Admiral Beatty once said that submarines should have names as there can be little loyalty to a number. In January 1943, submarines started to use their names starting with the 'U' class, the 'S' class and then the 'T' class. Later on the 'A' joined in with the change over.

Take a British submarine, an 'A' Boat

which bar the pennant number shown is exactly the same as Auriga in the period 'build to conversion'.

Here, I could have cheated by re-processing the picture to show a different pennant number but that would have been wrong and insulting to the men of the Amphion shown above leaving Grand Harbour, Valetta, Malta, for the open Mediterranean sea. So instead, click on the pennant number you see above to see the cheating anyway!!  It will show you my bodging and you will see a very poor P419 boat, the pennant numbers of the 'Star of the Show', namely HM Submarine Auriga.  This I proffer in the absence of Auriga as built in 1945 for whom there is no comparable picture, regrettably.  The image above represents a bog-standard 'A' Boat ready for WW2 in the Far East. BUT, to view Auriga as she was in the very early post-war years although without her pennant numbers have a look at this picture.

Since most of the 'A' Boats were not completed before WW2 finished, and those that were survived the war, all without loss {although many cancellation of build} finished up with pennant numbers 'P' followed by three figures starting with a '4' - it is significant to know that all 'T' Boats began with the figure '3'.  Auriga herself was P419.  In the early 1950's, it was decided to change all submarine pennant numbers by changing the letter 'P' to the letter 'S' and dropping the first of the three digits. Thus any submarine carrying P?19, became S19. Now, since the 'T' Boats came before the 'A' Boats [just, in some cases] it befell to the 'T' Boat, HMS Tantivy, P319, to claim the title S19, leaving Auriga in a quandary.  She of course could not become S19, which was sunk [HMS Tantivy} by the navy as a ASW target off the coast of Scotland in 1951.  She therefore was assigned an unused pennant number which was S09.  Auriga  used this pennant number until after the 1959 commission on the Canadian Squadron based on Halifax {HFX} Nova Scotia until her return home to the UK in early 1961.  Thus in my tribute, John Willson and his colleagues served in Auriga at that time wearing S09 on her sail-fin.

Forty six 'A' Boats were ordered to fight the Japanese in the Far East Theatre/Pacific, but 30 orders were cancelled as the war ended.  Now well before John's day's onboard, fourteen of the remaining sixteen 'A' Boats were modified across the board and given sail-fins as well as all kinds of modern systems [telescopic snort mast instead of folding snort masts etc etc] and this occurred in the mid 1950's - only the Affray {lost in 1951 with all hands} and the Aurochs {deemed not fit to convert} were not streamlined .  Auriga, which was built by Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness  in the North of England in the early/mid 1940's, was heavily modified in Chatham Dockyard {in the South of England} and this is what she looked like afterwards [still pre 1960 and therefore still wearing the pennant number S09]:-

This is John Willson's [and others] Boat during the 1959-1961 Canadian Commission, known as the "SLACKERS" commission, the word used by Canadians for the Port of Halifax..  What didn't change [of course] was her name.  Her international radio callsign issued for WW2 was BVJV {Baker Victor Jig Victor} but this was changed to GGWM in the 1950's, which all Auriga telegraphists were au fait with, but she was S09.

Throughout the long period of 1959 to 1968, Jeff Exley was the Radio Supervisor for 2 years {and therefore John's boss}; then an 18 months refit in Devonport {RGD} which I joined towards at the end of; then me for 2 years again in SM6 Canada; followed by another 18 months refit this time in Portsmouth {RGP} when I was in SM1 Blockhouse Squadron, with a period in submarine Grampus S04; then me again for a further 2 years in SM7 Singapore, until leaving in late 1968.  The Canadian Squadron, SM6, was extant from 1955 until 1965, during which time Auriga spent nearly four years in that Squadron.

However, John Willson left HM S/M Auriga S09 in early 1961, and I joined HM S/M Auriga S69 in mid 1962. 

So why the change in pennant number? 

Well, believe it or not I was not aware that this had occurred until recently when I received the above picture [and others currently showing in this file SM6 SQUADRON HALIFAX NOVA SCOTIA CANADA] from a friend in Canada namely ANDY McCULLOUGH  of Windsor, Ontario, just 'south' of Detroit Michigan.  Thanks Andy.  I was first the Radio Supervisor {Senior Radio Man] of this boat when I was 23 and now I am 70 and I am just learning about this story.  I am embarrassed that I have to come clean, but that I must to save my internet "street 'cred".

This is the story.

In the 1950's, the navy developed the 'P' class submarine or the Porpoise Class, which had 8 boats.  The navy gave them  pennant numbers S01 to S08. In the early 1960's, the 'O' class submarines were coming into service, the first being the Oberon.  The navy wanted to continue the pennant number series where the 'P' boats had left off, using S09 to S21.  There were many more 'O' boats than 'P' boats and some were even sold to Australia and Canada.  However, Auriga, with S09, stood in their way.  Auriga was therefore reassigned yet another unassigned number S69, in order to release S09 which was given to Oberon. This is Auriga with her new pennant number:-

It is interesting to know that as we sailed East to Singapore to join the 7th Squadron based on the LST HMS Medway {our Depot Ship} which was moored on Fleet Landing HMS Terror and relieved by HMS Forth anchored off in the Straits, we were to join Oberon who left Singapore for the UK after being relieved by the Rorqual. The current holder of S09 being met by the former owner of S09.  Moreover, the Radio Supervisor of Oberon was Ken Godfrey and I, as Godfrey Dykes {arrowed}, was the Radio Supervisor of Auriga - coincidences ?  NOTE. I left the navy on the 27th June 1983 and my final pay date in the navy was my 45th birthday, the 27th July 1983.  On that day whilst serving in HM Submarine Walrus [a 'P' Class Boat] Ken Godfrey, then a Chief Radio Supervisor, died. He was a buddy of mine and I received that news with a very heavy heart.

After I left her, Auriga's year's were numbered. In 1970, newly refitted after our commission in the Far East, she had a major battery explosion off Gibraltar whilst running on the surface which injured ten men, but fortunately she was able to return to Gibraltar under her own power.  The explosion was caused by a build up of hydrogen which was probably not monitored correctly. She was never repaired and was placed on the official 'Disposal List' also in 1970.  See file DISPOSAL_OF_WARSHIPS_IN_1960s_AND_1970s  Early in 1975 she was scrapped in South Wales.

This is the story of Auriga's battery explosion taken from The Times. It is a thumbnail jpeg. Click on it to expand it to full size jpeg. Then, click on it again to enlarge it into a digitised page from the newspaper. Position the bottom scroll bar hard over to the right and the right scroll bar to the top of the page to start the story.

Whatever the pennant number, John Willson and Jeff Exley, with myself and John Sayers [the only radio man I know of today who served with me] experienced the same.  Auriga was not known to be a happy boat mainly because of its first lieutenant's and skipper's, but it travelled the word and did far more than its share of sea time.  See also HM_SUBMARINE_AURIGA_IN_SM7_1966_TO_1968

To all, but today, especially to John Willson deceased and to his widow Mary and brother Preston [long career Chief Telegraphist RN], I dedicate this little web page.

One little point of interest is the life span of HM S/M Auriga and during her years 1945-1971 [26 years] who her senior officer was year on year. This little table highlights their rank, appointment and names. The date is the date the officer joined the boat. Senior Officer [SO] is usually the First Lieutenant {or could be the Engineering Officer] whilst the boat is in refit or conversion, with the Commanding Officer [CO] joining towards the end of such events. Note the CO's rank which fluctuated from Lieutenant to Commander. Read the table left to right, top to bottom.

Lt Cdr A J W Pitt DSO
Lt R Banner-Martin DSC
Commander J B de B Kershaw DSO
Lt W R Rickettes
Lt Cdr P Hay
 Lt J M Bradley
Lt Cdr J A L Wilkinson DSC
Lt D G Hardy
Lt Cdr M R Todd
Lt T D A Thompson
Lt Cdr H J Bicford-Smith
Lt M J Casserly
Lt Cdr M R Wilson
Lt Cdr K A Bromback
Lt Cdr J L Round-Turner
Lt Cdr R M Venables
Lt Cdr C J Myer
Lt F S Worthington

 Yours aye.

Post Script

Above, I have stated why the pennant number was changed.  There are other instances where pennant numbers were changed, but there is one in particular which is note worthy. The navy, like any other large top-down organisation, is a form-filling administration, having Form Numbers beginning [prefixed] with the letter 'S' - with a few exceptions. This covered pay books, identity books, stores, signal pads, victualling, returns, punishments, personnel reports, materiel reports, medical reports, hospital surgery, you name; every thing had a Form, running into a many scores of them. Here, I list just a few which come from a 'book of reference' called BR4 - Naval Store Keeping Manual - and from BR320 - Catalogue of Naval Stores.

'S' Form Number Use
S156 Demand note for naval stores from the supply department
S1091 Return note for naval stores to the supply department
S1092 Temporary Loan Book, used when drawing items for a short period
S1099 Permanent Loan List Forms
S149 Counter Book. Use to draw certain consumable stores with an authorised signature
S145 Demand note for single item from ships supply department to dockyard or stores depot
S145a As above but for many items
S331 Return/survey note between ship and dockyard/stores depot
S549 Transfer of stores between ships

 One I have missed out on purposes so as to highlight it, was Form S126. You didn't want a Form S126?  Form S126 was raised against your name for lost stores and you had to pay for them out of your pay, the cost being stopped automatically.  If something went missing [stolen, purloined, conveniently lost or genuinely lost] which you had signed for on either a Form S1092 or a S1099, you were for the high-jump especially if the article was expensive and things often were.

Anyway, Form S232, is raised by a Commanding Officer who has the misfortune to run his ship aground.  When the frigate HMS Lancaster was in build she was assigned the pennant numbers F232 by MOD civilian employees not knowing of the Navy Form System. By the time the ship was launched by no less a person than Her Majesty The Queen in 1990, the originally assigned pennant number had disappeared and in its place was F229. No doubt that the CO was pleased with this substitution, although later on, it was said by one of those well known harbingers of gloom and doom, that the figures 232 added up to 7 which is the lucky number of the Chinese, but the figures 229 added up to our unlucky number of 13!