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HMS Truculent (P315)
HMS Truculent at Barrow in December 1942
|Builder||Vickers Armstrong, Barrow|
|Laid down||4 December 1941|
|Launched||12 September 1942|
|Commissioned||31 December 1942|
|Fate||Accidentally sunk 12 January 1950|
|Class and type||T-class submarine|
|Length||276 ft 6 in (84.28 m)|
|Beam||25 ft 6 in (7.77 m)|
|Range||4,500 nmi (5,200 mi; 8,300 km) at 11 kn (13 mph; 20 km/h) (surfaced)|
|Test depth||300 ft (91 m) max|
Her bow struck a Swedish oil tanker outside the mouth of the Medway in January 1950. Held primarily responsible, Truculent began to sink – lost 64 men aboard as was ferrying workers as well as carrying her crew – and her wreck was towed to the destined nearby dockyard then sold for scrap.
Regional navigation rules thereafter mandated a Truculent Light – a panoramic white light on the bow of submarines moving under their own power.
Truculent spent much of her World War II wartime service in the Pacific Far East, save for early 1943, operating on the European shelf. Here, in the Norwegian Sea she sank the German submarine U-308 with all hands on its first patrol.
On her transfer to the Pacific, she sank the Japanese army cargo ship Yasushima Maru; the small vessel Mantai; the merchant cargo ship, turned hell ship, Harukiku Maru with 180 of 720 POWs killed and five Japanese sailing vessels. She also laid mines, one of which damaged the Japanese minelayer Hatsutaka.
She survived the war and returned to the United Kingdom to continue in service with the Royal Navy.
On 12 January 1950, Truculent was returning to Sheerness, having completed trials after a refit at Chatham. In addition to her peacetime complement, she was carrying 18 dockyard workers. She was delving into the Thames Estuary at night. At 19:00, a ship showing three lights appeared ahead. It was decided it must be stationary, and because Truculent could not pass to the starboard side without running aground, the order was given to turn to port. At once, the situation became clear; the Swedish oil tanker Divina – on passage from Purfleet and bound for Ipswich – came out of the darkness. The extra light indicated that she was carrying a very combustible cargo. The two collided, the Divina's bow striking Truculent by the starboard bow hydroplane, and remained locked together for a few seconds before the submarine sank.
Fifty-seven of her crew were swept away in the current from a later-deemed premature escape – 15 survivors were picked up by a boat from the Divina and five by the Dutch ship Almdijk. Most of the crew survived the collision and escaped, but died in the freezing cold mid-winter conditions on the mud islands that litter the estuary.
Sixty-four men died. Truculent was salvaged on 14 March and beached at Cheney Spit. The wreck was moved inshore the next day, where 10 bodies were recovered. She was refloated on 23 March and towed into Sheerness Dockyard. An inquiry attributed 75% of the blame to Truculent and 25% to Divina.
Truculent was then sold to be broken up for scrap on 8 May 1950.
Her loss led Peter de Neumann of the Port of London Authority to develop plans for a port control system, and the later introduction of the 'Truculent light', an extra steaming all-round white light on the bow, on British submarines, to ensure they remained highly visible to other ships.
Commemoration in coinciding film
On 21 February 1950, the film Morning Departure was released. The story, of a British submarine on a training cruise that sinks after encountering a loose mine, is told from the perspective of the small group of survivors trapped under the sea. Filming finished shortly before HMS Truculent sank, and the film was almost withdrawn. The decision was made to release the film as planned, and to add the following message that appears in the opening credits:
This film was completed before the tragic loss of HMS Truculent, and earnest consideration has been given as to the desirability of presenting it so soon after this grievous disaster. The Producers have decided to offer the film in the spirit in which it was made, as a tribute to the officers and men of H.M. Submarines, and to the Royal Navy of which they form a part.
- Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) . Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Rev. ed.). London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-281-8.
- Hutchinson, Robert (2001). Jane's Submarines: War Beneath the Waves from 1776 to the Present Day. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-00-710558-8. OCLC 53783010.
- Johnson-Allen, John. They Were Just Skulls, The Naval Career of Fred Henley, Last Survivor of HM Submarine Truculent. Whittles Publishing. ISBN 978-184995-404-4.
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