Life on a Wartime Sub
In 2013 Diss Museum helped Norwegian author Geirr H. Haarr with some research.
He was writing a book about submarine warfare and had heard that Diss had some information.
We sent him a disk made from an audio tape of Joe Brighton describing his life aboard HMS Porpoise, which he gratefully acknowledged.
We thought no more of it until a copy of the book, No Room For Mistakes, arrived in October 2015.
Published by Seaforth Publishing and selling at £35, the book is an account of British and Allied submarine warfare in World War Two.
The author had used extensive quotes from the tape. In the Foreword he said: “Basil Abbott, manager at Diss Museum in Norfolk, is warmly thanked for his enthusiastic assistance.”
Joe Brighton was a Torpedo Gunner’s Mate and spoke vividly about life in a submarine.
“I have often been asked what it was like during a depth charge attack. It was bloody awful. Inside the submarine, when the attacking vessel was in firm contact, a prolonged, repeated ‘piiing-ging’ like a mighty tuning fork could be heard. This was no comfort to us at all. All we could do was wait and take what was coming to us. We could plainly hear the propellers of the attacking ship as it came in for the attack. We could hear the depth charges as they were thrown in the water and just had to wait for the crashing explosions that followed. The structural strain (on the hull of boat during the explosion of a depth charge nearby) transmits itself to the human body almost as an electric shock, causing the same kind of vibrations.”
He had fond memories of the rum issue of 1/8 of a pint per man.
“This was more precious to us than the Crown Jewels. Several of the Junior lads had no taste for the stuff, which was just as well. Bottling the stuff was against naval regulations, but more or less condoned in naval circles as the lesser of two evils. The bottled rum was used as currency to get favours done later. On more than one occasion after a heavy depth charge attack, the Skipper would ask the cox’n, ‘What’s the state of the rum jars, cox’n?’ He would always reply: ‘Two jars cracked, sir. We will have to break them off.’ This of course meant an unofficial ‘splicing the main brace’.”