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Historical Anecdotes: X

Historical Anecdotes: X
by Anthony Waldstock

This is a series of articles that has grown out of the daily listings of what happened “On This Day”. Many of the events, particularly those related to science, seemed to us to need some more information than is possible in the daily listing format. Still others had amusing or informative anecdotes associated with them that we felt were worth sharing with our readers. The series is designed for browsing and dipping into and we have therefore set up a comprehensive system of links to make this as easy and as enjoyable as possible.

Historical Anecdotes: X

by Anthony Waldstock

This series of articles will present occasional anecdotal, amusing and factual notes behind the people and events on the This Day in History digests. Entries are determined by the daily posting of events in history with the first entries appearing for March 10th and are arranged alphabetically. With the steady increase of material, each letter of the alphabet now (April 17th 2002) has its own page. People are indexed according to their family or surnames whereas kings, popes, emperors etc. are listed according to their regnal names– e.g. Charles Boycott would be found under B, Pope Gregory under G and Queen Mary Tudor under M. Other items are indexed by the most significant word in the title, for example Artificial Ice will be found under I but Sad Iron will be found under S.

Links back to the monthly digests for “This Day in History” can be found at the bottom of the introductory page but each of the entries on the other pages will have a link to take you back to the specific date with which it is associated. Note that if you have come here from the Background Briefings link on the Home page, you can go back there by clicking on the site Masthead above. When appropriate, there are additional links back to other referring pages on the site such as the People of London page.

Within the series there are two sets of links. At the top of each page there will be a table of links to the other indexing letters to allow browsing by individual pages. At the bottom of each page you will also find a set of links which will allow you to scroll backward (Previous) and forward (next) through the pages. The pages are looped so the “Previous” link from A will be to Z and the “Next” link from Z will be to A. There will also be a central link back to this introduction page whose main content is an alphabetic list of the complete set of entries. From there, you will be able to browse the titles of the individual entries and jump directly to those that interest you. By definition, the number of entries will augment on a daily basis so it is worth checking back there frequently.


Links to Entries by Index Letter
[A][B][C][D][E][F][G][H][I][J][K][L][M][N][O][P][Q][R][S][T][U][V][W][Y][Z]

X-craft

This was a midget submarine which measured just fifty feet long and five feet nine inches broad. The idea behind these small, cramped, four man submarines was quite simple, to construct a small craft capable of operating in confined waters and deliver a large explosive charge to either an enemy vessel or construction.

They were too small to carry torpedoes. Instead, they were fitted with an external large ( 2 to 3 ton) explosive charge on either side of the hull. These charges were held to the submarine by a single bolt. When the charge was to be dropped the bolt was undone by unwinding a large handle inside the hull. A timer was preset to allow the submarine time to withdraw to a safe distance before the charge went off. Unfortunately, the vessels bobbed to the surface as soon as the charges were dropped, considerably increasing the risks to the crew.

The craft had a very limited range and was taken to a point close to the target on the deck of another vessel or towed there by another submarine. On the surface, they were steered by the captain who had to stand on deck (held in place by a system of straps) steering with a pole mechanism attached to the top of the rudder, this they had to do at night in all weathers. The craft were also fitted with a water lock to allow a diver to leave the submarine and attach limpet mines to enemy targets. The missions undertaken by these craft were often extremely hazardous and the casualty rates were very high.
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