Author Topic: Operation Principle - Jan 1943 - Mediterranean  (Read 5512 times)

Offline alison300

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Operation Principle - Jan 1943 - Mediterranean
« on: Monday 07 April 08 19:20 BST (UK) »
Can anyone give me details on Operation Principle?  My ancestor was killed on 2nd January 1943 whilst serving on HMS Tartan.  He was a member of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve.  I have gained this information from the CWG site.  Thanks
Wright (West Ham, Stratford, St Lukes, Cripplegate,
Widenstrom (Chicago and Minnesota)
Swain (Cripplegate, St Lukes)
Wolfe (St Giles in the Fields)
Willis (Gt. Leighs, Margaretting, Gt. Waltham, Ilford, Brentford)
Bryant (Bristol, Glos)
Searle
Keyworth (Yorkshire)

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Offline scrimnet

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Re: Operation Principle - Jan 1943 - Mediterranean
« Reply #1 on: Monday 07 April 08 19:30 BST (UK) »
Goodness!

Op Priciple was an "Chariot" attack against Axis shipping...

Was he George Goss?? Or Harold Cook?

Or was he A/S Walter Simpson of Blackburn??
One more charge and then be dumb,
            When the forts of Folly fall,
        May the victors when they come
            Find my body near the wall.

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Offline scrimnet

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Re: Operation Principle - Jan 1943 - Mediterranean
« Reply #2 on: Monday 07 April 08 19:35 BST (UK) »
One more charge and then be dumb,
            When the forts of Folly fall,
        May the victors when they come
            Find my body near the wall.

Offline scrimnet

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Re: Operation Principle - Jan 1943 - Mediterranean
« Reply #3 on: Monday 07 April 08 19:36 BST (UK) »
I'll give full details after dinner...

A really brave chap on a Chariot....
One more charge and then be dumb,
            When the forts of Folly fall,
        May the victors when they come
            Find my body near the wall.

Offline scrimnet

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Re: Operation Principle - Jan 1943 - Mediterranean
« Reply #4 on: Monday 07 April 08 21:14 BST (UK) »
Chariots were two man Human Torpedoes....

Specifications of a Chariot

Dimensions:    Length: Twenty three feet two and a quarter inches.

Displacement:    One and a half tons.

Propulsion:    30 x 2 volt lead acid batteries driving a 2 horse power motor.

Speed:    4 knots.

Range:    16 nautical miles at 4 knots.

Armaments:    Single detachable 600lb explosive charge, attached to a target by magnets.

Complement:    2

The human torpedo (originally known in Italian as the "Siluro a Lenta Corsa" - "Slow-running torpedo") was an electrically propelled torpedo with two crew sitting astride the device and provided with instruments to control and navigated. The warhead was detachable and was used as a limpet mine. The crew wore diving suits while operating the device.

In operation the torpedo was carried to the approximate location of the target by another vessel, typically a normal submarine and then launched. It made its way to the target and the crew attached the warhead to it. They then used the remainder of the chariot to escape.

The idea was first successfully applied by the Italian Navy the "Regia Marina" early in World War II. Its operators nicknamed it "maiale" ("pig") because its first model was difficult to steer, while the British nicknamed it the "underwater chariot". The idea was not new, a British inventor - Commander Godfrey Herbert - had patented a manned torpedo design in 1909. It had been rejected as dangerous and unworkable by the War Office during World War I.
One more charge and then be dumb,
            When the forts of Folly fall,
        May the victors when they come
            Find my body near the wall.

Offline scrimnet

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Re: Operation Principle - Jan 1943 - Mediterranean
« Reply #5 on: Monday 07 April 08 21:22 BST (UK) »
Operation Principle

(sometimes reported as 'Principal'):
The Italians had their own weapon turned against them when three British chariots attacked Palermo. The British T-Class submarine Traveller (Lt.Cdr D. StClair Ford RN) had been lost on 4th December while making a preliminary reconnaissance of the harbour, while P311 (Lt. R.D. Cayley RN) was lost prior to the attack itself, having gone on ahead through the mined Sicilian Channel to Maddalena.

In addition, the smaller Unruffled was also along as the rescue submarine for the crews. Five chariots remained for the attack, on the night of 2/3 January 1943. One chariot crew - Sub.Lt H.L.H.Stevens RNVR and Ldg.Seaman Carter - had five hours of struggling to find the entrance of the harbour, when Carter's breathing bag failed and ran out of oxygen. Stevens decided to leave Carter on
a buoy, to continue alone. However, he was still unable to find the harbour and went back for Carter and to look for their parent submarine.

After more hours in the water they saw, in the darkness, the outline of the Unruffled (P46). The vigilant lookouts on the Unruffled saw the chariot and they were rescued.

One chariot had a battery explosion: AB W. Simpson was drowned but the other, P.O. Miln, swam ashore and was taken prisoner.
One more charge and then be dumb,
            When the forts of Folly fall,
        May the victors when they come
            Find my body near the wall.

Offline scrimnet

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Re: Operation Principle - Jan 1943 - Mediterranean
« Reply #6 on: Monday 07 April 08 21:30 BST (UK) »
The driver of a third chariot, Lt. H.F. Cook RNVR ( I am presuming this is your chap!) had ripped his suit on a net and was suffering from severe seasickness. His number 2, AB Worthy, drove the craft ashore to leave Cook and carry on alone, but he found the craft too difficult to handle alone and abandoned it in deep water. He swam back to where he had left Cook but
failed to find him. Worthy was also taken prisoner.

Of the two chariots that remained, XXII, manned by Lt. R.T.G. Greenland RNVR and Leading Signalman A.M. Ferrier, succeeded in penetrating the net by night and, crossing the harbour undetected, dived underneath the new Italian cruiser Ulpio Traiano. Once there, the two men successfully placed their charge under the ship's bottom. A second chariot, XVI, with Sub-Lt. R.G. Dove RNVR and Leading Seaman J.M. Freel in the saddles, also got through the net and, like the first chariot, crossed the harbour without being observed. There they selected the 8,500-ton transport Viminale as their target, dived beneath her stern and successfully fixed the charge. They made their way ashore and were taken prisoner.

Greenland and Ferrier were feeling more optimistic and tried to make their way to sea. They crashed through a net at full speed but came to a
sudden halt when they bumped into a merchant ship and further damaged their compass. They eventually abandoned their craft and swam ashore and were captured, joining the four others - P.O. Miln and AB Worthy, Sub.Lt Dove and L/Sea Freel - in captivity, firstly in Italy and then moved to a Marlag in Germany when Italy surrendered.

As a sad footnote, on release in May 1945, they found that their special pay for diving and chariot duties had been stopped from the time of their capture.

Principle was a hollow success - Of the eight chariots that set out from Malta, none returned. Three chariots and their crews were lost with P311. One two-man crew were brought back (Stevens and Carter) while, of the remaining four crews, six were in captivity and two more were dead. The operation caused the loss of two valuable T-Class submarines, P311 and Traveller.
Against this were the sinking of a new Italian cruiser, which may not have been able to put to sea anyway, due to fuel shortages, and damage to a troopship (which had nowhere to take any troops to). Other charges were laid by Greenland and Ferrier but were either made safe by Italian divers or were incorrectly set.
One more charge and then be dumb,
            When the forts of Folly fall,
        May the victors when they come
            Find my body near the wall.

Offline scrimnet

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Re: Operation Principle - Jan 1943 - Mediterranean
« Reply #7 on: Monday 07 April 08 21:49 BST (UK) »
Here are a couple of pics of the kit and the actual chariot...Well a repro from 1992!



One more charge and then be dumb,
            When the forts of Folly fall,
        May the victors when they come
            Find my body near the wall.

Offline alison300

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Re: Operation Principle - Jan 1943 - Mediterranean
« Reply #8 on: Monday 07 April 08 22:18 BST (UK) »
Wow - I don't know what to say.  I never expected such a detailed reply.

Harold Cook was an ancestor of my husband's.  We only discovered his name earlier today although I think my father-in-law knew someone in his family was in the RN.  I think what Harold and the others did was incredibly brave and so unbelievably dangerous.

Thank you so much for all this information.

Wright (West Ham, Stratford, St Lukes, Cripplegate,
Widenstrom (Chicago and Minnesota)
Swain (Cripplegate, St Lukes)
Wolfe (St Giles in the Fields)
Willis (Gt. Leighs, Margaretting, Gt. Waltham, Ilford, Brentford)
Bryant (Bristol, Glos)
Searle
Keyworth (Yorkshire)