Jim’s diary tells us the exact date of reports of the missing submarine. She had resumed her diary after a two-month gap.
April 27th 1943 Once again I resume this record after a break since Feb. 9th. Quite a few things have happened. What are they[?]
Jim was writing during the school Easter holidays and noted that on Easter Monday the doctor was called to her brother Rob. He was taken to hospital after tests and Jim took his place at the poultry farm. She asked the authorities for compassionate leave. She worked long hours, tending the hens and preparing hundreds of eggs for sale. On May 4, she spent seven hours at the farm followed by mowing the lawns at home. Rob was still in hospital with a duodenal ulcer. In the evening, Jim sat down with the paper.
Tuesday May 4th In the evening read the news that Turbulent has gone – Goodbye Hugh.
The newspaper cuttings now became relevant. There were three. Up and down the country, reporters stated that Turbulent was missing and stressed her successes. They could not yet confirm that the boat was definitely lost. Jim’s diary had prompted me to search newspaper archives. I found disturbing headlines: End of the Turbulent, Famous Submarine Turbulent Lost, Loss of the Turbulent – Six officers and 61 Ratings, Turbulent Overdue.
After a fortnight, Rob left hospital but Jim was still, with an extended leave of absence, looking after his chickens and milking his goats. Then she was reminded of Hugh.
May 26th Lynton [sic] received the V.C. I wonder if any will ever turn up.
Newspapers up and down the country from the Aberdeen Press and Journal to the Welsh Western Mail reported the award. Linton’s recommendation for the Victoria Cross must have been processed simultaneously with the last patrol. This allowed newspapers to report both the award and the fact that he was missing. The reports from South Wales were particularly detailed about Linton’s background. His original home was near Newport, then in Monmouthshire. Linton was described as Britain’s supreme submarine ace…known throughout the Silent Service as a commander with whom it was an honour to serve.
Jim read the news in the Daily Express and the Daily Mail and put the cuttings in a scrapbook to be found sixty-five years later. Jim’s Daily Mail bears the headline, Linton, Missing in the Turbulent, wins V.C. Whilst concentrating on Linton’s career, there was also mention that his submarine was currently missing. The citation read:
The King has been Graciously pleased to approve of the grant of the Victoria Cross for great valour in command of HM Submarines to Commander John Wallace Linton, DSO, DSC, Royal Navy. From the outbreak of war until HMS Turbulent’s last patrol, Commander Linton was constantly in command of submarines, and during that time inflicted great damage on the enemy. He sank one cruiser, one destroyer, one U-boat, twenty-eight supply ships, some 100,000 tons in all, and destroyed three trains by gunfire. In his last year he spent two hundred and fifty four days at sea, submerged for nearly half the time, and his ship was hunted thirteen times and had two hundred and fifty depth-charges aimed at her. His many and brilliant successes were due to his constant activity and skill, and the daring which never failed him when there was an enemy to be attacked. On one occasion, for instance, in HMS Turbulent, he sighted a convoy of two merchantmen and two destroyers in mist and moonlight. He worked round ahead of the convoy and dived to attack it as it passed through the moon’s rays. On bringing his sights to bear he found himself right ahead of a destroyer. Yet he held his course till the destroyer was almost on top of him, and, when his sights came on the convoy, he fired. His great courage and determination were rewarded. He sank one merchantman and one destroyer outright and set the other Merchantmen on fire so that she blew up.
This certainly brings home Hugh’s experiences of his last two years. It puts into context his comments so lightly brushed off as a bit of bad luck or that the year started well.
I turned to the letter from the Admiralty. After reading about Turbulent in the newspapers and carefully cutting out the articles, Jim wanted more detail. She wrote to the Admiralty and received the following reply dated August 12:
In reply to your letter of the 1st August, 1943, I am commanded by My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to inform you with regret that Hugh M. Whyte, C.E.R.A., D/MX 72694 was reported missing on 23rd March, 1943, when H.M. S/M TURBULENT was reported overdue and considered lost.
2. Notification has been made in accordance with naval custom to the officially recorded next of kin.
3. Your stamps are returned herewith.
Jim interpreted Hugh’s rank by writing Chief Engine Room Artificer on the letter. It turns out that he may have acted as Chief on a temporary basis only. Wondering who were the next-of-kin, I used Hugh’s service number to search the casualty list of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and found some surprising details.
Engine Room Artificer 4th Class, WHYTE, HUGH MCLAREN
Service Number D/MX 72694
Died 23/03/1943 aged 31
H.M. Submarine Turbulent, Royal Navy
Son of William and Margaret McLaren Whyte, of Johnstone, Renfrewshire; husband of Roberta Whyte, of Johnstone.
This caused me confusion and disbelief in two respects. It was the document from which I first learned that Hugh was married. Knowing that Hugh had a brother called Robert, I dared to wonder whether this was a typing error. When I wrote suggesting this, the CWGC assured me that Roberta was Hugh’s wife. She had signed a ‘final verification letter’ in 1951.
The other surprise was that Hugh’s parents were recorded as living in Johnstone. I knew them to be still living in America and Hugh’s letters confirm this.
The information was a major find that fuelled my subsequent research. However, it seemed unlikely that Colin and I would be able to trace Hugh’s family. We therefore decided to donate the original letters to the Royal Navy Submarine Museum to be available for researchers.
The letters’ last move
My correspondence with George Malcolmson included these words: I would be honoured to receive the letters you have that were written by Hugh Whyte for the museum archive. These would serve as a lasting and fitting tribute to his memory. He also told me that Hugh is commemorated in the ‘Submarine Book of Remembrance’ kept in the ‘Submarine Memorial Chapel’ situated in Fort Blockhouse (formerly known as HMS Dolphin). He is also listed on the wall of names of British Submariners who were lost on active service that forms part of the museum’s ‘Area of Remembrance’.
On a wet day at the end of 2010, we made the journey to Gosport. We had arranged to meet Deryck and his wife at the Museum. Entering the Archivist’s office, we exchanged introductions with George Malcolmson. The date was November 11. Having handed over the letters, we completed the paperwork as the clock approached 11am. We stood for the silence. The gun salute echoed around the harbour. The task we had just performed added to the poignancy of this very moving moment. We were offered a tour of HMs/m Alliance when, as the retired submariner described conditions on board, we shed more tears.
Our visit ended by viewing the Memorial Wall. The place is beautiful and peaceful.
Over forty panels line two sides of the courtyard walls. Each contains two columns of names. The names are listed under their submarines which appear in alphabetical order. Each man appears in order of rank.
The RNSM also accepted a copy of Hugh’s photograph as part of their aim to put ‘a face to every name’.