Allied Warships

HMS Thorn (N 11)

Submarine of the T class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeSubmarine
ClassT 
PennantN 11 
Built byCammell Laird Shipyard (Birkenhead, U.K.) 
Ordered4 Sep 1939 
Laid down20 Jan 1940 
Launched18 Mar 1941 
Commissioned26 Aug 1941 
Lost6 Aug 1942 
Loss position34° 25'N, 22° 36'E
History

HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. Robert Galliano Norfolk, DSO, RN) was most likely sunk while attacking a convoy about 30 nautical miles south-west of Gavdos Island in position 34º25'N, 22º36'E. At 1255 hours one of the escorting Ju-88 aircraft was seen to machine-gun the surface of the sea about 5000 yards ahead of the convoy and the Italian torpedo boat Pegaso moved in to investigate. Four minutes after the aircraft attack, Pegaso picked up a contact and carried out seven depth charge attacks. At 1345 hours an enormous air bubble was seen, followed by a large oil slick. Pegaso was escorting the transport Istria (5441 GRT, built 1921) on passage from Benghazi to Piraeus.

HMS Thorn was declared overdue on 11 August 1942 when she did not arrive at Beirut.  

Commands listed for HMS Thorn (N 11)

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CommanderFromTo
1Lt.Cdr. Robert Galliano Norfolk, RN27 Jun 19416 Aug 1942 (+)

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Notable events involving Thorn include:


The history of HMS Thorn as compiled on this page is extracted from Thorn'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.

This page was last updated in October 2015.

23 Aug 1941
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) departed her builders yard at Birkenhead for Holy Loch. She was escorted by HMS White Bear (Cdr. (retired) C.C. Flemming, RN). (1)

24 Aug 1941
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) arrived at Holy Loch to begin a period of trials and training. (1)

22 Sep 1941
After a short period of trials and training on the West coast of Scotland HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) departed from Holy Loch for Gibraltar. She is to proceed to Alexandria to join the 1st Submarine Flotilla. During passage south through the Irish Sea she was escorted by HMS White Bear (Cdr. (retired) C.C. Flemming, RN).

No map of the passage to Gibraltar can be displayed as no log for September 1941 is available. (2)

25 Sep 1941
At 2130 hours HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) was informed of the presence of a U-boat in 45°59.5'N, 09°37'W and attempted to intercept but nothing was seen. (2)

29 Sep 1941
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) arrived at Gibraltar. (2)

3 Oct 1941
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) departed from Gibraltar for exercises off that base. She is to proceed to Malta as of 1900 hours (Time zone -1) the following day.

For the daily and attack positions of HMS Thorn during this passage see the map below.


HMS Thorn passage Gibraltar - Maltaclick here for bigger map (3)

8 Oct 1941
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) attacks an Italian convoy of one merchant ship and one escorting destroyer about 50 nautical miles West-North-West of Isola di Marettimo in position 38°12'N, 11°11'E. All torpedoes fired missed their intended targets.

(All times are zone -1)
1838 hours - Sighted a merchant vessel of about 3000 tons escorted by a destroyer of the Sauro or Sella class bearing 120°, range 8000 yards. The course of the merchant vessel was 055°, speed 8 knots. The destroyer was zig-zagging ahead but shortly afterwards steadied on the same course as the merchant vessel. Started attack.

1856 hours - Fired two torpedoes against the destroyer from 6000 yards.

1858 hours - Fired two torpedoes against the merchant. Range was also 6000 yards.

No explosions however followed and both ships continued on their course as if nothing happened.

For the moment (Feb. 2012) we have no information about the composition of this convoy. (3)

10 Oct 1941
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) arrived at Malta. (3)

13 Oct 1941
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) departed from Malta for her 1st war patrol. She was ordered to patrol in the Ionian Sea off the West coast of Greece. She exercised with HMS Abingdon (Lt. G.A. Simmers, RNR) before departing.

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


HMS Thorn 1st war patrolclick here for bigger map (3)

20 Oct 1941
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN), HMS Truant (Lt.Cdr. H.A.V. Haggard, DSC, RN) and HMS Trusty (Lt.Cdr. W.D.A. King, DSO, DSC, RN) are ordered to form a patrol line in the Ionian Sea to intercept a convoy that was expected to proceed from Taranto to Brindisi. (3)

27 Oct 1941
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) ended her 1st war patrol at Alexandria. (3)

10 Nov 1941
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) departed from Alexandria for her 2nd war patrol. She was ordered to patrol in the Aegean Sea and to perform two special operations.

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


HMS Thorn 2nd war patrolclick here in bigger map (4)

13 Nov 1941
At 2050 hours (zone -2) a torpedo was fired accidentally from No.2 tube with the front door closed, fracturing it. The torpedo was heard to explode. (4)

14 Nov 1941
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) carries out the first part of her special operation. During the evening personnel and stores were landed on Despotiko Island, Greece.

1945 hours (14th) to 0115 hours (15th) - Landed Captain Grammatikakis, Lieutenant J.G.P. Atkinson and Sergeants J.A. Redpath and A.B. Empson with three tons of stores, this was an operation for M.I.9, to arrange a pickup of escapees. (4)

16 Nov 1941
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) makes a torpedo attack on the Turkish relief ship Kurtulus (1756 GRT, built 1883) South-East of the Gulf of Athens. The torpedo fired luckily missed it's target as the Kurtulus was granted safe passage.

(All times are zone -2)
2043 hours - Sighted a illuminated vessel bearing 310°, distance 5 nautical miles. Closed to attack.

2143 hours - Fired one torpedo from 700 yards. As Thorn was yawing due to the heavy weather conditions the torpedo missed. Just now the ship was identified as a Turkish relief ship that was not to be attacked. (4)

20 Nov 1941
Shortly after noon on 20 November 1941 HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) sighted a convoy leave the Gulf of Athens proceeding South. The convoy was thought to be making for either Suda Bay or leave the Aegean to the West.

Lt.Cdr. Norfolk could not reach a favourable attack position during the night if the convoy was to proceed towards Suda Bay. Therefore course was set to the Anti-Kythira Channel to intercept if the convoy was to leave the Aegean to the West. The convoy however was not seen again and was most likely en-route to Suda Bay. (4)

23 Nov 1941
During the night of 23/24 November 1941 HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) carries out the 2nd part of her special operation. 21 Escapees were picked up from Despotiko. Captain Grammatikakis and Sergeant Redpath remained behind to prepare for another batch of escapees (see also HMS Triumph). (4)

24 Nov 1941
At 1748 hours (zone -2) HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) shelled a power station in Voudia Bay (36°44'56"N, 24°31'57"E), 25 rounds were expended and 17 hits were claimed. (4)

27 Nov 1941
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) ended her 2nd war patrol at Alexandria. (4)

18 Dec 1941
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) departed from Alexandria for her 3rd war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off the West coast of Greece. En-route to her patrol area she is to pass to the North of Crete.

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


HMS Thorn 3rd war patrolclick here for bigger map (4)

20 Dec 1941
0001 hours to 0200 hours (zone -2) - HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) attempted to carry out a bombardment of the harbour of Spinalonga (near Candia, Crete) but the target was hardly visible and it was abandoned.

At 1125 hours - Thorn was examining the harbour from about three cables from the entrance and her periscope came under fire, forcing her to retire. (4)

22 Dec 1941
0655 hours to 0804 hours (zone -2) - HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) was in position 114°, 12 nautical miles from Cape Drepano when she was depth-charged by two torpedo-boats, one of them similar to Albatros. Five depth-charges were dropped singly, the first was a small depth charge but very close.

These torpedo boats belonged to a convoy made up of the Italian merchants Citta di Alessandria (2498 GRT, built 1930), Citta di Agrigento (2480 GRT, built 1930) and Citta di Savona (2500 GRT, built 1930) escorted by the armed merchant cruiser Brioni (1987 GRT, built 1931), the torpedo-boats Lupo, Sirio and Lira and the submarine chaser Drache. (4)

28 Dec 1941
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) makes a torpedo attack on the Italian tanker Volturno (3424 GRT, built 1914) about 10 nautical miles West-South-West of Cape Dukato, Greece. All torpedoes fired missed so Thorn surfaced and engaged the target with gunfire. This action had to be broken off due to the fact that Thorn was not able to decrease the range.

(All times are zone -2)
0759 hours - In position 38°31'N, 20°22'E sighted the funnel and masts of a merchant vessel bearing 130°, range 8000 yards. The course of the vessel was 250°.

0812 hours - The contact was seen to be a tanker of about 3000 tons. Started attack.

0820 hours - Fired three torpedoes from 2000 yards. The first torpedo was seen to break surface and then ran off to the right. The other two torpedoes missed.

0850 hours - Surfaced and engaged the target with the deck gun from 4000 yards. The enemy replied with gunfire from 2 guns 3" or 4" calibre. After 10 minutes the range had increased to 5000 yards. Two hits were obtained but the range could not be closed. The attack had to be broken off. (4)

30 Dec 1941
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) torpedoed and sank the Italian tanker Campina (3032 GRT, built 1913) about 5 nautical miles west off Cape Dukato in position 38°35'N, 20°27'E.

(All times are zone -2)
1608 hours - In position 38°37'N, 20°28'E sighted two vessels bearing 135°. Range was 13000 yards. Closed submerged at high speed. The vessels were later seen to be a passenger / cargo ship of 5000 tons and a tanker of about 6000 tons. Both were steering a course of 290°. Started attack.

1641 hours - Fired six torpedoes from 1400 yards at the tanker. Three explosions were heard about 1min30sec after firing. An escort, thought to be a torpedo boat was seen about 2000 - 3000 yards on the tankers quarter.

1646 hours - Thorn was counter attacked with in all 61 depth charges but none was close.

According to Italian sources the ships in this convoy were the above mentioned Campina. She was escorted by the Armed Merchant Cruiser Egitto. Campina and Egitto were joining up with another convoy bound from Patras for Taranto. This convoy was escorted by the torpedo-boat Pegaso and the submarine chaser Spanedda (the latter from X Gruppo Antisom). Spanedda fired four rounds at the periscope and dropped 10 depth-charges. (4)

5 Jan 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) ended her 3rd war patrol at Alexandria. (4)

17 Jan 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) departed from Alexandria for her 4th war patrol. She is to patrol in the Adriatic. Two special operations are also to be carried out.

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


HMS Thorn 4th war patrolclick here for bigger map (5)

25 Jan 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) attempts to carry out special operation ' Hydra '. A party of four was to be landed at Petrovac, Croatia. Due to the worsening weather conditions the attempt had to be abandoned.

It was decided to proceed towards Mljet Island to carry out operation ' Henna '. A party of two had to be landed. (5)

27 Jan 1942
In the early morning hours HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) carries out special operation ' Henna '. Yugoslav Lt. Rapotec and former police agent Steven Shinko and stores were landed on Mljet Island, Croatia near Saplunara. (5)

28 Jan 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) torpedoed and sank the Italian merchant Ninuccia (4583 GRT, built 1910) off Cape Planka, Yugoslavia in position 43°30'N, 15°55'E. Before being sunk with a torpedo the ship had been missed with four other torpedoes. She had then been engaged and damaged with gunfire.

Shortly afterwards Thorn grounded at a depth of 80 feet. Some damage was inflicted and a number of torpedo tubes could not be used anymore.

(All times are zone -2)
1030 hours - Sighted a merchant vessel bearing 120°, range 12000 yards. Started attack.

1121 hours - Fired three torpedoes from 800 yards. All missed. Two torpedoes were heard to explode on the shore.

1129 hours - Surfaced and engaged the target with the 4" gun from 600 yards. The first round appeared to have disabled the ships steering gear.

1137 hours - 30 Rounds had now been fired. All were hits. The enemy was slowly proceeding towards the shore. Another torpedo was fired but was seen to run off track and it missed. Meanwhile the gun action had continued.

1146 hours - Thorn was now taken under fire from a shore battery and dived after firing 71 rounds at the target. Most of these had hit. The target was riddled with holes amidships and on fire. She showed no signs of sinking.

1155 hours - Fired one torpedo from 500 yards. It hit near the funnel.

1202 hours - The enemy was seen to sink by the stern with a list to Starboard in position 090°, Mulo Island lighthouse, 1000 yards.

1205 hrs - Thorn grounded accidentally east of Mulo island but managed to free herself.

According to Italian sources Ninuccia was proceeding from Palato to Fiume. (5)

30 Jan 1942
The Italian submarine Medusa (commanded by C.C. Enrico Bertarelli, 599 tons, built 1932, offsite link) was sunk in the Adriatic near Promontore, Istria, Italy in position 44°45'N, 13°56'E by the British submarine HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN).

(All times are zone -2)
1354 hours - Sighted a submarine bearing 050°, range 5000 yards.

1402 hours - Fired four torpedoes from 3500 yards. One hit was obtained. Enemy HE ceased immediately.

Three wounded and four corpses were picked up by the Italians. The submarine had sunk in 35 meters of water and rescue efforts were organized immediately. Tapping was heard from the hull and 14 men were still alive but all attempts to rescue them failed and in all 58 perished and only two survived. (5)

3 Feb 1942
Between 1945 and 2100 hours (time zone -2) HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) carries out special operation ' Hydra '. Major Atherton, Corporal O'Donovan (wireless operator), Flying Officer Medelkovic and Sergeant Djekic were landed near Petrovac, Croatia. (5)

11 Feb 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) ended her 4th war patrol at Alexandria. (5)

25 Feb 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) departed from Alexandria for her 5th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off the West coast of Greece. En-route to her patrol area she is to pass to the North of Crete.

While at Alexandria divers had inspected the damage from the grounding on 28 January. Thorn had to be docked for repairs but this was not possible at that moment, all docks were in use for other ships. Thorn therefore proceeded on patrol with 4 of her bow torpedo tubes out of order.

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


HMS Thorn 5th war patrolclick here for bigger map (5)

5 Mar 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) sank the Italian auxiliary patrol vessel AS 91 / Ottavia (259 GRT) with gunfire position 270°, Cape Ortholiti, 1500 yards.

(All times are zone -2)
0915 hours - In position 205°, Cape Gheroghambo, 2.5 nautical miles sighted a sailing vessel bearing 070°, range 5 nautical miles. Course of the enemy was 260°, speed was only 3 knots. Lt.Cdr. Norfolk decided to follow and to engage with the gun when the enemy was far enough from Argostoli to be unobserved.

1115 hours - Heard Asdic impulses bearing 080°.

1130 hours - Sighted a two-funnelled destroyer thought to be of the Confienza-class. in position 38°06'N, 20°22'E. The course of the enemy was 190°, speed 12 knots.

1200 hours - The destroyer was seen to alter course to 120°. She was soon lost out of sight bearing 125°. Meanwhile the sailing vessel was seen to be a brigantine of about 200 tons. She was armed with a 12pdr gun forward. She was now proceeding Northwards.

1454 hours - Surfaced for gun action in position 38°16'N, 20°20'E. Range to the target was 500 yards.

1505 hours - The enemy was now well on fire aft and all her sails were down. Her hull was a shambles and she was well down by the stern. Thorn then dived as it was expected that the destroyer sighted earlier would be rushing in.

1535 hours - The target blew up and sank. Shortly afterwards the destroyer was sighted coming from the South along with an aircraft. Two depth charges were dropped but these were way off. (5)

6 Mar 1942
Shortly before midnight HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) was ordered to take up a patrol position in the Gulf of Taranto. (5)

9 Mar 1942
0900 hrs (zone -2) - HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) was informed by signal (S.10's 1247B/9) of a large convoy with cruiser and destroyer escort in 32°46'N, 16°38'E at 1100B/9 expected to reach Thorn's position between 2300/10 and 0700/11. Nothing however was sighted. (5)

17 Mar 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) ended her 5th war patrol at Alexandria. (5)

23 Mar 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) departed from Alexandria for Port Said. (6)

24 Mar 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) arrived at Port Said. (6)

28 Mar 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) is docked at Port Said. No log of Thorn is available from 1 April 1942 and onwards. It is not known when she was undocked. (6)

12 Apr 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) departed from Port Said for Alexandria. (7)

13 Apr 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) arrived at Alexandria. She returns to Port Said immediately.

As no logs of HMS Thorn are available for April 1942 onwards it is not known to us why Thorn had to go back to Port Said but most likely she has to be docked again. (7)

14 Apr 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) arrived back at Port Said. (7)

18 Apr 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) departed from Port Said for Alexandria. (7)

19 Apr 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) arrived at Alexandria. (7)

20 Apr 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) departed from Alexandria for her 6th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol in the Gulf of Sirte.

As no log is available no map can be displayed. (5)

7 May 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) fires four torpedoes against an Italian convoy in the central Mediterranean about 180 nautical miles north-west of Benghazi, Libya in position 34°34'N, 17°56'E. All four torpedoes missed their intended target.

(All times are (most likely) zone -3)
1732 hours - In position 34°34'N, 17°59'E sighted smoke bearing 335°. Turned towards.

1802 hours - Sighted masts and funnels of three merchant ships. Range 10000 yards, course 170°. Five escorting aircraft had also been sighted.

1815 hours - Sighted two destroyers, one ahead of the convoy and one on the Port beam.

1822 hours - Fired four torpedoes at the leading merchant ship from 3000 yards. A counter attack followed that lasted about one hour. 35 Depth charges were dropped. Two patterns of five each that were dropped in the beginning were fairly close but caused no damage.

According to Italian sources this convoy was made up of the Italian merchants Anna Maria Gualdi (3289 GRT, built 1908), Trapani (1855 GRT, built 1926) and Capo Arma (3172 GRT, built 1905) escorted by destroyers Ugolino Vivaldi and Turbine and torpedo-boat Pegaso. The interception had been achieved following an ULTRA signal. (5)

14 May 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) ended her 6th war patrol at Alexandria. (5)

27 May 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) departed from Alexandria for her 7th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol in the Gulf of Sirte and the Ionian Sea.

No log is available for this period so no map can be displayed. (5)

10 Jun 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) was ordered to depart from the Gulf of Sirte and take up a patrol position in the Ionian Sea. (5)

15 Jun 1942
0226 hours (zone -3) - HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) was ordered to intercept a battleship, two cruisers and two destroyers in position 37°30'N, 19°35'E, steering 190°, 20 knots. At 0747 hours she sights the masts of a battleship at 12000 yards but cannot get within attacking range. (5)

17 Jun 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) was ordered to patrol off the West coast of Greece. (5)

26 Jun 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) ended her 7th war patrol at Alexandria. (5)

29 Jun 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) departed from Alexandria for Haifa. Her arrival date at Haifa is not known to us but was most likely 30 or 31 June. It is likely she was docked at Haifa before she proceeded to join the rest of the 1st submarine flotilla that was now based at Beirut. (7)

21 Jul 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) departed from Beirut for her 8th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off Tobruk. Later she is to shift her patrol area to the North-West of Crete (Cape Matapan area) (8)

26 Jul 1942
The small German merchant vessel Ostia (359 GRT, built 1905, former Spanish Nere-a-Metza) reported being missed with two torpedoes close to Bardia. If this is a genuine attack then the culprit must have been HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN). (9)

29 Jul 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) had encountered many targets in the Tobruk area and requested permission to stay in that area. This was approved. Thorn had to vacate the area by around 5 August as HMS Taku (Lt.Cdr. J.G. Hopkins, RN) was to arrive in the Tobruk area on the 6th.

3 Aug 1942
It is often stated that HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) had torpedoed and sank the Italian transport ship Monviso (5322 GRT, built 1941) 8 nautical miles bearing 333 from Sidi Sueicher, Libya. This is however unlikely. Thorn had orders to operate near Tobruk until 6 August and then to patrol off Cape Matapan before returning to base.

Monviso was most likely mined.

Media links


The T-class Submarine

Kemp, Paul J.

Sources

  1. ADM 199/400
  2. ADM 199/1119
  3. ADM 173/17025
  4. ADM 199/1152
  5. ADM 199/1218
  6. ADM 173/17596
  7. ADM 199/2572
  8. ADM 199/1925
  9. http://warsailors.com/forum/read.php?1,62119,62119#msg-62119

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


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