Here's a series of rare photographs of a Royal Navy midget submarine taken in Subic Bay, Philippines during World War II. These photographs were taken from the deck of HMAS Shropshire.
The first and second photograph show three crew members on the deck.
The history of British midget submarines during World War II is now perhaps little known. It is a history of incredible bravery, and certain heroism.
Australians played a part in crewing some of the midget submarines.
A brief history of the actions of the British midget submarines can be found here on Ahoy - Mac's weblog.
Some internet resources state that both midget submarines XE-4 and XE-5 were present in Subic Bay.
XE-4 and crew were assigned Operation Sabre - cutting the Japanese telecommunications cable off Saigon, east of the Mekong river mouth.
XE-4's crew was:
Lt. Max H. Shean, RANVR
ERA V. "Ginger" Coles
Sub-Lt. Ben Kelly, RNVR
Sub-Lt. A.K. "Jock" Bergius, RNVR
Sub-Lt. Ken. M. Briggs, RANVR
XE-5 and crew were assigned Operation Foil - cutting the Japanese telecommunications cable in Hong Kong bay.
XE-5's crew was:
Lt. H.P. Westmacott, RN
1st. Lt. Beadon Dening, RNVR
ERA Clifford Greenwood
Lt. B.G. Clarke, RNVR
Sub-Lt. D.V.M. Jarvis, RNVR
Mr. Shean kindly consented to answer my questions about the photographs. He said that the midget submarine he commanded, XE-4, was never in Subic Bay, and instead was launched from Brunei Bay for its mission off Saigon.
He further stated that XE-5 was launched from Subic Bay, and that one of the crew members visible on deck in the photograph was most likely "Pat" Westmacott , commander of XE-5 for its mission in Hong Kong Bay.. A New Zealander who joined the Royal Navy.
So, the midget submarine in the photograph is XE-5, in Subic Bay prior to Operation Foil.
Stan Nicholls has written a comprehensive book about HMAS Shropshire, and in Chapter 8 he states that Shropshire entered Subic Bay on 26 July 1945, and exercised in the surounding area for the next several days.
The interesting sidebar story here is that I was able to speak to Mr. Shean at all. I was looking for searching online for information about Subic Bay + midget submarines, and saw links to stories about Max Shean. I also noticed that as late as 2005 he was very active in the area of Fremantle, Western Australia and lived closeby the Fremantle Sailing Club. Then with the whitepages online telephone directory it was a cinch to find him, "Hello, may I speak to Mr. Max Shean please ..."
I hope I'm as active and as alert when I'm 88 years old.
[ These photographs are from a private collection and may not be published elsewhere without the express permission of the author of this blog. Enquire to lifeasaddy <at > gmail dot com ]