all the branches of men in the Forces, there is none which shows more devotion
and faces grimmer perils than the submariner.
Great deeds are done in the air and on the land; nevertheless, nothing surpasses your exploits." Winston Churchill.
"Only in attack does a submarine reveal herself, before creeping away to the concealment of the deep"
British Submarine HMS Shakespeare
Class & Type: S Class Submarine
HMS Shakespeare became famous in 1945 by fighting a surface action against an armed Jap merchant and Jap bombers. But first, here we have some photo graphs taken by one of her crew and quite possibly have never seen the light of day until I was sent his photo album by Pauline Thomas, a relative of James Patterson. All these images shown below were taken from his album, which includes newspaper cuttings and illustrations. Some of these are undated and no description. HMS Shakespeare (Lt. David Swanston, DSC, RN) was damaged by gunfire and aircraft bombs in the Nankauri Strait, Andaman Islands 3 January 1945 and written off as a constructive total loss. Sold for scrap 14th July 1946.
Newspaper in foreground advertises a fashion competition. Newspaper on left is also the News of the World and another tells us that the "Dawn - Dusk Air blitz goes on"
There is a picture of a man being pulled from the sea and underneath it says "following surface action in 1945, sailors inspect the damage to the submarine... In the case of this picture that is not true as the man being pulled from the water is my Grandad Alfred John Coker and we have the same photo amongst his collection with the words "yours truly being hauled up". The story which was recited to my mum and aunties on many occasions was that they where taking a break from working in what was seen as a safe period at sea. My grandad and many of the other men were sunbathing on the deck when the instruction to dive was suddenly given as an enemy sub had been detected. My Grandad who was an Engine Room Artificer was a few seconds to slow to make it back to the hatch and was shut out as the sub dived under the waves.
He trod water for what seemed like an eternity to him trying to stay in the same place in case they were able to come back for him. After many hours (which turned out to be 5-6) and on the brink of drowning due to cold and dehydration he saw a periscope pop up from the waves about 30meters away. Exhausted he tentatively swam towards it not knowing if it was friend or foe but out of desperation realised he had no choice if he wanted to survive. Luckily it was his sub the Shakespeare.... They had been given orders to return the way they had come meaning they were able to pick him up... Although they had been expecting to find a body.
As you can see form the picture he looks exhausted and it doesn't really look like him after that long in the sea as i guess his skin was all wrinkly. His crew mates were amazed and happy to see him alive and over the coming days many gave him some of their food rations to get him back to full strength. My granddads "motto" on death was, when your time is up, its up, which my family always put down to this incident. He appears in a few other photos you have on the Shakespeare page. In the photo of the whole crew sat on deck with the skull and cross bone flag behind them, he is the first man you come to sitting on the railing on the right hand side. This photo hung at the top of the stairs in the grandparents house for years. He also appears in a picture we have not seen before... It's the one where they are sat on deck reading newspapers. My grandad is the guy at the back... All you can see is his head, he is standing near the guy who is fully dressed in white. My thanks to Samantha Conway for this revealing information.
All the above images are from the photo album of Stoker James Patterson HM Submarine Shakespeare. I have passed this album onto the British Submarine Museum, for safe keeping.
HMS Shakespeare's pennant number was P221 and she was built in Barrow in Furness at Vickers Armstrong. Keel was laid down on 13 November 1940 and was launched on 8 December 1941. Commissioned 10 July 1942. Another site lists Shakespeare as launched on 8 December 1942, obviously incorrect: http://www.battleships-cruisers.co.uk/submarines.htm
3rd January 1945. Andaman Islands, Indian Ocean. One of the most desperate submarine actions of the Far Eastern war was that of the Shakespeare, commanded by Lieutenant D. Swanston. Her first victim was a medium-size Japanese supply ship. Four days later she sighted another and, instead of wasting a torpedo on her, Swanston decided to come to the surface and use the gun. The merchant ship was armed, carrying a 12-pounder gun, and she replied to the Shakespeare's fire, though without effect. After she had scored three hits on the Japanese ship, a submarine chaser, summoned by the merchant ship's radio, was sighted approaching at high speed. Swanston decided to take the submarine down. Just as he was giving the order to dive, a lucky shot from the supply ship burst on the Shakespeare's pressure hull and tore a hole about nine inches by four. It was impossible to dive now and there was nothing for it but to remain on the surface and fight it out with the two ships with the gun. Water was entering the boat through the hole in the hull and flooding the engine room.
The 3-inch gun, the Oerlikon A/A gun, and the Vickers machine gun were manned on board the Shakespeare, and she was soon heavily engaged. She first silenced the gun on board the merchant ship and then concentrated all her weapons on the submarine chaser. Two of her crew, Petty Officer Telegraphist Harmer and Leading Telegraphist Wade, climbed out on to the saddle tanks, which were awash, and attempted to plug the hole in the hull with blankets and hammocks.
The Shakespeare was hit four more times, the blast from one shellburst blowing off PO Tel. Harmer's boots and wounding him in both feet. Undeterred, he continued to hang on to the rail to prevent himself being washed away and held the blankets in position in the hole with his wounded feet. For twenty minutes he held on in this position, but finally was forced to leave go by the heavy wash of the water and was carried overboard. Although it meant reducing the range to almost point blank, Swanston at once brought the Shakespeare round and picked him up.
At last a shell from the submarine hit the chaser in the engine room and disabled her. She came to a stop and the Shakespeare was able to draw away out of range. But her ordeal was not yet over. Japanese seaplanes, called in by the chaser's wireless, were arriving and attacking. Harmer, who after he had been picked up had joined the bucket chain below to try and keep the water from rising in the engine room, made his way up to the bridge. Though wounded now in the arm as well as the feet, he insisted on firing a Tommy gun at the attacking aircraft until night fell.
For eight hours the attacks from the air continued and it was only the arrival of darkness which brought them to an end and relief to the hard-pressed Shakespeare. Her troubles, though, were still not at an end. She was still a long way from her base and the twelve hours of almost continuous action had left her in bad shape. She had 16 casualties, two of them fatal. Her port engine and both electric motors were out of action, her compasses and wireless smashed. She was holed in the pressure hull and the port main ballast tank, and had a large amount of water in her hull. On the plus side, she had severely damaged the merchant ship and submarine chaser, shot down one seaplane and repeatedly hit four others.
For two days she made her way slowly towards her base, running on one engine. On the second night she had the luck to make contact with another British submarine, the Stygian. Swanston asked for a tow but, fearing a Japanese trap, the C.O. of Stygian, who knew Swanston well, wanted to make sure before closing to pass a towing wire. "What is the Christian name of your wife?" he signalled. "Sheila," came the reply, "and yours is Stella." That was sufficiently good evidence and the Stygian took the Shakespeare in tow and eventually they reached Trincomalee harbour with her in safety.
This following report can be found on: http://www.combinedfleet.com/W-1_t.htm
Indian Ocean. Andaman Islands. Lt D. Swanston's submarine HMS/M SHAKESPEARE surfaces and engages an armed medium-size supply ship. The merchant replies unsuccessfully to SHAKESPEARE's fire, but the submarine manages to score three hits. W-1, summoned by the supply ship, approaches the scene at high speed. Lt Swanston attempts to dive, but a shell from the supply ship penetrates SHAKESPEARE's pressure hull and renders her unable to submerge. Swanston’s gun crews man their 3-inch, 20-mm Oerlikon and Vickers machine gun to fight it out on the surface. The British silence the supply ship’s gun. Then SHAKESPEARE concentrates her fire on W-1. During the engagement, the submarine is hit four more times. Finally, SHAKESPEARE's gunners hit W-1 in the engine room and disable her. W-1 goes dead in the water and the submarine pulls out of range. W-1 alerts seaplanes at Port Blair that arrive and attack the submarine. The air attacks continue for eight hours until the arrival of darkness. Later, submarine HMS STYGIAN arrives and tows SHAKESPEARE to Trincomalee, Ceylon.
To read the following tow images 'up close' - if you download them, you can expand them to a large size, I had reduced them for the page
Sunday Chronicle 4th March 1945
Other incidents involving HMS Shakespeare
13 May 1943 - HMS Shakespeare (Lt. M.F.R. Ainslie, DSC, RN) sinks the Italian sailing vessels Sant' Anna M. (156 GRT) and Adelina (80 GRT) with gunfire off the north-east coast of Sardinia in position 41º17'N, 10º26'E
6 Aug 1943 - While on patrol north-west of Ustica, HMS Shakespeare (Lt. M.F.R. Ainslie, DSC, RN) fires three torpedoes at what is identified as an Italian light cruiser. All torpedoes missed their target.
7 Sep 1943 - HMS Shakespeare (Lt. M.F.R. Ainslie, DSC, RN) torpedoes and sinks the Italian submarine Velella (offsite link) about 18 nautical miles east of Licosa Island, south of Salerno, Italy in position 40º15'N, 14º30'E. There were no survivors.
26 Oct 1943 - HMS Shakespeare (Lt. M.F.R. Ainslie, DSO, DSC, RN) sinks the Greek sailing vessel Aghios Konstantinos 23 nautical miles north-east of Andros, Greece.
3 Nov 1943 - HMS Shakespeare (Lt. M.F.R. Ainslie, DSC, RN) sinks a sailing vessel with gunfire off Kos, Greece.
3 Dec 1943 - HMS Shakespeare (Lt. M.F.R. Ainslie, DSO, DSC, RN) sinks a sailing vessel with gunfire off Kos, Greece.
31 Dec 1944 - HMS Shakespeare (Lt. D. Swanston, DSC, RN) torpedoes and sinks the Japanese merchant cargo ship Unryu Maru (2515 GRT) east of Port Blair, Andaman Islands in position 11º40'N, 93º15'E.
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