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Unknown survivor 1
The Battleship Barham was in company with the Queen Elizabeth, Valiant and a small screen of destroyers. I was in the A.D.P. situated just above the bridge, and throughout the day we had been receiving reports of shadowing aircraft.
The sea was unusually calm and we were on the port leg of the zigzag with Queen Elizabeth leading, and Barham in the centre.
Suddenly there were two heavy explosions, followed a few seconds later by two more. These shot up great columns of water, and my first impressions was that we had been hit by heavy calibre bombs.
The ship shuddered and took on an immediate list to port until the quarter deck was awash. The next thing I saw was the submarine on the surface, conning tower and upper deck plainly visible. She was a painted a dark green and looked rather like the Green craft except that she had no gun, her sudden appearance must have been due to terrific force of the explosion.
I switched over the director phones intending to order the 4" guns to open fire, but this order was never passed as our angle of heel was too great. Valiant did fire a few busts with her pom-pom but by that time the submarine was submerged. The men were told to come down from aloft, the ship started to heel slowly over most of the air lookouts went down as the ship gathered momentum, I jammed myself by the head of the ladder to the compass platform, and the last thing I remember before being washed out were Lieut Commander Brown's legs hanging from the A.D.P's roof.
I think I probably remained in the A.D.P being sucked down with the ship, because it was some time before I knew I was on the ascent by passing through the signal halyards.
Everything was black and not being able to hold my breath any longer, I took a gulp of water and pretty well gave up hope. I seemed to be spinning round and round on my back when everything went white and after a few seconds I realised that this was air, and I was safe on the surface.
There was quite a number of men on the few pieces of large wreckage, all covered in oil and only showing two red blobs for eyes and a red slit for a mouth There was thick oil fuel everywhere and this was undoubtedly the cause for a large percentage of the casualties. In the distance a pall of brown smoke hung on the surface, the last of the Barham. I was with a bunch of about ten men separate from the main party and as we were the farthest away Hotspurs Whaler picked us up first., We were soon alongside and I was very glad to step on a firm deck once more. My clothes were all useless, being soaked in oil fuel, and they were discarded before I went into the bathroom. There I was very pleased to see Commander Brown and another R.N.R. Midshipman who had been Nelson director but had managed to get down to the boat deck in time. With the help of paraffined waste I managed to get most of the oil fuel off and then dressed in a cricket shirt and trousers I went down to the ward room where hot tea and coffee were being served out.
Very soon other Officers came in, including the Admiral, Flags, Secretary and seven other Midshipmen, all dressed in different garbs by the Hotspur Officers. I then started to be sick and continued doing so until 2100 when I fortunately went to sleep on the settee. The night seemed very long and I don't think anyone slept well after the rather harrowing experience during the afternoon. The next day we had to bury the two men at sea who had died of wounds in the night Before and after this was over a muster was taken of all ranks and ratings on board. The total saved officers and men numbered 334. The Admiral made a speech in which he told Telegrams would be organised and afterwards three cheers were given for V.A.I Barham and Hotspur. There are only two times when I have been really glad to see Alexandria, after Crete and when we saw the Harbour from the deck of the Hotspur.
We berthed at 1030. to be received by a reception committee of R.As Captains and numerous Commanders. The workmen also gave up their jobs to have a look at the peculiar beings walking on to the quayside, the impression was that we were it's prisoners! The wounded were taken away to the 64th General Hospital whilst remaining Officers and men walked over to "Resource' AT the top of the depot ships gangway we were handed out small white red cross bags and then led down to the bathroom where more oil fuel was deposited on bath and towels.
These bags contained everything one needed including dark blue pyjamas and arrayed in these we proceeded to the Ward room for £15 from the naval issue store, Gieves was next visited where we ordered suits. Rooms had been ordered at the Windsor hotel, and I shared a suite, for the night with Peter Edwards. The next morning I still had a bad headache and as there was an Army Doctor staying in the hotel, I thought it wise to see him.
After a preliminary examination he sent me up to the 64th General Hospital for a further examination. There I remained for three weeks getting rid of oil fuel which had got into my head. Whilst up at the hospital the inquiry took place. All officers were interviewed by the board, which consisted of two Rear Ads and a Captain and Instructor Commander. I was taken in my bed to be asked questions by R.A.A. mostly relating to the place where the torpedoes struck and the column of water they shot up.
The whole affair was most informal, and the board extremely understanding. When I was discharged from hospital some very kind family put me up. There I recovered all my previous buoyancy.
| last updated:
13 July 2013