Malta, July 23, 1958 -- We were in Malta for a week during the Lebanon crisis. During
that time an arrangement was made between the Thornback and the British submarine
"Tally-Ho" (Pendant # 317), who we had been operating with in the Mediterranean. Two
crewmembers from each boat would be allowed to ride on the opposing submarine as
guests during undersea exercises.
I got wind of this real early, and got my request in right away. The only other submarine
besides the Thornback I had been to sea on was the Conger (SS 477) which was my
"school boat" at New London. I was pretty excited at the possibility of going to sea on a
foreign submarine with a great name that had been picked by Sir Winston Churchill
Apparently the officers up in the Forward Battery had forgotten about the cartoons I had
drawn about them last month that had got me in trouble, because my request was
approved. On the morning of July 23, 1958, I and TM Sandison boarded the Tally-Ho and
we put to sea.
Like the Thornback, the Tally-Ho was WW II vintage and had entered service in early
1943. It had an impressive war record, having sunk almost a quarter of the total tonnage of
warships and enemy naval vessels sunk by British submarines during WW II. The crew
knew this, and from the bridge they showed me where you could still see the weld marks
on the ballast tanks aft, where during one night of poor visibility in 1944 a Japanese
destroyer tried to ram the Tally-Ho.
The destroyer wasn't able to make a direct hit on the Tally-Ho, but it's screw sliced a
96-foot path of vertical gashes down the port side ballast tanks as it passed by. The port
side ballast tanks were opened up like a sardine can, but the pressure hull was
undamaged so they were still able to dive and get away.
Although severely damaged, the Tally-Ho was able to surface and make it back to port.
Repairs were made and the Tally-Ho was placed back in service for the duration of the
While we were running on the surface to the target area, I went through the boat and got
to meet everyone and was able to see some of the design differences between U.S. and
British 'forties vintage diesel-electric submarines. The Tally-Ho was smaller than the
Thornback and had less internal space. In the "berthing compartment" the bunks had to be
chained up to make a dining hall when it was time to eat. The boat had two large Vickers
Diesel engines for power, using a "direct drive" arrangement that connected the engines
directly to the screws with clutches.
Like the Thornback, the Tally-Ho had been "modernized" after the war with captured
German U-boat technology, and was retrofitted with a snorkel. Maximum diving depth was
Before we reached the target area, I learned the Tally Ho had been assigned as the
"target" boat that day for the Thornback and Pompon (SS 267). When we reached the
area we dove and soon all three boats were engaged in an undersea game of "hide and go
seek." All hands were at Battle Stations as tactical maneuvers were plotted in the Control
Room of the Tally-Ho. The planesmen strained at the wheels for the diving planes to
control depth, making every effort to hide from the Thornback and Pompon as they made
runs on us.
During earlier exercises on the Thornback, I'd heard that ghostly underwater echoing
sound of British ASDIC pinging and ringing on our steel hull while we hid below, and there
is no other sound like that in the whole world. Now I was inside one of those British
submarines, hiding from my own shipmates and friends on the Thornback who were trying
to find us the very same way.
During a quiet moment when the Thornback and Pompon had lost contact with us, I was
served a daily rum ration along with the other crewmen. For them it was just part of their
daily routine, but for me it was something really special. I will never forget being under the
sea on a British submarine and enjoying a "tot" of rum (1/8 pint) with those undersea
Late that afternoon when the exercises were over, we ran on the surface back to port. I
rode up on the bridge talking with the crew and liked the way they said, "aye mate" while
talking to me. They had very positive attitudes about their time in their Navy, even though
they had a minimum enlistment of seven years. They didn't believe in bitching or
complaining about life in their navy (like we did) or about conditions aboard the Tally-Ho.
They considered it their duty and honor to be serving their Queen and Country. Those
guys were great!
Of the three submarines engaged in that game of undersea "hide and go seek" that day,
only the Thornback has survived. It was decommissioned and went to the Turkish Navy in
July, 1971, and renamed "Ulac Ali Reis" and renumbered S-338. It faithfully served the
Turkish Navy for several more decades, and is now preserved as a museum in Istanbul,
The Pompon was not so lucky and was scrapped in December, 1960. And the Tally-Ho
herself was broken up for scrap in 1968.
And on Friday, July 31, 1970, after more than 300 years of issuing daily rum rations, the
Royal Navy abolished that cheerful tradition. And for those who have enjoyed that
tradition, that day will forever be known as "Black Tot Day."