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Open Features: HMS Woodbridge Haven

Bob Boyd contindues his account of his service in the Royal Navy. To read the opening chapter of his story please click on http://www.openwriting.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=bob+boyd

After joining HMS. Woodbridge Haven at Barrow-in-Furness we put to sea together with a German experimental submarine the Navy had re-commissioned as HMS Meteorite.

Towards the end of the Second World War the Germans had developed a new submarine propulsion unit known as H.T.P. A highly volatile mixture based on various chemicals together with peroxide. Four submarines using this system were scuttled in 1945 at the end of the war but were raised by the British and brought back to the Vickers submarine works at Barrow-in-Furness. Here they were examined and a virtually new set of machinery, also captured in Germany, was refitted to HMS Meteorite.

The Meteorite was now ready for trials under the guidance of the German scientist Dr. Helmuth Walther, the inventor of the system, together with a Royal Navy team of Submariners. We in HMS. Woodbridge Haven were given the task of towing her out of harbour and keeping watch as she dived and continued under water at high speed. Every so often she would release a flare to indicate her position and we would keep in touch with the crew by voice radio. She reached phenomenal underwater speeds for those years, but the development of nuclear power for submarines overtook this system and Meteorite was eventually scrapped at the breakers yard in 1949.

After this interesting episode we sailed north to join the 3rd Submarine flotilla based on the Submarine depot ship HMS Montclare in Rothesay Bay, Isle of Bute, Scotland. The flotilla consisted of eight submarines which lay alongside the depot ship. These went to sea on exercises for various times and durations, sometimes with ourselves or with a destroyer HMS Onslow. There was also a torpedo recovery vessel (TRV 1) which picked up dummy torpedoes that were used on exercises.

Exercises consisted of cat and mouse games. We would search for the submarines and they in turn would try and torpedo us. Using asdic we would try and locate the submarine and a dummy underwater charge would be set off as near as possible. They in turn would try and torpedo us using a dummy torpedo which floated to the surface after use. As telegraphists we received a signal indicating the submarine's underwater duration. This was very important as there had been a tragic accident in the past when a submarine which failed to surface had sunk with the loss of many lives.

Most of the exercises were carried out around the Western Isles of Scotland with beautiful scenery and calm seas in fine weather, but very rough if a gale was blowing. Sometimes we would anchor off the Isle of Arran or Skye, but always returned to Rothesey Bay eventually. If we were back for the weekend and not sailing on the Monday those of us not on duty could get a weekend pass. It was then possible to take a trip on the local steamer to the mainland, followed by a train into Glasgow.

Most of our free time was spent ashore in Rothesay. There was a cinema and dance hall and one could get a bed for the night in a dormitory run by the Church of Scotland. During summer weekends many visitors arrived on the ferry to visit Rothesay and we could be sure of meeting girls and finding a partner for the local hop.


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