- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 18 Nov 1943, p. 130-148
- Stokes-Rees, Commander R.H., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The tide turned in favour of the Allies with regard to submarine warfare. A look at what happens inside and outside a submarine, accompanied by diagrammatic sketches. A detailed physical description follows. Then, an explanation of what a "crash dive" is like when buoyancy must be removed, then replaced for surfacing. Some anecdotes to illustrate life on a submarine during warfare. Next, a description of an attack. The morale of our submarine crews. Some personal anecdotes from the speaker.
- Date of Original
- 18 Nov 1943
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- Full Text
- A GLIMPSE INTO A SUBMARINE
AN ADDRESS BY COMMANDER R. H. STOKES-REES, R.N.
Chairman: The President, Mr. W. Eason Humphreys
Thursday, November 18, 1943
MR. HUMPHREYS: Few of us may go down to the sea these days-scarcely any of us may go down to the sea in ships. But Canada's dependence upon sea and ships is more than ever a vital part of national life and obligation.
Today, for us who live so far from the sea, we have a breath of fresh sea air by the presence here of a distinguished naval officer, Commander R. H. Stokes-Rees.
Our guest is, I believe, the first to provide us with a really close-up picture of that terrible, yet vital, weapon of war-the submarine.
Commander Stokes-Rees is the eldest son of many generations in the Royal Navy, and he has specialized in submarines. He is young--you may guess his age when I tell you that he entered the Royal Naval College at Osborne in 1917.
Our guest served with the Instructional Group of the Submarine Training Flotilla, and for some years afterwards worked with the Anti-Submarine School.
Then, as Superintendent of Gun Design for all the armed forces in Great Britain, Commander Stokes-Rees worked closely with General McNaughton-collaboration he enjoyed-for, as he put it, "We saw eye to eye with each other."
Coming to Canada last June, Commander Stokes-Rees continued his duties attached to the R.A.T.M. in Ottawa, the head of which is Admiral Sir A. E. Evans, himself a guest of this Club some time ago.
I should like to say more about Commander StokesRees, of his wide and interesting views on Canada and the British Empire in world affairs. These are as exhilarating as the address you are about to hear: "Inside a Submarine". Gentlemen: Commander R. H. Stokes-Rees.
COMMANDER STOKES-REFS: Mr. President, Members and Guests of The Empire Club of Canada: It is more than kind of you to welcome me as you have, but you will I know appreciate that it is I who am honoured to be here today.
You have asked me to try to give you a glimpse into a submarine, about which underwater craft you have all read and heard so much, but about which generally speaking in the course of your normal duties in life you would know so very little.
As you no doubt do realize, however, in this war once again the German submarine menace, as has been explained very fully to us by our various Prime Ministers, was as bad in 1942 as it was in 1917, when it does not take the history books to remind us that we were almost on our knees. I think that all of you know that that is what the German "U" Boat campaign meant to the British Empire and its Allies only about a year ago, but now fortunately, due to the efforts of all concerned with antisubmarine warfare, the tide has been turned. Even the waves for the time being are no longer against us, so that at long last our valiant Merchant Marine can carry on in less harrowing circumstances. This must not allow us to forget the other side of the account-our own submarine.
Few of you possibly will know anything of what my old colleagues or their successors have been doing in this war unless you have studied the press very carefully and have been at pains to draw your own picture from a series of odd or even cryptic announcements. We, who alternately honour our old chums for their wonderful deeds and then sad to say more often very soon afterwards mourn them, and also who study the statistics of the sinkings that they have managed to achieve, the reconnaissance work that they have done, the attacks of almost daredevil recklessness that these young C.O.'s carry out by going into a heavily defended harhour, solemnly sinking a few ships, cocking a snoot and then coming out again, we can judge more or less what has been going on especially when as I say time and again we think on these unfortunate losses.
And when I talk of "our submarines" I mean "Imperially" our submarines because, although Canada at the moment has not got a submarine flotilla, she has a number of gallant young officers who have volunteered for submarines and who are now serving in them all over the world and no doubt you saw yesterday, most of you, released in the press, a most excellent article written by a reporter who had interviewed a young submarine First Lieutenant in the Mediterranean. It was a superb article, accompanied by a lot of very good pictures, so my modest efforts today, if referred back to that article, may help you to understand something of what happens inside and outside a submarine.
I brought with me a pair of diagramatic sketches which I will attempt to describe as I go along and I will try also, for those who may be listening on the air, to give you a word picture at the same time.
The left-hand sketch is similar to what you will all have seen in photographs, a submarine on the surface, though for convenience the sketch carries on below the water. The part above water practically speaking is not the submarine proper because the important part of any submarine is the round cigar like pressure hull in which all the works are housed and the crew lives, the main deck being approximately on the horizontal diameter. The upper works can in fact be swept away without any actual damage to the men inside, except naturally that they are blinded by the loss of their periscopes. I once saw a submarine so rammed, without the pressure hull being pierced, even though it was cut by a propeller to within one-eighth of an inch. The crew were all safe inside her.
You see first the conning tower, standing up in the middle, a truly accurate name-a tower from which the officer of the watch can "con" the submarine because if he were down any lower he would generally be keeping company with the waves, whereas naturally for navigating on the surface he has to have some height of eye.
Up through the conning tower run the two periscopes and use therefore is made to give these long spindly objects another support at that point; otherwise, if they were only supported down at the pressure hull, they would have to be extremely strong and obviously one doesn't want them any thicker than can be helped because of the wash they make when the captain has to put one up in hostile waters while carrying headway.
Standing up from the back of the conning tower is the tall wireless mast for high-power long range wireless. That obviously can not be there when diving so it is a telescopic mast. If one dived with that up it would snap off like a carrot. Lower down, therefore, is the short range wireless aerial which is a fixture and can be used at very short notice whenever opportunity can be found to pop the conning tower above the waves.
Overall there is a wire which goes to the top of the conning tower from the bow and away again from the conning tower right down to the stern and that has the appropriate name of "Jumping Wire" from its function, because when diving deep and everything is down (for there is no point in having the periscopes up as you can't see anything under water) there is nothing protruding above it. Thus if the submarine has the misfortune to get into nets or similar trouble it is hoped that the obstacles will be "jumped" over the top by this wire. Again, it has a knife at the leading edge so if a submarine does get stuck it is hoped by going ahead and astern to be able to cut a way out of these nets. The Germans particularly always carry cutters. You can see them in any photograph of a German submarine.
The upper deck is just a thin steel casing--it merely is a flat surface on which to walk, an openwork deck which forms a free flooding storeroom. I say "free flooding" because it is full of holes so that it does not form an air lock liable to hold the submarine up on the surface. When diving, the water merely bubbles freely through it and that water runs round such things as ropes and wires and the capstan and anchor, towing shackle and such like necessities, including a collapsible boat, all of which live permanently inside this casing.
Up on the casing is a three or four inch gun, which in the case of a submarine is only the "secondary" armament. The main armament of a submarine, of course, is her torpedoes, but they are big valuable things of which one may not have more than a dozen or so on board and heaven knows when it will be possible to get back to harbour to replenish them. Therefore no one wastes a torpedo on a small unescorted target and it is again quite valueless to fire a torpedo at a target like a bridge or a troop train which is inland. So then it is time to use the gun, which sits up on deck in what is aptly called the "bath tub". The gun is manned through a hatch just forward of the conning tower.
Gun Action is an evolution in which speed is the essence of the contract. It is necessary to exploit to the full the element of surprise or the biter may be bitten. In consequence the gun's crew assemble immediately below the hatch before the submarine surfaces. The 1st Lieutenant, who is second in command and controls diving and surfacing operations, carries a whistle and this he blows just before the submarine breaks surface. The gun's crew immediately throw open the hatch and ascend through a cascade of water to open fire-most refreshing in warmer climates, but distinctly unpleasant in the frozen North.
So much for everything you see above the water, except that I should say the bridge also is free flooding. Holes in plenty are provided there even if they do add to creative discomfort. Otherwise the bridge canopy would also form an air lock when the submarine is trying to get down. The body of the conning tower between the bridge and the pressure hull is not free flooding. That bit has a hatch at the top, at one's feet on the bridge, and another where one enters below into the pressure hull.
The captain sometimes has his cabin here, so that, when saying it does not matter or it is not lethal, shall we put it, if the conning tower is swept off, one must admit it is just a little unfortunate for the captain who loses his cabin and such private chattels as he has with him, not to mention his periscopes as was explained before.
There is also some form of light anti-aircraft gun carried against the cloud hopping airman who may catch a submarine on the surface. As you will have seen in the press lately, the Germans have now concentrated on staying up and shooting back at our airplanes rather than trying to dive and get down and face a pretty certain unpleasant time, if not destruction.
Below the water the submarine looks like a porpoise that is driven by two propellers and steered by the rudder and two sets of hydroplanes. The hydroplanes quite obviously are used for taking the submarine down or up when she is diving on the same principle as a fish uses its fins.
I will now run quickly through the compartments in the average medium sized submarine. The torpedo tubes obviously are right forward; then water tight doors immediately abaft them. Remember always that the living area is at the top half and that the crew are walking on the diameter of the circle. Below this main deck you have such things as battery tanks, fuel tanks, auxiliary tanks, anti-submarine and wireless offices, storerooms and so forth, chief of all being the main electric batteries which drive the submarine when diving.
Abaft the torpedo tubes you have the torpedo room with spare torpedoes ready to be launched forward into the tubes and in that compartment also the torpedo men live. Every one who possibly can lives on his job, slinging his hammock or sleeping on the steel deck with his head on a coat or the like.
Then comes the general living quarters for the officers, chief petty officers, etc., who cannot of course live on their jobs which take them to all parts of the submarine. It is amazing what privacy one can get in a small area with a curtain. Take the Officers' Mess where probably there will be housed the Captain, First Lieutenant, Torpedo Officer, the Sub-Lieutenant who is Navigator and the Engineer Officer. That is the average number. Well except for the Captain, who has a small cabin, and the First Lieutenant, who has a bunk of his own with repeat diving gauges so that when he is lucky enough to get a few minutes sleep he can see what is doing in the control room, the others do "Cox and Box"; that is they often have to share one bunk less than the number of of officers. The result is that when some very weary officer comes off watch to turn in he quite probably goes and turns in automatically where he got out four hours before. In that case he puts his boot in the face of a pal and if the pal happens to be senior it is of course not so fortunate as if the pal happens to be junior to him.
Abaft the living quarters you come to the heart or hub of the submarine, which is the Control Room, and which again is an excellent name: it really is the con trolling room of the submarine. That is shown in my other sketch. You can see the periscope coming down into it; you see the steering gear, the hydroplane gear, the diving gauges and the large panels of valves which an engine room artificer works, under orders from the first Lieutenant, for opening and shutting valves when diving and which includes the main high pressure air supply and everything connected with it for blowing tanks when one wants to surface. All these are in the control room.
Next we come to the Engine Room, where you find two large sections of diesel engines, port and starboard. These drive the submarine on the surface.
Then on to the Motor Room where you come to the electric motors which drive the submarine submerged. And so on through the auxiliary machinery, like small pumps and air compressors, etc., to the stern where we see the after hydroplanes, two propellers and the rudder. Between each of the compartments mentioned there is a watertight bulkhead with a door in it for shutting in emergencies.
That covers the average small submarine, which is manned by about 30 men with a young C.O. of some 23 or more summers. At 30 he is almost a Grand Old Man.
You may ask why both an engine room and a motor room? Well, you all know if you were to use petrol or gas in your motor cars you would empty your tank in a very short distance. As it is most of you, with the Fuel Controller's permission, run some considerable distance further on a full tank because you use fresh air sucked in to the engine all the time to support combustion. That air, when a submarine is on the surface, rushes down the Control Room hatch. This rush of air is very useful, incidentally, in that the suction of the main engine clears out the frightful conglomeration of queer smells one gets inside a submarine-there is occasional cooking, not a lot of course, but at night when on the surface some electric cooking can be allowed. Added to this there is the charging of batteries which give off gas and all the smells of oils connected with machinery and torpedoes, and those unimaginable smells of general confinement. I don't know what it is, but the average submariner has about four baths and leaves all his clothes behind and then puts on quite separate clothes in the Depot Ship if he wants to have any success on shore-even his best friends will tell him.
Whilst on the question of Main Engines and Motors for surface and submerged travel, respectively, I might mention that in one submarine, where someone on the bridge accidentally shut the upper hatch, the main engines emptied the boat of air and came to rest in three strokes. It was unpleasant for the crew, of course, but they all recovered when air rushing down the bridge pipe had filled the boat again. This incident will make it clear to you, however, why it is essential to have electric motors for underwater propulsion.
One other point is the charging of batteries, which is done on the surface preferably at night for security by running the main engines and using the main motors, which are on the same shafts, as generators.
That completes a simple run through an average submarine so now I will take you through diving and surfacing and then a "crash dive".
To explain the dive I have to show you how to remove the buoyancy from a submarine. She's on the surface. As you see in the first picture she's quite happy like that and it is no good pointing the hydroplanes down, going ahead at full speed and expecting her to disappear. Of course, she won't do so. You have to destroy her buoyancy and you do that by having externally what are called the Main Ballast Tanks, which are like large blisters. There is a valve permanently open at the bottom of each blister, open to the sea, but the sea can not get in because the air in the blisters will not compress enough and again this air can not get out at the 'top. Therefore the submarine has positive buoyancy which holds her up on the surface.
There was a time when there were not even Kingston valves for use in harbour, fitted at the bottom of the external tanks, but unfortunately one day in one submarine the vent valves at the top leaked and it was rather worrying for the duty commanding officer in the morning to look over the side of the depot ship and see one of his children missing. She had very slowly dived during the night.
So it is obvious that to destroy buoyancy you merely have to open vent valves at the top of the external tanks, which is done from the Control Room valve panels, and these tanks, which run almost the whole length of the submarine externally, will flood. The air rushes out at the top with a roar like the Bull of Bashan and the water rushes in at the bottom. The buoyancy is thus destroyed and you can then do what you like with the submarine by working motors and hydroplanes to take her to any depth required,
If the First Lieutenant has done his job properly she weighs at that moment exactly nought. She's neither heavier nor lighter than the water she displaces, for which
I will remind you of the principle of Archimedes. "Trimming", which is the art of bringing the buoyancy to zero, is done by taking water in to or pushing water out of the auxiliary tanks inside the hull.
To surface, you have to reverse the process. You shut the vents and blow out the water from the Externals with high pressure air. Incidentally that "shutting of vents" is extremely important and it is the first thing done after diving. The moment the external tanks are reported full the 1st Lieutenant will shut main vents and listen carefully to them being reported shut. Otherwise, if he attempts to restore buoyancy by "blowing", the sole result will be that he will waste all the high pressure air over the side through the open vents.
On a crash dive, of course, one can't respect any decencies. An airplane suddenly appears out of the cloud or a destroyer appears on the horizon and the submarine has got to get down as fast as she can.
In consequence, for crash diving, there is a special routine that is practised continuously in peace and war. The officer on the bridge shouts "Dive, dive, dive" down the voice pipe and the man below presses the diving hooter which sounds in every compartment. There is another press for this hooter in the conning tower, about which I will tell you something in a minute. The moment the hooter sounds every man knows his job. The crew all go to their diving stations and immediately carry out their appointed jobs for rapid diving. There is, incidentally a special quick-flooding tank amidships which makes the submarine "heavy" and which obviously must be blown empty once she gets away from danger, or so we hope, under the water. The motors are put to "full speed ahead" on the propellers and the coxswain and second coxswain work the hydroplanes and take her down.
They start by taking her down level but, the moment he has enough water over the propellers, the coxswain reverses the after hydroplanes and lifts the stern up thus forcing her down with the propellers. It is quite useless to lift the stern initially because you merely bring the propellers out of the water and get no drive. It is uncomfortable to crash dive for a beginner but one gets used to it and the really experienced expert crash dives pretty level, two or three degrees bow down being as much as one wants to make the best of it.
One submarine was lost in '23, I remember, when going deep to get under a battleship which had been screened from periscope view by another ship but suddenly appeared. They got on rather a big angle in attempting to get clear and by sheer bad luck they had their stern cut right off. She might have got away with it had she gone down a little more level. This is conjecture but it is illustrative.
Talking of these crash dives, I recall an incident when we were doing anti-submarine exercises during which we used to dive for two hours at a time, then come to the surface while the umpires made out what we very rudely called their "swindle sheets". We used only to blow very little air out of the main ballast, so as to save us a lot of time at night using the air compressors. On this occasion as usual we came to the surface and we were lying there trimmed down (the main ballast roughly two-thirds full), just floating, when the signalman who was up on the bridge with me remembered he had not brought up any cigarettes. I don't smoke them so he was out of luck's way. I had my pipe, I well remember, a bottle of beer and a glass and I was peacefully watching the destroyer, waiting for her to signal to us to carry on with the next two hours of the exercise, when he asked if he could go down below and fetch his cigarettes.
Going down he automatically pressed the crash drive button, because the signalman always does press it to save those few seconds in diving while the officer on the bridge "shuts off for diving" and then quickly slips down and closes the lid. The wind was blowing so I did not hear the main vents open, particularly as they did not give a roar because the main ballast had so little air in anyway, but I did feel the boat suddenly go full speed ahead and realized what had happened. I tried to do my best to shut everything off up top and to climb down the hatch. It was too late. The water was already up to hatch level and in a second would have started pouring down, so I shut the lid, jumped on it and stayed on it until there was enough water on top of it to keep it shut. Perforce then I started performing like a very ungraceful monkey up the periscope as she went down. Of course, she was immediately brought to the surface again when the error was discovered, but it would be very near the truth if I said that the officer at the bottom of the periscope thought he had seen the rising sun at the top as I glared into it. My cap was picked up so the total loss was one pipe, one bottle, one broken glass and a small quantity of ale.
Talking of ale, generally speaking this is the only alcoholic beverage which is carried except the normal service rum for those who take it, but it is very noticeable that ale becomes most unpalatable if opened in the unpleasant atmosphere common to submarines. I believe it is the effect of battery gas. Anyhow most of us used to wait till we could consume it up on the bridge. There is a hardy annual concerning one officer, who had recently been censured for exceeding the permissible Wine Bill. During Admiral's Inspection, when they surfaced, he and the Admiral were alone on the bridge looking for the sloop that was due to collect the latter. The young C.O. had left his binoculars below so he put his head to the voice pipe and called out "Send up the Captain's glasses." Up popped a young seaman with two glasses and a bottle of ale. History relates that the Admiral merely looked at him and said "You win".
At all times, of course, it is necessary for both submarines and anti-submarine vessels to combine in exercises one against the other. These anti-submarine exercises are part of almost everyone's training if he is lucky, because during that time not only do the destroyers learn how to chase submarines and destroy them, but also the young submarine C.O.'s and First Lieutenants learn how to handle their submarine as best they can, with as little noise as possible, to get away. And I personally was very lucky that I did two years, going out three or four times a week, being chased by destroyers. Naturally we had a good deal of friendly rivalry and I remember one wicked story that one of my confreres told. He vouched f or it being true.
We used to carry, on a reel fixed at the base of the conning tower, a long grass line with fishermen's buffs which floated above us on the surface so that the umpires could have some idea where we were and if the destroyer really lost us, when they were beginners chasing us, the umpires would break off the whole game and lead the destroyer back to these buffs and start again. The particular officer assured me that in diving he got the grass line round his propellers and cut it, so that the buffs floated away on the tide. After two hours he could hear nothing. Certainly no one had detected him. He asked permission to surface in the normal way and got no reply so he slipped up to periscope depth and had a peep through the periscope. He could not see any destroyers, so he surfaced and went up to the bridge and had a look through his glasses. A long way off he could see two destroyers happily flying the "success signal" and dropping many small depth charges on the bunch of buffs. He went on to say that the trainee in the destroyer's listening room had apparently got a pal in the engine room, who had his head out through the scuttle and was beating with a spanner, telling him which way to follow. But I believe that is all a gross libel. The raconteur concluded, anyway, that he went back to harbour early for the first time in his life. But what I can vouch for, which was very alarming if amusing, was the little experience another submarine had of getting underneath the destroyer that was hunting for him. It was a trick that anyone might try in the ordinary way. Just get underneath the destroyer when she is listening for you. Of course when she went ahead you heard her propellers go "chugger, chugger", so you could start yours up too and chug along underneath. Well that was absolutely perfect, provided you did not do what my friend did, who came up see exactly where she was and gazed into the frozen face of an engine room artificer. He had put his periscope through the bottom of the destroyer. I did see the periscope when the submarine came back into harbour. It looked more like a saxophone than anything else, but I don't know quite how true the story is that when he took it away again and dived and slipped out of his predicament he very nearly sank the destroyer by the hole he left in her bottom.
Well I think now you probably would like briefly to hear about at attack. Submarine life on a long patrol normally is exceptionally boring. You see nothing possibly for days and days at a time. Night is turned into day and therefore during the daytime everyone sleeps, reads, writes letters, plays cards, dominoes, draughts, etc.-you can imagine the scene in dim electric light while the barest minimum hands run the motors, effect repairs if wanted and attend to the diving. Manning the control room periscopes are one officer and one rating for an hour at a time until their eyes get tired when they are relieved by someone else. The same officer who mans the periscope also controls the diving. He has a couple of ratings on the hydroplanes, quite young men, all getting experience of course, while everyone else, except for such as a wireless operator, one motorman, etc., is resting. Very boring until something happens-and then suddenly one of these two at the periscopes may see something, say a patch of smoke on the horizon. They may have been informed, of course, that a convoy is expected and they are looking in the right direction, but still it is tedious waiting. They both then have a look and if they agree the patch is "something" they call the Captain quickly. The Captain comes and has an experienced look and probably brings the submarine up in the water, after having a good search round the sky for safety, to have a better look. Confirms, "By Jove, here is an enemy at last". He gives the order,
"Diving Stations!" Everybody tumbles out quickly, goes to his action stations and waits for orders.
Then the attack starts and it is as tense as it is brief--short and sharp and electric. The Captain has to get his submarine into position so that he can fire just ahead of the enemy and sink her by torpedoes. During all this time the enemy has probably got an aeroplane escort and if she is worth attacking by torpedo she is sure to have a destroyer escort. These chaps have to be watched as, well as watching the enemy. Every time the C.O. wants to have a look at the enemy when he is getting close he has to stop, come up near to the surface and pop a periscope up and look, for she may have altered her course. Naturally, all ships zig zag just to annoy the submarine. In fact that is the sole idea of zig zagging. To help him know what is going on while he is concentrating on his attack, the Captain is kept informed by a man using hydrophones at his listening post. Probably one of the escorts has picked him up. She suddenly alters course and is coming fast towards the submarine but the C.O. must still get his attack in, knowing that at the last moment when he has almost certainly given his position away by firing torpedoes his only possible reward can be a shower of depth charges. Once he has given his position away the sure answer is this shower of depth charges: there is no question about it.
That brings an important point to light, the morale of our submarine crews, which is superb. They are picked men from volunteers and they go through a really good training. They have infinite faith in their C.O. and First Lieutenant and they wait for orders, quietly but on their toes. One submarine was saved the other day, according to the official report of her Commanding Officer, by this morale factor. After they had attacked and had gone deep during the counter attack they were very badly shaken by a pattern of depth charges, which only just missed being lethal. Their lights were all out, the propeller shafts were running untrue in their bearings, the hydroplanes were jammed and, worse of all, the battery tanks were cracked and starting to give off chlorine gas. In other words they were out of control and on their last legs.
At that particular moment the coxswain came up to the C.O. with a signal pad in his hand and held it out and said, "Most urgent request, Sir". The C.O. shone his torch on it in surprise. It said, "Able Seaman Jones, such and such a number, requests to revert to general service immediately". In his report the Captain said that he at once passed the signal pad round the boat and the crew laughed so much that, to use your expression, they "snapped out of it" and got away by sheer optimism.
Talking of attacks again, you will appreciate that it would be distinctly annoying to carry out an attack only to have the torpedoes running badly, thus letting down the unfortunate submarine. I mention this as some of you here may be interested in parts of torpedo production. Our torpedoes have done extremely well in this war. The only really adverse story that I know of was that of one submarine officer who, having given away his position by firing said, "And, mark you, the confounded thing ran round and round me, terrifying us to death."
So will see that it is rather important that your torpedo, which is a very valuable self-propelling object, is accurate and does go where it is told at the speed it is told and at the depth it is told, all of which is set upon it before it is squirted out of the tube.
Well I don't think I could end without telling you this little anecdote and, if any of my old colleagues and pals hear this one, I hope they won't sue me for copyright because it also used to be a hardy annual and the same thing used to happen in different ways every few years. We always used to have a "Show the Flag" visit from foreign flotillas. One particular year we had one of the regular visits from a French flotilla and they had thought about it, I think, a good deal before they came over. I then was a young instructor in the training group at Submarine Headquarters, where we had a very fine Commanding Officer who had been promoted for gallantry in the last war and had since, as a Lieutenant Commander, risen to the command of the Training Group. Well they came over. We gave them the usual dinner; we played some odd games. There was a full programme for that sort of thing, in which it was arranged that one of the training submarines-and of course we had a marvellous crew of instructors so you could do anything with her-one of these training submarines should go out and give all their officers a dip. Well, we all went aboard in ordinary uniform, not dressed for submerging. We took them out to the usual practice area, four miles outside, and we gave them the most beautiful dive. We then sat on the bottom, as only a real expert crew can do it, without anyone knowing that she is there, when we stopped everything, opened a bottle, toasted "Vive la France!" and then went back to harbour.
More dinners and more games, and vice versa. So the next day arrived. It was a beautiful autumn day and they said "You will go to sea with us." Well we went to sea with them and we went board just like the day before in our same uniforms, but to our absolute horror they were all in southwesters, sweaters and sea boots, which is the ordinary submarine rig for patrol. I remember my skipper saying, "Rosie, we are in for it. I little knew how right he was.
They had set out to have a jolly good leg-pull and I will tell you what happened. We went out to precisely the same place for diving, when we were put in the Control Room, I hope not looking as petrified as we felt, then the Captain came down and, with a stony glare at the First Lieutenant, said "Tout pret?" "Tout pret, mon Capitaine", he replied. "Cest bien. Plongez vite!" That I think was "Crash Dive" in French. Well we did "Plongez vite". We went full speed ahead. Everybody opened everything he could find and we assumed the most alarming angle. Being visitors, we had nothing to hold on to and we slid across the Control Room plates. As it was very shallow we hit the bottom with a resounding crash, which of course was part of the joke to them as they all had something to hold on to. But, unfortunately, the bottom was very muddy and nothing would get us out even with a good deal of "siffling". "Siffler" is a very good word, meaning to whistle, because when you blow with high pressure air it does "whistle". A good deal of "siffling" and a good deal of going full speed "en arriere", and so on, but nothing happened.
So we had to have a little conference. It had happened before in training classes and we all knew what to do. The only thing to do is to put everybody unemployed forward. Then when the First Lieutenant's whistle goes you again blow and go full speed astern (incidentally not much good in this case because the propellers were out of the water) while at the same time everybody runs uphill from forward to aft through the water-tight doors to bring the stern down. But whereas our water-tight doors are more or less egg-shaped, theirs were round and one fat chap got stuck in the first doorway. Progression naturally ceased very suddenly and the runners came to a dead halt.
So we stopped "siffling" and going astern and had another conference, and decided that the "fat party" would have to be weeded out and put at the after end, where they would just have to jump up and down when the whistle went. So they jumped and the rest ran, the air "siffled", and the motors went astern; and, By Jobe, we came out beautifully. Everything went in our favour so beautifully that we went straight over and put the stern deeper in the mud than the bow had been. That jammed the propellers and burned out the main motor fuses, so we now had no motive power for the moment either. There was nothing for it but to move the fat party up to the bow and repeat the whole thing a second time when what with the jumping and "siffling" and running we finally shot to the surface, whereupon the French Captain calmly turned around to us, and said, without a smile, "Voila !". My skipper, who did not speak a word of French but was ever polite, looked at him and most rightfully said "Mercy."
Well, gentlemen, my time is up and I thank you very much for listening in such a friendly manner. I would like to end by saying how grand it is to see that Canada is building her own Navy. That is superb. I have just one modest hope, that perhaps one day Canada will also run her own submarine flotilla. At the present moment all your submariners, who are doing so well, are of course R.C.N.V.R., because not having any regular submarines you would not have any regular R.C.N. officers in submarines, but there is no finer training. I attribute all my own failings of confidence to having had that training.
And, in conclusion, may I, in all humility but equal sincerity, congratulate you, Mr. President, and all the members of the Club, on the vision that you show by having, if I may stress it, an Empire Club. If we pull together imperially, as an Empire, I fell we shall be of some use to world peace and surely we have had enough of wars in our time. And as an Empire, which means a team, I feel that we can quite easily go a long way to make the world a place that is grand for our children to live in and, what is more, make it a place where they can enjoy the life to which we have introduced them.