Allied Warships

HMS Thames (N 71)

Submarine of the River class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeSubmarine
ClassRiver 
PennantN 71 
Built byVickers Armstrong (Barrow-in-Furness, U.K.) 
Ordered1 Sep 1930 
Laid down6 Jan 1931 
Launched26 Jan 1932 
Commissioned14 Sep 1932 
Lost3 Aug 1940 
History

HMS Thames (Lt.Cdr. William Donald Dunkerley, RN) was possibly mined in the North Sea, on the way back from her patrol area to her base at Dundee, in early August 1940. She was reported overdue on 5 August 1940 after she was supposed to have returned to Dundee on 3 August 1940.

It is also possible that HMS Thames was lost following her attack on the German battlecruiser Gneisenau on 26 July 1940. One of the escort vessels of the Gneisenau, the torpedo boat Luchs, was sunk in this attack. See below for the event of 26 July 1940 for more details of this attack.

 

Commands listed for HMS Thames (N 71)

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CommanderFromTo
1Cdr. Denis Vaughan Sprague, RN27 Dec 19394 Jul 1940 (+)
2Lt.Cdr. William Donald Dunkerley, RN4 Jul 1940Jul/Aug 40

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Notable events involving Thames include:


The history of HMS Thames as compiled on this page is extracted from the several reports of the Submarine Branch and logbooks of several other ships. No logbooks or reports are available for this submarine as she was lost on her first war patrol after a long refit.

This page was last updated in November 2017.

7 Jul 1940
Having completed a long refit at the Devonport Dockyard, HMS Thames (Lt.Cdr. W.D. Dunkerley, RN), departed Plymouth for the Clyde area.

HMS Thames had arrived at Plymouth for a long refit on 8 July 1939. It was expected that her refit would take about 6 months but strain on the Dockyard due to wartime conditions and repair work to vessels with a higher priority kept delaying the work on HMS Thames. It therefore took almost a year for the refit to be completed. (1)

8 Jul 1940
HMS Thames (Lt.Cdr. W.D. Dunkerley, RN) arrived in the Clyde area for a period of trials and training. (1)

10 Jul 1940
At 0740 hours, HMS Thames (Lt.Cdr. W.D. Dunkerley, RN), arrived at Rothesay and secured on HMS Cyclops (A/Capt. E.H. Longsdon, RN). Thames departed again to continue her trial and exercise program at 1530 hours. She returned again at 1845 hours. (2)

11 Jul 1940
At 0515 hours, HMS Thames (Lt.Cdr. W.D. Dunkerley, RN), cast off from HMS Cyclops (A/Capt. E.H. Longsdon, RN) for a day of exercises in the Clyde area. Thames returned at 1900 hours and berthed outboard of HMS Talisman (Lt.Cdr. P.S. Francis, RN) on the port side of HMS Cyclops (A/Capt. R.L.M. Edwards, RN (who had taken over command of HMS Cyclops from A/Capt. E.H. Longsdon in the afternoon)). (2)

12 Jul 1940
At 1400 hours, HMS Thames (Lt.Cdr. W.D. Dunkerley, RN) and HMS Talisman (Lt.Cdr. P.S. Francis, RN) both cast off from HMS Cyclops (A/Capt. R.L.M. Edwards, RN) Talisman proceeded to Greenock where she anchored for the night before proceeding to the Scotts shipyard the next morning. Most likely HMS Thames went on to the torpedo firing range at Arrochar. (3)

13 Jul 1940
It is reported by the 7th Submarine Flotilla that torpedo salvo firing trials of HMS Thames (Lt.Cdr. W.D. Dunkerley, RN) had gone 'entirely unsatisfactory'. It was suggested that the sailing of HMS Thames was to be delayed until satisfactory salvo firing trials had been carried out and defects had been made good. (1)

17 Jul 1940
The 7th Submarine Flotilla now reported that torpedo salvo firing trials of HMS Thames (Lt.Cdr. W.D. Dunkerley, RN) had now been satisfactory performed. (4)

18 Jul 1940
HMS Thames (Lt.Cdr. W.D. Dunkerley, RN) returned to Rothesay from the torpedo firing range at Arrochar.

19 Jul 1940
At 2000 hours, HMS Thames (Lt.Cdr. W.D. Dunkerley, RN), cast off from HMS Cyclops (A/Capt. R.L.M. Edwards, RN) and departed Rothesay for Dundee. She was escorted by HMS White Bear (Capt. R. Gill, RNR). (5)

21 Jul 1940
HMS Thames (Lt.Cdr. W.D. Dunkerley, RN) arrived at Dundee. (4)

22 Jul 1940
HMS Thames (Lt.Cdr. W.D. Dunkerley, RN) departed Dundee for her 1st war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off the south-west coast of Norway. (6)

26 Jul 1940
HMS Thames (Lt.Cdr. W.D. Dunkerley, RN) torpedoed and sank the German torpedo boat Luchs in the North Sea in approximate position 58°27'N, 04°12'E.

Luchs was part of the escort for the damaged German battlecruiser Gneisenau that was on passage from Trondheim, Norway to Kiel, Germany. Other ships of the escort were light cruiser Nürnberg, destroyers Z 5 / Paul Jacobi, Z/14 Friedrich Ihn, Z/20 Karl Galster, torpedo boats Iltis, Jaguar and Kondor.

The counter-attack by the escort of the Gneisenau is reported to have been ineffective and it is very doubtful that HMS Thames was lost as a result of it. This is why the general concensus is that she was mined on her return trip. Of course we may never know the exact cause of the loss of HMS Thames unless the wreck is found. It is however strange that HMS Thames did not make an enemy report following her attack as the Gneisenau was a very important target.

The sinking of the Luchs is often credited to HMS Swordfish. but this is incorrect.

Sources

  1. ADM 199/2572
  2. ADM 53/111913
  3. ADM 53/111913 + ADM 173/16582
  4. ADM 199/373
  5. ADM 199/373 + ADM 53/111913
  6. ADM 199/1905

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


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