Friday, October 26, 2007

THE SECRETS OF THE DEEP

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The Herald
By Tristan Nichols
October 25, 2007





It's hard to imagine a nuclear submarine welcoming a Royal visitor on board just days after losing a man overboard.

But that's exactly what happened in December 1972 on HMS Courageous.

The anecdote is just one of many that will appear in a new book dedicated to the decommissioned hunter killer submarine, laid up at Devonport Naval Base.

Having ended her operational life in 1992, the former covert surveillance vessel is now enjoying a new lease of life as a city tourist attraction.

And one of the vessel's former leading seamen, Mike 'Pitt' Keathly, is writing a book on her life in a bid to dispel the mystery surrounding nuclear submarines.

"She had a good life," said Pitt, from Saltash, referring to his ocean home between 1970 and 1974.

"She did six operational patrols when she was gathering intelligence and a great many other shorter patrols.

"We tragically lost a man over the side in 1972 off the Isle of Skye and, two or three days later, we welcomed Princess Anne on board.

"The submarine's life was not all squeaky clean. She had her bumps and scrapes - she even bounced off Sanda Island near the Mull of Kintyre once.

"The damage didn't get repaired for four years.The hull was slightly stoved in and it was not repaired until her refit.

"Luckily she was made of some tough metal."

After more than 21 years of service, the 285ft vessel was finally decommissioned in April 1992 at Devonport Naval Base, where she now lies.

Pitt, who has painstakingly helped to restore her over the years and who now also volunteers as a tour guide on her open days, added: "I want to demystify the feelings towards, and the workings of, the nuclear submarine.

"Also I cannot help but feel that if we do not capture a record of what happened during that period, then it will be lost in history.

"During the Cold War, nuclear submarines were a big taboo subject. Fifteen years after the Cold War ended, I feel it is time to tell the story."

Pitt said it had taken him four or five years to get the information together for the book, which he hopes to publish next year.

Tours of HMS Courageous are now staged every Thursday. To organise a tour, call 01752 553941 and leave a message with your contact details.

Former crew members with photographs, documents or any other items are being asked to contact Pitt. He is also keen to welcome new volunteer tour guides to help with demand. For further information, email him at pittk@hotmail.co.uk


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www.schnorkel.blogspot.com

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