Author Topic: HM Submarine Sunfish (1936 - 1944)  (Read 92 times)

Offline stuartwaters

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HM Submarine Sunfish (1936 - 1944)
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2021, 03:14:39 PM »

HMS Sunfish was a Group 1 "S" class coastal patrol submarine built at the Chatham Royal Dockyard. The S class went on to be the most numerous type of British submarine ever built with 62 boats being completed between the early 1930s and the end of the Second World War.

HMS Sunfish was laid down on the No. 7 slipway on 22nd July 1935 and was launched into the Medway by Lady Skipwith on 30th September 1936. After fitting out at Chatham, she commissioned on 2nd July 1937. Sunfish was unique among the many submarines of the S class in that her diesel engines had 8 cylinders instead of the usual 6. On completion, she displaced 670 tons surfaced and 960 tons dived. She was armed with 6 x 21in torpedo tubes in her bows, a 3in deck gun and carried machine guns on the bridge. After trials and workup, she was based in Portsmouth.

HMS Sunfish:

Sunfish on gunnery trials in November 1943 off Portsmouth, from the Imperial War Museum collection:

In March 1939, she returned home to Chatham and decommissioned for a refit. Three weeks after the outbreak of the Second World War, on 25th September 1939, she recommissioned at Chatham and was immediately sent to Harwich to join 3rd Submarine Flotilla, commanded by Lt-Cdr Jack Slaughter. In late November 1939, she set off from Harwich with her Chatham-built sister-boat Snapper to search for the German Battlecruiser Scharnhorst but failed to find it.

HMS Sunfish got stuck into the enemy for the first time on 19th February 1940, when she fired 4 torpedoes at the German submarine U-14, 30 miles NW of Heligoland. Unfortunately, all four torpedoes missed. Up until 9th April, in compliance with the Geneva Conventions, submarines could only attack enemy warships and military transports without first giving a warning. On that day, the Admiralty declared unrestricted submarine warfare against all enemy vessels and on that same day, Sunfish torpedoed and sank the German merchant vessel Amasis in the Kattegat, off Denmark The following day at around 11:50am, she missed the German merchant ship Hanau. Later that day, she also missed a German auxiliary patrol ship. At around 20:00, she torpedoed and sank the German merchant ship Antares.

On 13th April 1940, HMS Sunfish torpedoed and damaged the German Q-Ship Schiff40 (aka Schurbeck), which had to be grounded to prevent it sinking. The following day, she torpedoed and sank another German Q-Ship, Schiff35 (aka Oldenburg). On 9th May 1940, Lt-Cdr Slaughter was awarded the DSO and later that month, the flotilla was moved to Rosyth.

The crest of HMS Sunfish:

After the move to Rosyth, she received a new commander, Lt G R Colvin RN. Further success eluded the boat until 5th December 1940 when she torpedoed and sank the Finnish merchant vessel Oscar Midling off Sildegapet, Norway. On 7th, she torpedoed and damaged the Norwegian merchant ship Dixie off Stadlandet, Norway.

The Dixie was the last vessel sunk by Sunfish, though not the last time the boat was on active service. In January 1941, she landed agents on the Norwegian coast and the following month saw an unsuccessful attempt on another enemy merchant vessel. The Germans counter-attacked with depth charges, but Sunfish escaped without damage or casualties.

HMS Sunfish then conducted a series of uneventful war patrols in the North Sea until August 1942, when she went into refit. This lasted until June 1943, but from then until May 1944, she was employed on training duties.

Her career with the Royal Navy came to an end on 30th May 1944, when she was decommissioned and loaned to the Soviet Union. On 26th June 1944, she commissioned into the Soviet Navy and was renamed V1.

Her career with the Soviet Navy came to a tragic end. On 27th July 1944, whilst on passage from Dundee to Murmansk, she was sighted on the surface by an RAF Liberator patrol bomber. She was out of her assigned area and instead of remaining on the surface and firing recognition signals as per procedure, she went to dive. The Liberator attacked V1, destroying the boat and killing all aboard, including the British liason staff.

Inquiries were held by both the Royal Navy and the RAF. They both concluded that although the submarine was out of her assigned area, failed to give recognition signals and dived instead of remaining on the surface, the RAF Liberator was also some 80 miles off course and failed to recognise that V1 was clearly an S Class submarine and therefore friendly. The RAF crew were held to be responsible for the loss of the boat and her crew.
"I did not say the French would not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Admiral Sir John Jervis, 1st Earl St Vincent.