Hello and a warm welcome to this special page.

To those who were present at Portland for the unveiling of the Memorial Stone for those men lost in Her Majestys Submarine SIDON in June 1955, you will know that there will be a CD available which will have all the photographs of the day taken by the official photographer. Quite naturally, this would be the preferred method of viewing professional photographs all of which can be viewed in a leisurely manner on any CD reader, television, local or computer.  Therefore, this page is not intended to compete with the CD medium, and I would encourage you to make enquiries about obtaining your own copy by sending a request to Brian Hodder whose address appears on the HMS SIDON MEMORIAL INVITATION which is displayed in the photographs  below.

This page is designed to show those who were not present at the Ceremony the main events of the day, and to explain what you will see in the photographs which my wife took.

However before I start, please look at my first picture which shows Brian Hodder explaining to the Royal Marine Bugler {who sounded The Last Post and The Reveille} where he would stand to carry out his duty, and what would be happening in the harbour for the Wreath Laying Ceremony.   I am sure that Brian will be embarrassed when I say that much of the credit for a moving, dignified and wonderful ceremonial  event {albeit a casual one} was down to his sterling efforts and management skills. Brian is an Officer and Member of the Dorsetshire Submariners Association, and we submariners owe a great debt to them for fielding this event so successfully. I am sure that the families and friends of those who perished were grateful to all involved from the Dorsetshire Branch for their many kindnesses, expressed in great measure both formal and informal.

The story of the loss of Sidon is well known to submariners and to other royal sailors, but for others I offer this very brief account. HMS Sidon was one of many submarines stationed in Portland Naval Base in the 1950's.  She was an 'S' Class submarine {known in the navy as a Boat} and unlike the smaller surface vessels stationed in the Base {destroyers, frigates, patrol vessels, tugs etc} who were always berthed alongside shore jetties, submarines shared the same fate as the aircraft carriers who were also based at Portland and with visiting large ships, of being berthed in the middle of the harbour, having to use small vessels to ferry their crew's to and from shore. The submarines had a Depot Ship, a mother-ship and a very large ship too, called HMS Maidstone which arrived at Portland in 1946 and left in 1958, and Sidon shared that ship with other sister 'S' boats, 'T' boats and 'U' class boats {the latter put that way so as not to confuse you with 'U' boats, as in German submarines}. During the Suez War of 1956 I was in the Flagship HMS Tyne which had been the Home Fleet's Flagship based on Portsmouth before sailing for the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal.  From September 1956, Maidstone took over that duty, and remaining at Portland, she had two extremely important roles in the Fleet for the next eighteen months.  HMS Maidstone berthed submarines on both sides of the ship, port and starboard, and the pre-ordained positions were called 'trots'. As in naval practice, 'trots' to port were even numbers and those to starboard, odd numbers. I remember well that Maidstone {and other "Mum's" like the Adamant and the Forth} often had many boats on each side, and Portland was an extremely busy base in the 1950's.  The destroyers and frigates based at the base were all part of the 2nd T.S. {Second Training Squadron} and were led by Captain TS {or Captain 'F' or even 'D'} embarked in the senior destroyer/frigate.  The Captain of HMS Maidstone was known as SM2 and all his boats belonged to the Second Submarine Flotilla. Submarines were based at Portland for several reasons, but the two main reasons were to carry out experiments with the Portland based AUWE [Admiralty Under Water Establishment] and to provide realistic training in ASW {Anti Submarine Warfare} for the many officers and ratings of the TAS [Torpedo Anti Submarine] Branch taken to sea daily in the ships mentioned above from their shore base which was HMS Osprey.

On the 16th June 1955, very early in the forenoon, HM Submarine Sidon was alongside the Maidstone loading an experimental type torpedo which on completion of loading, would be taken to sea to be fired and assessed by personnel in the submarine {from AUWE} and those ashore at the AUWE Range. Much of the pre-sailing checks had been completed and the boat was within half an hour or so from slipping from its trot. It was at that point that the disaster occurred.  The experimental torpedo exploded inside its assigned tube allowing the sea into the TSC {Torpedo Stowage Compartment} forward, and through open watertight doors, into the accommodation spaces forward of the control room whilst she was still secured to her trot. What followed was horrendous but thank God that the torpedo did not have a warhead fitted.  Twelve men were to lose their lives, and the number rose to thirteen when a very brave national serviceman doctor [a Surgeon Lieutenant] entered the boat subsequent to the explosion to try and save lives. His name as Surgeon Lieutenant Charles RHODES, a young husband and father, and for his outstanding bravery and disregard for his own safety, was awarded the Albert Medal posthumously. Everybody was delighted when yesterday his daughter {a toddler in 1955} was present and with great pride she was wearing her fathers Albert Medal. Those who survived, including her Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Hugh Verry Royal Navy Rtd and are still alive in 2005 have been traumatised ever since, and the profound tragedy was to result in loss of the boat as an operational unit. After the sinking of the Sidon whilst still alongside Maidstone, she was taken to Chesil Beach  and beached for internal examination and when all the formalities were over, many months later, she was taken out into Lyme Bay, just a few miles away, and sunk to the bottom of the deep bay. Since those times, she has often been a target for underwater detection exercises.            

Two thirds of the way up the long climb to the top of Portland and just below the Verne Prison is the Royal Naval Cemetery which is the final resting place for the men of Sidon as a group.  The cemetery, unlike the place where the Memorial Stone lies, does overlook the harbour, and from it one can imagine looking across to the huge mass of HMS Maidstone and her relatively tiny charges nestling alongside her for warmth and comfort: indeed, since writing these words, I have added a photograph which does it all for you.  I can remember well the many hundreds of people who climbed this hill for a good view of Maidstone and the salvaging operation of bringing Sidon to the surface in the days following the tragedy. On several occasions the authorities asked these people [or perhaps they were ghouls] not to go to the hill and to give some thought for the families of the men who perished [nay, for the whole crew of Sidon] and respect their need for privacy in their profound grief.  It didn't work, and at one point, on a lovely sunny evening, the whole hill side was covered.  Looking back, many, I am sure, wanted to join ranks with those who grieved and wanted only the very best out of what there were witnessing and praying for loved ones.

A warship in the 1950's had three official names [it had others but some of them were rude] namely its literal name e.g., SIDON; its pennant number e.g., P259 when it was first commissioned and later S59, and its radio {and thus v/s} international callsign, which for sidon was mkks {Mike Kilo Kilo Sierra today in 2005} but in 1955 MIKE KING KING SUGAR.  On the 16th June 1955, Sidon would have set watch with the depot ship HMS Maidstone on the submarine exercise and safety net one hour before sailing at approximately 0800. The frequency of this net was 4340 kc/s {then, kHz today}  and the net was listened to  by Portland W/T {ashore} and all ships exercising in the area as a safety measure. Ships talked to Portland W/T on a different circuit.  What follows  is a  morse code signal sent at a slow speed of 15wpm. It is almost certainly the first time Sidon's callsign has been heard on the air waves {the Internet} since the morning of the 16th June 1955. In the signal we hear the Sidon's callsign calling her depot ship maidstone whose callsign is GXZZ [GOLF XRAY ZEBRA ZEBRA], strong at first and then getting progressively weaker until it disappears from our ears.  Charles Clayton, a Telegraphist who perished in Sidon would have made this callsign many times. Charles is not buried with sidon's dead as a group of twelve men, but on his own in a separate part of the cemetery simply because his religion, his church, the roman catholic church, demanded that he should be buried in a catholic spot and not an anglican spot, and all this despite his parent's wishes for wanting him buried as a "sidon". {{A personal comment - I wonder why so many churches are empty?}}   SIDONS LAST TRANSMISSION.wav

The ceremonies started on the Wednesday evening, when SIDON'S, as they warmly refer to families and friends of those who perished and ex crew members, all of whom wore a pink colour name plate endorsed with their name etc., gathered at the Portland Heights Hotel for dinner before going on to a venue where much bonding was to take place.  My wife and I plus others attending the Memorial Unveiling also had dinner at the Hotel and then enjoyed a quiet evening in new surroundings.  The next day, after a hearty breakfast, the Sidon's plus invited guests {my wife Beryl and I for example} 

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 were bused from the Hotel to Portland Dockyard to witness the laying of a wreath on the sea in the approximate position of where the Sidon was when she sank alongside Maidstone. I don't have to hand a full and clear picture of Maidstone with her boats, but I do have a picture of HMS Adamant, a Plymouth based mother ship with her boats in Falmouth Bay in 1962.  The picture gives one an excellent idea of what Maidstone would have looked like from the air in 1955 in Portland Harbour.  Also, I have a couple of plans of what Portland Harbour looked like when it was a naval base in 1955 and on these plans I can mark out where the Maidstone lay and roughly where Sidon 's trot was. I can also shown you where we assembled to watch the Wreath Laying Ceremony.

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Here one can clearly see the three main berths for smaller ships namely on 'Q' Pier, Inner Coaling Pier and Outer Coaling Pier with each berth numbered. When full, up to 24 destroyers/frigates could be accommodated, 12 ships on 'Q' and 12 on the Coaling Piers. In 1955 there was only one coal burning warship at Portland and that was the sea going tug HMS FETLAR. I have marked the place where we assembled to watch the Wreath Laying and also the position of the Maidstone and Sidon's approximate position relative to the Maidstone and the shore jetty.

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In this picture, the sea or harbour berths are shown which indicate a buoy to which a ship could secure. Again note the position of the Maidstone.

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This excellent picture, supplied by Brian Hodder for my use, is taken from a viewing point towards the top of the Portland hill. It looks down firstly onto the R.N. Cemetery to the graves of the men who died in the accident {almost the first rows as one enters the main cemetery gate which is at the extreme left of the picture} and then takes the eye down the hill to the dockyard and the harbour. There, over to the right, you will see HMS Maidstone with her tiny black-coloured charges along her port side forward trot, and I believe I am right in saying that the battleship Vanguard is behind her. In the distance, outside the breakwater, one can see Weymouth to the left and Lulworth to the right.

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HMS Adamant flying the Flag of FOSM in Falmouth Bay on completion of a large submarine Channel/Western Approaches exercise. I was in an 'A' boat but there are several types in this picture.

Here are two more pictures relevant to my story, and once again, supplied by Brian Hodder. This first shows HM S/M Sidon alongside HMS Maidstone {after the lifting} and aft can be seen a lifting vessel whilst forward a "camel".  These are cylindrical wooden devices which are filled with water for a controlled sinking down to the stricken submarine. When enough of them are sunk, they are lashed to and around the flooded submarine by divers.  The water is then forced out of them {exactly like water being forced out of a submarine's ballast tank} by high pressure air from a surface recovery unit, and the resultant buoyancy of the "camels" brings the still bodily heavy submarine to the surface.   The water is then pumped out of the submarine to give it positive buoyancy.      The second picture shows Sidon, helpless, sunk alongside the Maidstone, being lifted to the surface under flood lighting, with the top of the conning tower visible with the jumping wire atop the periscope mast {and other masts} stanchions .

The visibility was very poor, perhaps no more than 100 yards only which could have wrecked the plans made so diligently by the Dorsetshire Submariners Association. What they had planned for this phase was executed to the full with timely grace and dignity, and set  a high standard for the rest of the Ceremony. Out of the mist at about 1045, an orange colour vessel approached our viewing point shortly after followed by the proverbial sound of a low flying big helicopter, in this case a SeaKing of the Dorset Search and Rescue Team. The vessel was the Weymouth Life Boat.  As the vessel approached in full view of our position, a winchman was lowered from the helicopter down onto the lifeboat with a wreath and immediately after, the chopper flew away. After a few circular manoeuvres by the vessel, the chopper returned to collect the winchman and departed with two prominent lowerings of the nose of the chopper in a clear salute and farewell:  those assembled clapped enthusiastically which whilst not heard in the chopper, would certainly have been seen  on the flight-deck.  Soon afterwards, the crew of the lifeboat lowered the Wreath into the sea supported by a large red round buoy and then stood-off again clearly in a saluting posture.  Then came the blessing given by Paul Gordon, an ex Chief Petty Officer Royal Canadian Navy and cousin to Verne Mcleod who lost his life on the Sidon. Finally the lifeboat approached the jetty on which we were standing, waved goodbye and then disappeared back into the thick fog, back to Weymouth. Here are some pictures which will help you to understand the text.

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This is RFA FORT VICTORIA A387 berthed across from our viewing jetty on the old coaling pier. It was said that on her flight deck was the television camera's and crew. When our Marine sounded the Last Post the RFA responded with a suitable tannoy alert to bring the ships company on deck to the Salute and likewise sounded the "carry on" after the Reveille. As an additional mark of respect, all ships in harbour dipped their ensigns at 1100 the time the wreath was put in the sea.

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The Weymouth lifeboat closes our wait position.

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Waiting on the jetty for the start of the event. Sidon's, invited guests and VIP's. The man standing to attention and leaning backwards is Admiral Sir James Perowne KBE National President of the Submarine Association and next to him with fair hair , looking towards him and away from us is his wife Lady Perowne.

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A lone sailor stands and enjoys his cigarette whilst  two generations of Sidon's are engaged in private conversation.

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Brian Hodder sorting things out, as he did throughout the full ceremony. There's someone in the background {left} that I seem to know!

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Three groups - right foreground youngish Sidon's - in the left background old Sidon's and in the middle organisers and doers, Brian Hodder, the RM Bugler and the Canadian Cleric who gave the blessing at the Wreath Laying Ceremony, Paul Gordon.. In the far distant background is the RFA Fort Victoria.

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All of the above pictures show different shots of the Weymouth Lifeboat interacting with the Dorset SAR SeaKing Helicopter. The wreath can be seen floating on the surface of the sea with the round red buoy attached.  I am not sure whether the red buoy had a sinker attached to keep the Wreath in position, or whether it simply marked the Wreath thereby [hopefully] alerting small vessels to its whereabout. The last picture in the series shows the RM Bugler in his lonely outpost ready to sound the Alerts.
When it was all over, we boarded our coaches and returned  to an area called "New Ground" which is on the top of Portland immediately adjacent to the Portland Heights Hotel.
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Before I show you the next event, here are a couple of pictures of Portland because I consider it fitting that you should know exactly where the stone is when you pay your respects. The first thing one notices is that it is facing out over Chesil Beach and not out over the harbour where the tragedy took place. The Monument has two faces, the rear, which faces the sea has our dolphin wings carved on it.  The front face, which wisely faces away from the sea has the names of those who perished and brief explanation of the cause of the tragedy.  The Stone cannot see or be seen from the R.N., Cemetery. [However, see below to the next block of independent text].

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This picture ties it all together and allows you to see the distances involved.

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Just yards from where the Sidon Memorial stone is sited is the well maintained and cared for Portland War Memorial to the dead of both world wars. Sadly it has many names, me thinks too many for such a small place.  I took this photograph of the side which faces the harbour and Chesil Beach. Let us hope that the person who did this does not visit the Sidon Memorial !

In my last three pictures above, I mention the siting of the Sidon Stone and graffiti. It is fitting therefore to tell you how the stone's site was chosen, and to do it, I will use Brian Hodder's words:

"Four sites were looked at and the committee had reached a deadlock. The obvious place for the memorial was adjacent to the RN cemetery, but it was felt that no one would see it there and unfortunately the path to it is well used by dog walkers.  Two of the other sites were not on Portland.  In the end, two of us took our wives out independently and showed them all of the sites without comment, and they both plumped for the site where the stone now stands.  We wanted a site that was PROMINENT, EASY TO GET TO, WELL IN THE PUBLIC EYE in the hope to keep down vandalism, and one which OVERLOOKED THE SITE OF THE DISASTER, and of these four requirements, only the last one is not possible from the chosen site.  Since the chosen site is in close proximity with the Portland War Memorial, it will at least get acknowledgement at each Remembrance Sunday ceremony. The Portland RNA [Royal Naval Association] have promised to go to the Sidon Stone on completion of each Remembrance Day Service. The Dorset SA [Submariners Association] intends to have a wreath laid at the Sidon Stone on the 16th of June each year".

The weather changed demonstrably on our return to the vicinity of the Portland Heights Hotel, for here it was blowing a sharp cold wind and the visibility allowed us all to see one another but nothing beyond our relatively little group. Top coats were certainly the order of the day, although it did remain dry. The next stage of the Ceremony was the unveiling and the blessing of the Memorial Stone. The PDF file which follows gives the order of the ceremony. The cleric who officiated at the unveiling was Canon David Henley, a former submariners before taking the cloth.  His performance was a match for anything else that happened that day.  Also I will point out that the unveiling of the Stone was undertaken by Rear Admiral Paul Lambert assisted by Admiral Sir James Perowne. Apart from the VIP's listed in the Order of Service, there were several others, mainly family members, the Surgeon Lieutenant's daughter for example, who chose to stand in with those outside the barrier, but those especially invited who were not Sidon's and were inside the barrier included Lady Fieldhouse widow of Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fieldhouse and the Borough Mayor and Mayoress of Weymouth: the Mayor and Mayoress of Portland stood behind the barrier. Here then is the Order of Service HM SIDON MEMORIAL STONE DEDICATION.pdf.  The photograph which go with this stage of the ceremony are as follows.

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This picture was taken on "New Ground" early on Memorial day with the Stone wrapped in blue plastic sheeting and the area completely deserted.

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Two pictures of the Stone veiled with a White Ensign

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The Standard Bearers take up their positions behind the VIP's with their back to the sea and Chesil Beach.

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The final moments before the Service started with the Padre waiting for all to settle.

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Still waiting, but nearly there now. Lady Fieldhouse in fawn coat extreme left is getting blown about a little.

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The two Admirals unveil the Stone to allow us to see the stonemason's creativity. The lettering is on our side of the Stone.

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Folding the Ensign with dignity and of course correctly is not so easy in a gale force wind, but they do it well without a hitch.

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A member of the Sidon's represents all the loved ones whose men died, by laying a wreath at the foot of the Stone ably helped by Brian Hodder and watched by the Commanding Officer of the boat Hugh Verry [grey suit left rear corner of the Stone]. She was Betty Tonner. Betty's husband John died at the end of 2004 and was the Coxswain of Sidon at the time of the tragedy.  A submarine Coxswain is the most senior rating [non commissioned officer] in the boat.

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The folded Ensign has been given to the boats skipper Hugh Verry by Admiral Sir James Perowne and he in turn gives it to Commander Rupert Best  for safe keeping by the Dorsetshire Submariners Association.

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Most of the Sidon's await the arrival of their skipper [who is talking to the TV camera] before the official photograph is taken.

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My humble apologies because I had missed this picture out. Most important one too. This is the arrival of the Standard Bearers before the ceremony commenced. Apart from the Submarine Standards, there were Standards from the Ganges Association and from a Merchant Navy Organisation - well done to all.  It was a splendid turnout and I was proud to be there.

Then a very welcome break from the cold and the blustery wind as we entered the Portland Heights Hotel for an official reception luncheon. The buffet luncheon was excellent with generous amounts of pre poured white and red wine to chose from. After lunch, Sidon's and others were ferried down to the R.N. Cemetery by the Portland Community minibus, but we chose to say our goodbyes and drove in our own car to the cemetery to pay our respects.  Over the years we have done this on a couple of occasions, but on this visit the graves and the cemetery looked at their vest best.  It is a beautiful and peaceful place with sailors from all periods and all kinds of ships and submarines buried there.  This was the view we said our good bye to.