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15 October 2014
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Bombed at Lazaretto

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Jack R Casemore
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Royal Navy
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Contributed on: 
18 November 2005

I joined the RNVR London on 9th September 1938, putting my age on one year. In December 1940 I joined submarines, and about February 1941 I joined the 'Unbeaten' ship that was about to go to the Middle East, and we arrived in Malta sometime in April.

By March 1942 Sleima was in a hell of state, the buildings were lying in rubble and very few bars were open. When we came in off patrol, we would only work down the boat until 12 o’clock. By this time, Shrimp Simpson, our flotilla Captain S/M decided that submarines tied up alongside or on the trot were too easy a target for the Luftwafer. The P36 and P39 were sunk in Lazareto Base and another badly damaged, so when we returned to Malta from our next patrol, we entered Merseda Creek at night, and unloaded the torpedoes and what stores we could. The next morning at 6am a skeleton creek of us took the ‘Unbeaten’ round to Sleima Creek and in the centre of the creek, between Teeni Point and Manoel Island, we dived and laid on bottom at 50 feet, well out of the way of the Luftwaffe. Lt G.. Place was our 1st Lt in charge and he joined us in December or January. He was later awarded the Victoria Cross for going into a Norwegian field in an X-craft and badly damaging ‘The Terpitz’ which was a German battleship which was terrorizing the Russian convoys. Then there was our POT, an ERA, a stoker and two seamen, I being one of them and the other was Duggy Upton.

As soon as we had stopped our motors and gently hit the bottom, we had breakfast, tidied the boat and then turned in for a well deserved sleep. I was in my hammock, in the fore-ends, with Duggy and a stoker, I remember sometime after 10am we heard bombs exploding but was not worried, they could not see us as we were in 50 foot of water, so I went back to sleep. Suddenly we heard a bomb coming down, we all sat up in our hammocks and I looked at the clock, it was 10.40am. The bomb got longer and longer and time dragged on. It seemed like ages before suddenly all the colours of the rainbow, red, white, yellow, blue and green, flashed through the boat. I think we must have been knocked unconscious, because the next thing I remember is finding myself in the corner of the after port bulkhead, with my two boat mates. We could hear water pouring into the tube space but the bulkhead doors were closed and we had water leaking from the fore hatch. All the lights had gone out, so we were in complete darkness. We scrambled to our feet and tried to think of what we should do, we just wanted to escape.

I said to our stocker ‘Do you know where the flood valve for this compartment is”, “Yes” he said, “OK I said — this is your job”. The other chap said “We’ll need to lower the twill trunk” I replied “That will be your job.” I then checked through to the compartment immediately aft of the fore-ends, which was the accommodation compartment. I shouted through the voice pipe, as loud as I could, and suddenly a voice answered! It was Lt Place and they were okay in the after compartments, so we opened the bulkhead door and we went through to the control room.

We reported that we heard water pouring into the tube space, and so we tightened the fore hatch to stop the water and we waited until Capt S/M came over in a rowing boat and rang a bell under the water to tell us to come up to the surface, but unfortunately we were bow heavy. After consulting with the ERA, it was decided that we should pump air into the tube space to see if that would dispel the water. After doing this and trying to surface several times, eventually the boat moved and by blowing out tanks more we finally surfaced.

Later we were told by the anti aircraft guns crew that we were blown to the surface upside down. On examining the fore ends compartment on the starboard side, near where my hammock was strung, the pressure hull was bent into the ribs! If that had blown in the whole compartment would have flooded! We later remember that escape hatch had been recently bolted on the outside, and so if we had been flooded we wouldn’t have been able to get out at all, so we were extremely lucky that pressure hull held fast!

This story was added to the People’s War site by Melita Dennett on behalf of Jack Casemore who understands the site’s terms and conditions.

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