The nephew of a Birmingham sailor killed after his submarine went missing on a Second World War mission has spoken of his surprise after plans to find his resting place were revealed.
The Birmingham Post last week told how a search has being launched by the Dutch Navy to find submarine Onderzeeboot 13 (O13) which vanished in June 1940 with all hands.
A television company was desperate to trace relatives of James ‘Jimmy’ Spettigue, from Ladywood, one of three Royal Navy crew members on O13 when it disappeared.
The article was spotted by the Ladywood History Group, which realised that their newsletter proof reader Tony Spettigue, was in fact a relative of Jimmy.
Tony was born in February 1940 and was just a few months old when his uncle James went down with the submarine in June that year.
Mr Spettigue, 73, said: “I am delighted and pleasantly surprised, but shocked to find my family is at the centre of a news story of such importance.
"I never assumed it would be of interest to anyone outside Ladywood.
“I’m not an internet user and was amazed at how quickly the story developed.”
Commander Jouke Spoelstra, the Dutch search team commander said: “Finding relatives after so many years is a tremendous achievement and a boost of morale for all those involved.
“The crew of O13, including the British liaison team, deserve their place in history. Finding relatives who can tell their stories connects past to present.
“More than nine out of ten relatives embrace the search for O13.
"They feel their loved ones are not forgotten and it enables them to share memories and give them a place in their lives”.
The Dutch crew of O13 had fled the Nazi invasion in 1940, and decided to fight on, joining the Royal Navy.
To begin with O13 patrolled the English Channel to help protect the British Army’s evacuation from Dunkirk, and then joined the ninth Flotilla at Dundee before disappearing off the coast of Norway.
The submarine was sent on that patrol because at the time there were fears the Germans might launch an invasion fleet. O13 was meant to raise the alarm.
Jimmy Spettigue, who was 28 when he disappeared, was part of a three-man signals team, on board to help the foreign crew communicate with the Royal Navy.
The spokesman for the television production team said: “We were surprised to see the first picture of James Spettigue. He was the last of the 34 men aboard that we did not have a picture of. The photo was taken in March 1930, so we see him a lot younger than when he disappeared with the O13.
“Jimmy was the Royal Navy lightweight boxing champion in 1934 but despite his fame, after O13 disappeared people had trouble writing his name.
"On the June 28, 1940, in a document in which O13 was officially written off, Jimmy is named S. Pettigraw. And, on the monuments in Dundee and Den Helder, his name was inscribed with a “q” as Spettique. This error has now been corrected in Dundee.”
Dutch film maker and historical researcher, Wilco Pleging said he was interested in finding out why the submarine was lost.
“Did the O13 run onto a German or British mine or was she sunk by German aircraft?” he said. “The O13 could have been rammed by the Polish submarine Wilk which was in the area at the time but what really happened in June 1940, more than 70 years ago will remain a mystery until the wreck is found and examined.”
A set of German charts found aboard a captured U-boat in 1941 revealed it had been unwittingly routed through a newly-laid enemy minefield 100 miles south-west of Norway. It is possible that this same minefield, unknown to the Allies at the time, could offer a clue to O13’s fate.
Jimmy Spettigue was born in 1912, the son of James Howard Spettigue, a packer at a Birmingham toys and smallwares manufacturer, and his wife Lucy, a pressworker at a bell manufacturer. The family lived at 3 Dispensary, Ladywood. He married Lucy Howard in Plymouth in June 1938.
O13 is the only Dutch submarine lost during the war which has not been located and given war grave status.
The 31 Dutch and three British crew of 013 are among the 296 sailors and commandos commemorated on the Dundee International Submarine Memorial.
Naval historian Andrew Jeffreys, who campaigned for the memorial to be created, is working on a research project about the ill fated Dutch vessel.
He said: “Speaking to relatives of the Dutch and British crew lost with O13 brings home just how much the submarine’s mysterious disappearance still means to them, even after almost 73 years.
“And now, thanks to the Birmingham Post, we have been able to add Jimmy Spettigue’s story to the compelling narrative of this small crew and their perilous mission deep into enemy controlled waters as a first line of defence against invasion.”