By Gilles Poirier
Yesterday [May 6, 2020] I was watching the repatriation ceremony at CFB Trenton for the six Canadian Military members lost in a helicopter crash during a NATO exercise off Greece. With sadness I was thinking about the importance of the closure for the families to have the remains brought back. As an ex-submariner, with the rest of my brothers, we all belong to this invisible brotherhood, regardless of the nations. In our lives as submariners, there were many incidents where the families never got closure. I just want to relate here several submarine incidents; that go back to the early sixties when I joined the Canadian submarine service.
Masked military pallbearers carry the casket of Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough during the repatriation ceremony for the six Canadian Armed Forces members killed in a helicopter crash off of Greece during Operation Reassurance, at CFB Trenton, Ont. on Wednesday. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)
Six Hundred and Seventy Six Brothers & One Sister Lost
The American Navy tried unsuccessfully to raise her in a top secret operation, using Howard Hughes' Glomar Explorer, in the guise of a mining exploration. On the way to the surface, the hull broke up in several pieces and fell back to the ocean floor.
Although being very modern, they were still using hydrogen peroxide as the fuel for their torpedoes. Hydrogen peroxide is very unstable fuel and extremely corrosive. Once the fuel reached the air, it exploded, that was the first explosion, quickly followed by the massive explosion when all the warheads on the other torpedoes blew up. It was picked up as a tremor on seismographs around the world.
The Russian Navy refused the help from several navies, the American Navy even had a DSRV (deep submergence rescue vehicle) loaded on a very large aircraft. The Royal Navy and the Norwegian Navy were also standing by, but were turned down. The Royal Navy was familiar with the problems with hydrogen peroxide fuel. They lost HMS Sidon while she was tied up alongside HMS Maidstone, a depot ship in Portland harbour. The explosion was so powerful that it blew open the bow cap and rear door, it also pushed 34 bulkhead like a piston all the way to 49 bulkhead killing 13 crew members. They never attempted to use hydrogen peroxide ever again.
In the Kursk, 23 survivors made it to the ninth compartment in the after end of the boat, only to die six hours later due to lack of oxygen.