HMS Storm torpedoes a Japanese destroyer

The First Lieutenant, Lieutenant R Bulkeley at the periscope of HMS TRIBUNE.

The First Lieutenant, Lieutenant R Bulkeley at the periscope of HMS TRIBUNE.

Royal Navy helmsman at the controls of an "S" Class submarine, Holy Loch.

Royal Navy helmsman at the controls of an “S” Class submarine, Holy Loch.

Just eight months earlier Young had been putting the newly built HMS Storm through her paces in Scottish waters. Now he was on the other side of the world in the Indian ocean, operating out of the Royal Navy base at Colombo, Ceylon [now Sri Lanka].

His second patrol took HMS Storm near the Andaman islands. On the 14th April he had got his first kill – a Japanese freighter outside Port Blair. He was still in the area, despite the presence of an anti submarine force that had given Storm a depth charging following that attack:

04.58. Dived eighteen miles ESE of Port Blair. Ran in at four knots.

0810. Sighted merchant ship steering eastward from Port Blair, escorted by same “screen” as for previous day’s target, namely one destroyer, one submarine-chaser and one other AS vessel rather like a river gunboat. At first I thought, pessimistically, that the target was the ship I had attacked yesterday, but on closer examination she was seen to be larger, about 4,000 tons, with a large derrick for’ard which the other ship did not have. Moreover, asdic counted 9 5 revs with reciprocating H.E., and the smoke was coming out of the funnel in typical coal-burning fashion.

I ran in at speed for as long as I dared. Even then the range was large on firing. I had only two torpedoes remaining in my bow tubes, and the stern torpedo. I considered firing the two bow tubes and then turning quickly to complete a salvo of three with the stern tube.

However, by the time I could have turned and steadied for the stern shot, the first two torpedoes would be well on their way to the target, and before the other could be of any use the first two would either have hit or been sighted, resulting in either case in an alteration of course on the part of the target. I therefore decided to fire the two bow tubes only, and reserve the stern tube for a possible coup de grace if I managed to damage her.

0837. Fired two torpedoes. Range on firing 5,000 yards. Three and a half minutes later there were two sharp explosions. The periscope was dipped at the time of the bangs, but a moment later this is what I saw:

Target turning hard-a-port just past the line of fire, half hidden by a veil of thin smoke; the destroyer, this side of the target, also just past the line of fire with a column of what looked like spray or white smoke just astern of him.

I thought at first that this must have been the aftermath of a shallow depth charge, until I looked at him again two minutes later and saw black smoke and orange flame pouring out of his stern. He was obviously hit. It looked very much as though the target had been hit too; she seemed to be making more smoke than usual, began to pursue a very erratic course, and finally almost stopped, pretty well beam on. Seeing this I began to manoeuvre to attack her with my stern torpedo.

Two muffled depth-charges were heard shortly after the first two explosions, but the hit on the destroyer seemed to have demoralised the screen, as no further attempt at a counter-attack was made. I was able to watch the whole affair quite happily from a range of two miles or so, and Petty Officer E. R. Evans, the T.G.M., was able to have a look at his victim burning furiously.

The target was now at a range of three miles, zig-zagging wildly in all directions at a plotted speed of five knots. (Asdic counted 6 5 revs.) From her reduction in speed I felt certain she must be damaged. However, in spite of speeding up I could not get near enough to shoot with any chance of success.

Young was very persistent and his hunt went on all day into the evening. Yet in circumstances like these the tables could turn very quickly:

2134. Obtained radar echo bearing 360°, range 6,400 yards.

This was very satisfactory so far, as the target was only four minutes adrift on the position expected from our previous estimations. I was, however, slightly ahead of her and on her starboard bow. I slowed down and turned south, aiming to get into a position 6,000 yards on her starboard beam to obtain accurate plot.

Unfortunately the target chose this moment to do one of her starboard zigs, and began coming almost directly towards me. Radar showed range was closing rapidly, and then detected a smaller echo at 4,200 yards, also closing.

I increased speed and turned south-west to open the range, but it seemed that I had somehow been detected by one of the escorts, for his range now began shortening very fast and at 2202 he swept a searchlight through an arc of about 60°. The beam crossed over the submarine but he did not appear to have spotted us.

However, at this point I dived and went deep, expecting a hail of depth-charges. To our surprise, although his H.E. was heard at intervals for some forty minutes afterwards, no depth-charges were dropped. Either he was not sure if he had seen anything, or else he had used all his depth-charges on us the previous day.

I reckoned it would now be impossible to get into an attacking position until the following afternoon at the earliest. In view of my shortage of torpedoes, I decided to abandon the chase and go home. Moreover, lack of sleep during the last two days was beginning to have a dangerous effect on the efliciency of the crew.

Edward Young wrote one of the classic memoirs of the war, a candid account of the whole operational life of HMS Storm from launch through to action, see Edward Young: One of Our Submarines.

Officers of HMSM STORM playing a board game.

Officers of HMSM STORM playing a board game, possibly Ludo, in the wardroom of the submarine at Portsmouth. Left to right: Lieutenant (E) W H Ray, DSM, RN, of Alton, Hants; Lieutenant C B Mills, DSC, RN, of Belfast; Lieutenant Commander E P Young, DSO, DSC, RNVR, of Enfield, Commanding Officer; Lieutenant R L Blake, RN, of Crewkerne, Somerset; and Lieutenant R G Wade, RNVR, of Reigate. Lieutenant Commander Young was the first RNVR officer to command an operational submarine in the war.

Back from a successful patrol in Far Eastern waters, HMSM TEMPLAR arrives at the depot ship at Colombo, Ceylon.

Back from a successful patrol in Far Eastern waters, HMSM TEMPLAR arrives at the depot ship at Colombo, Ceylon.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Editor April 15, 2014 at 8:40 pm

I am no expert but I imagine they must have. The dangers of ‘friendly fire’ were well known to the Royal Navy …

http://ww2today.com/a-british-submarine-is-sunk-by-a-british-submarine

ccg April 15, 2014 at 5:44 pm

great post! Question. Did the royal navy and the US navy have different operating areas for the subs to prevent ‘friendly fire” ?

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