John Capes (1910 - 1985)
John Hawtrey Capes was born on the 20th of September in 1910. He studied at Dulwich College, a well-known public school. He entered the Royal Navy rather late in his life. He was nearly 25 years old when he joined as a Stoker 2nd Class, on 20th May, 1935 (Most RN entrants are teenagers).
He volunteered for the Submarine Service at the earliest opportunity (three years General Service having to be served in those days to qualify for 'Boats'). He started training in June 1938 and joined his first boat, the Submarine L 34 īn the 18th of July that year.
After a period in spare crew he was drafted to the Submarine Olympus
in October 1938, at that time attached to the depot ship H.M.S Medway on the China
Station. On the 14th March 1941, he was back in Dolphin joining the submarine
"Thrasher" which heads off to the Middle East and is attached to Medway in Alexandria.
During an earlier time in Malta, John (a keen motorist) had been invlolved in an accident while driving a hired car, he had collided with a horse-drawn vehicle and demolished it. His presence was required in Malta to settle with the ' Carossi' owner and arrangements were made for his passage to the island, now under siege, by what was known as the 'Magic Carpet Service' ( submarines delivering stores, aircraft, spirit, ammunition and weapons from Alexandria and Gibraltar ). He left Malta a few weeks later taking passage on the submarine Perseus which was leaving for patrol and would dock in Alexandria after that operation. H.M.S. PERSEUS hit a mine on 6th December 1941 and went down in the Ionian Sea.
John Capes was the only one who managed to get out of the sunken sub and ascent to the surface by using the Davis escape apparatus. Then he swam to Kefalonia where the residents of the island sheltered him and hid him from the occupying forces, for 18 months. Finally, he was transferred from Kefalonia to Smyrna with the help of Captain Miltiades Houmas.
A lot of Capes' contemporaries had disputed his extraordinary feat, which was almost superhuman. Some of them even argued that J. Capes wasn't on board H.M.S. PERSEUS at all. Now, with the location of the wreck by Kostas Thoctarides' team and the results of the underwater research J. Capes deed is confirmed.
Unfortunately J. Capes is no longer with us, to share in the discovery...
The information on John Capes was taken from the book "Submarine Memories", which is edited by the Gatwick Submarine Archive.
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