Lieutenant Commander Frank (Sandy) Powell spoke about ‘X Craft Submarines’ at the Probus meeting on June 5.
The talk was illustrated by many photographs, memorabilia and diagrams.
The ‘X Craft’ were midget submarines built between 1942 and 1945, bringing an extra dimension to the operational power of the Navy.
Frank outlined some of the action in which they were involved between 1943 and 1945. They could dive to 300 feet, had a crew of between three and six, with a range of 1,000 miles.
Two prototypes were built in 1942. Gradually more were manufactured, with improvements and refinements being added with each model.
Pictures helped members to understand why they were described as midget submarines, being about 50 feet in length. Sectional drawings showed the cramped conditions inside: it was not possible to stand up within them, and every inch of space needed to be utilised. There was an important Gainsborough connection. Several of these submarines were manufactured at Marshall’s Engineering. A photograph reminded members of the busy scene in Beaumont Street, and in these works, number one yard, the submarines were built, including the ‘XEs’. Security was important and measures were taken to prevent anyone knowing too much about them.
The group were also given some idea of the logistics of moving such submarines from the factory to central station, even though it is not far away. ‘X24’ , named ‘Expeditions’ and built in Gainsborough, is the only fully preserved example in existence now, most of the others having been scrapped between 1950 and 1960. It is in the Portsmouth Submarine Museum on permanent exhibition, worthy of a visit perhaps, a fascinating part of that museum and Gainsborough heritage.