Finding your submariner ancestor
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These records will help you do just that. There was also a daily struggle to balance effectiveness with safety. While it would have been easy to move aimlessly around the sea, the submarines, like Bomber Command pilots, had to head straight into danger if they wanted to do their jobs properly, steering a course for enemy-held coastlines and harbours and actively searching out the fiercely protected convoys that it was their purpose to destroy. Being hunted meant hiding out underwater, aware every minute of the ticking of the clock as both battery power and air were steadily used up.
Eventually it would become essential to surface in order to survive. According to www. Shortly thereafter, HM Submarine Spearfish endured two hours of enemy depth-charging and sustained some pretty serious damage, but after hours of hiding, surfaced to find that the enemy had left the area. One of the motors and both diesel engines had been knocked out, but by morning the crew had managed to fix not only the other motor, but the radio, which allowed them to summon a destroyer escort and get safely home.
In fact he was forced to give up the hunt and dive when a Dornier Do aircraft arrived to defend the liner, and she escaped unscathed. After this baptism of fire, the Royal Navy submarines went on to prove their worth all over the world. They helped to stop Germany getting supplies to troops in Norway, laying an extensive minefield in their path and moving up and down 1, miles of coastline, in the Baltic, Norwegian and Barents seas and the Heligoland Bight, until the complete occupation of Norway and Denmark provided a land-route for the Germans.
British Military Records
Once France was invaded, they helped to guard the Channel and maintained a presence in the North Sea. They protected convoys heading to deliver supplies to Malta; had the island fallen, Italy would have gained a valuable stepping stone from which to attack the Allied troops in North Africa. They also helped to protect the east coast of North Africa more generally, ceaselessly patrolling the Mediterranean from September to September , menacing Axis convoys trying to deliver supplies to their men on the ground and hunting their escorting U-boats.
German and Italian cruisers and battleships which might otherwise have been used to threaten our own convoys were pulled in to help protect the Axis supply ships.
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Originally British submarines helped to defend the sea routes to Singapore and Hong Kong, and later in the war they worked with the American submarines to cut off convoys in the Indian Ocean delivering supplies to Burma and hunt Japanese ships. They could less often be found in the Atlantic, helping to protect our own convoys, and the Adriatic Sea.
Significant triumphs included the torpedoing of German cruiser Prinz Eugen off Tronheim by HMS Trident in February , in front of watching Norwegians, and the damaging of the mighty German battleship Tirpitz by a stealth midget submarine attack in September , which knocked it out of action for around 7 months, potentially saving the lives of many British sailors. In the course of this valuable work, 73 submarines and their crews out of around serving were lost. This is the only open access set of records you will find there, as most other relevant records they hold are classified at present.
The Royal Navy Submarine Museum is well worth a visit, as their archive holds some unique personnel records. Previously maintained by the submarine drafting office at HMS Centurion in Gosport, they were transferred to the museum following the adoption of a computerised pay and drafting system. The cards do not provide a definitive record of everybody who served in submarines, but they do cover the period for ratings and for officers. They can be searched using just a name, and if a card is located on file you may be able to find out where your relative served during his time in submarines, but be aware that they are not indexed or digitised.
You may also be able to look through photographs, ship plans and artefacts. You will, however, need to provide at least two weeks' notice for an archive visit, having first submitted a research request form, and there will be a charge; at the time that this magazine went to press the online form was out of order due to technical problems, and enquiries had to be submitted to the archive via e mail: george. Another museum with resources that might be of interest is the National Museum of the Royal Navy , which, being in Portsmouth, is close enough to the Royal Navy Submarine Museum that it might make sense to visit both on the same day.
The reading room is open from weekdays, and a donation is encouraged. Among their resources is a diary which, though covering the period , could be illuminating if you are wondering what life as part of the Royal Navy Submarine Service might have been like. You will need to contact the university before visiting to arrange access, and potentially pre-order materials. It is also well worth visiting www. The Imperial War Museum in London holds lots of submarine pictures if you care to visit, including a collection of shots of submarines and submarine officers at Malta, and you can view their podcast about The Submarine War online.
The fact of the matter is, though life aboard a submarine was no bed of roses, very few people ever transferred out of the Submarine Branch once they entered it, as the comradery onboard and the relationships between the officers and their men were so positive. Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Join other followers.
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Finding your submariner ancestor July 15, By Mr White. Leave a comment. Share Share on Facebook.
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