A battered Unbeaten limped back into Malta, arriving at 07:30 on the 21st of May 1941. She had successfully returned with all hands from her first Mediterranean patrol. The crew and N93 would not embark on their next patrol until the 11th of June. This gave the Ships Company and Shore Staff a period in which to rectify all the numerous defects caused by the depth charging. Being alongside also gave the men some much deserved time ashore in Malta, to relax and unwind after their exhausting first patrol. History shows that it was not unusual for a submarine to fail to return from its first patrol. Unbeaten was lucky indeed, would her luck continue?
Last night I added a new page to the website all about the weapon of choice for a WWII British submarine. It was interesting for me to research this formidable weapon and it answered a few questions, mostly regarding its use. If anyone would like me to research any U-Class submarine related topic and add a page to this website, please leave me a post or send an email to the contact address. Regards David JB Smith
This day in 1941 was a Monday, but not to be like any other. Later in the day Unbeaten was in position off Tagiura, Libya. Through her periscope, Teddy Woodward, who was Unbeaten’s CO, sighted an enemy vessel. It was thought the ship in question was a lone Italian Baleno Class destroyer. It appeared she was escorting a single 5,000 to 6,000 ton merchant vessel. The hunt was on, Unbeaten started to close, Woodward ordered the crew to ready three tin fish (torpedoes). Little did they know that after they fired their torpedoes the next eight hours would turn into a living hell. Unbeaten and her crew suffered a relentless depth charge attack which lasted for several hours. It was a real cat and mouse affair. The book has nearly a whole chapter dedicated to this attack.
On this date in 1941 Unbeaten made her first attack in anger. At around 1325, through the periscope, a convoy of Axis shipping was sighted. The convoy consisted of five vessels, one armed trawler and four merchant vessels. All of the merchant vessels were described as two and three masted schooners. Unbeaten unleashed a salvo of three torpedoes. After a wait of approximately 5 minutes a faint explosion was heard followed by another. When Unbeaten
came up to periscope depth and looked, one schooner was not visible. On her first patrol from Malta had the British Submarine really sunk her first enemy vessel? The book will reveal all.
On this day in 1941 HMS/M Unbeaten sailed on her first operational war patrol from Malta. The British submarine was now a member of the 1st Submarine Flotilla. This Flotilla was originally made up of 12 submarines divided between Malta and Alexandria. Not until September 1941 did the U-Class submarines based at the Maltese island become the famed 10th Submarine Flotilla. Life at sea was dangerous. Several British submarines and their crew perished during their first patrol from the island. This period at sea for Unbeaten would be a testing time for her crew, during which she would see plenty of action.
I would like to thank the relatives of Unbeaten’s crew who have left kind words on this blog and through email. I really do appreciate it and I hope the book fills in a few gaps for those who lost loved ones on-board HMS/M Unbeaten in 1942.
I have attached two of the messages below:
Congratulations David on bringing Unbeaten back to life for so many of us. My father was on board. His last tour of duty prior to receiving his DSM from King George VI. Dad never made it. We knew so little of what happened and whilst it is an emotional journey we (his descendants) are so grateful to you for embarking on this journey. We all look forward to reading your book.
Jan Brenton (nee Wright)
I am enjoying the blog and look forward to more revelations as you progress the boats history. Without your input and dedication the full facts may never had seen the light of day. Keep going.
Saturday the 3rd of May saw Unbeaten enter Marsamxett Harbour for the first time. She proceeded up Lazaretto Creek 8 days after she had sailed from Gibraltar. The U-class submarines were commonly berthed next to the old Lazaretto, on the south side of Manoel Island, located in the centre of Marsamxett Harbour. The U-Class submarine HMS/M Usk was also supposed to reach Malta on the same day. When Usk did not arrive on the 3rd she was ordered to report her position. Nothing was heard. Again on the 5th Usk was called, and told to report, but still nothing. By this time she was probably sunk.
During this week in 1941 Unbeaten was not far from her intended port of call. Malta was not the safest of places for a submarine, or any vessel for that matter. Combined bombing raids inflicted by the Luftwaffe and the Italian Regia Aeronautica had numbered 58 during the month of January 1941. By the time Unbeaten eventually reached the island the frequency of raids had steadily increased month on month, to a point where in May there were a total of
97 raids. Twenty six of these were night raids. The chaps on board Unbeaten must have thought to be alongside the Maltese island was reminiscent of being alongside at Pompey, having also suffered sustained bombing raids back home. Located 985 and 820 miles respectively from the ports of Gibraltar and Alexandria the island of Malta, not un-like Gibraltar, was also seen as a very strategic Island. Winston Churchill summed up the importance of the little island when he said ‘Malta must be held, or the way to the east would be open’.