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S/M Oberon

Back in the mid 70’s whilst serving on S/M Oberon, we surfaced for return home passage after an 8 week dived period, patrolling in the Mediterranean. [I know you Nukeys will say you cannot claim it to be 8 weeks dived if you had to Snort everyday] The crew were told at that time, that we had just completed the longest dived patrol [with no family grams either and Southampton won the FA cup] by an O boat up until that time. Stored for war, with enough freshwater for only180 gallons a day to be used for all freshwater needs for the crew of 76 and fuel stored in 4 main ballast, for longer range. So when the crew settled down to surface passage routine and relaxed after some quite hairy moments in the last 8 weeks dived.
Remember this was the time of the real “Cold war” that the general public knew nothing of. When a broadcast was made “ do not use the heads until further notice” We were used to this broadcast when dived during the day when the tank got full, but not on the surface visible to everyone. We had a blockage between the traps and the slop drain & sewage tank. Our outside stoker Albert was tasked to sort it out, so following good “faultfinding practice”, he split the run halfway and found the blockage straight away. It was a table knife and dishcloth that someone ditching the washing up fanny water containing these items, had poured down one of the traps. Albert heaved it out with some difficulty, unfortunately there was a back pressure behind the blockage and as he released it [yes you can guess] the whole of the W/T office passage and poor Albert, was sprayed with some very ripe material. It was fantastic how the crew quickly had volunteers to clean up this mess and within a couple of hours the passage was clean enough for Captains rounds.
This kind of thing happened quite regularly in boats before the introduction of a slop drain and sewage tank, when valves were opened or shut in the wrong sequence. No one questioned Albert and the cleanup crew using the precious water that we had left in having a freshwater shower. Being on the surface with the “Donks” pounding, we had enough amps to make enough for drinking, but not washing, before getting alongside in Gibraltar to top up. Within an hour our UC1 [who was a very good cartoonist] came out with a cartoon of Albert surfing down the W/T office passage on a wave of sewage. This cartoon in itself summed up the confidence of the crew still being able to laugh, at and with, our selves [If anyone still has that cartoon perhaps you may like to send it in!] The above tale shows the extreme bond that a submarine crew has, that can be proved by submariners everywhere, with equivalent tales of “daring do” and finding out that adrenalin is brown in colour.
Even in those far off days, criminals objected to slopping out their own waste while in prison and would refuse to clean others waste. They insisted on contact with the outside world with TV’s and telephone calls and visits from their families. Yet the government today still refuses to award cold war medals to submariners who came the closest to our opponents, at that time, than any of the services and the moral of the story is that it was better to be in prison than at sea on a submarine serving your country.
Even today, our present day forces live and risk their lives, in very much worse conditions all over the world than criminals in prison. Still the families of present day submariners do not know if their men are alive or dead, as they have no contact for months on end. These, what may seem small inconveniences but together add to enough to prove why we who have served in any class of submarine over the years, consider our selves and our families a “Special breed” with a comradeship equivalent to none.
During this patrol our Chief Stoker, on the 6th week started to feel unwell. On arriving in Gib, he went ashore for a check up in RNH and the first question the doc. asked was, had he been eating lots of salads and fresh fruit!!! On an “8 weeker” on a diesel boat?? I don’t think so.