HMS Spearfish (N 69)
Submarine of the S class
|Navy||The Royal Navy|
|Built by||Cammell Laird Shipyard (Birkenhead, U.K.)|
|Ordered||18 Feb 1935|
|Laid down||23 May 1935|
|Launched||21 Apr 1936|
|Commissioned||11 Dec 1936|
|Lost||1 Aug 1940|
|Loss position||58° 07'N, 1° 32'E|
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. John Hay Forbes, DSO, RN) sailed from Rosyth on 31 July 1940. The next day she was hit by 1 torpedo from the German submarine U-34 and sank about 130 nautical miles north-east of Aberdeen, Scotland in position 58º07'N, 01º32'E. U-34 was returning from her last patrol as a combat boat. She had only one torpedo remaining after a succesful patrol (already 4 ships sunk). The U-boat picked up the sole survivor from HMS Spearfish.
Hit by U-boat
|U-boat Attack||See our U-boat attack entry for the HMS Spearfish|
Commands listed for HMS Spearfish (N 69)
Please note that we're still working on this section.
|1||Lt. John Henry Eaden, RN||17 Dec 1938||12 Nov 1939|
|2||Lt.Cdr. John Hay Forbes, RN||31 Jan 1940||2 Aug 1940 (+)|
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Notable events involving Spearfish include:
The history of HMS Spearfish as compiled on this page is extracted from the patrol reports and logbooks of this submarine.
This page was last updated in August 2017.
25 Aug 1939
At 0523 hours, HMS Spearfish (Lt. J.H. Eaden, RN) left her sister ships and set course for her patrol area to the south-west of Stavanger, Norway. When the war with Germany commenced this became her 1st war patrol.
For the daily positions of HMS Spearfish during this patrol (from 23 August 1939 onwards) see the map below.
3 Sep 1939
HMS Spearfish (Lt. J.H. Eaden, RN) was ordered to patrol further to the east.
At 1121 hours it was thought a torpedo track crossed the bow of Spearfish and that she was attacked by an enemy submarine. No enemy submarines were however in the area and the attack was bogus. (2)
7 Sep 1939
HMS Spearfish (Lt. J.H. Eaden, RN) ended her 1st war patrol at Dundee. (2)
20 Sep 1939
HMS Spearfish (Lt. J.H. Eaden, 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 Spearfish during this patrol see the map below.
24 Sep 1939
HMS Spearfish (Lt. J.H. Eaden, RN) was heavily damaged by German warships off Horns Reef. She was unable to submerge but nevertheless managed to escape. A rescue mission was undertaken by the British Humber force and Home fleet. Spearfish safely put in Rosyth on the 27th. Repairs to Spearfish were completed in early March 1940.
(All times are zone -1) 24 September 1939 0346 hours - Dived in position 55°20'N, 06°50E.
0420 hours - Heard a curious 'gurgling grunt' noise. Heard very faint HE ahead. Spearfish was severly handicapped by not being able to use her Asdic in the shallow water.
0713 hours - A depth charge exploded vibrating the whole submarine. Bottomed in 84 feet and stopped all machinery possible and listened carefully. Except for the intermittent 'gurgling grunt' all was quiet.
0800 hours - Position was now 55°12'N, 06°50'E.
0900 hours - Decided to come to periscope depth and have a look as nothing had been heard for nearly two hours except for the 'gurgling grunts'. Went to diving stations.
0905 hours - The ballast pump had hardly been running for three minutes when a heavy depth charge exploded quite close and shook the submarine. It blew the steering motor fuses but otherwise did no damage. It was now apparent that Spearfish was being hunted. Immediately stopped all machinery.
The enemy remained in the area for the whole day until at .....
1720 hours - Some form of wire or grapnel was heard passing over the after jumping stay. Next a bump on the after casing followed by a series of short bumps moving aft. The charge thn exploded with a most appaling crash. The whole ship appeared to spring inwards and then open out again. Nearly all lights were smashed including glass shades. Ordered the crew to diving stations, switch on secondary lighting and investigate the damage. Immediate damage was as follows: Engine room pressure hull and frames badly pushed in and leaking. Port main motor cooler burst and port main motor switchboard covered in water. Serious HP air leaks. Main battery ventilation drain running water.
As soon as it became apparent that there was no immediate danger of the ship flooding up, new light bulbs were fitted, broken glass carefully swept up and HP air leaks stopped as far as possible. Apart from this no more was done to avoid making any more noise.
Although more charges were expected after the first charges no more followed. Decided to remain down because it was quite possible that the emeny was not aware that Spearfish had been hit and damaged. The crew meanwhile behaved magnificently to the highest standards of the submarine service.
1800 hours - Issued a tot of rum to all officers and crew and made them lie down to conserve air which was getting very foul. Several of the crew were breathing heavily.
1830 hours - The bow started to lift sharply and then fall back with a thud. This was repeated about 20 times. This was most likely caused by swinging to the tide.
1920 hours - Mustered all hands. Explained the intention to blow all tanks by 2030 hours to get to the surface. If there was an ememy in sight on surfacing we would engage them. Started to prepair for surfacing.
2000 hours - Position still 55°12'N, 06°50'E.
2043 hours - All hand at dining stations. Blew main ballast and surfaced. No enemy in sight. Visibility was about three nautical miles. Proceeded slow ahead on the main motor on a course of 35 degrees.
2100 hours - Started the starboard engine.
2245 hours - Started the port engine. Meanwhile repairs were carried out to the damage which included smashed W/T aerials.
25 September 1939 0500 hours (approx) - Passed signals for assistance on fully rigged aerial. They had not been passed earlier for fear of D/F. Closed to within three neatical miles of Danish territorial waters.
0720 hours - Altered course to 320° to make for the Norwegian coast.
0804 hours - Sighted smoke coming from the southward. Could not wait to verify the smoke but they might well be enemy patrols. Altered course towards Danish waters. Patrolled near Danish territorial waters.
1435 hours - Sighted two large single wing float planes to the southward. The nearest passed about four nautical miles away. Avoided detection by keeping within 500 yards of some sand dunes and steaming slow on one engine. Manned the Lewis gun and two rifles.
1543 hours - Sighted two float planes, possibly the same two returning, the nearest machine was flying very low and passed two to three nautical miles away. Manned the Lewis gun and the rifles as before.
2005 hours - Set course to 287° to make for rendez-vous position signalled by Capt.(D) 6. (2)
26 Sep 1939
At 0043 hours, HMS Spearfish (Lt. J.H. Eaden, RN) arrived at the rendez-vous point ordered. Two minutes later two Tribal class destroyers were sighted. These were HMS Matabele (Cdr. G.K. Whitmy-Smith, RN) and HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St. J.A. Micklethwait, RN).
At 0700 hours they were joined by the light cruisers HMS Sheffield (Capt. E. de F. Renouf, CVO, RN), HMS Aurora (Capt. G.B. Middleton, RN) as well as destroyer HMS Somali (Capt. R.S.G. Nicholson, DSC, RN).
Aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. A.J. Power, RN)
Heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk (Capt. A.G.B. Wilson, MVO, DSO, RN)
Destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. C.S. Daniel, RN) HMS Fame (Cdr. P.N. Walter, RN) HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN) HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, RN) HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN) HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN) HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, RN) HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN) HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN) HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN) HMS Mashona (Cdr. P.V. McLaughlin, RN) HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, DSO, RN) HMS Tartar (Capt. G.H. Warner, DSC, RN) HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, RN) HMS Jupiter (Lt.Cdr. D.B. Wyburd, RN) (3)
27 Sep 1939
HMS Spearfish (Lt. J.H. Eaden, RN) arrived at Rosyth ending her 2nd war patrol. (3)
28 Sep 1939
HMS Spearfish (Lt. J.H. Eaden, RN) was docked at Rosyth to examine the damage. (3)
29 Sep 1939
HMS Spearfish (Lt. J.H. Eaden, RN) was undocked. (3)
30 Sep 1939
HMS Spearfish (Lt. J.H. Eaden, RN) shifted from Royth to Newcastle where repairs were to be undertaken at the Swan Hunter shipyard. (3)
11 Mar 1940
With the repairs completed, HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN), commenced trials off Newcastle. (4)
13 Mar 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) conducted trails off Newcastle, upon completion of these she proceeded to Blyth. (4)
15 Mar 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) departed Blyth for Scapa Flow. (4)
17 Mar 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) arrived at Scapa Flow for a period of training. (4)
30 Mar 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) departed Scapa Flow for Blyth. (4)
2 Apr 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) arrived at Blyth. (5)
5 Apr 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) departed Blyth for her 3rd war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off the western entrance to the Skagerrak.
For the daily and attack positions of HMS Spearfish during this patrol see the map below.
7 Apr 1940
At 1153 hours (zone -1), HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN), was attacked by a German aircraft near position 56º46'N, 07º00'E. One bomb was dropped when Spearfish passed 20 feet. Spearfish bottomed hard at 95 feet. Some minor damage was caused. (2)
8 Apr 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) was ordered to patrol close west of the Skaw. (6)
9 Apr 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) was ordered to patrol between the Skaw and the Swedish coast. (6)
10 Apr 1940
During the evening, HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN), was hunted and depth charged by 'what was thought to be' a German Leberecht Maass class destroyer. (2)
11 Apr 1940
While patrolling in the Kattegat HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) torpedoed and damaged the German pocket battleship Lützow six nautical miles north of Skagen, Denmark in position 57°50'N, 11°00'E putting her out of action for over a year as repairs were only completed in June 1941.
(All times are zone -1) 0029 hours - Spearfish was on the surface, doing 12 knots on the main engines. The First Lieutenant sighted the bow wave of a ship bearing green 80° (couse of Spearfish was 270°), range was about 3000 yards.
0030 hours - As the enemy was thought to be one of the destroyers that hunted Spearfish the previous day the stern was turned on to the enemy.
Shortly afterwards the enemy was identified as being a large warship. Started attack.
0033 hours - The torpedo tubes were reported ready. Within half a minute started firing six torpedoes from 2500 yards.
0034 hours - Turned on the motors to course 270°.
0035 hours - Proceeded at 12 knots on main engines.
0038 hours - Heard a heavy explosion. Continued to the westward at high speed. Made an enemy report. (2)
15 Apr 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) was ordered to leave patrol and return to base. Lt. Forbes however had decided to return to base the previous evening due to several defects. (6)
17 Apr 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) ended her 3rd war patrol at Blyth. (2)
18 Apr 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) was docked at Blyth. (5)
25 Apr 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) was undocked. (5)
12 May 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) departed Blyth for her 4th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off Flamborough Head.
For the daily and attack positions of HMS Spearfish see the map below.
14 May 1940
In the evening Spearfish is ordered to take up a new patrol position in the North Sea (zone A 3), to the north-west of Texel, the Netherlands. (6)
20 May 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) sank the Danish fishing vessels S 130 / Orkney and S 175 / Söstjernen with gunfire in the North Sea in approximate position 54°58'N, 03°35'E.
(All times are zone -1) 0115 hours - Sighted a white light thought to be a fishing vessel.
0153 hours - Whilst working round to bring the white light 'up moon' from Spearfish. Sighted a small dark object on the port beam, distance two nautical miles. Turned towards and dived to 45 feet.
0240 hours - Came to periscope depth. Made out a fishing boat without lights, range was now 250 yards.
0255 hours - Surfaced. Took of the crew (two men, two boys and a dog). Whilst they were going down the conning tower hatch a periscope was sighted 500 yards away. Dived.
0333 hours - Surfaced. Saw that the periscope was a dan buoy. Picked up the dog which had been left on the casing when Spearfish dived at 0255 hours. Attempted to sink the fishing vessel by ramming. Got our bow stuck in the fishing vessel and Spearfish only came lose after going full astern for 10 minutes. Sank the fishing vessel with five rounds of HE.
0350 hours - Proceeded on the surface towards the second fishing vessel.
0405 hours - Dived for an aircraft approaching from the north.
0430 hours - Surfaced.
0450 hours - Took of the crew (three men) of the second fishing vessel and sank it with three rounds of HE.
0500 hours - Dived. (2)
24 May 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) ended her 4th war patrol at Blyth. (2)
3 Jun 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) departed Blyth for her 5th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol in the North Sea.
For the daily positions of HMS Spearfish during this patrol see the map below.
18 Jun 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) ended her 5th war patrol at Blyth. (2)
23 Jun 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) was docked at Blyth. Also the battery was to be replaced. (6)
29 Jun 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) was undocked. (6)
3 Jul 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) departed Blyth for her 6th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off the northern Dutch coast.
For the daily position during this patrol see the map below.
17 Jul 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) ended her 6th war patrol at Blyth. (2)
24 Jul 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) shifted from Blyth to Rosyth. (6)
31 Jul 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) departed Rosyth for her 7th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off Stavanger, Norway relieving HMS Snapper (Lt. W.D.A. King, DSO, RN). (6)
- ADM 173/16114
- ADM 199/1843
- ADM 173/16115
- ADM 173/16541
- ADM 173/16542
- ADM 199/373
ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.
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