The tragic loss of HMS Untamed in 1943

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Angus Mac Kinnon
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The tragic loss of HMS Untamed in 1943

Post by Angus Mac Kinnon » Fri Sep 02, 2011 9:39 pm

Of the hundreds of vessels that arrived at Troon over an 80-year period, for breaking up by the West of Scotland Shipbreaking Company, many were by no means just ordinary ships that had undergone a predictable and mundane career at sea, many had quite a history to them and this will be revealed in greater detail when the Troon Demolitions presentation is finally completed and available for viewing. Some famous grey vessels ended their days here, having gone through some amazing escapades in the War At Sea and earned commensurate Battle Honours. Other stories are tinged with sorrow and heartache that remains felt to this day. The story that follows is one of those, indeed it is one of the most poignant as it happened not in some distant theatre of war, but in home waters and with no enemy in sight. This is the story of a submmarine that arrived quietly in Troon Harbour at 16:25 hours on 24th of February 1946, just one more of the many WWII warships that were arriving regularly for demolition - no longer required with the cessation of hostilities. Her name was HMS Vitality, but that was not her original name, this was in fact the ill-fated and tragic HMS Untamed :

Vessel Name on Arrival: HMS Vitality
Vessel Type: Submarine
GRT: 545
Draught For'd: 12' 6"
Draught Aft: 13' 0"
Year Built: 1943
Arrival Date: 24/02/1946
Breakup Started: 05/03/1946
Date First Beaching: 20/03/1947
Breakup Completed: 08/07/1947
Original Builder: Vickers-Armstrongs, High Walker Yard, Newcastle upon Tyne
Original Yard No.: 47

Name Changes:
1942 : Launched as P 58
1943 : Renamed HMS Untamed
1943 : Renamed HMS Vitality

Other Information:

'U' - Class Submarine for the Royal Navy - Pennant No. P-58
09-10-1941 : Laid Down Length : 58.22 metres (191' 0")
08-12-1942 : Launched Breadth : 4.90 metres ( 16' 1")
14-04-1943 : Completed Draught : 4.62 metres ( 15' 2")
540 tons - Standard Load
630 tons - Full Load
730 tons - Submerged
Complement : 27 - 31 men
Propulsion : Twin Screw Twin Paxman - Ricardo Diesel Engines + Electric Motors
Speed : Surfaced = 11.5 knots Submerged = 10.0 knots

The loss of HMS Untamed :

HMS Untamed sailed out from the Supply Ship HMS Forth in the Holy Loch in the early morning light of Sunday 30th May 1943. She was to undertake a training exercise with the 8th Escort Group, in the Firth of Clyde, acting as a target in the Kilbrannan Sound. In the second exercise that day, HMS Untamed was to be used as a target for anti-submarine mortar practice by the 878 tons Admiralty Armed Surface Vessel HMS Shemara, which also served as an ASDIC Training Ship. (This was the commandeered luxury yacht of the Dockers, built in 1938 at Thornycroft's Woolston Yard)

When the submarine did not respond to attempts to contact her, nor surface, assistance was summoned. Shemara located HMS Untamed with sonar and heard the sounds of her engines being run and tanks being blown. HMS Thrasher arrived but no more was heard from HMS Untamed after 17:45 hours – nearly three hours from the first indication of a problem. Weather prevented divers inspecting the submarine until the 1st June. On 5th of June, the body of Chief Engine Room Artificer, Thomas Challoner, was found lodged in the Escape Chamber, beneath the Escape Hatch. His body was taken ashore and buried in Kilkerran Cemetery, Campbeltown. The submarine was then taken to Dunoon where all the other crewmen's bodies were recovered and interred in the Dunoon Cemetery.

There was no outward sign of damage and it was not until after HMS Untamed was salvaged on 5 July 1943 that it was determined that the cause of the sinking was due to a valve which had been incorrectly installed giving a false reading to the crew, and when they opened an inner hatch to gain access to the patent log, the sea poured into the boat with such pressure the crew had to abandon that compartment. The situation was worsened by the failure of the watertight door to seal off the flooding section. From the investigation that followed it appears that carbon dioxide built up rapidly preventing clear thinking by the crew. It is speculated that they spent almost four hours attempting to pump the water out of the boat instead of trying to escape. (Even though they were signaled by the surface ships to do so.)

When they realized that they would not be able to raise the boat they moved to the engine room and began an
attempt to escape by flooding the compartment and using the internal pressure to force open the outer hatch.
Sadly, a second valve now malfunctioned, this valve, again having been installed incorrectly, showed to be
open when it was closed. Nobody knows how much time it took the crew to determine why the engine room would not flood but, during this period someone opened another valve which, after the engine room began
taking on water, allowed much of it to enter the bilge adding to the time it would take to flood the engine room.

Because of the added time it took to flood the engine room the men, now overcome by oxygen depravation, could no longer help themselves and they all lapsed into unconsciousness and died. Not one of the 36 man crew made it out alive.

HMS Untamed was salvaged, refitted and renamed HMS Vitality, returning to service in July 1944.

Interred in the Dunoon Cemetery, Argyll & Bute, Scotland

The following 35 Royal Navy personnel of the total 36-man complement lost their lives in the tragic accident that befell the newly commissioned Submarine HMS UNTAMED in the Firth of Clyde on 30th of May 1943 whilst she was undertaking a training exercise with the 8th Escort Group. They are interred in the Dunoon Cemetery.

The 36th member of the crew, Chief E.R.A., T. G. Challoner is interred in Campbeltown’s Kilkerran Cemetery.

Acworth – Peter Carr Glynn 20 years : Sub-Lieutenant (Hampshire)
Arkwright – John Richard Stephen 36 years : Able Seaman (Radnorshire)
Ball – George Herbert 29 years : Petty Officer Stoker (Chatham)
Bates – Jack 21 years : Able Seaman (Birmingham)
Beard – Robert Leonard Archibald 25 years : Leading Seaman (Brighton)
Bothams – Peter 20 years : Able Seaman (Great Yarmouth)
Bowyer – Hugh L. unknown : Able Seaman (Glasgow)
Clayton – Peter Lambert 20 years : Sub-Lieutenant (Lancashire)
Cole – Herbert Ernest Douglas 20 years : Stoker 1st Class (unknown)
Cooper – Joseph Frederick 22 years : Able Seaman (County Durham)
Danks – George Victor unknown : E.R.A. 4th Class (Birmingham)
Dow – James 24 years : Telegraphist (Stirlingshire)
Duncan – John Priestly 23 years : Lieutenant (Sussex)
Flinn – Alfred Charles 23 years : Able Seaman (Coventry)
Floyd – Gordon Douglas 20 years : Able Seaman (unknown)
Gates – Norman Thomas 21 years : Leading Seaman (Hampshire)
Gibson – John Joseph Frederick 24 years : Able Seaman (Leicester)
Green – Henry A. W. 25 years : Able Seaman (Essex)
Hickson – William 26 years : Able Seaman (Manchester)
Higgins – Geoffrey Thomas Charles 21 years : Sub-Lieutenant (Hertfordshire)
Male – Peter 20 years : Ordinary Seaman (Staffordshire)
Miles – Frederick Arthur 26 years : Leading Stoker (County Durham)
Mitchell – Leslie Clarence 20 years : Telegraphist (Surrey)
Nichol – Henry 28 years : E.R.A. 4th Class (Yorkshire)
Noll – Gordon Maurice (Commander) 25 years : Lieutenant (Devon)
Pendleton – Roy George 20 years : Stoker 1st Class (unknown)
Playfair – Peter unknown : Leading Telegraphist (unknown)
Read – Arthur George unknown : Leading Signalman (unknown)
Smith – Leslie George 24 years : P. O. Telegraphist (Hampshire)
Spencer – Albert 32 years : Stoker 1st Class (unknown)
Tippett – Wilfred 22 years : Petty Officer (Cornwall)
Walker – Robert Buchan 29 years : Stoker 1st Class (Berwickshire)
Welfoot – Clarence Charles 32 years : Petty Officer (unknown)
Wheeler – Ronald 22 years : Able Seaman (Middlesex)
Wishart – Robert William 23 years : Leading Stoker (Campbeltown)

Interred at Kilkerran Cemetery, Campbeltown

Challoner – Thomas G. G. unknown : Chief E.R.A. (unknown)

War Service Log of HMS Vitality :

Following salvage, HMS Untamed, now renamed HMS Vitality, resumed active service, her first patrol in the North Sea, via Lerwick in the Sherland Isles, from 12th through 29th October 1944. She survived the rest of the war, and her war was uneventful. In February 1946 she was sold for scrapping.

(The Sandbank War Memorial at Hunters Quay, Dunoon, is in part dedicated to the crew of HMS Untamed who, with the exception of the Chief E.R.A., were buried at Dunoon Cemetery)

The images below show the sad sight of the 35 HMS Untamed crewmen's graves in Dunoon Cemetery.
HMS Untamed - 1.JPG
Final resting place of HMS Untamed's crew - Dunoon
HMS Untamed - 2.JPG
Final resting place of HMS Untamed's crew - Dunoon
Angus Mac Kinnon

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Re: The tragic loss of HMS Untamed in 1943

Post by Magoonigal » Fri Sep 02, 2011 10:25 pm

What really struck me about this sad incident was the age of the crew. The average age of the Officer's was 21.8 years offset by the Skipper being old at 25. The average age of the crew was 24.2 years.

Perhaps the outcome would have been different with an older more experienced crew.

Sadly we will never know.
Paul Hood.

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Re: The tragic loss of HMS Untamed in 1943

Post by Clio » Sun Jan 06, 2013 6:30 pm

I have the official report (Cazalet Inquiry). Interestingly enough one of the oldest, most experienced men on the boat was cited as being responsible for the accident due to his failure to follow Ottway Log drill procedure. That said, there is evidence to believe that with one PO down in the auxiliary machinery space and another hospitalised, the two leading seamen in the fore-ends could not contain the understandable panic as the bows flooded.

The men in the fore-ends of Untamed (at 23) were slightly above the average age for submarine crews of 1943

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