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Submariners assemble at anniversary dinner

4 April 2018
Real-life comic book heroes from the Submarine Service gathered at HM Naval Base Clyde recently to help celebrate the 117th birthday of the Royal Navy Submarine Service.

Submariners assemble at anniversary dinnerOn Thursday 22 March, hundreds of members of the silent service held their annual 'Gambit Dinner', marking the anniversary.

This year’s celebrations had a comic book flavour, thanks to publisher DC Thomson who donated dozens of copies of their world-famous ‘Commando’ Comic to the attendees.

The kind-hearted publisher joined forces with the event organisers by printing special fliers, featuring artwork from issue number 4207, the 65th anniversary of D Day special edition. 

The comic tells the story of Operation Gambit, the act of daring-do which the annual dinner is named after.

It was particularly poignant because some of our invited guests were involved in Operations Gambit and in Operation Source which is also covered in the comic

Warrant Officer 1 Andy Knox, Command Warrant Officer Submarine Service

“Warrant Officer McKay got in touch with DC Thomson after seeing the Commando comic on Operation Gambit,” explained Warrant Officer 1 Andy Knox, the Submarine Service’s Command Warrant Officer.

“When he told them that we hold an annual Gambit Dinner at HM Naval Base Clyde they very generously offered to help.

“It was a great touch, having individual fliers of the comic depicting the event at each person’s place at the table. It was particularly poignant because some of our invited guests were involved in Operations Gambit and in Operation Source which is also covered in the comic.”

One of the invited guests was veteran submariner Jim Booth (95) who took part in Operation Gambit.  Unfortunately Jim was unable to attend the event but was toasted by all the attendees. 

The mission saw two Royal Navy midget X Class submarines clandestinely sail to Normandy to help mark the Sword and Juno beaches ahead of the D Day landings.

Jim was a Royal Navy diver on board one of the boats, landing on Normandy beaches under cover of darkness in order to assess Nazi gun emplacements. Another guest at the event was Commander John Lorimer DSO (95), the last survivor of the Second World War mission to sink German Battleship Tirpitz.

Known as Operation Source, three X Class submarines were sent to target the Tirpitz, Scharnhorst and the Lutzow. The daring mission succeeded in damaging the Tirpitz and later saw the award of two Victoria Crosses.

Commander John was thrilled to be at the event and that his missions had been immortalised in a Commando Comic,” said Andy.

“Our Royal Marine guests from 43 Commando were also delighted as we made sure we had issues dealing with the Marine’s exploits at their table.”

Also attending was veteran Harry Melling (92) who had travelled to the birthday dinner from his home in Wigan. Harry, who served on HMS Osiris and played a role in the Allied invasion of Sicily, was the victim of a callous robbery last year.

An unknown assailant made his way into his home and pushed him to the ground before stealing the veteran’s wallet. The submariner community rallied round, raising money to take him and family members to London to attend the Submariners’ Remembrance Service and Parade.

Rear Admiral John Weale, Head of the UK Submarine Service, said: “It was humbling to hear about the adventures and exploits of these Wartime submariners.

“They truly are heroes, and their bravery and commitment to the defence of our country is something which deserves to be celebrated. The modern Submarine Service shares their values and commitment and operates around the globe in the same spirit even today.”

Founded in 1901, the Royal Navy Submarine Service began with five vessels ordered from Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering in Barrow-in-Furness. The first British submarine, Holland 1, was launched in 1902 and from then on the Service never looked back.   

Commando is Britain’s longest serving war comic, publishing stories of action and adventure since 1961. Commando’s stories cover every corner of the globe and are set throughout world history. The epic tales of bravery in battle make Commando Comics the Home of Heroes!

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