[13th May - updated below on HMS Vandal] Inveraray and Dunoon both host today, 12th May, events with a connection to the British armed forces.
This morning Inveraray is seeing the Bluebell Festival’s Trail Run – starting at 11.00am in a mass ‘break out’ from Inveraray Jail’, storming up to the top of Dun na Cuaiche above the town and finishing directly outside Inveraray Castle.
It’s a 4 miles long, 236 metres climb challenge – and this year, for the first time, there is a 2 mile children’s race for 6-13 year olds.
Also – and poignantly – 2013 has taking part members of D company, 5scots, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
They are reenacting the training undertaken by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders during exercises in Inveraray during the second World War.
It is a poignant occasion because ‘The Argylls’ are being disbanded in the current UK defence spending cuts.
In Dunoon at midday there is a ceremony involving a procession by the Scottish Branch of the Submariners Association to Castle Hill, with pipers, and a service at Dunoon Cemetery to mark the 70th anniversary of the loss of the submarine Untamed, sunk with all hands in the Clyde at the end of May 1943.
Yesterday the Submariners were at Lochranza on Arran, conducting a memorial service there for those who died in the sinking of the submarine Vandal, also with all hands, lost a few weeks before the Untamed, in February 1943.
Vandal and Untamed were each newly built submarines, each undergoing sea trials when they went down, each lost to accident rather than to enemy action.
The crew of the Untamed are buried in the cemetery in Dunoon – with the single exception of an Engine Room Artificer [ERA] who is buried in Campbeltown.
Untamed, built by Vickers Armstrong and the only Royal Navy ship to bear the name, was raised, refitted, renamed Vitality and served a working life as a training ship for the rest of the war. She was scrapped in 1946.
She had been acting as a target during an exercise in the Clyde on 30th May 1943. She failed to surface or respond, although sonar ‘heard’ her engines being run and her tanks being blown. It was later discovered that she had been flooded through a sluice valve.
Vandal was never recovered – it was the Scottish Branch of the Submariners Association who were responsible for identifying her correct location.
She had the shortest life of any British submarine, lost only four days after being commissioned.
She too was built at Vickers-Armstrong and was lost at the end of a three day working up operation following her commissioning into the 3rd Submarine Flotilla. based at the Holy Loch in Cowal.
Under the command of Lieutenant James S. Bridger, she was last seen on 24th February 1943, leaving anchorage at Lochranza on the north coast of the Isle of Arran – and was not reported overdue until the following morning.
A spotter plane reported a large oil slick about 2 miles north of Arran but this was ignored at the inquiry, with preference given to a reported sighting of a smoke candle [similar to a maroon] 2.5 miles north of Inchmarnock Island off the west coast of the Isle of Bute.
The oil slick – a major piece of hard evidence – was about 7.5 miles away form Inchmarnock – yet the inquiry concluded that Vandal had sunk during the exercise of a deep dive near Inchmarnock.
No attempt was therefore made to recover here since she was ‘believed’ to be lying in water too deep for such an operation.
Over time, there were reports from a series of trawlers of having their nets snagged by some object lying north of Arran. The Scottish Branch of the Submariners Association eventually persuaded the Royal Navy – in 1994 – to search those waters for Vandal, over 50 years after her loss.
In June of that year, HMS Hurworth [a Hunt-Class Mine Countermeasures ship] led an expedition which located the Vandal – where the spotter plane had reported the oil slick at the tie, She’s lying in pitch black conditions, on a muddy slope, with a 35 degree list to port, 300 feet below the surface, 1.5 miles NW of Loch Ranza.
The letters of her name, in brass, are easily visible and her 12-pounder forward gun is shrouded by fishing nets.
Initial concerns were that human error had taken her down – possibly a failure to secure all the hatches before she dived. It was, though, later shown that she had been on the surface and not submerged when whatever happened happened.
Wikipedia has an account here of later detective work on the wreck [under Subsequent Investigations], which put together from the evidence a plausible hypothesis for her loss – and one which links her loss to that of the Untamed shortly afterwards.
This also includes a note that the harbourmaster at Lochranza had reported seeing smoke candles in what was the same sea area as the spotter plane found the oil slick – which ought to raise even more questions about the competence of the initial inquiry.