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Port D

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Port D was a Naval training base located at Keose, Loch Erisort, near Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis.

The base was established early in 1942, when the submarine depot ship HMS Titania anchored between Garyvard and Keose. Tite, as she was known within the submarine service, arrived with a small group of trainees, volunteers from the Navy and Royal Marines, who had responded to an Admiralty call for men willing to be trained for difficult and dangerous operations. In reality, they were being recruited for training to operate Chariots, or Human Torpedoes, and X-Craft, or Midget Submarines. A landing stage was constructed at Keose, equipped with a ladder giving access to the diver's training area, where the water depth was around 30 feet.

Although the location meant activities at the base were not hidden, they were classified secret, and only revealed on a Need to know basis.

In June, the first Mark I chariot was delivered to to the trainees.

While Port D was being established in 1942, a second submarine depot ship, HMS Bonaventure (launched in January, 1943), anchored in Loch Cairnbawn and established Port HHZ. This would be used for training on larger, deeper and more heavily defended targets. In August, the charioteers were moved to Port HHZ, with Port D being dismantled in September of 1943.

Training could be both stressful and dangerous, with at least one fatality being recorded. It was also intense, with the men suffering nasal damage caused by the tight nose clamps they had to wear, sinus problems and burst eardrums from the constant diving exercises. Unconsciousness, convulsions and toxic poisoning were also suffered by many, as the breathing apparatus used an oxygen rebreather system to avoid the air bubbles released by compressed air tanks. Training progressed in stages, beginning with Chariot operation, navigation, endurance, target approach and final attack. Boom Defences were also set up, to allow the techniques required for cutting through anti-torpedo and anti-submarine nets, and then the most difficult part of the operation, setting and attaching the warhead to the target.

Submariner training was also carried out in Loch Striven, where HMS Varbel was established in the Kyles of Bute Hydropathic Hotel at Port Bannatyne on the Isle of Bute, and at HMS Varbel II, Ardtarig House, across the loch, on the mainland.

Chariot details

Chariot Mark I:

  • Built by Stothard & Pitt (Crane Makers)
  • Length 22 feet 3 inches
  • Breadth 2 feet 9 inches
  • Height 4 feet (at shield)
  • Speed 2.5 knots
  • Weight 3,500 lb (with warhead)
  • Depth 90 feet
  • Range 5 hours (range dependant on sea currents)
  • Crew 2

Chariot Mark II:

  • Designed by Commander S.M.Terry R.N. 21:10:1942
  • Principal advantages:
  • Streamlined better speed and economy
  • Crew sit inside back to back
  • Larger warhead
  • Better controls
  • Length 30 feet 6 inches
  • Diameter 2 feet 6 inches
  • Max height 3 ft3 inches
  • Weight 5,200 lb (with warhead)
  • Armament 1,000 lb explosive charge (weight 1500 lb)
  • Max speed 4.5 knots
  • Range 5 to 6 hours at full speed
  • Depth 600 feet
  • Operational depth limited to 30 feet

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Aerial views


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