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HMS - Hear My Story

Your Stories

HMS is an exhibition where your story matters. Take part, share precious personal memories about yourself or your family and add these stories to history and join the debate on what the future may hold.

Here are some stories we have collected:

Sinking to crush depth by Frederick Rodgers 

In April 1964, the cold war was in full swing. At a few minutes after 0800hrs, as the chef piled two eggs and several rashers of bacon on my plate I sensed the deck angle change downward... we appeared to be in a steep dive! In a matter of seconds we were at 200 feet.  The order to shut off for going deep sounded throughout the submarine. I assisted in shutting the engine room door and all valves passing through the bulkhead. I returned to the control room to report that part of ship sealed.

Events now seemed to evolve in slow motion as the crew went about their duties sealing the boat for the deep dive. Every eye in the control room focused on the rapidly descending depth gauge readings. Passing 400 feet the 1st Lieutenant ordered the one thing we were waiting for, "blow main ballast". This would surely correct the uncontrolled descent and allow us to regain buoyancy. It seemed every man in the control room was frozen in time eyes firmly fixed on the same gauge. When the blow was completed an eerie and utter silence returned to the boat.

We were stil sinking. Blowing the tanks had not even slowed us down. As we passed through 600 feet the 1 st lieutenant threw his shirt over the depth gauge. It effectively broke our trance like concentration. Now in the silence, we heard the first groans and creaks as the hull compressed under the enormous sea pressure. The feeling of being trapped in a steel tube as it plunges toward its crush depth is terrifying.  Powerless to do anything, I stood fearfully awaiting the end. I wondered would people know what happened to us or if we would be thought of as dying bravely. I remembered the lessons we were taught during training. An "A" boat has a maximum depth of 500 feet.  The hull was designed and thought to withstand sea pressure to 1000 feet. I was gripped by a fear never before experienced, while outwardly I tried to maintain an appearance of calm.

As we continued our descent a strange feeling of calm did indeed over take me. I relaxed realizing I was no longer in control of events unfolding around me.  Suddenly a voice pierced my silent reverie. "Bubble rising sir" I wasn't at first sure I'd heard correctly. Maybe I was dreaming and this was naturally what I'd want to hear. However, shifting my weight to allow for a sudden upward sweep of the deck, the boat was now racing toward the surface at about the same speed we had dived moments before.

The entire experience had only taken minutes. Yet for those of us in the control room minutes had seemed like hours. Personally it was the most terrifying experience of my life. I truly believe I'd walked through the valley of the shadow of death that morning and only by the grace of God had surived.  But what really happened? What caused the steep dive? How deep did we actually go? These are questions I can't answer with any certainty. The best theory offered and perhaps the actual cause was an iceberg. Icebergs are generally made up of fresh water and as they move into the Gulf Stream they melt. That morning it is possible the submarine entered at the top of a huge pocket of fresh water, the remains of an iceberg. With the difference in water density between salt and fresh we immediately became very heavy and dropped like a stone. Only when we exited at the bottom of the berg did we regain our buoyancy. How deep we went that morning is open to speculation. Perhaps somewhere near 800 feet. Had the berg been a few feet deeper maybe I wouldn't be telling this story - who knows?

Read more stories about Ben's life in submarines - www.irishroversbooks.com


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