Conference: Living Landscapes, June 2009
SUB: SAIL: STEAM
Universal P57: a site-responsive event
A project by Anna Farthing (University
of Manchester) and Paul Gough (UWE Bristol)
On 5th February 1946 the Aberystwyth Lifeboat was launched to come
to the aid of HM Submarine Universal P57. In a ferocious westerly
gale the vessel floundered and drifted in a north Easterly direction
11 and a half miles west south west of Aberystwyth. The motor lifeboat
was aided for a short while by the New Quay lifeboat under the command
of Coxswain Arden Evans. This lifeboat was of the old pulling and
sailing type and this was probably the last service launch of a
sailing lifeboat around the UK coast.
During a lengthy, dangerous and dramatic rescue 27 submariners were
rescued from the stricken submarine. The survivors were taken to
an hotel in Aberystwyth and provided for by the ship wrecked mariners
society, their clothes dried by the town's steam laundry.
Anna Farthing and Paul Gough
plan a sequence of events in response to the largely unrecorded
and uncelebrated event of 1946. Through drawings and writings made
from the promontories overlooking the bay, photo-montages of contemporary
events, and charts of the harbour approaches, the project will unfold
through fieldwork, storytelling and digital narratives created during
the course of the conference. How exactly the responses will be
communicated and opened up for critique will be determined by the
site itself, though walking, measuring and scrutiny.
Drawing on Farthing's work in digital storytelling and dramatic
scene-development, and Gough's work on topographic survey and memorialisation,
the project will consist of presentation, physical and virtual display,
as well as memorial objects left to mark untold and untellable pasts.
Above Us The Waves / We
Dive at Dawn
Anna Farthing - Spinning Dits
'‘Spinning dits’ is naval slang
for telling stories. The following quotation confirms the value
that is placed upon maintaining ‘dit’ culture among,
in this case, The Royal Marines.
Telling stories or ‘spinning dits’, so fundamental to
life in the Corps, has become an important way of sustaining our
ethos. The Royal Marines have a dit for every occasion and a good
dit is precisely the one, which correctly reflects ‘Royal’s’
understanding of himself….Dits are a crucial means by which
members of The Royal Marines maintain their history, communicate
to each other knowledge and skills, but most importantly the attitudes
so necessary to the performance of our role.'
The events that took place in Cardigan Bay in February 1946 are
documented in the records of The Royal Navy, the Royal National
Lifeboat Institution and Hansard. But these official accounts are
impersonal, they do not communicate knowledge, skills or attitudes,
and therefore cannot function as ‘dits’.
The story first came to my notice through the first hand account
of Des Davies, the last surviving member of the Aberystwyth Lifeboat,
Frederick Angus. He spins a great ‘dit’ and his dramatic
personal recollections can be found online at :
Some of the smaller details of Des Davies’ account, and the
comments that followed from online contributors (quoted below) inspired
me to imagine what the ‘dits’ of those on the margins
of this event might be. I have therefore attempted to fictionalize
a voiced text and dramatise the sub-text.
My creative responses take the form of the following digital audio
stories. They are constructed from voice performance and selected
sound effects. They are available both here and/or as downloads
so that they can be listened to near Cardigan Bay if desired.
Washing the White Wooly Pully
Written by Anna Farthing, performed by
survivors were taken to a hotel and provided for by the ship wrecked
mariners society, their clothes dried by the Aberystwyth steam laundry.'
Watching and Waiting
Written by Anna Farthing, performed by
public spirited individual brought a huge telescope on its stand
and positioned it outside the public shelter opening on to the prom
between the band stand and the Marine Hotel. He allowed us all to
look at the submarine (I was 13 years old at the time)'
William Cantrell Ashley
Written and performed by Anna Farthing
(It is interesting to note here that this lifeboat
was of the old pulling and sailing type and that this was probably
the last service launch of a sailing lifeboat around the UK coast.)
I am grateful to the RNLI archives in Poole, The Lifeboat Museum
in Chatham, The Submarine Museum in Gosport, The Royal Naval Museum
in Portsmouth, The National Waterfront Museum in Swansea and especially
to my yachtsman father, Tony Farthing, who has shared my enthusiasm
for this research. Thanks to the RNLI, an entirely voluntary service,
he survived his youth and I exist.
Previous Featured Artists:
Anna Farthing & Paul Gough