- Smith, Peter
- History - WW1
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Otway I, HMAS Oxley I
- March 2003 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
In his report to Commander in Chief Home Fleet, RADM (S) Watson stated that:
‘. . . from reports of other submarines of the patrol and from the evidence of the Board of Inquiry, submarines experienced great difficulty in maintaining their positions for the following reasons: (a) The irregular sets. (b) The correct disinclination of Commanding Officers to surface for sights because of the risk of being seen by enemy aircraft. Immediately after the receipt of Triton’s signalled report of the accident submarines were spaced 16 miles apart.’
RADM Watson also concurred with the remarks of LCDR Steel upon the gallant conduct of LEUTs Watkins and Stacey while rescuing the survivors and had directed the commanding officer to forward recommendations for awards by the Royal Humane Society in accordance with King’s Regulations and Admiralty Instructions.
The report continued with:
’. . . from the evidence of the Board of Inquiry it is apparent that neither Triton nor Oxley were aware of the significance of firing a grenade, which in this case is ‘I assume you to be a friend,’ no reply being required. Triton was not aware of this because, after firing the grenade, he counted 15 before firing his torpedoes, and Oxley was not, because he fired a grenade in reply to Triton’s which failed to detonate. The above facts have no bearing upon the findings of the Board of Inquiry because Triton carried out the correct challenge procedure before firing his grenade.’
The report continued with:
‘. . . in reference of the finding of the Board of Inquiry it is for consideration whether a Court Martial should be convened either to try LCDR Bowerman on a charge under the Naval Discipline Act or alternatively to try both survivors under the provision of Section 92 of that Act. Under the circumstances it is recommended that no Court Martial should be held because (a) no evidence other than that of the Commanding Officer is available from Oxley. (b) Unnecessary publicity would result from holding a Court Martial (so far the circumstances in which Oxley was lost have not been made public) and no useful purpose would be served’
The Admiral’s report then stated:
‘In view of the navigational difficulties the Board may have been misled in allocating 10% blame to LCDR Bowerman. There is no evidence to show that this officer did not do all that a reasonably careful and capable officer should have done in the circumstances.’
The report finished with the statement that the two survivors from Oxley have been sent to join HMS Dolphin.
The names of LEUTs Stacey and Watkins and a brief on their gallant conduct were sent to the Royal Humane Society. The summary of the meeting stated:
‘The ship manoeuvring ahead and astern close to the men in the water. Rescue 11 miles (17.7 kilometers) from land in 150 fathoms with oil and fuel on the sea. Stacey with bowline dived in from Triton and rescued Bowerman. Again dived in and rescued Guckes. Watson dived in to rescue Manley and swam to the ship, when Manley disappeared, Watkins was hauled aboard.’
Of the two nominated officers, only LEUT Stacey was deemed eligible for the award of the Bronze Medal. LEUT Watkins was Mentioned in Dispatches gazetted 1 April 1941.
- The Oxley Board of Inquiry held in the Michael White Collection at Spectacle Island,
- ‘The Triton and the Oxley ‘ from ‘The Guinness Book of Naval Blunders’, by Geoffrey Regan. (ISBN 0-85112-713-4)