• Morgan Fagg

Searching for Submarines

Updated: Aug 28, 2019

I've boarded submarines but never been bored by them

S61 Delfin above parallel parked next to a customs search vessel and a training sail ship in Spain.

Ever since I was a kid, I have had an interest in submarines and submarine warfare. I wouldn't be surprised if seeing The Hunt for Red October had anything to do with that, certainly more than the black & white submarine films that my father had on VHS.

As a teenager, I came close to a German submarine and had hoped to see the sunken submarine on a RIB's echo sounder.

Sadly by the time I had reached U260 now known as the Glendore Sub, I was feely very seasick and had other things on my mind than looking at the sonar of a sinking RIB.

We're gonna need a bigger U-Boat

After travelling a few miles out to sea in choppy waves, I was struggling to find my sea legs when we stopped the RIB and the inflatable filled with water. One of the tubes was damaged but inflatables are very buoyant and it wasn't an issue as long as no-one touched that tube. One of the ten divers exiting the RIB then stepped on the tube and sea water flooded our 6 metre boat.

DIALLING IT DOWN: I take a hands on approach onboard the Spanish submarine S61 Delfin.

Quicker than you can say, "bigger boat", we were dead in the water and looking at the echo sounder for a shipwreck went clear out of my mind. We were 6 kilometres out to sea and off Baltimore in Cork. RIBs have an ingenious self-baler that allows water to flow out the back quickly once you power up the engine.

Since we had stopped our engine we were going to have to get the flooded engine fixed if we wanted to empty the bathtub that we called a boat. Submarines are dangerous to be around but once we got our engine working we were able to bale out of there.

Fish out of water: U995 at Laboe in Germany.

The U260 was a Type VII C U-boat and not the last one I would ever see. In fact, I got to board the last Type VII in existence. U995 exists as a museum piece in Germany and the Type VIIs were the most mass produced submarines ever made.

I was delighted to see and board U995 but moving around the cramped compartments, I am glad I didn't have to spend any longer onboard Das Boot.

There were over 700 Type VIIs built and the majority of them were VII Cs, 568 Cs in total

were built and all these U-boats were send down the slips between 1940 and 1945 and all but one found a watery grave like U260.

Scuttled or sunk, these subs which were once the backbone of the Kriegsmarine but were doomed I imagine once the code used by their enigma machines was cracked by Alan Turing and his team. I guess that makes him the world's very first computer cracker/hacker.

As an environmentalist protesting nuclear power, I protested at a nuclear submarine base in Scotland but never saw any of the UKs ten nuclear submarines.

Later while protesting MOX fuels in Sellafield as part of the Greenpeace Flotila, I saw smaller submarines in port but have no idea what they were. Clearly not any of the Astute class subs used today.

While visiting Kiel in Germany and boarding U995 in Laboe, I got to see a Kriegsmarine museum and while enjoying a meal in a Chinese restaurant in Kiel, I saw a coning tower moving through the water. I have no idea whose submarine it was but naturally I presume it was a German submarine or one under construction like the Dolphin class German submarines used by Israel today.

Finally, while visiting Torreviaje in Spain, I got to visit S61 Delfin, part of a naval museum in the port of Torreviaje.

Coming from Ireland, there is no such thing as submariners and submarines despite the efforts of John P Holland who first started working on the design for the Fenians Brotherhood in an effort to sink the British Navy.

How interesting to think that Ireland would lead the design for submarines but never build one and that the British Navy would call their first submarine Holland 1 after a man hired to sink their ships for the Fenians.

Today Germany has few operational submarines but builds subs for Israel which was founded as a home for Jewish people after the hostilities of WWII and the holocaust.

If England Brexits Europe with as many nuclear submarines as the rest of the continent how will Europe monitor submarine movements in European waters?

Some of the UK's submarines have been less stealthy than they would like with the HMS Ambush making port the day after the Brexit vote when David Cameron stepped down as Prime Minister saying that he was unable to captain the ship.

Each Royal Navy submarine apparently has a doomsday letter from the PM with instructions of what to do in the event of a nuclear attack where London has been lost.

These submarines have made headlines with HMS Ambush colliding with a tanker in the straits of Gibraltar and another unknown English sub had a near collision with a ferry in the Irish Sea.

The devastation of submarine warfare will always be remembered in the actions of the German U20 which sunk the Lusitania in 1915.

Over 1,000 lives were lost when one submarine torpedoed a ship which eventually saw America entering the Great War. Thousands of ships were sunk in both World Wars so let's pray these subs don't create anymore turmoil beneath the waves, 74 years after we quite literally buried the hatches.

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