HMS Starfish

9 January 1940

Sunk south west of Heligoland by German minesweeper trawlers

HMS Starfish sailed from Blyth for patrol on 5th January 1940. Nothing of note occurred until the 9th when the submarine sighted a German destroyer and decided to attack. The submarine dived and made her tubes ready. A communication problem caused the first attack to fail and as the submarine returned to periscope depth to carry out another attack she was rocked by an explosion. Further depth charge attacks forced Starfish to settle on the bottom and wait for the enemy to move on. At 1815 Starfish returned to the surface, all confidential documents were destroyed and the submarine scuttled. The ship’s company were picked up by the waiting ships and taken as prisoners of war.

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HMS Thistle

10 April 1940

Torpedoed off Utsira, Norway by U4

In the belief that a German invasion of Norway was imminent Flag Officer Submarines ordered HMS Thistle to Stavanger with orders to sink any enemy vessel that she may spot in the harbour. On 10th April Thistle signalled her intentions in complying with this order and that she had two torpedoes remaining after an unsuccessful attack on a U-boat. With this in mind the Admiralty changed her orders to patrol off Skudenes. No further contact was made with the Thistle. It was later discovered that U4, the U-boat Thistle had previously attacked had, sighted the submarine on the surface and sunk her with torpedoes.

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HMS Tarpon

10 April 1940

Probably sunk in North Sea by German Q ship

On 5th April 1940 HMS Tarpon left Portsmouth for Rosyth in company with HMS Severn. The following day they were ordered to Norway. On the 10th Tarpon was signalled to take up a new position. Unknown to the Admiralty the submarine had already been lost. Post War German records showed that Tarpon attacked the Q-ship Schiff 40 at 0724: the first torpedo missed as did a second. The Q-ship picked up the Tarpon on her sonar and her periscope was sighted, depth charges were dropped. The counter attack went on most of the morning until finally at 1252 a pattern of depth charges brought wreckage to the surface. The Schiff remained on the scene until 0500 the next morning secure in the knowledge that she had sunk the submarine.

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HMS Sterlet

18 April 1940

Sunk in Skagerrak by German escort Vessel M75

On 8th April 1940 HMS Sterlet left for a patrol in the Skagerrak, Norway. Four days later she signalled that she had unsuccessfully attacked a Convoy of 3 Merchant ships and a Destroyer. The following day she was assigned a new patrol area and on the 18th torpedoed the German Gunnery Ship Brummer, causing serious damage. At once the German escorts counter attacked with repeated depth charge attacks. Their target never resurfaced.

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HMS Unity

29 April 1940

Sunk off Tyne following collision with Norwegian Steamer Atle Jarl

At 1730 on 29th April 1940 HMS Unity sailed from Blyth to support the struggle for Norway. The weather and visibility down to 300 yards as Unity moved out of the harbour; in the main channel, where the Norwegian ship Atle Jarl was proceeding on her way from Scotland to the Tyne visibility was down to 100 yards: Neither vessel was aware of the other until the submarine spotted the ship at 50 yards and on a collision course. There was just time to shut the bulkhead doors and order the engines astern before the Atle Jarl smashed into the submarine. The order to abandon the submarine was given and Unity sank only five minutes after the collision.

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HMS Seal

5 May 1940

Captured in Kattegat after striking a mine

On 29th April 1940 HMS Seal was bound for mine laying operations in the Kattegat. Just before dawn on the 4th May she was sighted by a German aircraft, which attacked at once. No serious damage was caused but German anti-submarine forces were alerted to her presence and set about finding the submarine. At 1900 a violent explosion shook Seal as her stern struck a mine. Following the explosion the stern of the submarine became stuck in the mud and the submarine refused to budge. When the Seal finally returned to the surface in the early hours of May 5th, enemy aircraft were waiting and she came under sustained attack and unable to dive there was no other option than to surrender.

HMS Odin

14 June 1940

Sunk in Gulf of Taranto by Italian Destroyer Baleno

The Italian Destroyer Strale sighted HMS Odin at 23.21 on 13th June. The Destroyer turned to attack, first with torpedoes, and then with gunfire. Strale then attempted to ram the submarine, which fired a torpedo from a stern tube before diving. Having failed to ram the submarine, the Strale launched a pattern of depth charges before returning to her designated patrol. At 0157 the Torpedo Boat Baleno sighted Odin surfacing about 9 miles from the position of the original attack. The Baleno also attempted to ram the submarine, which once again dived to avoid her pursuer. Passing over the area Baleno dropped two depth charges, turned and dropped three more. Later that morning aerial reconnaissance by the Italian Air Force revealed oil slicks in both attack areas. The Italians believed the attacks to be on two separate submarines. But it is believed that both attacks were on Odin. The first badly damaging the submarine, the second finished her off.

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HMS Grampus

16 June 1940

Sunk east of Syracuse, Sicily by Italian TB Polluce

On the 10th June 1940 HMS Grampus sailed from Malta to lay mines off the port of Augusta. Three days later she reported this had been done successfully but nothing further was heard and she did not return from the patrol. It is believed that the Italian Navy sank her on the 16th June. At 1900 on the 16th the Torpedo Boat Circe spotted a periscope and launched a depth charge attack on the position, along with the Polluce. The ninth depth charge pattern destroyed Grampus, which gave up a mass of wreckage.

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HMS Orpheus

19 June 1940

Possibly sunk off Tobruk by a mine

HMS Orpheus was the third submarine to be lost in the space of a week. Although the cause of her loss is not certain, it is believed that it was due to a minefield off Tobruk.

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HMS Shark

6 July 1940

Scuttled off Stravanger to prevent capture following aircraft damage

On the 5th July 1940 HMS Shark was on the surface when a seaplane was sighted astern. As the submarine submerged to avoid the aircraft two or three bombs exploded close to the stern, followed closely by at least two more. The explosions caused considerable damage. With out steering gear and the hydroplanes jammed hard to rise, the submarine’s bow broached the surface to be greeted by more bombs. The submarine began to sink by the stern and all high-pressure air was used to return her to the surface. Once on the surface Shark got underway steering on main engines. Being sighted yet again the submarine came under sustained attack and No. 4 ballast tank was holed. Finally more aircraft arrived and Shark had no option but to capitulate. At about 0400 four trawlers arrived to take Shark under tow but the submarine was beyond saving, she began to sink at the stern.

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HMS Salmon

9 July 1940

Possibly mined in the North Sea

HMS Salmon sailed from the UK for a patrol off the southwest of Norway on 4th July 1940. She was ordered to report on 15th July but failed to do so. Nothing is known off her loss; she is presumed to have struck a mine.

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HMS Phoenix

16 July 1940

Probably depth charged off Augusta by Italian TB Albertros

HMS Phoenix left Malta for a patrol of the Sicilian coast in July 1940. Nothing was heard from the submarine after a wireless message transmitted on the night of 14th/15th July. It is believed that the submarine struck a mine. Although a submarine, possibly Phoenix, attacked the Italian tanker Dora on 16th off Santa Croce Sicily, the submarine was counter attacked with depth charges and sunk by the Italian Torpedo boat Albatros.

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