Royal Navy ………… On This Day ………… 22 December ……….

1810  Minotaur lost off the Texel with 360 men.

The Wreck of the Minotaur by J M W Turner

The Wreck of the Minotaur by J.M.W. Turner –

Wikipedia – HMS Minotaur (1793) –

1813  Helicon captured the French privateer Revenant 6 miles W. of Bolt Tail.

1836  Naval Instructors and Schoolmasters established by Order in Council, to be appointed by warrant.

1875  Goliath, reduced to a training ship, 819 Sqns (Illustrious) bombed Tripoli.

1940  Destroyer Hyperion sunk by destroyer Janus, having been torpedoed by Italian submarine Serpente off Cape Bon (37-40S, 11-31E). Last of thirty-four destroyers lost in 1940.

HMSHyperion(H97 1936-40)

Wrecksite – HMS Hyperion (1940+) –

Wikipedia – HMS Hyperion (H97 1936-40) –

1943  Old cruiser Niobe (German, ex-Yugoslav Cattaro), aground near Silba Island, in Adriatic, torpedoed by RN MTBs.

1956  Last British and French troops withdrawn from Suez. Prime Minister Eden resigned 9 January 1957.

See 25 July 1956, 1 November 1956, 6 November 1956.


The Royal Navy has led the way in the development of aircraft carriers at every stage. The First World War, however, came too soon in the development of the aeroplane for many real advances in tactical thinking with the RN. The Navy’s air service and that of the Army were combined in the Royal Air Force, and the resultant lack of naval influence over the types of planes to be designed and how to use them left the Fleet Air Arm when it was reformed just before the Second World War equipped with absurdly outdated aircraft, The carriers themselves, however, were well designed and remained better equipped to meet even kamikaze attacks than their US equivalents.

The Navy was quick to learn the use of the Air Arm. The Taranto attack is a classic episode. After the war, as aircraft became bigger and faster, the Royal Navy led the world in the development of the angled deck, the steam catapult and the mirror (later projector) sight. Without these inventions in the early 1950s, the huge USN carrier fleet would not have been possible. Financial constraints affected the Fleet Air Arm savagely: the ‘through deck-cruiser’, the ‘jump jet aircraft’ and the ‘ski jump’ were notable British inventions.


The aircraft carriers HMS Illustrious and Eagle in the Pedestal convoy to Malta in 1942. (RNM)

Wrecksite On This Day –

Royal Navy ………… On This Day ………… 21 December ……….

1779  Suffolk and Magnificent captured the French Fortunée and Blanche respectively to the north-west of St Lucia.

1796  Bombay Castle wrecked, entering the Tagus.

1797  Phoebe captured the French Néréide 180 miles W. of Ushant. [m. bh.]

1841  Special uniform, with special buttons depicting an engine, devised for First Class Engineers.

1872  Challenger, wood screw corvette, sailed from Portsmouth under the command of Capt George Nares, on a 3.5-year voyage of oceanographic exploration.

See 24 May 1876.


Name: HMS Challenger
Builder: Woolwich Dockyard
Launched: 13 February 1858
Decommissioned: Chatham Dockyard, 1878
Fate: Broken for scrap, 1921

HMS Challenger (1858) – Wikipedia –

Challenger Expedition 1872-76 – Wikipedia –

1914  First night bombing raid on Ostend by Cdr C.R. Samson in a Maurice Farman biplane.

Fleet Air Arm On This Day…..


The intrepid Commander C R Samson, standing beside a single seat Nieuport 10 aircraft with pistol in his hand about to start on one of his little excursions over the Turkish lines. Commander Samson commanded No. 3 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) Wing, based on Tenedos Island, which took part in the operations at the Dardanelles.

 First night bombing raid of WW1

Squadron Commander Charles Rumney Samson flew a Farman MF-II, No 1241, for the first British night bombing mission when it attacked a German artillery installation on 21st December, 1914 flying from St Pol, Dunkirk.

Samson’s personal account of the night was published in an article in a Singapore based newspaper 17 years after the event. It is reproduced below.

How I dropped “Eggs” on an Ostend Battery.
(By the late Air-Commodore C R Samson DSO one of the pioneers of the Royal Naval Air Service. Air Commodore Samson, who was known as the “Captain Kettle of the Air Force”, died earlier this year)

Ask the next person you meet what anniversary should be celebrated on December 21, and I’ll wager you get a puzzled stare for a reply. Even when you give the clue “Dec. 21, 1914″ the odds are five to one they give it up. Actually it was the date of the very first night bombing raid made in the War, and I must plead guilty to conducting it. How little did we realise as we stood, a huddled shivering group, around a veritable caricature of an aeroplane that we were making history. On the little aerodrome of St Pol at Dunkirk, was gathered a strangely dressed crowd of officers and men, for beneath greatcoats they wore the uniform of the Royal Navy. They were the very cream of the old RNAS -that lusty infant of the Navy – many of them pioneers from Eastchurch. A competent looking Warrant Officer was going over the old Maurice Farman with its 130mph Canton Unne engine, directing a couple of men who were placing nine small bombs beneath the machine. Now and then there was the flash of an electric torch and muttered words of caution, for absolute secrecy was vital. We knew that spies used the hidden telephone wires connecting them direct with the German lines, and we determined to make the most of the element of surprise.

Waiting for Zero Hour
A small clean-shaven officer whose commands were obeyed “on the jump”, climbed into “old 1241″ and tested the controls for himself. The bomb releases were home-made but thoroughly efficient. None of us knew that within eight months he was to land his machine under the very rifles of the advancing Bulgars to save a fellow pilot, thus winning the VC, the only decoration never plagiarised. [note: This must be referring to Flt Lt Richard Bell Davies VC] Until the last minute I had sat apart by the stove, for my feet were very cold in more senses than one. There was an icy wind, Sidcot flying suits were then unknown and I knew that within half an hour I should be frozen to the bone. Waiting for zero hour is always the most trying part of any new stunt, and I was thankful when I got the word “All Ready”. “Light a petrol flare when you hear my engine” I said to the ground staff, climbing into the cockpit. “But I shall probably land on the sands in front of the villa at Saint Malo. The aerodrome is devilishly small by night and, in any case, I funk hitting those confounded telegraph wires across the end of it.”

Off on a Great Adventure
A subdued chorus of “Good luck” and then the engine was roaring and I was soon headed upwards into the pitch black night. Oddly, now that I was doing something, I forgot to be cold. I thanked heaven that the clouds were at 6,000ft, and then turned seawards until I got about 6 miles from the shore. By running parallel with the coast I hoped to keep out of hearing of the watchers of the German shore batteries, and I was of course, quite invisible. Now and then I used the pocket flashlamp in my breast pocket to glance at the dials and gauges. After a long while the Farman climbed to 5,000ft and as the Germans had all their lights burning, I could easily pick out Ostend and Zeebrugge besides other lights which indicated the coastal batteries. Down the battle front, Verey lights rose and fell, but, as soon as I got abreast of Ostend, I turned landwards and, throttling down, glided towards the town.

Dropping The “Eggs”
I had hoped above all to spot a submarine here, but the harbour was almost empty. As I came down to about 700ft the roar of the “1241” became audible to the Germans below. I wanted very much to unload my “eggs” on the officers club, but this was out of the question on account of killing Belgian civilians. Guns began to fire, half the streetlights went out and a score of searchlights began an agitated quartering of the sky. But they all swept far too high. While I toured calmly above the roofs, gunners flung shell after shell into the night. Men dashed that way and this, and then one of their own searchlights lit up a battery of big guns. The target of a lifetime! I headed for it, let go all my bombs and headed for the sea. I hoped to make an unostentatious exit, but some “friendly” soul must have spotted me against the background of clouds. Of a sudden the Farman was ringed with shells, ahead, behind and beneath. One 11-inch brute – probably from a naval gun – went off like an erupting volcano, and shook both “1241” and me to the core. Jigging from side to side, I went right down close above the water, then nosed ahead into the blackness at the maximum speed of 70mph! What a contrast – one poor, slow little Farman, the pioneer which was one day to be followed by squadrons of gigantic twin-engined bombers which nightly spread devastation far and wide!

Some Other Early Night Raids
Before the War I had already made several pioneer night flights across country, and thus was fully cognisant of the difficulties and advantages of night bombing. It is not easy to bring those first night raids to your mind’s eye; just as hard, in fact, as it would be today to imagine London without her scarlet omnibuses. During the early days many a German major at Zeebrugge and Ostend must have stumbled into a puddle and have cursed the impudent English aviators who had added this final unpleasantness to war. One night another officer and I went up with the express intention of visiting the famous mole at Zeebrugge to look for submarines. Then, too, it was calm and cold.
Out of the darkness we glided on to the harbour, while machine-guns stuttered, searchlights flickered and anit-aircraft shells lit the sky with a lurid glare. The enemy was distinctly flustered. He had not then perfected the wonderful anti-aircraft organisation which was later to come into being, and which made the “game” of night raids of infinitely greater hazard. In this instance we were right on to our target before we were spotted, with the result that, from 500ft, we dropped a bomb from just abaft the conning tower of a submarine. The crew must have had an unpleasant shock, for within 60 seconds we had disappeared into the night, with the nose of the machine pointed towards a hot drink and warm blankets!

Caught in a “Pea Souper”
Yet another night I was caught in a real “Pea Souper” fog right over Zeebrugge, and from such a nightmare trip may the Saints preserve me! The actual bombing was not too difficult, but the return journey was the very devil. Flying blind into mist-shrouded darkness, feverishly watching compass, speed indicator and aneroid by flashlight, vainly staring downwards into the murk in the hope of picking up some landmark! A sticky business that! It was a ghastly journey, and how I ever managed to strike it lucky and land on my aerodrome I never could understand. I was scared stiff, for a fog is bad enough by day, but at night and over enemy lines it makes one envy even the infantry in the trenches.

Air Commodore Charles Rumney Samson CMG, DSO & Bar, AFC (8 July 1883 – 5 February 1931) was a British naval aviation pioneer. He was one of the first four officers selected for pilot training by the Royal Navy and was the first person to fly an aircraft from a moving ship. He also commanded the first British armoured vehicles used in combat. Transferring to theRoyal Air Force on its creation in 1918, Samson held command of several groups in the immediate post-War period and the 1920s.

Squadron Commander Charles Rumney Samson 1883-1931 –

1916  Destroyers Hoste and Negro sunk in collision (depth charges exploded) 10 miles off Fair Island.

1917  Lady Ismay, paddle minesweeper, mined near the Galloper.

1939  Boom defence vessel Bayonet sunk on British mine in south Inchkeith Channel.

1940  Nine Swordfish aircraft of 815 and 819 Sqns (Illustrious) sank two of an Italian convoy off Kerkenah Island, Tunisia (34-44N, 11-58E).

1941  Swordfish A/812 from Ark Royal, operating from Gibraltar, sank U-451 off the Rock (35-55N, 06-08W). First night sinking by aircraft and by land-based aircraft working  on their own.

1941  Escort carrier Audacity sunk by U-751 500 miles W. of Cape Finisterre (44-00N, 20-00W), and Deptford and Samphire sank U-567 in Atlantic (44-02N, 20-10W). Convoy HG 76.

This convoy sailed from Gibraltar on 14 December, escorted by seventeen ships, including Audacity (ex-German line Hannover – the first escort carrier) and Cdr F.J. Walker’s 16th Escort Group. They were attacked by nine U-boats, and by Focke-Wulf aircraft. Two merchant ships were sunk, together with the Audacity and an escort. However, four U-boats were sunk, and two Focke-Wulfs were shot down. The relatively safe passage of the convoy showed how a well-trained escort group aided by air support could counter attacks by U-boats.

1941  River gunboat Cicala sunk by Japanese aircraft off Hong Kong.

1983  Fisgard, Artificers’ Training Establishment, Torpoint, training ceased.

A 12-pounder gun redoubt being struck by an ‘enemy’ shell, during training on Whale Island in the early 1900s. (RNM)

Royal Navy ………… On This Day ………… 20 December ……….

1666  Adventure fought four French men-of-war off Land’s End.

1782  Diomede and Quebec captured the American South Carolina 50 miles to the eastward of Cape May.

1799  Boats of Queen Charotte and Emerald recaptured Lady Nelson in Gibraltar Bay. [m]

1896  John G. Lang born.


Hoisting a 13.5in breech-loading gun into the after barbette of the battleship HMS Rodney (18850. (RNM)

See 22 September 1984.

1900  Charles Lambe born. Joined RN in 1914. Captain of Illustrious 1944. First Sea Lord 1959-60 and admiral of the fleet. A polymath whose early death was a great loss to the Service.

1940  Ten Swordfish aircraft of 830 Sqn FAA (Malta) bombed Tripoli and mined the harbour.

1940  GC: Lt-Cdr Richard John Hammersley Ryan, Sub-Lt Peter Victor Danckwerts, RNVR, CPO Reginald Vincent Ellingworth. The first and third awards were posthumous and all were for bomb and mine disposal. (Gazette date).

1944  Force 67 made an unsuccessful attack on the harbour and oil installations at Medan, Sumatra, Carriers: Indomitable*, Illustrious^, Cover: Argonaut, Black Prince, Newcastle, Kempenfelt (D27), Wager, Wakeful, Wessex, Whelp, Whirlwind, Wrangler. FAA Sqns: Avenger: 854*, 857*; Corsair: 1830^, 1833^; Hellcat: 1839*, 1844*. Operation Robson.

*FAA Squadron operation from a ship marked with a 1. ^FAA Squadron operating from a ship marked with a 2.

Operation Robson on Wikipedia –


HMS Indomitable (92) on Wikipedia –


HMS Illustrious (87) – on Wikipedia –

1995  The British Carrier Task Group which deployed to the Adriatic in January 1993 placed under NATO command to provide suport for the Implementation Force (IDOE)(Operations Hamden/Grapple). SHAR conducted operations against Bosnian Serbs and took part in Operation Deny Flight. Reverted to national command 15 February 1996.

Royal Navy ………… On This Day ………… 19 December ……….

1664  Capt Thomas Allin (Plymouth) and squadron fought the Dutch Smyrna convoy in Gibraltar Strait and took the three best ships. War had not been declared and Allin was accused of ignoring a Dutch salute. Ships: Advice, Antelope, Crown, Leopard, Milford, Oxford, Plymouth, Portsmouth.

1681  Calabash captured the Algerine Red Lion off Majorca.

1796  Minerve (Cdre Nelson) captured the Spanish Sabina 25 miles S.W. of Cartagena – retaken by Spanish reinforcements. Blanche forced the Spanish Ceres to strike, but was unable to take possession. Regiment: detachment of the 11th. [m]

1804  Fisgard captured the French privateer Tiger 200 miles W. of Cape St Vincent.

1809  Rosamund captured the French Papillon 12 miles S.S.E. of St Croix, West Indies.

1811  Royalist captured the French privateer Rodeur in Dover Strait.


HMS Orion (1879). A coast defence ship, originally designed and built for the Turkish Navy as an ironclad ram vessel, and purchased for the RN during the Russian war scare of 1878. (RNM)

1914  Doris harassed Turkish coast near Alexandretta.

1915  Evacuation of Anzac and Suvia beachheads began at Gallipoli. Successfully completed by 21st.

1917  UB-56 sunk in Dover Barrage, observed by Gipsy who picked up the sole survivor.

1941  Neptune and Kandahar mined off Tripoli (33-15N, 13-30E and 33-15N, 13-12E respectively). Neptune sank, and Kandahar dispatched next day by Jaguar, Aurora and Penelope also mined; this ended Force K.

1941  Stanley sunk by U-574 E. of Azores (38-12N, 17-23W). Convoy HG 76. Stork sank U-574.

1941  Queen Elizabeth and Valiant severely damaged by Italian two-man torpedoes at Alexandria. Jervis damaged.


Italian Pig – Maiale (Manned torpedo)


The first human torpedo (the Italian Maiale) was electrically propelled, with two crewmen in diving suits riding astride. They steered the torpedo at slow speed to the enemy ship. The detachable warhead was then used as a limpet mine. They then rode the torpedo away.

In operation, the Maiale torpedo was carried by another vessel (usually a normal submarine), and launched near the target. Most manned torpedo operations were at night and during the new moon to cut down the risk of being seen.

The idea was successfully applied by the Italian navy (Regia Marina) early in World War II and then copied by the British when they discovered the Italian operations. The official Italian name for their craft was Siluro a Lenta Corsa (SLC or “Slow-running torpedo”), but the Italian operators nicknamed it maiale (Italian for “pig”; plural maiali) because it was difficult to steer. The British copies were named “chariots”.

1942  Snapdragon sunk by German aircraft off Benghazi (32-18N, 19-54E).

1967  Frigate Minerva, on the Beira Patrol maintaining the oil blockade of Rhodesia in accordance with UN Security Council resolution of 9 April 1966, fired a shot across the bows of the French tanker Artois which had refused to stop. The tanker ignored the shot and entered Beira.

See 27 February 1966, 25 June 1975.

2002  First RFA Officers’ Course passed out of Britannia RN College, Dartmouth.

Royal Navy ………… On This Day ………… 18 December ……….

1677  Qualifying examination introduced for lieutenants, RN.

1779  Rear-Adm Hyde Parker (Princess Royal) captured nine sail of a French convoy and burned ten more off Fort Royal, Martinique, and engaged the escort. Ships: Albion, Boreas, Centurion, Conqueror, Elizabeth, Preston, Princess Royal and Vigilant.

1793  Vice-Adm Lord Hood (Victory) at the evacuation of Toulon, occupied since 27 August. Ships: Britannia, Princess Royal, Robust, Terrible, Victory, Windsor Castle and boats of fleet. Frigates: Arethusa, Pearl, Topaze, Alert, Swallow (tender). Gunboats: Union, Wasp, Jean Bart, Petite Victoire. Expended: Vulcan and Conflagration fireships. Captured or destroyed: nine French ships of the line, five frigates and corvettes.


Lt Cdr Wanklyn on the Bridge HMS Upholder.

1809  Capture and destruction of the French Seine and Loire in Barque Cove, Guadeloupe. Two batteries stormed and captured. Ships: Blonde, Castor, Cygnet, Elizabeth, Freija, Hazard, Ringdove, Sceptre, Thetis.

1827  Uniforms for officers reduced to a double-breasted coat, always to be buttoned up, with gold laced trousers for dress wear and plain for undress (white in summer). Breeches and dress swords restricted to Drawing Room. Buttons to be slightly domed rater than flat.

1914  U-15 mined and sunk off Belgian coast.

1915  First 500lb bomb dropped, by Cdr Samson on Turkish forces.

1940  Triton sunk by Italian TB Clio in the south Adriatic. Last of twenty-three submarines lost in 1940.

1941  VCLt-Cdr Malcolm David Wanklyn for gallantry in Upholder.  First Submariner VC of Second World War.

1941  Blankney and Stanley sank U-434 off Azores.  Convoy HG 76.

1942  Partridge sunk by U-565 50 miles W. of Oran (35-50N, 01-35W).

1943  Felixstowe sunk by mine 3 miles off Cape Ferro, Sardinia (40-09N, 09-36E).

1944  Sirius stood by naval party ashore at Mitylene during general strike.

1992  The closure programme for Mercury announced in CDI(RN) 310/92.

HMS Mercury

29 March 1993 – 2 April 1993. Navigational training transfers to Dryad.

2-6 August 1993. Communications training transfers to Collingwood.

31 August 1993. Captain, Mercury, relinquishes command.

17 December 1993. Mercury site handed over.

Royal Navy ………… On This Day ………… 17 December ……….

1619  Prince Rupert born.

1706  Romney captured a French privateer in Malaga Bay.

1810  Rinaldo sank the French privateer Vieille Josephine off the Owers.

1826  Hardy in Wellesley (74) escorted expeditionary force to Lisbon. Ship sunk by air attack on Thames 24 September 1940.

1834  Buzzard captured the Spanish slaver Formidable 20 miles to the northward of Cape Bullen, west coast of Africa.

1857  Rear-Adm Sir Francis Beaufort died. Hydrographer to the Navy 1829-56 and the last surviving officer who fought at the Glorious First of June in 1794.

1860  Metropolitan Police of the 5th Division took over security duties at Pembroke Dockyard Establishment: 1 Superintendent, 2 Inspectors, 5 Sergeants and 26 PCs.


The Metropolitan Police took over responsibility for the security of home dockyards in 1860-1. This photograph shows duty police officers at the main gates of Pembroke Dockyard. c. 1901. (L. Phillips)

1915  German cruiser Bremen and V-191 sunk in east Baltic by E 9 (57-31N, 20-24E).

1940  Acheron sunk by mine off the Isle of Wight (50-31N, 01-31W) during high-speed trials after repairs. Stern had been blown off in an air raid on Portsmouth Dockyard.

1940  Aphis bombarded the Bardia area.

1941  Blankney, Exmoor, Penstemon, Stanley, Stork and Martlet aircraft of 802 Sqn (Audacity) sank U-131 W. of Gibraltar (34-12N, 13-35W). Convoy HG 76. Cdr F.J. Walker’s first kill, with 36th Escort Group.

1941  First battle of Sirte, Passage of Breconshire from Alexandria to Malta and partial engagement with Italian battlefleet off the Gulf of Sirte (34-00N, 18-30E). Ships: Euryalus, Naiad (Rear-Adm Vian – CS 15), Decoy, Havock, Jervis (D- 14), Kimberley, Kipling, Nizam. Force K: Aurora, Penelope, Lance, Legion, Lively, Maori, Sikh, Isaac Sweers (Neth).

1942  Splendid torpedoed the Italian destroyer Aviere off Bizerta (38-00N, 10-05E). Aviere broke in two and sank at once.

1942  Firedrake sunk by U-211 S. of Iceland (50-50N, 25-15W). Convoy ON 153. Sank at once but survivors picked up by Sunflower.

1944  Nyasaland sank U-400 off Cape Clear (51-16N, 0805W).

1946  Rear-Adm Viscount Mountbatten invested as KG.

1985  Caledonia, Artificers’ Training Establishment, Rosyth, paid off. Site retained as part of Cochrane.

Ministry of Defence (Navy) press release dated 17 December 1969 announcing that the Royal Navy’s daily rum issue would cease on 1 August 1970. (L Phillips)


Royal Navy …………. On This Day ………… 16 December ……….

1653  Instructions for all commanders-in-chief of squadrons, flag officers in their divisions and for all captains of ships at sea in the service of the Commonwealth, issued by George Monck, John Disbraw and William Penn aboard the Swiftsure – the first Articles of War, from which came the phrase ‘Naval justice is swift and sure.’


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia –

HMS Swiftsure was a 42-gun great ship of the English Royal Navy, built by Andrew Burrell at Deptford and launched in 1621.[1]

She was rebuilt in 1654 at Woolwich by Christopher Pett as a 60-gun third-rate ship of the line.[2] She was the flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir William Berkeley at the Four Days’ Battle against the Dutch in 1666.[3] Berkeley led the van of the English fleet on the first day of the battle, 1 June, but outsailed his squadron into the midst of the Dutch, and was surrounded. After a fierce battle in which Berkeley was killed, Swiftsure was captured.[2][3] The Dutch renamed her the Oudshoorn (70) and changed the quarter galleries to hide her identity. She fought in the Battle of Solebay in 1672.

1796  Cleopatra captured the French privateer Hirondelle 500 miles to the westward of Ushant.

1808  Naiad and Narcissus captured the French privateer Fanny off Noirmoutier.

1812  Saving of Magnificent in a violent gale off Ile de Ré in Bay of Biscay, by distinguished seamanship which earned her captain the name of Magnificent Hayes.

1914  Scarborough, Hartlepool, and Whitby bombarded by German battlecruisers. Ships: Patrol, Doon, Waveney, Test.

1916  VC: Capt (temp Lt-Col) B.C. Freyberg, Royal West Surrey Regiment, and RND; ex-Lt-Cdr RNVR.

1917  Arbutus foundered in heavy weather in St George’s Channel, after being torpedoed by UB-65.

1921  Victory, first rate, moved into No.1 Basin Portsmouth Dockyard; the first move towards her restoration and preservation. Note: On 20 March 1922 The Admiralty ordered that first-rate Victory should be preserved in No. 2 Dock, Portsmouth Dockyard.


HMS Victory being restored, 1926. In her present day location No. 2 Dock HMNB Portsmouth. (RNM 1952/51)

1941  Thracian beached at Hong Kong. Salvaged by Japanese forces as PB 101. Recaptured in September 1945.

HMSThracianD86becameIJN PB No.101

HMS Thracian was an Admiralty S class destroyer of the Royal Navy.

HMS Thracian was laid down on 17 January 1918 at Hawthorn Leslie and Company, launched on 5 March 1920 and completed at Sheerness Dockyard on 1 April 1922. – (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

1957  Thorough returned to Dolphin after her first circumnavigation by a submarine.

P324HMSThorough1945HMS Thorough

HMS Thorough rtns to Dolphin

Thorough served in the Far East for much of her wartime career, where she sank twenty-seven Japanese sailing vessels, seven coasters, a small Japanese vessel, a Japanese barge, a small Japanese gunboat, a Japanese trawler, and the Malaysian sailing vessel Palange. In August 1945, in company with HMS Taciturn, she attacked Japanese shipping and shore targets off northern Bali. Thorough sank a Japanese coaster and a sailing vessel with gunfire.

16 December 1957 HMS Thorough returned to HMS Dolphin, Portsmouth Dockyard, after first circumnavigation by a submarine. [1] [2][3]

She survived the war and continued in service with the Navy, finally being scrapped at Dunston on Tyne on 29 June 1962.[4]

Borneo 1962-6

In December 1962, the Brunei rebellion marked the beginning of an attempt by Indonesia to infiltrate the remaining countries in Borneo. Strong guerilla patrols operated out of Indonesian territory deep into Sarawak, Saba, and Brunei.

42 Commando, Royal Marines, were flown into Brunei town from Singapore. The British residents and other hostages including two women were held by the rebels at Limbang. Two old landing craft were commandeered and manned by seamen of Chawton and Fiskerton. They embarked L Company of 42 Commando, and at dawn on 12 December, under a heavy fire from the shore, the landing craft went into the beach at Limbang. The Royal Marines stormed ashore, drove off the rebels, and rescued the hostages moments before they were due to be executed. The rebels were later hunted down by helicopters and river patrols. During this attack, five Royal Marines were killed and five wounded.

For 3 1/2 years, British troops including Royal Marines operated in the jungles of Borneo and were supported by 845  and 846 FAA helicopter squadrons from Albion and Bulwark. These squadrons, operating out of tiny clearings and on the limits of their aircraft’s capabilities, achieved a very high level of operational readiness. For example, in 1963, 846 Squadron of Whirlwinds carried out 3,750 operational sorties, and in 1964, 845 Squadron aircraft of Wessex helicopters carried out 10,000 operational flying hours in support of the Army and Royal Marines.


A Wessex helicopter of 848 Squadron, HMS Albion, flies part of 42 Commando into North Borneo for their fifth operational tour, 1965. They relieved 2/2 King Edward VII’s own Gurkha Rifles. (RMM 7/20/9(154))

1991  Decision to employ women in the armed forces in fixed-wing aircraft announced by Parliament.

Royal Navy ………… On This Day ………… 15 December ……….

1379  Sir John Arundel’s squadron destroyed by storm on coast of Ireland.

1778  Rear-Adm the Hon. Samuel Barrington (Prince of Wales) fought Vice-Adm Comte d’Estaing at St Lucia.

Ships: Boyne, Centurion, Isis, Nonsuch, Preston, Prince of Wales, St Albans. Frigates: Ariadne, Aurora, Barbados, Carcass, Ceres, Pelican, Snake, Venus, Weazle. Troops under Gen Grant took the island by surprise and Barrington thwarted its recapture.

1805  The body of Vice-Adm Viscount Nelson, preserved in a cask of spirits after Trafalgar, transferred into an elm coffin on board Victory at anchor off Dover while on passage from Portsmouth to The Nore. On 21 December, Mr Whitby, Master Attendant at Woolwich, and Mr Tyson, Nelson’s former secretary, arrived at Sheerness with the ‘exterior coffin’.

The brave tars of victory. PW3746

The Brave Tars of the Victory, and the Remains of the Lamented Nelson (caricature). (Royal Museums Greenwich) –

This caricature captures some of the controversy that surrounded the funeral. Originally, the authorities wanted to bring Nelson’s body home in a fast frigate – but the sailors of the Victory insisted that they wanted to bring him home themselves. Hand-coloured. [This is the first numerical print entry of satires by George Murgatroyd Woodward, born c. 1765 Stanton-le-Dale, Derbys., – died 1809 London, whose substantial archive including many nautical subjects is now in the Derbyshire County Archive.

1824  Attack on a flotilla of Burmese war boats in the Panhlaing River by Diana, boats of Arachne and Sophie and the Bombay Marine Prince of Wales.

1841  Charybdis captured the Colombian Federal Marcellino and five Federal schooners in Zapote Bay.

1899  Battle of Colenso, Naval Brigade of Terrible, Forte, Tartar, Philomel and Natal Naval Volunteers.


HMS Terrible (1895) – A port bow view of HMS Terrible (1895), a First Class Cruiser, at anchor. Alongside is a steam pinnace with a ship’s launch on the inside.

1913  Tiger, battlecruiser, launched at John Browns. The Royal Navy’s last coal-burning capital ship to remain in the operational fleet, paying off in 1931.


The battlecruiser HMS Tiger towards the end of her career, 1928. (RNM W&L 111A)

1917  Arbutus torpedoed by UB-65 in the entrance to the Bristol Channel (51-38N, 06-00W). Sank next day.

1936  First sea trials of the RN’s first radar – Type 79.

1940  Cameron capsized in Portsmouth Dockyard after attack by German aircraft: damaged beyond repair.

1940  Thunderbolt (ex-Thetis) sank the Italian S/M Capitano Tarantini in Bay of Biscay (45-25N, 09-12W).

1940  Admiralty dispatched RMS team to Coventry by special train after a very heavy air raid. Returned to London on the 18th, having dealt with sixteen mines, one of which exploded, though without casualties.

1941  Nestor (RAN) sank U-127 off Cape St Vincent in advance of Convoy HG76.

1942  Petard and Vasilissa Olga (Greek) captured the Italian S/M Uarsciek S. of Malta (35-10N, 14-25E). S/M sank later in tow.

1946  Adm Sir Herbert Richmond, founder of the Naval Review and Master of Downing College, Cambridge, died.

1978  Bahrain closed as a British naval base.

1978  Last conventional fixed-wing squadron 892 NAS, decommissioned at Leuchars.

Royal Navy ………… On This Day ………… 14 December ……….

1624  Lord Howard of Effingham died.

1775  Thomas Cochrane born.

1798  Ambuscade taken by the French Bayonnaise off the mouth of the Gironde.

1809  Melampus captured the French Béarnais 80 miles N.N.E. of Barbuda.

1814  Boats of fleet captured five American gunboats and a sloop on Lake Borgne.

1840  Board approved construction of first wooden screw sloop. Ardent later Rattler, launched at Sheernes. Bee, launched at Chatham 28 February 1842 was the first screw ship in the Service. She also had precautionary paddles. The first iron vessel was Dover, a paddle packet built by Laird in 1840 and stationed on west African coast from 1849.

1852  Relief of Pegu, Burma. Ships (Bengal MarineNerbudda, Mahanuddy. Boats of: Fox, Sphinx and Moozuffer (Indian Navy).

1860  Landing party from Nimrod captured six pirate junks in Taune Bay.

1864  Bombay destroyed by fire and explosion off Montevideo. Ninety-seven dead, including thirty-four Royal Marines, one of whom died at his post as sentry outside the Captain’s quarters.

1939  Ursula sank the German escort F-9 and an R-boat off Heligoland (54-08N, 07-55E).

1939  Kelly badly damaged by mine 13 miles off the mouth of the Tyne.

1940  Eight Swordfish aircraft of 830 Sqn (Malta) bombed Tripoli.

1940  Hereward and Hyperion sank the Italian S/M Naiade off Bardia (32-03N, 25-56E).

1941  Urge torpedoed Vittario Veneto, putting her out of action for several months.

1941  Galatea sunk by U-557 30 miles W. of Alexandria (31-17N, 29-13E).

1942  GC (ex-AM): PO Cook C.H. Walker for saving life in MV Waimarama in Grand Harbour, Malta. Operation Pedestal. (Gazette date).

1944  Aldenham sunk by mine 45 miles S.E. of Pola (44-30N, 14-50E).  Last of 139 destroyers lost in the Second World War.

1944  Diadem, Mauritius and four destroyers attacked shipping off Stadtlandet.

1944  Bombardment of the Arakan coast in the neighbourhood of St Martin’s Island (thirteen bombardments during the next nine days). Ships: Napier, Nepal: HDML: 1275, 1303: ML: 438, 439, 440, 441, 447, 847, 855.


Royal Marines assault on Cheduba Island in the Arakan campaign, 1944. (RNM)

Royal Navy ………… On This Day ………… 13 December ……….

1710  Breda captured the French Maure 100 miles W. of Lisbon.

1711  The wall around Portsmouth Dockyard completed.

‘This WALL was Begun the 4th June and finish’d ye 13th December 1711.’

‘In order to meet the needs of modern road traffic and with the approval of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty this gate built in 1711 was increased in width from 12ft to 22ft. November 1944′ – plaques at Victory Gate.

1796  Terpsichore captured the French Vestale 60 miles W. of Cadiz. Retaken by the prisoners next day and sailed into Cadiz, but retaken by Clyde in 1799.

1806  Halycon captured the Spanish Neptune Dios de Los Mares off Cape San Martin.

1808  Destruction of the French Cygne and two schooners off St Pierre, Martinique. Ships: Circe, Amaranthe, Stork, Epervier, Express, Morne Fortunée. Troops: Royal York Rangers.

1809  Junon taken by the French Renommée and Clorinde 270 miles E. by N. of Guadeloupe, and burned.

1810  Boats of Kent, Ajax, Cambrian, Minstrel and Sparrowhawk destroyed a French convoy at Palamos, Catalonia.

1914  VC: Lt Norman Douglas Holbrook (B 11) for passing through the Turkish minefield at the entrance to the Dardanelles and sinking the Turkish Messoudich off Cannakkale. Holbrook’s was the first VC won by a submariner. It was not first naval VC won in the First World War (Ritchie, Goliath, 28 or 29 November 1914) but the first to be gazetted.

LtNormanDouglasHolbrookVC1914HMS_M B11

13 December 1914 - Lieutenant Norman HOLBROOK RN, commanding officer, HM submarine B.11, Dardanelles (above – Lt Holbrook, probably with B.11 behind him, also B.11 at sea (both MQ))

 The London Gazette 22 December 1914 (from the Admiralty)

For most conspicuous bravery on the 13th December, when in command of the Submarine B.11, he entered the Dardanelles, and, notwithstanding the very difficult current, dived his vessel under five rows of mines and torpedoed the Turkish battleship Messudiyeh, which was guarding the mine-field.

1915  First periscope photograph of Constantinople from E 11.

1916  Ariel and Landrail sank UB-29 in western Channel.

1917  U-75 mined and sunk of Borkum.

1937  Blood being thicker than water, Scarab returned the compliment and opened fire on Japanese A/C which sank USS Panay in the Yangtze River.

1939  Salmon torpedoed the German cruisers Leipzig and Nurnberg 130 miles W. of Jutland.

The Salmon, on patrol in the North Sea, sighted three enemy cruisers and hit both the Leipzig and Nurnberg. The Leipzig remained under repair for a year, and then was employed on training duties: the Nurnberg took six months to repair. Nine days before, the Salmon had sunk U-36 in the same area, the first successful submarine versus enemy submarine attack in the war. For this patrol her CO Lt-Cdr Bickford was promoted and awarded the DSO.

1939  Cdre H.H. Harwood (Ajax) engaged the Admiral Graf Spee off the River Plate (34-28S, 49-05W) and drove her into Montevideo, where she was scuttled on the 17th. Ships: Ajax, Achilles (NZ), Exeter. FAA: Seafox: 700 (Ajax).

The German pocket battleship Graf Spee had been commerce raiding in the South Atlantic. Various naval units were searching for her. Force G, under Cdre Harwood, was off the River Plate. On 13 December the squadron sighted smoke, and action with the Graf Spee opened at 0614 at 9.5 miles. The Exeter was hit heavily, but continued to fight, with only one turret working by hand, on emergency steering and using the after conning position, passing orders to the steering position by a line of sailors. Graf Spee also hit Ajax and Achilles, but finally turned for Montevideo to make repairs. After the permitted 72 hours in a neutral port Graf Spee sailed and then scuttled herself, having been given the impression that superior forces were outside the harbour, when in fact they were forty-eight hours’ steaming away. A coincidence that the first decisive naval engagements of both world wars took place in the South Atlantic and that the raider sunk in 1939 was named after the German admiral defeated in 1914.


The German pocket battleship Graf Spee, burning after being scuttled in the River Plate estuary, 1939. (RNM)

1941  Legion, Sikh, Maori and Isaac Sweers (Dutch) sank the Italian cruisers Alberico da Barbiano and Alberto di Giussano off Cape Bon (37-04N, 11-47E). A classic victory which earned Cdr Stokes the unusual honour of a CB.

1942  Enchantress sank the Italian S/M Corallo off Bougie (37-00N, 05-09E). Convoy ET 5.

1943  Liberator B/53 sank U-391 in the Bay of Biscay (45-45N, 09-38W).

1943  Calpe and the USS Wainwright sank U-593 in W. Mediterranean (37-38n, 05-58E). Convoy KMS 34.

1944  Swordfish L/813 and Q/813 (Campania) sank U-365 in Arctic (70-43N, 08-07E). Convoy RA 62.

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