Up periscope - How one Aylsham man watched the 1966 World Cup final on board a nuclear submarine

John Bowhill was on board submarine HMS Talent 50 years ago during the World Cup final.

John Bowhill was on board submarine HMS Talent 50 years ago during the World Cup final. - Credit: Archant

A mammoth television audience of 32.3m people watched England's World Cup triumph.

John Bowhill aboard submarine HMS Talent with his son in 1966. Submitted

John Bowhill aboard submarine HMS Talent with his son in 1966. Submitted - Credit: Submitted

With these 32.3m people come 32.3m stories of where they were watching on that magical day.

However, few will have a story quite as extraordinary as 77-year-old John Bowhill, who was watching from the middle of the Irish Sea, on board a nuclear submarine. Mr Bowhill of Aylsham, was working as a radio supervisor in the HMS Talent, on the day England were due to compete in what is to date their only major tournament final.

During the unforgettable day, the crew were taking part in an exercise with RAF Shackletons from Balleykelly. However, when no Shackletons were to be seen, the crew managed to convince the captain to surface and gather around the box to watch the match.

Mr Bowhill said: 'After scanning the skies through the periscope we concluded there were no Shackletons around, so we then set about trying to persuade the captain to surface so we could put the TV aerial on the coning tower and watch the match. It was a rather primitive television set, so the picture was quite grainy, but it was still an unforgettable experience.

John Bowhill with wife Wendy now. Submitted

John Bowhill with wife Wendy now. Submitted - Credit: Submitted


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'We were able to watch the match in the fore-ends torpedo space.'

'There were between 60 and 70 of us watching and our captain was getting rather twitchy in case we were spotted by the RAF – especially when the match went to extra time.

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'He kept asking how much longer there was left and was concerned we would be seen on the surface.

'It was understandable, because if we had been caught he could have potentially lost his commandership.

John Bowhill in 1966.

John Bowhill in 1966. - Credit: Submitted

'Finally, we were able to take down the aerial and resume our station.'

Fortunately for the captain and his crew, no Shackletons turned up and they were able to watch the historic match in full. Mr Bowhill added: 'I suspect they were all watching the match, too, somewhere in Ballykelly.

'It was a delight to bask in the result and to toast the victory. It was a great day – never to be forgotten. I probably would have rather watched the match in the comfort of my own home, but this story certainly makes it more special – it was definitely a memorable day, to say the least.'

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