A collection of ‘dit’s, stories,

Memories and down right lies appertaining to the RN Submarine Service collected from other sources!

Published, if and when possible – Oct' 2010


Conclusion of ‘Red’ Coe’s Daughter’s probe into her deceased father’s death during WWII


Skipjack went to the shipyard, and my father to ‘New Construction’. In January 1943, he joined his family in Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, where he would monitor the construction and sea trials of Cisco (SS-290) a boat of the new Balao (SS-285) class. He spent a precious six months with my mother and brother and sister. (I was not born until the following year.) Portsmouth was vying with other shipyards for who could build boats faster. A Balao Class boat typically took more than 100 days from keel-laying to launching; Cisco did it in 56 days. But she paid the price. Records of her sea trials show continual repairs to fix persistent oil leaks. While she was docked one night, a fuel tank with all valves closed was ruptured by high pressure air banks that was bled into it. The tank had to be cut out and the dimpled plating replaced and re-welded.


Cisco reached Fremantle in late July 1943. After training off Brisbane, she proceeded to Darwin, where she was to start her first patrol Sept 18th. A few days after her departure, the head radio-man, Howie Rice, the gymnast from the S-39 softball game, who had petitioned for a berth under his former Skipper, came down with a case of Jaundice and was ordered ashore. In sick bay, he ran into Red Coe, who was getting a physical as part of his promotion to commander. Rice remembers saying goodbye on the street outside the sick bay. The Skipper was quiet and somber, and when he got into the jeep, and the driver took off, he turned around and stared at Rice until they were out of sight. Rice remembers it as a puzzled look, as if was thinking, “Why am I losing my head radio-man at a time like this?”

This makes me think of a passage from a letter my father wrote to his mother earlier in the war; “I am finally a lieutenant Commander…but rank doesn’t mean a thing to me now, and that is no fooling. The war has changed all that -- it’s the job we are doing and how you are doing it that counts. The gold braid is superfluous (J.W. Coe to Phoebe Coe, Aug 11, 1942) He amply demonstrated this attitude by an egalitarian style of leadership that had him up to his elbows in the bilges of the S-39, feeling for leaks. Or eating with the enlisted men on Skipjack and Cisco to make sure the food was as good as the officers’

 On 6th Nov, the day that Cisco was due from patrol, Rice went down to the docks and climbed up to the bridge of the submarine tender. Escorts waited at the entrance to guide Cisco in, but the horizon remained empty. Rice spent the next few weeks returning Cisco waiting mail to the senders, little distraction from the guilt he felt for not being on Cisco, where perhaps he might have done something in her final hours the a lesser experienced radio-man wouldn’t think of. Fifty Five years later, when I met him at a sub vets conference, the first question he asked me was “did your mother get her returned mail?”

This is the feeling that tinges Memorial Day services for the 52 boats lost in the war, which I have attended ever since I found ‘Re’ Coe. “Why me?” the old submariners wonder, some of them out loud. World War II memorial services would have been the last place you would have found me until I started my research, but ‘Red’ Coe changed that. In interviewing sub vets who had served with him, I discovered a rare mix of competence, humility and firsthand knowledge of their own mortality. That gave words their words weight. I learned at an early stage to separate the men and women in uniform from the policy  makers when I thought about the war. That’s what we didn’t do – to my shame - during the Vietnam war.

‘Red’ Coe taught me more. Now, when I look in the mirror, I no longer bemoan my new grey hair, more lines around the eyes. I look for him in my face; curious about how he would have aged if he had what I now know is the privilege of a natural lifespan. He lives inside of me in the new recognition of traits that match what I’ve discovered about him. These days, when I meet other orphans and hear their stories, I know that I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve found gold, with glints of red in it!   Mary Lee Coe Fowler


There are three stages of sex in a man's life:                                                 

Tri Weekly, Try Weekly, and Try Weakly.



 Threat of Strike action

Muslim suicide bombers in Britain are set to begin a three-day strike on Monday in a dispute over the number of virgins they are entitled to in the afterlife. Emergency talks with Al Qaeda have so far failed to produce an agreement.
  The unrest began last Tuesday when Al Qaeda announced that the number of virgins a suicide bomber would receive after his death will be cut by 25 this May from 72 to only 54.
 The rationale for the cut was the increase in recent years of the number of suicide bombings and a subsequent shortage of virgins in the afterlife The suicide bombers' union, the British Organization of  Occupational Martyrs, (B.O.O.M.), responded with a statement that this was unacceptable to its members and immediately balloted for strike action.

Thanks to Western depravity, there is now a chronic shortage of virgins in the afterlife. It is a straight choice between reducing expenditure and laying people off. I don’t like cutting pension benefits, but I would hate to have to tell 3,000 of my staff that they won’t be able to blow themselves up.

 Spokespersons for the union in the northeast of England, Ireland, Wales and the whole of the Australian continent stated that the strike would  not affect their operations “there are no virgins in our area anyway!”

 A strike may not be necessary, however as the number of suicide bombings has been decreasing lately. This has been attributed to the emergence of Susan Boyle the Scottish singer. Now that they know what a virgin looks like, they are not so keen on going to paradise!


Another one of Derek’s stories from way back, repeated I am afraid as nobody else had a humorous life in submarines like I did!


Early in 1948 I was serving in Hong Kong as ‘Tanky’ on the submarine AMPHION which was ordered home as part of the British austerity cutbacks after WWII. Singapore was our first step on the way home in company with the Depot Ship ADAMANT and another submarine ASTUTE. The trip to Singapore only took a week so the stores onboard were only for that period, which left lots of room in the freezer’s etc

 The fridge and freezer on an ’A’ class submarine are down below the main deck in the auxiliary machinery space. The entry being on the stbd side outside the Wardroom and the fridge and freezers over on the port side.

On the Saturday evening just before our arrival in ‘Singas’, on a perfectly calm night I went below to get the pork out for the next day’s dinner.  Seeing two nice legs of port at the back of the freezer I stepped inside to get them. At this precise moment the boat gave a gentle roll and lo and behold it was enough to slam the freezer door shut. What I should say here is that the doors were self-locking and there I was in complete darkness inside. After pounding on the door with a leg of pork I soon realised that nobody would hear me over the noise made by the auxiliary machinery! I should also mention that being in the tropics I was only wearing a pair of shorts?  In despair and without much hope I gave one more pounding on the door, when the door was suddenly flung open! I was never so glad to see the Wardroom Steward in all my life.

 He had quite by accident come down to the fridge to get cheese out for the wardroom dinner. The look of surprise on his face on seeing me was classic!! I had been in the freezer for about half an hour and had it not been for the Steward, nobody would have missed me until the following morning when the chef looked for the meat for the day A tot off the cox’n and a good night’s sleep soon put me right but it was a close shave,


Dennis Penberty

An elderly Cornish farmer, received a letter from the Department

For Work & Pensions, stating that they suspected he was not paying his employees

enough and they would send an inspector to interview them.

  On the appointed day, the inspector turned up.                                                                 "Tell me about your staff," he asked Penberthy.

 "Well," said Penberthy, "there's the farm hand. I pay him £240 a week, and he has a free cottage

Then there's the housekeeper. She gets £190 a week, along with free board and lodging.                                                                                                                                              There's also the half-wit. He works a 16 hour day, does 90% of the work, earns about £25 a week, along with a bottle of gin every week, and, occasionally, gets to sleep with my wife.                                                                                                                                           "That's who I want to talk to," said the inspector, “the half-wit."

 "That'll be me then," said Penberthy.


Thieves have targeted a nationally-important submarine wreck lying in the English Channel off East Sussex.

Divers stole the torpedo tube hatch of the Holland 5, the only surviving example on the seabed of this class of submarine in the world.

The theft was discovered during a licensed dive by the Nautical Archaeology Society in June and confirmed during a survey dive last month. 

Experts said a group of people would have been behind the theft but that the hatch carried very little monetary value.

English Heritage and Sussex Police appealed for help to catch the perpetrators who are believed to have struck over the past two years.

Removing the hatch and accessing the site without a license is illegal under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, police warned.

Initial inquiries suggest it has not been reported to the Receiver of Wreck, indicating an offence may also have been committed under the Merchant Shipping Act. The Holland class of submarine became obsolete in the early 20th Century and in 1912 the Holland 5 was destined for scrap.

It was being towed to Sheerness in Kent when it foundered and sunk six miles off the coast, near Eastbourne.

One theory was that it took on water after the hatch that was stolen was left open.

Press Association 2010



 Highly Secret

The following, if true must be the best kept secret in any Navy! I wonder in which war it was supposed to have happened


A mine-laying V-Boat crept into a British harbour to plant a pattern of underwater explosives. On this occasion, intent on doing a good job, the German commander submerged to the harbour bottom for safety, since there was considerable surface traffic passing overhead at the time. During this rest period the crew noticed a series of tap-tapping coming apparently from the outside of the hull. They listened somewhat puzzled, and then realised that the taps were being made as a signal in Morse code. Every crewman onboard stood stock-still, listening intently. The commander, unable to accept that the taps were. coming from outside the hull, decided that they were coming from the engine-room, some repair work was going on. But an investigation finally convinced everyone onboard that the taps were coming from the outside. Someone was tapping out a message on the outside of the hull and the intent was clear.

The commander, who understood English, as did most well trained German officers, listened carefully and then looked amazed, as he jotted down each letter his junior officers peered over his shoulder. He exchanged glances with each of them and took down the message a second time. The piece of paper was passed around and their blackest suspicions were confirmed.


For a minute there was a faint expression of revolt, but again the signal taps began and this time the message was delivered with more emphasis, as if to insist on immediate action, then a postscript was added:


There was no more argument, the German commander blew his tanks and rose to the surface. When he reached the conning tower he saw an armed trawler about one hundred yards away. The crew on the trawler showed great surprise, but within seconds her decks bustled with activity, and before the German commander could take advantage of the situation a shell landed on his conning tower. There was no chance to submerge and escape, surrender was the only way out. The trawler's boats took off the crew and then passed a line to the V-boat.

The German commander demanded some explanation for this unfair trick, then from the depths of the harbour rose the dripping helmet of a diver. He was hoisted onboard the trawler by the men tending his airline, as they unscrewed his helmet he sat on the capstan and grinned. He then explained how he effected the capture.

"I was down there working on the hull of the drifter and as I was putting a patch on, this jerry blighter slides past and settles on the bottom. I had an idea that mine-laying was his game". Ah but how did you get him to pop up alongside us? "Well I'd been a signalman before I took up diving, so I walked over to him and tapped out the messages in Morse code with my hammer".

"But where did you get the depth charge" the German commander demanded. "Depth charge? I just made that one up. You mustn't believe everything you hear in the British Navy. Chum”.  


Subject: History

 There is an old Hotel/Pub in Marble Arch, London ... .which used to have gallows adjacent. Prisoners were taken to the gallows (after a fair trial of course) to be hung.

The horse drawn wagon, carting the prisoner was accompanied by an armed guard,

who would stop the wagon outside the pub and ask the prisoner if he would like ''ONE LAST DRINK''.

 If he said YES it was referred to as “ONE FOR THE ROAD”

If he declined, that prisoner was


So there you go...!!!

More history...

They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot & then once a day it was taken and sold to the tannery. 

 If you had to do this to survive you were "Piss Poor". 

 But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn't even afford to buy a pot they  

 "Didn't have a pot to Piss in" and were the lowest of the low.

And that's the truth...Now, whoever said History was boring!! 



Scotch with two drops of water

A lady goes to the bar on a cruise ship and orders a Scotch with two drops of water. As the bartender gives her the drink she says, 'I'm on this cruise to celebrate my 80th birthday and it's today..'

The bartender says, 'Well, since it's your birthday, I'll buy you a drink. 

 As the woman finishes her drink, the woman to her right says, 'I would like to buy you a drink, too.'

The old woman says, 'Thank you,       Bartender,

Want a Scotch with two drops of water.'

Coming up,' says the bartender.

As she finishes that drink, the man to her left says, 'I would like to buy you one, too.'

The old woman says, 'Thank you. Bartender, I want another Scotch with two drops of water.'

'Coming right up,' the bartender says.

As he gives her the drink, he says, 'Ma'am, I'm dying of curiosity. Why the Scotch with only two drops of water?'

The old woman replies, 'Sonny, when you're my age, you've learned how to hold your liquor. Holding your water, however, is a whole 
different issue.'

'OLD' IS WHEN.... Your sweetie says, 'Let's go upstairs and make love,' and you answer, 'Pick one; I can't do both!

OLD' IS WHEN... Your friends compliment you on your new alligator shoes and you're barefoot.

'OLD' IS WHEN... A sexy babe or hunk catches your eye and your ‘pacemaker’ opens the garage door

'OLD' IS WHEN... Going braless pulls all the wrinkles out of your face.

'OLD' IS WHEN... You don't care where your spouse goes, just as long as you don't have to go along.

'OLD' IS WHEN... You are cautioned to slow down by the doctor instead of by the police.

'OLD' IS WHEN... 'Getting lucky' means you find  
your car in the car park.

'OLD'IS WHEN... An 'all nighter' means not getting up to use the bathroom.

AND 'OLD' IS WHEN.... You are not sure these are jokes


                                                      Derek Liliman

During my 24 years in the submarine service I spent two summers in Malta on the personnel staff of the Flag Officer Mediterranean Fleet, Admiral the Earl Mountbatten, who was a very keen underwater spear fisherman. I was on his staff as a two badge Leading Seaman to tend to his fishing gear and his Cousteau Gagnan Scuba diving gear as well as accompanying whenever he dived. I have several anecdotes of my life with him and here, following is one of them

The Admiral, when he was underwater spear fishing used to get very frustrated after he had speared a big Groper fish (20 or 30 kilos). When the fish with the spear in it dived into its hole, it put its gills and fins up and the Admiral had to spend ten minutes or so struggling to get it out. This was lost diving time to him and not acceptable!!

One day he instructed me to obtain from any source I could, the following, a rod about a metre long, a sturdy elastic band, a lump of Carbide (a chemical, used years ago to provide energy to power cycle lamps, when exposed to water it produces a flammable gas!) and also a french letter (condom). The french letter, from the Sick Bay, the rod and the elastic band were no trouble at all to obtain but I had to think hard where I could get the Carbide?  The Destroyer Depot Ship HMS Rampura turned out to be a winner,  according to their records they had a drum of the stuff somewhere in the bowels of the ship. Saying it was for the C-in-C, it was quickly produced and I took what I wanted!

Mountbatten told me what I should do? Place a lump of the Carbide in a condom and tie it with a knot to make it water tight, wrap the elastic band around the end of the rod, holding the condom and Carbide in place. I had to carry this wonderful invention with me when we dived along with his other accoutrements that he might require, i.e. spare spear gun, gaff, underwater torch etc. (I called myself an underwater caddie!!)

 The very next time he had a groper which wouldn't come out of its hole; he took the rod from me, pierced the condom with his knife to allow water to the Carbide and literally gassed the fish out of its hole. What's more, it worked.

 Needless to say Lady Edwina and Pamela, his wife and younger daughter, were not very impressed with Derek walking around with a condom stuck on the end of a stick and a couple hanging off his cosie!!? 


M of B & myself 1953

With a Groper he had just caught!


The Preacher in the Aboriginal Settlent was a Fire & Brimstone orator and requested that anybody wanted him to pray for, come forward

With that, an Aboriginal man got in line, and when it was his turn, the Preacher asked, "Mulrunji,
what do you want me to pray about for you?"

Mulrunji replied, "Preacher, I need you to pray for help with my hearing."

The preacher put one finger of one hand in Mulrunji’s ear, placed his other hand on top of Mulrunji’s head, and then prayed and prayed and prayed.

He prayed a "blue streak" for Mulrunji, and the whole congregation joined in with great enthusiasm.
After a few minutes, the preacher removed his hands, stood back and asked, " Mulrunji, how is your hearing now?"

Mulrunji answered, "I don't know yet...it ain't 'til next week."

Men Are Just Happier People--
Your last name stays put.
The garage is all yours.
Wedding plans take care of themselves.
Chocolate is just another snack.
You can never be pregnant.
Car mechanics tell you the truth.
The world is your urinal.

Loch Long
By Dick Sharp. A reminiscence about the Laird of Ardmay House, a somewhat irascible Mancunian who effected to be Scottish by sporting the kilt and essaying the bagpipes. These characteristics were in evidence at dinner-time in his house in the late 1950s, he had turned into a rather smart restaurant – there being a distinct shortage of such facilities in the area. Given that Brian Smalley’s lady in the Rolls Royce was also in evidence at dinner, because she waited on tables, Ardmay House became a popular ‘run ashore’ for junior officers of the Third Submarine Squadron after the move from Rothesay to Faslane.

Unfortunately for the Thane of Cordiner – for so he became – the baronial accoutrements which decorated the hall of Ardmay House were too tempting for high-spirited submariners who were wont to simulate clan warfare, and thus aroused the Thanes irascibility. His patience with his rowdy customers expired one evening when a certain Fourth Hand (who will remain nameless) managed to climb into a suit of armour but, having refreshed himself with a Horse’s Neck or six was unable to stand up. The noise of his collapse onto the stone floor seemed to reverberate around the Loch side and resulted in a black list for future visits.

My own personal Nemesis with Ardmay House came two appointments later. I was serving at the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment at Portland, as the Naval Application Officer for the Mark 23 torpedo, responsible for conducting the acceptance trials of the weapon into service. One of the trials in this extensive programme was, for obvious reasons, to calibrate the running speed of the outfit torpedo, and to do this we planned to fire torpedoes from the tube at the Torpedo Establishment at Arrochar, down the centre of the Loch Long range under the rafts.

arrival at Arrochar I paid a courtesy call on the Thane to outline our task, with the hidden motive of ascertaining whether past demeanors were forgotten, or at least forgiven; suitably re assured we started the trial. We were using torpedoes in as near outfit trim as possible, fitted with primary batteries and blank war heads of the correct weight; because we were firing from a stationary platform there was no need for an outboard dispenser for the guidance wire – which we connected direct to a ‘Grog’ box in the control room. We thus eliminated the most vulnerable part of the weapons system – or so we thought.

The first day’s firing went so well that we had enough data to require one further half-day at the same rate. However on the second firing on the second day we lost guidance control immediately, and from the control room we saw the torpedo break surface and head away on a gyro angle of about 40 left – that is straight for the beach below Ardmay House. I just had time to telephone to warn the Thane before I saw the torpedo run up on the beach, and stop; with the propellers jammed the primary battery was effectively short circuited, and I knew that the heat generated would render the perchloric acid in the battery unstable (-the reason why in submarines Battery Alarms Units are fitted-). After about one minute the battery exploded, with a noise which truly did reverberate around the loch-side; there was a cloud of thick white smoke, through which I discerned the rear section of the torpedo shot backwards into the water and sink. Of the forward section there appeared to be no trace, so I jumped into our land rover and rushed round to Ardmay House – were I found a pale and shaking Cordiner family, but nothing worse.

The Thane, quite understandably, tore me off a furious strip, and accused me of firing ‘live’ torpedoes – given that the noise of the explosion was greater than that of a warheads we later exploded at Cape Wrath, had some validity! It was not until we had recovered the practice recorder from the West Highland railway line, some hundreds of feet up the hillside, that the Thane accepted my good faith.

We discovered the cause of the failure, and the rest of the trial was completed without a hitch, with entente cordiale fully restored.

Dick Sharp joined the Royal Navy in 1958 as a Special Entry cadet. He joined submarines in 1955, serving in Thermopylae, Rorqual, the Brown Area, AUWE, 2nd & 4th Squadrons, the RN Staff Course and FOSM’s Staff. He voluntary retired in 1970 and joined IBM, finally retiring in 1993.

Reading the rest of the magazine I rewrote this from, I appear to be in breach of copy write as it clearly states on the front page of the magazine.

I will therefore place myself in the ‘rattle’ under Section 39 of the Naval Disciple Act.
Was guilty of an act to the Prejudice of Good Order and Naval Discipline in re –writing History (The afore mentioned Article being written in 1999/2000)

At the table it was : -
One pace forward skid -off lid - did?
Pleading guilty I awarded myself 14 day’s Number 9’s including stoppage of tot (whiskey)

To Dick Sharp wherever he maybe I tender my deepest apologies but don’t regret the offence as it was a good dit! That’s All Folks”
Derek Lilliman P/JX 710732 0894518050 dlilliman@bigpond.com