This private site is dedicated to the memory sb seeking sd those volunteers for Special and Hazardous service who received training to go to war aboard small craft, beneath the waves, during World War Two. 37ft miniature submarine developed during World War 2 by the British Special Operations Executive. Classified top secret for over 50 years, it is only in recent years that Government files detailing the existence of this project have been opened for research.
The craft was intended to provide an alternative method for the clandestine insertion and re-supply of agents behind enemy lines. It could also have been a useful asset for the gathering of coastal intelligence, transporting Special Forces personnel on raiding and sabotage operations, and possibly for the delivery and deployment of mines in enemy held ports, and coastal waters. It is difficult to give more than a brief outline of many Historical aspects mentioned on this website. Instead I have tried to illustrate relevant parts by providing a brief explanation. The “Sources” tab on the index page provides a link to a bibliography of my sources. Some of the books mentioned are no longer in print.
However the British Library does hold copies, which can be borrowed through the Public Library system in the UK. Research is ongoing, and as fresh detail emerges it will be added to the site. While every care has been taken to ensure that information given here is correct, it must be recognised that due to the passage of time, and the death of so many who were once involved, the complete Welfreighter story is very unlikely ever to emerge from the shroud of secrecy that was created and maintained to surround the development and existance of this fascinating craft. It is important to understand fully the war time context in which the Welfreighter was created. The placing of illustrations and images on this website has raised questions of copyright. In many instances it has proved impossible to identify the true holder of the copyright for these wartime images.
Therefore, out of respect, I have defaced each image with a credit identifyng the source. Should objections be raised, steps will be taken to remove images. All rights to Copyright for the website text are reserved by Tom Colville. The story of the British WW 2 midget submarines follows two distinct threads which are represented by the two columns of tabs below. While both are relevant to the Welfreighter project, the design and development of submersible craft occured within two distinct organisations.
This distinction is important, although in practice both shared Royal Navy training facilities and personnel. It is planned that this website will grow, over time, to include a large file of personal memoirs and accounts of events, that have been collected over the years. I have deliberately omitted many of the names of those involved from the historical text. Because of the nature of Special Forces, it has not always been possible to verify with any accuracy all of those who were involved at any particular stage. I hope the personal accounts, when posted to the website, will help address this problem. During a visit to Australia at the end of 2006 it was possible to follow the route followed by the Welfreighter trials.
I was received warmly by Naval personnel of the R. Historical Branch on Garden Island before travelling on via Broome north to Darwin. Here I received great assistance from personnel in the Territories Library, and in the Territories Museum. While it was not possible to enlarge on the actual history of the Welfreighter there, because few records that relate to the Welfreighter remain there, it was a valuable visit. People in Darwin today are generally unaware of the Top Secret activities that occured at East Arm in WW2.
My visit prompted renewed interest. This visit and my prompting attention was timely . I arrived just in time before the last traces of the former Lugger Maintenance Camp and Catalina base on what remains of the East Arm, are likely to be obliterated by further Port development works . Later in my journey, thanks to the assistance of the Australian War Memorial staff in Canberra, I identified a huge file in the National Archives in Canberra which appears to contain the trials diaries , and correspondence relating to the Submersibles attached to SRD. This file has never been opened for general research , and remains classified to this day.