Allied Warships

HMS Grampus (N 56)

Submarine of the Porpoise class

NavyThe Royal Navy
PennantN 56 
Built byChatham Dockyard (Chatham, U.K.) 
Ordered1 Mar 1934 
Laid down20 Aug 1934 
Launched25 Feb 1936 
Commissioned10 Mar 1937 
Lost16 Jun 1940 

At the outbreak of the Second World War HMS Grampus was part of the 4th Submarine Flotilla on the China Station and was at Singapore. After a refit at Hong Kong Grampus departed that place on 13 April bound for the Mediterranean. Grampus arrived at Malta for duty with the Mediterranean Fleet on 13 May 1940.

HMS Grampus (Lt.Cdr. Charles Alexander Rowe, RN) went missing on her first war patrol. She is most likely sunk on 16 June 1940 off Syracuse by Italian torpedo boats. See also 'events' at the bottom of this page for even more info.

At 1902 hours on 16 June 1940 in position 087 degrees, Syracuse, 3 nautical miles, the torpedo-boat Circe (leader of 13th Squadron, with sister ships Clio, Calliope and Polluce, which has sailed from Syracuse for an A/S sweep reports sighting what appeared to be the conning tower of a submarine at about 3-4000 meters and opened fire (10 rounds of 100 mm and 336 rounds of 20 mm) and was joined by Clio which fired 13 rounds of 100 mm and 417 rounds of 20mm, at 1904-1905 hours, two torpedo tracks are observed by the torpedo-boats, some observe only one torpedo others two. Polluce reports being missed ahead and astern by the two torpedoes (but immediately made a signal that she had been missed by two torpedoes ahead). The torpedo-boats dropped depth-charges: Circe (19), Clio (13), Calliope (10), Polluce(19). After Polluce attacked, she claimed to have sighted a large oil slick and seen the wreck of the submarine. It must be noted that a few witnesses reported seeing the torpedo tracks and this was not general. Capitano di Fregata Aldo Rossi (of Circe, squadron leader and also Commanding Officer of the 1st Torpedo-boat Flotilla) was doubtful of the torpedo-track sightings as he considered that due to the sea conditions it was very difficult to see torpedo tracks. Rossi was not convinced that the submarine was sunk and ordered the torpedo-boats to carry on the A/S sweep but nothing was seen. Later the sinking was assessed by the Italians as "probable". 

Commands listed for HMS Grampus (N 56)

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1Lt.Cdr. Charles Alexander Rowe, RN24 Aug 193919 Jan 1940
2Lt.Cdr. Gilbert Hugh Nowell, RN19 Jan 19401 Apr 1940
3Lt.Cdr. Charles Alexander Rowe, RN1 Apr 194016 Jun 1940 (+)

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Noteable events involving Grampus include:

The events listed below contain information from the 'enemy's side'. This information is kindly provided by Mr. Platon Alexiades, a naval researcher from Canada.

10 Jun 1940
At 2345 hours HMS Grampus (Lt.Cdr. C.A. Rowe, RN) depart from Malta for her 1st war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off the East coast of Sicily. She is also to lay a minefield of Augusta. She is to depart from her patrol area at 1930 hours on the 16th and return to Malta (later this is amended to Alexandria).

13 Jun 1940
HMS Grampus (Lt.Cdr. C.A. Rowe, RN) laid a minefield (50 mines) off Augusta, Sicily, Italy.

At 1930/13 June Grampus sends a signal confirming that she had completed her mine laying operation (50 mines believed laid in position 036° - Castello Maniace Light - 2' [line of 2 miles North-South centred on this point] (NE of Augusta in searched channel).

Earlier on this day, at about 0700 hours, the Italian submarine Giovanni Bausan (Capitano di Corvetta Francesco Murzi) that was returning to Augusta reports being missed by a torpedo which passed 10 meters ahead in position 090°, Capo San Croce (Augusta), 3 nautical miles. If this attack is genuine (quite a few attacks reported in the early stages of the war were probably porpoises instead of torpedo tracks) it is quite likely that the aggressor was HMS Grampus and that multiple torpedoed were fired in this attack (only one torpedo was observed).

14 Jun 1940
At 0410 hours the torpedo-boat Polluce returning from an A/S sweep with Circe, Clio and Calliope reports a torpedo track which passed 100 meters ahead in a position close to the entrance of Syracuse. If this is correct the attacker must have been HMS Grampus.

18 Jun 1940
At 1708 hours the Italian submarine Benedetto Brin (offsite link), which had just sailed from Augusta to carry out a patrol off Crete, reported being missed by a torpedo apparently fired from about 2500 meters (position of the attack was about 20 miles east of Augusta).

If this attack is genuine then it is possible that HMS Grampus had survived the depth-charging of 16 June and then the exact circumstances of her loss are open to question. In theory (patrol orders), Grampus should have left the Syracuse-Augusta area on 16th June to return to Malta (later amended to return to Alexandria) so it is doubtful that the Brin attack is genuine. Unless Grampus had been damaged seriously on 16 June and could not leave the area in time.

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