British Sub Ace & 23day sinking survivor dies

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British Sub Ace & 23day sinking survivor dies

Post by Andy H » 04 Aug 2003 17:15

From todays Daily Telegraph

Vice-Admiral Sir Ian McIntosh
(Filed: 04/08/2003)

Vice-Admiral Sir Ian McIntosh, who has died aged 83, was a submarine ace in Norwegian waters and the Bay of Biscay as well as the co-leader on an epic lifeboat voyage during the Second World War.

McIntosh was commanding the overseas patrol submarine Sceptre in February 1943 when he took part in Operation Source, in which five submarines each towed a midget submarine from the Shetlands to Altenfjord, Norway, to attack the German battleship Tirpitz. The resulting explosions did not sink her, but she rose several feet in the water.

He then towed the midget X-24 to Bergen, where he sank a merchantman alongside a floating dock. The Germans believed this was the result of sabotage, so McIntosh had little difficulty in returning to finish the job by sinking the dock, thus making him the "top tower".

The following May, McIntosh sank the blockade-runner Baldur in Spanish territorial waters, which resulted in a minor diplomatic incident but ended Spain's wartime trade in iron ore with Germany. On night surface patrol off Norway, he sighted three ships and three escorts, and immediately fired four torpedoes which struck their targets; one ship exploded and another burst into flames before disappearing.

Under McIntosh's command Sceptre became one of the most successful of the S-class boats in home waters, sinking almost 15,000 tons of enemy shipping; he was twice mentioned in dispatches for courage and devotion to duty, and was awarded the DSO in 1944.

Ian Stewart McIntosh was born in Melbourne on October 11 1919, and educated at Geelong Grammar School before joining the Royal Navy in 1938. On joining his first submarine, Porpoise, in 1941, he insisted that the Chief Engineroom Artificer show him the purpose of all the machinery, valves and pipes. But he was reticent about where he had been since completing his submarine training six months previously.

In fact, McIntosh had been a passenger on the Anchor line steamer Britannia when she was sunk by a German raider some 600 miles off the West Africa coast. He found himself with 82 fellow passengers and crew in a lifeboat designed for 56, awash to the gunwales. After they had all baled furiously, he was held over the side by his legs while he stuffed the larger shrapnel holes with torn blankets and covered them with sheets of tin. With just 16 gallons of fresh water, 48 tins of condensed milk and two bags of hard biscuits, but no oars, they were forced to sail westwards across the Atlantic. The condensed milk was rationed by dipping a spoon and wiping it on each man's palm.

McIntosh sketched a chart from memory and with the Britannia's Third Officer, Bill McVicar, who "became like a twin brother" to him, the lifeboat was steered by the sun and stars. Their navigation was only a few miles in error when they smelled land 23 days later. Just 36 survivors staggered ashore at Sao Luis, Brazil - emaciated, burned by the sun and covered in sores and boils - after a voyage of 1,500 miles. McIntosh was awarded the MBE.

After he joined Porpoise, she was dispatched to the First Submarine Flotilla, based in Alexandria, and started what was known as the "magic carpet" of underwater freighters, which brought vital fuel, stores and personnel to the besieged island of Malta. McIntosh's next submarine was Thrasher, where he succeeded Lt Peter Roberts, who with Petty Officer Thomas Gould had just won the VC for dislodging two unexploded bombs from the casing after being bombed off Crete. For his bravery and skill during Thrasher's next four patrols in 1942 McIntosh was awarded the DSC.

He commanded Alderney from 1946 to 1948, then Aeneas from 1950 to 1951 when it made a visit to Karlskrona, Sweden, in the face of diplomatic protests from the Russians who were claiming the Baltic as their mare nostrum. McIntosh was loaned to the Royal Australian Navy in 1948, but he decided his future was in Britain when selected to become "teacher" on the "perisher" course for submarine commanders.

After returning to general service, McIntosh was given command of the aircraft carrier Victorious in the mid-1960s. Bringing her out of refit at Devonport was a dreary business, but he motivated his ship's company and the dockyard mateys by his enthusiasm, despite a fire and a death onboard. At sea afterwards, when a little girl fell ill in Gibraltar and needed to be brought home quickly, McIntosh insisted that she and her father, a Royal Marines corporal, should take over his own cabin as a temporary sickbay.

McIntosh became Director General Weapons from 1968 to 1970, when he was awarded the CB, and then became Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Operational Requirement). He was knighted KBE in 1973, though he reckoned the hardest thing he ever did was to give up the MBE he had won in the epic lifeboat voyage which had taught him so much about leadership and humanity.

In retirement he became a management consultant, and chaired a number of naval charities and organisations, including the Sea Cadets' Association (1973-1983). He also espoused the preservation of the Second World War destroyer, Cavalier, the last of her type and winner of The Sunday Telegraph's trophy for the fastest ship in Britain in 1971: he beat the Admiralty down in its asking price from £100,000 to £65,000.

Though ill for some time, McIntosh insisted he was only "rather crook" until he died on Thursday. He married Elizabeth Rosemary Rasmussen in 1943, whom he nursed for many years until her death. He is survived by their three sons; a daughter died in an accident when young.

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