The "Universal" is a variant
of the "Amphibian" apparatus; it is on the same regenerative principle,
and has the same triple-purpose uses. It is designed so that it may be
adapted to the requirements of special operations, e.g. it may be
used as an ordinary shallow water apparatus with continuous oxygen
supply, or for clearance diving or similar deeper work it may be altered
to supply oxygen/nitrogen mixtures or, thirdly as a breathing' apparatus
for use in poisonous atmospheres. It consists of: two oxygen
cylinders joined together, , one of them being fitted with a special
neck extension on which the main supply control valve, automatic
reducing valve, by-pass valve and supply tube to breathing circuit are
fitted, with the object of ensuring the valve group being completely
under the control of the diver, the whole arrangement as originally
designed and patented by H. A. Fleuss and R. H. Davis; water-tight
breathing bag containing: CO2 absorption canister of
the radial design, as originally made by Siebe, Gorman & Co. Ltd., for
diving apparatus known as the "Human Torpedo" type; flexible rubber
hood, and face piece with full vision window; mouthpiece and nose-clip;
complete diving dress; lead weights arranged for quick-release,
partially or wholly, for buoyancy and ascent to surface; suitable
harness for carrying the apparatus.
Human Torpedo or “Chariot” (Sladen Suit & Re-breather)
For the last 12 years I have
only studied the human torpedo story and am therefore fully conversant
with the above items that were developed for use with this craft. The
Sladen suit you seem to have covered but if you want to see one I have
one on display with my three human torpedoes at Eden Camp Museum, Malton
York. The men who had volunteer for dangerous missions became trainees
for the human torpedo project. Nicknamed “chariot” the men became known
as charioteers. They sat astride a torpedo shaped submersible with an
explosive warhead that could be detached and placed beneath the hull of
an enemy ship. Dropped outside an enemy harbour at night by submarine
they travelled at 3 knots for three or four hours before entering the
well guarded harbour and finding a suitable warship to blow up.
In simple terms the
re-breather was the DSEA set was adapted in 1942 to give 6 hours supply
of pure oxygen and not allow tell tale bubbles to rise to the surface as
the divers sitting astride the human torpedo entered an enemy harbour.
Admiral of Submarines Sir Max Horton instructed Siebe Gorman & Co. to
carry out various tests on the 60 volunteer divers and experiments were
carried out from August to December 1942. The experiments on these
divers discovered that “Oxygen Pete” struck at depths of over 30 feet
the divers experiencing twitching lips before unconsciousness.
The breathing apparatus
consisted of a flexible corrugated rubber tube from the mouthpiece to
the centre of a rubber breathing bag on the diver's chest. Pure oxygen
was fed into the bag from two horizontal bottles on the diver's back.
On the connection to the breathing bag there was a reducing valve. The
bottles fed oxygen at a rate of about one litre per minute. These
bottles were in fact taken from crashed German aircraft. They were made
from aluminium and could be pumped to a pressure of 2,400 lbs per square
inch, far superior to our own apparatus.
To mount a successful attack
no bubbles should come from the diver, and therefore, expelled air went
through a canister at in the centre of the bag at the joint with the
breathing tube absorbing the CO2 (lime crystals- Protosol) before going
back into the bag.
Underwater Heritage Trust