Author’s note:   The idea for this story came many years ago while watching “Submarine Sunk Here”. The newspaper headline about the sinking got me thinking about what it would have been like for the families ashore and this story was born! It was published in Silent Running 6 but, like my other early stuff, I thought it could be improved so this is the revised version!



Reluctant Hero


S. James


"Mom! Mom! The Seaview's sunk!" Eight year old Derry Marshall yelled at her mother while keeping her eyes glued to the television screen.


Several rooms away Helen Morton Marshall let a sigh escape as she heard her younger daughter shouting. She didn’t hear exactly what Derry said but she was always getting excited about something and Helen didn’t feel inclined to stop ironing to go and find out. She continued to focus on the pair of child-sized jeans she was pressing but as she folded them neatly and reached for one of her husband’s shirts she heard a sound in the doorway.


Turning round she found her elder daughter standing in the doorway, a stricken look on her young face. “Mom! You’ve got to come!” Katie’s voice was pitched higher than usual and Helen frowned with concern at the nine year old as she continued, “Seaview’s sunk! Uncle Chip might be dead!”


Helen’s frown deepened and it was on the tip her tongue to say: "Don't talk rubbish" but it was obvious that something had upset Katie and she felt herself turning cold all over as the full meaning of her daughter's words sunk home. Surely, it couldn't be true? Surely, Katie had made a mistake?


She heard her own voice ask calmly: "Who said Seaview sank?"


"It was on TV," Katie replied quietly, her eyes fixed on her mother’s face. “It was a News Flash. They said Seaview had sunk. Derry called you but you didn’t come,” these last words were said accusingly and Helen felt a pang of guilt as she reached over and switched the iron off. Swallowing down the ominous feelings of panic that threatened to swamp her mind she put her arm around Katie who looked close to tears. “Do you think Uncle Chip is really dead?” her daughter asked fearfully as they walked together to the den where the other children were watching TV. 


“I don’t know,” Helen replied honestly. I hope not, she thought fearfully. She hoped that whatever the children had heard on the television it wasn’t the unbelievable news that Seaview had sunk. Submarines couldn’t sink, could they? Especially not submarines as powerful as Seaview!


Entering the den she found her three younger children sprawled on the floor watching cartoons.


"Did you tell her?" Derry glanced up briefly at her sister before returning her gaze to the TV.


"Tell me what?" her mother queried before Katie could answer.


"The Seaview's sunk," Derry said matter-of-factly, her eyes still on Tom and Jerry. "They don't know if everyone is dead or not!”


Half annoyed, half amused by Derry’s obvious lack of concern Helen crossed to the television and tried all available channels for a newscast while ignoring the indignant protests of her young sons who objected to her interrupting their favourite cartoons. Stopping on the news channel she felt the dread in her heart begin to subside as the presenter talked about the outcome of some big court case. Surely if Seaview had sunk it would be big news and enough to relegate a boring court case? Turning serious brown eyes on her daughters, Helen spoke more sternly than she had intended "Are you sure you heard right?"


"Yes," they both nodded solemnly, disconcerted by their mother’s tone of voice. "They said the radio doesn’t work and they have to look for them."


Helen frowned. It was obvious to her that her daughters had heard something about the Seaview but surely it couldn’t have just disappeared; it was far too sophisticated to just disappear. Wasn’t it? To hear her younger brother talk Seaview was the most advanced submarine in the world so how could she possibly sink?


“Did they say anything else?” she asked patiently.


Two sets of shoulders shrugged. They hadn't really listened to the facts. Only the headline, interrupting their program had caught their attention and that was only because they knew their uncle was someone important on the submarine Seaview.  


“Mom! Can we put Tom and Jerry back on?” Five year-old Jason whined suddenly. “This is boring!”


“Okay, Jason,” her mind still wrestling with concern for her younger brother and the submarine on which he was executive officer Helen put her finger on the controls intending to switch back to the cartoons but just as the screen changed she saw a faint image of the Seaview disappear under Bugs Bunny and she switched straight back to the news ignoring the howls of protest from her sons.


“… contact was lost approximately forty-five minutes ago,” the bespectacled newsreader spoke solemnly, “but the coastguard do have a fix on Seaview’s last known position and are confident of locating the submarine within the next few hours. Apparently, if they have sunk…as appears to be the case…they should send up a marker buoy which will show their exact position but this does depend on somebody on board being able to release the buoy.” The newsreader’s voice dropped to an almost reverent whisper. “Unfortunately, it’s always possible that there might not be anyone alive to do that. In which case….”


In which case Chip could be dead! The horrifying words echoed in Helen’s brain as she turned the television off abruptly. She didn’t want to hear any more and she certainly didn’t want her children to hear any more. Going to the window she glanced out at the clouds chasing across the sky and was relieved to see that it had stopped raining.


“Okay,” she turned back to the children who were watching her with expressions that varied from confusion to annoyance to anxiety depending on the individual. Forcing herself to sound cheerful Helen smiled as she announced, “It’s stopped raining; it’s time you all went outside for some fresh air.”


“Yeah!” Jason and three year-old Tim were out the door before she had finished speaking with Derry trailing behind. Only Katie showed no signs of moving.


“Go on, Katie,” Helen urged her eldest daughter. “I need to phone Daddy.”


“About Seaview?” Katie asked solemnly.


“Yes,” Helen nodded.


“Do you think they have all died?” Katie’s voice was small and her blue eyes, so like her uncle’s, were dark with fear.


“Of course not,” Helen spoke confidently and hoped she wasn’t giving her daughter false hope. “It might be there isn’t anything wrong at all, Katie. It could just be that the radio is broken.”


“You think so?” Katie sounded doubtful being at an age where she was more inclined to believe the television rather than her parents.


“I do,” Helen nodded. “Now out you go, Katie while………” The ringing of the telephone interrupted Helen’s words.


“I’ll get it!” Katie rushed across the room to pick up the receiver.


“Hello, Katie Marshall speaking,” she spoke brightly into the receiver and then cocked her blond head slightly to one side as she listened to the caller. “Yes, she is,” she glanced at her mother and held out the receiver. “It’s Gran…” she said as Helen took the phone from her.


“Gwen?” Helen spoke into the receiver while simultaneously glaring at her elder daughter, daring her to stay and listen to the conversation. She felt the relief sweep over her as Katie disappeared only to feel a renewed sense of dread as her mother-in-law said ominously, “Have you seen the news Helen?”


“I have,” Helen acknowledged swallowing over a sudden lump in her throat.


 “So what’s going on? “ Gwen demanded anxiously. “Surely that submarine Chip thinks so much of can’t have sunk! Submarines don’t sink, do they?”




Completely oblivious to the anxiety his family were suffering Chip Morton was, at that moment, struggling to come to terms with the unbelievable news himself.  Ashore in New London to oversee repairs to the diving bell he had been talking to Admiral Nelson on the phone only an hour before and the news that she had probably sunk since that conversation was hard to take in. Seaview sunk? However many times he let those words run through his mind it didn’t make it any easier to believe. How the hell had it happened? How could a submarine as sophisticated as Seaview sink? Was it an instrument malfunction or human error? Was anyone hurt? Was anyone still alive? Chip crushed his empty polystyrene coffee cup in one hand as he contemplated the frightening possibilities. Apart from fire on a submerged boat, sinking to the bottom was a submariner’s worst nightmare and one, which Chip had thankfully, never experienced. He’d been through the simulations and the escape procedures of course, but realistic and frightening as they had been he wasn’t at all sure that they prepared you mentally and emotionally for the real thing. He wondered how the crew was coping right now and wished that he was with them. He wondered if Bishop was up to the challenge and immediately felt guilty of his unworthy thoughts but he hadn’t missed the triumphant look the older officer had given him when he had been given the temporary post of exec for the mapping exercise. He suspected that the man had something he wanted to prove and although Chip felt secure in his own position as Seaview’s permanent exec he was concerned that Bishop might well manage to upset the men or the Skipper as he tried to prove that he could do a better job than “the boy wonder”; the derogatory name Chip knew the older man had applied to him.


With a heavy sigh Chip wandered over to see how the repairs were going on the diving bell. Could be they might need it when Seaview was found. At least that would give him a chance to do something practical instead of wondering and worrying. He knew that he should feel grateful not to be stuck down there at the bottom of the ocean but he wasn’t. It was agonizingly frustrating to be stuck on shore when he believed his place was on the boat supporting his Captain, looking out for the crew and coordinating repairs not sitting here in the sunshine twiddling his thumbs!





Meanwhile, across the world, the news that the famous submarine Seaview had sunk was spreading rapidly. While television stations disrupted their schedules to follow the story live, newspapers were preparing their front pages to carry the shocking story. Throughout the United States the families and friends of the submarine’s crew were struggling to absorb the shock of the unbelievable news they were hearing on televisions, radios and in anxious telephone calls.


In West Haven, Connecticut Chris Marshall returned the telephone receiver to its cradle with a frustrated sigh. "The lines are still engaged," he reported after yet another unsuccessful attempt to contact the Nelson Institute in Santa Barbara. "I imagine a lot of other families are trying to get in touch."


"They should have contacted the families first," his wife fought against the tears that were hovering close to the surface. "They shouldn't just let them announce it on TV like that.”


"I doubt the Institute had much say in the matter," Chris said wisely. "From all reports they've gone down off the coast here. The media probably found out before the Institute did."


"I told him,” Helen exclaimed suddenly. She bit her bottom lip as Chris turned to look questionably at her. “I told him submarines were dangerous,” she continued almost angrily. “But did he listen? No! He just went ahead and joined up anyway. And now…now he’s down there waiting to be rescued, he might even…” She bit down on her lip again struggling to get a grip on her emotions and to block out the very vivid images that were invading her overactive imagination.


Chris pulled his wife close but remained diplomatically silent unwilling to contradict Helen’s memories of the past. She had never voiced her fears to Chip over his decision to join the submarine service although Chris had always been well aware of how she felt. He was also well aware that his brother-in-law suspected that his sister wasn’t keen on his choice of career but the younger man had only ever received one hundred percent support from both of them.


Now Chris sought for something positive to say that wouldn’t sound patronising but unable to think of anything he went for the obvious, forcing his voice to sound optimistic. “I’m sure he’s fine. The last report said they've sent up the marker buoy; that means someone is okay."


"It doesn't mean Chip is," Helen snapped and she pulled away from Chris, her brown eyes shining with unshed tears.


"We have to believe that he is," Chris said, his calm voice masking his own fears for his young brother-in-law. "It could just be something like engine trouble, Helen. You have to remember that the media revel in making news like this sound worse than it is. Chip wouldn’t want us to panic unnecessarily, would he?”


"I suppose not," Helen frowned doubtfully and wiped at her eyes with a tissue as she sat down and returned her concentration to the television screen where a reporter was regurgitating facts about the Seaview and her inventor/owner, Admiral Nelson while waiting for more news about the disaster to break. Helen wanted to yell at the reporter, to tell him to shut up and tell her what she really wanted to know which was whether her beloved younger brother was alive or dead. It was so frustrating, so terrifying to have to sit here and wait for news that could turn your whole world upside down. Helen wasn’t at all sure that she could keep control of her rising anxiety if they didn’t get some definite news soon. She was grateful that, despite their worries for their adopted grandson, her parents-in-law had driven over and taken the four children out for the rest of the afternoon. It was a huge help not to have the children around demanding attention and witnessing their mother’s growing distress.


"I'll try calling the Institute again later," Chris sat down and put one arm round his wife’s shoulders. "Maybe they’ll have more idea what’s going on when someone has made contact with the sub.”


“How will they do that?” Helen asked bleakly.


"Dad said the marker buoy should have a telephone system linked to the sub," Chris explained. "Someone will call them up; find out what the problem is.”


“Do you…” Helen started to speak and then stopped as Chris sat up straighter, his grey eyes fixed intently on the television. Following his gaze Helen noticed that the scene had shifted from the studio to a live scene on the dock in New London where a great mass of cameras and reporters seemed to be awaiting a new development.


“It appears that one of Seaview’s own men is here in New London and is about to be transported out to the scene where he will be able to speak to his colleagues on the stricken sub by telephone. We don’t……”


“CHIP!” Whatever else the reporter said was lost as Helen suddenly shrieked at the screen. “LOOK!” She grabbed almost hysterically at her husband’s arm. “It’s Chip, Chris! He’s there…he’s in New London!”


Chris Marshall's own eyes widened in surprise and disbelief as he saw the definite figure of his young brother-in-law striding purposefully towards the launch that was waiting to transport him to the site of the sinking.  Even from behind there was no mistaking that it was Chip....the purposeful stride, broad shoulders set and determined, hat tipped back on his short blond hair.


"He's all right," Helen tightened her hold on Chris’s left arm, tears of joyful relief running down her face. "He's all right! He’s not even down there! He's all right!"


"I know," Chris's own smile was one of relief but his deep voice held a note of puzzlement as he wondered out loud, "But what's he doing there Helen? Why isn't he on Seaview?"


"I don't know," Helen replied in a voice that said, "I don't care". “It doesn’t matter, Chris. At least we know he’s safe!”




Lieutenant-Commander Chip Morton ignored the television cameras as he strode purposefully towards the motor cruiser that was waiting to transfer him to the site where the Seaview had gone down. To be fair he barely noticed them. Always single-minded and determined in his approach to his work his mind was focused entirely on his friends and colleagues aboard the stricken sub. As he was ashore he had been given the opportunity to be the first to make contact with Seaview and he was oblivious to anything else as he walked briskly past the cameras and reporters. However, the news reporters were also single-minded and determined...determined to get the first interview with a member of Seaview's crew and he suddenly found himself facing a barrage of microphones and flashing lights.


"Commander Morton. What do you hope to find out there?"


"Commander Morton, do you think your colleagues are still alive down there?"


"Commander! Why aren't you on the Seaview?"


"Commander Morton, how does it feel to be here when your submarine is in trouble?"


The questions flew thick and fast but Chip steadfastly ignored them keeping his eyes on the launch ahead of him as he moved towards it through a path cleared by the military police.


 Less than fifty miles down the coast in the home where Chip had spent most of his teenage years his much older half-sister found that the relief she had felt when she discovered he was safe was rapidly being replaced with intense irritation. She was irritated not just with the reporters who insisted on questioning her brother when it was obvious that he didn’t want to talk but also, irrationally, at Chip himself because he wouldn't speak or look at the cameras and she desperately wanted him to. She felt that if he would just look at a camera he would see her and Chris watching him, supporting him even though she knew that was totally ridiculous. Silently she and Chris watched as Chip and several other naval personnel boarded the motor launch and headed out to sea. According to the reporters Seaview was just twelve miles out to sea and she wondered what they were doing so close to the Connecticut coastline and why Chip was not on board. She was so relieved that he was safe but, as the news returned to the studio for an update on the events so far, she found herself wondering why he hadn’t been on board and why, if he was in New London, he hadn’t called her. He had never, to her knowledge, stayed onshore unless he was sick or injured but he had looked perfectly fine on the television and she hoped that he wasn’t in some kind of trouble!




As the navy launch sped across the waves on its way back to New London Chip stared ahead, his eyes fixed on the horizon. His elation at knowing Seaview had been found had been tempered somewhat by discovering that she was stranded in a minefield and he had found it hard to be honest during his brief conversation with Admiral Nelson. His employer had been so pleased to hear his exec’s voice and Chip’s gut had twisted into knots as he admitted to his superior that the diving bell was in no fit state to negotiate a minefield and deliver the air they so desperately needed. He slammed a fist against the side of the launch and winced at the impact as his mind absorbed the bleak reality of the situation. With the bell’s guidance control, so vital to a safe descent, currently in bits there was very little Chip could do to help yet he couldn’t tell the Admiral that. Desperate to say something positive and encouraging he had assured the Admiral that he would take the bell out whether it was fixed or not but he knew his words had been foolhardy; trying to negotiate the minefield without the guidance control would be suicide.


As the launch slowed on its approach to the dock Chip suppressed a groan at the mass of reporters and cameras he could see on the dockside. He was positive there were twice as many now as there had been when he set out and his heart sank at the thought of facing them again as he left the boat. It crossed his mind that his family could well be watching events on TV and he wondered if he should call them but he didn’t really have time and he reasoned that if they were watching it they would see him and know he was okay so it wasn’t really necessary. Steeling his mind for the barrage of microphones and flashing bulbs that would be thrust in his face Chip swung himself skillfully onto the ladder and ascended swiftly to the dockside.




As the launch carrying Chip came back into view on the television screen Helen and Chris leant forward for a better view. They saw Chip almost immediately as he had his hands and feet on the ladder to disembark before the boat had even completed docking procedures. He climbed swiftly up the ladder on to the dock wearing the same set and determined expression that he had worn on his way out. It was an expression that turned momentarily to irritated annoyance as he found his way blocked by the same barrage of cameras and microphones that had followed him earlier.


"Commander Morton, Commander Morton......what happened out there?"


"Commander Morton, did you speak to anyone? Are they dead?"


"Commander, is Admiral Nelson okay? What about Captain Crane?"


"Commander, what happened? How did they sink? Can they be rescued?"


The questions flew thick and fast once more giving Chip no real opportunity to answer them. Again the military police came to his aid and it was with a clear look of relief that he made his way to a waiting jeep while a naval press officer answered the reporters' questions.


As they listened to the press officer Helen and Chris learnt, along with millions of other viewers around the world that the massive submarine was stranded in a minefield, that the crew were okay but they were running out of air. Air tanks could be sent down to them by diving bell but only the Seaview's bell was able to descend that deep and it was currently undergoing repairs in New London and wasn’t able to be used right at that time. Apparently, Chip had gone to see if repairs could be completed rapidly so that they could deliver the air that the men on Seaview desperately needed.


The news did not sound good and despite knowing that her brother was safe on dry land Helen felt a new wave of anxiety wash over her as she listened to the pessimistic droning of the reporter. Chip might be physically safe but Helen knew that he must be terribly anxious about the fate of his friends and colleagues and that he would be devastated if they could not be rescued in time. Seaview was Chip’s other home, the crew his other family and, most important of all, her captain, Lee Crane was Chip’s best friend. Lee and Chip were as close as brothers and Lee had spent a great many holidays at the Marshall’s home. The thought that he was stranded at the bottom of the ocean and running short of air was as horrifying to Helen as it had been when she thought Chip was involved and fresh tears rose to the surface as she realized that a happy ending was not guaranteed.




Lee Crane ran his hands through his sweat-dampened hair while his eyes swept again around the hot, airless control room. The men looked as fatigued as he felt and he could see the bleak look of despondency and dejection in some of their eyes. He couldn’t blame them. If he was honest Lee had to acknowledge that their current situation did look quite hopeless, stranded in a minefield and running short of air. In addition some compartments were flooded, they had lost a lot of good men and their only real hope…their diving bell…had a malfunction in its guidance control system. All in all, their chances of a successful rescue were slim but while he could still breathe he could still hope and Lee was still prepared to hope that something would materialize. After all, they could have been blown to bits in the original collision with the mines but they weren’t, they were still here, the hull was…for the most part…still intact and Chip was in New London undoubtedly doing all that was in his power to get the bell fixed. 


Although he was glad that his friend was ashore focusing on a way to reach them through the minefield Lee found that he missed having Chip Morton by his side right at that moment. He missed his friend’s calm, unemotional manner, the silent support he would offer with just a brief look, a touch of a hand on an arm or a shoulder, his no nonsense handling of the men and his ability to co-ordinate what was happening around the boat in his head. Knowing Chip as he did he suspected that his exec was probably wishing that he was there right now, too. Lee knew that Chip’s instincts would have him wishing he was on board to encourage the men, to support his Skipper and to protect the boat but, much as he missed his calming influence, Lee was glad that his exec was ashore. If there was any way to get oxygen to them all before time ran out Chip Morton would find it. His tenacious personality wouldn’t allow him to give up even if those around him thought it was impossible. It was the one positive thought Lee Crane knew he could hang on to in the dark hours ahead.




As the afternoon turned into early evening Chip Morton made a decision. As he checked his watch yet again he knew their time was up; they couldn’t spend any longer looking for the fault in the guidance system. The stark reality was that he no longer had a choice. Although Chip didn't relish the idea he would have to make the descent in the diving bell without the benefits of the guidance system. Even with guidance control descending through a minefield would be a delicate, almost suicidal task. Without the guidance control it was madness; the sort of irresponsible behaviour that he would normally condemn. But what else could he do? He just couldn't let his friends and colleagues slowly suffocate not if there was a chance, however slim, that he could make a difference. Of course, if he hit a mine it would be all over anyway but at least he'd have tried. And he had to try.




"It seems that the Seaview's Executive Officer, Lieutenant-Commander Chip Morton, has decided to take the oxygen down to the submarine in the diving bell even though the fault with the guidance system is still not repaired. Remember that Seaview is lying in a minefield so it will be a very dangerous descent but if he doesn't leave here within the next hour it will be too late to save the men on the stricken sub." The reporter paused for breath and Helen Marshall turned to her husband with a look of terror on her face.


"Chris! He can't do that!"  Helen yelled at her husband. "He's safe and now he wants to kill himself. Phone them, phone the navy and tell them he can't do that! They can’t let him do that!"


"They can," Chris, said quietly as he put his arms around her and pulled her close. "He has to do it, Helen you know that.  If he doesn't, Lee and the rest will die. Do you want that? Wouldn't you want someone to get oxygen to them if Chip was still on board? If he doesn't make this trip they're all going to die."


"If he hits a mine they'll all die," Helen sniffed, “including Chip!”


"I know,” Chris swallowed hard.  “But he has to try, Helen. If I thought differently I’d drive up there and try and stop him but Chip would never be able to live with himself if he didn't try. You know that, Helen."


Helen sighed heavily and returned her attention to the television screen. The strain was almost unbearable but she knew she couldn't argue with the truth of Chris's words. There were over a hundred men on board the Seaview including Chip's best friend, Lee Crane. They all had families waiting to hear if their sons, husbands, brothers had survived. She thought back to the moment when she'd realized that Chip was safe, that he wasn't on board the stricken submarine. The relief had been overwhelming. She had no right to deny the relatives of the other men that same relief. Chip was now their only hope and he'd volunteered for this because he wanted to save his friends. Deep down Helen was immensely proud of him but she still wished he didn't have to risk his own life in the rescue attempt.  If only she could be sure that he would be successful. She knew Chip was highly skilled and capable of intense concentration but he had been working hard all day and must be feeling tired and stressed. Was he taking the most terrible risk without thinking it through properly?


 It was going to be a very long and stressful evening and she wasn’t sure she would be able to bear the tension involved watching it on television.




As he arrived back at the dockside accompanied by Chief Jones and the diving bell Chip Morton scowled as he saw the cameras and reporters waiting for them.


"Like a load of vultures, huh, sir?" Curly Jones grunted.


"You can say that again," Chip nodded, grimly. In his opinion the reporters only wanted to be first to announce the deaths of the crew or a triumphant rescue. He didn't think that they were personally interested, as he was, in the fate of the men trapped at the bottom of the sea. As he jumped down from the truck that was transporting the diving bell he was grateful for the security teams that kept the reporters at a distance as he and Curly began supervising the loading of the diving bell on to the launch that would take them out to the rescue site. Although aware that the cameras were filming their every move while reporters kept up a running commentary Chip steadfastly ignored their attempts to distract him, his face set in a mask of cool professionalism. He was, as all who knew him could testify, a master at hiding his true feelings. It was a skill he'd acquired as a child traumatised by the deaths of his parents and younger brother and whenever his emotions threatened to overwhelm him he would cope by assuming a cool, detached air of control. He knew that it fooled some people into thinking that he had no feelings while it annoyed those who were desperate, like these reporters were, to see his emotions played out on his face. Chip didn’t care. All he was interested in was the life or death mission that lay ahead of him. Nothing else mattered to him at that moment.


As Chip and Curly headed out to sea with the diving bell the reporters followed them in various different vessels. They kept up a steady stream of commentary, including giving mini biographies of the two rescue "heroes", Chip and Curly. Helen began to feel that she was dreaming as a photo of Chip when he had graduated from Annapolis momentarily filled the television screen and she wondered idly where they had acquired both the photos and the surprisingly accurate information about his career. However, as Chip and Curly began their descent in the diving bell even the reporters fell silent and waited.


It was a long, nail biting wait not only for the men on the rescue barge and the millions of people watching on television but also for the men on the Seaview who were anxiously hoping that somebody was going to come to their rescue. Knowing that the only hope was Seaview’s own diving bell Lee Crane tried not to think about the risk his best friend would be taking if he ventured into the minefield. He knew Chip would be very careful but, even so, it would be so easy to hit a mine and he didn’t like the thought of telling Chip’s sister that her brother had been blown into fish food. Then it crossed his mind that if his friend did hit a mine he and the others wouldn’t be getting out of here anyway and someone else would have to tell Helen…and his own mother. It was a morbid thought and one that Lee quickly banished to the back of his mind as they continued the interminable waiting and wondering.



For the million watching anxiously on televisions around the world there was a heart-stopping moment when the dull sound of an underwater explosion was heard and one of the reporters declared loudly that the diving bell had probably hit a mine. Helen Marshall burst into tears of anguish convinced that her brother had just been blown to pieces. Burying her face in her husband’s chest she was stunned when Chris urged her to listen again to the reporter and she heard him say excitedly, “… the bell is still descending at a steady, controlled rate.... a sure sign that it and its occupants are safe. Whatever that explosion was it hasn't stopped this very courageous rescue attempt."


After a long, nerve wracking wait cheers suddenly broke out on the main rescue ship and a reporter came back to the fore: "THEY'VE DONE IT!! The diving bell has made contact with the Seaview. The oxygen is on board. It is a moment of great relief here on the rescue ship as it surely must be for the families of the crew as they watch these dramatic events. It was an enormous risk that Commander Morton and Chief Jones took when they descended in that faulty diving bell and it is a measure of their immense bravery and skill that they carried out their mission successfully. But it's not over yet. The men on the Seaview now have the oxygen they need but they still need to be brought to the surface. This won't be possible until the mines have been cleared and the mine clearance operation is just about to begin here. For safety reasons we have been asked to return to the shore but we will be back as soon as it is safe to bring you the first pictures of the men of the Seaview coming back to the surface. In the meantime, let’s look again at the moment when the diving bell set out on its dramatic and successful rescue mission."


A recorded picture appeared on the screen of various men loading oxygen tanks into the diving bell while Chip stood in the background in conversation with the ship's commander.  Helen turned to Chris and smiled rather shakily, a smile of great relief. For the second time in one day she'd gone through heartbreaking anxiety to emerge gratefully relieved and now she was exhausted and it still wasn't over. The mines still had to be cleared and then the men rescued in small groups aboard the diving bell. It was going to be a long night and Helen knew that Chip, along with Admiral Nelson and Lee Crane, would be in the last group to leave their precious submarine. Nevertheless, she knew that she couldn’t go to bed until she knew that he was safely back in New London.


As if reading her thoughts Chris announced that he was going to call his parents and ask them to keep the children overnight. “Then I could phone for takeout,” he stood up and stretched his arms above his head. “If we’re going to stay up half the night we need food. What do you want? Pizza?”


"Chinese," Helen said decisively. "I never realized how hungry I was until now. I hope they’ve got food down there. Chip must be starving.”


Chris grinned. “I daresay he managed to pack some food into that bell if he thought it was necessary! I doubt very much that Chip’s going to starve, Helen.”


“No, I guess not,” Helen, grinned back. “You go and make those calls and I’ll open the wine!”




While his sister and brother-in-law ate Chinese food on the mainland, Chip Morton sat on the deck of Seaview's control room alongside his best friend and skipper. Although they now had oxygen on board they were still trying to conserve air and energy as they didn't know exactly how long it would be until they were rescued and the deck was full of men either sleeping or quietly chatting.


"I learnt to sail in these waters," Chip said suddenly. "I'm sure we never knew there was a minefield here."


"You'd have been a bit south of here, wouldn't you?" Lee queried.


"We used to cover a lot of ground," Chip said, a faraway look on his face. "I’d always liked boats but it was in these waters that I fell in love with the sea and decided on a career in the Navy."


"I bet you never pictured yourself being involved in such dramatic events so close to home," Lee grinned.


"I didn't picture myself being involved in dramatic events anywhere," Chip said dryly. "I’m sure Helen did though. She’s never said as much but I know she thinks I could have chosen a safer career and events like this just confirm her beliefs!”


“I remember you were worried how she would react when you opted for the submarine service,” Lee said reminiscently. “You put off telling her for months!”


“Yes,” Chip nodded. “And when I finally told her she didn’t react at all! I don’t suppose she’ll say much about today either but I bet she isn’t very happy with me for taking such a dumb risk," he sighed heavily. "I do hate to think that she may have been watching everything on TV."


"Least she’ll know you’re safe if she was watching," Lee said seriously. "I bet my mother is convinced I'm dead. She always thinks the worst and nobody will be able to convince her otherwise until she sees us come out of here.”


“She’s going to have a bit of a wait,” Chip yawned suddenly. “It’s going to take them hours to clear that minefield.”


“Yes,” Lee nodded his dark head, “but at least we will eventually get out…thanks to you!”




Finally, as dawn broke the following morning Admiral Nelson, Lee Crane, Chip Morton and those members of the crew who'd agreed to wait until last emerged from the diving bell on to the deck of one of the rescue vessels. They were immensely relieved to find that there were no reporters on board although their arrival was being filmed from boats some distance off. However, tired, cold and hungry they were ushered below immediately and the viewing public barely caught a glimpse of them. As the rescue boats headed back to New London they just had time for a cup of coffee and, in Nelson's case, several cigarettes before they had to disembark and face the reception committee that was awaiting them.


Although they were expecting to be met by reporters they were still overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people, microphones and cameras waiting for them on the dockside.


"Remember...don't answer any questions about the accident that put us on the bottom," Nelson reminded all of his men before they stepped ashore. "Just smile, be polite, but don't tell them anything!"


The men found that the reporters were mostly interested in how they felt when they were on the bottom and how they felt now that they'd been rescued. The more probing questions were kept for the senior officers.


"Admiral...Admiral did Seaview run into the minefield?"


"Captain Crane...was it a technical error or human error that caused this terrible accident?"


"Admiral Nelson...what will happen to the Seaview now? Can she be salvaged? Will you build another submarine?"


"Captain it true that some of your men were killed?"


"Commander Morton, what was it like going through the minefield?"


"How does it feel to be a hero, Commander Morton?"


Together the three men nodded and smiled grimly as they strode together towards the car that was waiting to speed them to hot showers, hot food and warm beds. Frustratingly for the reporters they chose not to answer any of the questions that were fired at them.


Helen Marshall felt such overwhelming relief as she watched her brother and his friends walk towards the waiting car that she came close to tears again. They all looked pale and tired. Their faces were unshaven, their hair uncombed and their uniforms streaked with dirt and sweat. She wished that the car would bring Chip straight home where she could ensure to her satisfaction that he had plenty of rest and plenty of his favourite food. She wondered whether they would be given any time to visit their families. She was sure that all the crews' families would want to see their men in the flesh, just to be sure that they were really safe. Or would the need to rescue the submarine, currently still on the ocean floor override such human concerns?




 Thirty-six hours later, on a Friday evening Lieutenant-Commander Chip Morton gave his sister and brother-in-law their second shock in as many days when he turned up unexpectedly on their doorstep. Refreshed after a long sleep and good food he couldn't resist making the most out of his surprise visit and, rather than knocking the front door he made his way round the back and through the side door. The kitchen was empty but he heard the sound of someone singing in the utility room. Stepping quietly through the partially open door he found his sister, with her back to him, loading dirty clothes into the washing machine. She obviously hadn't heard him come in and he stood for a moment watching her before saying, casually: "Need any help?"


He grinned broadly as Helen jumped and spun round, still holding a pile of dirty laundry.


"CHIP!!" She stared stupidly at him. "How'd you get here?"


"Through the door," he grinned at the mixed expression of shock, joy and confusion on his sister's face


"You should've called," she admonished him as she crossed the room and threw her arms around him.


"I know but it was more fun this way," he replied as he returned her hug.


"I've been worried about you," Helen told him as she stood back and looked intently at him, noting with relief that he looked fit and unharmed.


Chip stared back, his expression a bit sheepish. "I'm sorry. Did you...did you see it all?"


Helen nodded.


"I had to do it," Chip's gaze was unblinking. "I know you must have been terribly worried but I didn’t have a choice."


"I know," Helen smiled hoping to banish the anguished look that had come to her brother’s face. "You don't have to apologise."


 “But I do,” Chip disagreed, anxious to reassure his beloved sister. “I’m really sorry you had to go through that Helen but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. The only tricky part was getting through the minefield.”


"So you say but I didn't think I'd ever see you again," Helen hugged him again as if to convince herself he was real. "How long are you staying?"


"I have to be back in New London at 05.00 hours Monday. I thought I'd stay until Sunday evening if that's okay?"


"Of course it's okay," Helen indicated that he should follow her into the kitchen. "Are you hungry? Do you want a drink?"


Chip grinned broadly as he answered: "Yes and yes. I’m starving.”


"You’re always starving," Helen remarked with a grin as she opened the refrigerator. "Do you want a sandwich or shall I cook you something?"


"A sandwich will be fine," Chip replied as he sat down at the kitchen counter. "A big sandwich! Where is everyone?"


"The boys are in bed. The girls are at a party. Chris had just gone to fetch them when you arrived. They should be back soon. Where’s Lee?"


“He’s gone to his Mom’s. She won’t believe he’s safe until she sees him for real."


“I know how she feels,” Helen said as she sliced cheese. “How is Lee?”


"A bit subdued," Chip shrugged.  "We lost some good men."


"How did it happen?"


"You know I can't answer that."


"No. I'm sorry," Helen apologised as she sliced tomatoes for his sandwich. "They said on the news that Seaview will be rescued."


"That's right," Chip nodded. "The Navy are going to raise her and bring her back to New London on Monday. That's why I have to get back. Hopefully, they can carry out temporary repairs in New London and then we'll be able to take her back to Santa Barbara. The Admiral doesn't want her here any longer than is necessary."


"Is he okay?"


"Who? Admiral Nelson? I think so," Chip grinned. "One of the men's wives had a baby when Seaview was on the bottom and they’ve called it Harriman. Lee said he was proud and embarrassed all at once."


“They should’ve called it Chip,” Helen grinned as she handed him his sandwich. “You were the hero of the hour after all!”


Chip shrugged embarrassed. It wasn’t just me, Helen; it was Curly as well. I couldn’t have done it without him. He’s more of a hero than I am really. I was the one who made the decision to go and I was the one calling the shots. Curley had no choice but to trust me and he just followed my orders without question. He’s one hell of a guy!”


“I’m sure he is,” Helen smiled warmly at him while wondering if it would be out of order to write and thank this Curley for supporting her brother. Chip would probably kill her if she did and she dismissed the idea as quickly as she’d thought of it.


“This is good,” Chip said as he swallowed a mouthful of sandwich and reached for the glass of beer Helen had placed by his plate. He frowned slightly, “What are you thinking about?”


“You!” Helen grinned at him. “I was just thinking about how I wished you weren’t there when the rescue was taking place but now I’m so glad that you were. And I’m even happier that you’re here!”


"Not half as much as I am," Chip grinned back at her. "Two whole days of being thoroughly spoilt; I can't wait!"


"Who says I’m going spoil you?" Helen asked with one raised eyebrow.


"Me," Chip smiled easily at his sister. "It might be a pain when the media insist on calling me a hero but I'm not going to argue if you want to treat me like one."


"You'll be lucky," Helen laughed. "You won't get a moment's rest when the children find out you're here."


As if to verify her words the door from the hall suddenly flew open and his two nieces threw themselves at him. "Uncle Chip! Uncle Chip!!" They spoke together. "You was on the TV. Gran's cut your picture out of all the papers. Are you really a hero? What is a hero?"


Chip laughed as he gathered both of them into his arms. "Ask your mother." He winked at his sister over the girls' heads. "Because she's going to treat me like one all weekend!" 



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