Last month

FEB 17TH 1943


Dear Jim,

I received two airgraphs of yours today. One dated the nineteenth of December and the other the twenty-fifth of last month. Rather good time on that last one I thought. Really didn’t expect any this time so you see it was a pleasant surprise indeed. Glad to hear you have received my letter of the twenty-sixth of October. Since writing that one I have written four others which I hope you have received by this time. At least you received the stockings. I was a bit doubtful about them at the time. You did not say anything about the color being right or wrong. It was the best I could do. My chances of getting more are very slim now but I’ll do my best. I’m sorry to hear that you have not yet received the photograph. Perhaps it is just as well methinks.

Spring in the air

By the time this letter reaches you spring will be approaching. It would be good to see the first green of spring in England again. To see a few lambs scampering about and listen to the early arrivals among the birds. The smell of newly ploughed earth and the gulls circling behind the plough. How lucky you are! I hope you find enough leisure time to enjoy it all. You were telling me about your visit to a model farm. I’m sure it would be interesting. Yes, I am interested in farming. I’ve had very little experience with farm work, mostly during holidays when I was at school and the usual country boy’s knowledge of such things.  It is the sort of life that has much more appeal for me now – perhaps it is partly a reaction against my present mode of living.  

One hears a lot nowadays concerning the rehabilitation of agriculture and the improvement of the status of farm-workers as a whole. Personally I think those who earn their living on the land are much better off than the average industrial worker. Perhaps not in terms of money but there are compensations of more value. Certainly their lives are not cluttered up – mentally or physically – with piles of rubbish.

Jim’s wrote her ‘Christmas Holidays’ diary for 1942 in retrospect on a double page towards the back of one of her exercise books. She had to think back to October 24 to recall two months of her life. As a result, there is little substance except for seeing Gone with the Wind on December 5 and taking an A.R.P. exam the day after. She sounded rather tired and unhappy but perked up in the New Year. There is no mention of either letter to Hugh but she records the receipt of a long one from him on February 1. She did however describe visiting a smallholding with her sister.

1943 Sunday 24th Jan. Went over Jim Purcell’s farm with Mary. Jersey cow and calf, 3 Anglo-Nubian goats, 1 dozen pedigree Chincillas, 2 turkeys, 9 ducks, 1 dozen hens.

Hugh’s views

Let us hope all this talk of post-war reconstruction will lead to something worthwhile. It is a very interesting subject and rather involved. One would think to hear people talking that it was something new, in spite of the fact that the need to reorganise has been brought to our attention regularly for at least fifty years. My own opinion is that one of the first requirements is a basic change in the organization of industry. It is rather obvious, no matter what the color of one’s political views, that the present capitalistic set-up is very inefficient. This war has proved that point beyond a doubt. The industrial machine has been overworked, over-expanded and over-exploited because of the possibilities for making money.  There has been no effort made toward working it for the benefit of the country as a whole.

There is an enormous lag between the social sciences and industrialism.  The industrial system has grown to its present size without any sort of general control over it. It overlaps in many places and is working half time in others and there is much waste of men and material. There is no lack of knowledge about what could be done to improve it, and there are a few good examples of what a little foresight and planning could do.  The ‘grid system’ in England and the London Port Authority are good examples. Sweden has proved the value of regional planning and governmental control of industry and has done much in the way of health and educational service. On paper there are lots of plans for the rebuilding of communities and it would be good to see some of them in actual fact. Perhaps if we live long enough we shall see some of it in practice.

This is the talk of a very well-read man with remarkable optimism considering his precarious situation.

Last books

You were saying you had sent me some more books. Thanks a lot. I haven’t received them yet but they usually take longer than letters. Perhaps it would be best not to send any more as they take about three months to reach me. I have read Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’. I didn’t know that the B.B.C. had dramatized part of it on the radio. It is quite good though a bit hard to follow. Have you read Mann’s ‘Buddenbrook’? I believe I mentioned his ‘Magic Mountain’ to you some time ago.  ‘Buddenbrook’ is better I think. His marine engineer is quite an interesting character study. Buddenbrook is a sort of German ‘Forsyth Saga’.  Have you read Lawrence’s ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’? I have just finished G.K. Chesterton’s ‘Man called Thursday’.

Hugh had already mentioned War and Peace in June 1942. The other titles are in Books for February 1943.

Another patrol

We have just finished another successful patrol – you will probably be reading about it in papers one of these fine days.  It was rather trying at times and my nerves have been shaken up a bit.  Leave ashore has been rather restricted and there has not been much of interest to do or see. I’ve just been vaccinated again. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been vaccinated since leaving England. I’m getting accustomed to it now and it doesn’t bother me much.

Turbulent was certainly having a successful time but with an undoubted toll on the morale of the crew. They cannot have failed to fear the worst as they heard about the loss of some of the fleet. Maybe this made Linton all the more determined to go on the offensive. Hugh and the rest of the crew would have headed off for the 11th War Patrol in a north-westerly direction between the coasts of Tunisia and Sicily.

The 11th 

By January 27, the patrol was well underway and Turbulent made a morning attack on an Italian convoy. This consisted of two merchant ships and three torpedo boats accompanied by twelve aircraft. By diving deep, Linton managed to avoid retaliation. It appears that the aircraft had spotted Linton’s torpedoes and the convoy left the area. Four days later, success was achieved with the sinking off the north-west corner of Sicily. This was another Italian merchantman, this time with no escort.  Soon, another enemy ship followed the same course, began to pick up survivors and attempted an attack on Turbulent.

On February 5, an Italian tanker loaded with fuel for its navy was torpedoed and sunk by Turbulent, again off northern Sicily. Linton had spotted the tanker and got ahead of it to maximise the effectiveness of his position. This attack, which happened at dawn, frightened off the escort of a destroyer and three torpedo boats but only after they had tried to attack Turbulent.

Ever courageous, Linton took the opportunity at mid-day two days later to fire at a train in St Ambrogia station and dived fast as a plane approached. Later, Turbulent sustained some damage from torpedo boats. February 8 saw Linton still in fighting mood making attacks whenever a target was sighted but he then made for Algiers, ending this 11th War Patrol on February 12. Hugh would then have had a chance for some rest and recuperation which for him always included letter-writing.

Last photograph

During the time at Algiers, a photograph was taken. It can be seen on the website British Submarines of World War Two. The crew of Turbulent are standing on her deck. We think Hugh is third from the right wearing a light-coloured sweater, dark trousers and his cap. The Jolly Roger is proudly held aloft. The lorries and train engine are clearly showing as are a pair of scimitars for ‘cloak and dagger’ action and stars for gun action. Seventeen bars have been sewn on. These represent ships sunk and one, bisected by a ‘U’ is for a U-boat. Turbulent had seen it all.

The news is rather good these days. I have just heard of the capture of Kharkov. The Russians are doing very well. It looks much brighter for us at present.  I only hope we can keep it up.

The Russian victory at Kharkov was short-lived and this strategically important city  recaptured by the Germans in March.

Hope you are keeping happy and healthy. It would be rather a bad break to be ill in the springtime. I will write to you again before I leave and I hope I have another letter from you before then. Cheerio.



Hugh’s pledge to write again may have been fulfilled but no such letter was among the ones Jim treasured. As it was only a week after he wrote that the next patrol began, it is unlikely he wrote again. This was, in fact, the final letter of the bundle but Jim was to hear more about Hugh in the coming weeks and months.

Last patrol

Turbulent’s orders for the 12th War Patrol were to go to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The crew would have been excited as well as apprehensive, knowing that this was the last patrol before returning to British waters for a refit, due to be undertaken in America. Within a week, Linton was approaching the Italian coast and attacked and sank an Italian merchant ship off Paola. Details are hazy about his next locations.

A sinking on March 3 off the north-east coast of Sicily was probably attributable to Linton.  This would mean that the boat had turned south. Another report suggested that Turbulent was a victim of depth charges from an Italian boat off Naples on March 6. There is also speculation that Turbulent made an attack in the waters around Sardinia on the mail-ship Mafalda on March 11. Flotilla Command sent orders to Linton on March 14. These were to go to Sardinia. No reply was received, leading to the view that Turbulent fell victim to a mine off Maddalena, Sardinia. The base at Algiers was expecting Turbulent to return on March 23.  This date passed without a sighting so she was declared overdue on that day.