HMS Unbeaten's Jolly Roger Symbols Explained
Enemy Vessels Attacked by Gun Action
The first gun action by HMS/M Unbeaten took place on 15 May 1941. The schooner Giorgio was attacked off Khmos, Libya. Several of Unbeaten’s rounds fell in the town. Through Unbeaten’s periscope, Giorgio was last seen to be settling by the stern with men jumping off her bow.
The second gun action took place on 15 July 1941 at Marsa Zuag Roads, Libya. HMS/M Unbeaten claimed to have sunk a schooner. However, Italian archives do not confirm this sinking.
The third and final gun action initiated by HMS/M Unbeaten took place on 4 Oct 1941. The submarine fired on a railway track and guard hut near Cape Bruzzano, Calabria, Italy. The attack caused minimal damage, but did delay trains for a while.
Enemy Vessels Attacked by Torpedo
1. HMS/M Unbeaten attacked the Italian merchant vessel Silvio Scaroni off Tagiura, Libya on 19 May 1941. The spread of three torpedoes missed. Two hit the sea bed and exploded. This caused the stern of Unbeaten to break the surface and expose herself to the enemy. An intense depth charge attack ensued. HMS/M Unbeaten escaped to fight another day.
2. At the Southern entrance to the Straits of Messina, on 16 June 1941, HMS/M Unbeaten fired a spread of four torpedoes at what they thought was the Italian troop ship Oceania or Neptunia. All the torpedoes missed. The Italian archives state this convoy was comprised of the German ships Spezia, Trapani and Livorno. These vessels were on route from Bari and Brindisi and on to Catania in company with the probable target, the liner Città di Genova.
3. On 19 August 1941 HMS/M Unbeaten attacked an Italian troop ship convoy north of Pantelleria with a spread of torpedoes. All torpedoes missed. The convoy consisted of the Italian liners Oceania and Neptunia along with the vessels Marco Polo and Esperia. An escorting CANT Z.501 aircraft dropped two bombs in response to the torpedo attack.
4. HMS/M Unbeaten initiated her first submarine to submarine attack on 28 August 1941. Unbeaten fired four torpedoes at the Italian submarine Adua on route from Pola to Messina. All torpedoes missed their target. The crew of Adua knew nothing of the attack.
5. HMS/M Unbeaten attacked an Italian submarine with a spread of four torpedoes, south-east of Augusta, Sicily. The Italian archives state the submarine attacked on 27 October 1941 was the Topazio which was returning to Augusta from a patrol in the Eastern Mediterranean. All Unbeaten’s torpedoes missed. The crew of Topazio were unaware of this attack.
6. HMS/M Unbeaten initiated a torpedo attack on a tanker on 19 January 1942. The Italian archives state the tanker Rondine and freighter Rapido were on route to Syracuse Taranto and were escorted by the Italian torpedo boat Giuseppe Cesare Abba.
7. On 7 February 1942 HMS/M Unbeaten fired torpedoes at the Italian merchant vessel Bosforo. All torpedoes missed. Bosforo was on route from Tripoli to Palermo. She was escorted by the Italian torpedo boat Calliope.
8. A spread of four torpedoes was fired by HMS/M Unbeaten on 16 March 1942. The target was the Italian merchant vessel Vettor Pisani. The attack took place off Cape Buzzano, Calabria, Italy. All Unbeaten’s torpedoes missed.
Enemy Submarines Sunk
The first enemy submarine torpedoed and sunk by HMS/M Unbeaten was the German VIIC Type U-boat U374. She was sunk south-west of Cape Spartivento, Calabria, Italy on 12 January 1942.
The second and final Axis submarine sunk by HMS/M Unbeaten was the Italian submarine Gugliemotti. She was torpedoed off Cape Dell'Armi, Italy on 17 March 1942.
Enemy Vessels Sunk by Torpedo
The first of three surface vessels claimed to be sunk by HMS/M Unbeaten was a large schooner on 14 May 1941. This vessel was part of a convoy passing west of Khoms, Libya. The schooner was attacked by a spread of three torpedoes and claimed as sunk. However, Italian records show this may not have been the case. The convoy consisted of the schooners Alas, Trio F., Rita and Neptunus. They were escorted by the gunboat Mario Bianco proceeding from Tripoli to Benghazi.
The second vessel sunk by HMS/M Unbeaten was the Italian sailing vessel V 51 / Alfa. She was sunk on 30 August 1941 south of Capo dell'Armi, Italy.
The third and final surface vessel sunk by HMS/M Unbeaten was the Vichy-French merchant vessel PLM 20. She was torpedoed on 1 March 1942, five nautical miles east of Mehedia, Tunisia.
Although all Royal Navy submarine Jolly Rogers are locally manufactured, they all tend to basically look the same. Many of the symbols are universal and commonly used. A World War Two Royal Navy submarine Jolly Roger is usually extant for the duration of an individual submarines deployment, over a series of patrols.
It was not uncommon for a successful Royal Navy submarine to fill up one Jolly Roger and start on another. Contrary to popular belief, in most cases the solid white bar does not signify a vessel sunk. It does in fact signify a torpedo attack either a singular or multiple spread attack. One white bar per attack.