Allied Warships

HMS Rainbow (N 16)

Submarine of the R class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeSubmarine
ClassR 
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
History

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)

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

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Notable events involving Rainbow include:


The history of HMS Rainbow as compiled on this page is extracted from the patrol reports and logbooks of HMS Rainbow.

This page was last updated in January 2015.

3 Sep 1939
When war broke out with Germany HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) was based at Hong Kong. (1)

4 Sep 1939
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) departed Hong Kong for her 1st war patrol. She was ordered to patrol in the Pacific to the East of Luzon Strait.

For the daily positions of HMS Rainbow during this patrol see the map below.

(1)

15 Sep 1939
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) ended her 1st war patrol at Hong Kong. (1)

19 Sep 1939
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Hong Kong with HMS Bideford (Cdr. R.F. Elkins, RN). (1)

28 Sep 1939
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) carried out practice attacks off Hongkong on HMS Thanet (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN). (1)

4 Oct 1939
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong. (2)

11 Oct 1939
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) departed Hong Kong for her 2nd war patrol. She was ordered to patrol to the south of Honshu, Japan.

For the daily positions of HMS Rainbow during this patrol see the map below.

(2)

31 Oct 1939
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) ended her 2nd war patrol at Hong Kong. (2)

6 Nov 1939
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) was docked at Hong Kong. (3)

7 Nov 1939
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) was undocked. (3)

9 Nov 1939
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) carried out practice attacks off Hongkong on HMS Thanet (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN). (3)

10 Nov 1939
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) carried out practice attacks off Hongkong on HMS Thracian (Lt.Cdr. H.G.D. de Chair, RN). (3)

15 Nov 1939
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) departed Hong Kong for her 3rd war patrol. She was ordered to patrol to the south of Honshu, Japan.

For the daily positions of HMS Rainbow during this patrol see the map below.

(3)

9 Dec 1939
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) ended her 3rd war patrol at Hong Kong. (4)

23 Dec 1939
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) conducted engine trials and exercises off Hong Kong. (4)

27 Dec 1939
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) carried out practice attacks off Hongkong on HMS Thracian (Lt.Cdr. H.G.D. de Chair, RN). (4)

29 Dec 1939
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong. (4)

2 Jan 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) carried out practice attacks off Hongkong on HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN). (5)

3 Jan 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) carried out practice attacks off Hongkong on HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN). (5)

4 Jan 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) carried A/S exercises off Hongkong with HMS Scout (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN). (5)

5 Jan 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) carried out practice attacks off Hongkong on HMS Pandora (Lt.Cdr. J.W. Linton, RN) and HMS Thracian (Lt.Cdr. H.G.D. de Chair, RN). (5)

7 Jan 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) departed Hong Kong for her 4th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off Vladivostock, Russia.

For the daily positions of HMS Rainbow during this patrol see the map below.

(5)

25 Jan 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) ended her 4th war patrol at Hong Kong. (5)

6 Feb 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) carried out exercises off Hongkong with HMS Pandora (Lt.Cdr. J.W. Linton, RN) and HMS Thanet (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN). (6)

7 Feb 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) carried out exercises off Hongkong. (6)

8 Feb 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) carried out exercises off Hongkong with HMS Thanet (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN). (6)

13 Feb 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) carried out exercises off Hongkong. (6)

15 Feb 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) carried out exercises off Hongkong with HMS Pandora (Lt.Cdr. J.W. Linton, RN) and HMS Regulus (Cdr. J.M. Money, RN). (6)

21 Feb 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) carried out exercises off Hongkong with HMS Thanet (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN). (6)

23 Feb 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) was docked at Hong Kong. (6)

8 Mar 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) was undocked. (7)

13 Mar 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) departed Hong Kong for Singapore.

For the daily positions of HMS Rainbow during this passage see the map below.

(7)

18 Mar 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) arrived at Singapore. (7)

25 Mar 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) departed Singapore for her 5th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol in the Sunda Stait.

For the daily positions of HMS Rainbow during this patrol see the map below.

(7)

31 Mar 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) proceeded to a new patrol area off Cilacap, Java, Netherlands East Indies. (7)

20 Apr 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Luce, RN) ended her 5th war patrol at Singapore. (8)

30 Apr 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) departed Singapore for her 6th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off the Sunda Stait.

For the daily positions of HMS Rainbow during this patrol see the map below.

(8)

9 May 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) ended her 6th war patrol at Singapore. (9)

20 May 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) conducted exercises off Singapore with HMS Stronghold (Lt.Cdr. R. Alexander, RN) and HMS Scorpion (Cdr. (retired) F.W. Crowther, DSC, RN). (9)

21 May 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) conducted exercises off Singapore with HMS Stronghold (Lt.Cdr. R. Alexander, RN) and HMS Scorpion (Cdr. (retired) F.W. Crowther, DSC, RN). (9)

22 May 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) conducted exercises off Singapore with HMS Stronghold (Lt.Cdr. R. Alexander, RN) and HMS Scorpion (Cdr. (retired) F.W. Crowther, DSC, RN). (9)

23 May 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) conducted exercises off Singapore with HMS Aberdare (Lt.Cdr. (emergency) G. Nelson, RN). (9)

28 May 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) conducted exercises off Singapore with HMS Stronghold (Lt.Cdr. R. Alexander, RN) and HMS Scorpion (Cdr. (retired) F.W. Crowther, DSC, RN). (9)

29 May 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) conducted exercises off Singapore with HMS Stronghold (Lt.Cdr. R. Alexander, RN) and HMS Scorpion (Cdr. (retired) F.W. Crowther, DSC, RN). (9)

6 Jun 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) conducted exercises off Singapore. (10)

7 Jun 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) conducted exercises off Singapore. (10)

10 Jun 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) conducted exercises off Singapore. (10)

11 Jun 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) conducted exercises off Singapore. (10)

17 Jun 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) departed Singapore for Colombo. She was to proceed to Alexandria to join the Mediterranean Fleet.

For the daily positions of HMS Rainbow during the passage to Alexandria see the map below.

(10)

24 Jun 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) arrived at Colombo. She departed for Aden later the same day. (10)

5 Jul 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) arrived at Aden. (11)

7 Jul 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) departed Aden for Suez. (11)

12 Jul 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) arrived at Suez. (11)

13 Jul 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) transited the Suez Canal northbound and arrived at Port Said. (11)

14 Jul 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) departed Port Said for Alexandria. (11)

16 Jul 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) arrived at Alexandria. (11)

15 Aug 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) departed Alexandria for her 7th war patrol (1st in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol in the Ionian Sea.

As no log is available for this period no map can be displayed. Also the patrol report does not give any positions. (12)

31 Aug 1940
Late in the morning HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) sighted a force of Italian cruisers. They were too far off to be attacked. (12)

3 Sep 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) left her patrol area and set course to return to Alexandria. (12)

10 Sep 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) ended her 7th war patrol (1st in the Mediterranean) at Alexandria. (12)

23 Sep 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) departed Alexandria for her 8th war patrol (2nd in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol off the Gulf of Taranto. (12)

3 Oct 1940
HMS Rainbow (Lt.Cdr. L.P. Moore, RN) was ordered to patrol in the lower Adriatic. (12)

Sources

  1. ADM 173/15961
  2. ADM 173/15962
  3. ADM 173/15963
  4. ADM 173/15964
  5. ADM 173/16453
  6. ADM 173/16454
  7. ADM 173/16455
  8. ADM 173/16456
  9. ADM 173/16457
  10. ADM 173/16458
  11. ADM 173/16459
  12. ADM 199/1833

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.


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