“Sunset and Evening Star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to Sea”
At 1100 on the Sunday before Remembrance Weekend, a quiet extends across Middle Temple in London as serving and veteran Submariners form a parade to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, as they have done since 1923, at the National Submarine Memorial.
Taking place the weekend before Remembrance to allow attendees to attend both events, the parade is the conclusion of a busy weekend of events ranging from a church service at Westminster Abbey to a large social event that allows serving submariners to be enthralled by the dits (stories) of those Submariners who fought in the Second World War and Cold War.
“But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep,
Turns again home”
Since the loss of HMS A1 with all hands in 1904, within sight of her home base at HMS Dolphin in Gosport, it has been deemed that whenever a Submarine sails she is deemed to be “On Operational Patrol” due to the significant risk to those onboard simply through the nature of Submarine Operations. Since HMS A1 there have been 174 Submarines lost on patrol, for many their fate unknown beyond the date that they failed to return from patrol.
Following the First World War, a public subscription was set up to establish the National Submarine Memorial to recognise those lost in this dangerous branch of the Royal Navy. Unveiled on 15 December 1922 by the then Chief of the Submarine Service, Rear Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair, the memorial lists the 50 Submarines that were lost in the First World War and was updated in 1959 to list the 84 Submarines lost in the Second World War. This effort has been replicated in the last two years with efforts to raise money for the Submariner Memorial in the National Arboretum to provide a place to commemorate all Submariners lost since 1904.
“Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell
When I embark”
For me, the Submarine Memorial weekend allows for a time of quiet reflection of the challenges that we face in the Submarine Service and those friends and colleagues who have lost their life whilst serving. I feel that it is a duty for those of us who maintain the Tradition and Standards of the Royal Navy to take time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Submariners were awarded 14 Victoria Crosses throughout the wars, in vessels which can appear barely sea worthy when compared to the Modern Submarine Fleet (see HMS Alliance or X24 at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport). As we unfortunately find that the numbers of surviving Second World War veterans are decreasing, it is crucial that we mustn’t allow the memory of these sacrifices to fade as we lose the voices of those who were there. Submariners Memorial, in conjunction with Remembrance weekend, allows the newest generation of Submariners to meet those who served before and hear their dits first hand.
As the Submariner community comes together this year, it does so following the sad loss of fellow Submariners on the KRI Nanggala earlier this year, and the reflection of the risks associated with serving on Submarines. With this in mind it feels poignant to finish this blog with the final verse of the Tennyson poem “Crossing the Bar” that has been spread throughout the blog. Crossing the Bar is a term commonly used by submariners to commemorate members of the International and National Submarine Community who have left their home port for Eternal Patrol.
“For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place,
The flood may bear me fat,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face,
When I have crost the bar”
For those who remain on Eternal Patrol, we at HMS Oardacious wish you a fair wind and a following sea; RESURGAM.