Crest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationCrest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationHMS VIMIERA

The Asdic Team of "Submarine Detectors"

Asdic Team on HMS Vimiera
The Asdic team on Vimiera in 1941
John Daglish (1915 -74) is third from left in the back row

The photograph of the Asdic team on HMS Vimiera in 1941 was sent to me by Ian Daglish the son of John Daglish, who enlisted in the Navy in 1932. The badge on his left arm indicating his rate is either the anchor (a Killick) of a Leading Seaman or the badge of of a Petty Officer. He would have been a senior member of the Asdic team. Although the term Asdic operator is widely used they were officially known as "Submarine Detectors", the term used in service records. John Daglish was in the photograph of the ship's company of HMS Vimiera but was in hospital with a broken arm when she detonated the mine in the Thames estuary on 9 January 1941 and sank with the loss of 93 members of the ship's company.

I am indebted to John Wise and Clive Kidd of the Collingwood Heritage Collection, formerly the Communications and Radar Museum at HMS Collingwood, the Royal Navy's former electrical engineering training establishment at Fareham, for their advice on the use of Asdic by a typical V & W Class destroyer such as HMS Vimiera:

"We do not know whether there was one or two Asdic sets on Vimiera but a team of at least two per watch would be needed as the strain of constantly listening through earphones to the pings echoed back made it necessary to change operators during the watch. A three watch system was followed at cruising stations and two watches at action stations so this team of eight including two senior operators to supervise teams of three at action stations was probably fairly standard."

The chapter on Seamen and Signalmen in Hostilities Only - Training the Wartime Royal Navy by Brian Lavery (Conway, 2011) is informative. There were just 1,250 Submarine Detector ratings in the fleet at the outbreak of war, including recalled reservists and pensioners. On 7 September 1939 the Admiralty ordered that "Every endeavour is to be made to fill vacancies that may occur by men trained at sea. They could be confirmed in their rate after two months service and then sent ashore for courses at training schools. After further time at sea they would be eligible for promotion to Higher Submarine Detector and Submarine Detector Instructor." By July 1943 there were 5,767 Submarine Detectors.

It was noted that:

"The outstanding defect of inexperienced operators is their inability to report to their CO or their A/S Control Officer during attacks. They were so intent on keeping the echo and making the correct movements that they cannot, like the skilled man, maintain a continual flow of advice such as the navigator must have".

Mid Stephen Barney RNVRGeorge Wilson Asdic Opertsator on HMS VimieraMidshipman Stephen Barney, the Anti-Submarine Control Officer (ASCO) on HMS
Venomous in the Mediterranean from February to October 1943 (on right), described some of the problems:
“At the time we were part of Force H in the Western end of the Med. Whilst waiting for the next operation, Venomous was frequently on the overnight Anti-Submarine patrol in the Straits of Gibraltar trying to detect German submarines entering or leaving the Med. Different temperature layers, deep current flowing in, and less deep current flowing out, made it almost impossible to detect anything. In fact we never even made a firm A/S contact on anything resembling a submarine. Spanish fishing vessels galore with their diesel engines were picked up at incredibly long distances in the comparatively still waters using a listening watch for hydrophone effect – hopefully from a submarine – and there were some quite remarkable long range identifications.”

Venomous had one Asdic set, Type 124, with two operators on duty per watch, one listening and the other standing by to relieve him. If an operator spent too long on duty they could become "ping happy", an ill defined condition but widely understood. Barney was known by his team of seven Asdic operators as the ASCO. The senior Submarine Detector was Leading Seaman Harold Stafford (D/SSX.14930) who was awarded the DSM for his use of Asdic to track the U-Boat which sank HMS Hecla on the night of 11 - 12 November 1942. George Wilson (left) was one of the team. The hydrophone dome was in the bows of the ship and was only lowered when the Asdic set was in use. It had to be raised in shallow water or when  running at high speed to avoid being damaged.

If you have stories or photographs of HMS Vimiera you would like to contribute to the web site please contact Frank Donald

If you want to find out more about the wartime service of a member of your family who served on HMS Vimiera you should first obtain a copy of their service record
To find out how follow this link:

Return to the Home Page for HMS Vimiera

Return to the Home Page of the V & W Destroyer Association
Return to the Index Page for the 69 V & W Class Destroyers