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Appendix to the Affray - Subsmash Commentary

With acknowledgements for research advice to John Eade and David Hill.

When I first reviewed the book Subsmash by Alan Gallop, one of the key points that caught my attention was the reproduction of Commander Edward Stanley's evidence given at the "Inquiry into the loss of HMS Affray", that strongly contradicted my own experience and criticised the senior officers of Affray. It s important to consider, that few will read the actual archived Affray Inquiry documents, but the book Subsmash exposes them to quite a wide public.

Also see Commentary on The Silent Deep Pages 97-110 for more detail about the duties of the Electrician, the Petty Officer in charge of the electrical ratings etc, on Royal Navy Submarines of the A class. It will be useful later in the appendix to note that prior to the formation of the Electrical Branch in the RN, a submarine Electrician (a Petty Officer) was classified as a Seaman Petty Officer with a non-substantive rating of Leading Torpedo Operator, his staff being Leading Seamam: LTO and two Able Seaman LTO

In adition we carried another Petty Officer, the Radio Electrician who maintained the Radar gear, also a member of the new Electrical Branch; he also carried a watch keeping duty as Petty Officer of the Watch in the control room, along with the Electrical Articifer, the Chief Stoker Mechanic, the 2nd Coxswain, but here memory fails, perhaps the PO Stoker Mechanic or the senior Torpedo PO. It might well have varied a little from one submarine to another, but never the Electrician in my experience, and always the EA.

On my first submarine HMS Artemis, the Electrician and the Leading Electrician's Mate and the two Electricians Mate 1st class, had all formerly been LTO ratings and changed in 1949. I was the only Electrician's Mate 1st class who had been recruited directly from civilian life in 1948 and trained in the Electrical Branch with no serious training in Seamanship, in fact in our intial disciplinary training class, were stokers and shipwrights. Later in this appendix, the reader will understand my emphasising, that in the 1949 document, the reference to POLTO in 1949 applied equally to the Electrician in 1950. Some trivia; the crew continued to use casual title "POLTO" when referring to the Petty Officer rating officially rated as the Electrician. I also beleive this casual title POLTO is still used for certain ratings in the RN nuclear submarines of today. However turning to the purpose of this appendix, it is primarily intended to draw attention to the serious conflict between Commander Stanley's evidence given at the Affray Inquiry 1951 and the copy of an aging document from 1949, recently supplied to me from the RN Submarine Archives, an accurate typescript copy of which follows a copy of Commander Stanley's evidence given to the Inquiry into the loss of HMS Affray taken from Alan Gallop's popular book, that I have no reason to suppose is incorrect in any way. He quotes the important evidence of other witnesses that I also believe is accurate.

Page 124 - SUBSMASH book.

Commander Edward Stanley, Commander (Submarines) at HMS Dolphin in April 1951, was called to the stand. (He followed Captain SM 5, HMS DOLPHIN)

QUESTION: Can you confirm that there was sufficient DSEA apparatus on board for everyone ?

COMMANDER STANLEY: Yes sir. I know there were more sets on board than men.

QUESTION: Do you know why the electrical artificer was left behind?

COMMANDER STANLEY: I was rather surprised at him being selected to stay behind, sir. I can only assume the first lieutenant or commanding offficer was very confident of the state of their electrical equipment.

About 18 months ago, a trial was made running submarines without electrical artificers.Two submarines in a relatively bad state were selected and it was considered that the extra work which came to the Flottilla Electrical Workshop made it undesirable to dispense with electrical artificers. An electrical artificer is essentially borne for repair duties and frequently does not have a job on watch and probably for this reason he could be dispensd with.

Page 125 - Chief Petty Offcer Francis Gordon Selby, an Insructor was next to be called forward, he didn't go with the class in Affray due to being taken sick.

And there the matter has lain, until recently when George Malcomson, formly archivist Royal Navy Submarine, kindly send me a copy of a faded, yellowed page of type script that I have copied as accurately as possible, there is just one word I cannot make out as it is too blurred.

RNSM file A1983/093: supplied by George Malcomson, Curator (Archives & Images) National Museum of Royal Navy (formerly archivist RN Submarine Museum) to Peter Hulme, 18/10/2019


Appendix II to Flag Officer, Submarines' Memorandum No. SM4018/777 dated 1st March, 1949

1. "The news that in future there will be no EA in submarines crew will be sadly received by many. The EA was much more than his name implies; he was often "the most useful man in the boat". Who will now dry out the binoculars, and make the new aid to plotting instruments that ingenious Captains so often devised? As one famous Submariner said when describing his pearl among EAs. "Of course he's no good at electrics; the POLTO knows far more about them, but he can strip a 3" gun breech in the dark, and makes lovely ash trays and things!" Which remark, of course, lends weight to the logic of the EAs removal.

2. It may be that the electrical duties of the EA will indeed be adequately performed by the new (L) branch ratings. After all in U class there was no EA and their no less complicated electrics ran well, managed by the TI and Leading Seaman LTO Small scale fittings too, if any be needed, could perhaps be done by the ERAs, though one is reminded of the saying, "less than 5/8ths an EAs job!"

3. But when comes to having ERAs. actually forsaking unclear and for the admittedly purely engineering problems of tube maintenance then a real advance has been made. From here it is, but a short step to revoke the policy that needs a man in a sweater to keep the air out of the Exactor gear, and allow instead the man who keeps the air out of every other fluid container in the boat to include the tube firing gear in his routine job.

4. Proper tube Maintenance is vital. Perhaps as much as any single technical factor, (except torpedo preparation), it spelt the difference between success and failure in attack, particularly in the early years of this war, when the maintenance requirements of long patrols had not been fully realised. Therefore, it should be in every Captain's Standing Orders that the "familiarised" ERA should get his tubes right to the satisfaction of the Torpedo Officer daily, weekly, monthly, or quarter, before popping of to make an extra hand in the engine room.

5. Further, seems that a strong case could be made to extend the Engineer Officer's responsibilities to include the maintenance of all torpedo tubes and associated gear.

Authors Note: I believe "man a sweater" refers to a Seaman Torpedoman wearing a standard issue submarine sweater, who with other Seamen Torpedomen man the torpedo tubes and maintain the torpedoes, under the direction of the TI (Torpdeo Instructor) and the Seaman Torpedo Officer. I do not know what "familiarised" ERA (Engine Room Articifer) means, but submarines of my time had an ERA who specialised in the maintenance of equipment outside the engine room and in particular operated the blowing panel and hydraulic main vents in the control room and was referred to as the Outside ERA. Elsewhere I make reference to the Petty Officer of the watch. In the event the Officer of the Watch on the bridge, orders 'DIVE' (aircraft and the like) then this Petty Offficer amongst other duties, most importantly opens the hydraulically operated main vents, usually before further panel action is required the Outside ERA will have taken over the panel responding to orders from the Captain. My impression is that the authors of the above paper are suggesting the Engineer Officer and his staff should in the future take over all the maintenance of the torpedo tubes (the Exactor gear being the hydraulic firing torpedo firing system, locally and in the control room, lever operated with special oil and Paraffin). Item 5 comfirms this. I must emphasise I have not in anyway changed the text from that of the original from 1949 archived at the RNSM, Gosport.


My main purpose in putting together this appendix to my earlier review of Alan Gallop's book Subsmash, is to draw historical attention to the flawed evidence given by Commander Stanley, that in my opinion was intended to unfairly critcise the Captain and First Lieutenant of HMS Affray for leaving the Electrical Articifer behind when they sailed on their last patrol, 16 April 1951. This historical critism by a senior submarine officer giving evidence before the 1951 Inquiry, tends to strengthen the harsh words about the senior officers of Affray and crew, made by others with little knowledge of submarines, then and in later times. Typically and recently, there have been other private publications that have made statement about the Captain and crew of Affray, implying or even stating that in some way the loss was due to errors and bad judgement, all speculative, as there is no evidence; even the final conclusion of the Inquiry that the Snort mast breaking flooded and sank the submarine was qualfied and thus left open. Hardly surprising, the A class submarines prior to 1951, had successfully snorted many miles, to the Arctic and through the Atlantic, beside numerous patrols in the Cold War, where I was an Electrician's Mate on HMS Artemis for over 12 months through 1950 and 1951, at times in the company on HMS Affray being in the same Flotilla. Evidence by Captain (E) D'Arcy, staff of FOSM was given to the Inquiry about a dramatic stern dive by Artemis, with the accumulated engine room bilge water flooding the after lower machinery space. I recall this very clearly, I shared the job of washing out with distilled water and drying the reducer motor-generator, under the supervision of the Electrician. Eventually passing out due to the intake of the CTC cleaning fluid, but doesn't seem to have done me any harm as I near my 89th birthday!

However the key purpose of this appendix is to bring to light that Commander Stanley's firm, indeed critical, indeed almost sarcastic response when asked by the Inquiry about the leaving behind of the Electrical Articifer, misled the Inquiry about wisdom of the Captain and First Leutenant in making this decision.

SUBMARINE QUARTERLY LETTER NO.4 reproduced above, confirms the duties described were actually those of the Electrician, not the Electrical Articifer whose duties in a submarine of that time were such that no risk to the submarine was incurred by leaving this rating behind for this short training patrol in the Channel.

My later experience as an RN Submarine Electrician confirms Commander Stanley's evidence to the Inquiry was completely incorrect when describing duties of the Electrical Articifer. This document (above) is dated 1/3/1949 and Commander Stanley told the Inquiry on April 1951 that 18 months earlier and experiment had been carried out by leaving to older submarines without Electrical Articifers and it was found the work load of the Depot Ship (one assumes at HMS Dolphin) electrical workshop increased.

It was considered that the extra work which came to the Flottilla Electrical Workshop made it undesirable to dispense with electrical artificers.

This means the trials were dated about Sept/Oct 1949 (I joined Dolphin for training in the November 18th 1949.)

Accepting the document above states advisory information from the FOSM and opinions of the Submarine Office Cadre of the time, then lacking any further detail one must come to the conclusion that during the summer of 1949, FOSM and his staff were lobbied to reverse the decision to remove Electrical Articificers from submarines and were apparently succesful. I served on four submarines through most of 1950 to 1955 when I left the Royal Navy. On each submarine there was an Electrical Articifer, whose duties included keeping a watch as Petty Officer of the Watch in the Control Room, while the Electrician did not keep a watch. He and his staff carried any high voltage repairs and maintenance and the Electrician's mates maintained a solo propulsion watch roster in the motor room.

From all the above, there is no doubt that the Captain and First Lieutenant of HMS Affray, made a sensible decision in leaving the Electrical Articifer ashore along with other non-essential ratings, to make room for the Officer training classes taking an approved 4 day/3 night, trip in the English Channel, where no weapons were going to be used etc.

Commander Stanley, his first name was not given in Inquiry record, but John Eade using his comprhesive RN submarine officer register, located a Commander with that surname who commanded a U Class and two T Class in WW2, before taking unindentified staff positions.

Commander Stanley, DSO, DSC & MID, had been a WW2 submarine commander prior to his post as second in command at the 5th Submarine Flotilla Depot 'Ship', HMS Dolphin, a shore base at Gosport. Submarine Commands included H50 1941, Unbending 1942, Tireless, Trusty, these last two both in 1944, then Taciturn 1944 to 1946. Commander Stanley was a successful RN submarine Captain in WW2, and in reference to the main theme in this article, we should note that a signifcant period of his WW2 career was in command of HMS Unbending (P37), a small class that according to the SUBMARINE QUARTERLY LETTER NO.4 above, did not carry an Electrical Articifer, or even a POLTO! Significantly smaller than an A class, but with rather more complex propulsion, in principle similar to the modern 1958 P class and later O class.

Despite this significant service in submarine command Commander Stanley apparently had a very different view as to the value and duties of an Electrical Articifers in diesel submarines of the immediate WW2 era, than those writing in the SUBMARINE QUARTERLY LETTER NO.4 published above. His evidence and this document leave us with a puzzle unlikely to be solved, but at least Commander Stanley's evidence that implies an unwise decision by the Captain and First Lieutenant of Affray, is firmly refuted, not only by my experience in A class and T class submarines, but also by the archived SUBMARINE QUARTERLY LETTER NO.4 above, that provoked me to write this appendix.

I would like to conclude by recalling the memory of our First Lieutenant, William James Kirkwood, RN, on my first submarine Artemis. A fine officer with a great sense of humour, that put a young fellow (19) like me at his ease, he was well regarded by all the crew. He died on Affray in 1951 as the Senior Instructor Lieutenant.