Monday, December 30, 2013

The Attack on Rifle Wood (Part 1)

Moreuil Wood from the Bois de Senecat
The Canadian Cavalry Brigade was not yet in for a rest. After the brutal battle at Moreuil Wood, the Brigade bivouaced at Bois de Senecat, on the hillside west of Moreuil across the Avre River. 
The next day, March 31st, 1918, they stood to, returning to their bivouac at 2100, with reveille at 0300 on April 1st. In the saddle at 0400, they once again crossed the Avre on the bridge at Castel. 
 Sam Williams, author of “Stand to Your Horses”, took part in the battle at Rifle Wood. He later read with some amusement a newspaper’s article about the battle, submitted by a war correspondent who gave an “eye-witness” report as follows:
“We swept up the slope with our sabres flashing in the sunlight, swept through the wood and on beyond to take a battery of guns.”
Williams later commented ruefully that he wished such had been the case, given the heavy casualties inflicted on the brigade by the enemy batteries, still very much in evidence.

Next entry: Sam Williams’ part in the attack on Rifle Wood.
(The preceding Battle of Moreuil Wood is dealt with in my historical novel, "Soldier of the Horse".)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Canadian Cavalry Brigade Regroups, April 1918

April, 1918. The Canadian Cavalry Brigade had been terribly battered and bloodied at the Bois du Moreuil and Rifle Wood. Now the survivors were licking their wounds, some formations barely recognizable. Corporals stood in for dead or wounded sergeants-major, sergeants for lieutenants as troop leaders. After the battles at Moreuil and Rifle Wood, the line stabilized about where the Canadian Cavalry Brigade had helped stop the German push close to the line of the Avre River.
The Canadian Cavalry Brigade would next see action in August, but in the meantime there were many gaps to fill in the ranks of men and horses. Also to come was a change in leadership, with Galloper Jack no longer in command.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Future Posts--Saddles and Periscopes

2013 is drawing to a close, it’s time to reflect on all the positive feedback I’ve received for my first novel, Soldier of the Horse, and my blog. Soldier made a Bestseller list, and a gold medal for wartime/historical fiction from the Independent Publisher organization in the United States. Sales have been very rewarding, but just as satisfying have been the many comments about the book including of course some excellent reviews.
Another activity I’ve been working on is the content of this blog. Followers and casual readers of my blog will know I’ve been concentrating on entries about submarines in general and Cold War and Canadian submarines in particular. I am going to do a quick pivot, as they say in military and naval circles, and spend some time touching bases once again with the Canadian cavalry in the last few months and weeks of the Great War.
Having said that, though, I’ll intersperse some submarine lore and developments. I’ll be looking for feedback, so don’t hold back! 
And, speaking of submarines, my manuscript about a Canadian submarine during the Cuban Missile Crisis is now on the publisher's desk. I'm very excited about that.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Salty HMCS Grilse Story (Part 2 of 2)

 For Part 1 of Hal Zerbin's story about a risky time aboard HMCS Grilse, click here.

This is the last bit of Part 1:
" we had to unsnap ourselves from the safety railing and move right over the sound of escaping air. And we proceeded to do that."
(Hal, who is Gilse's Chief ERA, and the Engineer Officer are looking for a leak in the boat. Grilse is surfaced somewhere in the Pacific.They are crouched on the casing/upper deck, with six-foot seas running.)

Part 2: 

     We then had to unsecure a couple of lock bolts to enable us to open a small access hole in the decking. That made the air noise (escaping through the leak) louder and we were certain we were on the right track. We could then see there was air escaping from somewhere under the #1 main engine outboard exhaust, above the pressure hull. Taking turns we upended ourselves and wriggled into the small access hole as best we could, and felt, by hand, under the exhaust valve casing itself. Sure enough, there was this little line, just a short piece, blowing air thru a long split in its side. 
     We came out and had a conference, there on the aft deck, Charlie with his back to the aft end and myself facing aft, both of us sort of crouching/sitting. 
     Then I happened to look up and saw this much larger breaker heading towards our stern, quite a number of feet higher than our deck. Without thinking I grabbed Charlie and flattened him onto the deck and threw myself onto him, digging my fingers, both hands, thru the gap between the teak stringers that formed the deck. I managed to get a good grip and squeezed for all I was worth. Not a second too soon, either, as the wave was on us and covered us for what seemed like hours (actually perhaps 15 seconds). It was quite green and almost pleasant under the water, and soon the wave receded and left us still holding on for dear life, sputtering and thoroughly soaked. Charlie pried himself free of my death-grasp and gave me a dirty look.
     “Jeez, did you have to squeeze so hard!” 
     I thought I had done him a favour!
     Anyway, the CO aborted any further searching and we headed for home and the dockyard for repairs. On searching further thru the blueprint book, we found the little line quite clearly identified as a “tell-tale” drain, meant to let you know that you had a leak between the inboard group exhaust and the outboard exhaust!  The only thing the builders had not forseen was the corroding of the line till it leaked full bore into the engine room, thru the pressure hull, with no means of shutting it off. 
     This was the same line that just about cost the life of the Burrfish, during one of her last WW II patrols.
     When I was in Ottawa, in 1996, I think, I got together with Charlie for a drink or two. He still insists, in the Chinese custom way, that I owe him!!!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Salty HMCS Grilse Story (Part 1 of 2)

This all-too-believable story was supplied by Hal Zerbin, who spent years in Royal Navy A-boats and, later, HMCS Grilse. (Much of Grilse’s previous years were in the guise of USS Burrfish—see earlier blog posts.) I have, with Hal’s permission, edited slightly. For the conclusion, stay tuned!

We were not too far off the west coast of Vancouver Island, on our way to Pearl Harbour,(I think), and had completed a couple of days of snorkeling runs with the Air Force, when the For’d engine room watchkeeper noticed a higher than usual level of water in the bilge after the completion of a snorkeling run. No one was really excited about it, we all thought it was just one of those things, but, after a prolonged run, the water level was noticeably high and we all “got serious”. A small, about 1 1/8 inch line (pipe) at the for’d outboard end of the for’d Engine Room became suspect but we could not identify it and we could not even find it on the book of blueprints supplied with the boat. 
So we initiated another snorkel  run and sure enough, water came out of the suspect line, and, stranger still, it did not stop coming out when we stopped snorkeling, and only stopped when we surfaced. We then decided to pressurize, (with low pressure air), the external exhaust trunking for #1 main engine and proceeded to do this, however, to find the external leak, someone had to go out on the after deck and listen and try to identify just exactly where it was coming from. 
The engineer, Charlie Gunning, and the Chief Engine Room Artificer, (Me), were the likeliest people to go so we prepared ourselves and the boat hove to. There were 5 to 6 foot swells running, sometimes slopping over the deck but they did not look dangerous and we proceeded to the aft deck, with the Captain and many others gathered on the cigarette deck (part of the external superstructure) to watch the proceedings. Charlie and I snapped our safety line on to the safety railing and ventured out on to the deck, with the boat gently rolling under us. It was not hard to identify the general area of the leak as we soon heard compressed air as we approached the #1 exhaust valve. 
But it was impossible to tell where, exactly it was coming from as the area below the walking deck  was quite crowded with piping and other components so we had to unsnap ourselves from the safety railing and move right over the sound of escaping air. And we proceeded to do that.

To be continued...

Monday, December 9, 2013

USS Burrfish aka HMCS Grilse--A Two-Navy Warrior (Part 8)

The storied career of the American submarine USS Burfish continued after her sterling World War II patrols. Immediately following the end of hostilities in 1945, she was consigned to the Reserve fleet, but in 1948 she took on new life as a radar picket submarine, and redesignated SSR-312.
Her complement then included 12 officers and 82-90 chief petty officers and crew. Her armament had been reduced to 4 21"torpedo tubes and one 40 mm antiaircraft gun. In addition, she now boasted a snorkel mast, and so able to charge her batteries without surfacing.

From 1950 to 1956, Burrfish performed as a radar picket, often in the Mediterranean, as well as in the waters off the east coast of the US and the Arctic.

Nineteen sixty was a momentous year for Burrfish. She had recently emerged from another extended stay in mothballs with the reserve fleet, Once again undergoing conversion, she reverted from radar picket to fleet-type submarine, at the bargain-basement cost of $900,000. In January 1961 her designation changed form SSR-312 to SS-312, officially becoming once again a diesel-powered attack submarine.

Five months later, on May 11th 1961, USS Burrfish decommissioned and became Her Majesty's Canadian Submarine Grilse, SS-71, in the Royal Canadian Navy.
Great years lay ahead, for her and her Canadian crew.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

USS Burrfish aka HMCS Grilse--A Two-Navy Warrior (Part 7)

USS Burrfish continued her hectic wartime activities with her sixth and final patrol from March 25th to May 4th, 1945. She was a member of a wolfpack in the Luzon Straits. She was forced to dive in a hurry by an aircraft, and later was forced down again and strafed, fortunately without incurring damage.
During this eventful patrol she avoided damage from a floating mine, and, finally, attacked a shore radio station on Bataan with gunfire. Burrfish proceeded to Saipan, then to Pearl Habour, arriving there on May 13th.
Sent home to Portsmouth Navy Yard for a major overhaul, she arrived on June 19th, where she remained until the war ended on September 2nd.

USS Burrfish would never again fire a shot in anger, but she had much more history to make.

Monday, December 2, 2013

USS Burrfish aka HMCS Grilse--A Two-Navy Warrior (Part 6)

USS Burrfish's fourth war patrol was from 18 September 1944 until December 2nd. She was part of a picket line with seven other submarines, north of Saipan, where she fired six torpedoes at enemy vessels. They all missed, but shortly after, she and USS Ronquil got into a surface gun battle with a heavily-armed Japanese patrol boat. The submarines won the engagement, but not without damage, as two of Burrfish's crew were wounded.

After a month in Pearl Harbour, Burrfish embarked on her fifth war patrol. She was on lifeguard duty, and on two occasions fired torpedoes at surface targets. Once again she missed, but suffered retaliatory attacks during which she suffered some damage. She was ultimately able to elude the harrying ships and aircraft, in spite of forty depth charges and twenty bombs coming her way. This patrol ended in Guam, on February 24th, 1945

Future posts in this series will cover the battered and bloodied Burrfish's final war patrol, her Cold War career in the US Navy, her time under the White Ensign with the Royal Canadian Navy, and her arrival at her final resting place.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

"Soldier of the Horse"--The Saga Continues

I recently checked to see what the latest was re their marketing of Soldier of the Horse. Interestingly, they list the paperback at $13.68, with the Kindle edition at $9.99. (Other e-readers can access through the publisher, TouchWood Editions.) The original list price is $19.95.

The Audiobook version is now on the market, also at $19.95. Here's what Audiobook says about it:
"Narrator Paul Christy's mature voice provides a calm and steady pace to this story set in early 20th-century Canada. Law student Tom Macrae has been falsely accused of a crime, and given a choice between going to jail or off to the trenches of the Great War, Tom reluctantly chooses to fight. Just before he is shipped out to England, he meets the love of his life, only to be torn away from her. Christy's performance is moving and realistic, and he portrays the gamut of Tom's emotions - from hopeful joy to horror and bleak resignation - with sensitivity."

I would add to that--yes, but it's not ultimately a downer, at least in my mind.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

USS Burrfish aka HMCS Grilse--A Two-Navy Warrior (Part 5)

Like her sisters in the USN submarine fleet, USS Burrfish continued to seek out the enemy in the far-flung reaches of the Pacific. Her third war patrol was a historic one, commencing on 11th of July and continuing until he 27th of August, 1944.

Sailing from Pearl Harbour in the Hawaiian Islands, the boat had on board five members of Underwater Demolition Team 10 as well as a chief petty officer and a lieutenant from the UDT training staff. The UDT had with them inflatable rubber boats which were carried in free-flooding tanks on Burrfish's after deck.

On the 9th of August two teams of two men each swam ashore and gathered intelligence on the beach of Peleliu. The four swimmers plus their fifth member who had stood by in the inflated boat returned safely to Burrfish, waiting in deep water.

A second beach reconnaissance was carried out on August 18th, but was ill-fated. One team of two did not return to the waiting inflatable, and one of their mates swam in to try to assist. The men were not seen again. Burrfish searched for the three men until the night of August 20th to no avail, and was forced to leave the area. All three were captured by the Japanese and reportedly tortured and executed.

The Burrfish had carried out the only USN submarine-launched Underwater Demolition Team beach reconnaissance of the Second World War.

Friday, November 22, 2013

USS Burrfish aka HMCS Grilse--A Two-Navy Warrior (Part 4)

When the Royal Canadian Navy took command of USS Burrfish in 1961, it borrowed a bloodied and proud World War II combatant.
Burrfish took part in six war patrols against the Japanese in the Pacific theatre between February 2nd 1944 and May 13th 1945. In reviewing her activities during the first two, it appears there was a steep learning curve.

The boat's first patrol began when she sailed from Pearl Harbour and ended seven weeks later as she came alongside at Midway Island. During that time she fired torpedoes at a tanker, missed, and was depth-charged for her trouble. Having surfaced to repair a dangerous leak, she again attacked a freighter and suffered some damage from depth charges. Once again, she attacked a destroyer, missed, and proceeded to Midway.

Undaunted, Burrfish proceeded on her second patrol. She fired three torpedoes at a tanker, and was rewarded with three hits. It seemed her luck had turned, as the boat returned once more to Pearl Harbour for a well-earned month-long break.

Next: a historic third patrol.

Friday, November 8, 2013

USS Burrfish aka HMCS Grilse--A Two-Navy Warrior (Part 3)

The United States Navy SS-312, USS Burrfish, was launched at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Maine, on June 18th, 1943, and was commissioned on September 14th the same year. One hundred nineteen Balao class boats were completed; eleven were lost during World War II. (A lower loss rate than for previous boats, the Balao class for the most part coming later in the war when Japanes forces were on the run.)
Burrfish's complement was six officers and sixty enlisted men.
She bristled with weapons: ten 21" torpedo tubes, six forward and four aft; a 5" deck gun, and antiaircraft armament consisting of one 40-mm, two 20-mm, and two .50 calibre machine guns.
On the surface the Burrfish could pound along at 20.25 knots, and dived at 10.
She set out on her first war patrol on February 2nd, 1944.

Next: The War Patrols

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

USS Burrfish aka HMCS Grilse--A Two-Navy Warrior (Part 2)

USS Burrfish had a remarkable career, which can be divided into three main phases.
First phase: Operations against the Japanese in World War II. (designated SS-312).
Second phase: Conversion to and operations as a radar picket submarine (SSR-312).
Third phase: On loan to the Royal Canadian Navy as HMCS Grilse (SS-71).

Here is a photo of Burrfish under way during the second phase of her life. She has been converted to carry early warning radar in order to serve as a radar picket for large warships such as aircraft carriers. In that role she served extensively in east-coast American areas, the Baltic, and the Mediterranean on three extended assignments. She had been fitted with her radar equipment and operated with it from 1950 to 1956, when she decommissioned.

Next up on my series about the Burrfish: her distinguished wartime service.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

USS Burrfish aka HMCS Grilse--A Two-Navy Warrior (Part 1)

I wrote a brief item here about HMCS Grilse, which in 1961 became the Royal Canadian Navy's first submarine in forty years, apart from a pair of surrendered German U-boats. As I described, she was in her first life an American boat. In fact she had an illustrious career, long before she flew the maple leaf.
United States Submarine Burrfish (SS-312), as she then was, was a "Portsmouth boat", built in the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Maine in 1943. A Balao class boat, she was externally virtually identical to the earlier Gato class, which no doubt stood her in good stead when pursued by antisubmarine forces of the Japanese navy. One of the major differences compared to her earlier sisters was a diving depth of 400 feet, as opposed to 300. Perhaps her survival was at least in part due to the extra, highly classified  depth she could attain when under attack, as the enemy depth charges would explode shallow enough that she could creep away, unharmed.
More about the Burrfish soon.

My second historical novel, set in a Cold War submarine, is in the publishing pipeline. It will surface in late summer, 2014.

Monday, October 28, 2013

"Soldier of the Horse" returns to Cloverdale

I am very much looking forward to November 11th, not only because it is such a significant day for all Canadians, honouring our fallen and surviving veterans, but because again this year I'll be presenting about the Canadian Cavalry Brigade at the Surrey Museum in Cloverdale.
My talk centres around men who served in the Cavalry Brigade in World War I, and their ties to B.C. and Surrey.
For the Surrey Museum announcement with details, please see here.

Excellent Submarine Video

Here's a look at the interior of a modern Canadian submarine, HMCS Corner Brook, recorded in 2011. This is the link. As the article says, Corner Brook is still undergoing repairs subsequent to an underwater grounding on the rugged British Columbia coast.
So at the moment three of the four Victorias are in Esquimalt.

(My apologies--for some reason the link won't work. Will try to repost soon.)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

HMCS "Grilse", Canadian Cold Warrior

At the same time that the Royal Navy Submarines Alderney and Astute were deploying under the control of the Canadian navy in the Atlantic during the Cuban Missile Crisis, an actual Canadian boat was part of Canada's Pacific force.
Photo from Wikipedia
HMCS Grilse (SS-71) was commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy in 1961. Grilse was on loan from the United States, whose navy she had served with great distinction in the Second World War. In her five years of service with the RCN the boat played a major training role for antisubmarine forces and helped train a generation of Canadian submariners.

Monday, October 7, 2013

"Canadian" Submarines in the Cuban Missile Crisis (Part 2 of a series)

They weren't actually Canadian, of course, they were British. But they were based in Halifax and placed under the control of the Royal Canadian Navy for the duration of the Crisis. (For more background, see my June 3rd posting of this year, here.)
(HMCS Grilse, Canada's only actual submarine at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, was based in Esquimalt on the west coast. More about her in a subsequent post.)
At the height of the Crisis, from October 15th to 28th 1962, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev were figuratively twisting wrists. The price of a misstep by either of them could have been a nuclear Armageddon. Rear-Admiral Ken Dyer sent his fleet to sea, to help monitor any Soviet submarines detected in eastern seaboard waters.
Besides his surface and air assets, Admiral Dyer had at his disposal two A-class boats of the 6th Submarine Flotilla, Alderney and Astute.
HMS Alderney
HMS Alderney sailed on October 23rd,  having stored for a war patrol. Once on station northeast of the Grand Banks she would conduct surveillance, on the lookout for Soviet submarines.
Alderney was followed by sister boat Astute into the cold north Atlantic waters. Neither A-boat would have positive submarine contacts during the crisis, but they demonstrated they were capable of forming part of an antisubmarine barrier. As things transpired, the Soviet submarines were already south of Canadian waters, where several were detected by American and Canadian forces.

On a personal note, I came to know the Alderney very well, as I trained in her and served on board only four years after her Cuban Missile Crisis service, in 1966-67.

Friday, October 4, 2013

"Canadian" Submarines in the Cuban Missile Crisis (1 of a series)

This is a photo of HMS Alliance, a Royal Navy A-boat (also sometimes known as the Amphion or Acheron class). She is wearing camouflage, and probably in the Far East when the photo was taken. The Alliance lives on as the main feature at the RN Submarine Museum at Gosport, Hants.
There were fourteen A-boats built in the United Kingdom, of which two served in Canadian waters during the Cuban Missile Crisis. They were stationed in Halifax as the Sixth Submarine Flotilla, but were under Canadian operational control. They typically carried a number of Canadian officers and men serving on loan and for training with the Royal Navy.
The two A-boats mentioned above were Her Majesty's Submarines Alderney and Astute.
More about them in subsequent posts.
My novel about a fictitious "Canadian" A-boat, HMCS Alert, in the Cuban Missile Crisis is due out in August 2014, the Canadian submarine centennial year.

Monday, September 30, 2013

"War Horse" in Vancouver

I was excited to see "War Horse", the stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's novel. What makes the play unique is the fact that the central character is Joey, a horse, who goes to war with the British cavalry in 1914. Brought to life by the amazing puppets that play the horses, as designed by the Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa, the horses steal the show. They buck and rear, they snort, and they gallop--straight toward the audience in a sequence that transports watchers to the bitter fields of artillery-torn France.
There are explosions and gunfire aplenty, and a strong scene where Joey is caught on the wire in No Man's Land. The novel was written for young readers and comes with a Hollywood ending, with many a tear trickling down cheeks in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
The performance I attended was a matinee, so I wondered for a while if there might not be school children attending, but that was not the case. There was an awful lot of grey hair on display, with most members of the audience middle-aged or older. Too bad, as there is lots in the story to hint at some of our at times bloody history.

To read my prize-winning novel about real war horses, and the men that rode them, see "Soldier of the Horse" here.

Monday, September 23, 2013

H.M.S. UNSEEN--Fact and Fiction--Part Two of Two

In Part One of this post, I mentioned the historical fact that the Unseen was an actual Royal Navy submarine, and the subject of the novel of the same name by Patrick Robinson. Now owned by the Royal Canadian Navy and renamed HMCS Victoria, the stealthy boat has been tested under realistic conditions, firing a torpedo at and sinking a decommissioned U.S. ship; for an image, click here.

Author Robinson made good use of his expert adviser, the late Admiral Sandy Woodward. He describes in great detail the locale and routine of an RN submarine doing workups in the English Channel, and does a good job of putting the reader on board a modern diesel-electric boat. One of his characters is a retired Royal Navy admiral and former Teacher of the Perisher, the submarine Commanding Officers Qualifying Course. It was not a great surprise that in my mind at least Robinson's "Teacher" bore many similarities to Sandy Woodward.

As a very junior submarine officer on board H.M.C.S. Alderney, I had the honour of seeing the then Commander Woodward in action in his role as Teacher. It is a certainty that no terrorist would have taken one of his boats.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

H.M.S. UNSEEN--Fact and Fiction--Part One of Two

Not long ago I picked up a copy of H.M.S. UNSEEN, by Patrick Robinson. Robinson is a prolific bestselling author, and for this book he had expert help from the late Admiral Sir John "Sandy" Woodward, former Perisher Teacher, Flag Officer Submarines, and commander of the Hermes aircraft carrier group in the Falklands in1982.
Robinson's novel is a naval thriller right up there with Tom Clancy's "The Hunt for Red October", stretching the bounds of modern submarine warfare only marginally. What is particularly interesting is that there was a real H.M.S. Unseen. In his Acknowledgments, the author describes the Unseen as "a stealthy Royal Navy submarine, now being leased to an overseas government...". Quite correct as far as it goes. In the novel, the boat is leased to Brazil, highjacked by a middle-eastern terrorist, and the story carries on from there.
Reality is different. H.M.S. Unseen was actually sold to the Royal Canadian Navy, and is now proudly defending Canada as H.M.C.S. Victoria.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Soldier of the Horse" Gallops On

I've been expending a lot of time recently on my upcoming but as yet unnamed submarine thriller (working title "Sailor Down"), but there is a temporary hiatus as I await the first round of edits.
So in the meantime it's a chance to check up on how my prize-winning first novel, "Soldier of the Horse", is doing. Recent highlights:
* Recent acquisition of audiobook rights by Amazon's
* "Bestseller" following an appearance at the marvellous Winnipeg bookstore McNally Robinson
* A very successful day of sales and signing books at the Country Pedlar, Interlakes, in the Cariboo
* An email from a Bolivian jungle animal refuge park volunteer saying how much she was enjoying "Soldier of the Horse"
* A very enthusiastic comment from a retired Canadian Army colonel
* A scheduled return engagement to speak about the book and horses in World War I at the Surrey Museum on November 11, Remembrance Day. For details click here.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Death of a Kilo--Part Two of Two

The Kilo-class Russian submarines have been very successful for the Soviets and now the Russians. The Russian navy  has some seventeen Kilos in service, with more in reserve. More than thirty have been exported to countries like China, India, and Poland. Here is a cutaway view of a typical Kilo.

Note the two battery compartments low in the boat, one forward and one aft of the periscopes. As a diesel-electric boat, the Kilo has to charge its batteries by running its diesel engines to provide propulsion. According to one newspaper report, that was just what the INS Sindhurakshak was doing after midnight in the early hours of August 14th, 2013, when something went wrong.

There was a fire on board, and some of the boat's ordnance blew up. It is not clear at this point whether the fire preceded or followed the explosions. It may be that the causation of both fire and explosions was hydrogen gas given off by a battery, which did cause an earlier fire in 2010 in the same boat. In any event, the Indian navy is left with a tragedy to deal with. Eighteen officers and men were killed, and can only be identified by DNA analysis. And the Sindhurakshak remains on the bottom, alongside in Mumbai Harbour, most of her munitions still on board and perhaps just waiting to explode. Not a happy place to be engaged in a salvage operation.

One newspaper account has the Russian navy, who carried out the very extensive refit 2010-2012, stating that a possible cause of the explosions and fire is human error. No doubt the Indian navy will be reviewing the refit and whether there was a design or installation fault involved.

A board of inquiry has yet to report.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Death of a Kilo--Part One of Two

Wednesday, August 14th, just after midnight, a hideous fireball lit the night sky over the Mumbai, India waterfront. It signalled the deaths of eighteen submariners, officers and crew members of the Indian navy’s submarine INS Sindhurakshak. The blast was felt around the world in the submarine community, as is every serious submarine accident.  
A Kilo class boat built in Russia, the Sindhurakshak was commissioned in 1997, undergoing an extensive refit in 2010-2012. 
 Pictured here during a visit to Portsmouth, England, the boat when operational would carry a crew of 52 officers and men.
Slightly larger than the Canadian navy’s Victoria-class, the Kilos have similar characteristics and capabilities in terms of antisurface and antisubmarine warfare. In both classes the main weapon is the 21-inch torpedo, although the Kilos are also fitted with cruise missiles designed to target surface ships.
It is noteworthy that the extensive refit was necessitated by a fire that occurred on board in 2010 with the loss of a life. Later, it was reported that the fire had been caused by an explosion in the submarine's battery compartment. Battery compartment fires are usually caused by a buildup and explosion of hydrogen, a constant source of risk for submariners. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Confession Time

It’s confession time. To my horror, I note the last blog I posted, prior to this one, was dated August 2nd 2013. The dog days of July and August caught up with me, at least as far as keeping up the blog is concerned.
My only defence is that the days have been very busy. My next book, working title “Sailor Down”, is due on the editor’s desk by September 1st, meaning it's panic stations to get the story put to bed. The next deadline will be November 1st, with an edited manuscript in to the publisher.
“Soldier of the Horse”, my first book, has also been receiving some attention. The audio book rights have been bought by Amazon, and production is under way with a professional narrator on the job.
In the meantime, potential topics for future items are piling up. Personal stories from submariners, the loss of an Indian navy Kilo class boat, World War I centennial observations...
Great things to come. Thanks for hanging in.

"Soldier of the Horse" is available as an ebook or hard copy from Amazon here