Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Perisher (Part II)

(For Part I, see October 8th post.)
Operating as the Perisher training vessel, HMS Alderney was at sea in the Firth of Clyde, the narrow waterway that is the access to Glasgow and not coincidentally Helensburgh and the RN’s submarine base at Faslane. Our depth was fifty-eight feet. We were running blind, as far as vision is concerned—the periscopes were down, so we would be leaving no trace on the surface of the water.
The Perisher candidate stood, checking a stopwatch that dangled on a cord around his neck. At the helm, on the hydroplane controls, at the panel, on the torpedo angle calculator were the most experienced members of the crew. And standing in the background was Teacher, arms folded, his own stopwatch around his neck.
The Perisher candidate tensed. It had been thirty seconds since his last look through the attack periscope. His job was to get us safely under the destroyer screen and fire a dummy torpedo at a merchant ship. In his head he would have imprinted the ranges, bearings, and courses of the surface ships when he last raised the periscope.
“Up periscope.” His voice shook with tension. He stoops to meet the eyepiece as the scope slides smoothly upward. “Target bears—that!” and another officer reads off the bearing. “Range is—two thousand yards. Put me forty degrees on her starboard bow—”
The candidate is zeroing in on the doomed merchantman, when another voice interrupts. It is Teacher.“Flood Q! Full ahead. Keep 120 feet.”
Teacher has taken over from the candidate in order to avoid a dangerous situation. The candidate has forgotten to check the location of the screening destroyer. Even though this is a training exercise, the destroyer crews have been ordered to turn toward any periscope they see—a very dangerous situation for the submarine to be in, as a collision could sink her with all hands, exercise or not.
When Teacher ordered Q tank flooded, the boat became heavy and was quickly dragged down, getting her safely below the surface ships.
Unfortunately for the Perisher candidate, his bags were packed by a crew member, the Alderney surfaced in due course, and rendezvoused with a tug. The candidate, with his bag and a traditional bottle of scotch, disembarked. His Perisher is over. He will never command a submarine.


Patricia Sandberg said...

This really gives the feeling of acute tension that must have prevailed throughout the ship! A teaser for your next book...

Lamont said...

I like Teacher.

Robert Mackay said...

My impression of Teacher is that he did not care if he was liked or not. Probably just as well.

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