- A.N. Other
- Biographies and personal histories, History - WW1
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 2011 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Vulcan and her Flotilla once more shifted base in September 1918; this time to Blyth, a bleak, depressing port in Northumberland which was exposed to the gales from the North Sea. We remained stationed at Blyth until hostilities ceased. At this time Captain Archdale was relieved by Commander (S) Max Horton, a submarine officer who had distinguished himself during the War and who was to become, in WWII, the brilliant Commander-in-Chief of the Western Approaches. My naval ‘flimsy’ from this period, which is endorsed in his own handwriting to the effect that I had performed my duties entirely to his satisfaction, meant exactly what it said, because either one did just that or one moved on. He set, and abided by, a very high standard of efficiency for himself and was intolerant of anything short of one’s very best effort. It was said of him that he asked no man to do anything, or to go nowhere, where he had not gone himself or was not prepared to do himself.
From Blyth, H-12 was engaged again in a diving patrol, this time in the North Sea which we patrolled for the remaining months of the war. We travelled on the surface until on patrol when we dived and patrolled a pre-arranged area in company with other British submarines. The important and harrowing factor to the navigator, when on this particular type of patrol, was the necessity to keep as near as possible within the area allotted to his boat, as once a submarine left harbour she hadn’t a friend in the world, and never more so than when on this patrol right in the enemy’s own waters. Towards the end of the war, ten or twelve of us would leave harbour, at intervals, to take up position off the coast of Norway to patrol adjacent areas, each area a ten-mile square. The manner in which the patrol was carried out was left to the individual captains, so that neighbouring submarines might be patrolling their respective squares diagonally away or towards each other or round the perimeter side by side and woe betide the submarine which by error or misfortune encroached on a neighbour’s patrol area. Some would come up at midday for a blow-out and to try, if possible, for a quick sight but we never did this and always came up at night to charge. To come up at first light or to be caught on the surface at daylight was the most dangerous time and situation of all for a submarine.
With the cessation of hostilities on Armistice Day, 1918, the boats of the Flotilla were gradually withdrawn from service as they completed their patrols. It was doubly sad that with the coming of the Armistice, Lieutenant Russell of H-11 was lost. He had been promoted to a larger class of patrol submarine, a ‘G’ boat, and this boat was lost with all hands.
On 19 December we took H-12 from Blyth to Chatham on the Medway to pay off. I spent Christmas 1918 at the Naval Barracks; it was very quiet there after the bustle of the war years as, with the hostilities over, so many officers were away on leave. I left Chatham on Boxing Day to take up my new appointment – to Maidstone at Harwich – and witnessed the last of the U-boats to surrender come into port. All submarine officers had a free hand to go on board these German U-boats to souvenir, except for a few of the very latest design, which were under strict guard while they were dismantled, bolt by bolt, by experts in order to find out if there was anything new to be learned from the Germans.
I completed my term of duty with the Submarine Service on 20 March, 1919, and was granted embarkation leave which I spent with my family. There was little to do, as England was feeling the after effects of the war. Reaction had set in; the people were just very tired now that it was all over.
In proportion to numbers, the British Submarine Service lost more men than any other branch of the Services. One-third of the personnel were killed while on active service. A fine and appropriate memorial to those men stands on the Victoria Embankment in London.