted with a pneumatic, wakeless firing system that could launch torpedoes from the surface down to almost 100ft and later 230ft. After completion and extensive trials, the first Whiskey S80 was commissioned 2 December 1951, (Polmar & Moore commented, a very impressive peacetime accomplishment.)

The massive project 613 Whiskey program produced 215 submarines for the Soviet Navy through 1958 (an average of 2 1/2 submarines per month of this design.)

ShipyardProject 613Completed
No. 112 Krasnoye Sormovo1131951-1956
No. 444 Chernomorsky721952-1957
No. 189 Baltisky191953-1957
No. 109 Leninsky Komosol111954-1957

I am relying heavily on the extract from this definitive book on Soviet Submarine construction after WW2, to give the reader a clear picture of the new submarine that formed the basis of the Red Navy Submarine Service, that the RN was tasked with opposing when the Admiralty was making its design and construction decisions in the fifties.

The reader should note there was no Intel that the Soviets were working towards producing HTP submarines that could reach the promised 25 knots, instead there were hundreds of of a Soviet battery submarine with a maximum submerged speed of 13 knots for a limited period. The Soviets did in fact lay down in 1951 and complete in 1956, only one experimental HTP submarine, Project 617, Whale class with six torpedo tubes, 20 knots submerged, decommissioned and scrapped 1959 after a major fault. Various reliable sources say this submarine was not identified by Western Intelligence as unique amongst the hundreds of diesel Whiskey class being built, until the Soviets had commenced building nuclear submarines. This data will have relevance later in this commentary.

Soviet Project 617 Whale Class
Soviet Project 617 Whale Class

The Soviets also focused on closed cycle experimental submarines, Project 615, the small Quebec Class. Of the 100 submarines planned, thirty units were built between 1952 and 1957 before the project was abandoned, apparently due to Oxygen problems and the Soviet Union moving on to develop nuclear powered boats. The last Quebec class were retired in the 1970's. They had four torpedo tubes and a maximum submerged speed of 18 knots. At 540 tons submerged, it seems likely this class was intended for defensive purpose, one is known to have been lost in the Baltic. For comparison in size, the RN WW2 U Class was 740 tons submerged and originally built as an unarmed training submarine. Armed, they proved their value in the Mediterranean campaign, but were acknowledged to be limited in patrol endurance.

I found it most unsatisfactory that despite the post WW2 role of the RN Submarine Service being declared anti-submarine in 1948, the authors completely failed to give any description of the diesel submarines of the Red Navy, let alone anything as comprehensive as this. The submarines opposing the Royal Navy at that time, were a number of Soviet diesel designs from WW2 and the eventually numerous new build Soviet Whiskey submarines as detailed above.

The improved capacity battery cell in the belatedly RN streamlined Amphion Class & T Class may well have allowed as much practical endurance as the Whiskey Class at a less noisy speed in the 6 to 8 knot region, any faster would quickly leave the conventional battery of the Whiskey class submarine discharged. By the time the successful Soviet Fast Battery Submarine Project 614, NATO coded Foxtrot class. See my Guppy article Appendix G. These submarines came into widespread service in 1958, sufficient Porpoise Class could have been in service to directly counter them. It is worth noting the Foxtrot class had double the number of battery cells of the modern, but conventional Whiskey class and three propulsion shafts. Several are preserved in various museums including one decommissioned from the submarine fleet of the Indian Navy and interiors shown on web sites.

Surely the authors should have commented on this huge Whiskey fleet that Allied Intel was well aware of and asked why was the HTP program was allowed to seriously delay the first post war, new build RN diesel submarine, the first of eight Porpoise Class, that commissioned 1958 while going ahead in 1948 with the conversion of eight WW2 group 3 T Class by extending the hull as will be discussed later.

The Failed Search For The First True Operational Submarine

The Hydrogen Peroxide propulsion program in the Royal Navy

This program was of such overall importance in the history of the early post war RN submarine service, that I have dealt with it as a separate topic.

The authors have put together a reasonably complete history of the HTP (High Test Peroxide) submarines Meteor, Explorer and Excalibur, though spread over Pages 51, 52, 57, 128, 132, 136, 162-5. For an authoritative history on the Royal Navy and HTP see this article where researcher, Derek Waller, retired Air Commodore, Royal Air Force, records important comments on HTP submarines by senior RN Officers, these give the reader a clear idea of the enthusiasm of senior RN officers to urgently continue the German HTP research, together with some of the basic detail about this method of propulsion. On Page 137 of The Silent Deep there is a statement by FOSM Rear Adm G W G Simpson in 1952 that amongst other things said, 'that there is in prospect in the near future an operational submarine of exceptional capabilities'.

Pages 162-163. Confirm the RN was a long way from ever developing a successful operational submarine, there is an air of desperation in persisting with what was clearly a badly flawed system of submarine propulsion.

Admiral Simpson was looking into the future, but I was surprised that the authors, here and elsewhere in the book, with all the benefit of hindsight available, firmly supported what I believe was a seriously misguided decision to put so much of the Admiralty's limited post war resources into an effort to bring Dr Walter's dream of a fast Kriegsmarine HTP submarine into reality at this critical time of Soviet threat.

Moving to Page 165, the authors state, 'Even after the operational problems with HTP became apparent, the Navy rightly continued with Explorer and Excalibur, recognizing that HTP propulsion offered a means of quickly obtaining a submarine that could be used by the surface Navy to develop countermeasures against Soviet submarines of similar capabilities.' This statement was followed by a portion of an Admiralty memorandum, justifying the fitting of HTP engines in the target submarines etc ARCHIVE detail TNA /ADM/116/5632, Memorandum on the Development of Machinery for fast Underwater Propulsion ofSubmarines. 1 September, 1949.

My response to this statement is that there were no Soviet Submarines of similar capabilities and wouldn't be until the first Soviet Nuclear submarine that was just a nightmare in 1949. That would come a decade later.

Strangely the authors immediately follow the portion of the Admiralty Memorandum mentioned above with the words 'The Navy had decided its future was nuclear'. We must assume these words apply to what follows in the book and are dated 1956 at the time of the Suez.

Note. HMS Explorer was commissioned March 1954 and decommissioned June 1963 and HMS Excalibur was commissioned Feb 1955 and decommissioned May 1964.

I read a significant comment in the book Submarine & Deep Sea Vehicles written by Commander Jeff Tall. OBE, RN (Ret) when he was the Director of the RN Submarine Museum, a post he had held since 1994 when he retired from the RN.

after a 28 year career including command of an O Class and a P Class, the HMS Churchill and the Polaris missile carrier HMS Repulse. His career included important staff positions. A very experienced submarine officer. 'Britain ordered two unarmed experimental vehicles, Explorer and Excalibur, to be built. They were not ready for service until 1958, and when they did join the ranks, they were immediately dubbed the 'Exploder' class. They ended their days as expensive and impractical high speed targets'.

I close this part of the commentary on the HTP submarine program by particularly referring the reader to the authors comments on page 126, 'But as these accounts (Lt Cmdr Roakes, HMS Turpin, 1959) make clear, the Royal Navys new underwater warriors desperately needed new chariots to replace their Second World War era submarines'. Note, the Turpin, 1959 was an extended T Class.

The Alternatives

This is a commentary on a book, not an article in itself, but I feel obliged to state alternatives to the HTP program, etc that the authors espouse so strongly.

I suggest the prudent alternatives to the HTP program and the extending of eight hulls of group 3 T Class, were to quickly get the new Porpoise Class laid down, move forward the streamline program for the Amphion Class and and extend the basic streamlining of T Class in the manner carried out on HMS Tireless and four others, but at a less desultory pace, having abandoned the costly plan to extend the hulls of eight T Class, streamline them in a similar manner to Tireless.

Following on from my earlier comments, the Porpoise Class leading to the Oberon Class need no fanfare with such an excellent record to look back on today Appendix C. Clearly the earlier they joined the fleet in numbers, the better, but that was not to be.

The Amphion Class were of modern welded hull construction and capable of diving to 720ft. (I have a reliable anecdote, Appendix E, though rated at about 500ft. plus, as they aged. I have been down to 525ft in HMS Artemis. They had the benefit of being rather more spacious than the T Class and fitted with twin 2,150bhp, 8 cylinder xref('Amphion Class');, 6 cylinders of the T Class with no superchargers. More on the Amphion Class later.

The Soviet Whiskey had twin 2000 BHP engines. While this was not a great benefit to a snorting submarine, this was not a 'Hot War' and fast surface transits still had their place. Notably they gave an average service life of up to 25 years.

The five RN group 3 T Class (2 part weld, part rivet 300ft/3 all welded 350ft) actually streamlined, gave a useful increase in submerged speed and battery endurance, though for reasons that were originally unclear to me until recently, this particular class conversion was spread over a number of years, however recently I noted a brief comment in Paul Kemp's book 'The T Class Submarine' that states the relatively modest conversions were part of normal refit cycles. I have noted similar comments about the conversion of the extended T Class being based on the refit cycle, but this doesn't appear to be correct when the dates are considered and two years average in pairs. Difficult to confirm, but I feel far more dockyard hours were spent on the eight conversions than would have been spent on straightforward T Class Streamlining as part of a basic refit cycle. Note, that despite being described in many books as riveted, two of the five did in fact have all welded hulls and could therefore dive to at least 350ft. The authors make the same error on page 77.

I recall standing by the strip-down refit of HMS Amphion in 1953, this gave me the opportunity to live ashore with my wife who recalls the period well as it was followed by frequent long absences and believes it was about 9 months. Keith Hallam, former Chief Mechanician recalls the period of the later refit of the diesel submarine HMS Astute, was 18 months, but involved the removal of the 'soft patch' in the hull to take out the engines. Our engines were refitted in place, even the starboard No. 8 cylinder that blew up while we were snorting, due to the timing gear stripping. I should acknowledge our alert CERA dashed up the ER aisle and pulled back the throttle as so that as the event took place the engine was slowing down and the shrapnel wasn't as widespread as it might been. I remain forever grateful to him, being on watch in the motor room at the time, near the No. 8 starboard cylinder.

My inquiries about later O Class refits suggest that the usual period was 18 months to 2 years, often extended by modified equipment being fitted. This was also the experience of the RAN and RCN. From this can be determined the size of required fleet numbers, taking into account the limiting factor of dockyard capacity at any given time.

This improvement policy in commencing in 1948 that I suggest, would have eventually provided a fleet of 13 useful streamlined submarines, with much less time in the dockyard, with reduced self- noise to add to the fleet of 15 Amphion Class, all fitted with passive sonar similar to that fitted in the USN SSK Appendix F. It can even be argued the unfinished hulls of Acates and Ace, launched 1945, could have been completed. I saw them rusting in Devonport Yard in about 1949. They were apparently brought to a condition where they could be used for deep diving tests to destruction. However as I previously suggested, taking the various statements in the book together, the obsession with HTP and the state of the nation's finances meant discarding any idea of a reasonably large conventional submarine fleet made up of moderately improved existing submarines, on average about 10 to 12 years old, with the more recently built Amphion Class and the excellent new P Class, all in within the decade of the fifties and the start of the Sixties. Enough, that operating in NATO with others, this Submarine Force would have been a timely counter to the hundreds of Soviet Whiskey class. We can all be grateful it never came to be tested in war.

Notes Referenced To Page Number

Page 46. ASDIC, Anti-submarine Detection Committee. Naval historians have not been able find any official reference to such a committee and various suggestions have been put forward. The first reference to ASDIC occurs in the weekly report of experimental work at Parkeston Quay, Harwich, dated 6 July 1918. This word replaces the section heading of supersonics, dealing with these experiments. After this date, the new term appears very frequently in the records. No indication is given for this sudden change of term. ASDIC almost certainly stood for 'pertaining to the Anti-Submarine Division'(or Anti-Submarine Division-ics), the Admiralty department that had initiated this submarine detection research. Referring to the definitive book 'Hide and Seek' by William Hackmann, Published by HMSO/Science Museum, 1984. It states, 'The Admiralty coined the word ASDIC to designate this system, the term considered meaningless enough not to give away the principles on which it was based'. I am not convinced this is a viable reason as ASDIC system was derived from Quartz Crystal technology provided by pre-war French research into crystallography.

According to respected submarine author Ackermann, in 1937 an ASDIC set, designated Type 129, was designed especially for submarines was tested in the new RN S Class submarine. The set had the oscillator built into the forward end of the keel, see Figure 4. About the same period RN submarines were fitted with 10 kilocycles oscillators giving long range underwater communication. The Type 129 set remained the standard fit in older submarines, including conversions through most of the 1950's, together with a companion set, Type 138, placed on the casing aft of the conning tower. Identifiable by its dustbin shape.

Page 47. From the book 'Creasey too argued that the Snorkel in its present form had several weaknesses', one assumes this was FOSM Rear Admiral Creaseynn, RN, in reference to U-Boat experience gained from interrogation of Prisoners of War. In the RN Amphion Class and T Classes, the Snort took little internal space, perhaps the largest internal item might have been in providing the 'R' drain tank under the control room deck, the tun dish with two drain pipes took little room. In the engine room the induction hull valve was already fitted as built, with it large pipe conducting air into the bilge or ship's ventilation system, together with any sea spray not removed by the water separator. Two extra exhaust valves in the engine room took little space, it apparently caused no problems, even for the relatively small S Class. However it seem very likely that the external snort fittings including the pressure tight compartment for mast raising ram, the mast itself and the water separator under the casing, with piping, all had a significant effect on the surface stability of the submarine and it has been suggested the removal of forward and aft external torpedo tubes was for stability reasons. More on RN snort can be found in my article Snorting in the Royal Navy, 1945 onwards. Notably the mast on the RN submarines folded down aft, not forward like the U-Boats and was altogether a better design with quite a sophisticated air tight hinge. In addition it should noted that at the start of WW2, Dutch invention of snort was brought to Britain, fully operational in two of their submarines where it is said, the British ordered it to be removed as being potentially dangerous and made no attempt to develop the Dutch invention for use in the RN until, like the Kriegsmarine who had similarly rejected snort after invading Holland, were forced by the changing world of Anti-Submarine warfare to fit it in their U-Boats as WW2 came to a close.

Creasey also thought snorting might be difficult in bad weather and this was so, but on the whole remarkably successful. He also suggested that the vacuum pulled when the snort head closed due to sea conditions, would be painful. I experienced many hours of snorting in poor weather conditions and all that I can recall is being woken up to go on watch and finding myself completely deaf, a condition soon cleared by pinching one's nose and blowing. Despite some years in submarine motor rooms adjacent to the diesels and exposure to snort vacuums, I didn't require hearing aids until I was 85. However snorting in bad weather was not one of the most enjoyable aspects of serving in submarines, but then neither was being on the surface in the North Atlantic as described in Pooped Aboard HMS Artful. by Les Wilcox.

The small U Class & V Class submarines were not fitted with snort; post war most were disposed off either to the scrap yard or foreign navies. I am advised there are photographs taken during the war of a dummy snort mast fitted to a U Class to give target practice to the RAF.

Page 53. FOSM Rear Admiral Creasey, bottom of page, 'it would be a mistake to embark on such a design before we have completed first class trials of the Type XXI submarine and are so able to gain maximum value out of the German mistakes as well as the German design'. However the RN didn't commission a Type XXI for trial purposes, as expert researcher Derek Waller tells us in the extract that follows below. I assume Creasy was referring to the planned Porpoise Class in his comment.

From Derek Waller's detailed paper, 'Unfortunately U-3017 was in only little better state than U-2502 and, after leaving Lisahally on 8 August 1945 for docking and inspection in the Vickers Shipyard at Barrow, there was a battery explosion during the initial hydrogen content trials on 29 August. This incident injured eight members of the crew and caused considerable damage, including severe fuel leaks and numerous other defects, all of which combined to put it out of commission, as well as causing Admiral Creasy, in his report to the Admiralty, No. 1311/SM. 3530 dated 7 September 1945, to say that, 'It is therefore submitted for very early consideration that all trials with the Type XXI U-Boats be cancelled.'

Authors Note: And in the end this was accepted! Unfortunately reputable submarine literature continues to state the RN commissioned and trialled XXI U-Boats. And it also worth recording that the P Class was substantially different in design to the XXI U-Boat as follows.

The Type XXI U-Boat Otherwise Known As 'Elektroboote'.

At this point in the book it is clear the German Type XXI U-Boat loomed large in the eyes of the submarine admirals of the RN Submarine Service and I want to draw the readers attention to certain aspects of its propulsion design that are of significance. First there is an excellent technical book by Fritz Kohl and Erbhard Rossler In the 'Anatomy of a Ship Series' with all the streamlined hull construction detail, but surprisingly, it is clear the Type XXI twin propulsion system was basically direct drive as in the other WW2 U-Boats.

Fig 5: Direct Drive Propulsion as found on A, T, S and most WW2 U-Boats. the direct drive was not ideal for snorting whereas the propulsion arrangement in the P & O Class was.
Fig 5: Direct Drive Propulsion as found on A, T, S and most WW2 U-Boats. the direct drive was not ideal for snorting whereas the propulsion arrangement in the P & O Class was.

However the batteries were very much larger, but there was no switching as in the British extended T Class and Porpoise Class to be able to change the battery voltage applied to the motors from the standard submerged speed range to double for fast submerged speed. The motors were large double armature, but high speed geared down to the speeds required for the propeller shafts. There were two fast diesel engines also geared to the propeller shaft. Clutches were available as shown in Figure 5, to allow the electric motors to drive propellers when submerged and to allow the diesel engine and motor to run without the propeller as generating sets. Extract from submerged trials on XXI commissioned in the USN 'HP 2330, RPM 1695, Volts 326, Amps 5964, Speed 18.0'. Duration not given, but I would think less than an hour. Note the high rpm engines and motors required a gear box to reduce their high speed to the much slower propeller shaft speed. Interestingly the USN replaced the high speed geared propulsion motors with slow direct propulsion shaft drive in their Tench Class Fleet Submarines from about 1944 onwards. As I understand it, the earlier geared motors were noisy from a sonar point of view. For those interested in ships generally, slowing the output of the engine to the propeller shaft by means of gears has the advantage of allowing a larger more efficient propeller, that may well have lower cavitation noise, but there other considerations in a submarine beyond the scope of this commentary.

The machinery set-up for snorting would have be much the same as for the Type VII U-Boat and British submarines such as the Amphion Class and unmodified T Class. In my opinion a weakness in the design when compared to the arrangement in the British O Class & P Class and USN Guppy. Indeed the same arrangement was in most post WW2 submarines including the British Upholder, but usually with a single large motor and propeller, see this for arrangement. Several years into the post WW2 period, the new German Navy raised a Type XXI and rebuilt it as a research platform and named it Wilhelm Baur. It is of interest that the Germans engineers changed the propulsion system to one similar to that installed in the British O Class & P Class. It is now a museum submarine.

Now Return To The Commentary By Page Number

Page 54. According to the The Silent Deep, FOSM Rear Admiral Creasey stated, 'That the Royal Navy's ultimate aim must be to produce a true submarine'. This eventually happened with the very expensive nuclear submarine that takes a long time to build, but otherwise, the present day diesel submarines rely on various, low power systems at very slow speeds to achieve as much as two or three weeks submerged. However they still rely on snorting, using their diesel engines to make transits to and from their patrol areas, fortunately there has been no major sea war to test these new systems.

Page 72 also Page 95. It would have been helpful to the reader if the reports of the 1947 HMS Ambush and 1948 snort voyages HMS Ambush, as shown in the 'Alliance' book by Lambert & Hill, had been included in the book. They are not overly long, perhaps two pages each at most. Much was learnt from these early snort voyages that would be of interest to the reader.

Page 73. On this page is a copy of an Admiralty statement similar to one I quoted in an article some years ago, Admiralty Policy Statement 1948: 'The primary task of our submarine fleet is to hunt and kill other submarines', Royal Naval Submarine Museum archive A1997/1. I had never been clear about the basis of this policy until I read Norman Polmar's book relevant extract

The USN took steps to develop Submarines for use as Submarine Killers with long range passive sonar, Appendix F, while the RN appears to have done little apart from the Submarine versus Submarine exercises, commented upon on Pages 75-76, that follow.

Page 75-76. I was surprised when reading The Silent Deep to note the brevity of the reference to HMS Truncheon (Note. prior to being converted). There was rather more to her Submarine versus Submarine trials than those carried out with HMS Alcide in 1950.

I left Dolphin Spare Crew on April 20th 1951 to join HMS Truncheon in Scotland. I had previously been an electrician on HMS Artemis. I asked John Eade who collates the details of RN officers of the time and he advises, 'Lt Cdr Arthur Richardson had command of HMS/m Truncheon 31st March 1950 to 18 April 1951 when Lt Cdr R F Park took over', other sources confirm this change of captain. The book refers to Lt Richardson, instead of Lt Cmdr that I recall was his rank.

So when I joined HMS Truncheon, the trial exercises with HMS Alcide, mentioned in the book, were over and HMS Truncheon was now preparing for a two week Submarine versus Submarine exercise with a new captain, involving six other submarines (some from Allied Navies or so we were told). The plan was that the six submarines would circle the Shetland Isles or thereabouts, each boat acting as though on patrol and recording all of the events in a special written log, items such as submerged battery charging while snorting or on electric drive, firing water shots from the torpedo tubes to simulate the noise of actually firing a torpedo at a target. It was really an uneventful time for most of the crew except the attack team who were directly involved in the exercise.

After completion of the exercise, we took the submarine to the submarine base HMS Dolphin, 16 August 1951 to decommission her and some time later, 21 September 1951 we took her to Chatham Dockyard to be extended into a so-called super T Class and most of the crew returned to HMS Dolphin. According to Paul Kemp's The T Class Submarine book, he states that within these two dates, having lost the JT sonar, HMS Truncheon continued Submarine versus Submarine Exercises with the streamlined HMS Tireless and the as-built HMS Tally-ho. Though I was aboard on these few weeks I have no recollection of us carrying out these exercises. Paul has kindly provided me with the reference in the archives of the RN Submarine Museum but a recent search could not find this reference in the archives. A close-up photograph of HMS Tireless may be seen here in Section 4d, as the case with the Amphion Class streamlining, the gun tower and under casing gun base were left in place.

I stayed in HMS Dolphin both in Spare Crew and serving on HMS Tiptoe running out of HMS Dolphin until I went to the Electrical School on an extended General Service course 12 July 1952.

During this period in HMS Dolphin, I bumped into my former First Lieutenant from HMS Truncheon (incidentally a fine submarine officer who served his crew well in difficult circumstances that discretion does not allow me to discuss) and he told me the drawn-out manual analysis of the log books of the six submarines involved in the Shetland Isles Submarine versus Submarine exercise, had been completed and the analysts had reluctantly come to the conclusion that there were in fact seven submarines engaged! This was the only explanation for the results and the extra submarine would likely have been of Soviet origin.

In the boring hours off watch, I chatted to the ARL scientist involved, who I understood was a Professor. As I understood him, the JT Sonar installation of what had been the basic sonar of the USN, WW2 Fleet Submarine, was because it used quite a different transducer principle than the RN submarine quartz crystal ASDIC the Type 129 and Type 138 sets and amongst other things was used to measure the self-noise of the submarine. See Appendix F.

Turning from personal experiences, to Page 76, where the authors, referring to the 1950 Alcide versus Truncheon exercises, state 'The results of the exercise were disappointing' and goes on to report on further studies by FOsoanr Rear Admiral Grantham concerning the chances of a successful attack not being very high, etc. The reference for these comments is given in the book as being TNA/ADM/1/25252, memo by the Director of Torpedo, Anti-Submarine and Mine Warfare, 6th June 1951.

This comment by the Admiral seems to state what was obvious before the exercise; I am reminded of Juliet to Romeo, What satisfaction could you possibly have tonight? 'Tonight' being 1951, when our submarines were of pre-war design, with only the basic Mk VIII torpedoes (simulated in the exercise) and basic searchlight sonar, Type 129 and Type 138 ASDIC with the T Class limited to 350 feet and with the more modern Amphion Class temporarily under a cloud for quite some time due to the mysterious loss of the Affray in 1951. The mention of the inability to determine the depth of the target submarine is significant, what were Admiral's expectations, when one considers the complex 'active' ASDIC sets of the escorts by end of WW2. Unless there were greater expectations of the USN JT Sonar than were justified by the USN specifications and war experience

However the following extracts from a copy of part of the official report on these trials, do not seem as pessimistic, providing a successful acoustic torpedo could be made available to the Submarine Service in the future. In 1951 there was every reason to suppose this would be the case as the RN had the successful WW2 GNAT (German Navy Acoustic Torpedo) to encourage them, however the GNAT was developed by the Germans particularly to sink escorts and merchant ships, not submarines. I think we can assume the Bidder or Mk20(S) as it was called in service, would only be effective against a snorting submarine. Appendix G. nevertheless that would be a big step forward in 1952.

SECRET Extract Page 7 of Enclosure to Flag Officers, Submarines letter No. 6/SM. 0148. Dated 4th January, 1951. Courtesy G Malcomson, RN Submarine Museum.

Submarine Versus Submarine Exercises Carried Out By HMS Alcide And HMS Truncheon, 1950

41. Assuming, however, that the attacks had been carried out with a homing weapon with the characteristics of Bidder, then it is estimated that eight of the ten attacks would have achieved success.

42. The majority of the initial detections by HMS Truncheon were obtained by acoustics at ranges of about 10,000 yards. The average range of detection was 7,000 yards.

The FOSM and his staff no doubt studied the 1945, case of the only submerged submarine sunk by another submerged submarine in WW2, the U-Boat, U-864 by HMS Venturer commanded by Lt Launders, but the circumstances as reported, seem very different from those found in say, the above exercises. Lt Launders, in 1945 had also sank a U-Boat he caught on the surface, a look at the lists of submarines lost in WW2, shows being sunk while on the surface was not an uncommon event, one important point in the case of U-864 was the initial detection of her snorting, the new factor in anti-submarine warfare. Lt Launders also been alerted to the passage of U-864 with her unusual cargo for Japan, by Intel from Enigma.

I am somewhat puzzled by aspects of the contents of page 76. Surely the new post war policy of the submarine being giving the anti-submarine role was based on the detection of a noisy, snorting submarine, particularly in transit, for example to counter a Soviet repetition of the German U-Boat Campaigns of WW2 and WW1. It was generally accepted a submarine proceeding at moderate speeds at say 90ft, conserving its battery, would be very difficult to detect by passive acoustic methods alone and even more difficult to hit with a torpedo.

It was perhaps unfortunate the fast submerged anti-submarine, the British R Class submarine 1918, with the most sensitive hydrophones of the time, came rather late into WW1 and was never able to prove whether or not, this was the way of the future and forgotten when inter-war submarines were being designed, probably inevitable until the full details of WW2 U-Boat experience were acquired by the Allied Navies.

The Admiralty was presumably made aware that U570 (HMS Graph) captured 27-8-1941 had a sophisticated array of hydrophones that was significantly better than the British ASDIC. (Hitler's U-Boat War 1942-1945 Clay Bair Page 346). When the U570's array was tested, it was found to be 6 times better than the ASDIC of the RN, (Encyclopaedia of British Submarines 1901-195 By Paul Akermann) and other sources. More on this later.

From 1937 (HMS Sea Wolf) the Type 129 ASDIC set was fitted in the forward keel in all RN submarines until 1955 and beyond.

Fig 4: The dome for the 129 ASDIC set at the forward end of Telemachus ballast keel. The photograph was taken at Singapore in 1952 (Gus Briton)<br><br>Inside rotates a quartz/steel receiving trnsducer, controlled by an azimuth manual controller in the Control Room. There is also an oscillater for transmissions.
Fig 4: The dome for the 129 ASDIC set at the forward end of Telemachus ballast keel. The photograph was taken at Singapore in 1952 (Gus Briton)

Inside rotates a quartz/steel receiving trnsducer, controlled by an azimuth manual controller in the Control Room. There is also an oscillater for transmissions.

Also see various ASDIC notes in my article Diesel Submarines 1948 - 1958 and experimental notes about HMS Tradewind. Also see the T Class section notes for HMS Thule about Type 186 set trials, later fitted to the O Class and probably the Porpoise class and possibly the streamlined Amphion Class, but apparently not in the extended T Class. This is the sonar part of the RCN O Class manual and can be reasonably assumed similar to the RN O Class of the Sixties, as the RCN boats were built in the UK.

It is reasonable to emphasise, that while Admiralty Research Establishments were engaged in sonar experimental and trial work, the RN Submarine Service didn't experience any substantial operational change from the ASDIC of WW2 until a decade or more later. The Silent Deep doesn't clearly tell why this was so, when the USN quickly after WW2 took the German U-Boat passive array, and had a US version built, with improved versions fitted to various USN submarines. Appendix F, (note presence of a permanent RN liaison officer with the USN from 1955)

I had a look at a USN SSK in the early fifties when we were alongside depot ship HMS Montclare and SSK Grouper of the USN was along side us, very smart boats as was the new build Tang Class SS Harder, also alongside. The USN SSK concept lasted until 1959, when, with the arrival of the nuclear submarine, it was decided all submarine would be SSK along with their normal submarine duties.

This is a most informative extract from Norman Polmar's well-known Cold War Subamrines: The Design & Construction of US & Soviet Submarine and in particular gives the basis for the post war policy adopted by the both the USN and the RN, that of using the submarine to detect snorting enemy submarines, that I surmise would then be plotted by the Central Command or whatever organization was in place after the setting up of NATO, rather than being expected to close and sink them with outdated weapons that were not replaced until decades later. And as we are all aware, no submarine on either side in the Cold War was attacked with lethal weapons, but tracking became an art, involving ever improving sonar. Note in the RN, the unreliable Tigerfish torpedo was commissioned 1979 and the successful Spearfish in 1992. Incredible really, that it took so long.

At the bottom of Page 76, the authors say there was a shift in thinking about the future submarine, condensed here by me, the specification described would be eventually met by the O Class in the sixties fitted with the latest sonar that eventually became available. But really the extreme requirements of endurance and speed could only met by the nuclear submarine, but at a far greater cost than a diesel submarine and an extended construction time of several years limited to one UK Ship Yard at Barrow. This new thinking carries on into the next page with discussion about improving the performance of existing submarines from WW2 by conversion.

Page 77. A description of the conversion of the eight group 3 T Class submarines is given on this page, with the usual error that their maximum submerged speed was 17 knots rather than the correct bare maximum of 15 knots at 90 feet, the authors also err in saying their extended hulls could dive deeper, they remained at 350ft, and the reference to the underwater endurance figure given of 'increased by 40-50 miles' is meaningless unless it related a specific speed submerged see my T Class Conversion article which gives a comprehensive description of the electrical propulsion of the extended T Class, while the, this section of another article, gives a description of the hull alterations. Further speed detail are shown within my comments on the content of Pages 97-110. Lower on Page 77, an extract is posted by the authors, taken from the 1954 presentation by that famous WW2 Submarine Commander, Captain Arthur Hezlett (later FOSM 1961) 'The Future Submarine'.

Page 78 opens with the authors writing, 'This was optimistic'. And politely go on to explain why, 'The development of the Type 171 (or Four Square) Sonar and 718x hydrophone combination was tested in HMS Thermopylae in 1953 (reference 120, Hackmann at this point, adds in his book, it was planned to become operational in 1959).' The authors continue, 'to give three dimensional underwater pictures'. They go on, 'that it was cancelled in the early 1950's after early trials revealed its performance was unsatisfactory unless used with powerful computers, which could not be accommodated in contemporary submarines'. We are then told that, 'The Naval Staff struggled to envisage a clear role for the new set and decided its only useful function was the ability to detect mines'. The reader will find more words follow that make one wonder if the people responsible had any clear idea they knew what they doing, apart from spending the budget. I believe the history tells us they should have been pursuing the GHG sonar array as the USN was successfully doing and the RN did later, far too much later if the 'Cold War had become Hot'. It worth considering that in 1953 computers used thermionic valves that took considerable space and required cooling. Lack of space was to be expected in the S Class, T Class and even larger Amphion Class. The crews were not served well by those whose duty was to equip the boats with the best equipment available for their new role as 'Submarine Killers'.

This was not likely to done with a basic submarine hull design from before WW2. A design that originated in 1934, constrained by the 1930 London Naval Treaty. The first submarine of this design was HMS Triton launched 1937, with a mainly riveted hull for 300ft. This first group was followed two more groups, the third all built in WW2, being mainly of all welded construction for 350ft. It was from this Group 3 that the eight post war conversions were taken. It should be noted that only submarines of Group 3 remained in service after WW2.

Page 81. On this page is mentioned Dropshot. January 1st 1957. I draw the readers attention to Dropshot simply because the authors thought it had relevance in The Silent Deep, so early in their book.

Page 82. Rear Admiral Fawkes (FOSM 1954-55) gave out a dangerously disparaging view of the Red Navy, developed from his time serving in a Soviet submarine in WW2. Fortunately others were not of the same mind, and after our experiences on Truncheon and the analysis Pages 75-76 as told to me by our 1st Lt, I would agree with them. As for the Naval Intelligence comment that the Russians were not a nation of seaman, well really what humbug, most UK males recruited into the Devonport Division came from the big Industrial cities like Manchester and Birmingham and only saw the sea at the beach on holiday, and before the war in 1939, many families could not afford even a day by the sea. The authors make it clear this was not a universally held view of the Red Navy Submarine Service in the RN.

Red Star Under the Baltic: A Soviet Submariner in World War II, is worth a read, running out of Leningrad under siege by the German Army.

Pages 88-93, Affray. I made this comment when reviewing the book reviewing the book Subsmash, a book given as the source by the authors of The Silent Deep and feel justified in repeating it here. 'The letter to Browne is humbug and clearly came after all the pressure within the Admiralty by those who knew little of the submarine realities. I suspect that if the letter to Browne had been made public at the time, he would have insisted on a court martial and would in my humble opinion have been found not guilty. However I don't think anybody in the higher echelons of the Royal Navy was going to forgive him for losing so many promising young officers, some from naval families. That was why he was secretly and officially criticised, not for losing a submarine and its crew. The loss of the Truculent the previous year was accepted with far less fuss. The loss of he Affray and its possible causes were not the crime, putting all the eggs in one basket was.'

In The Silent Deep, it would have been more satisfactory if the authors had taken the trouble to find the original letter in the Archives, before publishing. Well belatedly, here is something about him, I hadn't thought about it before, but he was our 5th Flotilla Captain. I don't remember him, but he must have done Captain S/m 5's inspection down our boat occasionally.

Captain Hugh Browne died in 1983 aged 78. Was awarded DSO and bar (2 years as CO of HMS Regent, 9 patrols in the Mediterranean in WW2) and services on Submarine Staff. CBE for services in European Theatre. Post war, Decoration for services to Norway and made Admiral by the Danish King. His last command was the aircraft carrier HMS Ocean, this despite this supposed letter of criticism.
Courtesy Unihistory.

Page 93. At the end of this page is a statement in 1952, by a Staff Officer from the staff of the FOSM, made to a conference on anti-submarine warfare, that abbreviated, bemoans the lack of submarine crews. This reminded me the men who had served their country well in WW2, having settled back in civilian life with jobs and family, being called back during the Korean war that ended in 1952. I became a close friend of one, former Telegraphist Eddy Renwick, his last WW2 boat was HMS Rorqual, the only mine laying submarine to survive the war. Eddy and his family became good friends with my young wife and I, supporting her during my absences at sea. The reservists complained there was nothing for them to do at the S/m base Dolphin except sweep the parade ground, Captain (S/m 5) solved that by pulling crew from the boats and replacing them with reservists. Overall a shameful business.

Pages 94-97. Book Section title 'The Rise Of Underwater Intelligence Gathering And Reconnaissance'. We were in the Baltic about 1952, its a long time ago, but I recall the Navigator trying to take photographs through the periscope using an ordinary camera and our getting sprinkled with noisy, but harmless Soviet practice grenades, as did other submarines (often later reported as lethal depth charges, but no lethal anti-submarine weapons were used in the Cold War). On Page 97 there is a statement by the Director of Naval Intelligence that the Red Navy were ill-prepared for anti-submarine warfare, well I was just an Electrician, but they seemed able to find us as we made our way into deeper waters, dropping what seemed to be 'We know where you are' grenades. It did made those of us without war experience, a little edgy, but the old hands were reassuring and all was well.

We seemed to spend a lot of time in the North Atlantic, often engaged in a major exercise, but sometimes not. We visited Stockholm, four submarines and a depot ship (can't recall which one as we were actually based at Dolphin). Anyway in line ahead with the Depot Ship leading, we made our way in passage routine (one could go up on the bridge) in sunny weather, but with a sea fog hiding the Soviet diesel powered vessels sailing close by, our third direct contact with the 'enemy'. Appendix H gives an anonymous, but precise description of the later developments in submarine reconnaissance, from a reputable naval forum.

Page 97-110. Commander Coote's book 'Submariner' and Tony Beasley, referenced anecdotal source. The reader should note that the only indexed references to radio and radar prior to the developments in the Sixties and beyond, are in these particular pages.

Inevitably Commander Coote gets a mention as he usually does in other submarine books, with quotes from his very readable book 'Submariner', but his yarns do seem to bend a little to provide the basis of the tale, in particular his comments about the then novel appointment of an Electrical Officer to his new command, the converted HMS Totem on Page 99. The reality was, that while the second in command, the 1st Lieutenant, an officer of the Executive Branch, was the responsible for the high power Electrical propulsion etc, in my time, he relied on the technical expertise of the Petty Officer in charge, the Electrician (to state the correct title from 1948), to know how to kick a troublesome piece of equipment. I became quite adept at kicking the fuel separator starter at sea on Amphion, until an opportunity arose when we could strip it down and repair it.

I have included a personal letter (Fig 2), not to promote my experience in submarines of a very long time ago, but because it describes the duties and responsibilities of an Electrician (PO) on an Amphion Class or similar submarine, and also applies to the Electricians of my time and and the many other Petty Officers of the Torpedo Branch, the Electricians of the RN in the war years and before. Commonly known by the initials of their rating POLTO. These initials formed into a nickname will even be found in casual use today for Petty Officers with electrical duties in nuclear submarines.

Fig 2: Lt I H M Jardine was the 1st Lt of HMS Amphion and a member of the executive branch of the RN.
Fig 2: Lt I H M Jardine was the 1st Lt of HMS Amphion and a member of the executive branch of the RN.

Also Cootes' comment noted on Page 98, about a fin modification and speed, it should be 15 knots, not 18. (one mile in 4 minutes, then 12 knots for 10 minutes = a 3 mile transit). Particularly misleading as the purpose-built, P Class was rated 17 knots for 20 minutes with larger batteries. It is remarkable that this paragraph with its incorrect calculation from Commander Cootes' book 'Submariner', gets repeated by other authors, including those of The Silent Deep and stated in support of the myth that some extended T Class could reach 17 knots submerged. Cootes also says on page 117 of his book, while waiting to take command of the near completed Totem, that she would able to reach 17 knots like a USN Guppy. However apart from the Particulars of Vessels 1958 stating the maximum submerged speed of Totem was 15 knots, the maximum submerged speed of the GII Guppy (Fleet of 24) was 16 knots, taken from Commander Alden's book 'The Fleet Submarine in the US Navy'

I have a copy of the 'First of Class Trials' of the first conversion, HMS Taciturn, 1952, basic detail on speed and power shown here.

At periscope depth these figures were

13.64 knots for 7.57 miles, battery endurance of 33.3 minutes at mean 598 rpm, motor power 5718 BHP

At 90 feet

14.8 knots for 8.31 miles, battery endurance of 33.6 minutes at mean 598 rpm, motor power 5754 BHP

It is suggested in The Silent Deep, that later T Class conversions were significantly faster, but this seems unlikely as apart from the raising of the conning position to the top of the fin, that may have had a modest reduction in resistance, the increased length of the hull insertion in the last four conversions would increase resistance and reduce speed. See Ian Buxton's article on T Class Modernising

The extra battery added to the three batteries installed the T Class as originally built, may have allowed a significant increase in endurance at very slow speeds at 90 feet plus, however my recollection was 24 hours in an Amphion Class, as by then the state of the atmosphere was reaching the danger point despite the use of the oxygen candles and CO2 absorbers, with those not on watch ordered to lie down on their bunks. These were not nuclear submarines with endless electrical power for sophisticated air conditioning. I have been advised that on an O Class it is possible to last 48 hours, perhaps greater volume, but still no significant air treatment equipment such as is found on an SSN.

Aside from the increase in maximum submerged speeds for very limited periods, much of the benefit of the conversion was elsewhere, the change from what been the direct drive of the S Class, T Class, and Amphion Class, to true diesel electric

Fig 4: The dome for the 129 ASDIC set at the forward end of Telemachus ballast keel. The photograph was taken at Singapore in 1952 (Gus Briton).<br><br>Inside rotates a quartz/steel receiving trnsducer, controlled by an azimuth manual controller in the Control Room. There is also an oscillater for transmissions.
Fig 4: The dome for the 129 ASDIC set at the forward end of Telemachus ballast keel. The photograph was taken at Singapore in 1952 (Gus Briton).

Inside rotates a quartz/steel receiving trnsducer, controlled by an azimuth manual controller in the Control Room. There is also an oscillater for transmissions.

where the engines drove generators that supplied the motors propelling the screws and charging the batteries. This made snorting easier as when the snort head closed in bad weather and the engines were stopped, the electric motors continued propelling on batteries enabling better control of depth and a quick return to snorting.

And then there is the Totem story about Lt (L), the electrical officer, going up to the top of the fin to fix an antenna and being warned he could be left behind if the submarine was forced to dive. Highly unlikely, I served with four different skippers in the early, uncertain days of the Cold War and I am confident that these circumstances, they would simply draw off some way from Soviet ships and surface. Leaving behind a crew member would be unacceptable to the crew and the politicians who were already uneasy about these trips, as the authors tell us was the case. The Soviets by the time of the Totem story, had clearly demonstrated they had no intention of sinking a NATO submarine and never did. As I have already said, they sprinkled us in the Baltic with accurately dropped practice grenades, but we just slid away completely unharmed, but warned off this about 1952.

The best available description of a Cold War experience of a diesel NATO submarine with the Soviets, is that of the USS Gudgeon as told in the well-known US book 'Blind Mans Bluff'. The reader of this type of book including, this one, The Silent Deep, has to accept that in regard to Intelligence matters, sources are often difficult to verify and accuracy judgements have to be made.

There is a postscript, I have a extract from Tony Beasley (a major source in this book and others) about a very similar incident in HMS Turpin and a Lt Cmdr Roe, RN. In this case Radio Electrician Hill was the one who went up and supposedly warned he could be left behind.

Tony Beasley, Pages 105-107, was a Specialist Communications rating who did a so-called 'mystery trip', in Turpin,  Lt Cmdr Roake RN and in Totem, Lt Cmdr Coote RN about 1955 (some confusion in these yarns, archive reference below). It is pertinent to mention most of his experience would be in transit routine, he received no submarine training and was later refused membership of the Submarine Association. I am advised he bought a medal from the International Submariner's Association, a private organisation. However despite this limited experience it appears he has become the expert about the spying trips of the mid-fifties and readers of The Silent Deep will note on Page 720, reference numbers 200 and 204 to 208 Liddell Hart Military Archives at Kings College London, Tony Beasley Manuscript, July 2008.

He appears as a source in at least two other books on submarine 'mystery' trips, one being the otherwise, excellent 'GCHQ' by Richard Aldrich. My view is that the Official Secrets Act has prevented experienced submariners from telling of their intelligence sorties into Soviet waters, based on their expert knowledge. Hence 'Rider' Tony Beasley has become the 'Expert' for operational references in books like 'The Silent Deep'. I have files of messages from crew members who were on the same boats as Beasley, that I cannot use due the concerns of correspondents about Official Secrets Act repercussions despite it being so long ago. 'Rider' was a term used by RN Submariners in reference to anybody carried for some purpose, but not of the crew. I am sure men like Beasley served their country well with their specialised communication skills, but they should not be raised to the position of being experienced submarine sources and quoted in reputable books about RN Submarine operations in the fifties.

However I can tell the reader of being advised by a crew member that the damage to the fin and other upper works on one trip, was not due to aggressive contact with the Soviets as so often related, but simply getting entangled in a heavy fishing net (the crew member cut off a short length as a souvenir) and that the so-called depth charges were the usual Soviet practice grenades (mentioned earlier) were harmless, but noisy.

Pages 115-122. The diary extracts of LEM (Leading Electrician's Mate) Michael Hurley, on HMS Taciturn, September 1957 and April 1958 give a realistic view of the manning of these submarines in the operations of the time. One entry tells of the unpleasant effect of not being able to use the WCs while avoiding contact with Soviet escorts. I will expand on this, a serious weakness in the T Class was that they had individual WCs that immediately after use had to be swilled with an attached salt water hose through an opened flap valve, that then closed and a hull valve opened and air pressure applied to blow the contents into the sea that then floated to the surface. Failure to operate the WC correctly could result in a messy blow-back, that most who have served in this RN T Class as-built or extended, have experienced at least once. Just as he describes there were often occasions where the WCs could not be used due to depth or the presence of the enemy on the surface. This system weakness was eliminated in the Amphion Class by a sanitary tank being fitted with all the WCs above it. This tank would be blown whenever circumstances permitted by the engineering staff and thus the WC could used at all times. I qualify this by saying, there were a few operational occasions when for an hour or so, complete silence was called for. To exacerbate the situation, on the extended T Class, the crew numbers increased with for instance 3 more Electricians and an Electrical Officer. Paul Kemp in his book The T Class Submarine , tells us that, unlike the other diesel submarines in the Fleet, an SBA (Paramedic) was carried and the engineering staff increased, but why I don't know, as the main engines remained as originally built. Then of course there could be in addition, the 'Rider's', the 'mystery comms' people carried only for spying trips, with space to be provided for their special kit.

It should be appreciated that no increase in crew was originally anticipated. Here are selected items from'T Class Submarine Conversion - Draft Staff RequirementS 20 May 1948. No 54 6/SM. 472, Item 36. Air conditioning was to be provided, (I interpret this as similar to that found in the more modern Amphion Class, unfortunately it was heavy on the battery) Item 37. Accommodation, The present standard of accommodation in T Class submarines is acceptable and it is anticipated the number of crew will be approximately the same. The provision of certain amenities to compete with conditions prevailing with long submerged patrols is required. Item 38. Efficient and hygienic disposal of refuse whilst dived is required (and was in fact fitted near the galley). Our earlier method was to haul bins up the conning tower and ditch the garbage over the side, clearly not practical or tactical in the new snorting role. One of the rewards for being in the 'gash crew' was that in summer Northern waters, the evening light was very impressive.

Further in Page 122 Lt Cmdr A Roakes significant comment is recorded, 'Balanced against the COs first duty of saving the lives of the ship's company, was the question of how do you defend yourself against becoming another USS Pueblo, 1968?'. This is a confusing comment as USS Pueblo incident took place a decade after his experiences in Soviet waters that are recorded earlier in the book. In any event there was no attempt to board a NATO submarine in Cold War even when forced to surface in what the Soviets considered were their waters.

I have gained the the impression in recent years, that the RN Submarine captains of the fifties were unsure what the risks were of an aggressive act against them by Soviets if they intruded into their waters. As It happens I knew a former RAF Group Captain, who was a young pilot officer stationed in Germany in the early days of the Cold war and he confirmed a sense of awareness of Soviet aggression in those days before and after the Berlin airlift of 1948 and the knowledge that the Soviet's would be likely to shoot down intruding Allied/NATO aircraft. I think the authors should have endeavoured to present a picture of what RN Submarine Captains expectations were from 1945 onward and might well have quoted from Cootes book, Submariner as I did in my article Diesel Submarines 1948 - 1958

Also on this page it is reported that Tiptoe departed Faslane on 25th September 1958 as heavily laden as it was possible to be with fourteen specialist intelligence staff and eventually returned with results far exceeding expectations. My comment is, having served on Tiptoe before she was converted, fourteen additional 'Riders' added to an already increased crew (electricians, etc) would make the already poor accommodation almost unbearable in Northern Waters. The reader will recall my earlier comments on WCs.

Page 123. The comments of the Commander of Turpin, Lt Cmdr Roake, reinforces my earlier comments about the general unsuitability of the T Class for conversion and instead give urgent priority to the construction of the Porpoise Class. He was 'very conscious of the limitations of the submarine '. Turpin was, 'nowhere, near for example, up to American standards as an operational vehicle; nor indeed as regards either accommodation or comfort.' Although Turpin was, 'a wee bit primitive for the job it was being asked to do.' Roake did admit, 'we kept our end up.' LEM Hurley's diary comments merely add to this, as do my own experiences in unconverted T Class submarines. Basically there being no change as far as the crew were concerned except a significant increase in numbers. I note that as part of the preparation for the first intelligence gathering trip, that the pennant numbers were painted out. Earlier in 1955 when I left the Amphion and Navy, RN Submarines did not display their pennant numbers on the fin. Then it seems after a couple years they restored them, only any importance today when trying to date photographs.

The comparison to the American standards, needs some expansion, the USN large WW2 Fleet submarines were well fitted out in terms of crew accommodation, with a dining space adjacent to the substantial stainless steel galley/servery with, as I recall three cooks. The bunks had heavy duty plastic envelopes to protect the bedding. More importantly, the propulsion design of these submarines was similar to the later RN O Class & P Class where the propeller shafts were always driven by the electric motors, surfaced or submerged, meaning that there was no need to increase the manoeuvring room staff. The main changes were streamlining and the cramming in of extra batteries made up of cells with thinner plates for more capacity in the same volume cases, however at the price of a much shorter service life, 2 years from 6 years. For those wishing to know more detail see USN Guppy Conversions and though of no relevance to this book, for those interested I can recommend US SUBMARINE ENGINES by Paul Wittmer

Page 124. In the four submarines I served on from 1949 to 1955, both Amphion Class & T Class, (two were later converted to extended T Class), all were fitted forward and aft with two oxygen candle burners that burnt candles taken from storage encased in tin containers and loaded from the bottom rather like a gun. There also two CO2 absorption units that carried four canister, being used one at a time then manually switched to an unused one and so on. I recall them well as the electrical department was responsible for loading the candles and canisters as required.

Page 125. The Commander of Turpin tells of being located by five or six Soviet destroyers and in the process of evading them, got down to 425ft, well beyond the 350ft. limit for an all-welded group 3 T Class, extended or not. The Constructor on the Admiral's staff said, 'that if they had got to 470ft, the hull would have collapsed due pressure'. It should be recognised that lingering at the limit of 350ft. was quite dangerous as it was not an unknown event to lose control and go into to a bow or stern depth where the limit could quickly be exceeded, for example LEM Hurley, Page 120. I have also experienced two really bad steep angles in Amphion Class boats, fortunately controlled within the nominal 500ft. limit. Depth is a vital parameter in any submarine specification.

Page 126. A further comment by LEM Hurley (Pages 115-122). Also the reader should note the last two lines on this page, where the authors write, referring to the comments of LEM Hurley and Lt Cmdr Roake, (HMS Taciturn) 'But as these accounts make clear, the Royal Navy's underwater warriors desperately needed new chariots to replace their Second World War era submarines.' And the only prospect was the Porpoise Class delayed by the failing HTP program and the eight T Class conversions.

Page 128. Cavitation is referred to, investigating this noise problem was part of the scientific trials conducted by HMS Scotsman from 1948 onwards, my article on the Scotsman Trials, as I mentioned in General Comments. Apparently many different propellers were tested, being changed in the local dry dock in Scotland. John Eade advises me of the following meeting at the RN Submarine Museum, 'In 1994 I was in the UK and had a meeting with Cdr. Tall at the Museum, at the time we were preparing HMAS Ovens. We chatted about displays and presentations, I did ask him about propellers as Ovens had been used for training and had come with paddles which allowed to fire up propulsion alongside, he said he had a warehouse full of them from a trial boat, in the end the RAN found us some.'

Pages 129-132. On this page, the book makes mention of the S Class of submarine, giving the impression of desperation forcing the return of excellent, but worn out WW2 submarines. In fact about 1953 11 S Class were modernised, to the extent the gun tower was removed, not an inexpensive task, creating valuable space inside the submarine. They were all Group 3, all-welded hull built during the war. They were a useful submarine, indeed sadly, HMS Sidon was sunk while loading an HTP torpedo for a test firing. Dorset Submariners hold a memorial every year. See Pages 161-162. for a description of the disaster. The two U Class were certainly designed before WW2, as were the S Class and T Class, but all were improved to some extent, and these two built in WW2, U Class provided targets running out of Portland until they were finally de-commissioned. Notably the U Class were originally designed as unarmed training submarines.

Also there is mention of new construction available in 1954. The only operational new construction of the fifties, were the Porpoise Class of 8 submarines, first HMS Porpoise, came into service in 1958 with rest of this class appearing at intervals in the fleet, the last being HMS Sealion in 1961. The authors favourably discuss the Porpoise Class, but don't attempt to compare it in detail with the only other class of RN Fast Battery Submarine of the time, the extended T Class. Two notable differences were the designed diving depth, 350 feet versus 500 feet and submerged endurance on battery. The Porpoise Class were likely not as noisy and more spacious, in fact designed for purpose. Here is part of the entry in Admiralty 1958 Particulars of Vessels, Porpoise SS. 01 Vickers Armstrong. Programme year 1951. Laid down: 15-6-54. Launched: 4-5-56. Completed: 21-4-58.

At the foot of page 129, in my opinion, it is misleading for the FOSM to have described them as virtually improved, 'T conversions'. I think one can conclude that this description is contradicted by the authors' comments on the following page 130, also see last paragraph, page 126. I have this note from a submariner 'Hi Peter, I had both Stretched Ts and O boats and I can say without doubt the O's were superior.' Also I particularly ask the reader to read Appendix C where the following notes are expanded and there is a personal letter to me from the Captain of Opossum. Report of HMS/m Opossum on Exercise Portent (Arctic trials) 1965 Mar 26 available at The National Archive. I believe this extraordinary expedition illustrates the confidence the Admiralty of 1965 had in the Oberon Class and Porpoise Class of submarine.

Click here for notes form Lt Cdr Owen

The names are (from left to right)

Petty Officer Stoopman (Second Coxswain)
Leading Seaman Trafford (Sonar Operator)
Lieutenant Pockley (Sonar Officer)
Self (CO of Opossum).

The photo was taken on 4th March 1965. The sea-ice we were standing on was about six feet thick and was part of the large ice-field which in winter extended down the whole of the east coast of Greenland. That is, until quite recently when a series of warmer winters have been experienced off Greenland and in other parts of the Arctic and the north Atlantic. Much the ice-field has broken up.

But when we were there, the east Greenland ice-field was on average, about 5 to 6 feet thick. It consisted of large ice-floes, jammed together with occasional gaps, known as “polynyas”. As you can see from the photo, some of these polynyas were big enough for us to surface into (static) so that we could run the diesel-generators to re-charge the box.

Fig 8: During exercise Portent, Lt Cdr Owen, CO of HMS Opossum and members of the crew ashore of the pack ice at 76 degrees north, the furthest a conventionally powered submarine had been in 1965. Note the protective cage over the sonar dome.
Fig 8: During exercise Portent, Lt Cdr Owen, CO of HMS Opossum and members of the crew ashore of the pack ice at 76 degrees north, the furthest a conventionally powered submarine had been in 1965. Note the protective cage over the sonar dome.

As already mentioned, not the least of the converted T Class weaknesses, was that the accommodation spaces in the original T Class where 18 men (including me on Truncheon) bunked in the fore ends and remained the same in the extended T Class. See LEM Hurley's comments and my comments on the WCs, Pages 115-122.

In the extended T Class, post war surplus original T Class propulsion motors were added with a complex system of clutches to achieve true diesel-electric or run as high speed motors on the increased batteries, extended to more than double their original rating to achieve the required nominal 6000 BHP total. The Porpoise Class of course had purpose-built propulsion motors designed to develop 3000 BHP each. It is likely these purpose built 3000shp motors of the Porpoise Class were more efficient than the effectively overloaded 625shp of the group 3 T Class submarine. As already been emphasised. The Porpoise Class could dive much deeper than the converted T Class and had greater submerged endurance.

The handbook BR 1965 (1953) Electrical Propulsion T Class Conversion, states significant strengthening had to be carried out to allow the original motors to have double their rated voltage applied to develop more than twice their rated horsepower and speed. Surprisingly there were no reports of failures, though I would suggest they rarely developed more than 12 knots and that for short periods otherwise the batteries would rapidly be exhausted and the submarine made vulnerable, the trial endurance at 12 knots was just under 2 hours. See Appendix B, Dave Perkins, Submariner.

The new-build Porpoise Class had efficient, purpose built high speed, diesel-generating sets for supply to the motors and charging the batteries.

Fig 5: Direct Drive Propulsion as found on A, T, S and most WW2 U-Boats. the direct drive was not ideal for snorting whereas the propulsion arrangement in the P & O Class was.
Fig 5: Direct Drive Propulsion as found on A, T, S and most WW2 U-Boats. the direct drive was not ideal for snorting whereas the propulsion arrangement in the P & O Class was.

The ideal set-up for snorting in that under all propulsion circumstances, propellers are being propelled by the electric motors, with no shaft clutches involved.

The batteries in the converted T Class consisted of four batteries each with 112 type 6560 cells, 6560 Ampere Hours for 5 hours to a final voltage 1.67 volts. As originally converted, there was no air agitation of the electrolyte nor water-cooled inter-cell connectors. But I have advice from a former Chief Electrician that these were fitted later.

In the Porpoise Class were D7420 cells, 7420 at the 5hr rate. 224 cells per battery with air agitation of the electrolyte and water-cooled connectors. Apart from the main battery ventilation fans, there were fitted 6 hydrogen clearing fans to clear any hydrogen produced when heavy motor currents were being drawn from the batteries.

They evolved into the similar Oberon Class, that by using the latest steel achieved an even greater diving depth. Of the Oberon Class, it could fairly be said to be the most successful diesel submarine of its era. Please read Appendix C for a professional view of the Oberon Class.

Regarding the importance of maximum depth, I quote an astonishing comment by Admiral J L Galantin, USN (Ret) in his book (Appendix F). The Admiral had been the Captain of the famous USN submarine SS Halibut in WW2. In his book he states, concerning diving depth, 'And at this time the penalty for so long tolerating Rickover's monopoly of mobile reactor design was the degradation of combat ability of not one experimental boat, but of a whole class of ships, sixty-two of the so-called SSN 688 fast-attack Los Angeles class. Some of them will be in service well into the 21st century. Fortunately they have not had to be tested against enemy submarines and weapons that run faster and deeper'. He goes on to say that while aspects of the class were improved in the later 688i, nothing could done about the diving depth. His comment was not well received in various areas of the USN however, his view based on combat experience in WW2, emphasises the importance in the fifties of the RN having the deep diving P Class in service as quickly as possible. Admiral Galatin also tells us he was aboard for the First of Class trial of USS Tang and reports a deep dive of 713 feet.

It is notable the T Class conversions suffered surface stability problems and until alterations to tanks were made and an extra 3ft 6inch of control room hull were added, they were poor bad weather boats. The lower conning position was a mistake that notably the USN also made with some of their Guppy Conversions, and the improved upper conning position only came late in the construction program of the extended T Class.

This conversion program that went from Nov 1948 to June 1956, each pair of conversions taking over 2 years to complete, has already been discussed as the topic arises page by page in the book. But I make no apology for repeating my opinion, that taking the history presented by the authors themselves in their book and easily acquired data, The Silent Deep fails to ask the question, was the T Class conversion justified and should not instead, the resources have been put into the early completion of the planning of the new Porpoise Class and building quickly commenced in the various yards, giving the RN these excellent Porpoise Class submarines earlier in Cold War, in significant numbers, able to counter any Soviet diesel submarine such as Foxtrot, Soviet Project 614, that was far superior to the earlier, numerous Soviet Whisky class, Project 613.

I have already made my case having the resources and money put into the Porpoise Class instead of the failed HTP program. Also accelerating the far more modest program of streamlining the Amphion Class and T Class. Notably the streamlining of 14 Amphion Class. As it was this program started with Artful in June 1954 and was completed with Acheron in September 1961. Aurochs was considered unfit for streamlining, though remained in service. If all the group 3 T Class had also been streamlined, with no extensions, then about 14 streamlined T Class would have been added to the fleet in the fifties.

Page 130 at the top of this page the authors say that the Porpoise Class were capable of a submerged endurance of 55 hours at 4 knots, from my experience in Amphion Class, this seems a long time in terms of crew endurance in a deteriorating atmosphere. A major problem is the lack of a substantial and enduring electrical power supply for a sophisticated air conditioning such as is found in a nuclear submarine that would be needed for 55 hours or longer. All diesel -electric submarines have the problem that the Auxiliary Power Supply starts to become significant in terms of battery endurance. For instance, various First of Class trial results of older diesel submarines show that at slow submerged speeds, the motor field amps and the Auxiliary load amps, together are slightly greater than the actual propulsion motor amps.

And leaving important dates on Page 130 to the last, 'Although the Porpoise Class design was conceived in 1946, it was only completed in 1950 and though the first submarine. HMS Porpoise was ordered in 1951, construction at Vickers-Armstrong, Shipyard at Barrow-in-Furness did not begin until June 1954 due to concerns within the Admiralty about the complexity of the design.'

Surprisingly these concerns are not elaborated upon by the authors. This was an Admiralty that just five years later was able to construct a nuclear submarine using a USN reactor then quickly build one with a UK reactor. HMS Dreadnought, Laid down: 12 June 1959. Launched: 21 October 1960. Commissioned: 17 April 1963

Also on Page 130 it is stated that the Porpoise Class, 'was significantly quieter at a given speed either on electric motors or main engines than any known class in the Western or Soviet Navies, including the US Navy Guppy Class'. The quietness of the USN Guppy conversions is perhaps not a good comparison as they were reported as noisy at full speed submerged. Note the anecdotes in Appendix E at the end of the Guppy article.

While having drawn a comparison to a converted US WW2 submarine, the authors have completely ignored the splendid new-build USN Barbel class, commissioned 1959, 700 feet, 18.5 knots submerged (developed from the fast experimental USS Albacore that so impressed First Sea Lord Admiral Mountbatten Page 147), and the new-build USN Tang class commissioned 25 October 1951, on the drawing boards roughly about the same time as the much delayed Porpoise Class. Then came USS Darter (SS-576) in 1956, a single improved Tang class. This is not to say the contemporary Tang or Barbel were quieter, merely they should have been considered by the authors when making comparisons. As a matter of interest, I have a clear glossy photograph of the USS Trout (SS 566) a Tang class, showing the nuclear torpedo control panel. Anechoic coatings don't appear to have been used on post war diesel submarines, though the RN trialled a rubber coated U-Boat just after the war comparing it to a similar, but un-coated U-Boat, the development of adhesives has made the later use of anechoic tiles practical in more modern submarines, nuclear in particular. The USS Barbel class of three, were the last diesel submarines built for the USN and with building limited to three submarines that gave good service.

However regardless of these comparisons, or lack of them, there is little doubt the P Class & O Class were internationally considered quiet submarines.

HMS Porpoise was finally commissioned in 1958. The authors continue, reporting on concerns about complexity and taking two years to build. This is an Admiralty that was initially convinced a submarine was needed with the basic attributes of the Type XXI, a U-Boat design based on the vast experience of the U-Boat commanders of WW2, yet they devoted a considerable part of the Admiralty's budget to trying to bring HTP propulsion, the German dream of high speed under water, to the point where they could be built in numbers as a warship. In end a totally failed venture that was quietly reduced to merely completing the two unarmed prototypes as fast targets. All at the cost of accelerating the development satisfactory conventional Submarine Fleet, to meet the Soviet threat, that was later found to be made up largely of the capable, but rather ordinary Whisky class, Project 613.

Page 132-139 The UK Nuclear Program at this point in the book I suggest the eminent authors are on more familiar ground, in that the nuclear submarine involved major government policy decisions and massive capital expenditure. These pages show a lot of the delay in the RN nuclear program from 1949 was due to indecision and disagreement about the best type of reactor for a submarine, contrary to the rewarding clearly focused view that Admiral Rickover of the USN, brought to production for the US Navy: a Pressurised Water Reactor suitable to propel a submarine. Britain was quite understandably focused on the nuclear bomb (and delivery methods) that were not unreasonably a priority. However the authors make clear submarine reactor research was actually taking place in the UK even if diverse in type. However HTP had already absorbed a considerable part of Submarine finances and the Admiralty pressed on with their investment. On Page 137 we are told by the authors 'September 1952, FOSM Rear Admiral Simpson produced a paper at the request of the Naval Staff on lower power HTP machinery for an operational class of submarine, and Simpson was firmly of the opinion, that Great Britain leads the world in the development of HTP machinery for submarines, and that there is in prospect in the near future an operational submarine of exceptional capabilities. Moreover I consider that we may have in our possession a design of a nearly true submarine many years before the Nuclear type can be completed'. A rather unfortunate statement in view of what unfolded in the then near future. Admiral Simpson was in charge of the famous 'Fighting Tenth Flotilla' based mainly in Malta in WW2. In 1952 I was serving on the yet to be converted HMS Tiptoe in his submarine fleet.

Page 139. 'Securing American Help' in regards to this topic in the book, for an informed 'inside' American view of Anglo-USA relations, it is worth reading page 286, Admiral Galantin's book, 'The Special Relationship'. Title etc in Appendix F.

Page 145-146. There is an interesting comment in a letter, Sept 1955, to Admiral Mountbatten from the Controller of the Navy, Ralph Edwards, 'The more I see the way submarine matters are conducted, the more I become disquieted. Year after year we see the opinion of the submarine Commanders switch 100% and for reasons which I do not personally believe are valid.' Also Mountbatten, First Sea Lord (Feb 1956) opened a conference of senior naval staff with a warning: 'By 1960 all submarines in the present Fleet will have become unfit for service, regardless of any modernisation measures which may be taken in the meantime'. He explained that: 'it had become clear our present building programme (eight Porpoises building and four more to commence 1956/1957) was no longer in step with requirements'. I find these comments in the fifties by no less than the First Sea Lord, ironic, when one considers the delayed Porpoise Class and that streamlined Amphion Class submarines were despatched to the Far East to engage in the 'Indonesian Conflict' 1963-1966. Perhaps we should recall that in 1955, Mountbatten had been very impressed with the broad program of the USN and though refused a trip on the nuclear Nautilus, by USN nuclear boss, Rickover, he did ride on the very fast (35 knots), experimental SS Albacore. and this revolutionary design stayed in his mind, but out of reach. I think he was also impressed by the progress the USN had made with developing the German Flying Bomb into the sophisticated submarine launched Regulus, however to quickly be abandoned when the first Polaris missile was fired from a submerged submarine. As I suggest above in Page 139 comment, this American Admiral's book is worth reading about Mountbatten and his close relationship with the USN. Appendix F

Throughout the book, the varying comments by different Flag Officer Submarines and other Admirals caused me to wonder if the turnover period for senior officers in the RN was too short and in similar positions in a large complex organisation, the senior management officers and their staff would remain in their positions for longer periods to the benefit of the organisation. Appendix A

Page 151. This is one of number of interesting pages mentioning the famous, some might say notorious, Admiral Hyman G Rickover USN. Director of the Naval Reactors Branch, and his contact with the RN. It crossed my mind again, that shortly after the war, the RN needed an Admiral such as this with a continuing appoIntment, to push forward the design and building of a new diesel submarine fleet to counter the large Soviet diesel submarine fleet.

Page 154 These are interesting pages of the mid-fifties with concerns about the success the Soviets had achieved with missile launching from a surfaced submarine, albeit only two or three missiles of relatively short range. April 1956, Krushchev, gave a speech at the RN College extolling the virtues of Soviet submarines. The same year the US Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Arleigh Burke, told a US reporter that, 'the Soviet submarine threat is tremendous just now. They are still building submarines at an unprecedented rate. Some will probably have guided missiles. We have to be able to meet the threat if war comes or we will be in big trouble'. RN FOSM Rear Admiral Woods, 1955-1957, was 'concerned that such decisions as had been reached on new submarine design and construction have been based on the fulfilment of present roles and priorities with the effort now available, rather than on the reassessment of the place of the submarine in the Fleet after full consideration of its greatly increased potential', he produces a comprehensive plan for the future that had little relevance to the older submarines of which he was actually commanding and also drafts a set of standing orders to supersede the Admiralty's 1948 directive to hunt and kill enemy submarines. He went on to draft further proposals for the future shown on Page 156-160. A snippet, he argued 'that the existing Porpoise Class design should be used as the basis for an improved diesel submarine, which could be designed cheaply and built quickly until sufficient numbers of nuclear submarines entered service'. Mountbatten agreed, but why didn't the author's of The Silent Deep, comment on why had it taken so many years to come to this obvious conclusion? Didn't this gazing towards the future strike the authors as odd? Look at the Submarine Fleet of which Woods been Admiral for 2 years. Still messing about with the HTP boats, a Porpoise Class yet to be actually finished and commissioned. The reader can see a description of his Fleet in Diesel Submarines 1948 - 1958. The Soviets had been seriously threatening from virtually the end of the war, while Admirals played with HTP and converted unsuitable submarines into Fast Battery, 14.9 knots for 20 minutes, and damned uncomfortable by any standard. Why didn't these incongruities strike the authors, who having earlier drawn attenion to these matters, often failed to critically comment on consequences of policies they have written about earlier ?

Pages 160-162. The tragic loss of HMS Sidon in 1955 is covered. The RN and its contractors didn't seem to have the skills to successfully put HTP into reliable service. On the other hand the Swedes in particular and the Soviets, developed successful HTP torpedoes, with the Swedes bringing out improved marks for the Swedish Navy and export. It is worthy of mention that the British produced a successful satellite launcher, the Black Arrow in the Sixties, that was fuelled with HTP.

Page 170-173. It is interesting to read these pages (and one must praise the authors' coverage), being about the British response to the nuclear SS Nautilus and recent exercises. There was no doubt the British were convinced that they had to have one (or more) and soon. Today, now the novelty has worn off and formerly costly nuclear SSN submarines are decommissioned awaiting removal and disposal of their reactors, some eyes are turning to the modern diesel-electric submarines in service around the world, that are more affordable. There can be no doubt the nuclear true submarine is vastly superior to the diesel-electric submersible on a one to one basis, but when considered on a fleet basis, if tactical missile weapon platforms are required in numbers simultaneously at different locations, the cost of the nuclear submarine surely becomes beyond national budgets. With, in any case, numbers built limited by the small number of specialised shipyards.

Page 273. After a number of interesting pages about the RNs nuclear programme, there are details about the conclusion of the 1956 submarine conference, of particular importance is the statement that the Porpoise Class design should be used as the basis of an improved class of conventional submarines known as the Oberon Class. The book goes on to tell us that in 1961, the Navy proposed that 43 submarines should be built to allow for modernization and refits. The Ministers agreed despite their obvious infatuation (my words) with the nuclear submarine that could not be built in fleet numbers due to cost and limited Yard facilities.

The Macmillian Government decided to stop construction of the O Class at 12, and quoting from the book, 'Turn over to an all nuclear building programme as fast as our finances allowed'. I leave the reader to ponder on this decision.

Page 276. The well known involvement of the Canadian based, Amphion Class RN Submarines, 6th Squadron, in the Cuban Missile Crisis 1962 is noted. HMS Astute and HMS Alderney. I draw the readers attention to the fact these two submarines, both completed in 1945, streamlining belatedly completed in 1958, were still performing useful service in the Cold War of 1962.

Page 277. Surveillance, this section of the book is quite interesting, mentioning HMS Astute, and HMS Alderney in barrier positions to observe the moverments of Soviet Submarines during the Cuba Crisis. Also mentioned is the Porpoise Class submarine HMS Sealion being forced to the surface by Soviet forces, pretty much the same story I mentioned earlier involving USS Gudgeon. End of Pages 97-110.. I can find no references to the Sealion incident, but the author's gives a TNA archive reference. 24 TNA/ADM/1/291149, CO HMS Onslaught to FOSNI. Operation Bargold Patrol Report 9th July 1963.

Also in this section Government doubts about the political dangers of submarine surveillance of the Red Navy are discussed. I have thought in old age, reading books like 'Blind Mans Bluff', that the gains compared to the risks were simply not worth it, especially if an SSN and crew were lost in these close encounters, simply by collision, not lethal weapons. There also seemed to be an element of unhealthy competitiveness between the Captains of USN nuclear submarines that dulled the senses of caution, the result being risks taken that seem hard to justify in retrospect. It appears the Captains of the RN SSN followed the same dangerous path. I also think the practice of taking a submarine under a Soviet warship and photographing the propellers using the periscope turned skywards, could surely have not brought Intel rewards that justified putting a submarine and crew at such risk, especially a nuclear submarine, irreplaceable for 4 to 5 years, then at enormous cost. Quite apart from the political issues.

Page 282. HMS Opportune (MoD archive), forced to the surface by Soviet forces after the battery was exhausted, 22nd June 1965. I have been advised by a crew member that this event occurred pretty much as described. When they finally surfaced after 35 hours, they were surrounded by Krivaks (Project 1135 Burevestnik Frigates) and a Sverdlov cruiser with guns pointing at them. Apparently the submarine's batteries were something of a disappointment and it is notable that in Oberon Appendix B, Dave Perkins makes it clear the VARTA cells were superior to other makes. Again a similar story to that of the USS Gudgeon, 1957, in the book Blind Mans Bluff, the only full account I have been able to find.

Page 285-287. Indonesian Conflict 1963-1966, the anonymous 'Linguist' extract Appendix h is likely be in reference to operations in this period. I have a personal note from a senior rating who was based in the Far East and supplied, fitted and tested equipment for these 'mystery' trips, but didn't go on them. He told me he often bought civilian radio and recording equipment, from outside the UK. Sadly he passed away some time ago.

Page 338 The adoption the USN Dolphin submarine insignia, restyled by the RAN, seems to me to symbolise the Americanisation of the RN Submarine Service. Admiral Mendenhall USN (ret) in his book 'Submarine Diary: The Silent Stalking of Japan', that gives a day to day account of life on a USN Fleet submarine in WW2 when the Admiral was a young Executive Officer, apparently now the title of the second in command of RN Submarines, rather than 1st Lieutenant as in the past. The crew qualification process he describes seems very similar to the current RN process that I had read about in various books and articles. A process that seems quite different to previous submarine training, say in 1949, when all ratings had been previously trained to serve in any ship in the Fleet, as say Stoker Mechanics or Seaman with non-substantive ratings indicating specialisation, say in ASDIC. If one volunteered for submarines and was drafted to the S/m base Dolphin, you first had to pass the DSEA (escape) course, then attend the Submarine School for a course covering the general aspects of a submarine. If one was an electrical rating there was a short extra course on the electric systems and so on. As I recall the main course was about 4 to 6 weeks. Then within a month I was drafted to Artemis as additional to the electrical staff. I served watches with one of the Electrician's Mates in the motor room, operating the electrical propulsion motor controls as commanded from the Control Room by telegraphs.

After some months I was told I would be keeping watches on my own, and that was that. I assume though I was not told, that the Electrician and the 1st Lt reviewed my progress and made the decision. Any future training for promotion was confined to General Service courses at the Portsmouth Electrical school with no submarine content, except a useful course on Gyro compasses. It should be made clear that I initially volunteered for 3 years and renewed this when the time elapsed, however my long term future, had I stayed in the Navy would have been in positions in General Service with greater management responsibilities in the Electrical Branch. However the new Electrical Branch of 1948 disappeared in the Sixties and now we have long acronyms for ratings with various specialities that seem to indicate a mixing of branch skills that I frankly don't fully understand and I doubt I would have found satisfactory from a career point of view.

Today the submarine training situation seems to be quite different from my experience, first changing at a time when diesel submarines still formed a major part part of the RN Submarine fleet. Apparently after the submarine school, one serves a year in a submarine then has to pass a verbal (or so I believe) exam as did the USN crew of many years ago. There are probably other significant changes in what has now become the prominent branch of the RN, that I suggest will also have similar practices to those of US Navy. One wistful comment, I liked the romantic, Kiplingesque 'Flotilla' rather than the use of Squadron, another US Navy. term, that came into use with NATO. We were flotillas of small ships with perhaps a very different approach than today's nuclear submarines that are more like capital ships and cost as much. On another tack, I find in various biographies about the careers of officers of Submarine Commander and above, that quite a number as part of their service in the RN, have spent time in the USN. Perhaps there has been an inevitable, drastic change in the culture in the RN Submarine Service, since WW2 to the present day and comparisons serve no purpose.

Page 339 Artemis was my first submarine and I have many good memories from my time on her through 1950. When one considers the numerous times submarines refuelled with no problems, this was a remarkable event, that one RN Submarine skipper has been quoted as saying, 'it changed the RN Submarine Service and took away much of the relaxed atmosphere of earlier times'. The Electrical Manual for the Amphion Class in discussing the levels of the battery tanks in regard to detecting leaking acid, says the usual stern trim in harbour causes the acid to accumulate at the after end of the tank. Thus normal trim had the aft down and I cannot recall the after escape hatch ever being open in harbour, only the more forward engine room hatch and both were in view from the motor room, my station. Yet apparently, open it was on the day Artemis sank.

Page 535, 582, 584

The last RN Oberon Class boats were decommissioned in 1993 with the first submarine of new diesel Upholder Class commissioned 1988, but strictly speaking the Upholder Class was not conceived as a direct successor to the Oberon Class. Like the US. Navy, the RN was to be an all-nuclear navy, but apparently to compensate for the slow rate of building SSN nuclear submarines and the need to replace SSBN. It was decided to build and and commission the diesel Upholder Class, but after a period of mainly successful service (ref, Commander Powys RN, (ret) in Upholders to Canada), production stopped at four submarines that were laid up, to be eventually sold to the RCN where they have not had a happy time; well reported in the Canadian media. The political history of this class seems to be well covered in the book, though mention might well have been made of the adoption of a modified hull of tear-drop shape originally developed by the David Taylor Model Basin, USN, built as the trials submarine USS Albacore. More detail on the original design is available from the book 'Concepts In Submarine Design that I believe should have been acknowledged by the authors of The Silent Deep', also see my article on Upholder Propulsion, section 2.

As already mentioned, the USN brought into service three Barbel Class 1959 700ft, 6 tubes forward, 24 knots, 30 minutes submerged. The first diesel class with the Albacore hull, though apparently successful with long service, no more were built in line with the probably flawed policy of only building nuclear submarines in the future, thus limiting the US submarine building yards to two. It has been suggested the Barbel Class design data was passed to the Netherlands and Japan and formed the basis of their future diesel submarine designs.

It is worth noting that the last three of the four Upholder Class were built in Cammel Laird's yard (then owned by Vickers who largely designed built the first of class known as '2400'), a yard that had no capability to build nuclear submarines, unlike the shipyard of Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering, Ltd (VSEL), now BAE Systems Submarines.

This limited capacity and length of time to build nuclear SSN would surely mean that if a future sea war broke out, any lost SSN would not be replaced within any reasonable time frame?

From here on apart from Page 688, the book, though mainly outside my field of study, is interesting covering nuclear submarines and the politics involved in the building and deployment, though I was disappointed that the book doesn't contain any explanation, that while the USN fitted and continue to fit Tomahawk type missile launchers in their SSN submarines

Fig 7: USS Santa Fe, SS 763 with VLS Doors open
Fig 7: USS Santa Fe, SS 763 with VLS Doors open

commencing with USS Providence (SSN-719) commissioned in 1985 and the RN SSN have not. Apparently meaning all missiles have to be stored in the torpedo stowage space with less reload torpedoes carried and the missiles fired from the four torpedo tubes. And the USN has progressed, discarding the earlier single missile launching tubes and adopting vertical silos that have seven missiles that appear to be similar to the USS Ohio, an SSBN converted to SSGN, with each of the original ICBM silos refitted to hold and fire seven Tomahawk missiles. The way forward in the USN, but not the RN. I acknowledge this is a complicated business, based on an overall weapon policy and note the new USN Virginia class of SSN, while having the vertical missile launchers only has four torpedo tubes compared to the nuclear, HMS Astute Class SSN that has six torpedo tubes, but I think an informed chapter on this topic would have been of broad interest. A few more pages would have made little difference in this already large book, The Silent Deep.

Page 688. The detail given regarding the RN's Converted S Class high speed target submarine can only be said to be confused. The 1948 HMS Scotsman in my article on the Scotsman Trials was a totally different conversion than the 1944 HMS Seraph and her following sisters. The reference to a single, small Paxman diesel generating set (actually one of the type used in the WW2 U Class and V Class in pairs.) applies only to the Scotsman, that normally relied on a companion conventional diesel submarine to charge her batteries using large electrical cables to connect the two submarines together. The Seraph and sisters were left basically 'as-built', with external streamlining, T Class screws and increased capacity batteries in the original size cases. The First of Class trial data for the Seraph conversion can be seen in Fig 6 of my article along with the official descriptions of the conversion detail. The S Class as-built before WW2, had 6 reloadable tubes forward, later during the war, a single non-reloadable stern tube was added aft.

Page 689. The detail on this page for the diesel Amphion Class is misleading, designed and built to meet the needs of WW2, they had 4 reloadable tubes forward and two aft. In addition were two non-reloadable tubes forward outside the pressure hull, inside the casing, similarly two aft. after the war progressively these external tubes were removed, this before the streamlining program later in the fifties, where any remaining external tubes were removed. Notably the gun mount under casing remained and in the Indonesian Confrontation, 1963 66mm guns were refitted to the Amphion Class submarines involved. It should be mentioned large engines of this class each had a super charger (Rootes Blower type) that could be clutched in for more power, with surface speeds of 18.5 knots. I suggest that the design was influenced in principle, if not detail, by the thinking involved in the 1924 Overseas Patrol Submarine that served in the Far East between the wars. As covered in Chapter 14 of BR3043

Incorrect technical detail is not uncommon in Naval History books of the type, in 'The Silent Deep' for example, one of the acknowledged reference books is 'Submarine Design and Development' by the esteemed US Naval author, Dr Norman Friedman, quite a number of well-known authors etc. Unfortunately he made a serious error in regard to the British Amphion Class on page 66 of his book. 'Another major surviving wartime class, the large Amphion Class, was also rebuilt. It was long enough to fit enlarged batteries, and reportedly the original motors were not replaced. Like the fast T Class, the rebuilt Amphion Class had an underwater speed of 15 knots and a much reduced torpedo battery of six tubes'. The facts are that the Amphion Class were not re-built as can be seen in the preserved HMS Alliance at the RN Submarine Museum at Gosport. Like other RN classes, external tubes were removed, but the four forward and two aft internal reloadable torpedo tubes remained as they were in the original build. Later no extra space was created for more batteries, but as was the practice of day, the electrical capacity was increased by about 10%, but in the same volume cell cases with which they were first fitted by using thinner lead plates. This was costly as it also shortened the 'whole of service' life. The electric motors were actually quite small at 625shp each. Certainly the external casing was streamlined and the old style conning tower replaced with a fin, but the pressure hull remained as built. The maximum submerged speed shown in the Admiralty Particulars of Vessels 1958 as 10 knots, an increase from First of Class trial speed of 8 knots, probably due more to streamlining, than the modest increase in power.

Until the Porpoise Class appeared in 1958, the 15 submarines of the Amphion Class fleet were the most modern in the RN, apart from the eight older, but extended T Class. In terms of assessing the abilities of the Submarine Fleet of the RN from 1945 until 1958, this error by Dr Friedman would be quite misleading.

Page 690, The T Class (1945) sketch fails to show the two external amidships tubes previously pointing forward, nor are they mentioned. They were changed to facing aft to best meet the needs determined by the Captains early war experiences from 1939 onwards. They were refitted just aft of the conning tower, set at a fixed angle. One of the prominent features of the post-war group 3 T Class. All T Class had 6 reloadable tubes forward, none aft. There were one external tube aft and two forward, the latter often seen removed post WW2.

Two lists on this page are said to show T Class all good for 350ft. This not correct some are part weld/part rivet good for 300ft.

Page 691. The data on the streamlined T Class SSK is incorrect in that the first two were part welded/part riveted, rated at 300ft, while the other three were all-welded and rated for 350ft.

The reporting of the extension dimension data for the converted T Class is confused, these submarines can be divided into two groups of four, the Particulars of Ships 1958 gives a submerged displacement of 1699 tons for the first group, each with a 12ft. extension to the engine room and gives 1739 tons for the second group of four with a more complex extension of 17ft 6in, giving an extra 14ft. to the engine room and an extra 3ft. 6in, to the control room. The last two in the program having the conning position moved up to the top of the fin. All eight are rated at 15 knots submerged in the 1958 Particulars of Vessels.

As an aside these annual POV documents, these eight extended T Class submarines along with the Porpoise Class, were stated as being 'Intermediate Submarine (B)' while the five streamlined T Class were stated as being 'Submersible (Snort fitted), Streamlined'. One would reasonably expect the streamlined Amphion Class to be similarly described, but no, they were stated as being 'Submersible, (Snort fitted), the same as the unmodified T Class. however I would not be surprised if later editions of the annual POV documents added 'streamlined' to the Amphion Class. Keeping the detail of the vessels of the RN fleet up to date on an annual basis, must have been quite a task.

Page 692. Porpoise Class/Oberon Class in addition to the 6 21in forward tubes had two short 21in tubes aft, though not external, as in older classes that were not reloadable. They were originally fitted as anti-submarine torpedoes, but became obsolete as more sophisticated torpedoes became available for the forward tubes. The Porpoise Class deep diving depth was 500ft. plus, Not 150ft, with the Oberon Class 700ft. The Particulars of Vessels 1959. Porpoise Class, Clean temperate waters, 6 months out of dock, 6000hp, Submerged Full speed 17 knots.

The last Canadian and Australian Oberon Class were decommissioned about 2000.


Appendix A

Royal Navy Flag Officer Submarines (FOSM) 1944-1961. In effect the Submarine Service had nine Chief Executives in that period. On average each at serving two years. And during this period there were organisational changes that in varying ways, that effected every submariner. In addition the politician that Admiralty and its successor in the Ministry of Defence answered to, rarely stayed in that particular office for very long.

It is difficult to see how this constant state of management change can have benefitted the Royal Navy and submarines in particular. I should point all these men had exemplary reputations as officers in the Submarine Service at war and as leaders of the Service. My question is more in relation to long term submarine construction policy. I note USN Submarine Admirals of similar operational status, served for similar periods as those on the RN list.

  • Rear-Admiral George Creasy (1944-1946)
  • Vice-Admiral Sir John Mansfield (1946-1948)
  • Rear-Admiral Guy Grantham (1948-1950)
  • Rear-Admiral Sydney Raw (1950-1952)
  • Rear-Admiral George Simpson (1952-1954)
  • Rear-Admiral George Fawkes (1954-1955)
  • Rear-Admiral Wilfrid Woods (1955-1957)
  • Rear-Admiral Bertram Taylor (1957-1959)
  • Rear-Admiral Arthur Hezlet (1959-1961)

Appendix B

Dave Perkins served in both the RN and RCN and in retirement became a submarine author, producing articles and books, sadly he died rather early in retirement.

His reply to my question, That I understood that most boats prior to the P Class, O Class and the Skate class nuclear attack boats were noisy for a lot of reasons. Casing rattles, propellers, hull cavitation etc, so yes, over about 7 kts was noisy. Since then they have become very quiet, even at speed.

When we (a 1970s Canadian O-boat) used speed to gain a favourable attacking position, and it wasn't an unusual thing to do, we did it well beyond easy acoustic detection range. Usually we located the 'enemy' using long range sonar, confirmed their presence using ECM etc, plotted their course, extrapolated a favourable attacking zone then went deep and fast (10-12kts) to where we wanted to be. Our O-boats were very quiet in their day and had a decent battery (German VARTA). Sometimes it didn't work, but more often it worked very well. The big snag was that it left you with a badly depleted battery after the attack so if there was a well directed counter attack you were in for it. I remember once we struggled on for two days before finally giving up, we had no power and no air to breathe either. Bad scene all round.

The Yanks loved 'playing' with us because we frequently penetrated their AS screen to attack the primary asset. We were pretty good at getting away too. Let's face it, a super- carrier was worth an O- boat any day. However, we also learned that a screen of experienced AS assets (Can, USN or RN) was almost impossible to penetrate and en 'fatal'.

Stern shots became unnecessary once it was possible to set a torpedo to run along any course on the compass. This was possible (with some limitations) even with Mk 8**. Stern torpedo tubes then became simply another tube from which to eject a weapon. From Mk 20 onwards gyro angling was connected by the umbilical straight to fire control so was integral to the launching solution. The big snag was to protect the firing submarine from a circular run and from becoming a valid target to your own torpedo. These problems were easily solved and from then on the attitude of the launcher became irrelevant.

Nevertheless, I've personally experienced a circular running Mk. 8 on Scythian and was hit by one of our own Mk. 20s on Alliance. I ran a torpedo performance analysis service at CANSUBRON ONE for a while and analysed some really weird runs with the Mk. 37 Mod NC O/1 torpedoes which taught me that things could, and would, go awry.

Dave Perkins, 19 November 2004.

Appendix C

Dear Peter

Thank you very much for getting in touch with me, and please forgive me for the long delay in my response. My only, feeble, excuse is that my ageing computer has been playing up and is onIy just back in service.

I am very happy to pass on to you my thoughts about the huge advances in performance, particularly in submerged speed and endurance, and also in acoustic quietness which were made in the RN's Porpoise/Oberon class submarines when they came into service in the RN in the 1960s. They were also operational in the Brazilian and Argentinian navies and were in service until the turn of the century.

Of course, the 1960s saw the entry into service of nuclear-steam propelled submarines, which are not generally as quiet as the Oberons, but have virtually unlimited range, endurance, as well as massive armament.

Nonetheless, the Oberons were remarkable, not only for their extremely long range and endurance (in the region of 5,000 nautical miles), but also for their very high levels of acoustic quietness, plus a very reasonable level of crew comfort.

Their acoustic quietness (i.e. their very low self-noise levels) was largely due to their twin-screw configuration, with the propellers rotating in undisturbed water.

This is in marked contrast with virtually all modern nuclear and non-nuclear submarines, which have the single-screw configuration, where the propeller rotates in water that has been disturbed by movements of the submarine's after hydroplanes and rudder, thereby generating acoustic noise.

In the late winter of 1965, I was fortunate enough to be in command of Opossum for a 5 week expedition to the Arctic, operated under the ice off NW Greenland and Spitzbergen. I think it demonstrated the remarkable capability, range and reliability of the class design.

I hope this is of some use to you, Peter.

Yours ever,

Bill Owen

Captain RAN rtd.

Authors Note. I have added the following notes to expand on this 1965 scientific expedition to the Arctic that emphasises the confidence Admiralty of 1965 had in the Oberon Class and Porpoise Class of diesel submarine.

Report of HMS/m OPOSSUM on Exercise PORTENT (Arctic trials) 1965 Mar 26 available at The National Archive.

Here is an extract describing in part, a lecture given by Captain Owen at the Australian National Museum

In this lecture, Captain Bill Owen recollects his experiences in command of a British Oberon class submarine, HMS Opossum, in which he undertook an expedition under the Arctic ice-cap in the early northern spring of 1965 (in conjunction with another similar submarine, HMS Finwhale). The objectives of this expedition included the acquisition of under-ice bathymetric data and the development of techniques for collaborative under-ice operations by two submarines.

Captain Owen gives an overview of the geography and oceanography of the arctic and describes the structure, the seasonal nature and the movement of the floating ice-cap. He also outlines the history of arctic exploration over the past four centuries - referring to Nansen's epic voyage in the 'Fram' in 1893-96 and leading up to under-ice voyages of nuclear-propelled submarines, initiated in 1958 by Anderson's pioneering polar transit in the USS Nautilus. He also refers to the notable under-ice polar survey undertaken by McLaren in the USS Queenfish in 1970.

He then outlines the capabilities and characteristics of diesel-electrically-propelled submarines like Opossum, as well as the special equipment installed to facilitate under-ice operations.

He covers the three phases of the 1965 expedition in Opossum, which took place in the area between Greenland and Spitzbergen (Svarlbad), and discusses the environmental and navigational problems associated with operating this type of submarine close to and under the ice. He outlines the techniques for static diving and surfacing in the patches of thinner ice or open water (found right across the arctic) and describes, with photographs, the appearance of pack ice as seen from underneath.

He concludes by referring to the effects on the arctic environment of the period of global atmospheric warming which occurred from the early 1970s to the late 1990s. He notes that this warming period had followed a period of global atmospheric cooling from the early 1940s to the early 1970s, which would account for the quite severe ice conditions encountered by Opossum and Finwhale in 1965. He reflects on the difficulty of assessing the comparative effects on global atmospheric temperatures of (a) changes in the level of atmospheric carbon-dioxide and (b) changes in the received level of solar radiation.

Appendix D

Global Gravity Observation. HMS Acheron.

This is a brief note about gravity observations that were made by means of the Vening Meinesz pendulum apparatus aboard the British submarine HMS Acheron in 1959.

The Dutch physicist Dr. Vening Meinesz, traveled on a number of long cruises in Dutch submarines starting with HNLMS KII in 1923), recording the earth’s gravity with a pendulum instrument. The device would not work on a rocking ship, but the undersea craft furnished a stable platform. He completed his last cruise in 1939, but his students continued after WW2. HMS Acheron set out on a six-month world cruise in 1955, carrying Lt J C Harrison, RNVR and a pendulum apparatus to make gravity surveyin the South Atlantic and Indian oceans. Harrison, a Doctor of Philosophy, previously operated gravity surveys in US submarines off California. One chore of HMS Acheron's, was a contribution to the great international scientific effort centered on the Geophysical Year 1957.

HMS Acheron, painted black with pennant number. The unusual vertical extension above the as-built gun tower hatch is thought to be a housing for scientific eqiupment as described above concreneing measurement of global gravity. The officer is thought to be Lt J C Harrision RNVR, a prominent Geophyscist, who judging by his medals served in WW2.
HMS Acheron, painted black with pennant number. The unusual vertical extension above the as-built gun tower hatch is thought to be a housing for scientific eqiupment as described above concreneing measurement of global gravity. The officer is thought to be Lt J C Harrision RNVR, a prominent Geophyscist, who judging by his medals served in WW2.

Appendix E

From Pensioner Jan 22nd 2011 responding to a discussion on Amphion Class depth on the Barrow Submariners Forum. Pensioner being a retired submarine CPO.

Sorry Peter, but the Amphion Class deep dive boats when first built was 750 feet. How do I Know, it is the old story 'been there, done that'. I was given a pier head jump to the Amphion (the first A Boat) 14th September, 1946 to take it out to Hong Kong as part of the re-formed 4th Submarine Flotilla. Soon after our arrival we did a deep dive off HK. I was the Control Room Messenger and kept the Log and recorded it all at every 100ft. We had no problems whatsoever. The Captain was LCDR 'Paddy' Gowan, the 1st Lieut, Lt John Coote and the Engineer Officer was Lt Rabbit. Probably over the years as the boats became older they reduced the deep dive depth

Appendix F

These notes are merely to give the reader some idea of the scope of the development of submarine sonar after WW2 in the USN, based on captured German sonar to enable comparison with the RN where so little changed in the active submarines until towards the 1960's.

Hackmann doesn't overburden his readers with too much information on submarine ASDIC and some of it raises date queries, but referring to USN sources, Captain Alden USN (ret) 'The Fleet Submarine in the US Navy', the GATO class, USS Grouper in 1951 SSK conversion was basically experimental. She was fitted with AN/BQR-3 conformal array of hydrophones around the forward end of the conning tower (sail). Grouper was SSK 1, the much improved SSK II had the long range sonar fitted in a blunt-ended nose section. Two tube were removed to enable this. These boats were extensively 'quieted'.

Admiral Galantin reports the three small specially built SSK had a large bow structure 'enclosing the many sensitive line hydrophones of the passive sonar placed there to remove them as far as possible from the ships own machinery noise'. He goes on, This sonar BQR-4 was an improved version of the sonar the Germans were installing in the their submarines at war's end. The intention was to build hundreds of these small boats and swamp the enemy, they proved too small and noisy when snorting (an idea before its time).

In January 1949 the USN assigned one division in each Fleet with the sole task of solving the problems using submarine to detect and destroy enemy submarines. See Figure 6. Submarine Development Group Two consisting of four submarine was created at the base in New London. Direct liaison with Naval Underwater Sound Laboratory and other technical facilities was authorised. An RN submarine exchange officer, Lt Cmdr A M B Buxton was assigned this group in 1955 as operational analyst and the post has been filled continuously to mutual US/UK advantage ever since.

In 1953 Admiral I J Galantin USN (ret), in his book 'Submarine Admiral - From Battlewagons to Ballistic MissilesThe Silent Deep, 1995', tells of taking charge of Submarine Squadron Seven based at Pearl Harbor among other older submarines were the new K Class, a small purpose built anti-submarine class, that was intended by its sponsor Admiral Momsen to be built in numbers, but proved impractical for lengthy patrols. The K Class were fitted with very effective sonar developed from the German installed in the captured German XXI. This sonar was the BQR4, (see note below) consisted of many sensitive line microphones for passive listening place at the bow, far away from the submarine's machinery and covered by a large fairing

Admiral Galatin was most impressed, recalling his own experiences as submarine commander in WW2, where off Japan he could see through his periscope, ships not 1500 yards away, yet not hear them on the sonar, while in the K Class he was amazed to be able to detect and track ships at a range of 105 miles. He comments that submarines were a more elusive target, but these too were being detected at thousands of yards instead of hundreds as formerly.

The BQR4 was an enlarged US development of the BRQ3 developed by the firm EDO for the USN from the design of the German GHG passive sonar as fitted in Type XXI.

The USN also put a place a program to convert six WW2 Fleet Submarine into, submarine killers with the advent of the nuclear submarine, these USN declared ceased the specialised conversion declaring that all submarines would have the anti-role as part of their general purpose. For full details of the SSK program refer to Commander Halden's book below. Though had the need arisen, they were not effectively armed for the role, as I have already pointed out, but more as detectors of Soviet snorting submarines.

The development of the torpedo in the post war period to about 1960 is described here by the Historic Naval Ships Association. As in the RN progress in submarine torpedo development that matched the progress in sonar detection, was slow.

JT Sonar. further to Pages 75-76. The MagnetoStriction hydro phones mounted in a 5ft. long rotating T shape on the fore casing as seen in the 'Truncheon' photograph. Magnetostriction was not new to the RN in surface set development, but submarine 129/138 quartz crystal sets continued, usually referred to as 'Searchlight' sets. I heard the JT sonar was removed and was stored at Dolphin for a while, never to be heard of again in the RN. USN manuals on the web today have the complete detail of this set. Post war, the JT sonar was re-designated as BQR2. The report on the Alcide versus Truncheon trials, seems in indicate there was not a lot of difference between the performance the Type 129 ASDIC and the JT sonar. Extract from 1950 report: (b) Periscope depth was maintained and if it was possible to keep trim at 2 to 3 knots. As soon as greater speeds were necessary for this the boat was taken to 80ft, previous experience having discovered that the JT Sonar was not efficient at periscope depth when proceeding at more than 2 to 3 knots

In May 1942 U-570 was captured by the British. The submarine's ELAC equipment was thoroughly analysed.

USN Guppy Submarine Conversions 1947-1954

For a complete guide to the USN WW2 Fleet Submarine including post war conversions, see the book by Commander Halden USN (ret), 'The Fleet Submarine in the US Navy'. A most interesting book.

Appendix G

BIDDER 21in Mark 20 (S), S for submarines, E for escort use where it proved to be unsatisfactory, due to battery damage caused by the impact of launching from deck level into the sea.

Royal Navy Torpedo Factory and Torpedo Experimental Establishment design, it was likely a development of the German G7es (T5) 'Zaunkönig', an acoustic torpedo employed by German U-Boats during World War II. It was called the GNAT (German Navy Acoustic Torpedo) by the British. Alan Burn frequently refers to the Gn7es 'gnat' torpedoes as a major threat to the convoy escorts in his book 'The Fighting Captain' the story of Frederic Walker RN CB DSO & the Battle of the Atlantic. To combat these torpedos, the British introduced a towed lure, code name 'Foxer' that made more noise then the screws of the escort or merchant ship. The USN introduced their own version FXR.

USN anecdote: During a U-Boat torpedo attack a sonar-man picked up the distinctive hiss of an approaching fish. 'I ran out on the bridge to prepare for an explosion. I looked over the side in time to see the torpedo streak on by about 10 feet away from the hull! An order had been given to stream FXR, and sure enough the torpedo headed for it and blew up well astern.' Rocky Schoenrock, Sonar-man, USS Inch (DE-146)

Bidder specification

  • In service 1955-1980s
  • Designed circa 1950
  • Weight 1,810 lb (821 kg)
  • Length 6.46 m
  • Diameter 21in
  • Warhead weight 196lb (89kg)
  • Engine electric - quieter, though much slower than the Mk VIII, the basic RN torpedo using a burner-cycle engine that was in effect a semi-diesel
  • Propellant battery - this limits endurance.
  • Range 12,000 yards (11,000m)
  • Speed 20 knots
  • Guidance system - passive sonar - the GNAT had two Magnetostriction Hydrophones.

Authors note: Point Contact Transistor 1948. Integrated Circuit 1958, I assume the passive electronics were valve based 1950-1955. I recall the large battery chargers in the fore ends of HMS Amphion, 1953, but no recollection of their being used.

Appendix H

The rise of underwater intelligence gathering and reconnaissance, The Silent Deep, page 94-97.

World Naval Ships Forums, anonymous anecdote extracts, gratefully acknowledged.


We regularly went out on three month, (90 day) patrols on HMS Walrus from Faslane in the late 50's early 60's and I bet they were much harder on us then than patrols are today on those huge, comfortable nukes. These were basically wartime patrols. Our patrols usually started early in the morning from Faslane, the 3rd. Submarine Squadron, located in the Gareloch off the river Clyde in the West of Scotland. We'd proceed down the Gareloch, through Rhu Narrows and into the Clyde. A turn to starboard and we headed south, leaving Gourock to port and Dunoon to starboard, headed for 'The Cumbraes'. Once clear of Little Cumbrae, we would dive to periscope depth and commence snorting. The next time we surfaced we were back in the Clyde, just south of the Cumbraes, dirty, smelly, probably somewhat thinner and certainly with very sore ears.

Our first inkling of a pending 'sneaky-beaky' patrol, as we knew them, was when, as the electronics engineer on board, I had to remove the two emergency radio beacons from their places in the casing. We would also strip out the radar and most of the radio transmitting equipment, to be replaced with huge amounts of electronic listening and data recording equipment. We also took on a huge amount of extra food, mainly tinned and dehydrated, which rapidly formed a 'second deck' along all the passages, greatly reducing the already tight headroom.


Well that was part of the personal recollections of a qualified submariner, but in our case we were neither qualified submariners nor were did we have regular use of 'P' or 'O' boats, since we were operating principally in Amphion Class boats until the Oberon arrived on station, but yet our patrol using her was immediately followed 2 days later back in an Amphion Class boat for a full duration patrol 'to finish off the job' so to speak

Since the team usually operated as such, all five of us would cross the trot together onto whichever one was the nominated boat and off we would jolly well go 'for the duration'.

And so if my memory serves correctly, we definitely completed five full operational patrols. It transpires therefore, that each of us in the team notched up an individual total of 450 days or 64 weeks dived in a 22 month or 94 week period after completing the 2nd part of our language course.

Nobody offered us £3000 so it wasn't a bad effort for non-submariners.

On our return to UK we joined up with the other linguists in our branch (before we re-qualified in another language) and most of us continued with similar patrols.


1 comment

All 4 A-boats in Singapore 1962 – 1965 had Sonar 186. (I was Outside Killick then Stoker PO in Amphion, Skipper was LtCdr 'Ahab' Andrews). I assumed most A-boats had them? We exercised in the South China Sea a lot, going round in very big circles at 3 knots listening, sweating cobs. No aircon on. Battery over 115degF and gassing. No smoking. No cooking. We did have Hydrogen Eliminators in the overheads. CO2 up but we couldn’t run the CO2 absorption units in Ultra Quiet. Oxygen Candles were burnt. Surfaced at 2300 to 0400 every day with brief spells in the fin for a breather and a fag. Oz boats and skimmers were transiting the areas for us to listen for and Oz Nimrods (?) were trying to find us.
   Keith Hallam Thu, 18 Jan 2018

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Upholder/Victoria Class Propulsion