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How the British navy hid the heroic voyage of crippled second world war submarine HMS Triumph

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In September 1941 the British press enthralled its readers with a story of naval heroism that the public, battered by German bombing and strict rationing, was crying out for: a tale of survival against the odds.

My research involves looking at how the British media covered the second world war. When I came across this story, I was struck by the way in which the navy kept the it quiet for nearly two years.

The Daily Mail reported that in December 1939, the Royal Navy submarine HMS Triumph had been sailing on the surface in the Skagerrak Strait between Denmark and Germany when it hit a mine. The newspaper account described how the deadly device split the air with a colossal explosion that “temporarily blinded the men on the bridge”. Its rival paper, the Daily Mirror, explained that the mine had blow off an 18-foot-long section of Triumph’s bows and opened “a 12-foot split in her hull amidships”.

Triumph was in German-patrolled waters and so badly damaged that she could not dive. She was leaking copiously, and her pumps were working flat out. Undaunted, the Triumph’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander John Wentworth McCoy, brought her slowly home to the Firth of Forth in Scotland. The 300-mile journey was made at speeds as low as 2.5 knots, exposing Triumph to German bombing. As she approached the Scottish coast, a Dornier bomber found her and prepared to attack. Before it could deliver a fatal blow,........

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