Unbroken: The Story of a Submarine
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During the bleak, heartbreaking days of early 1942, when beleaguered Malta was reeling under bombardment and blockade and Rommel was making his last desperate thrust towards Egypt, only one British submarine was operating in the western Mediterranean - the tiny, 600-ton Unbroken.
In twelve months in the Med, Unbroken sank over 30,000 tons of enemy shipping, took part in four secret operations, three successful gun actions, and survived a total of over 400 depth charges, as well as innumerable air and surface attacks.
This account of the 26-year-old Alastair Mars' command of this outstandingly successful submarine embraces her construction, sea trials and voyage to Gibraltar preparatory to her vital role in the Mediterranean. Once there, she was responsible for the destruction of two Italian cruisers and played a pivotal part in Operation Pedestal, the convoy that saved Malta from surrender. Alastair Mars writes simply and without pretension, and his words evoke the claustrophobic yet heroic world of the submariner.
waiting for something to happen. My thoughts were interrupted by the appearance of a messenger. “Excuse me, sir, but the captain would like to see you in his cabin.” What’s this? Another apologetic explanation for us not going to Malta? “I’ll be right along.” With a complete absence of enthusiasm I made my way aft. Captain Voelcker was alone in his day cabin. He invited me to sit down. “Well, Mars, you know you’re the only submarine around these parts, don’t you?” The question was purely
duplication of the other. I closed to within two hundred and fifty yards of the shore, and the two spies paddled away with their wireless sets in one folboat, escorted by Churchill in the other. It was all over in twenty-five minutes. The game of cops and robbers ended, I had three days left in which to settle down to the business of sinking ships before the fuel-and-food problem forced us to start back towards Gib. Our Intelligence Service was rather scrappy about the Gulf of Genoa so I decided
torpedo. Wave after wave of bombers, E-boats and U-boats tore into the convoy. Four more merchantmen were sent to the bottom, and the Manchester was torpedoed—or struck a mine—and had to be scuttled. The Royal and Merchant Navies suffered terrible punishment in those forty-eight hours, but they won their fight. On the evening of Thursday, August 13th, 1942, three ships sailed into Valetta, and Malta was saved. The following morning two more limped in, including the tanker Ohio. But we knew
sea remained despairingly empty—until 8.20 when a couple of anti-submarine schooners sailed from the harbour. We kept to our course for another ten minutes, until we were seven-and-a-half miles due cast of the breakwater. If Wilson and Brittlebank had escaped along the planned route they would certainly have got that far by now. The schooners began dropping depth charges, and it seemed they were going to comb the entire area in this manner. Reluctantly I decided to call it a day. There was no
shipping to his credit, Tubby was the most outstanding of all Mediterranean submarine commanders. His V.C., awarded posthumously, had been earned a dozen times over. His was a bitter, irreplaceable loss. Two other submarines had arrived at Malta while we were away: the Thunderbolt—formerly the ill-fated Thetis—commanded by Lieut.-Commander “Lucky” Crouch, and the unnamed P.311, skippered by Commander Dick Cayley. It was as well we had taken the suckling pig, beer and plum duff to sea with us,