Home Heritage Military Shandon man was midget sub hero

Shandon man was midget sub hero

E-mail Print PDF

XE9A 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’.

Now retired and living in Glenbarr, near Tarbert, on the west coast of the Kintyre peninsula, Adam Bergius carved a successful career in the whisky business and was the first chairman of Lomond School.

During his daring wartime exploits with the 12th Flotilla he was awarded a DSC for his gallantry, and some years ago he spoke 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 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.”

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 the former Kelvinside Academy pupil rose to become chairman of whisky firm Wm Teacher and Son Ltd., and he wrote a book called ‘Make Your Own Scotch Whisky’ in which he provided a spoof recipe.

He was the first Commodore of Helensburgh Sailing Club, and he was closely involved in the merger of 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.

He and his wife Fiona, who died in February 2011, had five children of their own.

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.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 08 April 2012 17:14 )  

Trust Photo Gallery


View this photo and over 1,650 more at the Heritage Trust Photo Gallery. Visit the gallery.

Next Open Meeting

Fraser-Noble-wThe second of six Winter Open Meetings will be held on Wednesday October 28 at Helensburgh Tennis Club in Suffolk Street at 7.30pm, when Fraser Noble will talk about boatbuilding at McGruers. The AGM is at 7pm.

Winter Talks 2015-16

  • Wednesday September 30 2015 — Melissa Simpson: Hermitage Park: past, present and future
  • Wednesday October 28 — AGM at 7pm; Fraser Noble of McGruers: My family has been building boats since the 11th Century
  • Wednesday November 25 — Sir Malcolm Colquhoun and James Pearson: The Clan Colquhoun and the History of Helensburgh (to be held at the Loch Lomond Golf Club at Luss)

  • Wednesday January 27 2016 — Lachie Munro: The Many Lives of Robert Bontine Cunningham Graham — the Uncrowned King of Scotland
  • Wednesday February 24 — Sue Furness, Fiona Jackson: Hidden Heritage of a Landscape — Vengeful Vikings and Reckless Rustlers
  • Wednesday March 30 — Fiona Baker: Boutcher's Banks — the Genesis of Helensburgh?

Meetings are normally in the upstairs room at Helensburgh Tennis Club, Suffolk Street, at 7.30pm.

Charity Number

Scottish Charity