WW2 Veteran’s 96th Birthday Party

The Friends of the RN Submarine Museum facilitated a visit by Michael Tibbs, his wife, Anne, and 14 family members to the RNSM on Saturday 25 November to celebrate his 96th birthday, which was on 21 November.
In his own words, very much understated, Michael Tibbs said: “I am one of the ancient WWII Submariners. I was in the Tantalus with Rufus Mackenzie from 1943 until 45 … Arctic, Indian Ocean (Mallacca Straits), Pacific (South China Sea) where we did the two longest patrols, 52 days then 55 days. From August ’45 I was No1 (Second in Command) of the Varne until VJ day changed our lives. So, as an RNVR officer, I had to say goodbye to submarines. Hugh Oliphant was our No1, so through him I was able to keep in in touch with the service and follow the progress on the setting up of the Museum.”

HMS/M Tantalus leaving Gibraltar on her way home from Ceylon and Western Australia. Taken by a friendly RAF Mosquito. May 1945.  From Michael Tibbs

Rufus Mackenzie was a British submarine ace of WW2, who was awarded two Distinguished Service orders for service in submarines during two very long patrols against the Japanese in the Far East. During this time, Michael also met Hugh Oliphant, who was later instrumental in establishing the Royal Navy Submarine Museum and closely involved in bringing Alliance to the museum, now preserved by the NMRN as a Historic Ship.
Michael, Anne and their family toured the museum, where Michael regaled us all with fascinating memories of life in submarines during the Second World War. He had met a number of people commemorated in the museum and had a yarn or two to spin that brought their characters and personalities very much to life. Later, during a walk through Alliance, he described what it was like to be depth charged by enemy ships while in shallow water. “A depth charge exploded close ahead of the boat, and the Captain (Rufus Mackenzie) ordered full ahead before a second depth charge exploded just astern (exactly where the submarine would have been without Mackenzie’s instinctive action)!” So, Tantalus escaped and the crew lived to fight another day.
Following a memorable visit to the museum, the family went on to continue the celebrations with lunch in a local hotel in Alverstoke.

12 Comments

jock.mclees

It was a great pleasure to be there to help welcome the Tibbs family to the museum. And it was more than somewhat humbling to be with Michael in the control room of Alliance as he described being depth charged by Japanese warships in shallow water, clearly revisiting the experience. And fascinating to hear him tell stories about wartime submariners while around the VC Exhibition, realising that he had been there, sat with them and listened to their dits!

William Peel

I, too, served in the Mallacca Straits as O.E.R.A. on Statesman. I am 97 years of age and echo young Michael’s sentiments re- depth charging.
Bill Peel

jock.mclees

Amazing stories, both! And more than a little humbling that both are surfing the Internet while in their mid-nineties. Congratulations are due to Bill and “Young” (!) Michael. The latter’s book, by the way, is an easy and very worthwhile read, describing Britain and her Navy at war day by day, in the form of letters exchanged between Michael and his family and friends in rural England. (Hello, Lad, Come to join the Navy?)

TIBBS

For old Bill.
I think your 3rd and 4th Officers were Dick Mason and Randall Fielden. I was a Midshipman with Mason in the Shiny Sheffield and the same SM training class as Fielden. I met your Captain again at the 100th celebration in 2001. Had a drink with him, but can’t remember his name.
Good luck Michael

William Peel

So nice to hear from you Michael, we shared so much. Our C.O. was R.G.P.Bulkeley (B0b) Sadly no longer with us. The same applies to Dickie Mason in Australia. Yours aye, Bill

Nigel Feilden

I am Randle (or Kit) Feilden’s eldest son. He told us some of his stories over the years, but I asked him to connect them together – which he did, bit by bit. He was (died 2012) 3rd Officer on Statesman until, I think, their 5th patrol from Trincomalee. It was interesting to read your account of being stuck on the bottom of the Malacca Straits as that was one of two very dodgy moments Dad remembered. The other was a nearly death dive in a fresh water patch off NW coast of Arran while working up. I have some of his photos from that period – including one of a Christmas party in Statesman either ’43 or ’44. I ‘d be happy to send them if you would like that.

By webmaster: Photos now available here

TIBBS

Dear Nigel,
Good to hear from you. I am sorry you have lost your father. I think he became a farmer? Yours Aye. Michael.

TIBBS

Thanks for yours. I heard about Dick Mason. I went to OZ 30 years go and tried but failed to contact him. I was at his wedding in Linconshire. Sorry about Bob

tstrouts

Just to hitch a ride on the Statesman references, my father, Neil Strouts, was 1st Lt at the Mallaca Straits/Trincomalee times and was awarded a DSC for his and others’ achievements.

Leave a Reply