A missing log book

The log book for August 1942 is number ADM173/17685 but it is the October one that is ADM173/17686. It is a mystery why there is no log book for September but there is a record of Turbulent leaving Beirut on September 14th for a two-day passage to Port Said.  Hugh therefore had barely a week after writing this letter before he set sail once again over this dangerous stretch of water.

There was more bad news for the ‘T’ class submarines. HMS Talisman had left Gibraltar with supplies for Malta. Communication ceased on September 15 and it is thought she was mined off Sicily. This news would have had a demoralising effect on the crews of the flotilla. It must have intensified the determination to find enemy vessels.

There was one piece of good news in September. Linton received the award of Distinguished Service Order for courage and skill in successful patrols. By this stage in his career, he had sunk seventeen vessels. He would surely have acknowledged the crew for their share in this accolade. Nicknamed ‘Tubby’, he was a commander with the ability to keep calm in a crisis and for his fair-minded attitude.

The 8th War Patrol

Other records show that Turbulent left her dock at Port Said on September 22 for her 8th War Patrol.    Orders were to watch the Libyan coast near Tobruk and Benghazi. Commander Linton had a tough few weeks ahead of him. Italian destroyers were becoming increasingly accurate with their anti-submarine fire. The October log book states that Turbulent attacked a German merchant ship on the 6th. It had an escort of aircraft as well as torpedo boats. Turbulent’s torpedoes missed and the enemy fired depth-charges in retaliation, causing some damage. A summary compiled from log books and patrol reports and available from the internet gives an idea of the tense atmosphere which would have existed on board that day.

6 Oct 1942
1130 hours – Sighted a ship approaching and started an attack, range was 14000 yards. The ship was thought to be of about 3000 tons and was escorted by what were thought to be three Spica class torpedo boats and two aircraft. The attack went well until the target changed course. Turbulent now also changed course to attack with the stern tubes.  1232 hours – Near position 32°39’N, 20°19’E fired three torpedoes from the stern tubes from 1100 yards. All however missed.  1245 hours – A single depth charge was dropped but not close. Soon after another depth charge was dropped but once again not close. A/S impulses were heard coming up from astern.  1325 hours – One of the torpedo boats passed overhead and dropped a pattern of 9 depth charges extremely close causing damage to Turbulent. It then turned round and dropped a pattern of 10 depth charges a bit further off but still close. The torpedo boat hunted for over 2 hours and appeared to be in contact several times but nothing further was dropped.  1540 hours – All quiet now, no more HE could be heard.  1610 hours – Came to periscope depth, nothing in sight.

Most of the crew normally slept during the day so this action would have left them exhausted and maybe not in the best of spirits. Night watches would have followed whilst the men rested in shifts. They were only twenty-five miles north-east of Benghazi. This part of North Africa had changed hands several times during the war with the Allies managing to fend off the threat to their access to Egypt.

Linton continued his search for enemy craft. He had arrived off the stretch of coast about halfway between Benghazi and Tobruk. At the northernmost point, he detected and attacked a German vessel. He fired two torpedoes, one of which caused the ship to break up. Fortunately, the escorting destroyer left the area.  Linton then turned to the east, heading back towards Beirut. Turbulent entered harbour on the 14th, thus completing her 8th War Patrol. The October log book gives some idea of what followed.

15th 1315 1st leave party on General Leave 16th 0815 Cell from No. 3 battery removed.  17th 0815 Hands employed enamelling messes and in compartments.  18th 1200 1st leave party returned.  19th 0815 Harbour stations.0830 Proceeded to South Quay to change periscope.1130 Secured to SB3 Buoy. 20th Painting. 21st Embarked distilled water. 22nd, 23rd, 24th Hands employed in compartments Following these essential checks and repairs, it looks as though Hugh was writing during some time off. In another four days, they would depart for another patrol, this time to Malta.

A relieved island

Plaque in Valletta recording the George Cross awarded to Malta

Malta was now a much safer place following the relief of the island. In April,  the King had awarded the George Cross to the islanders for their heroism and devotion. In 2014, I took a photograph of the plaque which hangs in a square in Valletta. The wording is ‘To honour her brave people I award the George Cross to the Island Fortress of Malta to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history. George R.I. April 15th 1942.

In Hugh’s footsteps

In 1949, Jim began teaching in Children’s Army Schools in the Mediterranean area. It is amazing to think that, without knowing, she covered much of the same ground as Hugh. Her first post was as Headteacher to an Anglo-American school in Athens.

Group photograph of Anglo-American School, Glyfadha, Athens, with Jim top right

Around the Mediterranean

Jim moved to Austria in 1950, to Malta the following year and then to Libya. Her diary is full of detail of the life she led in Barce where the Royal Scots Greys were based at the time. In fact she was there for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, recording in her diary:

1953 Coronation Day. Went for a swim and got burnt by accident.  Jun 3 Went to Tattoo in the evening.

The following extracts are from her letters home and describe some of the legacy of Hugh’s war.

17.9.52 Army Education HQ Cyrenaica Dept

I landed at Benina Airport to be faced by the newly-won officialdom of an Arab Passport Officer who refused to allow me to move off the Airport – no visa. The heat was like nothing in this world (perhaps we really experience heaven and hell on earth and this is it.) There is a Greek colony here, they run Barclays – most efficiently too. I spoke in Greek to them and they were simply delighted. Now I always get immediate attention.

Here I feel physically sick over the qharry horses, their ribs sticking out. A qharry is a two-wheeled hooded affair with a driver armed with a long cracking whip.

Benghazi itself is from a climate point of view damp, sticky heat with ghibli winds of red dust. The town itself is a battered stucco effort but lots of colour, qharries, Arabs, gay native dress, bright flowers, white teeth, dazzling smiles, date palms, oleander, glimpses of blue Mediterranean and one is really in a foreign land full of interest and excitement.

18.9.52

Imagine a golden shore, a wonderful sea of topaz, azure, wine, with a fringe of date palms, a white towering minaret and flat roofed houses to the left. The swimming was superb but the water colder than Malta.

Yesterday a dirty ship came into the harbour (which is only fit for small ships [being] still locked with sunken vessels) and off this ship came the pilgrims from Mecca – a long steady stream of people in turbans with tattered bundles and water bottles. It looked as if the pilgrimage had been a v hard one. Some were travelling back on donkeys and little carts and people who had not been on the pilgrimage rushed up to kiss their hands and embrace them. It is a very great thing in their lives – now they are safe.

22.9.52  c/o The Royal Scots Greys, Barce, Benghazi.

Arrived here on Sunday, 2 ½ hrs journey across sheer desert and over a mountain pass to here. It is a shocking place. I have a Quarter. It is filthy. Nothing works so when I arrived there was no food, no water, no electricity, no anything. There is nothing to compensate for living like this. The money’s not worth the waste of life. In fact you would have to spend so much making yourself reasonably comfortable, all your money would be gone.

The Scots Greys have done their best today to be decent but their morale is low too. The cicadas chirp all night and the bagpipes all morning. Otherwise, there is nothing here.

Jim the poet

Ever the optimist in the face of poor living conditions, Jim amused herself as follows:

There were once two ladies of Barce  They served sausage and mash  Hardly costing much cash  In a car they would dash  With plates of hot hash  Never fearing a crash  When a general too rash  Closed the place in a flash.  Alas! No more the Baked Beans,  Double Egg and Cheese Dream  For those who MARCH WELL  (On the length I won’t dwell!)  Tea will be served in Benghazi,  Yes, TEA –don’t be blaze, Benghazi.                     Copyright reserved! Jim

Jim sent a postcard to her mother from Benghazi on September 19, 1952 to say that she was moving to Barce.

Jim’s postcard of El Sabri Oasis, Benghazi

Back in October, 1942, Linton completed the patrol with a sinking on the 8th. Turbulent returned safely to Beirut on October 14.

Whoever had the job of updating the Jolly Roger had had a busy few months. More bars  were sewn onto the flag, each representing a sinking. Eventually there were at least seventeen, one bisected by a ‘U’ for a U-boat and a coloured one for a destroyer. Crossed guns depicted gun action as did several stars. Two daggers at the base of the flag near the crossbones may have referred to the special operations in August, cloak and dagger procedures.

The crew had only a fortnight’s rest before departing for the 9th War Patrol. During that time, Hugh wrote a long letter to Jim.