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Perseus (N36)

Built By: Vickers (Barrow)
Build Group: P
Fate: On 6th December the boat was mined off Cephallonia. The sole survivor was L/S John Capes whose extraordinary escape has become a legend within the Submarine Service

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Ex 36P Served in China and in 1940 she went to the Mediterranean.

Roll of Honour

Burford  Able Seaman
Bury  Leading Stoker
Carpenter  Able Seaman
Caselton  Able Seaman
Chetham  Leading Seaman
Codrington  Lieutenant RNR
Craig  Able Seaman
Craw  Able Seaman
Deacon  Petty Officer
Dickson  Stoker 1st Class
Dobson  Leading Seaman
Duell  Petty Officer Cook
England  Able Seaman
Francis  Engine Room Artificer 4th Class
Gilbert  Leading Seaman
Griffin  Engine Room Artificer 4th Class
Gunter  Stoker 1st Class
Hammond  Able Seaman
Henderson  Able Seaman
Hodson  Stoker 1st Class
Holden  Telegraphist
Hull  Engine Room Artificer 3rd Class
Johnson  Weapons Engineer
Jones  Able Seaman
King  Leading Stoker
Lattimore  Stoker Petty Officer
Lehane  Leading Stoker
Lillford  Leading Stoker
Luckham  Ordinary Seaman
Mapstone  Able Seaman
McDonald  Able Seaman
Mead  Able Seaman
Meek  Petty Officer
Neale  Leading Signalman
Nicholay  Lieutenant Commander
Oldridge  Stoker 1st Class
Peacock  Leading Stoker
Plant  Engine Room Artificer 4th Class
Preddy  Stoker Petty Officer
Rees  Stoker 1st Class
Render  Telegraphist
Richardson  Leading Telegraphist
Robertson  Lieutenant
Stanley  Stoker 2nd Class
Symons  Leading Seaman
Tait  Lieutenant RNR
Wardrop  Chief Petty Officer Telegraphist
Whalley  Engine Room Artificer 3rd Class
Whyte  Engine Room Artificer 4th Class
Wotherspoon  Engine Room Artificer 1st Class

Events

02-07-1928 : Laid Down
22-05-1929 : Launched
15-04-1930 : Completed
06-12-1941 : HMS Perseus sunk 7 miles north of Zante (Zakinthos) Island, west coast of Greece in Ionian Sea - by Italian mines.

Originally attributed to contact with Royal Italian Naval forces, probably a submarine was based on Mediterranean Fleet intelligence estimates. However, these estimates came into question in 1943 when the then 33 year old John Capes showed up at Alexandria via the British consulate in Turkey, claiming to be a survivor of His Majesties Submarine Perseus.

He stated that the ship had been mined on the night of 6/7 December 1941, and that it sank in 170 feet of water with the stern section holding air. He had been in the Petty Officer Stokers mess with several others at the moment of the mining sharing a bottle of rum. He and three others made it into the stern section alive, sealed it off, and after coming to rest on the sea floor in pitch darkness, donned their DESA escape gear and commenced flooding the after spaces in preparation to making a free ascent escape.

All four left the submarine, with Capes being last. Before departing, he polished off the remaining rum, and then left through the after escape hatch. He came to the surface alone and then was faced with swimming 7-9 miles to Cephalonia. He did so, met up with Greek partisans, and then spent 20 months with them before successfully reaching Turkey. The other three survivors of the mining did not make it to the surface alive, most probably due to a failure to exhale completely throughout the ascent, which was made, as it turned out, from 20 feet deeper than it was thought possible.

To say that Capes story was thought to been overly remarkable by many is an understatement. Many did not believe it, nor did they believe Capes was in fact himself, though those making those conclusions had to admit that, the crew list being classified, it was unlikely an imposter could have come up with the facts he had. None the less, his statements concerning the location of the sinking did not jive with Admiralty estimates, and many considered him a fraud to the day he died.

However, in 1996, Greek divers located HMS Perseus on the ocean floor, exactly where Capes said it would be. It was in 170 feet of water, and the rear escape hatch was open. Upon looking into the open hatch, the divers clearly saw on the floor below the rum bottle emptied by Capes just before his departure. All of this was photographed. Though Capes had been dead for some 15 years when the sub was discovered, it can truly be said that he had the last laugh on those that doubted his story. It is probably the single most remarkable survival story to come out of WW II.
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