Operation Title

'Title' was a British naval attack on the German battleship Tirpitz in German-occupied Norway using 'chariot' manned torpedoes in their first operational employment (26 October/1 November 1942).

The 'chariot' was a British manned torpedo whose development was inspired by the operations of Italian naval commandos, in particular the raid on 19 December 1941 by members of the Xa Flottiglia MAS who rode maiali human torpedoes into the port of Alexandria and placed limpet mines on or near the battleships Valiant and Queen Elizabeth as well as an 8,000-ton tanker, causing serious damage which rendered both battleships unserviceable until 1943.

Official development of the 'chariot' began in April 1942 under the primary supervision of two officers of the Royal Navy’s submarine service: Commander G. Sladen and Lieutenant Commander W. F. Fell. Training of crews was carried out from the depot ship Titania initially stationed at Gosport and later in Scotland at Loch Erisort (known as Port 'HZD'), Loch a’Choire (known as Port 'HHX') and Loch Cairnbawn (known as Port 'HHZ')[4] and from the light cruiser Bonaventure in the same region.

Two 'chariot' models were produced. The 3,525-lb (1599-kg) Chariot Mk I, produced from 1942, was 22 ft 4 in (6.81 m) long, 2 ft 11 in (0.9 m) wide and 3 ft 11 in (1.19 m) high, was capable of 2.5 kt, and had a maximum diving depth of 90 ft (27.5 m). The motor of the 'chariot' had three settings (slow, medium and full) and was powered by a battery which provided an endurance of about seven or eight hours at 2.9 kt depending on current etc. The detachable warhead contained 600 lb (272 kg) of Torpex explosive. Some 34 examples of the Chariot Mk I were made.

The 5,200-lb (2359-kg) Chariot Mk II was produced from a time early in 1944, and was 30 ft 6 in (9.3 m) long, 2 ft 6 in (0.76 m) in diameter, and 3 ft 3 in (0.99 m) high. Its maximum speed was 4.5 kt and its endurance five to six hours at full speed. Liike the Chariot Mk I, the Chariot Mk II was operated by a two-man crew, and these sat back to back. The Chariot Mk II’s warhead contained 1,200 lb (544 kg) of explosive, and was therefore considerably more powerful than that of the Chariot Mk I. The Chariot Mk II was readily distinguishable from the Chariot Mk I in that the crew were enclosed within the hull save for their heads, which were left expoised.

Production of the Chariot Mk II was 30 machines, and both marks were manufactured by Stothert & Pitt, crane makers at Bath, Somerset.

Its limited range meant that the Chariot had to be transported relatively close to its objective before its crew could approach and attack the target under its own power. The warhead, which was detonated by timer, had to be detached and left at the target vessel as the crew attempted to ride the Chariot to a rendezvous with a friendly submarine, or abandon the Chariot and escape by other means.

The first attempt to use Chariots operationally was 'Title'. During September 1942 the celebrated Norwegian naval officer and resistance leader Leif Larsen had suggested to the British that Tirpitz could be attacked by manned torpedoes in the Åsenfjord, a branch of the Trondheimfjord, in western central Norway, and the Admiralty approved the undertaking as 'Title'.

On 26 October the trawler Arthur, manned by three Norwegians (P. Bjornøy, R. Strand and J. Kalve as well as Larsen), left British waters with seven British commando frogmen hidden on board and two 'chariots' secured below her hull. Two days later Arthur reached the Norwegian coast near Edøy and Larsen bluffed his way past the German patrols. On 30 October the 'chariots' were released from their fixings under the hull and Arthur began to tow them closer toward the target area. On 31 October, however, a storm broke the fastening bolts of the 'chariots', which were lost, and the operation had perforce to be called off. On 1 November Arthur was scuttled at Breivik, the 10 members of the operation then setting off toward Sweden in two groups. Nine of them reached Sweden, but the tenth was captured by the Germans and shot as a spy.

Later 'chariot' deployments was made by carrying the machines to their point of departure by submarine. In early attempts, tubes were fitted to the deck of a submarine to contain the Chariots. The tubes were 24 ft 2 in (7.37 m) long and had an exterior height of 5 ft 4 in (1.63 m). The 'chariot' sat on a wheeled bogie inside the tube, strapped down until needed. Ten tubes were made: three tubes were installed on Trooper, two each on P 311 and Thunderbolt and one each on L 23 and Saracen.