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Shandon man was midget sub hero

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Adam-Bergius-May-2012-wA VERY well-known Shandon man was a hero of midget submarines in World War Two and was named in the best selling book ‘Above Us The Waves’.

Adam Bergius carved a successful career in the whisky industry and was the first chairman of Lomond School, then retired and lived in Glenbarr, near Tarbert, on the west coast of the Kintyre peninsula, until his death on March 3 2017 at the age of 91.

Born Adam Kennedy Bergius in Glasgow on March 25 1925, he was educated at Kelvinside Academy in Glasgow and then at Glenalmond College, near Perth.

He joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve  in December 1943 at the age of 18, and early the next year volunteered for "special and hazardous service".

During his daring wartime exploits with the 12th Flotilla he was awarded a DSC for his gallantry, and some years ago he told of the memorable day when he cut an underwater communication cable in the Far East.

He swam out along the ocean bed from a tiny 51 ft five-man ‘X Craft’ submarine, a top secret midget craft operating from the mother ship Clan Davidson.

His task was to cut communication between Japanese-held Hong Kong and Saigon.

The war in the Far East was coming to a close when orders came that the all-important cable had to be cut.

Sub-Lieutenant Bergius, then aged 20, and Sub-Lieutenant K.M.Briggs were towed in submarine XE4, commanded by Lieutenant Max Shean, DSO, RNVR, to the mouth of the Saigon River.

Their orders were to cut two cables — the Singapore-Saigon, and the Hong Kong-Saigon — to force the Japanese to use wireless communications which could be intercepted and deciphered.

Despite the dangerous depths of water in which the cables lay, the two officers pressed home their attack with the knowledge that earlier this depth of water had been responsible for the deaths of two other divers.

The XE4 was towed into the river by the submarine Spearhead, and slipped her tow at 9.20pm on July 30. She was away from the parent ship until the early hours of August 1.

Dragging a grapnel and chain weighing about 80lbs along the sea bed, the midget sub made a number of runs before being brought up suddenly as the grapnel caught the Singapore cable.

Sub-Lt Briggs was first to leave the submarine and returned with a short length of cable as evidence of a job well done.

The Hong Kong cable was found about an hour later by Lt Shean. Adam Bergius left the craft for his attempt, but had trouble with his cutting gear and returned. The difficulty ironed out, he left again shortly after.

He recalled: “The cable lay about 40 feet from where our submarine had come to rest. The water was a bit muddier than Loch Striven where we had done our training, but I didn’t have much difficulty in finding the cable.

“We had been told to bring back a piece of the cable as proof that it had been well and truly cut. I still have that piece as a souvenir.”

The divers were specially commended for working in much deeper and therefore more dangerous water than had been expected.

Only a short time before, two highly trained divers had lost their lives in attempting to cut telephone cables in the same depth of water.

“Underwater breathing apparatus was in its infancy at that time,” he said.

“Since that time there had been great progress made in the breathing of pure oxygen. Skin diving, for instance, is a typical example of the progress made.”

The mother ship Clan Davidson — named HMS Bonaventure during the war — was laid up in the Gareloch for a time after the war and was then repurchased by the Clan Line.

She was fitted out to carry 12 passengers and became the first Clan Line ship to carry passengers to South Africa for 50 years.

Mr Bergius first served as a rating, then was appointed Midshipman RNVR in November 1943 and promoted to Sub-Lieutenant in March 1945.

After the war he joined the family whisky business, Wm Teacher and Son Ltd., and rose from junior clerk to become its chairman.

He was also an uncompromising spokesman for the Scotch Whisky Association in his capacity as chairman of its information and development committee, and was always willing to take on the Government on industry matters.

He even wrote a book called ‘Make Your Own Scotch Whisky’ in which he provided a spoof recipe. He described how it would be possible to distill at home, but, not too surprisingly, reached the conclusion that making good whisky was best left to the experts — and in particular those who distill Teacher's Highland Cream!

He served as a director of Scottish Opera after it purchased the Theatre Royal in Glasgow's Hope Street.

A founding member and the first Commodore of Helensburgh Sailing Club from 1951-53, he served as treasurer of the Glasgow branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in the 1950s and 60s.

XE9-wHe had a lifelong love of yachting, and was a leading member of the Royal Northern and Clyde Yacht Club at Rhu. He owned the Scottish Islands Class yacht Jura from 1946 to 1977, and had her converted for cruising by leading designer Freddy Mylne.

Later he and industrialist Sir Ian Denholm co-owned the 1911 Bristol pilot cutter Hirta which they moored off Shandon in the summer and used for cruising around Scottish waters or off northern France.

In the late 1970s he was closely involved in the merger of Helensburgh's St Bride’s School for girls and Larchfield boys preparatory school to form Lomond School, taking the chair in the early years of the new school.

In 1980 one of the school's three houses, Buchanan, was renamed Bergius in his honour, and he was described as "a true founder of Lomond School".

He commented: "For the first time since its inception, the School is now on a sound financial footing, and it is not necessary to carry large borrowings."

When he retired to Glenbarr he successfully increased the quality, and therefore value, of locally bred lamb, and he was a founding director of Kintyre Quality Livestock Limited, a producers co-operative.

He and his wife Fiona, nee Sillars, whom he married in 1951 and who died in February 2011, lived for most of their married life at Croy, Shandon, and had five children, Charles, Cara, Peter, Johnny and Pol.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 02 April 2017 17:30 )  

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