Lieutenant 

Richard Evelyn 

COLTART, 

DSC

Royal Navy

Died On:
Aged:
27 October 1940

28

Richard Evelyn Coltart was born in Fulham in London on 6 July 1912, the son of Dr Guy Hemming Coltart (a Physician) and Mrs Mary Beatrice Coltart (née Mapplebeck).  He was a nephew of Captain Cyril G B Coltart, Royal Navy, a former Submarine Commanding Officer, SM Flotilla Commanding Officer, and Chief Staff Officer to Rear Admiral Submarines.  Richard Coltart attended Beaumont House School from January 1924 to December 1925 and joined the Royal Navy as a Cadet at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, in January 1926. He was appointed to the Battleship HMS NELSON for sea training on 5 September 1929, promoted to Midshipman on 1 May 30 and to Sub Lieutenant on 1 Sep 32. In January 1933, he was appointed to the Royal Navy College, Greenwich, for his Lieutenants Courses there and at Portsmouth.

Appointed to HMS DOLPHIN ‘for the Submarine Course’ in January 1934, on completion he was sent to HMS PROTEUS (4th Submarine Flotilla) at Hong Kong on 23 July 1934.  Promotion to Lieutenant followed on 16 March 1936.  Upon return to the UK, he joined the Submarine Depot Ship HMS TITANIA ‘as Spare First Lieutenant’ on 16 August 1937, thence to HMS H34 as First Lieutenant on 28 Sep 37, to HMS H50 as First Lieutenant on 6 Jun 1938 and back to HMS H34 on 14 Dec 38.  An appointment to HMS TAKU as First Lieutenant, ‘Standing By whilst completing’ at the Cammell Laird Shipyard at Birkenhead followed on 18 Feb 39.  On 1 June 1939, he was the Observer/Safety Number on board the tug GREBE COCK when HMS THETIS made her fateful dive in Liverpool Bay, and he it was who raised the alarm when THETIS failed to surface. Part of his testimony to the Board of Enquiry in July 1939 was quoted in the Birmingham Daily Post on Wednesday  12 July (see Note below).

Richard Coltart continued to serve in HMS TAKU until 22 May 1940 when he was appointed to the Commanding Officers Qualifying Course (COQC).  On successful completion, he was first appointed to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS MAIDSTONE ‘as Spare Commanding Officer’ on 5 July 1940 and thence to the Submarine Base HMS ELFIN ‘as Spare Commanding Officer’ on 13 July 1940.  His first seagoing command was HMS H31 on 7 August 1940, followed by HMS H49 on 13 October the same year.  On 17 October 1940 HMS H49 left Harwich for a patrol off the Texel on the Dutch coast.  H49 was sunk with only one survivor following depth charge attacks by German submarine chasers UJ 116 and UJ 118.

Richard Coltart is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval War Memorial on Panel No 36 Column No 3.

 

Birmingham Daily Post Wednesday 12th July 1939

Did Not Like Dive

Lieutenant Richard Evelyn Coltart said he was in the tug Grebe Cock accompanying the Thetis on her trial.  Speaking of the dive, he said: “I did not like the look of it, but first impressions were that she was quite manageable and would speed up and, by pumping or blowing the tanks, would reappear at periscope depth somewhere ahead.”

The Attorney-General: “You say you did not like the look of the dive?” “Yes.  She had become so heavy so quickly after being so light.  It was a sudden changeover.  That is how it struck me.”

Continuing, Lieutenant Coltart said: “I knew that if the vessel was in trouble, she would release indicator buoys and smoke candles.  At that time, I was not alarmed and when no indicator buoy or smoke candle appeared on the surface, this went far to allay my anxiety altogether.  However, between 3.30 p.m. and 3.45 p.m., when there was still no sign of her periscopes appearing and no sign of indicator buoy or smoke candles, I sent a signal via Seaforth Radio, asking from Fort Blockhouse the duration of the dive … as I did not know it.  The intention of this signal was to convey my anxiety without raising alarm which I did not feel.  Everyone on the bridge was keeping a very close lookout all round.”

Lieutenant Coltart said that communication was bad and the radio set weak.  He was trying to get a message through to Fort Blockhouse again, reporting the submarine’s disappearance, when he had a message that the dive should have been three hours, from 1.40 p.m.  Therefore, at 4.40 p.m. he gave up trying to send signals through, because he knew the Thetis was then overdue, and further action would be taken from Fort Blockhouse.  At 4.53 p.m. he had a message that the Tedworth and Brazen had been ordered to the diving position, and that he was to remain at anchor.  The Brazen came in sight about 9.10 p.m.  Those on the tug had been keeping a close look out, but nothing had appeared.  The Vigilant, the salvage vessel from Liverpool, arrived at about 3 a.m.

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