Life at the end of the road

April 13, 2010

Even more tenuous

Filed under: boats, daily doings, weather — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 6:39 am

Another fine day on Raasay with little achieved due to the ‘bad back’ other than taking my boy to school and back, or should I say sitting in the passenger seat as wifey drove. Not that I can’t drive, just that I was looking for inspiring things to photograph to tart up the blog 🙂 Whilst it was a wasted journey on the picture front I enjoyed being chauffeured and watching the lapwings at Glame, the mist rolling down Ben Tianavaig and a few boats going about their daily business.

A local clam diver working from his RIB just west of Oscaig on a flat calm sea with the sun beating down almost made me feel jealous. An emotion brought to an abrupt halt when I realized in my present condition I’d not be diving and I certainly wouldn’t be getting paid!! What looked like the Portree charter boat Brigadoon was just south of Holoman island, probably watching seals, a sure sign the the tourist season is beginning 🙂 With that just about summing up what I did today I thought I’d continue with the previous few days thread of salvage and tenuous links.

Six degrees of separation

“Six degrees of separation (also referred to as the “Human Web”) refers to the idea that everyone is at most six steps away from any other person on Earth, so that a chain of, “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in six steps or less.” Well that’s what Wiki says about it, along with a whole lot more http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_degrees_of_separation and to be honest I’d say in the vast majority of cases it’s even less. I also think the same holds true for places and events, in fact I think we’re all far more connected than we think, as my next lump of ‘scrap’ illustrates.

120410 007

The brass face of a vacuum/pressure gauge that resides in my garden next to the parts from yesterdays HMS Otranto came from off the sea bed just a mile or two further up the shore of Islay’s treacherous west coast . As Stonehead quite rightly pointed out the Otranto was sunk in October 1918 after a collision with another vessel, HMS Kashmir with horrific loss of life, 431, mainly US soldiers heading for the front. Ironically the war ended a few weeks later and few of them would have seen action anyway.

The gauge came from another wartime wreck that Keith Jessop  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keith_Jessop had an interest in, only this one was a U boat a British U boat!!!! HMS Graph that lies smashed to a pulp in the shallow waters of Saligo bay started off life as U570 and her story is very interesting.

Datei:U 570.jpg

Now what follows is from my memory which is rubbish at the best of times but I did do allot of research on her in the 1970s so the gist of it will be correct and I’ll put a link on to the Wiki page later.

The U570 was a ‘type VII C’ U boat, built by ‘Blohm and Voss’ of Hamburg she was launched in April 1942, commissioned the following month then sent to ‘warm up’ in the Baltic. Once the virgin crew and boat were broken in she was stationed in Norway and sent out on her first ‘war patrol’ on 24th August into the North Atlantic. Three days later after a long spell underwater and with many of her inexperienced crew seasick she surfaced, and in that vast expanse of water and sky had the misfortune to be spotted by an RAF Hudson bomber. The ‘greenhorn’ crew could not submerge quickly enough and the bomber straddled her perfectly with 4 depth charges.

Figure 1

Over the next 12 or so hours the submarine, unable to dive surrendered and was shadowed by Catalina flying boats from Iceland. The picture shows the crew huddled together on the conning tower and why they did not scuttle her remains a mystery to this day.

She was taken to Iceland where after being hastily repaired a ‘prize crew’ were put on board and she made her way to Vickers yard at Barrow in Furness. I’m not sure if she made her way under her own power or was towed but she certainly could not dive as her hydroplanes had been damaged by the depth charges.

I’m not sure where the above photo was taken as I got it from a German website but I would not be surprised if it was indeed Barrow and not Iceland.

More excellent pictures here  http://www.oca.269squadron.btinternet.co.uk/photo_gallery/u-570/U-570.htm on 269 squadron’s website, but for reasons unknown you’ll have to copy that link into your browser for it to work 😦

The German crew were interned in a place I knew well as a child, Grizedale Hall in the English Lake District, known as ‘U boat hotel’ I spent many of my childhood holidays there in a tent, probably pitched camp right where captain Hans Rahmlow and first Lieutenant Bernhard  Brendt stayed 🙂

Understandably the Germans were not best pleased by the capture of an almost new and apparently undamaged submarine so at a ‘kangeroo court’ presided over by Germany’s top U boat ace Otto Kretchmer ( who also resided at Grizedale ) sentenced  both Rahmlow and Brendt to death, come the ‘invasion’ and subsequent liberation. Now legend has it that Brendt escaped to try and sabotage his submarine which was undergoing repairs a mere 25 miles away in Barrow, but quite how he’s supposed to have known this is beyond me. Anyway there is no doubt that he did escape and was shot 😦 In all honesty I think it was by accident but killed he was and buried in Hawkeshead cemetery on the shores of Lake Windermere.

As a young adult I spent many hours searching for his grave, having seen a photograph of it and having dived on his submarine. I later discovered that the remains had been exhumed and returned to Germany in the 1950s

His fine vessel was repaired, commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Graph and went on to serve until 1944. When after a few breakdowns due to lack of spares, well you could hardly phone up Blohm and Voss 🙂 she was towed around the north of Scotland towards the Clyde. Where on the 24th March 1944 she broke her tow and drifted onto the rocks at Saligo bay on Islay.

Her story is recalled in an excellent book, now many years out of print called ‘HM U Boat’ by John Drummond

DRUMMOND,  JOHN D. - H.M. U-Boat

and the Hollywood film U571 is VERY LOOSLEY based on the story, though in that film the ‘Enigma’ code machine was captured http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enigma_code, whereas in reality it was just about the only thing that Rahmlow’s crew threw over the side.

The Tain connection

All of this may be very interesting but hardly ‘well connected’ apart from the bits of scrap in my garden and a childhood holiday or two.  Or at it least it wasn’t until about 15 years ago when I drove to Tain to purchase 400kg of frozen fish ‘skeletons’ for bait http://www.bannerman-seafoods.co.uk/uk/contact.htm. I met these two chaps

who owned the business and invited me into their office for tea, being twins they had the endearing habit of finishing each others sentences. It was during one of our three way conversations that they let slip that they knew someone who’d served on board HMS Graph!!! Also my good friend Jessie Nicolson from Raasay worked for this company for many years when she lived in Tain.

Map picture

The Graph is the one close inshore and the Otranto out at sea http://www.islayinfo.com/islay-shipwrecks.html lots more pics and info on there.

graph 130410

Anyway, time to wake my boy and get him to school so I’ll just leave you with the weather and go 🙂

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