China’s Secret Salvage of Britain’s Lost Submarine
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU
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My first acknowledgment goes to the man who inspired this book: Ed Lanfranco. A gifted historian, Ed’s friendship and interest in my pursuits pushed me towards this once-in-a-lifetime story without either of us knowing it. The unfettered access he gave me to the...
Notes on Measurements and Romanization
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This book takes place during two distinct periods: 1931, and the present day. Therefore, I have chosen to preserve the spelling and measurements used most commonly in documents from each period. The former British colony of Weihaiwei, now the modern city of...
The Sea King
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It is a strange experience to search for one thing and find something else entirely. That is especially true when what is discovered far exceeds the value of the original objective. Rarely is the miner so fortunate to begin digging for coal, only to strike gold....
1. Hallowed Be Thy Name
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The Irishman’s prayer ended after “evil”; Catholics did not say that last bit. He opened his eyes, raised his head, and unclasped his hands, looking around the compartment in the dim glimmer of the flashlight, hoping that his vision would adjust and allow him to see something...
2. The Men and the Boat
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On Tuesday, June 9, almost halfway through 1931, the developed world was suffering in the grip of the Great Depression, but life went on even as millions struggled. In the United States, the Empire State Building, the world’s tallest, had opened in New York...
3. “This Most Absolutely Forgotten of Imperial Outposts”
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During its time as a British colony, Weihaiwei was far from a jewel in the crown. It did not have the magnificent harbor of Hong Kong. It did not see the diverse cargo of Singapore. It was a backwater before it ever came under British control. Weihaiwei’s process of becoming...
4. Bad Judgment in Good Visibility
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That Tuesday in June promised to be a fine late spring day for coastal Shandong Province. The air on Liu Gong Island bore a slight nip from the still-cold waters of Weihaiwei Harbor and the Gulf of Pechihli, into which it emptied. However, given the choice of the chill or the...
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When the submarine came to rest on the Gulf of Pechihli’s muddy bottom, the watertight door began to leak. It took all six of the navy men to shut it, and even then water still flowed in. Reginald Clarke in particular strained to close the door, and took a few minutes to...
6. Hews and Ho
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There are three known, complete versions of the events in the torpedo room and subsequent escape: Patrick Willis’s, first related at the court of enquiry hearing; Edmund Holt’s, also presented in part at the court of enquiry, but in full in Robert H. Davis’s Deep Diving...
7. “A Damned Lie”
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Most surprising is not the British public’s reaction to the event or the media’s interest in covering it. Instead, the surprise comes from the speed with which the story reached smaller communities in places such as the US. Just as the sinking of the Russian submarine ,em>Kursk...
8. The Court of Enquiry and Court-Martial
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Less than a week after the loss of Poseidon, a court of enquiry was convened aboard the flotilla’s depot ship, HMS Medway. The threeman panel comprised Captain Geoffrey Layton of HMS Suffolk, the court’s president and a submariner of renown from World War I;...
9. Aftermath and Legacy
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Although the loss of Poseidon and subsequent court-martial proceedings had publicly damaged Galpin’s professional reputation, privately his stature as a naval officer seemed little diminished. In a message from the commander in chief in China to the Admiralty, dated July 4,...
10. A Search Begins
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In late May 2005, I paid a visit to Ed Lanfranco, United Press International’s Beijing bureau chief. I had first met him in the late 1990s, when we were both interlopers in the Internet industry, he an analyst and I a reporter and entrepreneur. I first visited China in...
11. London and Portsmouth
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Paddington Bear waits at his eponymous railway station, as Sherlock Holmes sits and smokes his pipe and ponders his latest mystery over at 221B Baker Street. Soccer hooligans roam the streets, causing trouble regardless of whether Arsenal or Chelsea won. Harry...
12. More Than Just the World Cup
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While many observers find it useful to classify Chinese cities as first tier (Beijing, Shanghai) or second tier (Hangzhou, Nanjing) to describe levels of income and relative quality of life, the presence of certain fast-food outlets may be a more meaningful measure to...
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13. London Again
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At the risk of paraphrasing former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld,1 sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know. That is, we expect that a story will turn out one way or another, or that we need this bit of information or that, only to discover that the story is different...
14. The Rosetta Stone
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The story and history of the Royal Navy submarine was recorded primarily in English despite the fact that Poseidon sank off the coast of China. Official accounts, witness statements, court of enquiry proceedings, all of these would have been written in English, and...
15. The Salvage
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Xiandai jianchuan (Modern Ships) is one of several general-interest naval magazines that are popular with younger, generally male, readers in China. Along with articles discussing the continuing development of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA Navy), it looks at the...
16. Finding the Graves
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A year passed between my first visit to Weihai and my second. The initial trip had been positive but had not provided any of the answers I had hoped would lie somewhere on Liu Gong Island. There were hints—maps, vistas, and landmarks—but I ended up being little more...
17. On Eternal Patrol
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Throughout the Poseidon research, there was something missing from the process: Despite the sinking having taken place in the twentieth century, there was no personal connection to the incident. Not only had all the survivors passed away but, in many instances, so had their...
Appendix. HMS Poseidon Officers and Crew
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Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 33 b/w illus
Publication Year: 2013