Monthly Archives: January 2013

Can you help? – Search on for family of missing WW2 submariner

YOUR RELATIVE? Hugh McDonald

YOUR RELATIVE? Hugh McDonald

A SEARCH is underway for the Dorset relatives of a missing Second World War submariner.

Leading telegraphist Hugh Phimster McDonald was lost when the Dutch submarine O13 (Onderzeeboot 13) mysteriously disappeared while on war patrol in the North Sea in 1940.

Researchers believe descendants of Mr McDonald could be living in the Weymouth area.

O13 is the last Dutch submarine lost during the war that has still to be found and protected as a war grave.

The Dutch Navy will be mounting a search operation for the wreck later this year.

It will feature in a Dutch TV documentary and the production team are keen to trace relatives of the three Royal Navy personnel who disappeared with the submarine.

Mr McDonald was the son of John and Maggie McDonald of Fareham in Hampshire and was married to Winifred in 1938.

Researcher Dr Andrew Jeffrey said: “We believe there were two sons, Brian and Graham and that descendants may still be living in the Weymouth area.

“If so, we would be delighted to hear from them.”

O13 escaped from under the noses of German troops invading the Netherlands in May 1940 and had patrolled the English Channel to protect the Dunkirk evacuation.

The submarine then moved north to join the Royal Navy’s ninth flotilla based in Dundee, Scotland, and vanished while patrolling south of occupied Norway in June 1940.

To view a trailer for the O13 documentary visit vimeo.com/57093011 Relatives or anyone with information about lost submariner Hugh Phimster McDonald should contact emma.walker@dorsetecho.co.uk

Source – Dorset Echo

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Civil War submarine may have been destroyed by its own torpedo

During the Civil War, the Confederate army fielded a submarine called the H.L. Hunley. After sinking an enemy ship called the USS Housatonic in 1864, the submarine disappeared after signaling a successful mission. Exactly what caused the Confederate submarine to sink has remained a mystery.

ap-confederate-submarine-4_3_r536_c534

However, scientists studying the ship have discovered new evidence that may shed light on what caused the submarine to sink and how the sub and its crew were able to sink the union ship. The sinking of the union ship made the Hunley the first successful combat submarine in history. New evidence discovered during the study of the submarine suggests that the submarine was less than 20 feet away from the torpedo when it exploded, sinking the union ship.

According to the researchers, new evidence suggests that the torpedo was bolted to a 16-foot-long spar. This discovery was made during an investigation of what remained of the two-foot-long torpedo. According to the researchers, the torpedo held 135 pounds of gunpowder and was not designed to separate from the spar as previously believed.

Previously it was believed that the torpedo was placed against the ship’s hull and then detonated remotely. New evidence suggests that the submarine was no more than 20 feet away when the torpedo was detonated. As close as the submarine was to the ship when the torpedo exploded, the researchers believe that the concussion from the explosion may have damaged the submarine and injured the crew. The submarine was discovered off the South Carolina Charleston Harbor in 1995 and return to the surface in 2000.

Source – Slash Gear

President says”Taiwan needs new submarines”

President Ma Ying-jeou said Monday that Taiwan badly needs a new generation of submarines to beef up its naval fleet.

“Our existing submarines are all very old and need
renewal,” Ma said while meeting with a United States congressional delegation
headed by Representative Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the U.S. House
Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Ma noted that Royce paid a visit to a naval
base in southern Taiwan Sunday and boarded the Guppy-class submarine “Sea
Lion.”

“We acquired that warship more than 40 years ago,” the 62-year-old
president said. “I happened to be serving my mandatory military service in the
Navy at the time, so you can imagine how badly we need to renew our submarine
fleet.”

The congressional delegation headed by Royce visited the Tsoying
naval base Sunday for a briefing and boarded two mine hunters that the U.S.
delivered to Taiwan last year after overhauling them.

Military spokesman
Luo Shou-he said naval authorities took advantage of Royce’s visit to stress
Taiwan’s desire to acquire new submarines to strengthen its maritime
security.

In April 2001, then-U.S. President George W. Bush announced the
sale of eight conventional submarines as part of Washington’s most comprehensive
arms package for the island since 1992.

Since then, however, there has
been little progress in finalizing the deal.

Taiwan now has two
U.S.-built Guppy-class submarines and two Dutch-built Zwaardvis-class
submarines, which were acquired in the 1980s.

Meanwhile, Ma told Royce
that Taiwan-U.S. relations were at a low ebb when he first took office in May
2008. At that time, he said, relations across the Taiwan Strait had also almost
come to a standstill.

“I worked proactively to improve the situation
immediately after assuming office,” Ma recalled.

In less than a month
following his inauguration, Ma said, institutionalized cross-strait talks were
resumed to pave the way for normal development of cross-strait
engagements.

At the same time, Ma said, his administration has spared no
effort to restore mutual trust with the United States through a “low-key,
surprise-free” approach.

In October 2008, then-U.S. President George W.
Bush approved an arms sales package worth more than US$6 billion, Ma
said.

Today, he said, Taipei-Washington ties are in their best shape in
more than three decades, and the Taiwan Strait is more stable and peaceful than
it has ever been since 1949, when the Republic of China government moved to
Taiwan.

The U.S. delegation arrived in Taipei Saturday for a three-day
visit as part of a tour to East Asia.

Source – Focus Taiwan

French authorities clear Plymouth submarine over sinking off Cornish coast

The Royal Navy nuclear submarine Turbulent has been formally cleared of any involvement in the mystery sinking of a Breton trawler and the deaths of its five crew off the Lizard in Cornwall.

Nine years after the five fishermen died in the Bugaled Breizh tragedy, French authorities have finally ruled out the possibility that the British submarine was responsible.

 ​submarines
Two expert reports have been published that dismiss a theory that HMS Turbulent, or any other submarine, could have been caught up in the trawler’s cables and dragged it down.

Despite questions in the House of Commons and assurances  by the Ministry of Defence that the submarine was docked at Plymouth on the day the Bugaled Breizh sank, a lawyer for French  families of the victims called for its captain Commander Andy Coles to be placed under investigation for manslaughter.

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Cdr Coles has repeatedly denied that his submarine was responsible for snagging the Bugaled’s trawl cables and dragging her below the waves in less than a minute.

A lawyer for the families had accused him and the Royal Navy of lying and claimed one mystery witness heard a “confession” by Cdr Coles and two others, neither of whom were ever named, had heard a radio message from the Turbulent saying she had suffered damage following a collision at the time of the accident and was returning to port.

A French journalist attempted to interview Commander Coles at his home in Devon last month. Commander Coles said he was unavailable but the journalist reported that the Commander’s wife had spoken to him and denied that her husband had anything to do with the sinking of the French trawler.

Now a report by a submarine specialist handed to judges investigating the accident has confirmed that HMS Turbulent was nowhere near the Bugaled Breizh  on January 15,  2004 when other submarines from Britain and other Nato countries were taking part in war games in the area where the trawler was sunk.

“On the basis of technical documents relating to the position of naval vessels at the time of the sinking, the specialist considers that the submarine accused of  involvement was definitely in port,” said Nantes  prosecutor Brigitte Lamy in a statement.

A second separate  report by experts commissioned by the judges casts doubt on the theory that the Bugaled fell victim to a submarine at all.

Traces of titanium found on salvaged trawl cables of the trawler “are not significative of the involvement of a submarine” as “apart from two Russian submarines built in the sixties the protective coating of submarines is exempt of any kind of titanium”, their report said.

The experts point out that paint containing titanium in dioxide form is widely used as protective coating for hulls of fishing vessels and submerged port equipment and suggest the titanium found on the trawl cables was caused by the Bugaled having come into contact with other fishing gear.

Families of the five lost fishermen who live in western Brittany close to the Bugaled Breizh’s home port of Loctudy have always believed that a submarine was responsible for the accident.

A year after the tragedy, a  judge accepted an initial report by marine experts who considered that because the Bugaled Breizh sank so rapidly, the culprit could only have been a nuclear submarine moving at high speed below the waves.

Source – This is Cornwall

Canada – Submarine air quality under the microscope

The Canadian Maritime Force has four Victoria class diesel-electric submarines, formerly Upholder Class submarines of the UK Royal Navy.

The Canadian Maritime Force has four Victoria class diesel-electric submarines, formerly Upholder Class submarines of the UK Royal Navy.

OTTAWA – Navy engineers have decided not to install a central monitoring system to track air quality on board Canada’s oft-maligned submarine fleet, internal National Defence documents say.

It’s a move that’s being questioned by some former submariners.

The system was part of the military’s 13-year struggle to bring the four British-built second-hand boats in line with North American standards and convert certain fixtures for Canadian use.

Keeping the right balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide is crucial on board the submarines, which are required to remain submerged for extended periods of time, making air quality a particular concern for technicians.

In 2002, engineers initially proposed installing a ship-wide atmospheric monitoring system, but a series of internal documents show that more than 10 years later, the plan has been abandoned.

“Such a system is unlikely to be practical, requiring installation during the (extended deep work period),” said a briefing note to the navy’s director of maritime force development on Oct. 19, 2011.

Including the system raised the potential of derailing the navy’s plan to bring the submarines into full operational service.

The briefing, obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information laws, estimated installing the system would have pushed the initial roll-out of the boats to 2018 with the last touches — known as final operating capability — not achievable until 2025.

By that time, the submarines would be near the end of their lifespan.

“The current intent is to consider portable devices, which are expected to address the requirement in a reasonable amount of time and cost less than $5 million,” said the note, which evaluated the entire submarine life support project.

A navy spokesman confirmed the “fixes” to the air monitoring system are being implemented through a minor capital project and that there is no health and safety concern.

“The air standard on board meets established standards,” Navy Lt. Mark Fifield said in a recent email.

Former submarine captain Ray Hunt said he’s startled by the decision, because portable monitors were something the navy relied upon in its now-retired Oberon class submarines.

“I’m surprised at this day in age that we don’t have a more modern system,” said Hunt, who commanded three submarines during his 27-year naval career, including HMCS Okanagan. He also commanded the country’s entire submarine squadron in the 1980s.

He said carbon dioxide poisoning is an ever-present threat that can leave sailors dizzy and sick.

A modern air filtration system was supposed to be one of the major advantages of upgrading to the Victoria class, Hunt added.

But a defence analyst said the navy would not be taking short cuts on safety, especially in the wake of a fatal fire aboard HMCS Chicoutimi in 2004.

Eric Lerhe, a former commodore, said it was curious that engineers took more than a decade to figure out the proposal was impractical, but he hailed as laudable the goal of seeking the very best air quality standard.

It’s been 14 years since the purchase of the submarines was first announced, and the pressure to get them fully operational has been enormous, said Lerhe, who served on the defence planning team that convinced the Liberal government of Jean Chretien to buy the boats.

“The navy very clearly wants to demonstrate these boats are operationally capable,” Lerhe said.

HMCS Victoria was declared fully operational when it fired its first torpedoes and sank a decommissioned US Navy cargo ship in an exercise last summer.

Last fall, HMCS Windsor passed a critical dive test on the road to being declared completely ready. Both the Chicoutimi and HMCS Corner Brook remain in extended maintenance.

Almost a year ago, the head of the navy estimated that once fully underway, Canada could the sail the existing submarine fleet until 2030. But internal briefing documents show navy planners started laying the groundwork for their replacement last year with a study on what kind of boats and technology would be needed after 2020.

Source – Metro News

Eyewitness: Tragedy of Soviet nuclear submarine K-27

Group of K-27 sailors (pic: Vyacheslav Mazurenko)

Vyacheslav Mazurenko with K-27 comrades in 1968 – he is second from right

The Russian authorities are investigating whether a sunken Soviet nuclear-powered submarine, the K-27, can be safely raised so that the uranium in its reactors may be removed.

At the height of the Cold War, in 1968, the K-27 met with disaster when radiation escaped from one of its reactors during a voyage in the Arctic.

Vyacheslav Mazurenko, then 22, was serving as a chief warrant officer (CWO) on the vessel, which now lies abandoned in the Arctic’s Kara Sea. Today he lives in Ukraine and he told BBC Russian what happened.

“We were on a five-day trip to check everything was working normally, before a 70-day round-the-world mission without resurfacing,” he said.

“It was the end of the third day and everything seemed to be going well. The crew was really tired.”

The mission would be to collect data about Nato and other enemy bases. K-27 had two experimental liquid metal-cooled reactors – a design never tried before in the Soviet navy. Nuclear power enabled the sub to stay underwater for weeks without resurfacing and without having to refuel.

K-27 sub being towed prior to being scuttled off Novaya Zemlya, 1981
The K-27 was sunk in the Kara Sea in 1981 (pic: Vyacheslav Mazurenko)

 

“At 11:35 everything was peaceful,” he said.

“The bulkheads were open. I was in the fifth compartment, next to the fourth compartment with the two nuclear reactors, talking to some crew members there. We suddenly noticed some people running.

“We had a radiation detector in the compartment, but it was switched off. To be honest, we hadn’t paid much attention to the radiation dosimeters we were given. But then, our radiation supervisor switched on the detector in the compartment and it went off the scale. He looked surprised and worried.”

They did not understand what had happened immediately because the radioactive gas had no odour or colour. But two hours later, some crewmen came out of the fourth compartment – and some of them had to be carried, because they could not walk, CWO Mazurenko said.

He put it down to fatigue, because the crew had spent three days with almost no sleep.

The submarine headed back to its base on the Kola Peninsula, by the Barents Sea, which took five hours.

As the sub approached, the base’s command fled the dockside, because special radiation alarms onshore were emitting a deafening roar, CWO Mazurenko recalled.

Soon after, the base commander picked up the captain in a car, but most of the crew had to walk 2km (1.2 miles) back to their barracks under their own steam.

Several specialist crew members were left on board the toxic sub for about a day, because they were under orders to keep watch.

Some have blamed K-27’s Capt Pavel Leonov over the accident, but CWO Mazurenko says the captain faced a life-or-death choice.

“When the sub surfaced to make the trip back to the docks, the division ordered it to cut its engines and await special instructions. The captain, however, decided to keep going, because if the sub stopped for several hours nobody would survive long enough to get it back to base.”

The crew of 144 were poisoned – nine died of radiation sickness soon after the emergency, and the others were ill for years before their premature deaths.

‘Little Golden Fish’

K-27 went into service in 1963, about five years after construction had started. It was very expensive and took longer to build than other Soviet nuclear submarines. So the sailors called it the “Little Golden Fish” – or “Zolotaya Rybka” in Russian – after a magical, fairy-tale fish which makes people’s wishes come true.

Volodya Gusev (left) and Anatoly Kulakov - two K-27 sailors now dead
These two K-27 sailors died later from radiation sickness (pic: Vyacheslav Mazurenko)

 

“In Soviet times, we were told that our subs were the best, and we had to be different from the ‘imperialists’. But the first subs were far from perfect. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev said: ‘We’ll catch up with you and overtake you’. They kept churning out new subs, regardless of the risk to people,” CWO Mazurenko said.

The crew were part of the military elite. They got lemons and oranges – citrus fruit that most Soviet citizens, battling daily with shortages, never saw.

The crew were told that their reactors were extremely safe and could not suffer the breakdowns that had plagued some other Russian submarines in the past, CWO Mazurenko said.

“When the assessment commission came round, its members were often afraid to visit the reactor compartment. They always tried to avoid it, but Captain Leonov actually sat on one of the reactors, to show them how safe it was.”

However, CWO Mazurenko says radioactive particles had been detected aboard the submarine from the very start.

Medical negligence

He was among 10 lucky crew members to be sent to a Leningrad hospital within a day of the disaster. The fate of the rest of the crew was in the hands of the Communist Party in Moscow.

Five days after the accident, the rest were taken to Leningrad – now called St Petersburg. They were each isolated from the outside world.

K-27 survivors with wives
Some survivors and their wives meet up to remember old times (pic: Vyacheslav Mazurenko)

 

Many Soviet sailors and officers were ordered to donate blood and bone marrow, knowing nothing about the accident, which remained an official secret for three decades.

K-27 officers were later warned they should not have children for five years and were given regular check-ups, but there was no proper medical follow-up for the ordinary submariners, according to CWO Mazurenko. Many of them were declared “healthy” by military doctors, despite their illnesses, he added.

On the medical certificate they received 25 years after the disaster, it simply read: “Participated in nuclear accident elimination on the submarine. Exposed to radiation.”

Despite what happened, Vyacheslav Mazurenko told the BBC: “I do not regret that I served almost four years on this submarine, with these people.”

Of the original 144 crew, only 56 are still alive. Most of them became physically handicapped and they still do not know the level of radiation they were exposed to.

In 1981, K-27 was sunk at a depth of just 30m (99ft) in the Kara Sea – far shallower than the depth required by international guidelines.

Source – BBC News

Bangladesh to buy first submarine

Bangladesh is to acquire its first submarines to boost its naval power in the Bay of Bengal, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced Monday, only days after she signed the country’s largest defence deal.

“We have made a decision to add submarines with base facilities to Bangladesh’s navy very soon to make it a deterrent force,” Hasina said, as she commissioned the country’s first domestically produced warship at a base in the southern city of Khulna.

“We will build a modern three-dimensional navy for future generations which will be capable of facing any challenge during a war on our maritime boundary.” The announcement is the latest sign of Hasina’s willingness to spend heavily on defence, coming only nine days after she signed a $1 billion defence deal in Russia for the purchase of training fighters, helicopters and anti-tank missiles.

Analysts have said the deal with Moscow represents the biggest military purchase agreement since impoverished Bangladesh won its independence in 1971.

Hasina did not give details of how many submarines the country would be purchasing and from where, but a senior army general told reporters on Monday that Bangladesh was in negotiations with China on the subject.

Bangladesh, a third of whose 153 million population lives below the poverty line, has been expanding its defence capabilities in recent years, building a new air base close to neighbouring Myanmar and adding new frigates.

A UN tribunal ended a territorial dispute between Bangladesh and Myanmar last March, but the row had brought the two sides close to military conflict in 2008 when Myanmar sent naval ships to support drilling for gas.

Bangladesh has also a long-standing dispute with neighbouring India over their maritime boundary in the resources-rich Bay of Bengal.

Hasina said the amicable settlement of the sea dispute with Myanmar has ensured the country’s sovereignty over 111,631 sq.km (43,100 sq.miles) of maritime area, nearly the size of the country itself.

She added the defence purchase was essential to ensure security of the huge area, in which Dhaka last month invited bidding from international oil companies to drill for new gas and oil reserves.

According to the state-run BSS news agency, the new warship that Hasina officially commissioned on Thursday was made in Khulna Shipyard under the supervision of the Bangladesh Navy.
The “BNS Padma” is armed with four 37-mm and two 20-mm cannons to resist land and air attacks and capable of laying mines.

Source – Times Online