Dits & Bits Category: Dits

Charles Nixon-Eckersall – Photos

Reading the Obit about Charles N-E prompted me to look at an old photograph album and pictures I took when Third Hand of Oberon in the Far East in 1967.  Charles was our Jimmy and thought you might like the attached to add to your collection.

Commander John Lorimer DSO

Click for larger image. To reads the Telegraph obit go to our Obit section.


‘X’CRAFT RAID ON THE TIRPITZ – (OPERATION SOURCE) Commemoration Ceremony – 22 September 2013

John Lorimer

The sad news of the recent death of John Lorimer, who found himself aged 19, under the keel of the Tirpitz some seventy six years ago, has prompted me to recall the memorial event, staged at the ‘X’ Craft Monument at Kylesku Bridge on 22rd September 2013, exactly seventy years after the great raid on the German Battleship took place.

Cairn with wreathes laid

The genesis of this ceremony stemmed from Commander William Sutherland, RN (Retired)  and Jonathan Brett Young, RAN (Retired), who both live close to Lairg in Sutherland, some fifty miles from Loch Cairnbawn, where the ‘X’ Craft crews did their final training and departure to Norwegian waters.  

John Lorimer with son , laying their wreath

William and Jonathan were able to bring together, two members of the Place family, John Lorimer and his son; and also Adam Bergius, who had carried out the audacious dive to cut the Japanese submarine telegraph cable in the Mekong Delta.  Also present was the Deputy Lieutenant of Sutherland, Major General Patrick Marriott, whose father Sam had commanded the captured U Boat (U 570), that became HMS GRAPH, during WW2.  And even the army padre Peter Mosley, who officiated at the service, had had a submarine ‘experience’ when sunk in the Irish Sea by the periscope of HMS CONQUEROR, whilst he was sailing in a training yacht from Larne to Stranraer. There was also a strong contingent of submariners from Faslane, and a Royal Marine bugler – and not least the author Paul Watkins, who had just written a biography of Godfrey Place, VC.

Adam Bergius – John Lorimer – with Place relatives and Lorimer son

For those of you who have not been to the XIIth Submarine Flotilla memorial, it stands just off the A894 to Scourie, to the north of the 1984 Kylesku Bridge. It comprises an impressive bronze, set into a stone cairn, depicting a submarine sailing out of the loch with a ‘chariot’ in the foreground. The thirty nine names of those who lost their lives during  XIIth Submarine Flotilla operations, are remembered below the following words:

The silent hills remember the young men of His Majesty’s ‘X’ Craft Submarines and Human Torpedoes, who were trained in these wild and beautiful waters.

There are also some words commending the local people who:

‘Knew so much but talked so little’

For me, the event started the evening before, at Jonathan’s atmospheric Scottish  house on the banks of Loch Shin, where author Paul Watkins was also spending the night. Thus there was the chance to talk about ‘Operation Source’ with one who had recently trawled the story in depth, and had had access to family records. 

The day dawned with weather that the ‘X’ Craft crews would have known well. ‘Come and go rain’, fleeting sunshine through scudding clouds – and that special light that one gets in the north of Scotland at this time of year. All presented with a westerly wind that gusted up white horses on the loch below. In fact the stage was perfectly set, for the very special occasion that it was. The locals were well in attendance along with local council members, The British Legion, and the Royal Naval Association Sutherland. (One lady told me that as a child, she remembered young officers coming to get milk from her family farm each day),

The ceremony commenced with a welcome address by Jonathan Brett Young – readings by Paul Watkins from his book – and then a short service.  ‘Eternal Father’ was given a rousing rendition that shrilled above the sound of the wind; as did the Last Post and Reveille, sounded by the Royal Marine bugler.   The ceremony concluded by some closing remarks by Patrick Marriott, who having been brought up in a ‘submarine family’, obviously found it emotional to be at such a poignant ‘submarine event’ .  (As we all did)

However , for me it was the chance to mingle with the guests, whilst the wreath laying was taking place, that really impressed on my mind. Here were the actual people who had carried out these very professional and brave acts ( when I was only three years old), and who had handed down the legacy of professional pride and service to my generation of submarining. I did talk to Adam Bergius. He told me that he had been instructed to cut the phone line in two places and bring back a six inch piece of the cable to prove that it had been cut. ‘Where is that piece of cable?’ I said – ‘on my desk in my house in Argyll’ was his answer!  And then I was able to have some general chat with the Place relatives. But when I came to shaking John Lorimer’s hand I became tongue tied. How many people must have asked him what it was like to be under the keel of the Tirpitz that dark night – or indeed on the deck of the ship when he knew it was about to explode beneath him. So my courage failed me. But I feel very privileged to have shaken his hand – exactly seventy years since he and Donald Cameron VC, had manoeuvred ‘X’6 under the great battleship and let fall their explosive charges.

After the ceremony, we repaired to the Kylesku Hotel, which was used as an extra mess during the operations, and provided a sanctuary for the crews and training personnel. There was more chat and story telling; again in an atmosphere of submarine ‘history’. (The hotel still has the visitors book from 1942, with the signatures of many well known names who helped in the mounting of ‘Operation Source’. It also has some interesting pictures of the ships and people who took part in the daring raid)

Signature of John Lorimer in visitors book of Kylesku Hotel

It was  a special day and I felt privileged to have been invited.  I am sure that I was not the only one present, who indulged in some serious reflection.

Inscriptions on memorial plate

To those of you who may venture to the north west tip of Scotland, a visit to the ‘X’ Craft memorial cairn and the Kylesku Hotel will be a rewarding one.

Adam Bergius

Auriga the O Boat

I started my submarine training in 1965  having completed part 2 I went to the Joss to get my draft he said “you’ve got the Auriga in Guzz” in refit “oh great” I said “I’ve got an O boat” he raised his eyebrows  & sighed & said “off you go son & here’s your rail warrant” =  well stop & think about it.

I got to Guzz & found the submarine basin with half a dozen boats tied up but no O boat, eventually I found the submarine group which consisted of just a couple of old buildings in need of refurbishment, I asked where the Auriga was & was shown an A boat well you live & learn.

I found out we had to find our own digs & had to get ourselves fed as Drake barracks didn’t do submariners so I ended up in Aggies most nights.

In those days single men got paid less than the married so to survive we did sub’s for grub this enabled the married man to go home & us single guys to  get fed you soon got to know who not to do a sub for.  We used to go around all the ships that came into harbour & scrounge old sacks of spuds carrots onions etc, the stuff that was edible we used to cut up & it all went into a rather large pot on the stove. We then paid a small amount to partake of this bonanza & this money enabled us to buy meat etc to add to the pot I don’t think anybody ever saw the bottom of it for years.

We were also able to borrow money from a float which was  organised by, if I remember, the Cox’n & a Lieutenant in the sub group, you paid a small amount of interest all strictly illegal but you have to remember we got paid a pittance in those days.

We soon got to know all the pubs that on a Sunday that did food   e.g. sarnies, roast spuds etc to entice customers in it  was a bit of a scramble but  you dived  in ordered a half, grabbed some grub sank the half & then onto the next one –  you learn’t to ignore the indigestion.

When you were really short of dosh & couldn’t afford Aggies you used to double  up in your mates cabin sleeping on the the floor trying not to get caught by the duty manager. Aggies  used to do soup after 2200 hours so we ordered soup & 10 this meant soup & 10 slices of bread this used to mop up the beer nicely.

Duty watch consisted mainly of patrols at night around all the boats that were in refit, to speed things up two of you went out one  of you went down the after hatch & the other the torpedo loading  met in the control room up the ladder & onto the next one.  In those days after the dockyard work ceased the only lighting was a necklace of lights going through the boat this was pretty dim as the voltage was only 110v & a lot of the bulbs didn’t work so you carried a torch. if you could get one.

One patrol in the early hours of the morning did the normal routine until the guy who had gone down the forward hatch suddenly saw two large pair of shining eyes & what looked like a long wrinkly nose coming towards him! He shot up the nearest  ladder & legged it onto the jetty, his mate then  stuck his head out of the hatch wearing an old fashioned gas mask,  he never saw the funny side he’d been so scared!

A ‘Rockie’ in Panto

‘Sinbad the Sailor’ – The Dolphin Christmas Panto 1956

Having spent a couple of months on a visit to Namsos in HMS Termagent, while acquiring my Naval Watcheeping ticket, I arrived in Gosport late in 1956 to join the next RN S/M Officers Training Class.

Commander S/M, Donald Cameron V.C., was a former ‘Rockie’ when he ended up ‘In the bag’ after the attack on the TIRPITZ. He assured me that, as a ‘Rockie’, it would be in my best interest to take part in the Dolphin Pantomime (which he was producing) rather than worrying about trying to do well in the Training Class as, 6 months after joining my first boat, I would return to the Merchant Navy, serving for a couple of weeks each year thereafter before getting kicked out at 40. I never knew what persuaded my very good friend, Mike Hutchinson Lieutenant RN, who was in the same training class, to join the Panto, other than to have a jolly good time.

Playing the part of Lieutenant Henry Fortune RN, I had to learn all the songs from the current shows, appropriately re-written, before ending up in the cannibals cooking pot! Betty Whetstone was also in the cast and, with Tony, kindly invited my wife and daughter to stay with them to see the pantomime. This was the start of a lifetime friendship.

As might have been predicted, Mike and I both ended up bottom of the Training Class. At least we had passed, Donald Cameron having again, no doubt, been at his persuasive best. Our reward was appointments to the clockwork mice ‘Sleuth’ and ‘Selene’ operating out of Portland with the 2nd Training Squadron. Excellent submarining but no bloody torpedoes!

[By the Editor: does anybody have any photos of this production?]

A Game Pair

[By Editor: this post was originally submitted as a comment on another excellent dit about John Goodbody which you can read here.]

I served with the late Fleet Chief RS John “Dogsbody” Goodbody when he was the LRO and proud member of HMS REPULSE (Port Crew), and I was his DO. His partner in crime was LWtr, later FCWtr John “Barny” Barnard, and the pair of them were often in trouble – so so was I. The closest shave the pair of them had was as follows:

We came back from our first deterrent patrol, went alongside in Coulport, and the next morning conducted a cold move round to Faslane. It was a few days before Christmas. As we approached our berth our CO, then Commander Phil Wadman, observed that the boats alongside all had Christmas Trees hoisted, as was tradition. Turning to me he asked if I had arranged for a tree to which my reply was in the negative. “I will get one, Sir, as soon as we get alongside.”

Going below, I bumped into Dogsbody and told him I was in need of some advice. “Where do I get a Christmas Tree from, LRO, like right away?” “Don’t worry, Sir, leave it to me.” So, with the weight off my shoulders down below I went to join a convivial throng at the Wardroom Bar.

It seemed to me it was only a short time later there was a disturbance at the door, outside of which was found a MOD Policeman brandishing a damage control axe, accompanied by a gamekeeper, dressed for the hill.

It very quickly became apparent that the gamekeeper had just encountered two young sailors up in the forest above the Base busy chopping down a tree. Alerted by his dog, the sailors had turned and fled, dropping the axe as they went. The axe had a broad arrow on it, and the sailors were in their working dress.

It was obviously time to step in. The miscreants were summoned, Dogsbody admitted it was all his fault, Barney admitted he was the accomplice, and I said that “no, it was actually all my fault.” Fortunately, the gamekeeper (refreshed with a tot of whisky or two) saw the funny side of the story, as did the policeman. Both departed. The Christmas Tree was delivered shortly there afterwards. The axe was returned to its stowage.

It was only sometime later that Dogsbody confessed that he had picked up a bit of lead shot which had lodged in his backside, or so he claimed because the gamekeeper had taken a pot shot at the pair of them as they scarpered down the hillside. He also had a hole in the back of his No 8 trousers to show for it!

So moral of story – steer well clear of gamekeepers.

Swiftsure Summer Fete

On the way down to the Falklands I organised a summer fete in the engine room!! to raise some money for a charity of the skippers choice.
 ’S’ boat crew will recognise we are in the tunnel over the reactor compartment.
The ribbon concealed a wire which the boss was trying to cut through to open the fete the guy in the dark glasses (just visible over the skipper’s left shoulder) had a pair of bolt croppers ready to hand to the him.
One of the ‘killick’ stokers said to me can I come as the fete Queen so here he is in all his finery where he got the dress & stockings etc from I do not know & didn’t ask?? the skipper said to me you’d better deal with that Chief.
Except for me on the left could anybody supply the names of the other participants because my memory is failing me?

My First Boat – Gerry Paul

In 1953, having been “specially selected for service in submarines” (against my wishes) I joined HMS Dolphin for the OTC which comprised eleven volunteers and four pressed men: our excellent trainers were Lt ‘Tubby’ Squires and Coxswain Selby. Having qualified, I flew to Malta; landing at Luqa on a dark, wet night and transferring to HMS Forth in Msida Creek. On arrival, I was directed to a two berth cabin and turned in on the upper bunk: only to be woken an hour later by two loud crashes – the first being a baulk of 4×4 timber through the (shut) cabin door ventilator grill, followed in person by my cabin mate, who apologised for his over-exuberant ‘friends’.

At that time, the Malta squadron comprised eight S and T boats. I joined HMS Sanguine as fifth hand for the last few weeks of that commission: the CO was Lt Cdr CB Mills, and the wardroom a friendly team. Within a fortnight, I had a harbour driving licence (for frequent trot movements) and was conducting dived watches while day running off Malta. Our only long period at sea was an exercise off Toulon in November. As fifth hand, my ‘bunk’ was under the wardroom table (feet out). After the exercise, Sanguine anchored off Golfe Juan and I went ashore with the third hand and engineer: we found a great restaurant and dined on bouillabaisse. Unfortunately, that evening the weather deteriorated, and on return to the port we met our Captain who told us that the 1st Lt had been obliged to depart the anchorage, so we should find overnight accommodation. Eventually, at about midnight we found a small double bedroom in a local hostelry. After considering the options, we settled on a sardine style threesome arrangement with the engineer head to toe in the middle.  Not much sleep: but, after that, my berth onboard under the table seemed positively luxurious.

After Sanguine, I spent two happy years with Teredo and Tudor before returning to UK in Truncheon. By then, I had dismissed any notion of returning to the surface fleet and settled down to enjoy another seventeen years in submarines, culminating in command of Resolution. I was recently reminded of those early days when, at the Perisher 100 dinner, I found myself seated next to my former cabin mate, last seen in Malta in 1954: he was in fine fettle, and much better shape than me!

Gerry Paul


As part of his COQC study, David Parry (COQCstudy@gmail,com) has produced an excellent booklet ‘Some Things You May Not Know About The Perisher’ which narrates the history of the course from 1901 to 1945. In it he describes how the entire crew of HMS Simoom mutinied against their CO who clearly was unsuitable for command. The CO and XO were duly dismissed but sadly some time later, Simoom was lost with all hands when she struck a mine when patrolling off Turkey.

This story made me recall the incident of a near mutiny in a US boat during the WWII Pacific campaign. Henry Munson was the CO of the USS Crevalle and although he had been successful in sinking shipping, his behavior was progressively becoming erratic and unstable. This was causing real concern amongst his officers.

USS Crevalle

Events came to a crisis one morning at dawn (January 1944) when the boat was on the surface. The XO, Lieutenant Frank Walker, had been summoned to the bridge by the OOW who pointed out ahead, a surfaced Japanese submarine underway on about the same course, at a range of two miles. However, the CO was convinced that it was US and was busy with the signalman at the rear of the conning tower calling it up by light. The XO quickly and confidently confirmed it to be enemy (it had a Japanese flag flying) and immediately went below, brought two stern tubes to readiness, reversed course and on a fire-control solution provided by the third hand from the bridge, fired two torpedoes at the enemy at a range of 1,600 yards. Despite an accurate fire control solution, unfortunately the torpedoes prematurely detonated and the Japanese boat lived to tell the tale.

Meanwhile the CO, who did not have terribly good eyesight, and remained convinced the submarine was friendly, was outraged by the XO’s and the Third Hand’s actions and planned to have them court-martialed for mutiny.

On return to base in Freemantle, the group admiral, having read and assessed the patrol report and other communications, relieved Munson and replaced him with the XO. During Walker’s first patrol as CO in Crevalle, after a severe depth-charge attack, he ended up with 17 children buried under a collapsed wardroom and a dozen women up to their knees in water in a flooded fore-ends, but that is another story.

Outfit DCD

Courageous had an extra bit of AIO equipment fitted whilst in build at Barrow during build and this was known as DCD which was basically fitted in the control roomto validate the feasibility of Automated Bearing Only Analysis and used a Farranti FM 1600 computer. A small display console was squeezed in between the LOP ‘ARL’ Table and the Contact Evaluation Plot (CEP) and a maintainer or DWEO was required to operate the DCD display.

Many trial runs were required for this new and untried equipment, these were often done in the CXAs using as a target an RFA, often the Black Rover plodding around at about 8 knots, doing endless set run plans. DCD, could only handle one target and was the proof of concept/prototpye for DCA, which was fitted on the first three ‘S’ Class submarines before the final DCB was fitted into all the nuclear submarine fleet. Often, for reasons unknown the punch ticket tape that was used to store data would spew out endless paper tape in the Control Room usually at the least convenient time, much to the irritation and great frustration of the Commanding Officer (Sam Fry), the acute embarrassment of the maintainers and the covert amusement of the rest of the Control Room Team who found this all highly amusing.

Antique Visits Museum


Charlie Ross, BBC Antiques expert, is front right. here.  He presided over the Alliance Appeal Auction on Victory in September 2010 – for which he waived his normal very significant fee – and raised a significant amount.  He has such a crowded diary that it has taken 9 years to find time to dine him – wearing the cufflinks and small submarine badge that Tim McClement presented him with. But it might also be an opportunity to point out to members that one can purchase the opportunity to dine on Alliance (in JR’s mess) by arrangement with Jess Rix at Explosion.


There is also a good dit from that evening…

Tim’s submarine badge was the last item up for auction. Prior to the event Charlie expressed a reservation to me that it might not fetch much. I pointed out it had belonged to the 2ndin command of the submarine that sank the Belgrano.  He still expressed reservations. On the night there were two bidders who raised it to 5 figures (£10K I think). The winner came forward  to collect his prize which Tim suggested should be taken from the bottom of a glass with a tot of rum in it as per custom. The winner obliged and then asked to make a short speech. He said he was Russian (fluent English so KGB?) and admired British submariners very much and had always wanted to hold one in his teeth. I believe he handed it back and the badge has been re-auctioned at least twice. Tim can confirm facts as 9 years ago is a long time for my memory!


My First Boat – Tony (Black)Miller

By Tony [Black ] as opposed to [Red] Miller. He was also ‘Tony Miller’ and we kept getting each other’s Gieves and other a/c’s!

My first boat was TIPTOE with the legendary Spike Park as C.O. He was an ex WW2 C.O. and thoroughly dangerous socially but incredibly good operationally. He drank like a fish, had a long-suffering and lovely wife, June, and expected his officers to keep up with him. That was impossible even in those days [1950’s/60’s] when the wardroom bar never closed in harbour. I learnt more good habits about driving submarines as well as bad habits from Spike. We were 3rd Squadron based initially on the depot ship at Rothesay, Isle of Bute, not the most exciting place for a young bachelor officer for his first 2 years of submarine life. Exercises in the North Atlantic and Med. were an excellent training ground for, what turned out to be, a fairly successful submarine career, albeit all in diesels. Tony