Tag Archives: submarine

ERA 2nd Class William Shaw DSM

As a general rule, Great War sailors from Portsmouth don’t seem to have won as many medals as their counterparts in the Second World War. I’m intruiged as to why this might be. But in the meantime, I have found one sailor who had a pretty interesting career.

William Fleetwood Shaw was born in Portsmouth on 8 July 1889.He was the son of Mr W.F. and Mrs. E. Shaw, of 46 Cleveland Road, Southsea. Shaw was an Engine Room Artificer 2nd Class when he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal on 28 September 1917, for ‘service with the Royal Naval Air Service on patrol duties and submarine searching in Home Waters’. Quite what an Engine Room Artificer was doing serving with the RNAS is anybody’s guess.

William Shaw was killed on HM Submarine L55 when she was sunk in the Baltic on 4 June 1919. L55 had been targeting two Soviet warships – the Gavril and the Azard. It is unclear whether the submarine was sunk by soviet gunfire, or from straying into a British-laid minefield.

The wreck remained on the Batlic seabed for eight years, until L55 was raised from the seabed by the Soviets on 11 August 1928. The remains of her 34 crewmembers were transferred from a British trawler to HMS Champion – a Light Cruiser. Their remains were buried in Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery in Gosport in a joint grave. My grandad’s birth certificate states that his father – my grandfather, Stoker Thomas Daly – was on HMS Champion at the time, so its quite possible that one of my ancestors played a small part in bringing William Shaw home! The photograph above shows some of the 34 coffins on the foredeck of HMS Champion, and her sailors and marines maintaining an honour guard. Interestingly, after being raised L55 was repaired by the Soviets, and used until the Second World War.

Interesting how a young man from Portsmouth – an Engine Room ‘tiffy’ – wins a DSM for service with the RN Air Service, is then killed serving in a submarine during the Russian Civil War, and finally finds his way home to Portsmouth almost a decade later.

16 Comments

Filed under Navy, portsmouth heroes, World War One

Petty Officer Percy Kempster DSM

Royal Australian Navy badge

Image via Wikipedia

Having been researching twelve australian great war soldiers who lie in Portsmouth, little did I expect to come across a Portsmouth-based naval rating who died whilst serving with the Royal Australian Navy.

Percy John Kempster was born in Southampton, on 24 October 1883. Kempster initially joined the Royal Navy at the age of 16, in 1899. In late 1907 Percy married his wife Beatrice, in Portsmouth. After completing his service with the Royal Navy – including service on submarines at HMS Dolphin – Kempster joined the Royal Australian Navy on 24 October 1913, for an initial period of 5 years. Upon joining the RAN he was immediately promoted to Leading Seaman, and passed for eventual promotion to Petty Officer in due course.

It seems that Kempster’s main task upon joining the RAN was to form part of the crew delivering Australia’s first submarines. HM Submarines AE1 and AE2 were built at Vickers, and accepted by the Australian Navy at Portsmouth in February 1914. They finally left Portsmouth on 2 March 1914, escorted by the Light Cruiser HMS Eclipse. They finally arrived in Sydney Harbour on 24 May 1914, an epic voyage on such small, cramped vessels. After his arrival in Australia Kempster came under the command of HMAS Penguin, an ex Royal Navy sloop being used as a Submarine Depot ship.

Whilst Kempster was in Australia the First World War began. Obviously unhappy at being thousands of miles away from the action, after completing such an epic voyage Kempster returned to Britain. How exactly is unclear, but on 1 January 1915 he came back under the command of the RAN’s London Depot, serving in Royal Navy submarines. British and colonial personnel often interchanged on postings. Hence it is not a surprise that Kempster fought in the Royal Navy, even though he was technically an Australian rating.

On 20 January 1916 Percy Kempster was promoted to Petty Officer, and on 10 August 1917 he was appointed a Submarine Coxon – a key job on such small and demanding vessels. For service on HM Submarine G8 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, announced in the London Gazette on 2 November 1917, for ‘services in action with enemy submarines’. Early submarines were much smaller than their modern equivalents – the G Class only having a crew of 31 men.

Sadly, Kempster did not survive the end of the war. On 14 January 1918 HM Submarine G8 was lost in the North Sea. The exact cause of her loss remains unknown. Petty Officer Percy Kempster is remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial. He was 34. At the time of his death his unit was given as HMS Lucia, a Royal Navy submarine ship. His wife Beatrice was living at 180 Fratton Road in Portsmouth.

19 Comments

Filed under Navy, portsmouth heroes, World War One

two landmarks in one day

We’ve had two landmarks in one day here at DalyHistory. Sometime this morning my humble little blog passed the 100,000 hit mark. Incredible, I would never have thought I would ever get 1,000 hits, let alone 100,000! And later this evening the 2,000th comment was posted. So doing the maths, if that means that ever 50th hit results in a comment, then surely thats not such a bad ratio at all ;)

I’m currently off work this week to focus on researching and writing up the naval chapter of my forthcoming ‘Portsmouth’s Second World War Heroes’. Today was spent looking at secondary sources on the Royal Oak, Hood and Barham. I also found some great source books on Submarines, including a catalogue of all decorations made to submariners in WW2. Tomorrow’s plan is to finish off some books on submarines, and then go onto the mircrofilm to take a look at the Portsmouth Evening News of the days following the sinkings to see what reaction there was locally, and to see if I can find any pictures or obituaries of men who were lost. Later in the week I plan focus on Boy Seamen, and a Destroyer Captain’s antics in the Mediterranean.

3 Comments

Filed under portsmouth heroes, site news

USS Boise




USS Boise

Originally uploaded by dalyhistory2010

The USS Boise is an unusual visitor to Portsmouth Naval Base at the moment.

A US Navy Los Angeles Class Nuclear Attack Submarine, USS Boise has a displacement of 6,000 tons, and a crew of 129 men. She can fire Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles and conventional torpedoes. She was commissioned in 1992, and saw action in the second Gulf War in 2003.She is normally based in Norfolk, Virginia.

The security around US vessels is always tight when they visit foreign ports, and especially so with nuclear submarines. There is a 100 metre exclusion zone around the vessel, maintained by MOD police boats. When the boat I was on passed the Boise the US sailors on the deck tracked us through their binoculars!

1 Comment

Filed under Dockyard, Navy, Uncategorized

Submarine deploys to Falklands

According to the Portsmouth Evening News a Royal Navy Submarine has deployed to the South Atlantic. HMS Sceptre, a 5,000 ton Swiftsure Class nuclear-powered attack submarine, has been sent to the region after speculation that oil has been found.

British Submarines such as HMS Sceptre are able to fire Tommahawk land attack missiles, which have a range of up to 2,500km. Thus a submarine such as Sceptre could launch strikes on strategic targets at any location in Argentina, whilst being up to 1,000 miles away. The effect is very similar to the Vulcan Black Buck raids of 1982. Reportedly only certain Submarines are able to operate Tommahawk, but as the details of exactly which have not been made public, the Argentinians will have to assume that Sceptre can. Sceptre can also fire Sub-Harpoon anti-ship and anti-land missiles, with a range of up to 140 km. In addition she is armed with conventional Spearfish Torpedoes.

Sophisticated monitoring equipment will also enable Sceptre to monitor movements in the seas around the so-called Conservation Zone, where drilling is underway.

It is believed that Sceptre sailed south from around the coast of Southern Africa sometime in February. The Royal Navy has issued a pointed ‘no comment’ as is usual for submarine deployments, but the ‘neither-confirm-nor-deny’ policy will leave Buenos Aries in no doubt as to the fact that a submarine is lurking, hidden, within range. The Argentinian Navy will be well aware of how HMS Conqueror sank the Belgrano in 1982.

Sceptre is the oldest commissioned vessel still in active service with the Royal Navy and is due to decommission in December. Thus this South Atlantic deployment is likely to be her swansong.

4 Comments

Filed under Falklands War, Navy, News

Business in Great Waters: The U-Boat Wars 1916-1945 by John Terraine

John Terraine has long been one of Britain’s heavyweight Military Historians. With extensive writings on the First World War under his belt, and an authoritive volume on the RAF in the Second World, in this book he turns his attention to one of the new aspects of twentieth century naval warfare: the submarine, or in German parlance, the U-Boat.

The conventional wisdom of the Battle of the Atlantic perceives the Germans as starting the war with a huge fleet of advanced submarines, crewed by salty sea dogs, and the big-gun Royal Navy being crewed by amateurs who struggled to counter this new sinister threat, but eventually prevailed.

That the Battle of the Atlantic threatened to strangle Britain – during the Second World War in particular – few would dispute. What does come as a surprise is how threadbare the German U-boat arm was. Often Donitz was down to a handful of vessels, and had to contend with Hitlers constant meddling, based on nothing other than misguided intuition. IF Donitz had been able to deploy more U-Boats, and allowed to focus on the Schwerpunkt of cutting Britain’s lifeline, the second world war may have ran very differently.

Although Britain led in developing anti-submarine technology and weapons: sonar, the hedgehog, as well as the codebreaking work going on at Bletchley Park. The real problem, according to Terraine, seems to have been the attitudes high-up in the Royal Navy, where senior officers – fixated on Battleships – struggled to come to terms with the Submarine as a weapon. Odd, given that the Royal Navy had largely developed it.

This book sees Terraine at his best. Well researched, he pulls out trends, makes convincing conclusions and overturns some lingering myths. This is perhaps not a leisurely read, but it sure is an authoritative one. A lesson of how perilous the risks can be if senior officers struggle to come to terms with new forms of warfare.

Business in Great Waters: The U-Boat Wars 1916-1945 by John Terraine is published by Pen and Sword

14 Comments

Filed under Book of the Week, Navy, World War Two

Pompey’s WW2 submariners

HM Submarine Triumph

HM Submarine Triumph

To serve onboard submarines has always taken a particular breed of man. Cramped, claustrophobic, dirty, smelly, a completely different kind of life and with a particularly nasty set of dangers, its difficult not to have admiration for the men who volunteered to serve in Submarines. Very few men were fortunate enough to survive their Submarine being attacked and sunk.

The submarine played a crucial part in the Second World War. Of course we all know how the Kriegsmarine’s U-boats almost brought Britain to her knees in the battle of the Atlantic, but British Submarines played an equally crucial role in disrupting Axis convoys in the Meditteranean, especially those sailing from Italy to North Africa.

Perhaps one of the most famous British submarines of the Second World War was HMS Triumph. Early in the war she completed the staggering feat of crossing the North Sea after having 18 foot of her bow blown off by a mine on Boxing Day 1939.

After being repaired she went on to give sterling service. Operating in the Mediterranean from early 1941, Triumph sank the Italian merchants Marzamemi, Colomba Lofaro, Ninfea, Monrosa, the Italian auxiliary patrol vessels V 136 / Tugnin F, Valoroso, V 190 / Frieda and V 137 / Trio Frassinetti, the Italian tugs Dante de Lutti and Hercules, the German merchant Luvsee, and the Greek sailing vessels Panagiotis and Aghia Paraskeva. She also damaged the Italian armed merchant cruiser Ramb III, the Italian tankers Ardor and Poseidone, the Italian merchant Sidamo and the German merchant Norburg.

In early 1941, she sank the Italian submarine Salpa off the port of Alexandria, Egypt. In August of that year, she torpedoed the Italian cruiser Bolzano, which suffered considerable damage but survived. Bolzano was later captured by the Germans after the surrender of Italy in 1943, while she was under repair from the damage she had received from Triumph. The cruiser was later sunk in 1944.

Interestingly, Triumph was also slated to play a part in Britain’s first ever airborne operation, Operation Colossus. She was due to evacuate the airborne men after they had attacked the Aqueduct at Tragino, but this had to be cancelled and they were captured and became Prisoners of War.

HMS Triumph left Alexandria on 26th December 1941 to land a party of commandos ashore and then patrol the Aegean. Four days later she signalled that the party had been successfully landed at Bireans. She was due to return to pick up the commandos on 9th January but failed to make the rendezvous. Nothing further was heard of the submarine. No axis power claimed her destruction and it is believed that she struck a mine.

Two Portsmouth men are known to have gone down on HMS Triumph: Electrical Artificer 1st Class Arthur Bigglestone, 36, and Petty Officer Frank Collison, 29 and from Cosham. Both had been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for continued bravery on Submarine patrols, and both were also awarded a posthumous bar to their DSM, a second award of the same medal.

Leave a comment

Filed under Navy, portsmouth heroes, World War Two