HMS Upholder (P37)
|Builder:||Vickers Armstrong, Barrow-in-Furness|
|Laid down:||30 October 1939|
|Launched:||8 July 1940|
|Commissioned:||31 October 1940|
|Identification:||Pennant number: P37|
|Fate:||sunk 14 April 1942|
|Length:||191 ft (58.22 m)|
|Beam:||16 ft 1 in (4.90 m)|
|Draught:||15 ft 2 in (4.62 m)|
HMS Upholder (P37) was a Royal Navy U-class submarine built by Vickers-Armstrong at Barrow-in-Furness. She was laid down on 30 October 1939, launched on 8 July 1940 by Mrs. Doris Thompson, wife of a director of the builders. The submarine was commissioned on 31 October 1940. She was one of four U-class submarines which had two external torpedo tubes at the bows in addition to the 4 internal ones fitted to all boats. They were excluded from the other boats because they interfered with depth-keeping at periscope depth.
She was commanded for her entire career by Lieutenant-Commander Malcolm David Wanklyn, and became the most successful British submarine of the Second World War. After a working up period, she left for Malta on 10 December 1940 and was attached to the 10th Submarine Flotilla based there. She completed 24 patrols, sinking 93,031 tons of enemy shipping including the Maestrale-class destroyer Libeccio after the Battle of the Duisburg Convoy, two submarines (the Tricheco and the Saint Bon), three troopships, six cargo ships, an auxiliary ship and an auxiliary minesweeper. Wanklyn was awarded the Victoria Cross for a patrol in her in 1941, which included an attack on a particularly well-defended convoy on 24 May 1941 in which Upholder sank the 17,879 GRT Italian troop ship SS Conte Rosso. On 28 July 1941 she damaged the Italian cruiser Giuseppe Garibaldi. On 18 September 1941 she sank two troopships within hours of each other: the sister ships MS Neptunia (19,475 GRT) and MS Oceania (19,507 GRT).
|25 April 1941||Antonietta Lauro||Italy||5,428 GRT||Freighter; 4 men killed|
|1 May 1941||Arcturus||Nazi Germany||2,576 GRT||Freighter|
|1 May 1941||Leverkusen||Nazi Germany||7,382 GRT||Freighter|
|24 May 1941||Conte Rosso||Italy||17,789 GRT||Troopship; 1297 men killed and 1432 rescued|
|3 July 1941||Laura C.||Italy||6,181 GRT||Freighter; 6 men killed and 32 survivors|
|20 August 1941||Enotria||Italy||852 GRT||Freighter; 2 men killed|
|22 August 1941||Lussin||Italy||3,988 GRT||Navy transport; 83 survivors|
|18 September 1941||Neptunia||Italy||19,475 GRT||Troopship; combined losses with Oceania 384 men killed, 5434 men saved.|
|18 September 1941||Oceania||Italy||19,507 GRT||Troopship; combined losses with Neptunia 384 men killed, 5434 men saved.|
|9 November 1941||Libeccio||Italy||1615 tons||Destroyer; 27 men killed|
|5 January 1942||Ammiraglio Saint Bon||Italy||1461 tons||Submarine; 59 men killed, 3 survivors|
|27 February 1942||Tembien||Italy||5,584 GRT||Freighter; 497 men killed including 419 British POWs, 157 men rescued including 78 POWs.|
|18 March 1942||Tricheco||Italy||810 tons||Submarine; 38 men killed and 11 survivors.|
|19 March 1942||B 14 Maria||Italy||22 GRT||Auxiliary minesweeper.|
Upholder also damaged the Italian light cruiser Giuseppe Garibaldi (9500 tons), the German freighter Duisburg (7,389 GRT), the French tanker Capitaine Damiani (4,818 GRT), the Italian freighters Dandolo (4,964 GRT) and Sirio (5,223 GRT) and destroyed the wreck of the German freighter Arta (2,425 GRT) already grounded after the battle of Tarigo convoy.
Upholder was lost with all hands on her 25th patrol, which was to have been her last before she returned to England. She left for patrol on 6 April 1942 and became overdue on 14 April. On 12 April she was ordered, with HMS Urge and HMS Thrasher to form a patrol line to intercept a convoy, but it is not known whether she received the signal.
Theories about her loss
The most likely explanation for her loss is that after being spotted by a reconnaissance seaplane, she fell victim to depth charges dropped by the Italian Orsa-class torpedo boat Pegaso northeast of Tripoli on 14 April 1942 in the position 34°47′N 15°55′E / 34.783°N 15.917°E, although no debris was seen on the surface. The attack was 100 miles northeast from Wanklyn's patrol area and he may have changed position to find more targets. It is also possible that the submarine was sunk by a mine on 11 April 1942 near Tripoli, when a submarine was reported close to a minefield. A third and less likely theory came from an alleged air and surface attack on a submarine contact by German aircraft and the escort of a convoy on 14 April off Misrata, but no official Axis record of this action was found after the end of World War II.
A more recent research carried out by Italian naval specialist Francesco Mattesini points to a German aerial patrol supporting the same convoy, comprising two Dornier Do 17 and two Messerschmitt Bf 110 aircraft, that attacked an underwater contact with bombs two hours before the Pegaso incident. The author also asserts that the seaplane crew was unsure if the target they pinpointed to Pegaso was a submarine or a school of dolphins. Mattesini admits the possibility that Pegaso could have finished off the submarine previously damaged by the German aircraft.
When, on 22 August 1942, the Admiralty announced her loss, the communiqué carried with it an unusual tribute to Wanklyn and his men: "It is seldom proper for Their Lordships to draw distinction between different services rendered in the course of naval duty, but they take this opportunity of singling out those of HMS Upholder, under the command of Lt.Cdr. David Wanklyn, for special mention. She was long employed against enemy communications in the Central Mediterranean, and she became noted for the uniformly high quality of her services in that arduous and dangerous duty. Such was the standard of skill and daring set by Lt.Cdr. Wanklyn and the officers and men under him that they and their ship became an inspiration not only to their own flotilla, but to the Fleet of which it was a part and to Malta, where for so long HMS Upholder was based. The ship and her company are gone, but the example and inspiration remain." In all, Upholder was credited with having sunk 97,000 tons of enemy shipping, in addition to three U-boats and one destroyer.
Quoted by Admiral of the Fleet, The Lord Fieldhouse GCB, GCE probably during the Falklands War: "I can do no better than repeat the unique message following the sinking of HMS Upholder on April 14th 1942 : 'The ship and her company are gone but the example and inspiration remain'"
- Evans, A. S. (2010). Beneath the Waves: A History of HM Submarine Losses 1904-1971. Pen and Sword. pp. 312–13. ISBN 1848842929.
- Wingate, John (2003). The Fighting Tenth: The Tenth Submarine Flotilla and the Siege of Malta. PEnzance: Periscope Publishing Ltd. pp. 175–176. ISBN 1-904381-16-2.
- "L'affondamento del sommergibile britannico Upholder" (in Italian). Societa' Capitani e Macchinisti Navali – Camogli. Archived from the original on 5 September 2008.
- Probabilmente, il 14 aprile 1942, la PEGASO aveva dato il colpo di grazia all'UPHOLDER, forse già danneggiato due ore prima da aerei tedeschi (2 Bf. 110 della 8/ZG.26 e 2 Do.17 della 10/ZG.26), che avevano attaccato con le bombe un sommergibile in immersione, constatando subito dopo una macchia scura alla superficie del mare, evidentemente nafta. La ricostruzione dell'episodio dell'affondamento dell'URGE, ed anche quella della'ffondamento del'lUPHOLDER, da me pubblicata nel Bollettino d'Archivio dell'Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare (Roma), Dicembre 2001, p. 163–164.
- "Lieutenant Commander Malcolm David Wanklyn, HMS Upholder". Submarines on Stamps.
- "Presentation Coin" (pdf). The 70th Patrol. HMS Resolution Association. 1 (6): 29. 14 July 2009.
- Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) . Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Rev. ed.). London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-281-8. OCLC 67375475.
- Hutchinson, Robert (2001). Jane's Submarines: War Beneath the Waves from 1776 to the Present Day. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-00-710558-8. OCLC 53783010.