A SECRET MISSION
AN ADDRESS BY
LIEUTENANT N. L. A. JEWELL, M.B.E., L.M., R.N.
Chairman: The President, Mr. C. R. Conquergood
Thursday, May 28, 1944
MR. CONQUERGOOD: Gentlemen: The course of human progress is not a, uniform incline. Rather it is like the waves of the ocean buffeting humanity, sometimes head-on, sometimes from the sides, and at times even from behind and carrying him along.
In the year 1932 we were wallowing in the trough of a depression. Over the crest of the wave ahead, we did not see the tidal wave of war rushing toward us. But, in January of that year, 1932, a young man from Pinner, in Middlesex, England, joined His Majesty's Navy. He registered as Norman Limsbury Auchinleck Jewell.
He, perhaps, least of all would have dreamed that a career in the Navy would ever bring him as guest of honour to The Empire Club in Toronto today. I am al most certain that if our present vocational counsellors in education had been advising him, they would not have intimated to him that the Navy would require him to deliver public addresses in a few short years, for the Navy is traditionally referred to as "The Silent Service". However he is here, probably more by public demand than personal choice, and is for the time on another mission, this time for public information.
Before the present war he served in H.M.SS. Erebus, Revenge and Devonshire. He had attained the rank of Lieutenant in February, 1937. In August, 1936, he was appointed to his first submarine, H.M.S. Clyde, and in January, 1940, to H.M.S. Otway. From August, 1940, he served for about twelve months as First Lieutenant in the Submarine Truant, then operating in the Mediterranean.
Lieutenant Jewell's first command was the Submarine L. 27, which he joined in August, 1941, and in February, 1942, he was appointed to command H.M. Submarine Seraph, now famous as the "Secret Mission Submarine", which landed and re-embarked General Mark Clark and other officers to contact French leaders before the Allied landings in North Africa, and which embarked General Giraud off the coast of France and transferred him to a Flying Boat. For these and other secret missions, Lieutenant Jewell was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire in February, 1943. While under his command, the Seraph has also sunk 7,000 tons of enemy shipping and damaged a further 10,000 tons. -For his part in the invasion of Sicily, President Roosevelt conferred on Lieutenant Jewell the Legion of Merit. In addition, he was mentioned in despatches in August, 1941, for efficiency and coolness during a successful torepdo attack on the enemy and during a depth charge attack.
We welcome this young man and I am now privileged to present to you, Lieutenant Jewell, M.B.E., L.M., R.N., who will address us on "A Secret Mission".
LIEUTENANT N. L. A. JEWELL, R.N.: Mr. President, Gentlemen: I would like, first of all, to try to tell you something about what submarines have done so far in this war. I imagine most of you look on us submariners as successors to the traditional pirates, but unfortunately that is far from true. In these days of radio we are as much controlled as any other portion of the Fleet and in point of fact we are nothing more nor less than an advanced striking force of the United Nations.
Our submarine war can be divided roughly into five stages. When war broke out we had some 54-odd submarines and the vast majority of these were out in the Pacific Ocean since, as is common in naval strategy, when a weak fleet faces a strong one a vast portion of its strength lies in its submarines. When war broke out we had a certain number of submarines on patrol in Heligoland and off the short strip of North-East Germany, and here, some four minutes after war was declared, our first submarine was attacked by an enemy U-boat. The Submarine Spearfish was fortunately placed and spent some time in chasing her assailant but, although she tried to ram the U-boat, she was never able to get into position to fire her torpedoes and after some six hours of hunting had to give up the chase.
At the beginning, our submarines were operating under considerable difficulties. International law stated that before a merchant ship could be sunk she had to be stopped and the crew given time to abandon ship. This, quite obviously, put operations against merchant ships out of the question in areas over which the enemy had complete air superiority and so, in point of fact, warships became our only, targets.
The next stage of our war came roughly when Germany entered Denmark and Norway and about this time the Bremen. was allowed to pass by Commander Pickford in command of the Submarine Salmon. Because of this and of public indignation we shortly afterward instituted areas, known as "secret sight" areas, in which any merchant ship could be attacked without any further warning.
In occupying Denmark and Norway, Germany laid herself open to supplying a large coast-line. There our submarines had considerable success not only on supply ships but also on warships and, I think, largely on account of our efforts the German High Seas Fleet never again put to sea in one whole piece.
The next stage of our submarine war came when Germany walked into Belgium and France and once more they laid themselves open to a large coast-line. Here the main responsibility of stopping enemy, supply ships fell on our submarines. Our surface craft quite obviously could not operate in waters which were completely covered by enemy aircraft and, as supply ships never went very far off the shore, the responsibility rested largely upon us.
At about the same time, the Battle of the Atlantic started and a certain amount of responsibility was put on us to try and stop enemy submarines from getting in and out of the Atlantic ports. In connection with this it might be of interest that up to now, I think, over fifty enemy U-boats have been sunk by our submarines.
The next stage came when Italy entered the war, hoping by quick conquest to grab whatever she could, and then the Battle of the Mediterranean started. When war broke out it had been decided that the Mediterranean theatre should be left largely to the Allied French. When Italy declared war on us we had very few submarines in the Mediterranean, some five on patrol off that coast and of these only one came back. At this time we withdrew our submarines from the Pacific and brought them into the eastern basin of the Mediterranean.
They started to re-inforce Malta with a fairly new class of submarine--our U-Class from back home. These submarines were very small carrying only four torpedoes, but they were ideally designed for operation in the Mediterranean theatre. And from the Malta to Palermo line these submarines sank from 775,000 tons of shipping in the three and a quarter years until the Italian fleet surrendered. The Mediterranean-Malta theatre is the most difficult in the world for submarine operation. The water is extremely clear and a submarine can be seen as deep as 200 feet when aircraft know its position. Besides, in this basin, there are a large number of small islands and reefs. In the total Mediterranean from the time the battle started until the threat of the surrender of the Italian fleet, some 1,335,000 tons of enemy shipping was sunk by our submarines.
Operating in Mediterranean waters was no easy matter. When a submarine came back from patrol it started off by getting along side the next submarine it could see and transferring to it whatever torpedoes were left. They next went into the middle of the harbour and secured the buoys. They left about a third of the crew on board and on the surface at night they made whatever repairs were required, but during the first thousand raids on Malta our submarine base was hit something over 400 times. When people eventually went off to sea again they were really quite glad to return to comparative peace and quiet.
From the time that the Battle of El Alamein started until the end of the Battle of Tunis, some 330 ships were sunk by the Royal Navy, of which 228 were sunk by submarines alone, which is quite a considerable proportion. At this time, enemy convoys, consisted mainly of some four ships with three to five escort vessels, as well as aircraft and U-boats. Naturally as soon as an attack developed, our submarines were depth charged, almost without exception, and during this period some 41 were lost by enemy action.
Well, now the wheel has turned full circle and once more the main portion of our submarines are heading eastward to the Pacific and there from day to day you will see sinkings by our Eastern flotillas.
That, generally, is a very quick outline of submarine warfare so far as it has gone today.
Well, perhaps I could try to give you some idea of what a submarine patrol is like. Normally, submarines go to sea for three to four weeks at a time. Then they have ten to fourteen days in harbour and toward the end of this period, perhaps on the last two days, people go ashore and try to make the most of their opportunity to make up for what they will miss in the next three to four weeks. When eventually you leave harbour, somewhere around dusk, you will find quite a proportion of the ship's company nigh on incapable.
When you go outside you really dive clear of the harbour so, when you surface, you flood a tank called a "quick diving tank" to help you to get out of any danger as quickly as possible, you wave goodbye to your escort and push on into the blue and from then on you have a very lonely feeling, as if you had no friends whatsoever in the world. With all respect to any Air Force people present, we really don't trust our own side any more than' the other. So, with two-thirds of the ship's company who are capable, we move on into the night.
While travelling on the surface normally, a submarine has to look out and one operates the watch on the bridge. Toward dawn we dive and settle down at periscope depth and stay there for the day, and those people who require rest to recover from their "hangovers" now get it. About one-third of the ship's company is on duty all the time, and constant watch is kept through the periscope. This is the only person who knows what is going on up top.
Just before sunset we usually go to what we call "diving stations," the whole ship's company closes up and we carry out drills of anything that might go wrong, so that next time there is an emergency everybody will know what to do. Then when it is really dark we surface and carry on toward our patrol area, which normally, in the Mediterranean anyway, we reach towards the end of the second night.
We have to look for our enemy's ships fairly close to the coast-line. The Germans have really no need to send their ships across any open ocean. They have only to do a short distance at a time so they can we well escorted and covered, not only by coastal guns but also by aircraft and small surface vessels. Unlike them, we are not able to choose our place and position and time for attack, and we have to keep 'our patrol normally something like three miles off the enemy coast.
Eventually we arrive at our patrol position and we sit there some three miles off the coast, dive by day and surface by night. From then on things really become rather boring. After some days perhaps, if we are lucky, the watch will sight something, and then with your heart rather dropping to the bottom of your boots you rush along to have a look, rather hoping he is seeing nothing. Once you decide that perhaps there is something there, you start in toward the attack. You go to diving stations, which means everybody closes up, and from then on everybody has so much to do that he has no time to be frightened and eventually you arrive at your position and then when the time comes you fire your torpedoes.
Now, I think, everybody gets rather a relaxed feeling. Once your torpedoes have gone you reveal your position to the aircraft up top and it is time to move fairly fast to get away from the end of the track. The first thing the enemy aircraft does is go in that direction and drop all the bombs it has. At once you start off, moving at full speed, making a large alteration of course to get away from the danger. Then everybody watches his stop watch and about the time the band should go off you hurriedly put up your periscope and have a quick look around. If you have been lucky you may see a hit. Your next reaction is to go straight down to something like 300 feet. As I said before, you can be seen from the air as deep as 200 feet, so you have to get away below this depth. Once you are there, there is very little more for you to do. It is a sort of magnified game of hide-and-seek in which your main reaction, I think, is to sit there and pray to any God you know, and hope for the best.
After some time, anything from three to five hours, the noises up top gradually get less and less and eventually when you hear no propeller noises you are able to come up and have a quick look around. Well, if you haven't got too far away from the scene of your attack you may see the escort trying to pick up the survivors. Normally, by this time you are too far away to see anything and you wait until sunset and dark, and then surface, and at the end of the night go back into your patrol area and the whole thing starts again. Perhaps if you are lucky in a patrol you may see or attack two or three targets.
Well, towards the end of the patrol, at about the time that everybody is getting rather fed up with everybody else's face and very irritated by anything anybody else does, you eventually get a signal telling you to return to harbour and very thankfully you turn and go back home. And when you get there you are met on the gangway by the Captain, the head of the Flotilla, who quickly tells you what you have done, in case you want to tell him anything different.
Then we go on some three days leave. At our port we have rest camps for submarine crews. These camps are usually situated somewhere outside the town, where the sailors won't be subjected to too much temptation, and there they can lie in the sun and do what they please for some three days without any restrictions or any rules or regulations. At the end of this time half of the ship's company comes back and the other half goes and enjoys itself.
After that we start putting right all the things inside the submarine that have broken down during the last patrol. This goes on for some ten to fourteen days. But also, as none of the ship's company receive any sunlight whatsoever for some three to four weeks, they are normally required to have sun-ray treatments during their stay in harbour. At the end of fourteen days everything starts again and off you go on patrol.
That generally is a quick outline of a normal patrol. Submarines in this war have not only been required to sink enemy war and merchant ships; they have been used to bombard enemy coasts and communications, to lay mines in enemy waters, to carry stores to beleaguered islands like Malta and, before any invasion is possible, submarines have to carry out local reconnaissance and certain other jobs to show our army how to get there. Generally there is very little that is not required of submarines in sea warfare today.
Perhaps I could give you some examples from my own experience. In November of last year, about the time of the Battle of Eros, when we were returning after some four weeks patrol, we got a signal telling us to go to an island and bombard what they said was German headquarters. We turned around and started off toward this island. We had not gone very far when we sighted a large schooner. This area is controlled half by the Germans and half by ourselves and it is rather difficult to tell the difference at night between the two. If you fire a round at them the first reaction of the Greek crew is to abandon ship and move off in the night. Once one of our submarines was left in the embarrassing position of having to take some of our own schooners back to harbour.
We did fire one round at this vessel and, true to tradition, the Greek crew abandoned ship and moved away. We got a little closer and found a 3-inch gun on its stern and some 2.5 machine guns. We came closer and found a lot of stores on board. So we put on a boarding party to find who the vessel really belonged to. When they got on board and after they had looked around for some time they found a German officer and some twelve German ratings down below doing very well on the local Greek wine. We sank the schooner and moved on toward our destination. We found the party were all going to the same place so we were quite happy to accommodate them.
We arrived there just before dawn and dived and had a look at the place through the periscope. We found a large schooner alongside a warehouse, disembarking what looked like oil or petrol, and some three seaplanes sitting on the water. It was very obvious it was German headquarters and there were also quite a number of brand new gun emplacements. We thought it was a little stupid to surface in daytime and start action under the nose of these guns. So we waited until dusk and fired one torpedo. The schooner disappeared in a cloud of smoke. Then we surfaced and took on the one remaining seaplane-the other two took off during the day. It very soon disappeared and then we fired some rounds into the warehouse which caught fire very rapidly. We started shooting at the headquarters but by now the enemy guns were getting fairly accurate, and it only takes one hit to put a submarine out of action. We dived and removed ourselves. Throughout this action our German friends were very good and supplied the ammunition up to the guns.
Just before Italy fell and on a very misty morning we weren't quite sure where we were. We wanted to dive, some three miles off the coast, but, unfortunately, we weren't quite in position. After we had dived and come up shortly afterward we saw quite a convoy arriving, from the south. We started to attack it and eventually got in position behind the nearest destroyer and fired our first torpedo. Unfortunately it went straight down to the bottom and exploded. This explosion, again unfortunately, ruined all the rest of the torpedoes in the salvo and one of them jammed. We also could not steer the submarine properly and had great difficulty in operating below the surface. We flooded all our tanks so far as we could and when the upward tendency had been stopped we found ourselves moving down very fast. But we were very surprised to hit bottom at some 90 feet when we expected at least 300 feet from the position we thought we were in.
Once we reached the bottom there was very little left to do. We had to stop all motors and noises in the boat and we couldn't run the pump at all until the first depth charges were dropped. Then we ran it as hard as we could for about half a minute and stopped it and waited for the next. Unfortunately, during one of the charges the spindle of the pump got snapped and no water was taken out of the tank. Eventually, after some five had gone off, the charges on top stopped and we thought about coming up again. Two of these charges, by the way, actually hit the casing of the submarine and fell into the mud alongside before exploding. At the end of this time our pump obviously wasn't working. Eventually we lifted ourselves and arrived at periscope depth. There we found the nearest destroyer stopped and obviously listening, about a mile away. We were able by moving slowly to get away around it and outside. It took us some four days to repair the damage done inside the submarine.
That may give you some idea of what a depth charge attack is like.
Perhaps I can't do better than tell you about General Clark and General Giraud. In October of 1942, the Captain and myself were sent for by the Brigadier and when we got there we were given two glasses of a very good sherry and told to sip on them. We had been there some few minutes when a large party of American Generals and Colonels arrived in the room, headed by the strange old man, General Clark, and he started in in a very business-like way to read out his orders and to tell us more or less what was going on. When he had finished, he turned to the Captain, and asked if he thought the operation was feasible, to which the Captain replied that so long as the information about the French people ashore was correct he couldn't see any grave difficulties.
We then decided to go back on board the depot ship and have dinner. We didn't want a large party of Generals and people to be seen moving down into the sub marine in broad daylight and that submarine to push straight off. It would look a little obvious, we thought, in a place like Gibraltar. We all went aboard the depot ship and discussed our plans and eventually in twos and threes we went down into the submarine and finally pushed off.
When we got about fifty miles east of Gibraltar we said goodbye to our escort and moved on. When the moon shone we stopped and had our passengers practise getting into our small boats and manoeuvring them and also trying out all the apparatus they had with them, such as "walkie-talkie" sets, and other things of that nature. Once we decided we would get through without any grave difficulty and without any extreme danger we got them back on board and went on our way.
We moved on all through the day and the next night until eventually, at about six o'clock in the morning, we arrived at our destination and there, in accordance with instructions, we found a white light burning in an upper window of a lonely house. This light was to tell us that, so far as the people ashore were concerned, everything was all right, but it was now too late in the morning to start disembarking because we would have been left off an enemy coast close to shore on the surface, and we thought the risk was too much. So, we dived and patrolled close in off the beach and had a good look at it to try to find if there were any defences or anybody there obviously waiting for us.
Throughout this day two trawlers spent their time fishing all around us and generally we got a little worried. We were finally quite relieved when just before sunset they moved off and went back to harbour. We were able to go some eight miles off the beach and surf ace, and there we sat around and waited for the white light to go on. Unfortunately, it didn't go on for some time. Just when we were getting a little, worried as to whether to go on or not, eventually it appeared. We cleared the beach and started disembarking. We dropped the first three boats off all right. Unfortunately the fourth, which was to take General Clark ashore, overturned and swamped. We had to get that one out of the water and start to repair it. We got one of the other boats back, took the American officer out and put General Clark on board.
We also decided the first boat to go ashore should have in it a Colonel Holmes of the United States Army, who was the only one who knew personally the people there. Once he got ashore and identified the people who were to meet him he was to signal back, and if the people ashore weren't the right party he was also to try to signal this. While that was going on the remainder of the boats were some miles off the beach as we didn't want the whole party captured in a lump.
Well, he got ashore and he identified the party and eventually he flashed back the signal and all the rest went ashore and the fourth boat that started off some time after them made very good headway and arrived on the beach shortly after the rest of the party. Once they got on the shore they reported back on the "walkie-talkie" to say that everything was all right. Then we turned around and went out to our position some eight miles off the beach. There we stayed for the rest of the night and kept in constant communication with them. When the dawn arrived we told them to sign off for the day and they were to tell us when we surfaced after dark what they wanted us to do and whether things were still going well. Throughout this day again, our friends the trawlers spent their time fishing around us and once again, just before sunset, they moved off back to harbour. We surfaced in much the same place as the night before and waited for our signal to come through. At first we suspected that our "walkie-talkie" had broken down but from trying it out on the ship's radio we found it was working all right. Eventually, about 11.15 when we were getting very worried, we got a signal saying, "Come in, for . . . sake, as quickly and as close as you can." The sea had got very rough by now. We moved in and watched the first boat trying hard to get through. It overturned some three times with, as we afterwards heard, the cry, "Never mind your pants, General, save the oars." Finally they decided they couldn't make it. They told us to go back out again, and there we sat around and waited and meanwhile, they told us, they had had a certain amount of trouble with the police ashore.
About 3.15 we got much the same signal and back we went in toward the beach again. This time we were able to watch the first boat get through the surf and get on. Then I rather lost sight of it as I was watching the other boat taking out from the beach. Eventually, a long, white, rather naked body appeared over the front end of the submarine and General Clark arrived back. He came up the bridge and told us he had had a hell of a time ashore there and the sooner we got out of this the better.
At short intervals after this the remaining boats came off but the last boat, which was the one that overturned before, once more got swamped and we had great difficulty in lifting it out of the water. Unfortunately, this boat had in it a small amount of gold which they had taken ashore in the hopes that, had they been captured, they would have been able to arrange "guards," as they called them, and get away.
About this time the shore lights started to go on and also some car lights started to appear, going around toward the back of the house. We thought it was high time to leave, so we put some holes in the bottom of the boat and let it sink. Then we dived, turned around and went out.
We were ready for this party when they came aboard. We knew they would be cold so we had prepared for them some hot coffee and hot rum. By the time we got down to depth and settled there, and they arrived back from the ward room, conversation was flowing fairly freely and we were able to hear something of what had gone on ashore.
Apparently the house had been deserted by the owners for some time and was occupied only by a caretaker and a maid. The maid had been discharged some two days before the party started but when she saw a large house party arrive at the house she became a little suspicious and told her boy friend about it. He, in his turn, had gone and told the police. So, the house was raided and the British and the Americans were pushed down into a cellar and the door shut on top of them, some dust thrown over the door, and the Frenchmen then threw a party. While they were down in the cellar the Senior Commander had wanted badly to sneeze. After having his mouth stuffed with a handkerchief he was eventually handed a piece of gum to chew by General Clark. He chewed on this for some time and eventually decided it had no taste. He remarked on this to the General and he replied, "Hell, no. I had been chewing on that for some two hours myself."
Then they got out of this cellar and up top again and carried on with the conference. Toward the time the conference was due to end the place was once more raided. This time the Americans and the British removed themselves through the windows and down to their boats on the beach and the Frenchmen left through the rest of the windows and resumed their return home, and the story has it that one French General made a complete shift from uniform into plain clothes and out of the window in under thirty seconds flat.
Well, you have heard most of the rest of the story.
Once we got some thirty miles clear of the coast, we surfaced and signalled that the party was more or less successfully over and we were returning, and then we dived again for the rest of the day and surfaced at night and moved on. When dawn arrived the sea was absolutely calm, and as General Clark was in rather a hurry to get back to London-it was then about ten days before the invasion-he made a signal asking for an aircraft. Some hours later a Catalina landed alongside and we transferred the party. Just before he left, General Clark said he had another job for us to do in a few day's time.
We arrived back in Gibraltar on my birthday and also the Senior Commander's birthday and we hoped, both of us, to go ashore and celebrate it in a proper manner. Unfortunately, as soon as we arrived, we were told our leave had been stopped, so we had to do the best we could on board. Some three days later we were sent for by the Admiral who told us he had got another job and in his office we found Captain Wright of the United States Navy, one of the officers who had been with us before. There were also other officers and a French interpreter and they told us to try and pick up General Giraud.
We went out to a position some fifteen miles off the south coast of France and there we sat for some five days, and a very boring five days it was. We had practically nothing to do except to teach each other card games we hoped the other side didn't know, but we generally came out fairly even on the cash. At the end of five days we got our instructions as to where to go and what to do. The day before we were supposed to be there we dived into the harbour and had a very good look around to find out what our position should be and also what the coast-line looked like. Then we dived out again and stayed there until the appointed time, which was supposed to be at midnight. Just before that we dived into the harbour once more and surfaced in our position exactly at midnight. There we sat and waited f or some time until one of our lookouts read a light flashing ashore which said "Wait for one hour." So we dived and waited for an hour. Then we surfaced once again in the same position and sat on, still waiting. Eventually we saw another small light flashing. This time it was the letters which were the agreed signal and later a small boat came alongside us and disembarked General Giraud and party and we turned around and left the harbour.
We were very lucky in the time chosen to come off. It had been blowing very hard from the south until a short time before and as soon as they were on board it started to blow hard from the north and the centre of the storm must have passed right over the top of us. We were no sooner outside the harbour than our troubles really began. Our radio transmitter broke down. After trying to use it for some time we eventually got signals from the Admiralty at outlying stations that our signals were too weak to read so we stripped down the set to try to find what was wrong. Finding nothing we put it back together again and once more did our best but still got no results.
About this time Gibraltar started to get worried and to ask all sorts of questions, most of which we had been trying to answer for some time before. This went on for the whole of the next day and night. Eventually, some time before dawn, we got a signal from some bright boy in Gibraltar telling us a Catalina was being sent out to traverse our route, so when dawn broke we had to remain on surface.
Then Captain Wright came up on the bridge and said, "See, it is in black and white. Our aircraft are told to bomb whatever submarines are sighted in this area, no matter of what nationality or what recognition they should make", and he suggested that we should dive. Obviously this was impossible, so feeling very unhappy I had to remain there.
Some few hours later our Catalina arrived and we made all the recognition signals we could think of and told who we were and why we were there and added a rider that we didn't want to be bombed. Finally, they accepted us for what we were and landed alongside. Then we got the party up on the casing all ready to be transferred across when another aircraft appeared. It looked like a Heinkel and we had to get all below again and dive. When the sky cleared we surfaced again and transferred the group across. We asked them to signal Gibraltar that they had the party on board and that we were on our way back. They replied that they hadn't got sufficient code to do this and would try to make up a cryptic signal which they hoped wouldn't be broken by the enemy. The cryptic signal was so good that our own people couldn't break it either. So eventually the party arrived back with no one to meet them.
Fortunately, the Colonel went on board the depot ship to find how things had gone and eventually we were told to return to Gibraltar in our own time. Next day we heard all the noises that go with an invasion.
Well, I have given you some examples, I think, of the co-operation that is possible not only between our own Forces but also between all our United Nations, and also on occasions with our German enemies. I think co-operation is our key-word today, and I hope that when eventually we arrive at peace we shall continue to co-operate as our Forces at the front are doing now.