Letters to Mum (2)
Tally-Ho Letter Home. Written 1954
This is a copy of a letter I sent home to my parents, written at sea as a crew member in the submarine Tally-Ho
on a fortnight's exercise in October/November, It covers the first six days only, prior to a previously
unexpected rendezvous with another vessel.
Dear Mum & Dad,
I am writing this just in case the opportunity does arise that I can post it. Up to now things have been very
quiet as far as I'm concerned. We left Londonderry at 0800 hrs. Saturday, and boy, was it rough. I was off
my food all day. As we are short handed in the boat, they have taken one of my R.P.3's (junior radar operators)
to help out with other duties on another watch. This leaves the other R.P.3, and I in two watches, as luck
would have it, RADAR hasn't been required yet. We reached the area allotted to us, somewhere in the north
Atlantic and then 'dived' at 0100 hrs. yesterday, Sunday morning and stayed at 110 feet until 1400 hrs. We
stayed on the surface then until 1700 hrs, when we dived again. We have been submerged ever since for 26 hours
and the time is now 1900 hours on Monday. We did come up to 32 feet to "SNORT" (Use the air intake mast whilst
still submerged.) for the afternoon. This not only allowed the engines to be run and for the batteries to be
replenished a little but it also freshened the air to breathe.
I think that we will be submerged for some time, this time as we have been told that all movement in the boat
is to be kept at a minimum and all hands off watch are to sleep. As RADAR isn't in use, I am by way of a
passenger. I did jump in with one of the other watches last night, just to help out and to dispel any fears
that I might have sleeping sickness. Apart from that three hours on watch and meal times, my sole occupation
since sailing, has been sleeping.
A couple of enthusiasts are getting a crib match together and there is a "BUZZ" (Rumour.) that an 'uckers'
(Navy version of Ludo.) championship is in the offing. Another idea which proves to be quite entertaining and
to pass the time whilst on patrol is a 'Boat's' Newspaper. All 60 of us keep our eyes and ears open for
anything topical or amusing and it is pooled and sorted by one of the crew in the wireless office. He then
types out the selected material in newspaper form, for daily issue. For instance, somebody stole one of the
Cox'n's eggs. (He's in charge of victualing on a sub.) In the paper it was portrayed in comic form, as a
dastardly crime. The Cox'n was given the role of 'Sheriff' and his careful handling of the investigation,
from the, eggshell in the gash bucket clue, down to the criminal, was described in lurid detail. It's all
good fun, for all it's ridiculous. I've always maintained that the mental age of a collection of 'Matelotes’'
is only about twelve years old.
We were having tea tonight when someone came out with the expression of, "If only Mum could see us now."
We all had a darn good laugh at the picture we presented. It was hardly a good old English tea time as
described in books. First visualise a space about the size of our scullery floor, about 8 feet by 10 feet
and give it a low curved roof which leaves little head room in the centre and which slopes down to form the
walls as well. Similar to a 'Nissan' hut, only much smaller. Place in there two tables which are slightly
larger than card tables. On these, which by the way, have no cloths, throw a multitude of bread crumbs,
cigarette ash, (We can smoke whilst 'SNORTING') bits of cheese, sticky patches of jam, two or three open
tins with the jagged disc sticking up, two half loaves of bread, a couple of squashed partly used pats of butter,
still in the paper, some jammy knives, half a dozen Bakelite cups, two of which are on their side, spilling
their dregs among the bread crumbs. Around the sides put eight, red leather cushioned bunks in two tiers,
with dirty oily blankets on them. Last but not least, get about 16 of us. We are all unshaven, unwashed and
wearing our oldest rags. Some in old 'civvies', others in tattered overalls and the majority with some form
of fantastically coloured head gear on. About half of us have just woken up and are crawling out of the
bunks or just reaching a 'crabby' hand from beneath the blankets to grab at whatever food is within reach.
"Drop that - you bastard"' ''Oo's whipped me fu..ing knife". "Top up that cup for me". "After you with the
jam". "Get your big fat 'ead back down again". "Who asked for your opinion? Just like f...ing 'ome etc.If
you could just look in at us I can bet you wouldn't stop laughing for a week. Every meal time is a
repetition of the previous one and it is surprising how every one of us keeps an even temper. Sometimes
a hasty blow is exchanged but it's not often.
As you know it's my mates, birthday today. As far as I know he's a few miles south of us and probably just
as deep. Well, that's all for now. If I can't send this I'll add to it.
Today is Tuesday, and we are still down at 110 feet. The time is now 7.0pm. (1900hrs.) That means that as
from midnight on Sat. when the exercise started, we have been down a total of 69 hours. Up to midnight
tonight, or, if you prefer it, out of three complete days we have only spent three hours on the surface.
We came up to 32 feet to 'SNORT' this morning at about 0800 hrs, and returned to 110 feet at 1600 hrs tonight.
I did another watch last night , from 8 pm. to 11 pm but that is all I have kept so far. When we were 'SNORTING'
today, a chap burst his ear drum. He couldn't clear his ears and the vacuum in the boat caused it to break.
As a result he's been 'turned in'. That leaves his watch one man short, so they've taken myother R.P. 3.
away now. If RADAR is required I'm the only one left to operate the set, so I will be in the cart. There
is talk that we may go alongside H.M.S. Adamant later in the week. If we do they won't allow us inboard.
As far as we will be concerned, we will still be at sea. It's a bit stupid to carry an exercise to such
extremes but I suppose one aim is to find out how morale and stamina of the crew holds out during lengthy
periods of confinement.
I can't think of anything amusing which has happened in the last 24 hours. Oh! yes. Last night the Radio
Electrician "Got his own back". By that I mean. He 'blew' the 'heads' (To discharge the contents of the
toilet pan, overboard, using a complicated system of valves, gauges, equalization and compressed air of
a greater pressure than that of the sea outside the submarine. to - Blow The Heads.) Something went wrong
and instead of blowing overboard, he blew the lot back out of the pan, all over himself. Very funny, for
all except him. That's all for now. I've just been informed that I'm required to fill in another gap in a
watch. It's like the 'Ten little Nigger boys' this.
Hello again. Today is Wednesday, and we still haven't surfaced, which means 93 hours dived until midnight.
Last night was uneventful but today has been quite a pantomime. As has become the routine now, we came to
32 feet to 'SNORT' for the day. At noon I was on watch and on the for'd hydroplanes. For some peculiar
reason we lost full control and tried to 'SNORT' at 45 feet, an impossibility in these boats. (The loss of
control was probably a layer of less dense water, due to reduced salinity or lower temperature.) Needless
to say, we stalled the engines through lack of air. The Skipper threw us both off the job and replaced us.
(The 'Diving Station Crew', the experts at depth keeping, took over.) The Petty Officer who took over the
after hydroplanes had only been on them about 2 minutes when he collapsed. At about the same time all the
lights faded out and the gyro compass broke down. The only person who could mend it was the Petty Officer
who had passed out. We soon got the lights back on but we had to steer by magnetic compass until the chap
was well enough to fix the other. It's surprising how everything goes wrong at once isn't it. Nothing
serious had really happened, but all rather inconvenient. The Petty Officer's trouble, we think, was
He was asleep on his bunk when he was called into the picture. There was hardly any air left in the boat
when the engines sucked it out, and his heart couldn't meet the strain of rushing from inactivity, on so
little oxygen. He was alright after about half an hour. Now once more I've got to say "Goodnight".
I didn't write last night but I thought I'd finish this letter off as we will be surfacing later tonight at
about midnight. We are to rendezvous with some ship and she may take our mail. I'll write another next week.
Our submerged time up to tonight is 141 hours, 6 days all but 3 hours.