What can YOU say in six sentences?
I’ve been debating with myself for some time about whether to attempt this six, firstly we have a very powerful writer and former submariner here who might take umbrage, and secondly I’m not sure I’m qualified to judge, but anyway here goes, six thoughts about submarine warfare:
1) I once sailed with a captain who had first gone to sea in the Merchant Navy during World War 2, and on ONE Atlantic crossing had been torpedoed three times, each time he was picked up and transferred to another ship, then it too got hit, he hated submariners with a vengeance.
2) Pretty much all I know about World War 2 submarine warfare is derived from books and films, in particular the German film ‘Das Boot’ in which we were made quite rightly to feel sympathy for the crew and the awful conditions they sailed under, but I couldn’t help feeling more sympathy for the men burning to death on the tanker they had hit, who had no way of fighting back.
3) I was involved to some extent in the Falklands conflict and couldn’t help feeling angry when on my return people who know nothing about it were gloating about how rubbish the Argentinean Navy were having disappeared from the seas after the Belgrano sinking, well, they weren’t rubbish, they simply had no answer to a nuclear powered attack submarine and while I do believe the Belgrano was a completely legitimate target, a warship on the high seas regardless of which way she was heading at the time, when you put down a ship, you do not gloat, I very much doubt the crew of the submarine gloated, that was left to grubby little Murdoch newspapers.
4) Admiral Karl Doenitz came closer than any other member of the German high command to bringing us down during the Battle of the Atlantic and while the allies rose to the challenge developing tactics and technologies that made joining a U boat a virtual death sentence toward the end of the war, more than 50,000 Merchant seamen paid the price, as higher proportion for the numbers going to sea in merchant ships as any of the armed services, and when his ship went down and he was left swimming in the Atlantic, a Merchant seaman was off pay.
5) Of course it’s moved on since then, I remember an interesting quote from the late Tony Scott’s film ‘Crimson Tide’ (which I suspect makes Bill cringe every time he sees it) about the three most powerful men in the world, the President of the USA, the Premier of the USSR and the captain of a strategic nuclear submarine, it may be a bit over dramatised, but considering the firepower of a nuclear weapons system, it is statistically interesting (I had to get a House-ism in here somewhere.)
6) I once sailed with a deck officer who was a former submariner on Polaris submarines (that dates it a bit) and when I asked him where he patrolled back in the day he shrugged and said that wasn’t my concern, but considering the well known fact that the range of his missiles was about 2000 miles, draw a 2000 mile radius ring around Moscow and look at the wet bits, it was about killing cities which all sides were considering during the cold war and thankfully never happened ... I don’t remember anybody gloating about that.
Note: The other war I got caught up in was the Iran Iraq war during the 70/80s which was a quite brutal affair, I learned researching the other day that my first Super Tanker, the Hudson Friendship, got hit by an exocet missile during this conflict and was subsequently scrapped about ten years after she was built, and considering what a magnificent ship she was, I was saddened. Yes Payam, I hate war too.