Allied Warships

HMS Rainbow (N 16)

Submarine of the R class

NavyThe Royal Navy
PennantN 16 
Built byChatham Dockyard (Chatham, U.K.) 
Ordered28 Jan 1929 
Laid down24 Jul 1929 
Launched14 May 1930 
Commissioned18 Jan 1932 
Lost4 Oct 1940 
Loss position41° 28'N, 18° 05'E

HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. Lewis Peter Moore, RN) left Alexandria on 23 September 1940. She was rammed and sunk by the Italian merchant Antonietta Costa about 60 nautical miles east-north-east of Bari, Italy in position 41º28'N, 18º05'E.

It is often stated that HMS Rainbow was sunk by the Italian submarine Enrico Toti in the Gulf of Taranto, south of Calabria, Italy on 15 October 1940. However after research in 1988 it was concluded that this action resulted in the loss of HMS Traid.

HMS Rainbow was never heard from after sailing from Alexandria on 23 September 1940 to operate in the Gulf of Taranto in synchrony with HMS Regent. We can, however, reconstruct the sequence of events which ended with her loss from the radio logs of the submarine flotilla:
On 3 October Rainbow and Regent were ordered to move to the Lower Adriatic, Rainbow was assigned the eastern portion of the patrol area, cenetered on the Bari-Durazzo route, starting the following day.

On 7 October Rainbow was ordere to move to an area bearing 035° from HMS Truant's position (this being 38º02'N, 17º33'E, south-east of Capo Rizzuto, Calabria.

On 13 October she was ordered to leave her patrol area and return to Alexandria, passing through position 32º12'N, 25º08'E so as to reach Alexandria during the afternoon of 19 October but she failed to arrive.

As stated above, Rainbow had been ordered to the Bari-Durazzo route on 4 October. That same day, an Italian convoy consisting of freighters Antonietta Costa, Oreste and Premuda, escorted by Armed Merchant Cruiser RAMB III was sailing from Durazzo to Bari. At 0330 hrs the Antonietta Costa struck an underwater object in position 41º28'N, 18º05'E, about 60 nautical miles east-north-east of Bari, Italy. Immediately after this collision, a heavy underwater explosion took place, shaking the freighter. The concussion was clearly felt by all the ships in the convoy. On the Antonietta Costa, some hull plates were displaced and water entered #5 hold.

On arrival in Bari, divers examined the hull. They found 2 large abrasions on either side of the keel, evidently caused by a swipe against a metallic object of fairly large dimensions.

Rainbow was not scheduled to cross any minefields, British or Italian, on her prescribed route back to Alexandria, and since no other submarine reported being involved in a collision, it is almost certain that she was the victim of an accidental ramming on the part of the Antonietta Costa.

Patrolling submarines were under the strictest radio silence, they could receive transmissions but were forbidden from acknowledging receipt, therefore, the lack of messages from Rainbow cannot be construed as proof of her presence of not in a certain area. Only locating the wreck will solve this mystery for sure. The above is, however, the best explanation for her disappearance.


Commands listed for HMS Rainbow (N 16)

Please note that we're still working on this section.

1Lt.Cdr. John David Luce, RN22 Mar 193922 Apr 1940
2Lt.Cdr. Lewis Peter Moore, RNMay 19404 Oct 1940 (+)

You can help improve our commands section
Click here to Submit events/comments/updates for this vessel.
Please use this if you spot mistakes or want to improve this ships page.

Return to the Allied Warships section