Loss of the Submarine HMS Narwhal
HMSub Narwhal (N45) was
the 1 of the 6 ship class of
Class Mine Laying Submarine of the
Royal Navy. She was built by Vickers
Launched 29th August
Served in the
Mediterranean, West Indies,
2nd World War in
Laid a minefield of 50 mines North of Laeso Island in the Kattegat,
April 1940. It is assumed
that the following were sunk by this minefield: 4 trawlers totalling 1,200 tons,
Deutschland 432 tons, M.1701 250 tons, M.1702 218 tons, she also sank the Buenos
Aires on the 1st May 1940, 6,097 tons. Laid another minefield near the
island of Laeso towards the end of April 1940, size not known.
Narwhal was lost on the 30th July 1940
in the North Sea or off Norway.
HMSub Narwhal (Lt.Cdr. Ronald
DSO, RN - 33yrs) sailed from Blyth Harbour on 22 July 1940 to lay mines off Kristiansund, Norway. A
German Dornier Bomber (Do-17, Lt. Karl Müller, 1/KF1Gr 606) reported attacking a
submarine on the afternoon of 23rd July 1940 about 125 nautical miles
due east of
Aberdeen, Scotland in position 56º50'N, 01º40'E, it was most likely this attack
that is responsible for the loss of the Narwhal as she failed to return to
base and was reported overdue on 1 August 1940.
HMS Truant’s good luck continued when she is also
attacked but suffered no damage.
British submarine HMS Clyde fired 6 torpedoes at HMS Truant, off
Fejeosen, Norway in an episode of mis-identification. All torpedoes
missed their target.
Narwhal had a brief but eventful career in wartime service. In February
HMS Imogen and
U-63 south east of the Shetland Islands and in May Narwhal
torpedoed and sank the German troop transport Buenos
torpedoed and damaged the troop transport Bahia
port but was declared a total loss.
The greatest number of kills were caused by her mines. The German auxiliary
minesweepers M 1302 / Schwaben, M 1102/H.A.W. Möllerthe, Gnom 7,Kobold
1 and Kobold 3; the German minesweeper M 11; German auxiliary
submarine chaser UJ D / Treff VIII; the armed Trawler V 1109 / Antares
and the Swedish merchant Haga were all sunk on mines laid by Narwhal.
Ships damaged by mines laid by Narwhal included: the armed trawler V 403
/ Deutschland, the German merchants Togo and Clara M. Russ. The
auxiliary minesweeper M 1101 / Fock und Hubert and the German merchant
Palime also struck some of Narwhal's mines. They were successfully
beached but declared total losses.
Credit is often given to Narwhal for sinking the Norwegian fishing vessel
Arild, but in reality Arild hit a German defensive mine.
may also have claimed the U-1 which disappeared on patrol on 6 April 1940,
having been scheduled to sail unknowingly through a minefield Narwhal had
laid earlier that day. Alternatively, Narwhal's sister
reported firing upon an unknown submarine, which may also account for U-1's
The Grampus-class submarines
were a group of
Mine Layers built for
the Royal Navy in the late
These boats are sometimes referred to as the Porpoise Class from
the single prototype,
HMS Porpoise built
Onle 5 boats to a modified design were built between
The ships were all named after
E.R.J. Oddie, RN.
25 Feb 40, the German submarine U-63,
trying to attack convoy HN-14, in doing so she was sighted by Narwhal.
The escorting destoyers HMS Escort,
HMS Inglefield and
HMS Imogen were
warned. They located, attacked and sank U-63 with
depth charges south east of the Shetland Islands.
Ronald J Burch DSO RN
4 Apr 40, laid minefield FD 1 (50 mines) in the North Sea in position 54º37'N,
13 Apr 40, the German armed trawler V403/Deutschlanddamaged
when she hit a mine laid by Narwhal on
4 Apr 40 off Skagen.
13 Apr 40, laid minefield FD 5 (50 mines) in the Kattegat in position 57º26'N,
20 Apr 40, the German merchant Togo (5042
GRT) damaged when hitting a mine laid by Narwhal on
13 Apr 40 off Skagen in position 57º26'N, 10º45'E.
23 Apr 40, the German auxiliary minesweeper M1302/Schwaben (436
GRT) sunk on a mine laid by Narwhal on
13 Apr 40 off Skagen in position 57º26'N, 10º45'E.
On the night of 1 May
Narwhal had just finished laying mines in the
Kattegat, in the entrance to Laeso Rende, when several ships including the
German Buenos Aires sailed
into his periscope sights. In a well executed attack, several torpedoes were
fired and Buenos Aires quickly
sank with 30 casualties. On the same night, Narwhal also
torpedoed and severely damaged S.S. Bahia
Castillo II (8,570 grt) which
belonged to the same company that had owned Buenos
Aires. The ship was towed to Kiel and after inspection was found to be
beyond economical repair and was subsequently broken up.
1 May 40, the Swedish merchant Haga (1296
GRT) sinks on a mine laid by Narwhal on
the same day in the Skaggerak east of Cape Skagen in position 57º30'N, 10º43'E.
1 May 40, laid minefield FD 6 (50 mines) in the Kattegat in position 57º30'N,
3 May 40, the German auxilary minesweeper M1102/H.A.W.
Möller sinks on a mine laid by Narwhal on
1 May 40 in the Skaggerak east of Cape Skagen in position 57º30'N, 10º43'E.
11 May 40, laid minefield FD 12 (50 mines) off Bud, Norway in position 62º58'N,
30 May 40, the German armed trawler V1109/Antares (291
GRT) sinks on a mine laid by Narwhal on 11 May 1940 off Molde, Norway in
position 62º58'N, 06º48'E.
3 Jun 40, laid minefield FD 16 (50 mines) off Jaederens Point, Norway in
position 58º46'N, 05º25'E.
5 Jun 40, the German merchant Palime (2863
GRT) and the German minesweeper M
11 (874 tons) both hits mines.
The M 11 sinks while the Palime is
beached and later delared a total loss. The mines were laid by Narwhal on
3 June 40 off Feiestein, Norway in position 58º46'N, 05º25'E.
12 Jun 40, laid minefield FD19 (50
mines) off Haugesund, Norway in position 59º26'N, 05º10'E.
4 Jul 40, laid minefield FD 21 (50 mines) north of Kristiansund, Norway in
position 63º15'N, 07º39'E.
6 Jul 40, the German auxiliary submarine chaser UJD/Treff
VIII (356 GRT) sinks on a mine
laid by Narwhal on
4 Jul 40 off the Norwegian coast in position 63º15'N, 07º34'E.
28 Sep 40, the German merchant Clara
M. Russ (1600 GRT) damaged when
hitting a Narwhal mine
laid on 3 June 40, 15 nm SW of Stavanger, Norway in position 58º46'N, 05º25'E.
13 Oct 40, the German auxiliary minesweepers Gnom7, Kobold1 and Kobold3 sink
on mines laid by
Narwhal on 12 Jun 40 off the Osterfjord, Norway in position
22-Jul-40 to lay mines off
Norway on 23-Jul-40. German Dornier-17 Bomber reported attacking a submarine of
afternoon of 28-Jul-40 about 125 nm east of Aberdeen, Scotland in position
failed to return to base and was paid off on 1-Aug-40. May have been sunk by
German mines or aircraft; lost with all hands.
Crew of HMS Narwhal
My dad had been
a regular in the Royal Navy since 1936. Time served Fitters and Turners were
particularly welcomed into the Navy, especially as my dad had knowledge
of steam engines from J M Henderson & Co, and had a stint on trawlers fishing out of
Peterhead, as Ships Engineer, which the Navy thought was pure gold.
However, my dad may have taken a demotion from Chief Petty Officer,
ERA, on HMS "Newcastle," to get into submarines based in
Malta, to get
away and away from Steam and Naval bullshit, as he hated both of them. He wasn't
too popular for leaving his surface ship for a "useless sub." Despite
this experience he had never learned how to swim. So, J M Henderson's must have built many steam engines, and trained their apprentices
well. If he'd stayed on the HMS Newcastle, he might have survived the war along
with the vessel. As it emerged he was lost on HMS "Narwhal," just 125
east of Aberdeen, in 1940, while on a mine laying mission to
Norway, rather far away from the balmy Mediterranean Valletta he had
anticipated. A Luftwaffe bomb got all hands and the sub, then the Navy's
largest. Thus JMH lost one of its better, time served Journeymen. - Fraser
Promotes War Bonds 1943
HMS Rorqual (N74)
was the one of the 6 ship class of Grampus-class mine-laying submarine of
the Royal Navy. She was built by Vickers Armstrong, Barrow and launched
27 July 1936. She served in World War II in the Mediterranean
and in the far east. She was the only Grampus class submarine to survive the
war. Sent to the Mediterranean in 1940, Rorqual began laying
minefields and attacking enemy shipping. Amongst the shipping lost to mines laid
by Rorqual were the Italian merchants Loasso, Celio, Leopardi, Verde,
Ticino, and Salpi; the Italian pilot vessel F 34 / Rina Croce, the Italian
torpedo boats Calipso, Fratelli Cairoli, Generale Antonio Chinotto, Altair and
Aldebaran; the Italian auxiliary minesweeper AS 99 / Zani, the German troop
transport Ankara; the French merchant (in German service), P.L.M. 24; and the
French fishing vessel Coligny. Rorqual arrived in the far east in
1945 to operate against the Japanese, serving as part of the British Pacific
Fleet. She laid minefields and sank 3 Japanese sailing craft and 3 coasters with
gunfire, and damaged a 4th coaster.
James William Grey
- Lost in the North Sea 125nm off Aberdeen aboard
as one of a Complement of 55 Ratings and Officers
1803 Naval Chronicle:
"...seamen would have met a watery grave; or, to use a seaman's phrase, gone
to Davy Jones's locker."
Displacement (tons):1,520 sf 2,117 sm Porpoise 1,500 sf 2,053 sm
Length (ft): 293 oa Porpoise 288 oa
Breadth (ft): 25.5 oa Porpoise 29.75 oa
Draught/Height (ft): 15.75 Porpoise 13.75
Machinery: 2 Admiralty x 1,650 bhp diesel engines. 2 Admiralty x 1,630 bhp
electric motors. Twin screws.
Speed (kts): 16 kts sf 8.75 kts sm
Oil Supply (tons): 150 tons
Armament: 6 x 21 inch bow tubes. 12 reloads. 1 x 4 inch gun. 2 x Machine
guns. 50 mines.
Range: 7,400 nm at 10 kts sf.
Complement: 55 Officers and Ratings.
sm = submerged, sf = surfaced, oa = overall, hp = horsepower
Beneath the casing ran two rails which
stretched the entire length of the casing, except in Porpoise. The mines were
stowed on the rails until the time of laying the minefield. The casing had large
stern doors which were opened when laying the mines and the mines were strewn
through these stern doors.
Though the new type of mine was
developed with the intention of patrol submarines being able to lay minefields
this was never the case during WWII and all mine laying was carried out by this
class during the duration of WWII.