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HMS Upholder - P37 (N99)

Lieutenant Commander M.D.Wanklyn VC, DSO**


Sinkings - 2 Destroyers, 3 Submarines, 3 Transports, 10 Supply Ships, 2 Tankers, 1 Trawler. 128,353 tons


Torpedo Tubes - 8 torpedoes, 4 were loaded in the tubes. These were Mk 8 - 21" type with a speed of 45 knots. Earlier types used were Mk IV with a speed of 35 knots.  

Log of Patrols

1st Patrol
10th December 1940
Sailed en route to Gibraltar through the Bay of Biscay. Arrived 26th December.
2nd Patrol
3rd January 1941
Covered Force H south of Sardinia. Arrived Malta 12th January.
3rd Patrol
24th January 1941
Left Malta for the hunting grounds west of Tripoli. Fired 2 torpedoes at a merchantman at 2500 yards which missed. Fired 2 torpedoes at 3000 yards which again missed the target. Later 2 ships were sighted - an 8000 ton merchant ship & an armed merchant cruiser. At 900 yards 2 torpedoes were fired. One had gyro failure but the other hit the German transport ship Duisberg. Upholder left the area with the Duisberg sinking by the bows. It later transpired that the ship didn't sink but was towed to Tripoli where she was out of action for 4 months. Two large transport ships were later sighted & the remaining 2 torpedoes were fired at 4000 yards. One torpedo hit but Upholder had to dive where she was depth charged.
On returning to Malta 1st February Wanklyn logged the 5000 tonner as a 'probable'.
4th Patrol
12th February
Wanklyn promoted to Lt. Commander.
Left Malta for excercises with the destroyer Havock before continuing to the supply route west of Tripoli. Just 25 miles south of Malta they made contact with another submarine but despite no answer to a signal left it alone. It turned out to be HMS Truant which had sustained earlier damage. On the 19th February 3 merchant ships with 3 escorting destroyers were sighted. At 1500 yards 2 torpedoes were fired which missed.Arrived back in Malta on the 23rd February.
5th Patrol
3rd March
Patrolled off Tripoli. Two torpedoes fired from 900 yards at a schooner which was loaded but both missed. Returned to Malta 10th March.
6th Patrol
3rd April
Patrolled convoy routes between Kuriat Isles & Kerkenah Bank. On 3 opportunities all torpedoes were fired without a hit.Returned to Malta 14th April.
7th Patrol
21st April
Sailed for Kerkenah but ordered to stay off the Island of Lampedusa following intelligence of 2 cruisers & 2 destroyers making for the area. Nothing was seen & Wanklyn left for the hunting grounds off the Tunisian coast. On the 25th 2 torpedoes were fired which hit what they thought was the Bainsizza (7,000 tons) but turned out to be the Antonietta Laura loaded with nitrates for Italy. The ship sank after 6 hours. Also sank a smaller supply ship of the Fels Line & damaged another.
On the 26th Upholder surfaced in shallow water to approach the Arta which was seen to be carrying trucks, cars & motorcycles. Later it was discovered the ship was carrying the HQ for a Panzer detachment. It was felt torpedoes might not reach the ship in the shallow water so it was decided to board the ship. The Arta was set alight & later blew up.
On the 27th 5 transport ships were sighted. Four torpedoes were fired, two of which hit the German Fels liner Leverkusen which rapidly sank by the stern. Another hit the Arcturus which stopped the ship.Later Upholder returned to sink this damaged ship. Two more torpedoes were fired at the crippled ship which sank.
Arrived back in Malta 4th May.
8th Patrol
18th May
Left Malta in an east-north-east direction. Spotted 2 tankers on the 23rd, a steamer & 1 escort. Fired 3 torpedoes one of which hit a ship from a range of 4 miles. This was logged as a 4000 ton tanker 'damaged'.
Later, 2 more tankers were spotted flying French flags. The leading ship was the Alberta but this could not be found in the ships books. It was found as being an Italian ship. The other ship was the Damiani. It was decided to fire 3 torpedoes at the rear ship. The Damiani was hit by 1 torpedo & sank by the stern. It turned out this was a Vichy tanker named Capitaine Damiani on an Italian charter.
On the 24th they spotted the Italian liner Conte Rosso. At point blank range the remaining 2 torpedoes were fired which hit the 17,879 ton liner which quickly sank along with 2,729 soldiers & crew. Also to perish was the convoy Commodore Rear Admiral Francesco Canzoneri.
Upholder dived & was attacked with 37 depth charges. Wanklyn was awarded the Victoria Cross for this action.
Arrived back in Malta 29th May.
9th Patrol
6th June
Commanded by Lieutenant A. R. Hezlet, RN
Patrolled the Straits of Messina. Arrived back in Malta 17th June.
10th Patrol
24th June
Sailed with Unbeaten to find a convoy on the Naples to Tripoli run but failed to make contact returning to Malta on the 27th.
11th Patrol
28th June
Patrolled the Straits of Messina. Torpedoed & sank the 6,181 ton Italian supply ship Laura C. off Saline Ioniche, Calabria, 3rd July. Arrived back in Malta 8th July.
12th Patrol
20th July
Upholder slipped out of Lazoretto on Saturday at 10 pm to join Operation Substance. This was an operation to bring a small convoy in & escort 6 empty vessels in Grand Harbour safely out to reload.
Upholder was stationed to the south of the island of Marittimo. This proved a quiet area so Wanklyn relocated towards Cape st. Vito, western tip of Sicily.
On the 23rd they located an eastbound convoy - a Generale class destroyer & a 6,000 ton merchantman. Wanklyn fired 3 torpedoes at 5,000 yards. One torpedo hit. The ship later sank but in the meantime the destroyer escort let lose some 17 depth charges over a 2 hour period.
In the evening of the 28th the skies cleared following a thick fog. Two cruisers with Avieni class destroyer escorts were sighted. Four torpedoes were fired at 12 second intervals. One of these cruisers was the 9,050 ton light cruiser Giuseppe Garibaldi & 2 torpedoes hit her stopping her in her tracks. Although the ship was not sunk it was severely damaged.
The depth charge revenge was very fierce & 38+ were counted off, some of which came very close.
Arrived back in Malta 31st July.
13th Patrol
15th August
Sailed from Malta to patrol the area of Marittimo & Levago, north of Sicily. Word came down of 2 slow moving convoys so the boat was relocated to Cape St.Vito where on the morning of the 20th a small cargo vessel ( the 852 ton Enotria ) & trawler were spotted. Two torpedoes were fired at the Enotria with one hit. The ship 'dropped out of sight'. The trawler dropped 4 depth charges & made off to Trapani.
On the 22nd August sighted an Italian flying boat. Five minutes later three tankers appeared with a three destroyer escort. Four torpedoes were fired at the leading tanker resulting in two hits. Two of the destroyers dropped a total of 61 depth charges with insignificant damage to the submarine. Sank the 3,988 ton German transport Lussin.
A total of 108 depth charges were dropped over this patrol.
24th August - Spotted a large convoy during the morning 40 miles northwest of Sicily. This contained a Cavour class battleship, 2 cruisers & 6 destroyers. The Upholder only had 2 torpedoes left which were fired from a range of 3 miles. One explosion was heard which had hit a cruiser followed by a depth charge attack of 32 charges.
25th August - Surfaced 3 miles east of Scicca, east of Palermo to land Lt.Walker (Hertfordshire Regiment) & Corporal Bryant Bird (Beds & Herts Regiment) on the coast. Their mission was to place demolition charges on the railway line which ran along the coast.
Arrived back in Malta 28th August.
14th Patrol
29th August
Patrolled the west coast of Italy.
15th Patrol
16th September

Left Malta with Ursula, Upright & Unbeaten to intercept a fast convoy from Tripoli spotted on Upholder's previous patrol. Took up station on the eastern approaches to Tripoli 8 miles to the east-north-east. An Italian motor torpedo boat & 2 E-Boats were spotted. Wanklyn changed coarse & later spotted the liners Neptunia (19,457 ton), Oceania (19,507 ton) & Marco Polo sailing in 2 lines escorted by at least 4 destroyers. Wanklyn in Upholder fired 4 torpedoes in a surface attack at 6-7.000 yards - at 2 of the liners as they overlapped. Two hit their targets - a hit on Oceania aft in the propellers brought it to a stop, the second hit Neptunia in the side & it subsequently sank. A third liner, the Vulcania rapidly left the area. It was thought at the time that this ship had been hit but an Italian soldiers diary revealed that a spotter plane had seen the torpedo tracks & bombed the torpedoes blowing them up.Upholder had assumed it had hit the ship. Upholder dived & reloaded torpedoes returning to finish off the Oceania. With a destoyer bearing down they had to dive & go under the Oceania, turning & firing 2 torpedoes. The liner disintegrated & sank in 8 minutes. Depth charges were dropped by an escorting destroyer & the submarine moved off north to return back to Malta on the 18th September.

16th Patrol
15th October
Patrolled off the coast of Tunisia. Returned to Malta 27th October.
17th Patrol
7th November
Spotted a Perla class U-Boat on the surface & fired 4 torpedoes. One hit & the submarine sank presumably with all hands as no survivors were found.
The British Force K (Aurora, Penelope, Lance, Lively) was due to pass through the area so Upholder dived. Force K later attacked a convoy. Upholder waited for daylight & found the 1,615 ton Italian destroyer Libeccio on the 9th. One torpedo was fired which hit & damaged the destroyer.
Three remaining torpedoes were fired at two cruisers & two destroyers helping the striken Libeccio. Two (1 & 3) torpedoes hit an Avieri class destroyer which later sank. The second torpedo fired had a gyro failure & ran in circles.
Returned to Malta 11th November.
18th Patrol
25th November
Patrolled southeast of the Straits of Messina. Relocated to the Gulf of Taranto. Whilst surfaced they found themselves in the middle of a lot of enemy ships. Wanklyn fired 4 torpedoes at the last cruiser in line. All missed. Arrived back in Malta 5th December.
19th Patrol
12th December
Left Malta with P34, P31 & Sokol. No targets found. Returned to Malta 23rd December.
20th Patrol
31st December
Left Malta for an area north of the Straits of Messina. Spotted a submarine which turned out to be HMS Una & broke off attack. On the 3rd January spotted 3 brigs & an armed tug off Cape St.Vito but didn't attack. Close to midnight fired 3 torpedoes at a merchantman north of Cape Gallo. All torpedoes missed.
East of Palermo she spotted the Sirio, an Italian coaster. On diving No.1 tube was running hot. It was thought to be tube No.3 which was fired with No.1 shortly after. One of the torpedoes dived to the sea floor & exploded causing concussion through the Upholder. Wanklyn continued the attack on Sirio with 2 more torpedoes. One hit amidships but the ship carried on. Wankyln surfaced in the hope of finishing the ship off with the deck gun but the little ship fought back with machine guns forcing Upholder to submerge. The Sirio made off with a tug.
Just before dawn 4th January Upholder was 15 miles northwest of Messina. They spotted a large 2 gun submarine zig zagging. Wanklyn turned the boat round & fired the last torpedo which hit just before the forward gun. Three survivors were picked up. The submarine was the Amiraglio St.Bon at 1,500 tons. This was only 4 months from being built.
Arrived back in Malta 8th January 1942.
21st Patrol
14th January 1942
Left Malta for the entrance to the Gulf of Taranto where 2 other submarines would join - the Una & Torbay. No action on this patrol & they returned to Malta on the 23rd.
22nd Patrol
1st February
This patrol commanded by Pat Norman. Left Malta for an area between Marittimo & Palermo, north coast of Sicily. Four days into the patrol Upholder dived six miles west of Cape St.Vito & fired 3 torpedoes at a Navigatori class destroyer which changed course & headed for Upholder dropping 10 depth charges. An armed trawler joined in & dropped a further 7 depth charges.
The following day they sank the armed trawler Aosta. An escort dropped depth charges & made off.
Arrived back in Malta dawn on the 13th.
23rd Patrol
21st February
Wanklyn back in command. Left Malta for the Libyan coast. A total of 4 submarines left Malta with 4 more on station near Misurata. On the 23rd Upholder dived 12 miles from station. On the 27th spotted a merchantman in dazzle paintwork. Fired 3 torpedoes, 2 hit & within 20 minutes sank. This was the Temien 0f 5,584 tons. The destroyer escort dropped depth charges.
Arrived back in Malta 28th February.
24th Patrol
14th March
Left Malta for Taranto. Two days later the boat was ordered to Brindisi. Just after noon on the 17th 2 destroyers were spotted making for port. Positioned at the entrance to the harbour on the 18th a submarine ( the Tricheco 810 ton) entered the harbour. Wanklyn fired a spread of 4 torpedoes. Two hit the submarine which sank.
On the 19th Upholder was off St.Cataldo Point. A 22 ton diesel trawler (used as a minesweeper) the Maria & 4 smaller boats were spotted. Upholder surfaced & told the crew to abandon their ship. After this the deck gun was used to sink the ship.
On the 23rd a report came in saying a Littoro class battleship was heading their way. Upholder was joined by Proteus & P36. Upholder fired 4 torpedoes but all missed.
Arrived back in Malta 26th March.
25th Patrol
9th April
Upholder dropped 2 agents ashore near Carthage in the Gulf of Sousse. Their mission was intelligence gathering on enemy transports between Africa to Sicily. On their return to the boat they made off to rendezvous with Unbeaten. This took place on the 11th. Unbeaten had been previously damaged in Lazaretto Creek where her torpedo tubes had been twisted & was detailed to return home for repairs.
Circumstances leading up to the sinking of Upholder is still not clear. What is known is that she was moved the following day along with Urge & Thresher to search for a convoy coming out of Tripoli. They were expected to in position on the 15th.
It is considered in some circles that Upholder was depth charged on the 14th by the Pegaso under the command of Capitano di Vascello the Barone Francesco Acton. Another theory was that of Upholder hitting a mine.

Medals / Awards

Date of Announcement
London Gazette 2/9/41
Frame, Fred
Engine Room Artificer
London Gazette 2/9/41
Selby, Gordon
Leading Seaman
London Gazette 2/9/41
Cummins, Gilbert
Leading Telegraphist
London Gazette 2/9/41
Chapman, Cliff
Leading Stoker
London Gazette 2/9/41
Read, Christopher
Mentioned in Despatches
London Gazette 2/9/41
Carter, Jim
Petty Officer
Mentioned in Despatches (posthumously)
London Gazette 2/9/41
London Gazette 2/9/41
BBC 11th December 1941.

London Gazette 2/9/41 lists 11 servicemen to receive awards. I can only find the 8 listed above.