A black, sinister sub on the Tyne

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THE Tyne is not a river particularly associated with submarines.

 Go far enough back and a number were built here. Nine came out of Walker Naval Yard during the First World War, for example. Two were also built by Palmer’s at Jarrow during the same period.

But for most Tynesiders, probably, their only sight of a sub in the river will have been when one has come in on a courtesy visit.

Is that the explanation behind a query which has reached me from South Shields Museum?

They have been contacted by a chap – actually the nephew of a former museum employee – who, as a youngster, used to spend happy summers in the town with his cousins.

He now wonders if there is any record of something he witnessed in the early-to-mid-1960s.

He recalls: “A group of us were taken to the Groyne to see a number of Navy ships coming up the Tyne. This ‘fleet’ included at least one submarine.

“I remember this very clearly as it looked so black and sinister – a vivid image for a young boy!

“I have no idea what the purpose of this event was and, sadly, none of my family seem to remember it.”

Hm. I can’t say I know for certain what this was.

The picture here is of one visitor – and yes, what a forbidding sight she must have been off the Groyne. She was HMS Thermopylae, which was on her way up to Newcastle in 1965 for a 24-hour visit.

As far as I can tell, though, she was on her own, and not part of any ‘fleet’.

My first thought was that what the gentleman may have seen was a now-infamous visit by ships of the Venezualan Navy in the early 1960s.

I say infamous, because the sailors caused all kinds of havoc among the female population of Shields and round about, and mayhem, too, in one or two pubs.

But while they brought destroyers in, I don’t think there was a submarine.

Can anyone suggest what it was he might actually have seen?