HMS TORBAY-Tony Miers in the Corfu Channel
2 September 1997
Commander Compton-Hall’s article (SUBMARINE REVIEW July 1997) which includes HMS TORBAY’s operations off Crete on 4th and 9th” July 1941, falls well below the author’s usually high standards, containing as it does both factual errors and malicious gossip. Your readers should be assured that it would never have been written, much less published, were Rear Admiral Sir Antony Miers still alive.
Of greatest concern is the repeating of malicious gossip, first raised by the writer Ludovic Kennedy some years after Tony Miers’ death. No TORBAY crew member, to my knowledge, ever suggested that the action off Crete on the night in question included such an atrocity. In addition, and of far greater importance, neither did the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Andrew Cunningham, nor the Admiralty Board either at the time of the incident or subsequently. As an appendix to this letter members may be interested to read what the late Commander Paul Chapman (HMS TORBA Y’s Executive Officer) wrote when these scurrilous accusations were first raised. I trust a USN submariner, with knowledge of the facts, will comment on the unfortunate mention of the legendary Dudley W. (Mush) Morton in similar vein?
1. Tony Miers was a determined games player of above average ability-he played a hard game to win, as do all dedicated sportsmen. He did not, however, play to win at all costs, which I assume means cheating. Neither was he a bad loser as the article implies.
2. Nicknames have always existed in the fighting services and as a young officer that of Gamp and Crap were both applied to Tony Miers. Notwithstanding, in the 43 years I knew him well (1942-1985) that of Crap was rarely used in my hearing; and only a foolish man would consider using it within ear-shot of Tony Miers. Its use 12 times in the article is demeaning and disrespectful. Perhaps the worst
example is in the final paragraph, “On the due day of Crap’s VC investiture protocol suffered severely”, quite apart from the fact that the sentence is abject nonsense.
3. The statement in the closing paragraphs that 24 of HMS TORBAY’s enlisted men were awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal is also, of course, nonsense. No such award was made to any member of TORBAY’s ship’s company. Indeed, only three CGMs were awarded to Royal Naval Submarine personnel throughout World War II. Two of these were to X-craft (midget submarine) crew for their hazardous and heroic operations, and one to Petty Officer George (Guts) Harmer in HMS/M SHAKESPEARE. The submarine was under severe gunfire in the Indian Ocean, unable to dive, with a large section of the main ballast tank blown away, and a 10 inch by S inch hole in the pressure hull. Harmer went overboard, under enemy gunfire, to block the holes with blankets, hammocks, and cushions. The CGM is second only to the Victoria Cross for supreme bravery in the face of the enemy when one’s own life is in great danger. It is awarded only to enlisted personnel.
Commodore R. W. Garson, CBE, RN
THE REPLY CONCERNING TONY MIERS
November 26, 1997
I respect, and sympathise with, Bob Garson’s views even if I can by no means agree with them except in one detail: I admit to missing the glaringly obvious error of quoting CGMs when presumably I should have said DSMs. I was attracted by the last few lines of Page 151 of Submariners VC by Rear Admiral Sir William Jameson (published by Peter Davies, London, 1 %2), and I used them as a source-unwisely without applying common sense. Jameson acknowledges the help of Rear Admiral Sir Anthony CC Miers, VC, KBE, CB, DSO in writing that chapter; and it may be that Miers said something on the lines of “… they all deserved the CGM” (which would have been typical) and that stuck in the author’s mind.
I twice researched the incident off Crete (in the role of Submarine Museum Director) and arrived at my own conclusions. One conclusion was that it would not be possible to put together, with certainty, the entire story on the evidence then available.
My computer is unable to find the phrase “win at all costs” in my piece. although I intended something similar. Perhaps Bob Garson had in mind Winston Churchill’s famous speech on 4 June 1940: Churchill promised “Victory at all costs”; but it had not occurred to me that our wartime Prime Minister was contemplating the defeat of Hitler by cheating.
Amongst the multitude of submariners who came to chat in my Museum office during nearly 20 years of tenancy, I never heard anything malicious spoken against Miers. Awe was the only detectable common factor. I think that most people, myself included, would prefer to let wartime controversies rest undisturbed; but I touched on the Crete affair in my article because it exemplified the need to guide our armed forces as to what is permissable in total war. I offered a pragmatic answer with which I think Miers might have agreed.
The figurehead so very widely known as Crap Miers is a part of submarine lore. Although the REVIEW,s house-style, which resulted in italics for my original plain~e tCrap’, may lend unintended emphasis, I believe it was entirely appropriate to employ the sobriquet in a piece written specifically for submariners. The Royal Navy is nickname-prone, and to be awarded one is a healthy sign: Miers had two, of which he was contentedly aware. We recall, at random, the greatly respected submariners Rear Admiral Shrimp Simpson and Captain Chimp Clayden, the somewhat anti-submariner Admiral Old ‘ard ‘ean Wilson VC and, going back to the War of Independence, Admiral Black Dick Howe who declined to acknowledge Bushnell’s TURTLE.
My object (m this VC series which attempts to define the extra spark that elevated a few above the rest) was to tell the story of a particularly daring exploit whilst sketching a properly balanced picture of a most gallant, exceptionally strong-minded, pugnacious and widely successful submarine captain whose implacable aim was to destroy the enemy with utmost vigor. If aught else is interpreted, then (adopting the motto of the ancient and Most Noble Order of the Garter) Honi soit qul mal y pense-shame to him who evil thinks.
REQUEST FOR SPECIAL MISSION INFORMATION
October 12, 1997
I am working on a book project about the Special Missions undertaken by submarines during World War II. War Patrol and Special and Reports only go so far in telling the story of these operations. To add the human, the personal aspect, I would like to bear from officers and men who performed these missions during all phases of the war. I would especially like to hear about events on NAUTILUS (SS 168) and NARWHAL (SS 167) during their many special missions (Makin, Attu, the Philippines). Also, any information about the formation, under CTF71 and CTF72, of a Special Missions Unit (later designated CTF71.9) would be most useful. I am also looking for reminiscences about the Fox Mike sonar sweeps and Operation Barney penetrations of the Sea of Japan in 1945. Any infonnation about any Special Missions would be most appreciated, and will be duly credited in print.
Steven T. Smith
2109 Lombard Street
Philadelphia, PA 19146
Phone: (215) 985-4541
FAX: (215) 985-1516
SHIP, SHIPMATE, SELF
In the October 1997 SUBMARINE REVIEW MIDN l/c Charles Gavin of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute wrote an article on Submarine, Shipmate, Self. He told of the submariners “difference” from society’s norm. He wrote of the most striking of all, “the submariners selflessness”. He further wrote that this degree of selflessness and simple civic virtue is missing from the American society today. He attributes these virtues to: 1) team recognition, 2) cross training, 3) close quarters, 4) small crews, 5) damage control and bis summary closes with: “This small closeknit group disoovers that without each other, each man is nothing. These men truly live the adage Ship, Shipmate, Self.”
I would like to point out to our readers that there still exist two organisation dedicated to the continuance of these stellar qualities eminent in all submarine sailors.
Their desire for excellence made them hungry for knowledge, their search for knowledge made them wise, their wisdom made them aware of their fellow man and this discovery made them adaptable. These bard earned values gave them the heart to make life more bearable for all who may need help to survive.
These two organizations are the United States Submarine Veterans of World War ll, open to all men who rode submarines on patrol during World War ll and the United States Submarine Veterans Incorporated, open to all who wear the coveted Dolphins designating Qualified in Submarines. These two organizations are a credit to the United States Submarine Force. Their service to their fellow man makes life a bit easier for many.
Those who may have an interest in joining either of these organizations for which they may be eligible can get up-to-date information by writing to CDR Joe McGrievy, USN(Ret.), 7525 University A venue, LaMesa, CA 91941-480 I. Keep a zero bubble!