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Submariners in annual tribute to tragic Affray

By Ron Gordon

THE Gosport Branch of the Submariners Association held their annual HMS Affray Memorial Service on Gosport Waterfront on Sunday, April 16.

There were approximately 50 attendees at the Affray Memorial, including the Mayor of Gosport, Councillor Jamie Hutchison, Councillor Graham Burgess, and members of the Gosport and Portsmouth branches of the Submariners Association.

The service was taken by the Rev Stephen Ashley-Emery RN, Chaplain from HMS Sultan.

Special guests were the daughter and family members of CPO Reginald Whitbread, who was one of the 75 men who perished on A-class submarine HMS Affray when she was lost on April 16, 1951.

HMS Affray, commanded by Lieutenant John Blackburn DSC, had sailed in the early evening of Sunday, April 15, 1951, from the HMS Dolphin submarine base at Gosport to take part in exercise ‘Spring Train’ in the Western Approaches.

She dived off the Isle of Wight later that evening to make a submerged passage west.


Her crew was reduced from 61 to 50, to accommodate a class of 21 trainee engineering officers and instructors on a training course, and a detachment of four SBS Marines who were to carry out an exercise during her transit west. This made her complement 75.

She was lost some time between midnight on April 16 and 08.00 on the same morning when she failed to send a routine signal.

Extensive searches for her were carried out over the following two months but it wasn’t until June 14 that she was located lying in the Hurd Deep just 17 miles northwest of the island of Alderney by HMS Loch Insh. She was later identified as HMS Affray by divers from HMS Reclaim.

She is now designated as a war grave.

FOOTNOTE: Affray’s sole surviving A-class sister, HMS Alliance, can be seen at the Gosport Submarine Museum.

PICTURED: Ceremony takes place on Gosport Waterfront marking anniversary of the disaster.