Allied Warships

HMS Thunderbolt (N 25)

Submarine of the T class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeSubmarine
ClassT 
PennantN 25 
Built byCammell Laird Shipyard (Birkenhead, U.K.) 
Ordered10 Aug 1936 
Laid down21 Dec 1936 
Launched29 Jun 1938 
Commissioned26 Oct 1940 
LostMar 1943 
History

HMS Thetis was commissioned on 4 March 1939. On 1 June 1939 HMS Thetis (Lt.Cdr. Guy H. Bolus, RN) was lost in an accident during a trial dive in Liverpool Bay. Of the 103 men aboard 99 died and only 4 survived. 45 of the 103 on board during the dive were personel from the builders, admiralty officials and new commanders. Thetis was salvaged, repaired and commissioned as HMS Thunderbolt on 26 October 1940.

On 14 March 1943 HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. Cdr. Celil Bernard Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) was most likely sunk by the Italian corvette Cicogna off Capo San Vito, Sicily, Italy. HMS Thunderbolt was reported overdue on 28 March 1943. It is not certain that Thunderbolt was lost in the attack (see below)

Following the attack on the Esterel (see events at the bottom of Thunderbolt's page) it is thought that Thunderbolt was detected and attacked by the Italian torpedo boat Libra (C.C. Gustavo Lovatelli).
Libra was ordered by Sirio (the escort leader) to conduct a hunt in the position of the attack on Esterel.
Libra got a good sonar contact moving at 3 knots at 2342/12 March in approximately 38°17' N, 12°57'E. This is about 12 nautical miles to the North-East of Cape St. Vito.
Libra managed to follow the enemy submarine which was leaving a phosphorescent wake and attacked with seven patterns of depth-charges (2347-0138 hours), observing after the last one a column of water and black smoke, smelling a strong odour of oil and believed the submarine sunk.

The following afternoon the Italian corvettes Persefone and Cicogna (T.V. Augusto Migliorini) were sailed from Trapani to hunt the submarine reported by Libra. The search was unsuccessful until 0516/14 when Cicogna detected an echo but this was not confirmed by Persefone which soon left the area, having received orders to escort the steamer Pegli proceeding from Trapani to Palermo (Pegli was sunk by HMS Sibyl at 0949/14). At 0738 hours, Cicogna sighted a periscope at a distance of 2000 meters but no contact was made. Finally at 0848 hours, Migliorini decided to drop 24 depth-charges and was about to do so when a periscope was reported 2 meters (!) from the corvette. A first pattern of depth-charges was dropped and a submarine was reported seen briefly breaking surface listing by 90°, showing the keel and the corvette followed up with another pattern. Bubbles and a small quantity of oil were seen and later a white smoke believed to be from chlorine gas (position was 338° - Cape San Vito Light, 4.1 nautical miles (ca. 38°14'N, 12°42'E).

Cristina Freghieri from Milan has written a book on HMS Thunderbolt (HMS Thunderbolt - Vissuto e morte due volte, note that the book is in Italian, published by Magenes in 2009). She was part of a team of divers who attempted to locate the wreck. They were unsuccessful but she is fascinated by the story of this submarine and she has make contacts with relatives, etc. You can find her website here (offsite link, it is in Italian).

It is not sure what happened to Thunderbolt.
Given the above there are three likely fates:
Sunk by Libra, sunk by Cicogna, or perhaps mined.
Let's hope one day the wreck will be found and her fate will be known.

 
Former nameHMS Thetis

Commands listed for HMS Thunderbolt (N 25)

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

CommanderFromTo
1Lt. Cecil Bernard Crouch, RN16 Sep 194014 Mar 1943 (+)

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Noteable events involving Thunderbolt include:


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

29 Oct 1940
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, RN) departed from Liverpool for Greenock.

3 Dec 1940
After a period of trials and exercises HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, RN) departed from Holy Loch for her 1st war patrol. She is to patrol in the Bay of Biscay off the Gironde estuary.

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


HMS Thunderbolt 1st war patrolclick here for bigger map

15 Dec 1940
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, RN) torpedoed and sank Italian submarine Capitano Tarantini (offsite link) south-west of the Gironde Estuary near Bordeaux, France in position 45°25'N, 01°22'W.

Thunderbolt was part of a patrol line with HMS Unique, HMS Upholder and HMS Usk. They were to intercept Italian submarines which were due to arrive in Bordeaux.

(All times are zone 0)
0835 hours - In position 45°25'N, 01°23'W sighted an object that was later made out to be the conning tower of a submarine. Later two trawlers were sighted on the same bearing.

0900 hours - Now sighted that the contact was a submarine escorted by three trawlers. Started an attack on the submarine.

0920 hours - Fired six torpedoes. Range was 4000 yards. 4min9sec after firing the first torpedo an explosion was heard. Lt. Crouch was at the periscope and saw a tall column of water rise into the air at the same time. 15 explosions followed the first explosions, some of the would be some of the torpedoes exploding when they hit the bottom at the end of their run and some were most likely depth charges dropped by the trawlers. The trawlers were never in contact and Thunderbolt cleared the area.

Actually the trawlers (German V-401, V-407 and V-409) were not escorting the Tarantini but the French merchant Chateau Yquem. The Tarantini was not escorted at the time of her sinking. Also the attack was not observed. The loss of the Tarantini was thought by the Germans and Italians to be caused by a mine.

21 Dec 1940
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, RN) ended her 1st war patrol at Holy Loch.

10 Jan 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, RN) departed from Holy Loch for her 2nd war patrol. She is to patrol in the Bay of Biscay.

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


HMS Thunderbolt 2nd war patrolclick here for bigger map

26 Jan 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, RN) was ordered to a patrol position off Brest, France to intercept the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper that is believed to be due to leave that port.

30 Jan 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, RN) ended her 2nd war patrol at Holy Loch.

19 Feb 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) departed from Holy Loch bound for Halifax, Canada. From that base she is to protect convoys from being attacked by German surface raiders.

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


HMS Thunderbolt passage Holy Loch - Halifaxclick here for bigger map

24 Feb 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) an unidentified ship in position 53°55'N, 26°49'W which opens fire despite repeated challenges by Thunderbolt, forcing her to dive.

The ship was the armed merchant cruiser was HMS Canton which mistook her for a U-boat.

5 Mar 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) arrived at Halifax, Canada.

10 Mar 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) departed from Halifax for her 3rd war patrol. She is to escort convoy SC-25 and protect it from German surface raiders. (The German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau are operating in the North Atlantic during this time).

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


HMS Thunderbolt 3rd war patrolclick here for bigger map

15 Mar 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) parted company with convoy SC-25 as she was ordered to return to Halifax. Later this day she was ordered to search for the German battlecruisers (and not to return to Halifax).

18 Mar 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) was ordered to join convoy HX-118.

20 Mar 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) joins convoy HX-115.

28 Mar 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) parted company with convoy HX-118. She is now to proceed to Reykjavik, Iceland for fuel and provisions.

29 Mar 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) arrived at Reykjavik.

30 Mar 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) departed from Reykjavik to return to Halifax.

7 Apr 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) arrived at Halifax.

29 Apr 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) departed from Halifax for her 4th war patrol. She is to escort convoy SC-30.

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


HMS Thunderbolt 4th war patrolclick here for bigger map

10 May 1941
At 2040 hours, while in position 56°28'N, 35°49'W HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) comes under fire from an outward bound independent merchant vessel believed to be of the Ellerman line as she is still escorting convoy SC-30. Thunderbolt turns away.

Thunderbolt later parts company with convoy SC-30. She carries out a search for shadowing u-boats behind the convoy. Afterwards she is to proceed to position 43N, 40W.

18 May 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) arrived at Halifax.

25 May 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) departed from Halifax for her 5th war patrol. She is to patrol in a 50 mile radius from position 43'N, 50'W to intercept the German battleship Bismarck and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen.

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


HMS Thunderbolt 5th war patrolclick here for bigger map

31 May 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) returns to Halifax.

1 Jun 1941
On 1 and 2 June 1941 took passage with HMS Forth from Halifax to Saint John (New Brunswick) for docking. Returning to Halifax on 7 and 8 June.

11 Jun 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) departed from Halifax for her 6th war patrol. She is to patrol in the North Atlantic to hunt enemy submarines.

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


HMS Thunderbolt 6th war patrolclick here for bigger map

15 Jun 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) fired torpedoes at German U-boat U-557 in the North Atlantic in position 41°32'N, 46°39'W. The torpedoes however miss their target.

(All times are zone +3) 1155 hours - HMS Thunderbolt spots the conning tower of a German U-boat about 3.5 nautical miles away. Due to the sea conditions contact was lost.

1243 hours - Contact was gained again at 5000 yards.

1250 hours - A salvo of 6 torpedoes was fired from 4300 yards (2 torpedoes misfired and did not left the torpedo tubes). No explosions were heard after 5 minutes so no hits were obtained.

1312 hours - Another two torpedoes were fired but these also missed. Lt. Crouch decided to prepare for gun action but the surprise was gone as the U-boat was seen to follow up the torpedo tracks. Lt. Crouch decided to go deep.

28 Jun 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) returns to Halifax.

30 Jun 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) departed from Halifax with HMS Talisman escorted by HMS Buxton. They arrive at St. John's (Newfoundland) on 2 July.

8 Jul 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) departed from St. John's bound for Gibraltar.

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


HMS Thunderbolt passage St. John's - Gibraltarclick here for bigger map

18 Jul 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) picks up 45 survivors (the entire crew) of the British merchant Guelma that was torpedoed and sunk the day before in position 30°44'N, 17°33'W by the Italian submarine Alessandro Malaspina (offsite link).

21 Jul 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) arrived at Gibraltar.

1 Aug 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) departed from Gibraltar bound for Alexandria. She has to call at Malta to unload cargo.

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


HMS Thunderbolt passage Gibraltar - Alexandriaclick here for bigger map

8 Aug 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) arrived at Malta.

10 Aug 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) departed from Malta for Alexandria. En-route she made a short patrol off Ras El Hilal.

18 Aug 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) arrived at Alexandria.

29 Aug 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) departed from Alexandria for her 7th war patrol. This is her 1st war Mediterranean war patrol. She is to patrol in the Gulf of Sirte.

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


HMS Thunderbolt 7th war patrolclick here for bigger map

5 Sep 1941
In the early morning hours HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) encounters what is thought to be a surfaced enemy submarine. When about to fire a salvo of torpedoes the contact was seen to be a destroyer coming straight toward. Thunderbolt dived to safety.

(All times are zone -3)
0409 hours - In position 32°02'N, 19°48'E sighted a darkened ship bearing 330° distant 3 to 4 nautical miles. Altered course towards and closed at 8 knots on the engines.

0415 hours - Sighted two other smaller vessels some distance astern of the first vessel. Decided to attack the first vessel as this appeared to be the largest.

0430 hours - Came to the conclusion that the target was a large surfaced submarine. Started an attack.

0434 hours - When just about to fire a salvo of torpedoes when the target changed course and became end on.

0437 hours - The target resumed her original course but shortly afterwards was end on again.

0438 hours - The target was seen to make a terrific bow wave and wash and was heading directly towards Thunderbolt. It was now realised that the target was a destroyer at 1000 yards. Dived and took avoiding action.

0453 hours - A single depth charge was dropped. 10 minutes later another single depth charge was dropped. Nothing further happened.

0528 hours- - No HE could be heard anymore.

7 Sep 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) torpedoed and sank the Italian merchant Sirena (974 GRT, built 1883) about 50 miles west of Benghazi, Libya.

(All times are zone -3)
1916 hours - In position 32°04'N, 18°55'E sighted smoke bearing 295°.

1944 hours - Sighted that the smoke came from one steamship of about 1500 tons, one three masted schooner and one four masted schooner escorted by one torpedo boat.

2010 hours - The four masted schooner was seen to alter course and drop astern of the others. The torpedo boat, that was seen to be of the Calypso-class, went to round it up. The steamship was selected as target. Started an attack.

2058 hours - Fired one torpedo from 2000 yards. An explosion was heard 1 minute 20 seconds after firing. One hour later breaking up noises were heard.

2204 to 0007 hours - 14 Depth charges were dropped but none were close and the torpedo boat was never in contact.

10 Sep 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) sank the Italian auxiliary patrol vessel V 224 / Svam I (388 GRT) with gunfire in the Gulf of Syrte off Marsa el Auegia.

(All times are zone -3)
0325 hours - Sighted a three masted schooner at anchor. Decided to attack with the gun.

0348 hours - Opened fire. In all eleven rounds were fired for four hits and two possible hits. The schooner was on fire. After the third round, Thunderbolt was taken under fire by a shore battery. Thunderbolt fired four rounds at this shore battery while withdrawing from the area (the battery was Fort Biroli).

11 Sep 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) torpedoed and sank the German merchant Livorno (1829 GRT, built 1924) about 10 nautical miles North-West of Benghazi, Libya in position 32°20'N 19°50'E.

(All times are zone -3)
1109 hours - In position 32°19'N, 19°50'E sighted a convoy bearing 277° on course 110°.

1114 hours - Identified the convoy as consisting of two identical supply ships escorted by three aircraft and two destroyers. The supply ships were dazzle painted in shades of gray. Started attack.

1148 hours - Fired three torpedoes from 1200 yards. An explosion was heard 1 minute and 10 seconds after firing the first torpedo.

1151 hours - Depth charging started. 22 depth charges were dropped in as many minutes.

1229 hours - Came to periscope depth and saw a dense column of very black smoke reaching to a height of at least 1500 feet. One destroyer was seen stopped, thought to be listening, about a mile away. The three aircraft were still patrolling the area.

1325 hours - No HE was heard after this time.

1830 hours - The smoke had gone by now. The ship either burnt out or had sunk.

The convoy attacked was en route from Naples to Benghazi and was made up of the German merchants Spezia (1825 GRT, built 1924) and the above mentioned Livorno. They were escorted by the Italian torpedo boats Polluce and Centauro. 34 Survivors were picked up from the Livorno. 12 Men were missing.

13 Sep 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) attacks what is thought to be a 'Crotone-class' minelayer near Benghazi. All torpedoes fired missed their target. In fact it was the Italian minesweeper Zirona (former Yugoslavian Jastreb).

(All times are zone -3)
1541 hours - In position 32°18'N, 19°53'E sighted what is thought to be a Crotone-class minelayer. Started attack.

1610 hours - Fired three torpedoes from 3200 yards and went deep. An explosion was heard after 2 minutes and 21 seconds.

1625 to 1637 hours - Four depth charges were dropped, not close.

14 Sep 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) fires three torpedoes against the German merchant Tinos (2826 GRT, built 1914) about 30 nautical miles north-west of Benghazi, Libya. All torpedoes fires missed their target. The Tinos was in a convoy coming from Pireaus, Greece.

(All times are zone -3)
1431 hours - In position 32°40'N, 19°55'E sighted smoke bearing 023°.

1510 hours - Sighted a merchant vessel bearing 023° on course 200°. A destroyer was seen zig-zagging ahead. There was an air escort overhead of seven aircraft. Started attack.

1542 hours - Fired four torpedoes from about 4000 yards. An explosion was heard three minutes and 22 seconds after firing the first torpedo.

1548 to 1613 hours - 14 Depth charges were dropped and three bomb explosions were heard.

1620 hours - Heard a heavy muffled explosion, most likely something blowing up in the torpedoed ship. This was followed shortly after with another explosion.

1709 hours - Came to periscope depth but found nothing in sight.

Tinos was escorted by the Italian torpedo boat Polluce. An escorting CANT Z.501 aircraft from Marina Bengasi piloted by Midshipman Mazzinari attacked Thunderbolt.

20 Sep 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) ended her 7th war patrol at Alexandria.

5 Oct 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) departed from Alexandria for her 8th war patrol. This is her 2nd Mediterranean war patrol. She is to patrol in the Aegean.

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


HMS Thunderbolt 8th war patrolclick here for bigger map

9 Oct 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) lands a party on the coast of Crete (Operation 'Stiletto').

10 Oct 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) sank the Italian caique Citta di Simi (25 GRT) with gunfire some 12 miles north-east of Cape Sidero, Crete in position 35°31'N, 26°25'E.

(All times are zone -3)
1700 hours - Sighted a two masted and a single masted caique bearing 350° distant 5 to 6 nautical miles. Altered course to close.

1740 hours - Sunset.

1851 hours - Surfaced in position 35°31'N, 26°25'E.

1904 hours - Sank the two masted caique with gunfire. Failed to find the single masted caique due to the darkness.

1923 hours - Set course for Suda Bay.

13 Oct 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) lands a party on a beach in Marathon Bay (Operation 'Fleshpots').

15 Oct 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) attacks a convoy with three torpedoes. No hits were obtained.

(All times are zone -3)
0850 hours - In position 37°40'N, 23°51'E sighted a convoy. Started attack.

0953 hours - Fired three torpedoes at a tanker of 6000 tons from 650 yards. All torpedoes missed.

0958 to 1031 hours - Ten depth charges were dropped, some were close. Some damage was caused, the most serious was to the Asdic dome.

Two destroyers remained in the area for the rest of the day.

The ships in the convoy (Pireaus to Saloniki) were the German merchants Burgas (697 GRT, built 1912) and Arthemis ( GRT, built) the German tanker Petrakis Nomikos (7020 GRT, built 1914) and the Italian tanker Torcello (3336 GRT, built 1892). They were escorted by the Italian destroyer Quintino Sella and Italian torpedo boats Sirio and Alcione.

18 Oct 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) attacks an Italian convoy with three torpedoes. No hits were obtained.

(All times are zone -3)
1011 hours - In position 37°42'N, 23°51'E sighted two merchant ships, hull down, bearing 145. Started attack.

1108 hours - Fired three torpedoes from 1200 yards. All torpedoes missed.

1144 to 1205 hours - Eleven depth charges were dropped by the escorting destroyers. The destroyers remained in the area until 1300 hours. Other hunters remained in the area for the rest of the day.

According to Italian sources this convoy was en-route from the Dardanelles to Piraeus and was made up of the Bulgarian merchant Balkan (3823 GRT, built 1914) and the Romanian merchant (in German service) Balcic (3600 GRT, built 1940) escorted by the Italian torpedo boats Calatafimi and Castelfidardo

25 Oct 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) ended her 8th war patrol at Malta.

27 Oct 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) is docked at Malta.

10 Nov 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) left dock.

15 Nov 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) departed from Malta for her 9th war patrol. This is her 3rd Mediterranean war patrol. She is to proceed to a patrol position in the Ionian Sea. For her subsequent patrol positions see the map below.

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


HMS Thunderbolt 9th war patrolclick here for bigger map

25 Nov 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) sank the German schooner L VII (300 GRT) with gunfire off Kythera, Greece in position 36°09'N, 23°09'E.

(All times are zone -2)
1150 hours - In position 36°09'N, 23°09'E sighted a schooner of about 300 tons proceeding on the engine through the Kithera Channel on a course of 200°.

1210 hours - Surfaced and engaged the schooner with gunfire from 1400 yards. The schooner also opened fire with a small gun mounted forward. Thunderbolt's first round missed but the second hit the schooner aft starting a fire and silenced the schooners gun. More rounds were fired resulting in more hits. When the schooner was well on fire Thunderbolt dived. The schooner must have been carrying oil or petrol as there was plenty of black smoke and very often a burst of flame, as if a barrel had burst.

1347 hours - There was a terrific sheet of flame and nothing more was seen of the schooner.

The L VII was the former Greek Aghios Nikolaos and was part of a group of five caiques on their way to Suda Bay from Piraeus but had lagged behind due to engine defects. She was manned by a German crew and had 130 Cretans aboard. Only 3 Germans and 3 Greeks were saved. The ship itself drifted on fire and went aground on the east coast of Kythera.

30 Nov 1941
At 1130 hours HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) sights a southbound 6000 ton merchant vessel in position 36°06'N, 19°19'E but is unable to close within attacking range. This is most likely the Italian passenger/cargo vessel Adriatico (1976 GRT, built 1931) which will be sunk during the night by Force K (British light cruisers HMS Aurora, HMS Penelope and the British destroyer HMS Lively. The Italian tanker Iridio Mantovani (10540 GRT, built 1939) and the Italian destroyer Alvise da Mosto will also be sunk in the same sortie.

8 Dec 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) ended her 9th war patrol at Alexandria.

22 Dec 1941
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) departed from Alexandria for her 10th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol of the West coast of Greece.

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


HMS Thunderbolt 10th war patrolclick here for bigger map

2 Jan 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) damaged the Italian merchant Anna Capano (1216 GRT, built 1897) with gunfire off Argostoli, Keffalonia Island, Greece.

(All times are zone -2)
1243 hours - In position 195° Vardiani Light 2 nautical miles sighted a small steam vessel of about 1500 tons in ballast on course 310°distance 4 nautical miles and bound for Argostoli.

1313 hours - Surfaced in position 135° Vardiani light 0.8 nautical mile. Gunned the merchant ship from a range of 2000 yards. 30 Rounds were fired before a shore battery found the range and shells began to straddle Thunderbolt. Broke off the action and dived. At least 10 hits were obtained. The merchant ship was last seen heading towards Argostoli in a cloud of steam with a list of 10 degrees to port and down by the stern.

The Anna Capano was beached North of Lardigo Point.

4 Jan 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) sank the Italian auxiliary minesweeper R 195 / Nuovo San Pietro (32 GRT) with gunfire west off Keffalonia Island, Greece in position 38°07'N, 20°20'E.

(All times are zone -2)
0848 hours - HE was heard bearing 080° and two minutes later sighted masts of a vessel hull down on a course North-West.

0900 hours - The vessel was seen to alter course to 257° and was identified as an auxiliary minesweeper (fishing vessel).

0927 hours - Surfaced in position 38°07'N, 20°20'E and gunned the minesweeper from 800 yards. The minesweeper opened fire with a machine gun but this was soon silenced. After several rounds the Italian flag was struck. Fire was then suspended to allow the crew to abandon ship. This was done and five survivors left in a Carley float. The vessel sank after a few more hits had been obtained. Thunderbolt dived when a shore battery opened fire.

9 Jan 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) ended her 10th war patrol at Alexandria.

21 Jan 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) departed from Alexandria for her 11th war patrol. She is to patrol off the West coast of Greece.

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


HMS Thunderbolt 11th war patrolclick here for bigger map

30 Jan 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) fires four torpedoes against the German merchant Thessalia (2875 GRT, built 1922) about 7 nautical miles to the west of Cape Dukato in position 38°35'N, 20°25'E. One of the escorts, the Italian torpedo boat Solferino reports being missed.

(All times are zone -2)
0809 hours - Sighted a Generali class torpedo boat proceeding to the North-West from Cape Dukato Light.

0905 hours - Forced deep by a patrolling aircraft. Whilst deep two depth charges were heard exploding.

0918 hours - Returned to periscope depth. In position 38°35'N, 20°25'E sighted a medium seized merchant ship and two torpedo boats as escorts bearing 343° distance 6500 yards on a course of 160°. The Port wing escort was the one seen previously. The Starboard escort was probably of the Curtatone class.

0939 hours - Fired 3 torpedoes from 2500 yards. At the time of firing the third torpedo the torpedo boat was in line with the target and was coming directly towards Thunderbolt at 1000 yards. Lt.Cdr. Crouch went deep and altered course. The torpedo boat dropped 2 depth charges that shook the submarine. 27 more depth charges were dropped. All torpedoes must have missed their target.

This convoy was made up of the German merchant Thessalia (2875 GRT, built 1922) escorted by the Italian torpedo boats Solferino and Generale Carlo Montanari.

1 Feb 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) torpedoed and sank the Italian merchant Absirtea (4170 GRT, built 1913) about 4.4 nautical miles bearing 291° of Cape Dukato, Greece in position 38°35'N, 20°27'E.

(All times are zone -2)
1030 hours - In position 291° Cape Dukato Light 4.4 nautical miles sighted, in poor visibility, a convoy of two merchant ships escorted by two destroyers. Range was 4200 yards, enemy course was 130°. Manouvered into an attack position inside the screen.

1043 hours - Fired a salvo of 3 torpedoes from 1000 yards. Thunderbolt remained at periscope depth to attack the other merchant. One of the torpedoes was seen to hit the target between the stern and the mainmast. The other merchant immediately went hard to starboard making an attack impossible so Lt.Cdr. Crouch took Thunderbolt deep. 21 Depth charges were dropped following the attack. The first few were close causing minor damage.

1335 hours - Took a look at the ship that was about a mile away. It sank shortly afterwards.

According to Italian sources the Absirtea was in convoy with the German merchant Macedonia (2875 GRT, built 1922) They were on passage from Brindisi to Corfu and Patras. They were escorted by the Italian destroyers Turbine and Euro. The latter picked up her survivors.

3 Feb 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) damaged the Italian auxiliary submarine chaser AS 80 / Lanciotto Piero (180 GRT) with gunfire off Gheregambe.

(All times are zone -2)
0820 hours - In position 230° Vardiani Island Light 4 nautical miles sighted an armed trawler and a minesweeper leave Argostoli and proceed in company down the searched channel on course 265° as far as position 250° Vardiani Island Light 6.7 nautical miles.

1010 hours - The two ships parted company. The minesweeper went further South to sweep. The trawler remained stopped for 20 minutes.

1105 hours - Surfaced and engaged the trawler with the gun. In all 40 rounds were fired and when it was thought that the ship was sinking Lt.Cdr. Crouch dived. The trawler however remained afloat. She could not be finished off as two Motor Torpedo Boats were rushing to the scene shortly afterwards.

1216 hours - An aircraft was seen patrolling the area.

1226 hours - One of the Motor Torpedo Boats was seen to close at high speed. Went deep.

1247 hours - A depth charge was dropped quite close. The hunt continued for almost and hour with 9 more depth charges being dropped. These were not as close as the first one.

The Lanciotto Piero was only slightly damaged.

6 Feb 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) attacks German U-boat U-431 south-west of Crete in position 34°36'N, 23°22'E with in all 8 torpedoes. Thunderbolt is also attacked by the German U-boat with one torpedo. None of the torpedoes fired by both submarines hit the other. Besides that is seems likely that both submarines were unaware they were attacked themselves as well, there is no mention in either patrol reports of being fired at.

(All times are zone -2)
0811 hours - Sighted a German U-boat in position 34°36'N, 23°22'E. Bearing 175°, range about 3 nautical miles, course 300°.

0818 hours - Fired 6 torpedoes from 3000 yards. One torpedo broke surface but this was apparently not seen by the U-boat for no alteration of course was made. All these torpedoes missed.

0825 hours - Fired 2 torpedoes from 3000 yards. Two and a half minute after firing an explosion was heard. This explosion was followed after 13 seconds by another explosion. The explosions sounded like torpedo explosions and Lt.Cdr. Crouch thought he had hit the U-boat so did Thunderbolt's crew as they cheered. When Lt.Cdr. Crouch looked through the periscope he saw the U-boat still on the surface and on the same course.

0832 hours - Surfaced and engaged the U-boat with gunfire. After three rounds the U-boat had dived (or disappeared).

Capt. S.M. Raw, CBE, RN the Commanding Officer of the 1st submarine flotilla however thought that the submarine had been sunk, taking quite some time to sink.

9 Feb 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) ended her 11th war patrol at Alexandria.

1 Mar 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) departed from Alexandria bound for the U.K. where she is to refit. First she has to call at Malta to unload stores.

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


HMS Thunderbolt passage Alexandria - U.K.click here for bigger map

7 Mar 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) arrived at Malta. She unloads 16.000 gallons of kerosene, stores, mail and 10 Mark VIII torpedoes. She leaves Malta to proceed to Gibraltar in the afternoon.

14 Mar 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) arrived at Gibraltar.

17 Mar 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) departed from Gibraltar for the U.K.

27 Mar 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) arrived at Holy Loch.

28 Mar 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) departed from Holy Loch for Blyth.

30 Mar 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO, RN) arrived at Blyth.

3 May 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) departed from Blyth for Plymouth where she is to refit at the Devonport Dockyard.

7 May 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) arrived at the Devonport Dockyard.

12 Oct 1942
With her refit completed HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) departed from Portsmouth for Holy Loch.

14 Oct 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) arrived at Holy Loch.

31 Oct 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) departed from Holy Loch for Port H.H.Z. (at Loch Cairnbawn). She arrived the next day.

10 Nov 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) departed from the secret area of Port H.H.Z. (at Loch Cairnbawn) for Malta. She is equipped with two containers on deck behind the conning tower. The containers houses Chariot 'human torpedoes'. For security reasons she does not stop at Gibraltar as her new silhouette would certainly be noted by Italian spies.

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


HMS Thunderbolt passage U.K. - Maltaclick here for bigger map

29 Dec 1942
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) departed from Malta for her 12th war patrol. She is to launch Chariot human torpedoes to attack shipping in Palermo harbour (Operation Principal).

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


HMS Thunderbolt 12th war patrolclick here for bigger map

2 Jan 1943
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) launches two Chariots. One of these enters the harbour successfully and sank the Italian light cruiser Ulpio Traiano that was under construction at the CNR shipyard.

Chariot XV (T/Petty Officer J.M. Miln and Able Seaman W. Simpson) was lost with due to unknown causes prior to entering harbour. Simpson was lost, but Miln survived.

Chariot XXII (Lt. Greenland and Leading Seaman Ferrier) sank the Ulpio Traiano, her crew was captured by the Italians.

The transport Viminale was also damaged by one the three chariots launched by HMS Trooper.

6 Jan 1943
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) ended her 12th war patrol at Malta.

17 Jan 1943
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) departed from Malta for her 13th war patrol. She is to launch Chariot human torpedoes to attack shipping in Tripoli harbour (Operation Welcome). This is to prevent the Germans from using the ships at Tripoli to block the harbour during the evacuation.

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


HMS Thunderbolt 13th war patrolclick here for bigger map

18 Jan 1943
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) launches her two Chariots of the harbour of Tripoli.

(All times are zone -1)
2100 hours - Surfaced in position 33°04'N, 12°56'E to carry out operation Welcome.

2159 hours - Sighted a dark shape bearing red 45°. This was identified as an Italian motor torpedo boat.

2208 hours - In position 315° Tripoli Light 7 nautical miles launched the two Chariots.

2304 hours - Retired from the area and proceeded back to Malta.

--------------------------------------------------------------------
Chariot XII (Sub. Lt. G.S.W. Larkin, RNVR, Petty Officer Cook Berey) and Chariot XIII (Sub. Lt. Stevens, C.E.R.A. Buxton) were to sink two block ships. The San Giovanni Batista (5628 GRT, built 1913) and Giulia (5921 GRT, built 1925) before the Italians could use them to block Tripoli harbour. Because of defects, Sub. Lt. Larkin and Petty Officer Cook Berey were forced to abandon their mission, sinking their Chariot near the shore. They were captured by the Germans but managed to escape and rejoin the 8th Army. The other crew entered harbour but their main charge did not detonate. It was believed that Giulia may have been damaged by limpet mines but this is not certain, the two men were captured.

20 Jan 1943
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) ended her 13th war patrol at Malta. As her next patrol is to be a regular war patrol the Chariot containers are removed.

5 Feb 1943
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) departed from Malta for her 14th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol in the Adriatic.

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


HMS Thunderbolt 14th war patrolclick here for bigger map

8 Feb 1943
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) damaged the Italian sailing vessel Maria Grazia Siliato with gunfire 12 nautical miles east of Brindisi, Italy in position 40°38'N, 18°17'E.

(All times are zone -1)
0624 hours - In position 40°38'N, 18°17'E sighted a three-masted camouflaged schooner of approximately 300 tons bearing 130°, range 6000 yards, course 270°, speed 3 knots. It was proceeding on the engine, no sails were set. Altered course to close.

0723 hours - Surfaced for gun action, range 1500 yards. 8 Rounds had been fired for 5 hits when an aircraft was seen approaching. Crash dived. The schooner had developed a slight list to starboard. As the aircraft patrolled the area any further action against the schooner was not taken.

10 Feb 1943
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) attacked a merchant ship of about 1500 tons with two torpedoes in position 43°29'N, 15°58'E. Both torpedoes missed their target.

(All times are zone -1)
0920 hours - Sighted a small merchant vessel of about 1500 tons that was coast crawling round the Southern end of Smokvica Island. Started attack.

0933 hours - Fired two torpedoes from 2500 yards. The targets speed was not estimated correctly and the torpedoes missed ahead and were seen to explode on hitting the shore.

The target was the Italian merchant Totonno (674 GRT, built 1899) on a trip from Sebenico to Split, she was missed but sank five days later when she hit a mine

12 Feb 1943
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) attacks an enemy convoy. All torpedoes fired during the attack missed their intended targets.

(All times are zone -1)
0848 hours - In position 225° Mulo Island 2.7 nautical miles sighted 2 medium seized merchant ships and 2 small merchant ships escorted by a former Yugoslav torpedo boat of the T5/8-class leaving the Drevnik Channel on course 254°, distance approx. 6 nautical miles.

0932 hours - Fired three torpedoes at the largest ship.

0935 hours - Fired two torpedoes at the second largest ship. Went to 80 feet after firing. The results of the attack therefore were not observed.

0937 - 0946 hours - The torpedo boat dropped 15 depth charges. These caused only minor damage.

0946 hours - Thunderbolt hit bottom hard at 200 feet. Both motors were immediately stopped.

1019 hours - Thunderbolt finally got off the bottom and returned to periscope depth.

1037 hours - Six small depth charges exploded. A motor launch was seen about a mile away.

According to Italian sources this convoy was made up of the following ships; The Italian merchants Diana (3476 GRT, built 1923), Eneo (545 GRT, built 1907), Spalato (896 GRT, built 1909) and the German merchant Gerda Toft (1960 GRT, built 1930). They were escorted by the Italian (former Yugoslav) torpedo boat T 5.

13 Feb 1943
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) sank the Italian auxiliary minesweeper No.112 / Mafalda (44 GRT) with gunfire off Isola Molat, Croatia in position 44°12.5'N, 14°49.5'E.

(All times are zone -1)
0828 hours - In position 340° Veli Rat Lighthouse 3 nautical miles sighted masts of a vessel coming past Golac Island on course 230°.

0905 hours - Surfaced and sank the vessel with gunfire, 28 rounds and one pan of Oerlikon being used. The target was a drifter type minesweeper.

Thunderbolt was shelled by coastal batteries and forced to withdraw to the North-West.

15 Feb 1943
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) fired three torpedoes against a merchant ship. All torpedoes missed their target.

(All times are zone -1)
0804 hours - In position 202° Sunk Rock Lighthouse 3.5 nautical miles sighted a steamship bearing 028° distant 6 nautical miles. Course approx. 070°, speed unknown.

0837 hours - In position 199° Sunk Rock Lighthouse 2.3 nautical miles sighted a medium seized steamship on course 135°, bearing 345°, distance 4 nautical miles. Started attack and closed at full submerged speed for 9 minutes.

0846 hours - The target altered course. Thunderbolt was now not an a favourable attack position so the attack was broken off.

0852 hours - Sighted another vessel bearing 330°, distance 2 nautical miles. This vessel was also thought to make the same alteration of course so it was now taken into account when an attack was started on this target.

0902 hours - In position 123° Sunk Rock 0.6 nautical miles fired three torpedoes from 2800 yards. All torpedoes missed as the speed was underestimated. It was the intention to surface for gun action but when the torpedoes exploded upon hitting the shore the targets gun was manned and started shooting in the direction of the torpedo tracks. With the element of surprise now gone, Lt.Cdr. Crouch reluctantly decided to abandon the attack.

The target was target was the Italian passenger ship Sebenico (897 GRT, built 1922) proceeding to Arsia.

18 Feb 1943
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) attacks the Italian auxiliary minelayer F 95 / San Giorgio (364 GRT, built 1914) with gunfire off Cape Promontore.

(All times are zone -1)
1557 hours - In position 150° Sunk Rock 3 nautical miles sighted the masts and funnel of a ship bearing 070° on course 180°. Later the course varied considerably as did the speed. An hour later the ship was identified as a patrol vessel. It had a 3" or 4" gun forward and a light AA gun on the superstructure behind the funnel.

1703 hours - The target stopped for 3 or 4 minutes before getting underway.

1714 hours - The target stopped again.

1721 hours - As the target was still stopped one torpedo was fired. from 600 yards. The torpedo failed to hit the target, most likely it ran under.

1722 hours - The target opened fire at the periscope. Thunderbolt went deep. Four depth charges were dropped close by.

1736 hours - Returned to periscope depth and saw the target 3000 yards on the starboard quarter going away.

1743 hours - Surfaced for gun action, range 5500 yards. The target made several alterations of course and fired a few erratic rounds and then decided to clear off as fast as she could towards Cape Promontore.

1759 hours - Broke off the action at 8000 yards due to the failing light. 66 Rounds had been fired for quite a few hits. A hit aft resulted in quite a certain amount of smoke.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
According to Italian sources the torpedo did pass under the San Giorgio. According to her action report, she fired three rounds with her gun and dropped two depth-charges then two more during a second run. Thunderbolt surfaced and opened fire. The San Giorgio fired back 32 rounds. She was not hit by Thunderbolt.

19 Feb 1943
In position 010° Ortona, Italy 3 nautical miles HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) attacks a tug towing a dredger and two small leighters with gunfire. The tug and dredger take several hits before Thunderbolt is forced to dive by gunfire from a shore battery.

Later this day Thunderbolt shells a train crossing the bridge over the Asinella river.

(All times are zone -1)
0741 hours - In position 010° Ortona, Italy 3 nautical miles sighted a tug towing a dredger and two small leighters on course 320°.

0805 hours - Surfaced at 1800 yards. It was not possible to close any more due to the shallow water. 21 Rounds had been divided between the tug and the dredger for a couple of hits before a few rounds from a shore battery fell within 50 yards. Dived. The tug for a while continued on her original course before steering for the nearest shore slipping her tow. The tug then made off for Ortona.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
According to Italian sources the targets were the tug Cattaro No.73 (with a crew of 7) and dredger Veglia No.455 (with a crew of 12) on passage to Ancona. The Cattaro No.73 was hit on the bridge and had two wounded.

The train was confirmed hit south of Ancona and had some wagons damaged but there were no casualties

20 Feb 1943
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) damaged an Albanian schooner with gunfire off Bari.

(Al times are zone -1)
0757 hours - Whilst carrying out a reconnaissance of the harbour of Bari, sighted a fairly large three-masted topsail schooner making for the harbour entrance.

0838 hours - Surfaced for gun action, range 800 yards. After firing 19 rounds (that was all that was left) fire was opened by a shore battery or by the armed merchant cruiser that was in the harbour.

0845 hours - Dived. The schooner was seen to fly the Albanian flag. The crew had abandoned ship. The schooner then drifted towards the shore. One mast was shot away and the rest was in shambles.

----------------------------------------------------------------------
According to Italian sources the target was the Albanian Villanzen Veli (with 448 tons of stores) proceeding from Bari (she had just left) to Brindisi and Valona. The submarine came under fire by a 120mm coastal battery and from the auxiliary Brindisi which was in Bari harbour. Villanzen Veli was actually abandoned by her crew who took to a boat but left the engine running. She finally ran aground on the coast and was reached by the customs motor vessel M.L.7 and the pilot boat Letizia. The crew later boarded her again and brought her to Bari. She had been slightly damaged by the gunfire and the grounding.

22 Feb 1943
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) intends to shell a train with the Oerlikon gun (as no 4" ammunition was left) of Punto Stilo. Unfortunately the first round misfired and when the gun was cleared the train was out of range.

24 Feb 1943
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) ended her eventful 14th war patrol at Malta.

9 Mar 1943
HMS Thunderbolt (Lt. Cdr. Celil Bernard Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) departed from Malta for her 15th war patrol. She is to patrol to the West of Marettimo island and the North coast of Sicily.

12 Mar 1943
It is possible that HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN) was lost during the attack on an Axis convoy on this day.

According to Italian sources (kindly provided by Mr. Platon Alexiades) the following happened that day:
The convoy at the time (2219/14) of possible attack by HMS Thunderbolt on Esterel (about 6 nautical miles East of Capo San Vito, Sicily, Italy) was composed of the French merchants (in German service) Esterel (3100 GRT, built 1938) and Caraibe (4048 GRT, built 1932'. They were escorted at that time by the Italian torpedo boats Sirio (escort leader), Orione, Cigno, Libra and the Italian corvettes Persefone and Cicogna. It is not known if Esterel was attacked by a submarine or was torpedoed by an aircraft.

The Italian tanker Sterope (10496 GRT, built 1940), that had also been part of this convoy, had been torpedoed by aircraft about an hour before (2135/14) and the Italian torpedo boats Pegaso and Generale Antonino Cascino were detached to escort her to Palermo.

The Italian torpedo boat Ardito had abandoned the escort earlier in the day because of engine defects.

The two MTBS (VAS 231 and VAS 232 according to the Italian Official History (the action reports that Mr. Alexiades has seen mention only two ?MAS? boats without identifying them) only joined Esterel a few minutes after she was torpedoed (probably they sighted the torpedo explosion and vectored in).

It is also possible that the corvette Persefone was not in the immediate vicinity as she was picking up three British airmen who had just been shot down (probably a Beaufort from 39th Squadron).

Following the attack the Esterel is towed to Trapani, where she arrived 1420 hours on the next day. She was later declared a total loss.
The Sterope is towed to Palermo and on 9 September 1943 scuttled at Genoa.

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