HL Deb 18 April 1951 vol 171 cc339-41

3.14 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps the Chancellor of the Duchy is now in a position to answer the Question about H.M. Submarine "Affray" which I asked a little earlier.


My Lords, I must apologise for the delay. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty returned only less than half an hour ago from Portsmouth. I have the following statement to make, which will, of course, be subject to any further detailed information which we may have to report later. I expect noble Lords would like us to report anything later, if it should arrive before the rising of the House.

H.M. Submarine "Affray" left Portsmouth at 16.30 hours (that is, 4.30 p.m.) on Monday for a practice war patrol designed to give officers of the submarine training course experience at sea in a submarine under war conditions. She has on board her captain and four ship's officers and a crew of forty-six naval ratings, together with twenty officers from the training course and four Royal Marine other ranks of a Marine training course. At 9.15 on Monday evening, when south of the Isle of Wight, she dived to proceed westwards through the Channel. She was expected to surface and to report between 8 and 9 o'clock yesterday morning, but no report was received. A search was at once organised by the Flag Officer, Submarines, acting on behalf of the Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth. All available ships of the Royal Navy, aircraft of Coastal Command and naval aircraft, including helicopters, took part in the search. I also gratefully acknowledge the assistance given by ships of the United States, French and Belgian navies.

The "Affray" is fully equipped with the latest type of escape apparatus including sufficient escape suits for all on board. Just before 1 a.m. to-day, H.M. Submarine "Sea Devil" reported that she had heard signals which were definitely from "Affray." She is apparently lying on the sea bed at a depth of about 200 ft., near the place where she dived, but her precise position has not yet been fixed. Sound signals were made at 5.45 over the position where the vessel is believed to be lying. These signals told her crew that surface craft were ready in position to pick up any men who surfaced by means of escape apparatus. Forty-four surface ships and seven submarines are taking part in the search, and have formed a ring covering a wide area of probability, and are ready to proceed to the rescue should any survivors escape and appear on the surface; but none has so far been sighted. Aircraft of 19 Group R.A.F., and formations from five naval air stations are also taking part in the search, while R.A.F. and R.N. helicopters are standing by. Some of the helicopters and aircraft are fitted with airborne lifeboats.

The next of kin can be assured that everything humanly possible will be done by those who are carrying out the search as long as there is any hope that any of these men can be saved. The Board of Admiralty would like to extend their sincere sympathy to the relatives of the officers and men on board in their very trying ordeal, and I am sure that your Lordships would wish to be associated with the Board of Admiralty's statement.


My Lords, we are grateful to the Chancellor of the Duchy for giving us that information. We shall indeed all wish, most sincerely, to be associated with the sentiments he has expressed, and the House will be grateful if any further information received before we rise this evening can be communicated to us.


My Lords. noble Lords sitting on these Benches desire to associate themselves with what has been said in the statement. The anxieties and hopes are in our minds. We can only trust that the news which the whole country is eagerly expecting to-day may be good. Pray God that it will be.