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.”
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.