Royal Navy. 

HMs/m Tempest - 
The Final Few Hours.

Crest of HMs/m Tempest.

JX 113661 Chief Petty Officer T.G.M. Campbell - 1940's


The is continued from the previous page of HMs/m Tempest - is page two of four.  PLEASE NOTE there are extracts printed below from the book "SUBMARINER" by Charles Anscomb. The Copyright holder has been untraceable - but please contact me if you wish to claim copyright. 

Crest of HMs/m Tempest.                              Crest of HMs/m Tempest.

"The master gyroscope was smashed and we had to rely on our magnetic compass.  One oil fuel bulkhead connection in the control room was damaged, and oil fuel poured into the boat. The chief stoker, George Spowart, and his men got to it quickly and soon stopped the flood.  The electrical artificer, John Winrow, slaved to put the gyro right but it was past all hope of repair and we had to give it up.  The fore hydroplanes were out of action and the boat was being controlled for depth by the afterplanes.

"We were at the mercy of that destroyer. At regular intervals we heard her rumble over us. we could hear her Asdic 'pinging' us, the sound wave stinging our quivering steel flanks like an invisible whiplash, but never knew exactly where she was. Each time she turned and came back to try again. Each run did more damage than the last.  For a time the submarine was kept under perfect control.  Then the ring main shorted onto the pressure hull, blowing the main fuses.  This put the ballast pumps out of action. This meant that the compensation tanks and auxiliary tanks had to be trimmed by using our compressed-air supply, when air was priceless to us.  The boat was forced down willy-nilly to five hundred feet completely out of control. I was helpless on the planes.  There wasn't a thing I could do to stop her.

"The position was so desperate that we had to bring her to rest finally by trimming her on the main ballast tanks. To lighten the boat these main ballast tanks had to be trimmed either by venting the air into them, or blowing water out by means of compressed air. This was a far from satisfactory method of trimming and we were particularly reluctant to resort to it because it was very noisy at a time when silence was vital to give us any chance of surviving at all.  This started us on our way up again and to check the rate of rise we had quickly to flood the main ballast tanks again.  All the time the sudden extra noise was playing right into the hands of our attacker. With deadly regularity she passed overhead, each time laying her eggs.  They burst all round us as we sat and shook in the semi-darkness, with only the secondary lighting flickering palely like candles guttering in a dank tomb and the ship lurching and wallowing between a hundred and five hundred feet and things breaking lose and crashing about us. TEMPEST was a strong boat and she was with-standing a pounding that would have completely shattered a less well-found ship, but nevertheless the strain was beginning to show in the state of her machinery and on the faces and movements of her crew.

"We went on steering blindly at any old depth between one hundred and five hundred feet. Bulkhead fixtures and spare parts were torn from their housings, and hurled across the narrow spaces. The boat was continually either bow up or bow down, and the angle was so acute at times that the bubble in the fore-and-aft spirit level would disappear completely.  In the engine room heavy spares like the big breech ends from diesels, each weighing half a ton, were sliding dangerously up and down the steel deck at each plunge and lurch.  It was quite impossible to stop them, much less secure them again.

"To make matters worse we were carrying a big load of extra spares for the submarines based in Alexandria - not to mention sackloads of mail for the Fleet - and all these broke loose and started to smash about through the boat.  All the time, as the relentless depth-charging went on, the always dim emergency lighting burned lower and lower until it was hardly more than a faint glow.  The position inside TEMPEST steadily worsened as more and more fittings were shaken loose.  The earthing of the main electric cable against the hull increased the danger of fire and electrocution.

This hell went on until 10 a.m.  Then, miraculously, unbelievably, there was a faint lull.  We blinked, breathed again and looked around us to take stock of our position.  John Winrow, creeping through the submarine on the track of some electrical repair, accidentally kicked a bucket which clattered with a deafening noise along the deck. 'I'll have that man shot!' shouted the Captain.  It nearly made us jump out of our skins. Then the attack began again. Again I thought  this is not happening to me.  I suppose many of us felt that.   I know that no one, least of all the young submariners who had been civilians only a few months before, showed the slightest sign of panic or fear. They all behaved splendidly.

About 10.30 a.m. the battery securing boards showed signs of lifting.  A closer inspection showed that salt water had got into the battery compartment and several containers, with sulphuric acid in them, were broken.  When salt water and sulphuric acid mix they give off chlorine gas.  That is the ultimate horror of all submariners.

"The boat started to fill with it. One whole battery was flooded now.  We had reached the end.  The boat was just a pitch-dark, gas-filled shambles, flooding at the after-end, with no instrument working except "faithful Freddie" the magnetic compass. What use was a compass now? TEMPEST had nowhere to go any more, except to the bottom.  At last, to save us from going with her, the captain decided to abandon ship.

"Quietly the ship's company were told to put on the Davis escape gear. Without any fuss everybody buckled the gear on.  Then the order was passed for everyone except men at key positions needed to maintain the trim of the boat to muster in the control room.  Then the captain gave the order 'Abandon ship.'

"The after-planes were still working. I turned the wheel and gave the boat up-helm.  Slowly she responded and started on her way up.  The captain ordered the first lieutenant, Lieutenant Commander Bowker, the outside E.R.A., Rogers and myself to stay in the control room.  The engineer officer, Commissioned Engineer Blatchford, and Chief E.R.A. Fox, were to stand fast in the engine room, E.R.A. Whitehead in the after-ends, and torpedo gunner's mate Campbell in the fore-ends.  As the various compartments were cleared of men they were to report to the control room that this had been done, then muster in the control room themselves ready to escape. The T.G.M. was first to ignite the fuse of the explosive charge which was always carried in a submarine to make sure that she never fell intact into the hands of the enemy.

"As soon as we broke surface the captain opened the bridge hatch. The signalman had to hang on tight to his legs as he did this, otherwise the pressure inside the boat was so great that he might have been blown over the side.  When he had got the hatch open the men began to leave the ship.  As they did so the attacking destroyer, now lying about half a mile away, opened fire on us.  The first few men to leave were hit and several killed outright. The destroyer closed rapidly and opened up with small arms.  Several more men were killed by this.  If this seemed a cold-blooded act, we had to remember that they were firing on the men whom they thought had sunk their hospital ship.  

( Bob Appleton - the Telegraphist  - recalls his escape from HMs/m Tempest here)

"I stayed below in the control room until Chief E.R.A. Fox reported the after-part of the submarine and the engine room clear of men.  Then P.O. Campbell, the torpedo gunner's mate, reported the charge fused and the fore torpedo spaces and fore-part were clear.  They both went up to the control-room ladder. This left me and Commissioned Engineer Blatchford in the control room.  He told me to carry on and I needed no second telling. I followed Campbell up the ladder.  When I got up on the bridge I saw that the submarine was well down by now. Visibility was good, but the sea had got up since I had last seen it the previous night.

"It was February and the sea looked cold, but I took one look at the gun flashes from the destroyer, climbed out of the bridge over the blind side, and slid into the water.  It was cold all right. Using my escape set as a life-jacket I swam away from the boat and tried to herd those of the survivors that I could see together.

"The destroyer lowered a boat but did not stop herself, afraid of a torpedo from another of our submarines. The boat picked up one or two men only and made off again. the sea was running too high for us to see anything but the destroyer's topmasts. I watched them disappear and really thought that this was the end for me. Then again I had my old feeling that the whole thing was completely unreal, that it did not involve me at all, that I was dreaming it. I was so utterly cold and chilled that the 'reality' was a desperate vision of a warm, cosy bed.

"We were in the water for two hours - it seemed like two days - before the destroyer came back and started slowly to pick up the survivors.  The next thing I remembered was being pulled aboard the destroyer over the propeller guard.  I think I was the last one to be picked up.  It was 1 p.m. Twenty-three survivors out of a crew of sixty-two had been picked up.  The remaining thirty-nine had either been hit by gunfire or drowned. TEMPEST, bows in the air, had sunk to the bottom of the Mediterranean.

Photo taken from Italian torpedo boat Circe of Tempest's final few minutes.  Copyright has been actively saught to no avail, would the copyright owner contact me direct if need be.

The photograph on the left shows the last few minutes of HMs/m Tempest before finally sinking below the Mediterranean.  
(From The Submariner by Charles Anscomb.)

Copyright has been actively sought to no avail, would the copyright owner contact me direct if need be.

STILL TO COME.....PRISONER OF WAR                            Crest of HMs/m Tempest.





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