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Thread: Thetis Disaster, June 1, 1939

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    Senior Member ChrisGeorge's Avatar
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    Default Thetis Disaster, June 1, 1939

    Hello everyone

    Snappel's wonderful photographs of Kriegsmarine U534 raised and being exhibited in Birkenhead reminded me of another submarine disaster, the loss of HMS Thetis which was sunk off the Great Orme while undergoing sea trials after sailing out of Liverpool Bay. See Thetis and Thunderbolt and HMS Thetis on Anglesey Heritage Site.


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    Senior Member Waterways's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisGeorge View Post
    Hello everyone

    Snappel's wonderful photographs of Kriegsmarine U534 raised and being exhibited in Birkenhead reminded me of another submarine disaster, the loss of HMS Thetis which was sunk off the Great Orme while undergoing sea trials after sailing out of Liverpool Bay. See Thetis and Thunderbolt and HMS Thetis on Anglesey Heritage Site.

    Chris
    Mr V who lived in our street was on the Cock tug (Cock was the company) that was over the sub all the time. He could hear people banging on the hull.
    Last edited by Waterways; 12-01-2006 at 05:25 PM.
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    Default Thetis exhibition at Fort Perch Rock

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisGeorge View Post
    Hello everyone

    Snappel's wonderful photographs of Kriegsmarine U534 raised and being exhibited in Birkenhead reminded me of another submarine disaster, the loss of HMS Thetis which was sunk off the Great Orme while undergoing sea trials after sailing out of Liverpool Bay.
    Chris
    If you ever get to Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton, they have a small but fascinating museum exhibitiopn featuring Thetis.
    Gerry.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gerry Jones View Post
    If you ever get to Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton, they have a small but fascinating museum exhibitiopn featuring Thetis.
    Gerry.
    Hi Gerry

    Many thanks for the heads up about the exhibit on the Thetis at Fort Perch Rock. I will try to check it out next time I am on Merseyside.

    Chris
    Christopher T. George
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    scouserdave
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    Alright Simon.
    A couple of poor quality pics taken years ago in Fort Perch Rock. I think the Thetis exhibition is permanent if you fancy a visit.




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    Have read the book very sad a lot of cock-ups many more could have been saved but for but for thebumbeling from the navy. They actually had the stern out of the water at one stage ....very tragic
    In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king

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    Senior Member Howie's Avatar
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    REVEALED: How Navy let 99 sailors die to avoid damaging stricken sub
    By Nigel Blundell

    The crew of a Royal Navy submarine were condemned to an agonising death because the Admiralty decided it was more important to save the vessel than the 99 men trapped on board, a newly unearthed official document proves.

    HMS Thetis partly resurfaced with the men still alive inside and rescuers could have saved them in just five minutes by cutting air holes through the 5⁄8in-thick steel hull. A larger hole could then have been cut to let them out.

    But the Admiralty refused to allow the rescue because the hull would have been permanently weakened.


    Condemned to death: The crew on board HMS Thetis (seen here partially submerged) died from carbon dioxide poisoning in 1939 after the Navy refused to save them - which it could have done in five minutes

    At the time ? June 1939 ? with the Second World War looming, saving the submarine was deemed more important. After 50 hours trapped inside their metal tomb in Liverpool Bay, all the crew were dead of carbon dioxide poisoning, killed by the breath they had exhaled. It was the Royal Navy?s worst peacetime submarine disaster.

    The new document was uncovered by author Tony Booth while researching Thetis Down: The Slow Death Of A Submarine. He found a memo at the National Archives in Kew signed by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain?s private secretary Sir John ?Jock? Colville and dated February 9, 1940.

    Referring to the cutting of a hole, Colville wrote: ?This was not attempted until matters became desperate, in order that the submarine might be as little damaged as possible.?

    Mr Booth said: ?It proves that the men were condemned to death by the decision ?to protect the integrity? of the vessel.

    'Salvage experts were prevented from drilling air holes, which they said would have taken only five minutes, followed by the cutting of a larger hole.

    'Opening an escape route would have permanently weakened the structure of the submarine. She could have been repaired but the fear was that she would be more susceptible to damage from depth charges. That decision cost 99 men their lives.

    ?Carbon dioxide poisoning brings on an agonising end. Eyes bulging, gagging like dying fish out of water, the men huddled together for a little human comfort until a welcome death ended their suffering.?

    An official inquiry has long been regarded as a whitewash as it effectively made it a ?no blame? accident, thereby denying the families of the dead any compensation.

    Now, as the 70th anniversary of the disaster approaches, the fresh evidence has angered relatives of the crew.


    'Navy has blood on its hands': Joyce Bentley with a picture of her brother John Turner, who died on the sub

    Joyce Bentley, 76, whose brother, 24-year-old Able Seaman John Turner, died inside the Thetis, said yesterday: ?I am still angry at the cover-up over my brother?s death. It?s a disgrace that the true cause was hushed up. The Navy has blood on its hands.?

    The T-class submarine had been launched a year before the tragedy from Cammell Laird?s shipyard in Birkenhead. It was a rushed job with much cost-cutting by the Admiralty.

    Final sea trials began almost a year later, and on the morning of June 1, 1939, she sailed with her complement of 51 regular crew doubled by Admiralty overseers, extra training officers and civilian technicians.

    Out at sea, she submerged and instantly sank 130ft to the seabed. Seawater had burst through a rear torpedo tube and flooded half of the vessel.

    It took 17 hours before the skipper, Lieutenant Commander Guy Bolus, and the other most senior officer, Captain Harry Oram, devised a way to rework the air pumps and lighten the aft section.

    The stern of the 275ft-long submarine broke surface, her rudder sticking 18ft into the air. With an escape hatch now only 20ft below the waves, four crewmen, led by Captain Oram, donned breathing apparatus and, in pairs, rose to the surface. Then the hatch cover jammed.

    The four escapees, hauled aboard the destroyer HMS Brazen, begged for an urgent rescue. Some 26 vessels were circling the submarine, crammed with Navy personnel, salvage experts and heavy cutting equipment. But they were ordered to wait, and eventually the knocking from inside the submarine faded away.

    One of the oldest of the 99 was Cammell Laird?s chief engineer, Arthur Robinson, 45. His daughter, Barbara Moore, now 80, of Bebington, Wirral, was ten at the time.

    She said yesterday: ?I am still deeply bitter about how I lost my father and I firmly blame the Navy top brass for his death. Cammell Laird?s divers and rescuers were desperate to act but the Navy insisted the submarine had been officially handed over to them. The naval authorities forbade the rescuers from cutting into it.?

    Mrs Bentley, of Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, campaigned with other relatives to force a judicial review of the tribunal findings, forming a group, the Thetis Families Association, ten years ago ?because those guilty were never named?.

    She said: ?I hope new information can help reopen the case.?

    One verdict of the tribunal particularly inflamed one of the four survivors, leading stoker Walter Arnold. His son Derek, now 69, of Bebington, said yesterday: ?The inquiry reported the great loss of life was due to ?the failure of those inside to escape?. They made it sound like suicide.

    ?It?s like being shot and being found guilty of not dodging the bullet.?

    Thetis Down: The Slow Death Of A Submarine, by Tony Booth, is published by Pen & Sword at ?19.99.

    Source: Mail Online

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    Hi Howie

    Many thanks for posting this. So sad. It is disgraceful that the truth was covered up and I feel for the families in their pain and anger.

    Chris
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    Cheers Howie.
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    There is a good book about this by Warren & J.Benson, The Admiralty Regret`s
    It seems they refused civilian help from professional people who had the tools for the job,but prefered to wait for their own people whose ship was up in Scotland refuelling before it made it`s way to the bay.
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    ...2010... And still theMaritime Museum haven't replaced their THETIS section

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