The Greatest Submarine Escape Ever

During World War II the clean and clear waters of the Mediterranean were a deadly zone for British submarines. They were easily spotted and bombed from the air by specialized submarine hunting planes. And due to the lower depths of the sea, they were easier to hunt with sonar, allowing gunships to drop lethal depth charges on them. Worst of all were the numerous mines floating around, ever-dangerous ready to kill you: the minute you lost focus.

At the time, submarines were seen as a large coffin for everyone on board, when they sunk no one got out – that was just how it was. That’s why submariners were known to have nerves of steel. For every five submarines that deployed into the Mediterranean, two would be sunk. To demonstrate just how difficult it was to escape a sinking submarine, during the whole war there are only four known escapes! And none of them are as exceptional as when John Capes escaped the doomed HMS Perseus.

scubahellas.com

John Capes was a 31-year-old Navy stoker and was a passenger on board the HMS Perseus en route to Alexandria. He was the son of a diplomat so was part of the officer class, people described him as a bit of mystery – a tall, dark and handsome individual. On the 6th December 1941, the HMS Perseus was on the surface recharging her systems under the shroud of darkness when they ran into an Italian mine. The violent explosion caused the boat to plunge into the seabed.

Capes was at the time relaxing in unused torpedo bay that he had turned into his improvised bunk, suddenly he was thrown across the room and the lights went out. The pressure of the water caused the door to be forced shut, yet water was rising and there was a foul odor in the air. Capes later wrote that he was surrounded by “the mangled bodies of a dozen dead.”

He surveyed the scene and quickly dragged anyone who was still alive towards an escape hatch. The Davis Submarine Escape Apparatus, a sort of rubber lung with an oxygen bottle and goggles was the only hope! Yet it had only been tested to a depth of 30m and here they were at least at a depth of 80 meters. No one had ever escaped this sort of depth. He took the last swig of his rum, dropped his bottle to the ground, and opened the hatch.

“Suddenly I was alone in the middle of the great ocean” – Capes.

His companions did not make it but Capes somehow survived to the surface, where he now had to swim to the closest island. Incredibly he saw some white cliffs and made it to the shore of Kefalonia. Found by two patriotic fishermen, for the next 18months he was hidden from their Italian occupiers, often the locals risked the lives of their entire family just to hide him.

Finally, he was able to escape to neutral Turkey, and make it back to a British naval base in Alexandria. When the Royal Navy heard of his escape it was highly doubted – remember there was no record of Capes being on the crew list! But in 1997 when the wreck of HMS Perseus was discovered, his story was verified. His torpedo bunk was there and his bottle of rum? Still safe in the opened escape hatch!

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • Before 1935 Toilet Paper Had Splinters

    Yes, your nightmare, toilet paper with splinters, was actually a sold commodity before the 1930s. Imagine going to the toilet, only to have to face a dangerous roll of toilet paper that was planning to stab you the moment you let your guard down. Those splinters would have been extremely painful, that is for sure....

    Read More
  • Melanism Nature’s Incredible Opposite Of Albinism

    Most people have heard of Albinism which is the congenital disorder that is known by the complete or partial absence of any skin pigments. The pigments are often lacking in the skin, hair, and eyes. Normally this results in white hair and pink eyes when it comes to mammals. When it comes to animals it...

    Read More
  • Wolverine Horror Frog Breaks It Own Bones For A Claw

    The hairy frog or the horror frog as eloquently known is not only a strange looking creature in the animal kingdom. It also possesses a trait which as far as everyone knows is completely unique. When under aggression or needing to defend itself from a predator, the hairy frog will break its own toe to...

    Read More
  • So Many People Were Buried Alive A Safety Coffin Was Patented

    During the 17th and 18th century one of the great fears that played in the back of everyone’s mind was the possibility of being buried alive. With sicknesses and diseases often ravaging whole communities, sometimes mistakes were made. It could only take someone falling into a deep fever, with their breathing extremely lowered for them...

    Read More
  • The Mouse That Believes It's A Wolf

    If you heard this creature deafening cry during the night, you may be mistaken to think a wolf was right behind you. Definitely, you would not want to hear it creep up behind you howling in a forest, though if it did you may be forgiven for breaking down into nervous laughter. Because this is...

    Read More