HMS Varbel II, 12th Submarine Flotilla Headquarters, Argyll and Bute

AddressPort Bannatyne, Isle of Bute, Argyll and Bute PA20, UK
CountyArgyll and Bute
Location typeNaval Base
AccessPublic Access
Site Ownership and Access InformationThe Kyles Hydro Hotel has since been demolished but the Beach can still be accessed as well as the Loch.
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The Royal Navy’s 12th Submarine Flotilla had it headquarters, HMS Varbel, located in the 88 rooms of the requisitioned Kyles Hydro Hotel, which overlooked Port Bannatyne. This was the only British base for midget submarine and human torpedo training. The Navy used the protection of the port and the secure waters of Loch Striven to the north for sea trials and training exercises. The exercises mostly included beach reconnaissance training on Port Bannatyne as well as navigation and pilotage.

Two Midget Submarines travelled over to the Normandy Coast between Sword and Juno Beach on the 4th of June, departing from Gosport in Hampshire on the south coast of England. Their task was to direct the incoming landing craft so that they did not steer off course and miss their targets. The crews on board these submarines found out about the delays of the Landings through secret messages on the BBC News Broadcasts, and they had to remain undetected for another day, meters from the enemy.

The crews on both Submarines had a very tough job, with limited space and only tea and baked beans as means of replenishment. Oxygen supply was also something which they lacked, and in the darkness of the night they would rise to the surface where the crew was allowed to walk around the deck in silence. However these men will always be heroes as they played such a fundamental role in ensuring that the Landings were successful.

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