Up to 1915, Barr & Stroud – now part of Thales group – expanded their business to become the main range-finder company in the UK. In September that year the Royal Navy approached the duo to discuss requirements for a submarine periscope with a range-finder. Following an order for six instruments, the first periscope was delivered on August 25, 1917.
A long collaboration with the RN had begun.
One notable use of Barr & Stroud equipment came when Operation Source took place in September 1943. A small group of X-Craft midget submarines, each fitted with a single CL8 periscope, attacked the 52,000- ton German battleship Tirpitz in Kåfjord in northern Norway.
Another Barr & Stroud version used by X-Craft dating from a year earlier was up for auction at Southsea saleroom Nesbits (19% buyer’s premium) on October 5.
The night periscope Type CH65 No 527, 2ft 6in (75cm) high, had been authenticated by Thales in June 2021, said Nesbits.
It sold on low estimate at £3000 to a US collector. The vendor had inherited the item from her father.
When the Tirpitz was finally sunk after many attempts it was the RAF who delivered the fatal blows rather than midget submarines. One of the airmen taking part in Operation Catechism on November 12, 1944, was Sgt Roy Machin (1924-2006).
After training as an air gunner, he had been posted to 49 Squadron in December 1943.
Machin and his crew flew a total of 14 operations with the squadron.
On an operation to Augsburg in 1944 their Lancaster was hit, perhaps by cannon shell from a night fighter or an overenthusiastic Lancaster gunner. The aircraft was badly damaged, and for his part in saving the plane Machin was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.
The crew were transferred to 617 Squadron – the Dambusters – in March 1944.
On November 12, Machin and his crew took part in Catechism in one of 32 specially modified Lancasters. The upper gun turrets were removed to save weight.
Machin’s crewmate Flying Officer Sanders noted: “Bombing Tirpitz. 1 x Tallboy. 0842 HRS. 14,000ft. Two bombs, one of which was ours, went down together, and both appeared to hit the edge of the ship near its centre. Bombing appeared generally concentrated. Only one wide bomb.”
Sgt Machin’s flying helmet, mask and goggles are up for auction at Duke’s in Dorchester on November 18 estimated at £400-600.
The C-Type helmet comes with the original set of receivers, Air Ministry stamped, and the original plug.
The helmet has a saint figure in white paint and a skull with the name Roy pained underneath. In each rubber cup is written Machin.