In honour of National Submarine Day, we took the opportunity to spend some time chatting with Chairman of the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, Admiral Sir Trevor Soar KCB, OBE, DL, to find out more about his time at sea on HM Submarine Ocelot.
What was your role on HM Submarine Ocelot?
I was the Captain of HM Submarine Ocelot, which was my 1st command in the Royal Navy. Being the Captain, I had responsibility for everything the submarine did both at sea and in harbour and overall for every member of the crew including their effectiveness, training and welfare.
How long did you stay underwater at a time?
The Submarine had a diesel electric form of propulsion and could charge its batteries while submerged at periscope depth, using a snorkel system to take in the air from just above the waves whilst charging the submarine’s batteries. This meant that the submarine could be underwater for 60-80 days at a time.
What were the noise levels like inside a Submarine?
Noise can give the submarine away to an enemy that may be listening. So, noise hygiene was very important. On board there were three different noise “quiet states”.
Patrol quiet – the normal state, Sonar Search quiet – when looking for another Submarine, or Ultra quiet – hiding from the enemy with very little machinery running.
What type of training did you undertake to be a submariner?
Everyone does similar training which includes 3 parts.
Part 1 is learning all about the submarine itself, part 2 is all about the individual’s specialist role, and part 3 is where the person qualifies, and this part is done at sea. After completion, you are awarded your Submarine badge.
What did you eat on board?
On the first few weeks at sea, there is fresh food to eat. Once this has gone there is frozen and tinned food available. HM Submarine Ocelot carried 64 days of food, but on one occasion, a patrol lasted 65 days – the crew ended up eating a lot of cheesecake as this was all that was available. After leaving the Falkland Islands, the chef on-board served cheesecake as the first meal as a joke to the crew and ended up wearing most of it!
What was a special treat for dinner?
Wednesday nights were always curry nights on-board. Saturday night was steak night and on Sunday there were grapefruit segments for the whole crew.
Did you have working hours?
The crew worked in a shift pattern of 6 hours on and 6 hours off. In their off time they had to eat, sleep, do their administration and relax! The working pattern of 1pm – 7pm and then 7am – 1pm shifts.
How many people worked on board – what kind of different roles were there?
There was a maximum of 80 people on board which were split amongst different branches. From Weapons Engineers – which could include working with torpedoes, electrical, in the engine room etc, to Seaman – Sonar operators, communications, chefs etc. as well as Officers overseeing the operation of the Submarine.
How did you know whereabouts in the world the submarine was?
GPS is used nowadays but when I commanded Ocelot, traditional navigation was used. There are many different types that can be used for navigation which include:
- Dead Reckoning – gaining an estimated position from knowing how fast you were going and where you were going to.
- Astro-navigation – using the stars to plot your position
- Bottom Contour navigation – using the sea floor to navigate
What’s your favourite memory?
- Going through the Panama Canal
- Sailing into the Bahamas
- Seeing an iceberg