Heroic ‘Charioteers’ at medal handover

Veterans of the human torpedo attacks on enemy shipping were reunited for the donation of one hero’s medals to the organisation set up in their honour.

Yesterday’s reunion at Eden Camp Modern History Museum, near Malton, saw former Charioteer Len Berey’s decorations presented to the Underwater Heritage Trust.

They were accompanied by chairman of the trust, Robert Hobson, while viewing the Mark I and Mark II British Chariots and an Italian machine in the display.

Mr Hobson said: “Considering their ages, it could very well be the last reunion ever to take place of remaining Charioteers – a quite unique event.”

Unfortunately, Mr Berey had been too ill to attend.

Human torpedoes were crewed by two divers. When they reached the enemy ship they detached the warhead and clamped it to the hull before escaping.

Churchill ordered a training school be set up for British human torpedoes in Scotland – although the Italians remained the leaders in their development.

When Italy switched sides, the Italian Navy provided the know-how for the Mark Two British Torpedo, used in Far East raids. They were also used during the D-Day preparations along the Normandy coast.

Mr Hobson is the son of Yorkshire war hero Lt-Cmdr Robert Hobson, who was born and lived at Ecclesfield, near Sheffield.

After he died in his sleep from a stroke in 1989 his son, also called Robert, found a small blue suitcase covered in dust containing secret naval documents from the Second World War and hundreds of photographs of British and Italian servicemen.

It led to a 13-year quest culminating in the world’s largest human torpedo display at Eden Camp and a book called Chariots of War, with a foreword by the Duke of Edinburgh.