Remembering the British Submarine AURIGA

After first serving for a short period in an 'S' Boat [Selene for Part III only] and then in a 'T' Boat [Turpin] for eighteen months, it's little wonder why the 'A' Boat [more correctly called the 'Amphion Class' after the first one completed HMS Amphion] became known to crew members as "if you have to go to sea in a vertible sewage tank, do it in style and with  some comfort in an 'A' Boat" such were the vast differences when compared to other boats. To the Admiralty, Naval Constructor Branch, Admiral [Submarines] and ship builders it was a revolution and a state-of-the-art fighting vessel which was easy to build and to maintain.

It was the bombing of Pearl Harbour in December 1941 which radically changed the British submarine policy. None of the existing classes of submarines had the range to get to the Far East and to operate in the vast Pacific Ocean areas, so a new class [the only one in WW2] was needed which had a much greater range and a high surface speed. The most important criterion in those overall criteria, was that the hull would be entirely all welded [electrically] without a rivet being seen in the builders yard for any purpose, hull plus all other fittings. This new class, the 'A' Class was basically an enlarged 'T' Class with a construction that was simple, fast and so arranged as to utilise many of the materials set aside for the 'T' Class. It was said that the 'A' Class were perhaps the most successful of all "traditional  types of pre-nuclear  submarines" *; were fitted with an effective air conditioning unit; radar which could function at periscope depth and had two separate rotating masts; a high flared bow for excellent sea performance; formidable armaments and had an appreciable reduced underwater noise level.  All later builds of the class had a snorting system, and all early builds were soon modified after commissioning at first refit. The original parameters required of an 'A' Class boat were:-

1 Length overall 280' 6"
2 Beam 22' 4"
3 Keel depth 16'9"
4 Displacement surfaced 1385 tons
Displacement submerged 1620 tons
5 Number of shafts Two
6 Propeller size 5' 9"
7 Speed surfaced 18.5 knots but only after bow shutters were fitted to the underwater torpedo apertures forward.  The shutters were robust and heavy to fend off damage from heavy weather.
Speed submerged 8 knots
8 Endurance  surface 10,500 miles at 11 knots
Endurance submerged 16 miles at 8 knots
90 miles at 3 knots
9 Armaments:  6 x 21" bow tubes 2 external - 4 x 21" stern tubes 2 external - 20 torpedoes carried - 1 x 3" Gun - 1 x 20mm Oerlikon Cannon - 3 x .303" machine guns.
10 Complement 61 - 5 officers and 56 men
11 Engines: For four of the Class, Admiralty 6 cylinder engines, but for the rest of the Class, because of the difficulty getting Admiralty engines, Vickers or Admiralty 8 cylinder engines were fitted. 8 cylinder engines reduced the surface speed to 18 knots. 
12 Safe diving depth: 500 feet although tested to 600 feet.
13 Batteries:
Two separate batteries. Each battery has 112 cells each weighing in at a massive half ton proving just 2 volts per cell as standard battery configuration. Thus the total joint weight of No 1 and No 2 battery is 112 tons, and the 'punch power' per battery is 220V DC with a capacity of 6630 ampere hours: be assured...Big Stuff! The batteries are potentially dangerous at all times and required a great deal of attention and continuous monitoring. Several of them actually exploded killing members of the crew and they gave off a nasty and volatile gas called hydrogen which was explosive. They were so large, that when a service was required, say, topping up each individual cell with distilled water, sixty per cent of the submarine has to be dismantled to be able to get to each individual cell. This involved moving seats, tables, bunks, lockers, steel deck plates, bulkheads  etc curtailing the normal running of the submarine until all was proven correct.

* Following the Amphion Class came the HTP experimental boats [Excalibur and Explorer] with Explorer being launched in 1954, the first post-war designed British submarine.  Also launched was X51 a new generation of small submarines known as X-Craft. Following them came the Porpoise Class [although the Grampus and the Rorqual had defects which resulted in Rorqual being withdrawn from her trials programme] and then the Oberon Class, before the first nuclear boat Dreadnought came into service [this, ignoring the diesel electric Upholder Class which had no real bearing on life in the Royal Navy!]  All these classes had step-through [or jump-through] round small hatches - for extra strength on deeper diving boats - and these could be [nay, were] a bugger to navigate making life difficult to traverse the boat, whereas, in all cases, in an 'A' Boat one could stroll through, without even ducking through its compartmental hatches.

Forty six 'A' Class boats were originally planned, 21 from Vickers Armstrong Barrow; 6 from Cammell Laird; 5 from Scotts S&E Co; 6 from Vickers Armstrong Ltd High Walker, and 2 each from Portsmouth, Devonport and Chatham Dockyards. The Vickers vessels had Vickers 8 cylinder supercharged engines and the remainder the Admiralty 8 cylinder supercharged engines except for Portsmouth [2 boats] and Devonport [2 boats] which had Admiralty 6 cylinder supercharged engines. Each submarine irrespective of Yard build was to cost £450,000. All boats were built to a mock-up designed and built by Vickers Armstrong at Barrow. Each separate builder would travel to Barrow to view the mock-up [made largely of wood] and be given identical plans from which to build their boats. When difficulties occurred, company representatives would re-visit barrow as many times as necessary to view the mock-up so as to avoid any mistakes. In that way, the boats were speedily built to precise measurements and fabrication. As the war progressed thirty 'planned for' were not officially ordered leaving only sixteen in the Class. Of these, Affray was sadly lost with its full complement leaving just fifteen 'A' Class boats.

That's the 'intro over with and now for the story

There was only one AURIGA in the Royal Navy and she was built in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, by Vickers Armstrong Limited under this managing director

and his name was Commander Sir Robert Micklem, CBE RN Rtd (5 June 1891 – 13 May 1952) himself a former naval officer, and a one time submariner during WW1.  He joined the navy in 1903 and left in 1919.  He joined companies associated with Vickers and in the 1942 Birthday honours list was honoured with the CBE.  During the second world war he acted as chairman of the Tank Board from 1942 to 1944 and a chairman in the Ministry of Supply of the armoured fighting vehicle division. He was knighted in 1946. Within a few years of the end of
the war he became firstly deputy chairman and then chairman of Vickers-Armstrongs. In 1951 he was appointed joint managing director of Vickers until he resigned due to ill health in April 1952, sadly dying in May of that year at the young age of 60.

Auriga was one of many 'A' Boats designed for operating in far eastern waters, all built during the second world war years. She was ordered on the 18th April 1942; laid down on the 7th June 1944 as Job Number 3874. The Engineering Officer appointed [6th November 1944] to stand-by her build was Temporary Lt [E] D.W.Laidlaw RN and his picture comes next.

Auriga was launched on the 29th March 1945 just missing the end of the war in the European theatre.  Nevertheless her bottom was wetted during the war although she was commissioned for the first time after VE and VJ day on the 24th September 1945. This was because the cessation of the war slowed everything down, the urgency of build/repair/commission had gone pan navy, and the boat had an over-stay in Barrow before moving further up the Irish sea to join the 3rd Squadron on the Clyde. More of that in a moment.

Her first commanding officer was Lieutenant Commander Arthur John Wright PITT, DSO [DSO awarded 2nd May 1942 whilst in HM S/M Taku], who joined the boat on the 15th April 1945, staying with her for her trials, tests and work-up until leaving on the 26th March 1946. This is he -

There is a wealth of information on this officer on the well known and very professional site  click on link  which I commend to you.

The officer in charge of the Royal Navy in 1944, called "Controller of the Navy",  chose his daughter as the person who would launch HM S/M Auriga, and she was Mrs Geoffrey ELEY


whilst her father was Vice Admiral Sir William Frederick Wake-Walker KCB CB third Sea Lord of the Admiralty.

This is he, taken with his daughter and Commander Sir Robert Micklem just before the launch


The following shots are the non-cropped pictures.


On the right, Mrs Eley saying the immortal words ...."and may God Bless all those who sail in her", whilst on the left Auriga is high but certainly not dry, with her launch drag-wear ready to be recovered. Note the commanding officer on the left shoulder of the Yard's Chief Executive {right picture}, with the lady's father, the admiral, presumably behind her.

Auriga was named after the constellation Auriga which has in it the sixth brightest star in the sky, namely Capella. In many ways Auriga herself was also a bright star and led the way in several fields! Some of those I will explain as I go along.

Auriga was the third of the 'A' class completed [ten in all were built at Barrow] and by the time she was taken out of commission for the last time in 1971 after her battery fire of 1970 off Gibraltar, she was an old lady who had given long and faithful service. Such was the perceived threat of the invincible Japanese nation, that the UK ordered no fewer that 46 'A' Class submarines designed to operate in the Pacific. It beggars belief that 30 were cancelled and only 16 built:  at the time of the cancellations, two boats were already well advanced, the 'Ace' and the 'Achates' [both Devonport built boats] and they were put to one side to be used as target hulls after the war.  All of those completed except for two, the hapless Affray and the Aurochs were converted, the latter not so because of a fatigue in her structure.  Amphion was the first-build of the class, completed by Vickers Armstrong at Barrow.

After a couple of months service in home waters, she was given the paint job you see below and started her long journey out to join the BPF [British Pacific Fleet] in the far east at the beginning of December 1945. The (BPF) was a Royal Navy formation which saw action against Japan during the Second World War. The fleet was composed of British Commonwealth naval vessels. The BPF formally came into being on 22 November 1944. Its main base was at Sydney, Australia, with a forward base at Manus Island described by the 'Brits as Scapa Flow with bloody palm trees!  Auriga's outbound to China Station and inbound ex Far East back to Gosport is well documented, and in basic form looked like this:-

1946 - 28 June to 3 September Birkenhead Ex work up Clyde Areas - Alterations and Adjustments
1946 - 4th September to 22 September  3rd Flotilla   Day running and index
1946 - 23 September Holy Loch Departed for journey East
1946 - 27 September Gibraltar Arrived and Left same day exercising enroute to..... 
1946 - 1 October Malta Arrived
1946 - 5 October Malta Left
1946 - October dates not known [dnk] Port Said Transit Canal
1946 - October [dnk] Port Suez Brief stop for defect - fixed by crew!
1946 - October [dnk] Aden Arrived
1946 - October [dnk] Aden Left
1946 - 21 October to 28 October Colombo  Arrived - Assisted repair of defect
1946 - 29 October Colombo Left
1946 - 6 November Singapore Arrived
1946 - [dnk] Singapore Left
1946 - [dnk] Hong Kong Arrived - Joined 4th Flotilla
1947 Various Operating with 4th/BPF
1947 - 1 December Hong Kong Entered refit and installation of snorting gear
1948 - 23 June Hong Kong Refit completed
1948  - 24 June Hong Kong Trials and exercises with 4th/BPF
1948 - 11 August Hong Kong Sailed for the UK
1948 - 16 August Singapore Arrived
1948 - 18 August Singapore Left
1948 - 26 August Colombo Arrived
1948 - 18 August Colombo Left
1948 - 4 September Aden Arrived
1948 - 6 September Aden Left
1948 - 15 September Malta Arrived with defects
1948 - 1 October Malta Left - defects repaired
1948 - [dnk] Algiers Arrived
1948 - [dnk] Algiers Left 
1948 - [dnk] Gibraltar  Arrived
1948 - 8 October Gibraltar Left
1948 - 15 October Gosport Arrived Blockhouse.
1948 Late October to April 1949  Gosport Local running under Commander  J B de B Kershaw DSO
1949 - May Gosport New Co - Lt M.T. Hickie DSC
1949 - 2 July until date not known  Malta areas  Loaned to the Admiralty Filming Crew for the making of a Crown Feature Film called "Wonders of the Deep". See below the next four pictures and before the coloured geographical map. 
1949 - 13-14 July Bordeaux France Rabbit run ashore not to mention cheap vino? 
1949 - 21 July Gosport  Auriga Pays-Off

These two pictures are relevant to the table above

Auriga leaving Malta eastwards bound.

As the saying goes on coming home to our alter mater, "first the NAB, then the WARNER {a buoy}, OUTER SPIT BUOY then BLOCKHOUSE CORNER" and here we see Auriga heading for the CORNER and Pompey's famous harbour entrance.   Note the sheer amount of 'tackle', casing level and upwards! The guardrail provides the most, but note that wire aloft stretching from stem to stern which is called the jumping wire. It's all very simple really with the bridge stanchions electrically isolated acting only as the central support carrying the weight, the back part, the W/T HF transmitting and receiving aerial, and the front part the underwater W/T VLF reception aerial for use when dived at periscope depth. This chunk of wire does more than one might image and my little sketch tells it as it is:-

The loop you see {dotted line} is attached to the forward part of the jumping wire and runs under the free-flood forward casing rising just in front of the bridge, clearly visible in the picture above running through the third sailor in the casing party when counting from bridge to stem, to join the jumping wire running down forward.  Again, in the picture above, what appear to be three black balls attached to the jumping wire one near to the stem and one either side of the bridge superstructure, are insulators to stop interference coming from other submarine systems like W/T HF, even though the forward part of the jumping wire and its attachments is not used at the same time as the after section and its attachments.

Auriga approaching its trot at Blockhouse [HMS Dolphin] Gosport in 1948 after its return from the 4th/BPF.

The Admiralty Film Crew and the Crown Films [documentaries] feature film "Wonders of the Deep".

In 1949 [chief amongst others who had attempted underwater movie photography]  the Admiralty experimental research team began live filming underwater, achieving coherent images down to 100'.  This was achieved using cameramen trained as professional free-swim naval divers dressed for the event, quite a few living animals, mammals, fish and a submarine called HMS Auriga. Auriga had many takes of her dived attitude which in 1949 was quite unique, and when thinking about it,  it was difficult to come by a real live submarine willing to do one's bidding, acting the part as it were on cue! Again, Auriga was a first in this field. These still pictures are shots taken of her from the moving images shot by Admiralty.

A torpedo leaves one of Auriga's forward tubes later to be retrieved by a TRV

Auriga plunges below the Mediterranean creating a great deal of turbulence aft of the bridge superstructure until she settles at periscope depth  and upon request, then dives to 100 feet on the shallow water depth gauge.

Auriga's integral 3" gun stares eerily out in the darkness overlooking the boats self-contained gangway, as she descends deeper into the Mediterranean Sea.  

Auriga on the surface going at a lick on main engines in Far Eastern waters before her snort mast was fitted, appears to have a flag or an ensign flying from her after mast.  However it appears to be limp and one would expect it to be in full flight with its fly rigid and stretched to its limit. It was a common practice to fly the white ensign from this position, so, who knows? This was an ideal time to surface and race to a new rendezvous, whilst all the while charging its batteries.

The BPF was one of the largest fleets ever assembled by the Royal Navy, and by VJ Day it had four battleships and six fleet aircraft carriers, fifteen smaller aircraft carriers, eleven cruisers, and numerous smaller warships, submarines, and support vessels. The submarines attached to the BPF resulted in a long list and in March 1945 were listed as:-

The surface fleet was mind-boggling, far far greater in numbers than was ever the Home Fleet, with a physic matching the idea that Hitler is no longer a threat, so let's get over to the far east, and render accordingly, the demise of Hirohito, but more specifically Hideki Tojo the Nippon equivalent to Hitler, Himmler, Mussolini, and Stalin put together. It was so large and demanding [who pays for it and how?] that it was to embarrass the USN [champion of Japan's defeat] and the Australian Government, costing millions to sustain it on station. If you want to see a full list have a look at this URL  <>.

It is obvious that the arrival in the far east of the Auriga would have "missed the boat" - pardon the pun - indeed, by the time she got on station at Manus, Japan, mainly at  the hands of the USA, was well and truly beaten for all times to come.  The proverbial sword of the Samurai was for ever dulled, rendering it as an agricultural tool. 

This led to a disbandment  of the BFP and bit by bit it travelled home, after years upon years of warfare whether in the European theatre, East Indies Station, China Station and then the BPF.  Auriga, new and late on station to fight the Jap's, was diverted from Manus firstly back to the primary base at Garden Island Sydney NSW,  and then  over to the west side of the country to Perth whose port is Fremantle, and there she stayed, as the first resident boat of what became known as the Australian Squadron, the British S/M Squadron 4: SM4 flotilla was created for the China Station at the outbreak of war in 1939.  By the time the Admiralty had agreed to a permanent costed Squadron to be based down-under, which further on became the period of a twenty year commitment, the Auriga was ready to sail back to the UK to join home squadrons, and, as it turned out to be, other commonwealth squadrons, in this case, in Canada [two full commissions] and in Singapore. Auriga, with me onboard went to both, firstly to Canada, to the 6th Squadron [1963-1964, twenty months on station] and then to Singapore to the 7th for yet another twenty months on station commission. In both cases, I took my wife, and in Halifax Nova Scotia, our eldest son Steven was born on the 6th September 1963 in Halifax infirmary, born to dual nationality. Mind you, don't run away thinking of an RA's haven - that it certainly was not - in either Nova Scotia or in Singapore, but better to see one's wife every six weeks or so than every 18 months of so! Only the strike carriers [Eagle and Ark Royal] did more sea time than we did!

Back in Australia and in the early days of the 4th down under, with Mum [HMS Adamant in the west on Perth [Fremantle] this URL remembers the very early days! .....mainly for picture of HMS Adamant down under with her boats!

 This is the navy list command order of December 1945.  Note apart from Pitt and Gibbon, career RN officers, the rest of the wardroom was Temporary RN,  RNR or RNVR, including "Engines" Lieutenant Laidlaw.
Note the WW2 difference in terminology. The CO of Auriga has 'act' behind his name/post nominal of DSO, and as always in the navy, officer or rating, this meant ACTING. Acting time was either an expedient [an officer is required for a specific purpose/time at the end of which he would revert to his substantive rank in this case to a lieutenant], or, which was the case here, the officer would work through a probationary period [say, 12 months] when his substantive rank would be confirmed a lieutenant commander. Now note the word TEMPY before Lieutenant Laidlaw's name and indeed again for the other officers in the boat. This meant TEMPORARY, for the duration of the war only. Whilst it is obvious that Reservists called up for the war only [HO's] who are civilians, would be discharged as soon as the war ended, and irrespective of any promotion gained, it would still be a temporary only rank, it is not so obvious that a professional RN officer would hold a temporary rank. Nevertheless it was the case. When a professionally trained and qualified officer is commissioned who subsequently leaves the Service, he is allowed to use the post nominal "RN Rtd" signifying Royal Navy retired. It is a common occurrence that a retired naval officer reenters the Service in a lesser role, say, a clerical role assuming the title of an RO, RO meaning retired officer: typically there are RO3's, RO2's and RO1's depending up what job they do on reentering, the RO1 being the senior of the three: typically a retired rear admiral might come back as an RO1 whilst a retired lieutenant commander might become an RO3. Such an officer uses, or can use the initials  RN after his name [but not an admiral of whatever rank, none of whom used the initials RN], for after all he is now re-serving and thus is entitled to use his old commission. In a case where an officer has retired and feels duty bound to reenter [a war has started for example] and for whatever reasons, in retirement didn't become an officer in the RNR or RNVR, he can reenter, with both he and the navy understanding that he is only coming back to lend a hand for the duration of the war, nothing more. In this case he is reentering on a Temporary basis. Thus we have Temporary RN, RNR and RNVR ranks. Clearly, from the uncropped photograph above of the CO and the EO together, the EO is wearing naval stripes and without the letter 'R' in his loops, so he is RN and nothing less. From the navy list we see that he was commissioned as a Temporary Lt [E] to date the 21st January 1942, and no doubt that the navy would have been very grateful for his expertise. I am of the opinion that had he been a Lieutenant [E] before retiring, he would have been a submariner! From years of personal experience, submarines are 80% engineering, mechanical or electrical, and 20% other things: it was traditional that 'Engines' was the officer in charge of both branches of engineering. However, he is not listed in the Navy List back to 1930, so I cannot vouch for his pedigree!



4th S/M Squadron based in Australia. Traditionally, the 4th was always manned by 'T' Class boats but the squadron was started by an 'A' Class boat, the Auriga. For some inexplicable reason, simple I am sure, those who have written the internet story about the 4th Squadron have ignored dear old Auriga in their record, an error I thought I had better correct for all posterity. Note the colour of her stanchions and her forward casing in the area of her tubes - the shape of a mouth.

Before continuing, I had better explain why I said "dear old Auriga" in the preceding paragraph.  I had two full commissions in this boat both as the radio supervisor, and all in all, served for nearly four years in her. It wasn't always fun or happy times, but it was my home for a long period so it was sensible that I came to terms with the bad times and to hang my hat on the good times, which as always in all things in life, were the majority of times. We had two bad/poor/indifferent skippers Roger Venables and Ken "get me up" Bromback as far as the crew were concerned [but of course highly competent so no comments on that score] and two gentlemen, two toff's  M.R. Wilson and John Round-Turner. Sadly we lost Mike Wilson because his wife had a nervous breakdown after the loss of USS Thresher which we attended to act as a decompression chamber should any of those poor bastards manage to escape: they didn't and 129 men perished. In addition to that we had two first  lieutenant's, one a wicked disaster M.J. Casserly, who was thrown out of boats, and later, as a two and a half ringer, became a coastal  sweeper CO, only to die at a relatively young age, and then a charming, roguish but pragmatic 'Jimmy' called Scouse Burkhill. He failed his perisher but was the ideal No1 in a boat.   We also had the sheer privilege of having John Coward as our Pilot [and as such the SCO and my boss] and everybody pan navy,  got on well with this delightful officer.  Just as a marker, I have already mentioned two things that Auriga did that I don't think any other boat did in modern times e.g. 1960 onwards. Incidentally, Casserly caused a mutiny whilst in the 6th S/M squadron which came to a head when on one of our regular visit to Bermuda and Ireland Island.

See < >

 The Auriga came home from the Far East having set up the 4th S/M Flotilla in Australia in 1946.

This from the Times Newspaper of the 14th  October 1948.

At that time she had been away foreign for nearly three years leaving UK in late December 1945. The 4th was part of the China Fleet firmed-up as a large flotilla at the outbreak of WW2 in 1939. It had several bases during the war until in October 1944 it moved to Perth Western Australia with the depot ship HMS Adamant. Auriga arrived in the Far East when the 4th was based on Hong Kong and saw post war service in Japanese waters, in the China Seas and in Australian water. In 1947/8 [1st Dec 1947 to 23rd June 1948] at Hong Kong she had her first major refit at which time her Snorkel system was fitted. Very soon thereafter she returned to the UK and her first commission ended viz, 24th Sep 1945 to 14th October 1948. During this commission she had four commanding officers Lt Cdr AJW Pitt DSO, Lt R.Banner-Martin DSC, Lt D.W. Mills DSC and Lt J.N. Elliott.


Her second commission was a brief one from June 1948 until 17th May 1949, and Lt J.N. Elliott brought her home to Portsmouth.


She was placed under the command of Commander S/M HMS Dolphin [Commander J.B. de B Kershaw DSO [20th October 1948 until 17th May 1949].


Because of acute manpower shortages she was paid-off and placed into reserve at Portsmouth for the period May 1949 until January 1950.


In January 1950 until 1st November 1950 she underwent her second refit in the Portsmouth Yard RGP.


Her third commission was from 27th October 1950 until 26th May 1952 at Portland in the 2nd Squadron with Maidstone as the resident Depot ship. Again, she had four commanding officers Lt C.M. Harwood, Lt Cdr T.S. Weston  DSO DSC, Lt Cdr D.Hay and for a brief period only [7th January 1952 to 26th May 1952] Lt Cdr J.A.L. Wilkinson DSC. She did her work up for this commission at Portland. In 1951 under Lt Cdr T.S. Weston DSO DSC, during Exercise SW6 [Phase 3] she did a so-called controlled crash drive and clouted the bottom of the Mediterranean slightly damaging the keel.  In July she did a docking backing at her base [Portland] and the CO was relieved by Lt Cdr D. Hay.  September 1951 marked the 50th anniversary of the submarine service: it was also the great Festival of Britain in London. To mark these occasions, Auriga with Acheron visited London at Shadwell Basin from the 18th until the 28th September. The visit was a great success for every reason.

Visit to London.
An excellent picture [sorry about the poor resolution and grainy effect of a newspaper article] of Auriga [inboard - see note below] and Acheron [outboard] showing the stern aspects of the 'A' Class before the conversions were started, in London's Shadwell Basin Dock entered via a cranked-up roadway. Acheron was one of the late build of the class [1948] and as Auriga was a one-off [in several ways] Acheron was the sixth naval vessel to carry that name. Acheron and Auriga share at least one thing. After the sad loss of the Affray, admirals were ill at ease with the 'A' boat snort system, whether added after build or incorporated into a build - Auriga for example in Hong Kong. There were four occasions, when the admiral's held their breaths, and all were SUBMISS' caused by radio communication problems/failures. The first was Alcide in 1954, then Acheron in 1956, followed by Artemis in 1963 and finally Auriga in 1967. This picture of Auriga's snort gives an excellent view of what was involved. The after casing abaft the bridge superstructure was too narrow to rest the lowered external snort tube on to. So, a soft-buffer was welded onto the top of the port ballast tanks and the mast laid on the ballast tanks trapped in by the buffer. Acheron has just arrived  [her bridge still fully manned] and if you look ahead between the boats you will see that the brow has been placed. There is another inboard brow connecting the jetty to Auriga. Visitors on open-days will cross these brows to visit the boats. You can see a sailor standing just behind the snort-head buffer on Auriga's casing and he is preparing the canvas scroll on which will be the words 'HMS ACHERON' and this will be tied to the brow' guard rail.  Now look further aft, and the first thing you will see is the proverbial square-back of the casing and below it the "sting in the tail" namely two stern torpedo tubes. Now look into the water between the boats and you will see two round structures. These are 'plane-guards' and protect the hydroplanes below by stopping vessels coming too close to the submarine. Finally, although I have my tongue in my cheek as I joke about this, note the back end on Auriga and the "steps-up" she has? - the extra rung on the ladder leading to the casing from the sea.  Please don't take it too seriously though! In the ten days they were there, eight of them were public visiting days, and between the two boats they got through nearly 5,000 wide eyed, raring to go, joyous visitors, which is about high-end of 75 visitors per hour @ 4 hours per day per boat 1200 to 1600 = 64 hours in total. What an advert for the Royal Navy but especially the 50 year old submarine service?

NOTE: The senior officer always berths alongside with junior officers outboard, ergo SO slips last. The CO of Auriga was Lt Cdr D. Hay RN [seniority 1947] who became a commander three years after the visit on 31.12.1954 and died 3rd September 1976. The CO of Acheron was Lt Cdr R.M. Stamford [some reports say Stafford] RN [seniority 1950] died 25th February 1990, having retired as a Lt Cdr, but both names in the Navy List carry the same personal details!

In 1951 Auriga scored another first, and moreover, something quite unique.  Read this story:-


Her third refit was in the Devonport Yard RGD  between 4th June 1952 and 17th December 1953.


The fourth commission [5th Mar 1953 to 17th December 1954] saw the previous CO resume command [J.A.L. Wilkinson DSC] running to 5th July 1954, serving in the 3rd Squadron based North at Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, one of Prince Charles' Royal Titles. Auriga was present at the Coronation Spithead Review in June 1953. She had two further CO's, Lt Cdr S. Jenner and Lt D.G. Hardy in that commission.


The next refit, her fourth, was at the Chatham Yard RGC  29th March 1955 to 24th August 1956. This involved an interim fin fit, almost a test bed for five years time or thereabouts. See how vastly different she is to the 1951 London visit picture. Still no sonar dome right forward on the bow and note that the casing has been modified so that now the snort mast can rest on it and not on the ballast tanks, but the snort head [ball] still fits snuggly into a buffer now part of the casing. Note how high the submarine's name plate is situated, right on top of the fin. The conning position is now approximately 23 feet above the sea so not so wet in rough weather. Note the gantry sited aft and no, it is not for pull-ups or a high-bar antics - swinging that is. It supports the new HF/MF transmit and receive W/T aerial, necessary now that the jumping wire has gone. It was a complicated wire aerial and required much maintenance.


Her fifth commission was to be a full two year one [24th August 1956 to August 1958] and throughout its CO was the so-called "much feared" Lt Cdr M.R. Todd.  I never served with him so I can't comment, but I can well remember the submarine wardroom stewards telling tall tales about his demands upon them!


Her fifth refit was back at the Devonport Yard RGD commencing August 1958 to July 1959.


Auriga's sixth commission was in the 6th Squadron based on Halifax Nova Scotia Canada 25th July 1959 to May 1961. Very little changed on the interim-fin of the previous commission and the casing was the same also. Like nearly all boats [including my commission] boats crossing the Atlantic got a good bashing resulting in the aluminum casing being almost stripped of its protective paint. This is Auriga preparing [see heaving lines in hand ready] to come alongside in Halifax. She has already passed St George's Island and has passed under the Angus L McDonald Bridge which connects Halifax with the town of Dartmouth. When we arrived in early 1963, our CO took us to Newfoundland to St Johns first where we were able to paint ship, arriving in Halifax looking as though we flew the pond instead of sailing it!  A "normal" commission across the pond, taking into account working its long North American sea coasts and trips to places like Bermuda is 36,000 miles.


That squadron was operational from 1955 until 1965/7?, and as you will see, Auriga was lucky enough to have two bites of the cherry. Her CO was Lt Cdr H.J. Bickford-Smith. In this commission her pennant number was S09. Click on these two files -


Her sixth refit was done at Devonport RGD May 1961 until May 1962. This is when I first joined the boat in October 1961 ex submarine 'TURPIN' !

Now that's more like it -  a SMART fin, oh, and posh Dome!  Straight from the Yard looking brand new and take note of the streamlined casing with all those silly guardrails now gone. Although it looks like it, the name has gone [from the top of the fin - when displayed, it appears towards the bottom of the fin in the widest part. Note our new pennant number with the '0' gone, replaced by a '6'. The new smart aerial is called an AWO and is power raised and lowered from inside the submarine. It requires much less maintenance and the new loop aerial have been built into the top of the fin for VLF reception when dived. The black things on the AWO are farings and they swivel in sympathy with the state and direction of the sea breaking the waves to lessen the turbulence of the metal tube which supports the farings so as to make it less obvious [to aircraft] that we are at periscope depth sending or/and receiving  W/T signals at high frequencies {short-wave}. When on the surface, the AWO is usually lowered so that it is parallel to the sea, and only raised when dived and at periscope depth - exceptions to this were when a height of aerial advantage helped to achieve good or better communications. See picture below this one, taken in a Scottish Loch during a workup on the Clyde. Note how the casing party have fallen out and are climbing over the gun hatch into the low fin door and then into the control room.

Before we left Devonport for our Canadian commission in January 1963 we had another first for Auriga.  We were the first 'A' Boat to do trials [in October 1962]  with the MK23 wire-guided torpedo, which proved to the Admiralty that 'A' Boats could fire these without  modifications to the Class.

Have a look at this piece of submarine history SUBMARINE AURIGA 1962 TRIALS WITH MK23 TORPEDOES.pdf
NOTE: A recent book called "ROYAL NAVY SUBMARINE 1945-1973 [A-Class - HMS Alliance]"  Published by Haynes Publishing -  ISBN 978 0 85733 770 2 Copyright Peter Goodwin 2015, shows, on page 108, a Table for A-CLASS TORPEDO SPECIFICATION. Regrettably it doesn't show the Mk 23 Torpedo! It also shows the open door of the W/T office showing the main transmitter, the Type 623, but it also shows civilian equipment left by the Radio HAMS [naval and others] using callsign GB0SUB, who used the Alliance between her final decommissioning and its appointment as the main exhibit of the Submarine Museum.


This picture below shows Submarine Astute returning from patrol in the West Atlantic coming alongside Auriga in Halifax.  By now you should have noted the small front dome on the bow of both boats meaning a boat of the sixth commission late 1962 or early 1963. The carrier is HMCS Bonaventure always based on Halifax with it associated air station ashore at HMCS Shearwater.

And finally, a Force 2/3 sea after ten continuous days of force 8 gusting to Force 9 - the winter of 1962 going into the start of 1963 was the worst one on record and the mighty Atlantic showed its anger to the full!  The boat is badly knocked about with several defects not to mention a few personal injuries. 



The seventh commission lasted from 31st May 1962 until October 1964.

It started with trials - post refit -  and then a work-up on the Clyde based on Faslane.  We returned to Devonport after the work-up and on the 6th August 1962 I got married to my bride now [in 2017] of 55 years. We became odd-job men, supporting anti-submarine training in the Devonport/Channel areas culminating in a large submarine presence in Falmouth Bay with FOSM embarked in the depot ship HMS Adamant, where this picture was taken:-

Auriga is on the after port trot, third outboard. Boats came from the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Squadrons, fifteen boats in all.

That was followed by two whacks in Londonderry berthed on the River Foyle [when not in the Irish Sea] on its depot ship HMS Stalker [30th September to 8th October and later in that month for two further weeks until the 16th November 1962].  Although Stalker was inside a heavily fortified compound, we crew members could walk into Derry, go to dances crowded by shirt factory girls/women and the only risk of trouble is when a submariner dated [or tried to date] a local girl already in the eye of a local boy. In 1962 the IRA were politically active but the 'para' part wasn't,  and there were no incidents whilst we were there. We did our final odd-jobs at Blockhouse/Portsmouth and Portland sea areas in November, and then spent virtually the whole of December '62 preparing for our deployment to the 6th in Halifax Nova Scotia.

Again it was back to Canada to our base HMS AMBROSE where Cdr S/M [Cdr Ken Vause RN] another of life's gentlemen, had his shore offices in the CANCOMFLAGLANT main building [Canadian Commander Flag officer Atlantic].  In this commission our pennant number was S69 -see links above for sixth commission.  One of the gross tales about the Atlantic-crossing of the "pond" was the defects we experienced and the Atlantic weather conditions. Imagine, if you can, that the toilets [the 'heads'] of the Auriga failed mid-Atlantic. The toilets were a tank into which pee and poo passed called "slop drain and sewage tank". When it was full, the contents were BLOWN to sea by a injection of compressed air.  When the blowing was completed, the excess air, now polluted with sewage smells, was vented [released] into the air circulating inside the submarine. With that facility now shut off, the boat had to be kept on the surface, and sailors wanting "to go" had to creep inside the sailfin via the lower pressure hull lid, and there inside the giant fin, protected from the ravages of the sea, relieve themselves.   Believe me, whilst we could and did relieve ourselves, we were wet through by Atlantic rollers often bringing our own and somebody else's solids back face-wise.  It's the only time when ratings and officers crapped alongside one another.   The ERA in charge of these systems plus "Engines" the engineering officer, were not flavour of the month, nay, they were sent to Coventry!  Our first port of call on the North American continent was at St Johns Newfoundland, and there high powered steam hoses were brought to bear to flush out any remaining sewage resting on the ballast tanks/pressure hull. When that task had been completed, the boat received a quick coating of shiny black paint ready for our 'state' arrival in Halifax a few days later. During this commission which saw the assassination of JFK, the new RCN Ensign in lieu of the White Ensign,  and much talk about getting rid of the National Anthem to the horror of many Canadians; nevertheless "Oh Canada" did come to fruition.  We spent long periods away from base and visited many US Ports including several visits to New York [Brooklyn], Boston Navy Yard and Norfolk Va.  The USS Thresher, the down-point of our commission sank off Boston. We also had a near fatal death in the boat when one of the fore-ends lads complained of stomach pains which grew steadily worse until an emergency casevac [casualty evacuation] was requested.  We were off Bermuda when this giant Chinook chopper arrived for the Neil Robertson stretcher winch from the top of the fin, the swell being too long for a transfer from the casing.  I talked to the chopper crew with my type 86M VHF W/T set, and I could sense the sheer difficulty of this transfer and that nerves were on edge. I couldn't see what was going on but the noise in the control room was loud enough to suggest that it was a touch and go evolution. Much praise was given by the CO on completion of the task for the U.S., aviators. The chopper came from the USAF/USN base called KINDLEY which was quite close to the capital of Hamilton. Later when alongside at Ireland Island in Bermuda, the CO and 1st Lt visited our man in hospital where they were told that our man might have been in the morgue had we waited half and hour later. Seemingly he had a bad bought of Peritonitis They also told the CO that this rescue was probably the first ever achieved by a Chinook which had been in service on the Island for barely one year. Another first for Auriga ? Not only did our man get a free lift in the largest helicopter in the world - a marvel at that time - he was also flown back to Halifax where he rejoined the boat after a weeks sick leave from HMCS Stadacona's sick quarters.

We brought the boat home, calling in at Devonport first, and then onto HMS Dolphin [Blockhouse] Gosport Hants. After a week or so, we took the boat to Devonport RGD for her next refit where we said goodbye to her.   I left the boat on the 30th October 1964 to join Dolphin spare crew, but went to sea in Grampus [S04] and other 1st S/M boats, so no rest for the wicked! During this commission we had three CO's, Lt Cdr M.R. Wilson who left us prematurely and in a rush to return to the UK with his very ill wife ex the dreadful USS 'Thresher' disaster [sunk 10th April 1963 with the loss of 129 men] - I well remember setting W/T watch with USS Skylark, the SOSF [Senior Officer Search Force] although in truth she was the deep dive tender and sat almost immediately above Thresher as she fell to the bottom of the Atlantic:  it was a very unnerving experience for me although after setting watch with her, little or no traffic passed between us!  Lt Cdr Wilson's place was taken approximately three weeks after Thresher's sinking  by SOSM to CDR SM6 [Senior Officer Submarines to Commander of the 6th submarine squadron] an officer already in Canada in HMS Ambrose, while an officer from the UK would speedily be appointed. The in situ officer was Lt Cdr J.M. Haigh-Lumby CO from 10th June '63 to 2nd July '63 [less than one month].  Unfortunately, in that period whilst in Halifax harbour, we collided with the Canadian frigate HMCS Swansea on the 24th June,  and had to be repaired to put right relatively minor damage.  The UK officer was Lt Cdr K.A.Bromback who seemed to sit on the search periscope chariot [rotating seat] shouting "get me up..get me up" in parrot fashion, as he saw the waves washing over the top of the raised periscope. This was a criticism for the OOW and the 1st Lt [for trimming purposes] and for the fore-planes man [a junior rating] whose job was to control the depth of the dived boat, whereas the senior rating [me included on a rota base when not doing things in the Wireless Telegraphy Office] controlled the angle of the boat with the after-planes [planes meaning hydroplanes]. From the looks this CO used to give everybody in the control room, made one wonder whether he knew where the depth was controlled from? K.A. Bromback joined us on the 2nd July 1963.


Devonport RGD again for its seventh refit October 1964 to September 1965. I rejoined Auriga in May 1965 


Whilst up north in Faslane for our next work-up, we once again met HMS Stalker, the Derry depot ship of our last work-up. This time she was the Faslane-compound mess for the nuclear trained engine room artificers and SM10 was becoming senior to SM3?

Our next commission, the eighth from 7th October 1965 to 7th May 1968 saw us once again in foreign waters, this time based on Singapore on our Depot ship, the LCT [landing craft tank] HMS MEDWAY berthed on the HMS TERROR fleet landing jetty. It was a long commission! Our first CO was Lt Cdr John Round-Turner a gentleman and much admired skipper. He seemed to get the very best out of everybody in the crew  After two years almost to the day, he relinquished his command and made way for our new CO [5th December 1966 to 7th May 1968] one Lt Cdr R.M. Venables. Compared to J R-T, he was a disaster. Later in the commission, we saw HMS Forth [ex Malta depot ship] arrive in the Johor Straits as our new Depot ship.  We greatly missed our old depot ship and the convenience of its berth and the quite efficient ways of our Commander SM7, now instead,  having the full measure of a Captain SM7 and the inconvenience of having to catch a boat to and from our submarine. Things were definitely going down hill morale-wise! 

This is one of my favourite memento's from this commission which proudly hangs on the wall of my little museum. It is a framed water colour showing Auriga on the way to 'Tamar Wharf' and her berth in central Hong Kong [Victoria], next to the old naval dockyard which had shut down a few years previously, very handy for HMS Tamar, the Commcen, China Fleet Club and Wanchai. Apart from the boat itself, it shows the boats crest, its name and a pen and ink sketch of the boat as built bottom left hand corner. It is painted by a clever Chinese artist.  Certainly a job for Mary's side part on arrival, and a change of colour to jet black from boring old pusser's grey! Regrettably, me showing you my picture doesn't do it any favours, for the frame is of good quality and the painting is vibrant and most colourful to the eye. For example the junk close in on the starboard bow shows a Chinese family busy at work.

Below, from Auriga's last commission I show her entering Portsmouth Harbour with her paying-off pennant flying proudly; this time it is filmed by an amateur. Here, in my second commission in her, I show her arriving home from the pen ultimate commission, the final one which would be UK based but wandering into places like the Mediterranean.  Watch the movie in this webpage

We had some funny turns, the best [or is that the worst] when the Forth fitted us with a new propeller which was known to cavitate badly? Once fitted, we were ready to put to sea and we were closed-up at harbour stations with the Coxswain on the wheel and in full control of the telegraph orders for the main motors. The CO ordered a slow astern, but the boat went forward and he rounded on the Coxswain like a man possessed. The Coxswain followed and repeated his every order in the standard format/procedure,  and could not have possibly misunderstood a bridge order. The CO repeated his order and the same movement occurred.  It was soon recognised that the screw had been put on backwards, and divers were sent down again to uncouple and recouple the boss' placing the propellers as they should have been placed  in the first place i.e., port 'prop being left handed and the starboard right handed.  Our sailing could have been justifiably cancelled until the following day and leave could have been granted as appropriate, but no, almost as if he was punishing us the crew for this embarrassment, he insisted on sailing immediately the wrong was righted.  I know these things as the radio supervisor of a boat ? We were sailing for a generous period of INDEX [independent exercises] before rendezvousing with a SEATO fleet for a big exercise off the Cocus Island NW Australia , so we had plenty of time to fulfill our drills and we were under no pressures of any sort.  In the 1967 period we sank a merchant vessel with 2 x Mk8 torpedoes when our boat was crowded with egg-head scientists and a boat load of listening equipment to record break-up noise: the sunken vessel had been arrested and captured during the Korean War [1950-53] languishing firstly in Hong Kong and then in the vicinity of SNB [Singapore Naval Base].  Another first in the Far East for the submarine service in peacetime.  Then we were the only submarine at the major fleet assembly for the Aden Withdrawal, another first. On our way back to Singapore we triggered a real live East of Suez Submiss! At the end of the commission in 1968 the Suez Canal had been closed to clear it of sunken vessels and hazards to navigation. We were one of only a tiny amount of ships in the RN ordered home via the Panama Canal [others, even boats in or own Squadron - Submarine Anchorite for example  -  went home via the Cape twenty four hours before we sailed, which meant we stopped over at more interesting places that one doesn't see homeward bound via the Suez or Cape routes, including places like Honolulu [Pearl Harbour], Acapulco, Guam, Kingston Jamaica*1, Bermuda, Ponta Delgada on São Miguel Island, Azores*1

*1. These were original planned visits, but for some reason they were cancelled. 

Whilst attempting to surface in a huge Pacific Ocean swell we had the guard-boards of our top of fin port-starboard loop aerial sited aft - see drawing below -  {feeding a device inside the pressure hull known as a Cathode Follower Type ALF], smashed to pieces which damaged the loops spreading many scores of meters of aerial wire cable around and down the sides of the sailfin.  Fortunately, the forward and aft loop aerial and its guard boards [sited centrally], half to port and half to starboard on the top of the fin, were intact and remained throughout operational.  In atrocious weather conditions with me in the top back of fin with the POREL John Shuttlewood trying to salvage as much of the loop aerial and the wooden forma onto which it was wound transformer style, as possible, with the boat rolling and rocking like a bedeviled crazy horse, we were able "to save" SOME of the VLF aerial interface.  We had to cut free some of that impeding the main wireless aerial [the AWO] which when parked, hung at 90º over the starboard rear-side of the after fin. When raised {after diving} it pointed north [was upright] and providing that the boat was shallow enough and the AWO was not awash, it could send and receive radio signals in Morse code world wide whilst submerged. Thereafter, when we wanted to receive our VLF radio messages, we had to ask the CO to point the boat to the compass true bearing which gave us the loudest signal i.e., at the UK or to wherever we were getting our traffic from e.g., a USN shore source or a Canadian source, but the latter only LF  [low frequency instead of very low frequency] which didn't penetrate the earth surface as well as VLF did to any great extent. This LF source complicated matters further, so the CO had to come shallow, often dangerously so, as well as taking the boat off-track meaning that our rendezvous' were regularly altered as were our ETA's at various ports.


We brought the boat back home direct to Gosport to HMS Dolphin the home of the 1st Squadron, where we stayed for four days. Then off to Chatham RGC to leave Auriga there to prepare the boat for refit No 8.

Refit No 8 lasted from May 1968 until May 1969 and was said to be a short one to prepare Auriga for what was to be her last commission?

1967 and the ADEN withdrawal. The lone submarine Auriga defends a quite large fleet of ships {LPD, LPH, Strike Carriers, RFA [L] [S] [A], FF and DD, CMS} approximately half of it only is shown!

See also this for other pictures

After our long journey to Aden, on-task time for the withdrawal and long journey back to Singapore our base, things in the boat were beginning to get fraught, with tempers near to surfacing but not quite manifesting, morale low, yes, and no relaxation or run ashore for a couple of months, our arrival at base was an escape to freedom, nothing less. Add to that it was Christmas 1967. A group of engine room lads [stokers and tiffies or a 'mech at least] decided to hire a car to get out and about up country in Malaysia. I don't know the full story, but whilst only still in Johor Bahru [always called JB] just a couple of miles away from the Singapore Naval Base submariners mess at Rimau on the main road running from HMS Terror main gate to Rotherham Gate and the JB causeway, their hired car crashed and one of our engine room mechanicians [Ben Benham] was killed instantly. Ben had only been part of the crew for the Aden Withdrawal trip just completed when he died, wanting only to stretch his legs after being pent-up for so long - he was also a very big lad and the tiffies mess in an 'A' boat is to say the least, very very small. It came as a shock to all of us and morale took another hit which we were not prepared for.  I found myself thumbing the pages of QR & AI looking for instructions on how to signal a report of a fatality to the UK who's sad job it would be to inform Ben's next of kin. I drafted the necessary signal for the CO to clear and sign which he did, I believe, with a heavy heart. Christmas proper came and went, and immediately afterwards, the funeral was arranged in Singapore at which most of the ships complement attended.  Ben's wife and her sister flew out to attend and that was a harrowing time for us all. The funeral was in Mount Vernon and Ben was cremated. 

AURIGA had another first in Britsh submarine history - see below.


As long ago as 1921 France had built and was employing a very successful break-through on the use of radio frequency.

It was built a few miles SSE of Paris at a place called St Assise and very close to the River Sein.  The build had been completed and inaugurated  by 1921 It was the most powerful transmitter in the world, and indeed, it covered the whole world.

At first it was used to broadcast light entertainment [opera] to those lucky enough to have a suitable receiver, and thereafter it became France’ centre of experimental television transmission.

In 1941, the German surface navy [the Kriegsmarine] commandeered it so that Berlin could signal U-Boats no matter where in the world they were operating.

For some unknown reason the Allies did not bomb St Assise even though they were fully aware of the use of the VLF transmitter and its massive aerials.

In 1954 the French PTT [Post, Telegraphs and Telephones] took over the site and the function, none the worse for wear whilst under German command.

As late as 1991, seventy years after its inauguration, France Telcom sold a large part of the site and its functionality to the French Navy becoming Marine Communications Centre [MCC] St Assise,  who thereafter used in to control all dived French submarines. By 1998, the whole site had become a Military terrain.

The site ownership reverted back to commerce, and is now owned by the Mobile Telephone group Orange.

In 2000 much of its aerial masts and arrays were dismantled.

St Assise’ British competitor was Rugby VLF transmitter,  which first came on line in 1926 being the centre core-shell of world-wide transmissions to Australia and other Commonwealth countries in what was the very famous [but largely forgotten today] Imperial Wireless Chain. It wasn’t until the very early 1950’s [roughly at the time of these trials conducted by British submarines ‘Teredo’ and ‘Sentinel] that Rugby started its long association with signalling, by landline direct from the Admiralty in London to the Rugby station, and automatically uploaded to VLF without Rugby being involved in any way with the signal traffic flow, subsequently for the reception by British submarines operating at a distance of 2000 miles from Rugby at a dived keel depth of approximately 70 feet. It also carried the world famous international time check using an atomic clock, but this was transmitted on short wave [High Frequency] world wide, a crucial ‘device’ for the assisting in the global astro-navigation for all vessels, naval and mercantile.

Now, consulting my list of fixed and land stations published by the ITU in August 1932 in Berne Switzerland we see that the French Station at St Assise transmitted on VLF a CW [Continuous Wave = A1] on 15.22 kc/s which equals a wavelength of 19710 meters using a callsign of FTU. Listed against this station are many other frequencies/wavelengths/times/callsigns/emissions using A2 = MCW and A3 = DSB Voice. No power output [to the aerial from the PA stages of the transmitter] is recorded.  At the same time [1932] Rugby is listed for VLF as callsign GBR – A1 = Morse Code – 16 kc/s = 18750 wavelength meters in excess of 15.000 Watts [15kW]. She too has great diversity for many other services, ranging from 20Mc/s down to 16kc/s.

Fast forward now to 1953 and to the wireless offices of H.M. Submarine Teredo  and H.M. Submarine Sentinel. These two boats were tasked to report on the readability [signal strength and interference levels [QSA and QRK] at varying distance  from the transmitter and at varying dived depths.  The two separate reports do not go to make an interesting read [so I won’t bother!] and are simply data entries under the following headings:-

Course and Speed
Relative position and distance from St Assise = 2 – 34 - 00 East : 48 – 32 - 07.10 North
Submarine keel depth
Sea State – Surface
Sea State – Sub Surface, thermal layer temperatures and salinity of area of operation. For example, the Mediterranean is @ 3.8% [salinity] with the Baltic just @ 1%. The Black Sea [off the Mediterranean is 1.3% to 2.3% - both the Atlantic and the Pacific @ 3.5% - Red Sea @ 3.6% to 4.1%% [the highest salinity in an area used extensively by vessels of the Royal Navy, and as one might expect, the Dead Sea [not used at all !, has the highest salinity coming in @ 33%

Readability of Morse code signals = QRK measured as between 0 and 5
Strength of Morse code signals = QSA measured as between 0 and 5
QRK takes into account interference, and a signal without interference can be recorded as QRK5 even when the QSA is say only 3.

However, it is very clear that both Rugby [GBR] and St Assise [FTU]  were being compared on a like-for-like basis, with no doubt  that national pride was involved.  There is no record on whether French submarines were evaluating the Rugby system.

 This is the National Archives file [at Kew]:

Submerged reception trials of French VLF transmission from St Assise - reports from HM Submarines...

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Details of ADM 1/24775


ADM 1/24775


Submerged reception trials of VLF transmission from St Assise reports from HM Submarines Teredo and Sentinel



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Open Document, Open Description


HM S/M AURIGA, as part of SM7 based on Singapore,  was the first British submarine to “test the waters” on a VLF system built into NW Australia at North West Cape by the United States of America.

For far too long a period, Rugby VLF did not provide a service for British submarines stationed in Squadrons well outside that 2000 miles range/70 feet dived keel depth criteria as stated above  e.g. SM6 [Halifax Nova Scotia] – SM4 [Sydney NSW] – SM7 [Singapore].  Indeed, SM5 [Malta] was the only foreign beneficiary of the service. In SM7, LF Broadcast facilities were provided by Singapore Commcen [GYL] whereas in SM4 and in SM6, British submarines relied on host nations LF [Low Frequency] stations i.e.,  Canada and Australia, and in either case,  LF signals did not penetrate the earth’s surface in the same way that VLF signals did. This meant that submarines often had to come dangerously shallow whilst dived, to receive their traffic, the dangers being collisions with passing ships especially with VLCC’s [very large crude carriers] and of course revealing to the enemy [real of pretend] the position of the submarine and its vulnerability to attack. In particular, having entered the Arabia Sea south of the Red Sea [commonly known as “East Of Suez” and on into the Indian Ocean, submarine reception often became difficult, nay, iffy, with none of the countries bordering this mighty ocean [north, west and east] having  a VLF transmitter which, had there been one, would almost certainly have been controlled by SEATO [South East Asia Treaty Organisation] a sister of the better known NATO, if not wholly by the British manifest in Mauritius and in Singapore. These two British LF services were, in the main, adequate, with Darwin [Northern Australia] available for boats transiting to the Antipodes. It was however, a relatively poor alternative for VLF signalling! Although fleet broadcasts from South Africa were not used by the British [because of the South African problem – Apartheid inter alia] we did use its international ship-shore facilities at Simon’s Town callsign ZSJ to send our outgoing signals.

Auriga was tasked to monitor ‘footprints’ of the NWC [North West Cape] VLF transmitter whilst operating off Western Australia, and  at the same time reading our Broadcast Schedules on LF GYL [Singapore] or, but rarely, on the LF component of Australian fleet broadcasts. I remember that we were often hard-pushed at periscope depth [on an A Class boat =  55 feet keel depth] because of the weak signal or the interference we experienced, whereas on NWC we could receive her VLF signal loud and clear at 75 feet coming shallow to periscope depth from deep. Again, as for the trials conducted by the Teredo and the Sentinel on the French VLF transmitter at St Assise, the resultant records are too boring to replicate here, but heralded in a future promise that any of our boats operating East of Suez would be well served to receive its traffic from NWC. NWC’s frequency is 19.8kHz [with an output of 1,000,000 Watts [1 MegaWatt].

After our trials, we were never to  listen to or monitor this VLF station again on a trial basis. However, on our way home [1968], back to the UK after our commission in the Far East, the Suez Canal was blocked and unusable, so we were routed east-bound across the Pacific Ocean and through the Panama Canal. We were sailed on NWC [the first British submarine to be so] as being our primary receiving station, and remained using her until we arrived in the Atlantic at Bermuda. At that point we chopped to dear old Rugby for the last part of our long voyage.  After our arrival home in the UK in early September 1968, NWC was renamed as the “U.S. Naval Communications Station Harold E Holt, after the Australian Prime Minister who suspiciously disappeared shortly after NWC was commissioned whilst swimming.  See this file   Harold.E.Holt was the Australian Prime Minister at the time of NWC build/commissioning, who mysteriously disappeared shortly afterwards whilst out swimming!

See also this magazine with more pictures.    

Finally, this picture confuses me, and yet it was said to be Auriga going on patrol from Johor Straits Singapore with our depot ship HMS Forth in the background.  Well,  Forth's pennant number was indeed A187 and in her berth in the Straits she always had her bow facing the entrance and exit to the open sea. That means we? are heading for the causeway that connects Singapore with the Malaysia district of Johor Bahru, and there is no exit that way. The boat, whomever, is coming into the Straits [from sea] and can berth on the trots either side of mum, so a turn to starboard comes next. However, she looks as though she's an advert for a paint company, so bright, clean and shiny is she. No paying-off pennant so already an SM7 boat, or she could be joining as a new arrival in which case, after a journey of several thousands of miles, her condition is suspicious! The rig for the Far East is correct [whites all the year round] BUT not for going on patrol in which was standard working rig, blue shirt and shorts with shoes and long stockings [for ratings], changing into "pirate rig" once at sea.  See Note below. It is definitely an Amphion Class boat.  Of the greatest importance is the fact that she doesn't have a gun; gun sponsons yes, but no gun! Thus it cannot be Auriga. Had it been say Malta in summer time, then Forth would have been berthed as she was for her twelve years on the island connected to the TEO jetty on her starboard side, with all her boats on trots on the port side. In any event Malta's boats were usually 'T' Class and none of those had guns fitted, least not at this period. The tree foliage on the far bank of the water-way looks remarkably like the Malaysian jungle we all knew well. Would like to know which boat it was?

NOTE: Pirate rig is any civilian articles of clothing which are comfortable and suitable, taking due account of propriety. Concurrent with this rig is the relaxation on the need to shave!



Her very last commission, No 9 wasn't that short after all, and might have been a tad longer had it not been for her battery fire whilst exercise off Gibraltar when 10 men were injured although the boat made it safely back to harbour - See Note below after this next snippet:-


 The commission started on the 2nd May 1969 under the command of Lieutenant Commander C.J. Meyer [13th March '69 until 18th September '70]. After Auriga he did extremely well becoming a commander and then a captain on 30th June 1986 with an OBE.  His last submarine was the 'bomber' Resolution and his last appointment in the navy was a NATO one, in the Supreme Allied HQ Europe.  He sadly died 4th July 2001.  He was followed by Lieutenant Commander Francis  Worthington 18th September 1970 to 5th November [night of fireworks and merry-making] 1971, who on the 30th December 1980 was promoted to Commander.

NOTE:  The catalyst for getting rid of 'A' Boats came in the next year [1971] when a more serious battery explosion occurred in the submarine Alliance off Portland  when one man was killed and many others badly injured.

In the picture below taken at the boat's last commissioning, I take it that the CO on the right is C.J. Meyer and that next to him I know is R.M. Venables.  Auriga had many CO's [in my time alone, 7th and 8th commissions totalling five] so thin on the ground I would suggest. I regret that I am unable to produce names for the other five officers shown.

Auriga under way on the surface probably just on leaving harbour ? Note the lack of pennant numbers now adopted to stop boats being tracked as they travel from one area of operations to another. The reason for showing the photograph is to show an 'A' boat [currently at harbour stations] but certainly shut off from diving, so, is it alongside a trot next, or is it the start of passage routine? You can always tell! When an 'A' boat is at sea [away from its base] and has all its main vents [including Q] cottered, then the standard practice is for the emergency W/T transmit/receive aerial to be raised to its full length. It is called an "AWJ" and is 25' 6" when fully erected. It has no function for the W/T office unless of course the main W/T aerial is damaged or defective, but for the boat, its job is to fly the boats commissioning pennant. Towards the bottom of the raised aerial there is a cage which protects personnel from receiving RF [Radio Frequency] burns to exposed parts of their body in cases when the aerial is in use by the W/T office for sending a signal to either shore or to another afloat vessel in the vicinity. Although a poor quality picture, if you look at the top front of the fin you will see two officers [plus a rating wearing  a submarine jersey with binoculars around his neck] to their right as you view the picture. The cage I mentioned is a black coloured object to the left of the left hand officer as you view the picture, and coming out of the centre of the cage is the 25' 6" long AWJ aerial with a commissioning pennant flying from its top. As soon as the order is given to "open up for diving" that AWJ is lowered back into the fin stowage and the pennant is removed and taken below when the bridge is vacated. In its stowed position it is just 6'8" tall. At this point, the CO can [when ready] order the OOW to come below and shut the upper lid two clips. As soon as the order "shut off from diving" is given and the blower is running, the AWJ with its pennant is erected back to full length.

In October 1971 HMS Belfast, shunned by the Government but bought by a private consortium which handed her over to the Imperial War Museum at Lambeth, was opened to the public in the Pool of London, since when, all warships visiting London, berth on her for the duration of their visit. Before that time, warships, almost all British, which ventured into the Pool berthed at the behest of the Pool-of-London-Authority PLA. Here, Auriga scored another first, for she and her sister Alliance were the first submarines ever to cross under Tower Bridge into the Pool on the 15th June 1971 with sailfins, and to be berthed quite unceremoniously at St Georges Stairs*** - possibly two firsts there? This lovely picture shows Auriga navigating to those Stairs berthing on the 15th June 1971. Few who observed this spectacle realised that this was an old lady heading-up a proud family of now vintage submarines with the P & O Classes, Dreadnought and other nuclear boats [Valiant, Resolution and Churchill Classes] by 1971 commissioned, now leading a totally new innovation, a related family but poles apart from the family of during and immediate post WW2 vintage.   Clearly she is preparing to come alongside with a member of the casing-party ready to strike the Union Jack on the first first rope [head rope] going across.   One of Auriga's famous sisters, submarine 'Andrew', as part of her swan-song, visited the Pool of London in 1974 and berthed on the Belfast. She was named such, after the famous/infamous {you choose} but successful press-ganger Andrew Miller.  Her dived passage across the Atlantic brought her great fame and recognition and so did her role in the moving and disturbing film On The Beach where the film star Gregory Peck was her commanding officer. Andrew was the last surviving boat built during and for WW2.

*** Wherever she/they berthed in the Pool it wasn't at St Georges Stairs as the script supporting the pictures says! In all probability she berthed on a pier [steps/stairs/jetty] forward of where the Belfast berth is now, towards London Bridge on the South Bank. This area is now used for the river-bus and is called London Bridge City Pier. On the River Thames, St Georges Stairs [see map below] are well before and seaward of Tower Bridge directly facing the Isle of Dogs and the Borough of Tower Hamlets not a million miles from Maritime Greenwich. On a second point, visits to London by the Royal Navy, nearly always the Home Fleet or parts thereof, were common place for several kinds of celebrations - Royal Events usually prior to the Spithead Review, end of war celebrations in the Capital, and others - often involving ships as far apart as Southend/Sheerness at the eastern end of the river for our mighty vessels to actually being anchored outside the windows of the Houses of Parliament in central London for our very small vessels! In 1919, the Fleet returned to the Thames and put ashore 40,000 men who took part in London's WW1 Victory Parade.  The most spectacular Navy visit bringing with it no less than 113, yes, 113 vessels with it, was in 1909 [the first of its kind] when the whole of the Home Fleet decamped to Old Father Thames and for a lengthy period. You can see [a large diagram of the berths/disposition of the Fleet] and read text in my web page here:-

  On top of all that a captured German U-Boat was paraded in 1918 for hundreds of thousands of eyes wishing to see in person the evil and murderous German's and it passed through the Pool and on to Temple Pier which is on the North Bank between Blackfriars Bridge and Waterloo Bridge - when we had finished with it,  it was delivered to America who put it on show in New York's central park - there is a Pathe news clip of it on the internet.  Again in WW2 another surrendered U-Boat got as far as the Houses of Parliament. This is a picture of the German U-Boat U776 as it approaches Westminster Bridge in 1945. Like the majority of her sisters, captured or surrendered, she was later sunk off  Malin Head north of Northern Ireland. The procedure on Ensigns [note she is wearing the White Ensign] is that if a boat surrenders, the receiver of that surrender wears the victors Ensign, but if the boat is captured then the victor flies his Ensign above the Ensign of the captured vessel, a sure sign of subjugation.


 Map below taken from this website Page 34, modified by me!


Auriga during her last commission in happier times seen entering Malta's Grand Harbour and her capital Valletta.

After the fire, Auriga was placed in reserve at Devonport arriving on the 5th November 1971. In 1973 she was placed in reserve at Rosyth awaiting disposal. In November 1974 she was sold to J. Cashmore Ltd for breaking up and she left Rosyth in February 1975 for Town Dock Newport Monmouthshire.  Pictures of Auriga suggest that she kept her 4" gun in her last refit and commission.  Why this happened is not clear [given that the gun was fitted for our commission in the Far East 1965-1968] and that for her final deployments it wouldn't be needed. Keeping it was probably one less expense for the Chatham Yard? Andrew is believed to be the last 'A' boat with a 4"/33 QF Mk23 gun and that was fitted at the beginning of 1974?.

This sad picture shows Auriga entering Portsmouth Harbour destined for HMS Dolphin flying her paying-off pennant for the last time in 1971. Note HMS Vernon in background right is still in commission so no Spinnaker Tower or Gun Wharf Quay shopping complex; that HMS Warrior is nowhere to be seen, and that the building industry seems to be thriving.


There were other occasions when submarines entered the Thames sometimes covertly to pick-up special people or cargo's and sometimes overtly for things like a teach-in, in both these examples, for non-submariners facing the excesses of submarine warfare. Here are just two examples, respectively from 1938 and 1939.


This webpage is not intended as a set-in-stone W/T system for all 'A' Class submarines, but it is a good indication of the use and usability of the space provided which we called the W/T office. 

Other bits and pieces about Auriga are dotted around my website!

The 'A' Class was designed and built for far eastern waters.  Had it not been for the ill fated last short commission [commission nine] Auriga would have begun and finished her life in those distant waters with commissions one and eight. The class, or was it the men who served in them, showed its/their versatility by having two commissions in the oft times icy waters of the North Atlantic in what was known as  "blue nose" territory Canada? Thus, counting commissions only and not time, Auriga, in common with some other sisters, spent half her life in very hot waters or very cold waters.  Her final commission could be considered as having operated in the luke warm waters of central/western Mediterranean!

Despite her last commission finishing with a battery fire whilst dived off Gibraltar, it was fortunately that the damage to personnel, although unnerving, was minimal, for it could have so easily been a re-run of the loss of H24 back in 1922 when just five miles off Europa Point Gibraltar. See this link The_Times_1922-03-25 loss of submarine H24 off Europa Point Gibraltar -.jpg


Take care and thanks for reading my page.