A Letter No Submariner’s Father Ever Wants – Lieut. Tsutoma Sakuma and Japanese Submarine No. 6


Submarines have always been dangerous.

The early submarines were even more so because of the emerging technologies that had not yet evolved. The men who rode the early boats were a different breed. This story is about one of them who was a national hero in Japan and left a legacy that would have implications for decades to come. The story is about the Last Letter he ever wrote to his father. It is certainly a letter no submariner’s father ever wants to receive.

The beginning of the Japanese Submarine Fleet had its roots in America

The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) acquired its first submarines during the Russo-Japanese War on 12 December 1904 where they arrived in sections at the Yokohama dockyards. The vessels were purchased from the relatively new American company, Electric Boat, and were fully assembled and ready for combat operations by August 1905. However, hostilities with Russia…

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My first taste of Singapore

My first taste of Singapore

September 1962

By John Wilkins, Stoker, Royal Navy

With a mounting feeling of excitement, I stood on the upper deck viewing the harbour. One of the first things I noticed was the smell. An exotic smell of spices mixed with an aroma like rotting cabbage emanating from the jungles across the straits in Malaysia.

Coming onboard were some local tradesmen such as Taylors, cobblers. Offering a full wardrobe ready to wear in 24 hours. One individual was known as Peanuts ran a dry cleaning business. He had the memory of an elephant and a brain like a computer. He would spot a sailor who he had not seen for years who had not paid his dry cleaning bill when he sailed. Immediately he would corner that individual demanding payment for the outstanding bill from years ago.

Before we were allowed ashore, we had to attend a presentation given by our Chief Stoker

covering all the dangers of fornication. Accompanied by some graphic movies on STD’s

The R.P.O. (resident policeman) gave a lecture on where not to go areas out of bounds.

He went into some detail about Kai Tai’s/ katoey (Lady Boys) and risks of being filmed and left open to blackmail. We mainly paid attention-taking notes on where to go.

We are now on tropical harbour routine. Turn too at 07:30, secure at 12:30, shore leave 13:00.

Eventually, we went ashore it was too hot to do much so we made our way to Aggie Weston’s in the Sembawang dockyard

We spent the hottest part of the day lazing around the swimming pool. Once it cooled down, we got some scan in the dining hall.

After being fed, we wandered down to Sembawang village. That consisted of block of buildings with shop, bar shop bar totaling about 15 bars with an alfresco restaurant type of stall at the end the galley part was a barrow with a charcoal fire using a large wok. Not exactly hygienic but great tasting food no less. Here we were introduced to Tiger beer with a lemonade top. The bars all were table service served by Bar Girls/hostesses. They got a token if you brought them a drink (cold tea) that they redeemed at the end of their shift. They also offered other services sometimes, for a price. They would say things like “U WAN JIGY JIG ME NO 1 VELY CLiN ME LUV U LOOONG TIME” We stayed in the Ville until they closed around midnight. Then a fast black into singers and Buigis Street until the early hours. Being fascinated by the katoeys. Then staggering back onboard in time to turn too