Submarine Museum's 'Whisky Ceremony' Honours Lost Crew

By David Prudames | 13 January 2004
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Shows a black and white photograph of the full length of submarine. Four men can be seen on top of it.

Photo: HMS Seahorse (pre-1939 Swordfish class) during the Second World War. Courtesy of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum.

A bottle of whisky was presented to the manager of a Northumberland pub during a ceremony at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum to remember submariners who died in World War Two.

John Scott, manager of The Astley Arms in Seaton Sluice, was given a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label whisky and a wreath was laid to remember an event that took place 64 years ago.

On Christmas Eve 1939, seven Petty Officers from the nearby submarine base at Blyth, went along to The Astley Arms and took part in a raffle.

One of them, 'Tug' Wilson of HMS Seahorse, won a bottle of Johnnie Walker whisky but, due to go out on patrol, he asked the landlady, Lydia Jackson to hold onto it until he came back.

Shows a black and white photograph of Petty Officer LJ Wilson, standing in front of a bush in full naval uniform.

Photo: engine room artificer L J 'Tug' Wilson in 1939. Courtesy of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum.

Tragically he didn’t; the Seahorse was destroyed by a mine with the loss of its entire crew. But Lydia Jackson held onto the whisky until she retired 30 years later, when upon investigating what happened to Wilson, she donated it to the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, where it has remained ever since.

Museum Director, Commander Jeff Tall OBE RN explained to the 24 Hour Museum the true significance of 'Tug' Wilson’s story.

"What you have encapsulated in this story is really the relationship with the towns that used to look after our flotillas."

Shows a photograph of the exterior of The Astley Arms public house in Seaton Sluice, Northumberland.

Photo: the Astley Arms in Seaton Sluice as it is today. Courtesy of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum.

"Given the dangerous nature of submarine service, we lost one in three during World War Two, it was important that when the crews went ashore they were able to rest, relax and play in warm surroundings and Blyth, particularly the actions of this wonderful landlady, really sums it up."

"They always knew they were looking after these kids that were very likely to die."

The Astley Arms had always upheld a link with the Submarine Service with a display dedicated to the story of HMS Seahorse.

In 1976 the commanding officer of HMS Otter presented Lydia Jackson with another bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label and a plaque for the display.

Shows a black and white photograph of a surfaced submarine pulling into Portsmouth Harbour, as seen from behind.

Photo: HMS Seahorse in Portsmouth Harbour on October 14 1933. Courtesy of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum.

However, during a recent refurbishment, both went missing, so current manager John Scott got in contact with the museum and a replacement bottle of whisky was donated by Johnnie Walker.

Commander Jeff Tall presented John with the bottle at the ceremony last Friday, which was also attended by current submariner Lieutenant David Felstead.

Although the exact date of Seahorse’s loss is not known, the 64th anniversary was marked on January 9, the date she was due to report back to base.

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