Allied Warships

HMS Swordfish (N 61)

Submarine of the S class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeSubmarine
ClassS 
PennantN 61 
Built byChatham Dockyard (Chatham, U.K.) 
Ordered2 Jul 1930 
Laid down1 Dec 1930 
Launched10 Nov 1931 
Commissioned28 Nov 1932 
Lost7 Nov 1940 
Loss position50° 24'N, 1° 21'W
History

HMS Swordfish (Lt. Michael Armitage Langley, DSC, RN) sailed from Portsmouth for a patrol off Brest on 7 November 1940. Swordfish failed to signal back to base as scheduled on the 15th and the 16th, and was not heard from again. At the time she was declared overdue she was believed sunk in the Bay of Biscay either on German mines or at the hands of German destroyers.

Her wreck was discovered in July 1983 a few miles south of St. Catherine's Point off the Isle of Wight. She had been mined with the loss of all hands, most likely on the day she left base for her patrol.
The wreck lies in 46 meters of water in position 50º24'30"N, 01º21'00"W.

 

Commands listed for HMS Swordfish (N 61)

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CommanderFromTo
1Lt. Cecil Bernard Crouch, RN24 Jul 193910 Feb 1940
2Lt. Patrick James Cowell, RN10 Feb 194014 Oct 1940
3Lt. Michael Armitage Langley, RN14 Oct 19407 Nov 1940 (+)

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Notable events involving Swordfish include:


The history of HMS Swordfish as compiled on this page is extracted from the patrol reports and logbooks of HMS Swordfish. Corrections and details regarding information from the enemy's side (for instance the composition of convoys attacked) are kindly provided by Mr. Platon Alexiades, a naval researcher from Canada.

This page was last updated in February 2015.

1 Sep 1939
HMS Swordfish (Lt. C.B. Crouch, RN) departed Dundee to take up a patrol position about 50 nautical miles from the Norwegian coast to the south-west of Stavanger. When the war with Germany started this became her 1st war patrol.

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

(1)

14 Sep 1939
HMS Sturgeon (Lt. G.D.A. Gregory, RN) fires three torpedoes against the British submarine HMS Swordfish (Lt. C.B. Crouch, RN) in the North Sea about 50 nautical miles east-south-east of Aberdeen, Scotland in position 56°22'N, 01°28'E. Fortunately all three torpedoes missed.

HMS Swordfish ended her 1st war patrol at Dundee later the same day. (1)

23 Sep 1939
HMS Swordfish (Lt. C.B. Crouch, RN) departed Dundee for her 2nd war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off the west coast of Denmark.

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

(1)

24 Sep 1939
HMS Swordfish (Lt. C.B. Crouch, RN) was informed of HMS Spearfish’s predicament (she had been damaged by mine) and ordered to stay clear of the area where this submarine was to rendezvous with the 6th destroyer flotilla.

3 Oct 1939
HMS Swordfish (Lt. C.B. Crouch, RN) ended her 2nd war patrol at Dundee. (1)

20 Oct 1939
HMS Swordfish (Lt. C.B. Crouch, RN) commenced refit at Dundee. (2)

29 Oct 1939
HMS Swordfish (Lt. C.B. Crouch, RN) was docked at Dundee. (3)

10 Jan 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. C.B. Crouch, RN) was undocked. (4)

25 Jan 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. C.B. Crouch, RN) was docked at Dundee. (4)

27 Jan 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. C.B. Crouch, RN) was undocked. (4)

11 Feb 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) completed her refit at Dundee. (5)

12 Feb 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) departed Dundee for trials. She was to proceed to Rosyth upon completion of her trials. (5)

13 Feb 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) arrived at Rosyth. (5)

15 Feb 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) departed Rosyth for Scapa Flow for working-up and exercises. (5)

16 Feb 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) arrived at Scapa Flow. (5)

12 Mar 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) departed Scapa Flow for Blyth. She made the passage together with HMS Narwhal (Lt.Cdr. R.J. Burch, RN) that was en-route from Scapa Flow to Rosyth. They were escorted by HMS Buttermere (Lt. E.G.P.B. Knapton, RN). (5)

13 Mar 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) arrived at Blyth. (5)

22 Mar 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) departed Blyth for her 3rd war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off the western entrance to the Skagerrak.

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

(1)

8 Apr 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) ended her 3rd war patrol at Blyth. She had sighted only neutral vessels. (1)

16 Apr 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) departed Blyth for her 4th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol in the Skagerrak.

For the daily and attack positions of HMS Swordfish during this patrol see the map below.

(1)

20 Apr 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) fires 6 torpedoes against a German convoy about 17 nautical miles south-south-east of Larvik, Norway in position 58°48'N, 10°19'E. All torpedoes however missed their target. The convoy attacked was made up of the transports Scharhorn (2643 GRT, built 1927), Entrerios (5179 GRT, built 1923) and the depot ship Brommy escorted by submarine chasers of the 5th UJ-Gruppe (UJ A, UJ B, UJ E, UJ F). It is often stated the attack was on the German transport Santos but she sailed from Stettin only on the 22th.

1020 hours - Bombed at periscope depth by an enemy aircraft. No damage.

1025 hours - Heard HE. Went to periscope depth to investigate and found Swordfish surrounded by 5 F-class escort vessels and 1 larger escort vessel. Depth charges were dropped until 1230 hours causing some leaks.

1300 hours - Sighted smoke of a convoy to the south-east. Forced to go deep again.

1312 hours - Sighted the convoy again on the port bow. The convoy was made up of 3 merchant vessels escorted by 4 F-class escorts. Started attack.

1318 hours - In position 58°48'N, 10°19'E fired a salvo of 6 torpedoes from 5000 yards. No explosion or hits were heard. Swordfish was however hunted and depth charged until 1940 hours.

2044 hours - Surfaced. When opening the conning tower hatch the Commanding Officer was unable to ease the large pressure in the boat and the hatch flew open. The Commanding Officer and Leading Signalman were both knocked out. The First Lieutenant (Lt. H.A. Stacey, RN) took over command until 0800/22. (1)

22 Apr 1940
At 1210 hours HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN), in position 58°39'N, 10°01'E, observed a convoy of six trawlers escorting eight drifters, steering 165°. Lt. Cowell refrained from attack because of their shallow draught. This was most probably the First German Drifter convoy (five drifters) returning from Oslo escorted by the patrol boats V 302, V 305 and V 308 and probably temporarily covered by the A/S group patrolling the entrance of the Kattegat. (1)

26 Apr 1940
During the morning, HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) sighted many drifting mines between 57°39'N, 07°43'E and 57°39'N, 07°25'E, as she was diving she hit one but it failed to explode. (1)

28 Apr 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) ended her 4th war patrol at Blyth. (1)

10 May 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) departed Blyth for her 5th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol in the North Sea.

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

(1)

25 May 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) ended her 5th war patrol at Blyth. She had penetrated the German MDA but only two small fishing vessels were sighted. (1)

5 Jun 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) departed Blyth for her 6th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol in the North Sea.

(No log is available for this period and the patrol report does not give daily positions so no map can be displayed). (1)

6 Jun 1940
At 2230 hours, HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN), was bombed by a friendly aircraft, this was Hudson 'W' of 224 Squadron (piloted by Sgt. F. Everest). Fortunately no damage was caused. (1)

19 Jun 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) ended her 6th war patrol at Blyth. (1)

1 Jul 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) departed Blyth for her 7th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol in the North Sea near the Dutch coast.

(No log is available for this period and the patrol report does not give daily positions so no map can be displayed). (1)

12 Jul 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) ended her 7th war patrol at Blyth. Only aircraft were sighted. (1)

14 Jul 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) was docked at Blyth. (2)

20 Jul 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) was undocked. (2)

27 Jul 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) departed Blyth for her 8th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off the western entrance to the Skagerrak.

(No log is available for this period and the patrol report does not give daily positions so no map can be displayed). (1)

28 Jul 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) comes across the Norwegian yacht Maski in the North Sea in position 56°33'N, 01°31'E. The four Norwegians aboard the yacht were trying to flee to the United Kingdom. After the Norwegians were taken aboard the Maski was sunk with gunfire. (1)

2 Aug 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) was ordered to patrol off Lindesnes, Norway. (1)

4 Aug 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) attacked a merchant vessel with three torpedoes off Lindesnes, Norway. No hits were obtained. So far the target has not been identified.

0157 hours - Sighted a 2000 tons merchant ship bearing 350°, course 120°. Started attack.

0207 hours - In position 57°54'N, 06°48'E (247° - Lindesnes - 7 nautical miles), fired three torpedoes from 4500 yards. No hits were obtained. (1)

8 Aug 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) ended her 8th war patrol at Blyth. (1)

27 Aug 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) departed Blyth for her 9th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off the western entrance to the Skagerrak.

(No log is available for this period and the patrol report does not give daily positions so no map can be displayed). (1)

13 Sep 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) ended her 9th war patrol at Blyth. No aircraft or ships were sighted. (1)

17 Sep 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) departed Blyth for Porstmouth. Later she was ordered to proceed to Sheerness. She made the passage with HMS Ursula (Lt.Cdr. W.A.K.N. Cavaye, RN) in convoy FS-84. (2)

19 Sep 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) arrived at Sheerness. (2)

20 Sep 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) departed Sheerness for Portsmouth. (2)

22 Sep 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) arrived at Portsmouth. (2)

26 Sep 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) departed Portsmouth for her 10th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol in the English Channel near Cherbourg, France.

(No log is available for this period and the patrol report does not give daily positions so no map can be displayed). (1)

28 Sep 1940
At 2109 hours, while charging on the surface off Cap de la Hague, France, HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) was detected and attacked by an enemy Motor Torpedo Boat. Swordfish dived and was not damaged in the encounter. (1)

1 Oct 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) attacked a German torpedo-boat out of a group of four (These were Greif, Kondor, Falke and Seeadler with 4 torpedoes in the English Channel about 12 nautical miles north-east of Cherbourg, France in position 49°48'N, 01°24'W. All torpedoes missed.

0930 hours - Sighted smoke off Cape Barfleur. This turned out to come from a group of four German torpedo-boats. Started attack.

0935 hours - Sighted a group of four German torpedo-boats in two columns. Started attack.

0944 hours - Fired four torpedoes at the rear ship of the near column. Range was 1500 yards. 1 minute and 9 seconds after firing heard a violent explosion. Swordfish then went deep but hit the bottom at 225 feet causing damage to Swordfish. She remained on the bottom for 1 hour but then retired to the northward to effect repairs. (1)

5 Oct 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) ended her 10th war patrol at Portsmouth. (1)

6 Oct 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. P.J. Cowell, RN) was docked at Portsmouth. The date of undocking is currently not known to us. (2)

21 Oct 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. M.A. Langley, RN) departed Portsmouth for her 11th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol in the English Channel near Cherbourg, France.

(No log is available for this period and the patrol report does not give daily positions so no map can be displayed). (1)

27 Oct 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. M.A. Langley, RN) attacked an enemy merchant vessel out of a convoy of 8 ships north-east of Cherbourg, France. Two torpedoes were fired but no hits were obtained. The target has not yet been identified.

1545 hours - At a range of 12000 yards sighted a convoy of 8 merchant vessels. Closed to attack.

1606 hours - In position 49°45'N, 01°20'W fired two torpedoes at the nearest merchant vessel (of about 5000 tons) from 8800 yards. No hits were obtained. (1)

30 Oct 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. M.A. Langley, RN) ended her 11th war patrol at Portsmouth. (1)

7 Nov 1940
HMS Swordfish (Lt. M.A. Langley, RN) departed Portsmouth for her 12th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off Brest, France. (5)

Sources

  1. ADM 199/1843
  2. ADM 199/373
  3. ADM 173/16169
  4. ADM 173/16568
  5. ADM 199/2571

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


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