The ‘Anti-Fascist Rampart’ – IWM London’s sections of the Berlin Wall

RICHARD MADDOX

IT STARTED SLOWLY.

But on Sunday 13 August 1961 the people of Berlin – still occupied by the victorious powers of the Second World War – awoke to find parts of their city in the process of being physically split.

East German troops had started laying out the route of the ‘Anti-Fascist Rampart’- also known as the Berlin Wall. In some parts of the city it was just a hurriedly painted white line, in others rolls of barbed wire guarded by soldiers.

Berliners protested and were often met the pointed bayonets and rifles of GDR border guards. Within days the wall – looking like the sort of wall that might be found between neighbouring gardens or yards – would start to be fortified. Barbed wire screens were added to brick walls. Later concrete blocks would replace bricks.

The dividing lines ran through across streets, cutting through buildings.

At first these became escape routes with Berliners escaping from the East through one side and emerging in the West. Then the East German authorities started to compulsorily empty properties near the wall and brick up windows and doorways.

Over the course of the almost three decades that it stood the barrier would grow from a simple white line painted on the ground to miles of 45,000 concrete panels each 3.6 metres high and weighing 2,750 kg.

They cost 359 Ost Mark (East German Marks) to produce at a time when a loaf of bread was 1.04 Ost Mark. (1)

Some 45,000 sections would snake along for 106 km (66 miles), punctuated by more than 300 watchtowers and 20 bunkers. (2)

A MODEL OF BERNAUER STRASSE IN BERLIN on display at IWM London. It depicted part of the street as it was around 1980. It shows houses in the tree-lined western sector of the city with the 'Death Strip' containing watch towers, anti-tank defences, armed patrols, minefields, guard dogs, floodlights and a variety of sensors - all contained between two concrete walls. Many of buildings in the east near the Wall were forcibly emptied and bricked up with others demolished to create areas where would-be escapers could be intercepted before they reached the eastern wall. Image: © R Maddox 2018

A MODEL OF BERNAUER STRASSE IN BERLIN on display at IWM London. It depicted part of the street as it was around 1980. It shows houses in the tree-lined western sector of the city with the ‘Death Strip’ containing watch towers, anti-tank defences, armed patrols, minefields, guard dogs, floodlights and a variety of sensors – all contained between two concrete walls. Many of buildings in the east near the Wall were forcibly emptied and bricked up with others demolished to create areas where would-be escapers could be intercepted before they reached the eastern wall. Image: © R Maddox 2018

The dividing lines cut across streets and even through buildings with (for example) the front half in the capitalist West and the rear in the communist East.

So why was it built?

From the end of the Second World War the German Democratic Republic (GDR) – a satellite state of the Soviet Union – was seeing its population fleeing to the West. This of course included not just older people but young professional Germans who saw the chance of a better life away from Moscow’s influence.

And not just from East Berlin because all though Berlin was deep in the GDR the western sectors were linked to West Germany and beyond. One source quotes that in the two decades from 1945 more that 2 million people left – and not just through the GDR but also via Hungary and Czechoslovakia, countries were citizens of the Soviet Union could go on holiday to. (3)

ANOTHER VIEW OF THE BERNAUER STRASSE MODEL at IWM London showing the 'Vershönungkirsche; (the Church of the Reconciliation) marooned in the 'Death Strip'. Before it was destroyed by the East German authorities in January 1985 it had served the communities of Wedding and Mittel from 1892 until it 1961. After that date it was used as a military observation post. In 2000 a new smaller chapel (Die Kapelle der Versöhnung - Chapel of the Reconciliation) was dedicated. It serves both as a place of worship and a memorial to those who died attempting to escape. Image: © R Maddox 2018.

ANOTHER VIEW OF THE BERNAUER STRASSE MODEL at IWM London showing the ‘Vershönungkirsche; (the Church of the Reconciliation) marooned in the ‘Death Strip’. Before it was destroyed by the East German authorities in January 1985 it had served the communities of Wedding and Mittel from 1892 until it 1961. After that date it was used as a military observation post. In 2000 a new smaller chapel (Die Kapelle der Versöhnung – Chapel of the Reconciliation) was dedicated. It serves both as a place of worship and a memorial to those who died attempting to escape. Image: © R Maddox 2018.

From the GDR’s viewpoint the Wall helped slow the stream of escapees and made it more difficult – and dangerous – for those who attempted to do so. In addition it went some way to stabilising and then building the GDR economy.

Of course it wasn’t described in these terms to the GDR population. For them the antifaschistischer Schutzwall was to keep the corrupting capitalist influences out.

And here it failed because West German TV and radio programmes – describing a glittering, bright world and affluent world, very different to that experienced by the average East German citizen – could be listened to in East Berlin.

During the wall’s existence around 5000 successful escapes were made into West Berlin. Varying reports cite either 192 or 239 people were killed trying to cross the wall and many more were injured.

Initial attempts – those made in the early days and months of the Wall – involved people crossing the barbed wire fence or jumping from windows of the buildings that lined the wall.

Later tunnels, ‘zip’ aerial wires, air balloons and hiding in special compartments in vehicles were all tried with varying success. (4)

The last person to be die whilst attempting to cross into West Berlin was Chris Gueffroy on February 6 1989. He was 20 years old. (5) (6)

The desire to create something better that lead to families escaping would to also lead to unrest, dissatisfaction against the regime in many more and would see at least 55 deaths in an uprising against Sovietisation in June 1953 as well as many more injured and imprisoned later. (7) (8) (9) (10)

In November 1991 that same desire would lead to the collapse of the GDR and ultimately end in the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

A PANEL FROM THE WESTERN-FACING SECTION OF THE BERLIN WALL installed at Leuschnerdamm in the Kreuzberg district. The painted section faced into the west and the other (blank) side faced the ‘Death Strip’. IWM catalogue reference EPH 467. Image © R Maddox 2018.

A PANEL FROM THE WESTERN-FACING SECTION OF THE BERLIN WALL installed at Leuschnerdamm in the Kreuzberg district. The painted section faced into the west and the other (blank) side faced the ‘Death Strip’. IWM catalogue reference EPH 467. Image © R Maddox 2018.

IWM has at least two panels of the Berlin Wall as well as a number of smaller pieces in its collections. The panel outside IWM London was painted by graffiti artist ‘Indiano’ (Jürgen Grosse). (11)

The open mouth with wording – in this case possibly a reference to the ‘poem Archaischer Torso Apollos‘ (‘Torso of an Archaic Apollo‘) by the Rainer Maria Rilke which ends with the words ‘Du musst dein leben ändern‘, which translated as ‘You must change your life.’ – are a repeating theme in Indiano’s Berlin Wall pieces.

Sources

(1) www.dailysoft.com/berlinwall/history/facts_02.htm – retrieved 21 January 2018

(2) http://www.dailysoft.com/berlinwall/history/facts_01.htm – retrieved 21 January 2018

(3) https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30080724 – retrieved 21 January 2018

(4) https://www.nationalcoldwarexhibition.org/schools-colleges/national-curriculum/berlin-wall/consequences.aspx – retrieved 21 January 2018

(5) https://fotostrasse.com/chris-gueffroy-berlin-wall/#.XEZD-c26K00 – retrieved 21 January 2018

(6) http://coldwarsites.net/country/germany/memorial-to-chris-gueffroy-berlin/ – retrieved 21 January 2018

(7) https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB50/ – retrieved 21 January 2018

(8) https://www.opendemocracy.net/node/1325 – retrieved 21 January 2018

(9) https://www.marxists.org/archive/brendel/1953/east-germany.htm – retrieved 21 January 2018

(10) https://www.dw.com/en/berlin-commemorates-1953-uprising-in-east-germany/a-39289423 – retrieved 21 January 2018

(11) http://berlinwall-indiano-art.blogspot.com/ – retrieved 21 January 2018

 

 

 

A little about IWM Duxford’s English Electric Lighting F1 interceptor XM135

RICHARD MADDOX

IWM DUXFORD’s ENGLISH ELECTRIC LIGHTNING is a very early production example of the type.

Designed to protect Britain’s nuclear bomber force by intercepting Soviet aircraft that may target the bomber bases, even this early example could reach almost twice the speed of sound within minutes of taking off. (1)

Eventually more than 300 Lightnings would see service with the Royal Air Force as well as the air forces of Kuwait and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

It would evolve and serve for more than 30 years. (2)

ENGLISH ELECTRIC LIGHTNING Interceptor XM135 on display at IWM Duxford. The aircraft wears the colours it had when in service with No. 74 Squadron RAF. Copyright: © R Maddox 2019.

ENGLISH ELECTRIC LIGHTNING Interceptor XM135 on display at IWM Duxford. The aircraft wears the colours it had when in service with No. 74 Squadron RAF. Copyright: © R Maddox 2019.

Lightning XM135 first flew on 14 November 1959 before serving in a variety of RAF units during a career spanning almost 25 years. (3)

During this time it became the last flying example of the F1 variant remaining in RAF service.

In 1962 while serving with No. 74 (F) Squadron RAF the aircraft was part of the ‘Tigers’ – the official RAF Fighter Command display team at that time. (4)

The team was formed of nine Lightning aircraft and named after the tiger’s head emblem on the squadron badge. (5)(6)

In July 1966 XM135 was about to be assigned to the Target Facilities Flight (TFF) at RAF Leuchars in Scotland and was undergoing major servicing at No 33 Maintenance Unit based at RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire.

TFF units were formed to provide training for pilots flying other more modern Lightning aircraft in interception and combat techniques.

On Friday 26 July it unexpectedly took to the skies in the hands of the 33 MU’s Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Walter ‘Taff’ Holden.

Having read engineering at university, joined the RAF in 1943 and qualified as a pilot, Holden had chosen to serve as in the Engineering Branch.

Both he and the Air Ministry considered that his hands on flying experience would give him greater insight into rectifying the engineering problems that aircrew might report.

Having qualified on piston engined trainers his only experience of military jet flying was as an observer in a Gloster Javelin fighter and in an English Electric Canberra.

ENGLISH ELECTRIC F.1As undergoing deep servicing at No. 60 Maintenance Unit at RAF Dishforth. Image copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference RAF-T 4439. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205378780.

ENGLISH ELECTRIC F.1As undergoing deep servicing at No. 60 Maintenance Unit at RAF Dishforth. Image copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference RAF-T 4439. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205378780.

No. 33 Maintenance Unit was a mixed civilian and RAF unit that serviced after Meteor, Canberra and Lightning aircraft before they were returned to flying duties, either with their original unit or reassigned.

As part of his staff Holden had a qualified jet pilot who test flew the serviced aircraft. This officer was not qualified on the Lightning aircraft but Holden was able to ‘borrow’ a qualified and current Lightning pilot when necessary – often from nearby RAF Boscombe Down, the RAF’s test and evaluation centre.

As mentioned above XM135 was being reassigned to TFF and a persistent electrical fault that appeared when the aircraft was in moving in the first few metres of its take-off run.

This situation continued for weeks with the No 33 MU’s electricians replacing components time after time only to have the fault reappear. Not only was this frustrating to all involved, it was creating a backlog – and at a time when the unit was being prepared for closure.

On top of this at least one Boscombe Down pilot had said he would not fly the aircraft (and thereby clear it for reassignment to the TFF unit) until the fault had been clearly identified and rectified.

The pressure was on.

The electrical engineers decided to do a phased testing of all the possible electrical circuits that might be causing the fault.

They devised a plan whereby a pilot would be asked to run the engines move the aircraft about 50 metres and to operate banks of temporary switches each time which would be connected to monitoring equipment. In addition as these tests needed a section of (unused) runway a radio link was established with the airfield’s control tower so that they knew what was happening in case of any emergency.

Knowing that Holden was a qualified RAF pilot and that the all that was required was to move the aircraft over a short distance – and possibly also knowing that the tests could be repetitive and time-consuming – a Boscombe Down pilot suggested that Holden do the engine runs.

For ease of access and because of the additional monitoring equipment the aircraft had its canopy removed.

In addition the aircraft’s undercarriage was locked firmly in place and the ejector seat pins inserted so that a slip of the hand couldn’t send the aircraft crashing to the concrete below or the pilot rocketing into the sky above.

After a five-minute briefing on how to start the huge jet engines, Holden – wearing overalls and ear defenders like the rest of the ground crew – climbed into the cockpit and watched as the aircraft was towed to an unused runway.

Strapped into the aircraft, Holden had a member of his staff radio the airfield’s Air Traffic Control (ATC) to say he was starting the tests.

He noted the switch positions on a note pad, applied the aircraft’s brakes and then gently opened the throttle – feeling the aircraft vibrate as it strained against the brakes – moved the aircraft about forty metres, reapplied the brakes and flicked the switches back and added any relevant comments to his notepad.

With ATC permission he repeated the test with different switches and positions. The aircraft moved another forty metres. More notes and more flicking of switches.

While this second test was being conducted ATC had stopped a fuel tanker at the side of the runway and before the third test started had told it to cross to the other side.

Permission was sought and granted by ATC for what Holden thought would be the final test. He made his notes, repositioned switches, held the brakes and moved the engine throttles forward.

Then it happened.

He misjudged the extent of the throttle movement and the engines roared into reheat.

Now unburnt fuel was being mixed with the exhaust stream supplying even more power.

The eleven ton (11340kg) aircraft overcame the brakes and sprinted forward.

Using some very colourful language Holden tried to drag the throttles closed but they had locked in and needed disengaging.

Looking up he saw the fuel tanker had almost crossed the runway and he needed to ensure he didn’t hit them. With the undercarriage locked and reheat engaged it was impossible to steer the aircraft.

He hurtled towards the crossing point on the main runway where a transport aircraft was making its take-off run.

Running out of his own runway he saw the small village of Bradenstoke at its end.

Moving the control column back towards him, the jet into the air.

Having averted disaster on take-off he managed to disengage reheat and slowed the aircraft.

He now needed to land.

He had no flying helmet and no direct contact with the ground. He couldn’t eject as the seat was made safe by a multitude of safety locks.

He did the only thing he could and summoning up his pilot’s knowledge he came round towards the main runway for an emergency landing.

In all he made three attempts to land – learning more about the handling of the Lightning each time and recalling things like his brief introduction to the aircraft earlier in the day and times spent in the ATC armed with a copy of the Pilot’s Notes for the Lightning – an aide-memoire of facts and figures that he used should the pilot testing one of the serviced Lightnings have a technical question.

But although he was a qualified pilot his flying experience had been on training aircraft like the North American Harvard with him keeping up his knowledge on the little De Havilland Chipmunk – both very different to what was a few years earlier a front-line jet fighter.

On his third attempt he had all the information he needed to try a serious landing. He opted to land the ‘wrong way’ on the main runway – that way he wouldn’t overshoot and crash into Lyneham, another nearby village.

He made a wide circuit adjusting the controls to line up the jet with the runway. Down he came and as the main wheels touched the ground he released the braking parachute designed to slow the aircraft quicker.

Unfortunately he landed as he would have in one of the aircraft he was familiar with – all of these having a tail wheel and no nose wheel.

This means that he banged the tail of the aircraft against the ground and severed the brake chute cable which meant that the brake ‘chute had dropped useless to the runway as soon as it was released.

‘I felt reasonably calm because I had almost killed myself on five occasions in that 12 minute flight, yet I had miraculously survived.

What is more, I would see my wife and young family. Two or three times in that same 12 minutes, I thought I would never ever see them again.’

from Wing Commander Holden’s own account at http://counties.britishlegion.org.uk/counties/beds-herts-counties/articles-of-interest/a-memorable-fright

Although Wing Commander Holden was relieved to find he still had a career in the Royal Air Force the flight had a number of lasting effects on him.

By his own admission he was ‘unprepared for the release of the story to the public’ and became frustrated by the inaccuracy of some of the accounts written about his flight – some of which apparently had him flying while sitting on a box or even a wicker chair.

It is perhaps illustrative of the man that in an account written by him he notes complains that:

‘People wanted to write articles in newspapers, books, magazineS, interviews on TV and radio and underhand attempts to hear my account of what had happened.

Having admitted that I had made an unwise decision to do the ground tests, I decided that the unwanted publicity that I had attracted was in no way going to be for financial gain.

I steadfastly refused offers, although for a two-page article in the Sunday Express I requested the editors to make a contribution to the R.A.F. Benevolent Fund.

Despite prompts, no monies were ever handed over and I became very disillusioned with all publicity media.’

from Wing Commander Holden’s own account at http://counties.britishlegion.org.uk/counties/beds-herts-counties/articles-of-interest/a-memorable-fright

Elsewhere in the same account he states:

‘I have never sought publicity but, whenever it became impossible to suppress, I have had to live with it.

I enjoyed my career in the Royal Air Force, but not because of XM135!’

from Wing Commander Holden’s own account at http://counties.britishlegion.org.uk/counties/beds-herts-counties/articles-of-interest/a-memorable-fright

But he was to discover more than just frustration with the media.

He would spend at least two periods in hospital as a result of discovering a fear of high speed flying.

‘I had not come to terms with the emotional side of the event.

To return to my wife and family, after five close encounters with death, was indeed a miraculous experience, but I had not been honest with myself, to accept it as such, so I needed psychiatric help.

I could recall the technicalities of the flight without any hang-ups, but was unwilling to talk about that emotional side of the ordeal until I was placed under medical drugs and to bring those emotions to the surface.

That was a rewarding experience and it gave me a much better understanding of people who might need that same kind of help, after similar unfortunate occurrences.’

from Wing Commander Holden’s own account at http://counties.britishlegion.org.uk/counties/beds-herts-counties/articles-of-interest/a-memorable-fright

 OFFICE AWARD. The cockpit of Lightning XM 135. In this image - taken by IWM Duxford Volunteer Alun Clements at an Open Cockpit event some years ago at IWM Duxford - the small plaque commemorating Wing Commander Holden's leap to fame can be seen propped up on the cockpit coaming. Image © Alun Clements and used with his permission.

OFFICE AWARD. The cockpit of Lightning XM135. In this image – taken by IWM Duxford Volunteer Alun Clements at an IWM Duxford Open Cockpit event some years ago – the small plaque commemorating Wing Commander Holden’s leap to fame can be seen propped up on the cockpit coaming. Image © Alun Clements and used with his permission.

In 1974 the repaired aircraft was declared non-effective (that is no longer required by the RAF). (7)

It joined the Imperial War Museum’s collection at Duxford in April 1975 where it is resplendent in the colours it wore when serving with No 74 (F) Squadron RAF. (8)

Walter V Holden, BSc died on 11 December 2016 at the age of ninety. (9)

Additional information

The details of Holden’s flight and afterwards are based on a much fuller account written by him and published at:

http://counties.britishlegion.org.uk/counties/beds-herts-counties/articles-of-interest/a-memorable-fright

It is also where the quotes by Holden are drawn from.

This same account can be found at a number of other websites.

I believe it was written to try and correct the inaccuracies and myths that had grown up around the story – such as Holden was sitting on a box ( https://www.pprune.org/archive/index.php/t-570180.html and https://www.pprune.org/archive/index.php/t-590489.html ) or even a wicker chair ( https://www.pprune.org/archive/index.php/t-161406.html ) when he inadvertently took off.

Sources

(1) http://www.skytamer.com/English_Electric_Lightning_F.6.html – retrieved 5 February 2019

(2)https://www.baesystems.com/en-uk/heritage/english-electric-lightning – retrieved 5 February 2019

(3) https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/70000160 – retrieved 5 February 2019

(4) http://www.thunder-and-lightnings.co.uk/lightning/survivor.php?id=30 – retrieved 5 February 2019

(5) http://aerobaticteams.net/en/teams/i127/teams.html – retrieved 5 February 2019

(6) https://www.natotigers.org/tiger-units/74-f-squadron – retrieved 5 February 2019

(7) https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/70000160 – retrieved 5 February 2019

(8) https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1060022291 – retrieved 5 February 2019

(9) https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/70000160 – retrieved 5 February 2019

At the mercy of the sea – the long voyage home of Russian submarine K-19

Richard Maddox

‘K-19 the Widowmaker’ is a feature film (movie) released in 2002 with actors Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson.

It is based on an incident that happened on the real Russian submarine K-19 submarine in 1961 – one of the many that befell the boat*.

The post below is about something that happened almost 11 years later to the same vessel.

THE SEA CAN BE FICKLE TOWARDS MAN AND HIS VESSELS. It can hide a ship or cloak a submarine.

It provides for mankind and can demand the lives of men in return.

It is never tamed much less conquered.

On the morning of 24 February 1972 a Russian Project 658M class nuclear-powered submarine – known to the West by the NATO reporting name HOTEL II and capable of launching nuclear ballistic missiles – suffered a fire 800 miles (approximately 1300 kilometres) north east of Newfoundland. (1)

It started in an auxiliary machinery compartment while the submarine was 120 metres beneath the waves and returning to Russia at the end of a patrol.

Through a series of mishaps the fire – partly fuelled by escaped compressed air – and acrid smoke spread.

The emergency diesels were flooded by tons of water and poisonous gases built up.

The nuclear reactor was shut down and with it the boat’s ability to get underway.

The submarine – armed with such destructive weaponry – was at the mercy of the sea.

Despite everything the boat managed to surface and send a distress call that would be answered by Russian naval units, their arrival – and the assistance they could give – being hampered by a tremendous storm that was forming.

THE DISABLED RUSSIAN submarine with heavy seas breaking over it.  The boat was photographed by a Hawker Siddeley Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft from No. 201 Squadron RAF based at RAF Kinloss in Scotland. Image copyright © Crown copyright. IWM catalogue A 35391. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205165190

THE DISABLED RUSSIAN submarine with heavy seas breaking over it. The boat was photographed by a Hawker Siddeley Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft from No. 201 Squadron RAF based at RAF Kinloss in Scotland. Image copyright © Crown copyright. IWM catalogue A 35391. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205165190

The image above is interesting.

As seen on the IWM Collections web page it is reversed left to right. The give-away is that the large dark mast (the communications mast behind the SNOOP TRAY surface surveillance radar) was mounted on the starboard (right) side of the boat and folded down when not in use. (2)

The periscope (towards the centre of the image) is up – no doubt watching the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod RAF maritime reconnaissance aircraft from which the photograph was taken. The type was the world’s first jet-engined maritime patrol aircraft and entered service in October 1969. (3)

Behind the periscope are the nuclear missile launch tubes.

The IWM online caption gives the location of the boat as the ‘North Sea, March 1972’.

Given the submarine’s likely identity (K-19), its starting point and destination for the return journey this location seems very unlikely.

Other sources gives a location of 700 miles off the west coast of Ireland and the date of 11 March 1972 which would match K-19’s route home. (4)

Eventually members of the crew were transferred to waiting Russian ships by helicopter or by block and high wire transfer.

A cable can be seen attached to a point on the submarine’s sail or fin (conning tower) near the periscope – indicating that even in these violent weather conditions a personnel or supply transfer was being attempted – a testament to the bravery of those involved.

A NIMROD MARITIME PATROL AIRCRAFT from No. 206 Squadron RAF over a North Sea oil platform. Image copyright © Crown copyright. IWM catalogue reference CT 484. Original sourcehttps://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205018982 .

A NIMROD MARITIME PATROL AIRCRAFT from No. 206 Squadron RAF over a North Sea oil platform. Image copyright © Crown copyright. IWM catalogue reference CT 484. Original sourcehttps://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205018982.

THE SUBMARINE with a Russian tug in attendance. Note the swell of the rough sea, how the tug is heeling over and a large item trailing from the tug's port side forward of the bridge superstructure. Also note the communications mast has been dismounted and other sensors have been retracted on the submarine. Copyright: © IWM. IWM catalogue reference A 35392. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205165191.

THE SUBMARINE with a Russian tug in attendance. Note the swell of the rough sea, how the tug is heeling over and a large item trailing from the tug’s port side forward of the bridge superstructure. Also note the communications mast has been dismounted and other sensors have been retracted on the submarine. Copyright: © IWM. IWM catalogue reference A 35392. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205165191.

Besides taking the original crew off the submarine, the Russian Navy sent men aboard to assess the damage and carry out initial repairs.

Not all the crew could be rescued this way. Twelve men were cut off in the rear torpedo compartment with little food and water.

Eventually the rescuing ships rigged electricity cables and air lines to the submarine easing the conditions aboard.

On 4 April – after more than a month being towed in a rescue operation involving thirty Russian ships – the submarine arrived at it home port of Severomorsk in northern Russia.

Under its own power K-19 would have completed the 3100 miles or 5000 kilometre journey – the distance from the United Kingdom to Iran – in eight days. (5)

The fire and its aftermath would cost the lives of thirty men.

Astonishingly all twelve men in the torpedo compartment survived.

They had eaten the tinned food they had sparingly and drunk the condensation that formed on the inside of the submarine. (6) (7)

Further information

Although the captions on the IWM Collections web pages for the images used in this post only identify the submarine as a ‘H’ (HOTEL) class boat and not ‘K-19’, the correlation of the March 1972 date on the IWM images with the references used here indicate that this is very likely the submarine’s identity.

K-19 was the prototype for all HOTEL class submarines. A very accident-prone boat, it suffered a number of deaths even before it was completed. In service fires and reactor problems resulted in casualties. (8)(9)(10)

It was scrapped in 2003. (11)

NATO reporting names are a quick and easy way to identify a Russian submarine quickly and clearly amongst members of NATO – particularly those whose first language was not English. It was based on the NATO phonetic alphabet – Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta etc and used words that would be unlikely to be misheard on radio communications.

* Early submarines were known as ‘boats’ as they were often carried on board ships. Although modern submarines can rival surface vessels in size and tonnage the convention continues.

Sources

(1) https://fas.org/nuke/guide/russia/slbm/658.htm – retrieved 16 March 2019

(2) http://russianships.info/eng/submarines/project_658.htm – retrieved 16 March 2019

(3) https://www.nms.ac.uk/explore-our-collections/stories/science-and-technology/nimrod-xv241/ – retrieved 16 March 2019

(4) https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/the-russian-hotel-class-nuclear-submarine-k-19-pictured-700-news-photo/56895934 – retrieved 16 March 2019

(5) https://www.distancefromto.net/distance-from-united-kingdom-country – retrieved 16 March 2019

(6) http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2017/ph241/lowet2/docs/nks-rak-2-96-tr-c3.pdf – retrieved 16 March 2019

(7) https://www.nsa.gov/Portals/70/documents/news-features/declassified-documents/crypto-almanac-50th/Widowmaker.pdf – retrieved 16 March 2019

(8) http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2017/ph241/lowet2/ – retrieved 16 March 2019

(9) http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2017/ph241/lowet2/docs/nks-rak-2-96-tr-c3.pdf – retrieved 16 March 2019

(10) http://www.pravdareport.com/history/83000-submarine/ – retrieved 16 March 2019

(11) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3136111.stm – retrieved 16 March 2019