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Last Updated: Friday, 9 November 2007, 14:34 GMT
Submariner's life of derring-do
Bill Duff looks back at the life of Northern Ireland man Vice-Admiral Sir Arthur Hezlet, who has died at the age of 93.

Hezlet
He received the US Legion of Merit for sinking the Ashigara
To this day, students at naval colleges learn about a June 1945 torpedo attack masterminded by Hezlet, one of the classic submarine attacks of World War II.

HM Submarine Trenchant daringly slipped past a minefield into the confined waters of the Banka Strait in the Dutch East Indies and torpedoed the Japanese heavy cruiser Ashigara as she raced along at 17 knots.

It was the largest Japanese warship sunk by a Royal Navy warship during the war, and one of his many exploits at sea.

He became the Royal Navy's youngest captain at age of 36 and its youngest admiral at 45.

Hezlet was born in April 1914 in Pretoria, South Africa, where his soldier father was serving.

He began following in his family's military tradition at the age of 14 when he entered the Royal Naval College, before serving as a midshipman on the battleships Royal Oak and Resolution.

It was with the outbreak of WWII that Hezlet really began making waves in his career, starting out on the small submarine H43 before becoming First Lieutenant of Trident.

He sank the U-Boat with a single torpedo and then rescued 11 of her crew before having to withdraw
Operating from Malta in Unique, he sank the large Italian troopship Esperia, and this success was a factor in him being given command of Ursula.

The importance of wartime signal intelligence was demonstrated by an attack which damaged the supply ship Beppe - upon leaving Malta, Hezlet set a course to intercept an enemy convoy and never altered it even to attack.

Hezlet was then given command of his old boat Trident, engaged in operations exclusively connected with Russian convoys. On one patrol Hezlet sank the German ore carrier Hoedur.

Amid the many battles, the boat also played a role in picking up survivors from merchant ships.

Hezlet was then sent to Scotland to become training officer for midget submarines in preparation for the attack on the German battleship Tirpitz.

After this, Hezlet and his entire crew were transferred to Trenchant, the submarine for which he is most renowned.

He returned to the UK just before the Japanese surrender as one of only a score of men who had begun and ended the war on submarines
He took Trenchant to Ceylon for a series of long patrols during which he landed commando troops on shore as well as sinking numerous small craft.

Ordered to patrol off Penang on 23 September 1944, he sighted the German U-Boat 859 on the surface preparing to enter harbour after the long journey from Europe.

He sank her with a single torpedo and then rescued 11 of her crew before having to withdraw.

After sinking the Ashigara, Hezlet was awarded the American Legion of Merit.

He returned to the UK just before the Japanese surrender as one of only a score of men who had begun and ended the war on submarines.

Atom bomb

At the end of 1946 he was one of the small group of Britons allowed by the Americans to observe the atom bomb tests at Bikini Atoll.

Other post-war appointments included Captain D of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla and Director of the Staff College at Greenwich.

Hezlet and his officers
Hezlet pictured with his officers on board the Trenchant
He was later Flag Officer Submarines before becoming Flag Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Hezlet then returned to Northern Ireland where he inherited the family ancestral seat, Boveagh House, at Aghadowey, County Londonderry.

He served for 25 years with both the RNLI and the Royal British Legion.

As well as this, he was on the general synod of the Church of Ireland and was an original council member of the University of Ulster.

He wrote a number of acclaimed naval books, along with 1972's 'B' Specials, the History of the Ulster Special Constabulary.

Lt Commander Arthur Hezlet DSO, DSC, is survived by his wife Patricia and two daughters.





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