HMS Perseus - escape from the deep - Rtn Brian Boyd
Wed 12th July 2017 at 18.30 - 20.00
Brian told us that he was on a family holiday on the Greek Island of Kefalonia, at a resort in the south of the island. He went on a day trip to Ithaca ( a neighbouring island) and interestingly there was a poster with a folder on the Cat Ferry, detailing the loss of a British Submarine during World War 2 off the coast of Ithaca near a town called Scala.
Brian was fascinated by this, as a passenger on the submarine, a Stoker by the name of John Capes, was the only survivor from the submarine as it had sunk to a depth of 270 feet.
The story was, that on the night of 6th December 1941, the Submarine HMS Perseus had struck an Italian Mine while on the surface recharging her batteries. She had sunk very quickly and only 4 people had managed to reach the escape tower in time. There was a bottle of rum in the tower and each man took a swig after donning the Davis Submarine Escape Apparatus and attempted to reach the surface. Only one man, John Capes, was successful ( the other three men having perished) and he was found on the beach at Scala, having swum the two miles to shore.
He was looked after by the locals, after finding that he was British, and he lost a lot of weight as well as dying his hair black to evade detection by the Germans. Eighteen months later, he was taken off by fishing boat arranged by the Royal Navy.
John was awarded a medal, but his story had inconsistencies, doubts were expressed and some thought that his story was an embellishment of the truth.
John Capes died in 1985 aged 75 years.
However that’s not the end of the story, as a Greek Diver called Kostas Theotarides found HMS Perseus in 1997. She was lying upright in 170feet of water and Kostas confirmed that the hatch and escape tower was as John Capes had described it, including the bottle of Rum! He also found the bunk he had been sleeping in (an unused torpedo tube!)
It was remarkable that Capes had escaped at a depth of 170feet when the escape apparatus was only supposed to operate from 100feet. Also that he had managed to get to shore across two miles of sea in winter.
Brian described a memorial in Poros , Kefalonia, to the men who had perished n HMS Perseus.
He had also done some research of his own and discovered that HMS Perseus had been built at Vickers Armstrongs Barrow and launched on 22nd May 1929.
Brian was thanked by Vice-President Colin Scraggs and all members present gave Brian appreciative applause