The Lighter Side of Submarine Life.

navy0001jolly rogerThe photo is HM/SM Aurochs en-route to Adelaide Australia in 1956.  The Skull and Cross Bones, a submarine symbol stemming from the 1st WW when a British Admiral stated that submainers were pirates and should be hung if caught. He was of course referring to the German U Boats

However,  British submariners picked up on this and since then when a boat returns from a successful war patrol it flies the pirate flagonyx.   HM/SM Conqueror returning from the Falklands War

By Ollie Sharp.

I was C.O. of H.M.S/M AUROCHS in 1961. We were based in Halifax Nova Scotia. Apart from some silencing, she was comletely original, complete with persicope standards, like a Greek Temple and a gun. Instead of No Smoking Lights we had the old hinged boards with one side white and the other inscribed NO SMOKING. On the way over the Atlantic one of my sailors, with pretentions as a sign painter, had neatly written the words REACTOR CRITICAL on the white side of the sign over the chart table.

We went to New York and were berthed in Manhattan with the Queen Mary on one side and the United States on the other. Feeling like a very small pea in a very in a very large pod. As per tradition we gave a cocktail party and I found myself with my back to the chart table talking to an earnest American Naval Officer. He kept looking over my shoulder and I could guess what he was looking at. Then he said “Say Commander when was this sub built?” I replied truthfully,”1947”. “Jeez” he said, “You limeys are cagey”. So I suppose he went out into the streets of New York telling anyone who would listen that the Goddam Limeys had had a nuclear submarine eight years before they, the Americans, had and he knew because he had been aboard her!

This example of Yankee gullibility gave us ideas. One evening, we had completed a successful NATO exercise and were going to Norfolk, Virginia for the wash up, where all aspects of the exercise were dissected. We had finished dinner complete with a few Horses Necks, cocktails etc. I told the officers that we could expect the C.O. and officers of our host ship on board about 1100 the next day, when they could expect some Whisky. I told the Correspondence Officer to get out his typewriter and prepare a list of our officers and their duties. He typed my name and ‘Commanding Officer” and then cheekily asked what else did I do. I thought for a moment and then said “Custodian of the Dangerous Drugs”. Everyone else in addition to their day job was given several duties such as Indoctrination Officer, Ceremonial Violation Detection Officer, Rodent Controller and Curator of the Wardroom Line Book. I explained that American Submarines had at least nine or ten officers, so we added another. ‘Additional for Training’. He was named Sub-Lieutenant Sir Hamish McSporran of Sporran, RNVR, VD. We gave him a few jobs such as Integration and Commonwealth Relations Officer.

Our hosts duly turned up the next day and we handed them the list, which they accepted without comment. For the next few days we had a steady stream of motivated, dedicated USN Ensigns wishing to speak with Sir Hamish McSporran about their collateral duties. Of course he was always ashore, sick or otherwise unavailable. Finally one of them asked to see me to be told how to make out his place card for the big dinner that night. I told him that he could not attend as he was always on duty with the First Lieutenant. He urged me to relent, as none of them had succeeded in discussing their collateral duties with him. I refused – it would interrupt his essential training.

The dinner was a big affair, hosted by COMSUBLANT and FOSM (Baldy Hezlett) and my Squadron C.O. (Steve Jenner) was there. Naturally, there was one unoccupied place, McSporran’s. After dinner, Steve and FOSM came up to me and asked why one of my officers was absent. When I explained that he did not exist, FOSM burst out laughing, So that was alright then.

Shortly after this incident, we were doing a 5 hour snort trial off Halifax when we were hassled by a US Coast Guard Cutter. I was acutely aware that the American Admiral for the Atlantic Coast had offered a case of Bourbon to any C.O. who could force a Russian Submarine to the surface and I could imagine the scenario that was unfolding up above.

I was unable to contact the Cutter by radio, so as it getting dangerous, I had to surface to ask him to go away by’ aldis’ lamp. He agreed to do so but only if I “took that Goddam flag down” I looked aft and saw that one of my sailors unbeknown to me, had brought up the ‘bridge ensign staff’ from which a Confederate Flag (Storm King) was flying!!

We had a few other pranks during the commission, but we did some serious things as

well. We dived under the ice in the St. Lawrence Estuary and carried out the first successful penetration of the Hudson Strait (against all the RCN and RCAF could throw at us) since a German U-Boat did it during the war. I became known as the “Arctic Fox!”

Ollie Sharp’s father commanded C14 and e40 in WW1.

Ollie joined submaarines in 1949 and served in the UK, Canada, Australia and Singapore. He took his perisher in 1956. He commanded Seneschal, Aurochs and Walrus and was the first C.O. of Ocelot. Staff appointments included Flotilla Tactial Officer to FOSM and the Submarine Desk in DUSW in the MOD. He retired in 1968 to “better (paid) things”

God Bless all Submariners at whatever depth they are at. Oh! and keep reading

About irishroverpei

Author of "Lily & Me", "The Royal Navy & Me" and Chapter XXl Armageddon. Writer, blogger and RN Submariner, antique automobile enthusiast.
This entry was posted in HM Submarines, The Royal Navy & Me, veterans and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Lighter Side of Submarine Life.

  1. Diarmid French says:

    My father, Cassell (froggy) French was your predecessor CO in Sydney and Singapore in 1957/8. They were attacked by an aircraft en route from Singapore to Sydney; I believe the last British submarine to be attacked from the air.

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