TALES OF EVERDON BY MICK MEGEARY
His Majesty’s Submarine P311
In May 2016 an Italian diver exploring the sea bed around the small island of Tavolara off the North East coast of Sardinia discovered a British WW2 submarine which is believed to be P311. This submarine failed to return after leaving Malta on 30th December 1942 and the whereabouts of the wreck site were unknown until now.
An Everdon man Petty Officer Steward James King was aboard the submarine when it was lost, he was 24 years old.
It is likely the P311 hit a sea mine and sank in waters 90 metres deep. The Italian diver reported that the hull of the submarine had not been breached and the escape hatch unopened implying that the 71 crew members died of oxygen starvation and that their bodies remain in the hull. This sad discovery means that the final resting place of all the Everdon Servicemen of World War Two is now known, the wreck will remain a War Grave.
James King’s parents were Robert and Gertrude King, who lived in the last house in the village on the left of the road to Newnham, now where Anthony Elkington lives.
James was also married to an Everdon woman, Joan Bodily who as a widow later married John McCann. James and Joan had no children together. Although I knew Joan very well I never heard her speak of her first husband. Joan was a niece of Tom Bodily (1880-1964) the village undertaker and builder who was also a noted local character.
James King may have joined the Navy before the war as he is recorded as serving in another submarine HMS Tuna as a Leading Steward in 1940. While serving aboard the Tuna James was “Mentioned in Dispatches” for meritous conduct whilst the submarine was in action against German shipping. He must have been chosen for his experience for service in P311 when it was newly commissioned for in the submarine flotilla at Malta in November 1942.
On the 30th of December 1942 P311 left Malta with two “Chariot” two man midget submarines strapped to her hull to attack the Italian heavy cruisers” Trieste” and “Gloriza” lying at anchor off Sardinia, the submarine hit a mine before the attack could take place. When P311 came to rest on the seabed at 90 metres depth, the crew would have known that escape was impossible as the escape equipment would only permit escape at a maximum depth of 30 metres, to leave the submarine at the greater depth would mean the lungs would rupture causing certain death. It may have taken many hours before the last man died and it cannot be imagined what terrors the crew endured before their demise.
James did have a brother called Peter who, after the war lived on Church Green Badby with his wife Ivy also an Everdon girl, she was the sister of Francis Daniels Known as “Danny” who lived in a cottage on the Fawsley road. Some people may remember Pete King who every late October driving his NCC tipper lorry would put piles of road salt for winter use in the parish on his homeward to Badby.
M. E. MEGEARY - JULY 2016
LINK TO INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES NEWS STORY ON DISCOVERY OF P311
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