SIGNIFICANT SUBMARINE EVENT REMEMBERED
On 20th September 1943 four British X-Craft launched an attack on the German ships Tirpitz, and Scharnhorst in Alten Fjord in Norway. Six X-Craft had sailed from Loch Cairnbawm in northern Scotland on 11 September each undertow by an S or T class submarine. One X-Craft (X-9) was lost with its towing crew during the passage, and another (X-8) developed such serious defects that it was scuttled.
X-5 (LEUT Henty-Creer RNVR, an Australian from Sydney), X-6 (LEUT D. Cameron RNR), and X-7 (LEUT B. C. G. Place, DSC, RN) were directed to attack Tirpitz. X-10 (LEUT K. Hudspeth RANVR, an Australian from Tasmania) was to attack Scharnhorst.
Of the 24 people in the six “attacking” crews of the X-craft five were Australians. In addition to Henty Henty-Creer and Ken Hudspeth, LEUT Brian McFarlane RAN would have commanded X-8 with his First Lieutenant SBLT William Marsden RANVR, and LEUT Max Shean RANVR was to be the attacking diver in X-9.
The towing submarine HMS Sceptre (towing X-10) was commanded by an Australian from the western districts of Victoria, LEUT Ian McIntosh MBE, DSC, RN.
The attacks were delivered on the morning of 22nd September. X-5 appears to have been successful in delivering its attack but was subsequently lost with all hands. X-6 successfully delivered its attack but was subsequently sunk. Its crew escaped and were recovered by Tirpitz from where they became prisoners of war. X-7 was also successful in its attack and was sunk. Only two members of the crew escaped, and they too were recovered by Tirpitz and became prisoners of war.
X-10 developed serious mechanical and navigation system defects during its approach so it had to withdraw. It was later learned that Scharnhorst had sailed. Ken Hudspeth safely returned X-10 to the rendezvous with Sceptre but the material state of the X-Craft was so bad that it was to be scuttled on passage back to the UK.
Each of the men serving in X-Craft had volunteered for “hazardous service” without any knowledge of what that “service” might involve. We will remember them.
Peter Horobin MBE
ANSM Project Lead
Rear Admiral Peter Douglas Briggs, AO(mil) OAM,CSC, RAN
Rear Admiral Peter Briggs was born in Lismore, NSW, and commenced training at the Royal Australian Naval College in 1961, graduating in 1964. He was awarded the Memorial Sword as the top Midshipman in his year. Following training at the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth and warfare training with the Royal Navy, Rear Admiral Briggs saw the light and joined the RAN’s fledgling submarine service.
On completion of submarine training, he was awarded the Max Horton prize as the top graduate and served as the Torpedo and Navigation Officer of HMS OTTER. After standing by HMAS OVENS during building at Greenock in Scotland he served as the Navigation Officer during her workup and return to Australia. This appointment was followed by service as a Year Officer at the RAN Naval College, the Sonar Officer and Executive Officer of HMAS OXLEY, prior to completing the Royal Navy’s Submarine Commanding Officer Qualifying Course in 1975.
Command of HMAS OTWAY and HMAS OXLEY was interspersed with the Royal Navy Staff Course at Greenwich. Promoted Commander in 1980, he served as the Director of, the Submarine Warfare Systems Centre, accomplishing the introduction of a new combat system, shore simulator, and software support centre of the RAN’s submarine force. On completion of this appointment, he was promoted to Captain and admitted as a member of the Order of Australia (AM). He attended the Joint Services Staff College, Canberra, prior to taking up command of the RAN Submarine Squadron and HMAS PLATYPUS in 1986-87.
After serving as the Director of Submarine Warfare at Navy Office, Canberra, he was promoted to Commodore in December 1989 and attended the Indian National Defence College in 1990.
Commodore Briggs served as the Naval Officer Commanding Western Australia and Commanding Officer HMAS STIRLING in 1991-92 during a formative period of the RAN’s Fleet Base in the West. As a result of this service, he was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross in 1993, prior to taking up the posting of Commodore Training, heading the embryonic Naval Training Command. He was promoted to Rear Admiral on 1 November 1993 and became the Flag Officer Naval Training Command. As a result of this service, he was admitted as an officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in June 1997.
Rear Admiral Briggs served as the Head Strategic Command Division in Defence Headquarters during the formation of the new Division as part of the Defence Reform Program. As the strategic level operational planner, he was involved in handling the many contingency/crisis which involved the ADF during 1997-1999.
Rear Admiral Briggs was appointed as the Head Submarine Capability Team, tasked with rectifying the problems in introducing the Collins Class on 2 July 1999. He retired from the RAN on 31 January 2001, following the successful delivery of 2 modified Collins class submarines and the inauguration of a programme to rectify the remainder of the class.
He remained active in the Submarine field, as the President of the Submarine Institute of Australia Inc, leading the argument for 12 submarines to replace the Collins class and subsequently, the transition to nuclear-powered submarines.
He was a leading member of the team who preserved HMAS AE2 and led the successful search for HMAS AE1, for which he was awarded a medal in the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2019.
Commander Geoff Anderson RAN rtd, FHSM Treasurer and NSW SAA President,
was recently presented with a Ministerial Commendation on behalf of the Minister for Veterans Affairs, The Hon. David Elliot. Geoff was commended for his 30 years of service in the RAN and his continued service with the local RFS and Marine Rescue unit
Commander John Goss RAN rtd..
A portrait was presented to John recently whilst at the Cooks & Stewards Reunion in Melbourne. John had no idea it was coming. Background to the painting was taken from two photos John’s wife provided. One is a very old one with him in the galley on HMAS Ovens, and the other standing on the aft casing with another crew member 1968 on HMS Odin, at the Norwegian Naval Base in Haakensvern near Bergen, when Odin operated out of Norway during a period patrolling northern waters. The artist specialises in portraits and has an enormous number to his name His website is interest joezapp.com
Commodore Geoffrey Athol Rose AM RAN RIP
Only six months after the Australian government announced that it was purchasing 8 new submarines, Geoff Rose was one of 26 students who graduated from the Royal Australian Navy College, Jervis Bay at its Golden Jubilee Ceremony on 19th July 1963.
Geoff Rose was not to know that less than thirty years later he would be awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for service to the Royal Australian Navy as Project Manager, New Submarine Project which would take Australia’s Submarine Force into the 21 st century.
During a career with many highs and lows, Geoff mentioned that serving on HMAS Melbourne the night she collided with HMAS Voyager was the lowest, and the highest was being off Cape Jervis, SA onboard HMAS Collins during her ‘deep dive to over one thousand feet on 19th January 1996.
‘It was Collins’s first deep dive professionally conducted and witnessed by ribbed inflatable “Protector”. Nobody else came to have a look! That’s good because we are the Silent Service.
Captain William (Bill) Owen, FCIL RAN (Rtd)
Captain Bill Owen graduated from the Royal Navy College, Dartmouth, in March 1945 and his submarine career began in 1949 when he joined HMS Tantalus. Highlights of the next ten years included qualifying as a naval interpreter in German in 1954 (he was elected Fellow of the (later Chartered) Institute of Linguistics in 1964 and passing the Commanding Officer Qualification Course (Perisher) in 1955.
In 1967, Bill Owen transferred to the RAN and was appointed Commanding Officer of HMAS Platypus in its formative years. He then moved to Canberra and the position of Director of Submarine Policy. Between 1971 and 1976, he initiated the first of a series of five major acquisition projects aimed at upgrading the sensors, combat system and weapons in the Oberon. This upgrade was later dubbed ‘SWUP’ – an acronym for Submarine Weapon-system Update Program.
Bill Owen’s second posting in command of the RAN Submarine Squadron in Sydney between 1976 and 1979 saw the first of the submarines, HMAS Oxley complete her SWUP upgrade.
Bill Owen’s retired from the RAN in 1983. Since retiring from the navy in 1983, he has been a consultant in the fields of government liaison, defence, and German translation.
Significant Submariners from the past
From the biographies written by G.J. Mellon, February 2021
“At the outbreak of World War II (WWII), all new entry enlisted Australian personnel were entered through the RAN Reserve (RANR), signing an agreement for the duration of hostilities instead of the customary 12-year engagement. Officers and potential officers, meanwhile, were entered as members of the RANR (Sea-going) or the RAN Volunteer Reserve (RANVR). During the war, the Royal Navy drew most of its Australian loan personnel from the ranks of the RANVR. In June 1944, out of 500 Australians serving with the Royal Navy, more than 400 of them were members of the RANVR. Up to September 1941, the RAN had also supplied the Royal Navy with 96 Reserve officers and 172 Reserve ratings with their initial anti-submarine qualifications gained at HMAS Rushcutter. In all, Rushcutter trained 20 percent of the anti-submarine personnel serving in the critical Battle of the Atlantic. When the War ended the total RAN Reserve force numbered 2863 officers and 26,956 ratings. This represented 80% of the personnel serving in the RAN.”
This section of the website honours some of the significant submariners. It is not a complete history of the individual but merely a snapshot of their activities. Over time other profiles will be added as they become available
Vice Admiral Ian MacDougall AM AFSM RAN Rtd
was the first Australian-born officer to command the Australian Submarine Squadron in 1985, the first RAN Submarine Officer to attain flag rank, and In March 1991 the first Supply Officer and Submariner to be appointed Chief of the Naval Staff. Ian MacDougall was one of the first officers to volunteer for Submarines and completed the Commanding Officers Qualification Course (Perisher) in 1969. During his time as Maritime Commander Australia, Ian MacDougall took part in two major events, Exercise KANGAROO 89, at the time, Australia’s largest-ever peacetime operation exercise, and, in 1990 when he commanded the Fleet attending Gallipoli for the 75th Anniversary of the ANZAC landings in 1915. Vice Admiral MacDougall was a strong proponent of women serving at sea, especially in submarines, and put in place many of the reforms needed to make this workforce change a success. Vice Admiral MacDougall was appointed a Companion in the Military Division of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1993 and the Australian Fire Service Medal in 2000. During his career, he was also awarded prestigious medals from Thailand and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Commander Gordon Dalrymple RAN
Australia’s second submarine Commanding Officer,
Lieutenant Commander Gordon Robert Dalrymple, RAN joined the Royal Navy in 1947, and retired from the Royal Australian Navy in April 1984.
During his thirty-five-year service, he served in two navies, had six commands, and three retirements, and was present during the infamous’ Yangtze ‘ Incident. Lieutenant Commander Dalrymple joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1967 and following the commissioning of HMAS Otway, became the second Submarine Australian submarine Commanding Officer. He was promoted to Commander on 31 December 1969 and on 2nd January 1970 became the second commanding officer of HMAS Platypus. In 1973 he resigned. Rejoining in 1975, he took command of HMAS Kuttabul and served in Sydney until his final retirement in April 1984.
Early Australian Submariners – First to Command!
Frank Getting was in the first intake to enter the RAN College in 1913 and Norman Shaw followed in the second intake. On graduation, they were both transferred to the Royal Navy to join the Grand Fleet operating in the North Sea, and in 1919 both men, were transferred to the Submarine Arm where they joined another six RAN Officers returning to Australia as ‘Trainees’ on the ‘J’ Class submarines.
There are many similarities in the early careers of Captain Frank Edmund Getting and Commander Norman Hamon Shaw.
As Lieutenants, Frank Getting and Norman Shaw returned to England and undertook the Submariner Commanding Officers Qualification Course (Perisher) in 1926. Although Getting is recognised as the first Australian to qualify, it was only because of his seniority – not the marks that he obtained.
Shaw was the first Australian to command a submarine, although it was the RN submarine when on 20 July 1926, he was appointed in command of HMS H27. Two weeks later, Frank Getting took over command of the submarine HMS H47, however, he would go on to have the honour to be the first to command a RAN submarine when he assumed command of HMAS Oxley in 1928 on her maiden trip to Australia.
Extracted with thanks from an article by Tony Vine in The Australian Naval Review
Lieutenant Commander William Euan Ironside Littlejohn DSC RANVR
William Littlejohn was born on 14 July 1920, and on 25 June 1940 was appointed to the RANVR as a Sub-Lieutenant (on probation). After initial training in Australia, he proceeded to the United Kingdom and Corvette duty before undertaking submarine training. In late 1941, he was posted in HMS Titania (Depot ship for the 6th Submarine Flotilla at Holy Loch, Scotland), as a spare crew submarine officer before joining HMS Tuna in early 1942.
22nd May 1942 Lieutenant William Euan Littlejohn posted to HMS P221 (later HMS Shakespeare). During 1942 and 1943 Littlejohn’s submarines, Tuna, and P11 (later HMS Shakespeare) patrolled mainly in the North and Norwegian Seas, and on 23 November 1943, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for “bravery and skill in successful patrols in one of H.M. Submarines war patrols”.
Littlejohn was one of only three RANVR submarine officers selected to undertake the Submarine Commanding Officer’s Qualification Course in World War II and when he became the temporary Commanding Officer of HMS Shakespeare (albeit only for three days), at only 23, the youngest officer placed in command of a Royal Naval Submarine. Littlejohn went on to command another two submarines for short periods of time – HMS Rorqual and HMS Vox and in mid-1945 he applied for demobilisation to complete his medical training.
Kenneth ‘Ken’ Robert Hudspeth
Kenneth Hudspeth was born in Echuca, Victoria on 31 March 1918. Following the outbreak of war Ken Hudspeth applied to join the Navy and was appointed as a probationary Sub Lieutenant, RANVR on 15 July 1940. His first posting was to HMAS Cerberus for induction training followed by training at HMAS Rushcutter for anti-submarine warfare duties. Hudspeth departed Australia for the United Kingdom arriving in late March, he served in the Flower Class corvettes serving for the next 18 months on convoy escort duties in the North Atlantic. In mid-1942 he volunteered for special and hazardous service and following a selection interview at HMS Dolphin, Hudspeth was accepted. He was subsequently posted to HMS Varbel on the Isle of Bute, where he commenced training in the new British midget submarines known as X-Craft. He was promoted Lieutenant on 15 January 1943 and was appointed Commanding Officer of HMS X-10.
The first major employment of the X-Craft was Operation SOURCE involving attacks on the German warships Tirpitz, Scharnhorst and Lutzow, then operating from northern Norwegian fjords. Hudspeth commanded X-10 during the attack on 22 September 1943 on the Tirpitz in Kaa Fjord. The attack was a partial success with Tirpitz badly damaged by the charges laid by X-6 and X-7, but both vessels were attacked and sunk with two of the crew of X-7 killed and the other six men taken prisoner. X-10 was to attack Scharnhorst in Kaa Fjord, not knowing that Scharnhorst had shifted berth and was now in Alten Fjord.
When within four miles of the target location, although Scharnhorst was no longer there, the periscope motor burned out and filled the submarine with fumes. Following this the gyro compass failed as did the magnetic compass light. Then the boat started to leak and X-10’s switchboard blew all its fuses. Finally, one of the two side cargo explosive saddles began to leak as well. Hudspeth put X-10 on the sea floor to attempt repairs but, when all repair efforts failed he was forced to abandon the attack. X-10 had been submerged in the fjord for nearly 24 hours and the air in the submarine was now almost unbreathable, reluctantly Hudspeth took X-10 out of the fjord to rendezvous with HMS Sceptre. Despite failing to reach his target, Lieutenant Hudspeth was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) “for outstanding courage and devotion to duty.” (London Gazette, 11 January 1944).
Geoffrey James Gellie
Geoffrey James Gellie was born on 22 September 1915 at Euroa, in north eastern Victoria, A fourth generation Australian, he grew up on sheep properties around Euroa and Bendigo. On 6 August 1940, in company with five other RANVR officers from his A/S course, Gellie took passage from Melbourne to Liverpool being appointed to the RAN London Depot. On 18 October 1940, Gellie was appointed to the ASW trawler HMT Cape Portland and eventually other AS Trawlers operating out of Scotland. On 15 March 1941, Gellie was promoted to Lieutenant, RANVR, remaining in Snowdrop, which was still building, until 22 June 1941. On 23 June 1941 he was appointed to HMS Elfin (shore base for the 6th Submarine Flotilla at Blythe, Northumberland) for his submarine course and remained there under training until 17 August 1941. Thereafter, Gellie was appointed to HMS Medway from where he flew to Gibraltar where he joined HMS Thorn. on New Year’s Day, 1942 he joined HMS Truant that was under orders to proceed to the Far East. After a brief docking at Port Said, on 11 January 1942, Truant departed Egypt through the Suez Canal, and across to Colombo, Ceylon, down the south (Indian Ocean) coast of Sumatra, up through the Sunda Strait, and thence to Batavia (now Jakarta), Java, arriving there on 8 February 1942. At the time, there were only two British submarines in the Far East. Throughout 1943, Gellie served as the First Lieutenant in several submarines in home waters. Administratively, he was posted in HMS Forth and later HMS Cyclops (both of which were submarine depot ships). After various postings and time as spare crew on 16 May 1944, Gellie was appointed in Command of HMS Varangian. He took up this appointment on 24 May 1944, at Lough Foyle, Northern Ireland, and remained in Command of Varangian as she operated as an ASW training submarine off Scotland and Northern Ireland, until he was relieved in Command on 16 August 1944. 1 October 1945 and was then sent back to the RAN on 17 December 1945. Gellie was appointed to HMAS Lonsdale on 8 February 1946 and was demobbed from there on 28 March 1946, when he was granted the war service rank of Lieutenant Commander. After the war, Gellie returned to England, where he was reunited with his family. Geoffrey James Gellie died in Melbourne on 30 September 2002 aged 87 years
Lt. Cdr. D.R. Wilson DSC RANVR
Donald Rupert Wilson was born at Chatswood, Sydney on 09 June 1917, Wilson was educated firstly at Mowbray Road School in Chatswood and later at Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) at North Sydney. He was one of a handful of Australian naval officers to achieve a submarine command during WWII. He was accepted for entry as an Acting Sub Lieutenant RANVR on 20 May 1940. After initial training at HMAS Cerberus he undertook the Anti-Submarine Officers Short Course at HMAS Rushcutter. Don and three other new boys sailed for England. After a period in coastal minesweeping and ASW work Don was one of the first to apply for submarine service in January 1942. After completing his train he joined the 10th submarine flotilla based at Malta. After brief sidetrack to deliver the submarine Murat Rhys for the Turkish Navy to Gibraltar he flew to Malta and joined the U-class submaine HMS P31. As Navigator on the second patrol they torpedoed the Italian heavy cruiser Trieste which was put out of commission for a year. After a series of events in the mediteraen P31 returned to the UK and Don was hospitalized with pneumonia for a period. On 18 February 1943 Don rejoined the Portsmouth submarine base HMS Dolphin and was appointed First Lieutenant of Untiring (P59) which was then being built at Vickers Shipyard. After a period in arctic waters and around Norway, Untiring was next sent to the Med where she carried out various patrols and had the famous run in with the German U Boat U466. After completing six patrols from Malta, in September 1943 Untiring was relocated to Maddalena in Sardinia. This base was much closer to their new patrol zones off the south coast of France and west of Italy. They had quite a lot of success sinking 16 vessels. After returning to UK Untiring was ordered to look for the German supply ship Astree. Untiring was covering the harbor entrance when at about midnight Astree was sighted. Two torpedoes were fired and she sank right across the harbour entrance. This was to be Untiring’s last great adventure.In July 1944 Don was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for outstanding courage and devotion to duty while on submarine patrols. Later that year came another accolade when he was selected for the Submarine Officers Command Course, the famous ‘Perisher’. In May 1945 Don successfully completed his course and was appointed in command of HMS Voracious. As she was then based in Trincomalee in Ceylon. After being assigned to the Australian stationed British Fleet in Sydney, they were heading for Manus Island, New Guinea on their way to Leyte Gulf when ‘Peace in the Pacific’ was declared. Voracious then returned to Sydney and proceeded on a ‘showing the flag’ cruise to Melbourne and Tasmania. Don was discharged ashore in Sydney in March 1946. On the retired list he was promoted Lieutenant Commander RANVR in June 1950. Don finally passed over the bar on 22 July 2009, completing a well lived 92 years.