East to West

It was a boat heavily laden with provisions and torpedoes that left Beirut on October 28. Turbulent took a westerly course to Malta. There, Linton received orders to patrol the Tyrrhenian Sea so set north-west to the western edge of Sicily and thence north to the Bay of Naples. The presence of the Italian navy made this a treacherous stretch of water. From here, Linton turned south-west and was able to torpedo and sink the German auxiliary submarine tender Benghazi off the southern coast of Sardinia on November 11. This attack took place in the afternoon meaning Turbulent was extremely vulnerable. Four days later, an opportunity arose to target an enemy tanker at night but although torpedoes were launched no hits were made. Turbulent escaped without damage on this occasion.

Extract from Report of Turbulent’s 9th Patrol

November 15 2015 hours – In position 40°28’N, 14°02’E sighted a tanker and a destroyer on a South-Westerly course. The moon was in the first quarter but it was very overcast and there was not enough light to attack submerged. Cdr. Linton crossed astern of the convoy to get the advantage of the better horizon and then started working up the portside of the convoy. The destroyer was zig-zagging ahead of the tanker.  2355 hours – Fired four torpedoes from 2500 yards. It appeared the torpedo tracks were seen and no hits were obtained. No counter attack followed.

Meanwhile, there were developments in North Africa. This region had seen a focus of activity since May, when ‘Desert Fox’ Rommel started an offensive in the Western Desert. Tobruk had fallen in June but the British forced Rommel to retreat at El Alamein. Montgomery took command of the army in the area but it was not until October 23 that he began Operation Lightfoot in preparation for the Second Battle of Alamein.

November began with Eisenhower taking command of Operation Torch. This was an attempt to invade enemy-occupied countries the north-west African coast. Beginning on November 8, American and British forces attacked specific targets. The middle of the month saw some progress for the Allies, with Tobruk back in their hands. The city of Algiers surrendered and became an Allied stronghold having been in the hands of the Vichy French. On November 20 Benghazi was captured by Monty’s 8th Army. All this was backed up at sea and Turbulent’s 9th War Patrol was part of this cover in the north-west of the Mediterranean.

When it was time to withdraw, Turbulent had another scheduled stop in Malta. The crew would have welcomed the familiar surroundings of Grand Harbour but their stay was for only one night. The island was now a much safer place but only a few convoys were getting through. Malta had reached a critical point in terms of provisions but a convoy arrived from Alexandria on November 20 without being intercepted. The Allies were gaining greater control of the seas surrounding Malta and attacks had begun to diminish. Also, Allied aircraft were beginning to disperse Luftwaffe attacks. For Turbulent, this would have meant the prospect of a safe passage into harbour the following day. Montgomery was still battling with Rommel further east but successful attacks on Axis supply boats and submarines were increasing. Algiers was to become a base for British vessels.

Patrol extended

Turbulent left on November 22. Even then, they were not able to set course for Beirut because orders were to patrol in the Gulf of Sirte. The mission was a departure from the norm in that their targets were on land. This of course was part of Operation Torch. It represented a huge challenge as both the recce and the attack were carried out in daylight. At Sirte itself, on November 24, Turbulent’s guns bombarded an area of parked vehicles and the image of a lorry was sewn onto the Jolly Roger. However, the boat was fired on in retaliation and forced to dive.  Ahead was another week of zigzagging east back to Beirut, a passage which seems to have gone without incident. This patrol ended on December 2 when Hugh collected his mail and after a night’s sleep immersed himself in letter-writing. Jim’s was an airgraph passed by the censor ten days later.

Airgraph of December 3, 1942

Maybe the Hemingway book promised by Jim was For Whom the Bell Tolls to which Hugh may have been drawn.  It tells the story of an American who, like himself, volunteers for a war not his own.

Another Magic Carpet

Feeling in need of some exercise after the cramped conditions on board, Hugh imagines himself walking in the Cotswolds. The long school holiday of 1942 provided Jim with opportunities to swim as ever and to pursue another favourite pastime, writing. By a strange coincidence, she wrote a piece entitled The Magic Carpet. Having nothing to do with Hugh’s patrols to beleaguered Malta, she describes a theoretical journey made by looking at a map. She also recalls an actual walking holiday in the Cotswolds. This was a revamp of Jim’s article published in March 1939 entitled Arcadian Adventure in a £10 Car.

Jim’s taste for adventure, together with physical challenges, stayed with her for life and may have contributed towards the stoical manner in which she endured the wartime years.

1942 Jul 20 Article published in The Echo called The Magic Carpet.

Jim had given this piece the title Map Magic but the Liverpool Echo took up her idea, with the country in the grip of war, of climbing onto a magic carpet to be whisked away to a place of one’s choosing. They gave it the subtitle Dog-Eared Maps That Can Bring Back Dream Holidays and paid her one guinea for the piece. She had already enjoyed the freedom of exploring all corners of the country having been one of the first to pass a driving test in 1935. Jim begins by stating the benefits of what we now call a staycation.

Jim may have sent Hugh her copy of A Cotswold Holiday which provided the material for both her Magic Carpet and Arcadian Adventure articles. It is to be hoped that the final sentence lifted his spirits.

With North Africa very much in the news, Hugh’s mind was on the escalating war. Going back into harbour was always tinged with the possibility that some of the boats did not make it back. Whilst rest and recuperation were welcome, there was always another patrol looming.

 Although Guy Roy may have moved to a different base at this time, he spent all of his war service in the UK. He was one of the lucky ones in that respect. Hugh’s reference to home was a rare one but his family, both in America and in Scotland, was always his priority.

Hugh’s marriage

The information from Polly Rubery at the beginning of 2011 proved invaluable in tracing Hugh’s relatives. The marriage certificate delivered by Polly to my house showed that Hugh married Roberta Ritchie on April 17, 1941. This was the reason he had been away before returning to Chatham.

The ceremony took place at East Church, Walkinshaw Street, Johnstone, Renfrewshire. It was then that I realised the full significance of 11, Walkinshaw Street. The address appears on the marriage certificate three times. Both Hugh and Roberta married from there. She lived with her parents. Her brother, as one of the witnesses, gave the same address. Roberta was a spinster working as a Cop-Winder, a job in the thread industry. Hugh, bachelor, was an Electrical Engineer, Petty Officer, Royal Navy. Against Hugh’s address, the minister, William Runciman, has written ‘Now engaged in War Service’.

Hugh knew that it would be only a few months before he was home with his wife. This would have added to his optimism about the progress of the war, particularly in the Mediterranean. He does, however, show a hint of fatigue in this airgraph, with his longing for walks in the fresh air after a long patrol in the submarine.