The first effective depth charge became available in 1916 – after 3 years work and various ‘prototypes’ were developed at the request of Admiral John Jellicoe, by Herbert Taylor at the RN Torpedo and Mine School, HMS Vernon.
What, you might wonder, am I doing writing about the depth charge?
Other than that it is a conjunction of words, a kind of poetry which has rolled around in my head ever since I was a small girl, I have no idea. Brought up on tales of wartime daring-do & bravery by generations of uniformed relations. At that time (the 1950’s) the history taught was very much informed by British naval history .. I’ve inherited a passion for anything and everything to do with the sea. Tales of ships, roads, machines etc built to impossibly urgent deadlines, and to exacting standards, under circumstances so adverse as to often resemble a human idea of hell on earth.. only served to fuel my already all-consuming need to “find out how things work”.
Here, Dumfries and Galloway provided an ideal location to test wartime method and invention, making a major contribution in the form of the WW2 Mulberry Harbour design at Garlieston.. .. and, inevitably, losing lives in the process. I recently visited a church in Dalry and was moved to see a woman’s name recorded on the town war memorial followed by the familiar suffix.. NA.A.F.I. How that brings home that she was real.. and had a home, here.
In this year of the 100th anniversary of World War 1.. it seems fitting to finally find an outlet for that fascination with the words ‘depth charge’. Especially as my mother’s naval career ( first posting) began at HMS Vernon as a young wren in the Women’s Royal Naval Service.
To me the words Depth and Charge have resonance in so many other ‘realms’..the emotional, spiritual, and the simply physical. The decisions we take in life can have an effect like a depth charge .. sometimes the implications of those decisions can take many years to play out.
Dropping, straight as a die
into the danger area.
Sinking speed held steady
by sheer weight to avoid
Roll the ashcans off the racks
at the stern of
the moving, attacking vessel
and hope we don’t score an own goal,
damaged by the force
of our own weapons.
Sonar contact lost
prior to attack-
as we pass over the enemy
to drop the charge beyond the stern-
rendering hunter blind
at crucial moment.
Stand off at distance.
Hunter killer appears out of nowhere..
crash dive to escape attack.
Successful evasive action.
High survivability rate intact.
Some charges fuzed to explode
at too shallow a depth.
The deeper the charge
the more deadly the impact.
The killing radius of the charge
depends on depth and payload,
size and strength.
Disablement radius less damaging
initially; not sunk,
put out of commission.
Primary and secondary shock waves
resonating through water,
War maims, kills, disables.
Sets alight the passion to perpetuate
or to disarm.
As long as we continue to hate –
Send a shock wave through time
into the heart of man,
woman, child.. though oceans apart.
Never forget what they gave,
for us, forever,
The cynical expansion and contraction
of material or political gain –
divides ONLY with pain.
Let the depth to which the lost cared
charge through waves,
Detonate a new depth charge. Be brave –
make it one of love.
2nd June, 2014