Polyarnoe the Reindeer 

On 10-August-1941, HMS Trident, a 'T' or Triton Class submarine, under the command of Lieutenant Commander G M Sladen, arrived at the Polyarnoe base outside Murmansk.  She was to co-operate with the Soviet Navy in attacking German convoys passing along the northern coast of Norway. As part of the ceremonies to mark the reconciliation between Great Britain and Soviet Russia, the Russians presented a young reindeer doe. Diplomatic protocol did not allow Sladen to refuse such a generous gesture.

The doe was christened Polyarnoe in honour of the grim base allocated to the Royal Navy submarines and surface ships, and taken aboard. She seemed to adapt very quickly to the demands of submarine life. Polyarnoe soon understood the importance of the CO in the pecking order, and followed his every move.

When Trident  surfaced to open a hatch to ventilate the boat, Polyarnoe trotted to the foot of the ladder and looked up, clearly enjoying her brief spell of fresh air. 

After Trident's last patrol in February 1942, during which she hit the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen with three torpedoes and blew off her stern, the time came to return home.  

Now a fresh problem became obvious. Polyarnoe had grown, not least because she was given more to eat by the sailors than she needed, and could be described as 'spoiled rotten'. It seemed unlikely that she could be carried up a vertical ladder and out of a circular hatch without inflicting grave damage with her hooves and antlers. So when the submarine was close to home, a radio message was sent to solicit advice and assistance.

On the dockside, a man was waiting to give the aid and comfort required. But the submariners were appalled to learn that he was the slaughterman from the local abattoir. Mutiny loomed, but he explained that he was not there to slit Polyarnoe's throat, but to use his expertise to truss her securely until she was back on dry land.

When this was achieved Polyarnoe seemed unshaken by her ordeal, but worked off her aggression by putting to flight a small dog walking innocently along the quay.

Happily, Polyarnoe, after writing a very unusual chapter in the history of HM Submarines, ended her days in the local zoo.


This page last edited - 09 December, 2012.

Copyright Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.