Allied Warships

HMS Thorn (N 11)

Submarine of the T class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeSubmarine
ClassT 
PennantN 11 
ModSecond Group 
Built byCammell Laird Shipyard (Birkenhead, U.K.) 
Ordered4 Sep 1939 
Laid down20 Jan 1940 
Launched18 Mar 1941 
Commissioned26 Aug 1941 
Lost7 Aug 1942 
Loss position34° 25'N, 22° 36'E
History

HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. Robert Galliano Norfolk, DSO, RN) failed to return to Beirut from her 8th war patrol, as ordered, on 11 August 1942.

The most likely explanation for her loss is that HMS Thorn was sunk by the Italian torpedo boat Pegaso while attacking a convoy about 30 nautical miles south-west of Gavdos Island in position 34°25'N, 22°36'E. If this is indeed the cause of loss of HMS Thorn, it would mean that she was late in leaving her patrol area. Until the wreck of HMS Thorn is found we will never know for sure what happened to her.

[For a detailed analysis of the last patrol of HMS Thorn see the events listed below.] 

Commands listed for HMS Thorn (N 11)

Please note that we're still working on this section
and that we only list Commanding Officers for the duration of the Second World War.

CommanderFromTo
1Lt.Cdr. Robert Galliano Norfolk, RNJul 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 and was created in November 2011. 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 May 2024 and now includes a lot of details on signals sent to her and of Axis shipping proceeding through her patrol area during Thorn's last war patrol from which she failed to return.

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.(Retd.) 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.

[No logs are available for HMS Thorn for the months of August and September 1941 so details for these months will be missing.] (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 around 0900A/22, for Gibraltar. She is to proceed to Alexandria to join the 1st Submarine Flotilla. During passage south through the Irish Sea she was escorted until Bishop Rock by HMS White Bear (Cdr.(Retd.) C.C. Flemming, RN). They parted company around 2359A/23.

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

25 Sep 1941
At 2130A/25, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) was informed (in a signal timed 2008A/25 from the Flag Officer Submarines) of the presence of a U-boat in 45°59.5'N, 09°37'W. HMS Thorn attempted to intercept but nothing was seen.

At 1304A/25, an aircraft had spotted a large submarine on the surface in position 45°58'N, 06°32'W. Enemy course was 270° at a speed of 15 knots. This must have referred to the German submarine U-126 which was very close to this position at this time according to her log. She did not reported sighting an aircraft though. (2)

29 Sep 1941
Around 1515A/29, 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 two days of exercises off that base. She is to proceed to Malta as of 1900A/4 the following day.

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

(3)

5 Oct 1941
At 1430A/5, in approximate position 36°21'N, 00°41'W, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) sighted four merchant vessels proceeding on a course of 330°. They were presumed to be Vichy-French coming from Oran and were evaded. [So far, we have been unable to identify these ships.]

[The patrol report gives the position as 36°21'N, 00°41'E but this is incorrect as the log gives West instead of East. Besides that the position with East does not make sense.] (3)

8 Oct 1941
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) attacked 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 misse.

Most likely the ship was the Italian transport Una (1395 GRT, built 1904). She had left Tripoli around 1245 hours on the 6th and arrived at Naples around 2330 hours on the 9th. She was escorted by the Italian destroyer Euro.

1838B/8 - 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.

1856B/8 - Fired two torpedoes against the destroyer from 6000 yards.

1858B/8 - 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. (3)

10 Oct 1941
Around 1520B/10, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) arrived at Malta. (3)

13 Oct 1941
Around 1600B/13, 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. (3)

13 Oct 1941
For the daily positions of HMS Thorn during her 1st war patrol see the map below.

18 Oct 1941
At 1215B/18, off Kefalonia Island, in position 38°03'N, 20°18'E, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) sighted a lightly laden caique steering 250°. She was not attacked so as not to give away the submarines position. (3)

19 Oct 1941
At 1325B/19, south off Cape Ieraki, Zakynthos, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) sighted a caique steering 090°. She was not attacked so as not to give away the submarines position.

At 1630B/19, a schooner was seen hull down close inshore near Cape Trepito, Peloponnese. She was proceeding northwards. Again no attack was made. (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)

22 Oct 1941
Late in the evening, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) departed her patrol area to proceed to Alexandria. (3)

27 Oct 1941
Around 1230B/27, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) ended her 1st war patrol at Alexandria. (3)

10 Nov 1941
Around 1215B/10 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. Before proceeding on patrol A/S exercises were carried out (see below).

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

(4)

10 Nov 1941
HMAS Napier (Capt. S.H.T. Arliss, RN), HMAS Nizam (Lt.Cdr. M.J. Clark, RAN) conducted A/S exercises off Alexandria during which HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) acted as target.

On completion of the exercises the destroyers returned to Alexandria while the submarine proceeded on patrol. (5)

13 Nov 1941
At 2050B/13, 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.

Between 1945B/14 and 0115B/15, Captain Grammatikakis, Lieutenant J.G.P. Atkinson and Sergeants J.A. Redpath and A.B. Empson with three tons of stores were landed, 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 had been granted safe passage.

Earlier in the day a merchant vessel of around 2500 tons (estimated) had been sighted but it passed out of range. [So far we have been unable to identify the vessel Thorn had sighted.]

1231B/16, When 3 miles south-east of Gaidaro Island sighted masts and funnel of a small merchant vessel bearing 290° at a range of 10000 yards. Enemy course was 140°. Closed at full speed but the enemy altered course to the westward and passed on the other side of a known minefield. Enemy course was now 210° at a speed of 7 knots.

1320B/16, Broke off the chase when two miles short of the minefield. The hull of the enemy had never been seen but it is thought to have been an engines aft ship, most likely a tanker.

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2040B/16 - When on the surface 7 miles south of Cape Sounion, in approximate position 37°33'N, 24°01'E, sighted a illuminated vessel bearing 310°, distance 5 nautical miles. Closed to attack.

2143B/16 - Fired one torpedo from 700 yards at the ship, thought to be a 3000 tons merchant vessel. 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)

18 Nov 1941
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) is ordered to patrol the next two or three days on the route Piraeus - Antikithera to intercept southbound convoys.

19 Nov 1941
At 0645B/19, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) sighted what is thought to be a Nembo-class destroyer proceeding on course 320° at 18 knots. Position was 160° - Gaidaro - 5 nautical miles (approximately 37°34'N, 23°54'E). No attack was made.

The 'destroyer' sighted may have been the torpedo boat Lince proceeding from Leros to Piraeus where she arrived at 1110B/19.

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. The convoy was made up of three merchant vessels and was escorted by what is thought to be a Nembo-class destroyer. The position of the convoy was 300° - Gaidaro Islands - 5 nautical miles (approximately 37°42'N, 23°50'E). No attack was possible at the time the convoy was sighted.

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 Antikithira 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.

The convoy sighted was probably the convoy made up of the transports Citta di Alessandria (Italian, 2498 GRT, built 1930), Citta di Savona (Italian, 2500 GRT, built 1929) and Citta di Agrigento (Italian, 2480 GRT, built 1930) escorted by the Italian armed merchant cruiser Brioni (1987 GRT, built 1931) and the Italian torpedo boats Alcione and Castelfidardo. They had sailed from Piraeus at 1400B/19 and arrived Heraklion, Crete at 1210B/21. (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 the page of HMS Triumph). (4)

24 Nov 1941
At 1748B/24, 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. HMS Thorn then set course for Kaso Strait to return to Alexandria. (4)

27 Nov 1941
Around 1200B/27, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) ended her 2nd war patrol at Alexandria. (4)

18 Dec 1941
Around 1630B/18, 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.

(4)

20 Dec 1941
Between 0001B/20 and 0200B/20, 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 1125B/20, 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
Between 0655B/22 and 0804B/22, 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 merchanrt vessels 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.

In the evening course was set to leave the area and proceed towards the west coast of Greece. (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.

0759B/28 - 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°.

0812B/28 - The contact was seen to be a tanker of about 3000 tons. Started attack.

0820B/28 - 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.

0850B/28 - 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.

According to Italian sources the ships in this convoy was 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.

1608B/30 - 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.

1641B/30 - 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.

1646B/30 - Thorn was counter attacked with in all 61 depth charges but none was close. (4)

31 Dec 1941
Around 2000B/31, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) departed her patrol area to return to Alexandria.

5 Jan 1942
Around 0930B/5, 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.

(6)

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. (6)

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. (6)

28 Jan 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) torpedoed and sank the Italian merchant vessel 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.According to Italian sources Ninuccia was proceeding from Palato to Fiume.

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.

1030B/28 - Sighted a merchant vessel bearing 120°, range 12000 yards. Started attack.

1121B/28 - Fired three torpedoes from 800 yards. All missed. Two torpedoes were heard to explode on the shore.

1129B/28 - Surfaced and engaged the target with the 4" gun from 600 yards. The first round appeared to have disabled the ships steering gear.

1137B/28 - 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.

1146B/28 - 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.

1155B/28 - Fired one torpedo from 500 yards. It hit near the funnel.

1202B/28 - The enemy was seen to sink by the stern with a list to Starboard in position 090°, Mulo Island lighthouse, 1000 yards.

1205B/28 - Thorn grounded accidentally east of Mulo island but managed to free herself. (6)

29 Jan 1942
At 1522B/29, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) sighted a merchant vessel of about 1500 to 2000 tons in position 180° - Cape Promontore (now called Cape Kamenjak) - 1 mile (approximately 44°45'N, 13°55'E). Enemy course was 080° at a speed of 8 knots. The enemy ship passed out of range.

30 Jan 1942
The Italian submarine Medusa (C.C. Enrico Bertarelli) 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).

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.

More shipping had been sighted before and after this attack but none could be attacked.

Thorn was patrolling south of Cape Promontore during this day. The following shipping was seen during the day;

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0955B/30, Sighted a submarine on course 080° at a speed of 8 knots. She passed out of range. This was most likely the Medusa proceeding to the exercise area but it could also have been the Goffredo Mameli which was also out for exercises.

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1035B/30, Sighted a 1500 tons merchant vessel in ballast. She was on course 080° at a speed of 8 knots. She passed out of range.

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1045B/30, Sighted a two-funnelled torpedo boat. She was on course 080° at a speed of 15 knots. She passed out of range. She was subsequently seen again further to the east around 1230-1300B/30. [This two-funnelled torpedo boat was most likely the Italian torpedo boat Insidioso. By the time of the Second World War she had only two funnels. When built she had three but the forward funnel was removed at some time.]

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1330B/30, Sighted a small merchant vessel of about 300 tons with a small gun on the ships poop. She was on course 080° at a speed of 8 knots. She passed out of range.

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1354B/30 - Sighted a submarine bearing 050°, range 5000 yards.

1402B/30 - Fired four torpedoes from 3500 yards. One hit was obtained. Enemy HE ceased immediately. Following the sinking Thorn retired to the southward.

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1400B/30 - During the attack on the submarine a merchant vessel was sighted proceeding on course 250° at a speed of 8 knots. She was not attacked as the attack on the submarine was ongoing. This was the italian Carlo Zeno (1446 GRT, built 1906).

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1530B/30 - Sighted the two-funnelled torpedo boat again. She was on course 250° at a speed of 20 knots. (6)

31 Jan 1942
At 0800B/31, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) sighted the two-funnelled torpedo boat and what are thought to be two Sella or Sauro class destroyers patrolling the area to the south of Cape Promontore. Also a large floating crane and four tugs or salavage vessels were sighted near the position where the submarine had been sunk yesterday.

At 1630B/31, the crane was still in position as were the four tugs / salvage vessels. One destroyer was patrolling near them.

3 Feb 1942
Between 1945B/3 and 2100B/3, 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. (6)

5 Feb 1942
Between 1030B/5 and 1330B/5, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) sighted a three-masted schooner patrolling on various courses in approximate position 270° - Cape Linguetta - 6 nautical miles (approximately 40°25'N, 19°09'E). She was kept at a distance of 2 to 4 miles. She was lost out of sight around 1330B/5. It was thought to be an auxiliary schooner equipped with a listening device.

11 Feb 1942
Around 0930B/11, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) ended her 4th war patrol at Alexandria. (6)

25 Feb 1942
Around 1630B/25, 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.

(6)

28 Feb 1942
At 0439B/28, when north of Crete, in position 35°42'N, 25°44'E, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) sighted what is thought to be an enemy patrol vessel about 1000 yards ahead. HMS Thorn quickly dived and appeared not to have been sighted.

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. (approximately 38°16'N, 20°20'E).

The 'destroyer' sighted was the Italian torpedo boat San Martino which was on A/S search (from Corfu to Patras) on this day.

0915B/5 - 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.

1115B/5 - Heard Asdic impulses bearing 080°.

1130B/5 - 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.

1200B/5 - 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.

1454B/5 - Surfaced for gun action in position 38°16'N, 20°20'E. Range to the target was 500 yards.

1505B/5 - 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.

1535B/5 - 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. (6)

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. (6)

9 Mar 1942
Around 0900B/9, 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 2300B/10 and 0700B/11. Nothing however was sighted. (6)

9 Mar 1942
In a signal timed 1247B/9, from Capt. S 10, HMS Torbay (Cdr. A.C.C. Miers, DSO, RN) and HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) were informed that an enemy 8" cruiser, two 6" cruiser, five destroyers and four merchant vessel had been sighted at 1100B/9 in position 32°46'N, 16°38'E proceeding on course 050° at 12 knots.

This referred to the.light cruisers Eugenio di Savoia, Garibaldi, Montecuccoli and the destroyers Ascari, Aviere, Geniere and Alfredo Oriani. These were providing cover for a convoy made up of the transports / tanker Giulio Giordani (Italian (tanker), 10534 GRT, built 1939), Lerici (Italian, 6070 GRT, built 1941), Ravello (Italian, 6142 GRT, built 1941) and Unione (Italian, 6070 GRT, built 1942) which had departed Tripoli around 2100B/8 boound for Taranto / Brindisi. On departure from Tripoli these four ships had been escorted by the Italian destroyer Strale and the Italian torpedo boats Procione and Clio. Later the destroyers Antonio Pigafetta and Scirocco also joined the convoy and at 1730B/10, the torpedo boat Arethusa also joined the convoy. (7)

11 Mar 1942
At 1359B/11, in position 39°59'N, 17°15'E, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) sighted what is thought to be an E-boat bearing 190° at a range of 3 nautical miles. She was laying stopped and was evaded.

At 1845B/11, HE of an E-boat was heard approaching. HMS Thorn was at 80 feet running the compressors to reduce the pressure inside the boat before surfacing. The compressors were immediately stopped.

At 1910B/11, four small depth charges were dropped in pairs. 15 minutes later HE of a second E-boat was picked up and she passed close down the port side and a pattern of six full size depth charges were dropped some distance away. A few more depth charges were dropped during the next 45 minutes.

2015B/11, HE faded and the submarine surfaced at 2207B/11.

The 'E-boats' encountered were probably the Italian motor torpedo boats MAS 441 and MAS 439.

17 Mar 1942
Around 0850B/17, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) ended her 5th war patrol at Alexandria. (6)

23 Mar 1942
Around 1740B/23, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) departed from Alexandria for Port Said. (8)

24 Mar 1942
Around 1530B/24, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) arrived at Port Said. (8)

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.] (8)

12 Apr 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) departed from Port Said for Alexandria. (9)

13 Apr 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) arrived at Alexandria but 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.] (9)

14 Apr 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) arrived back at Port Said. (9)

18 Apr 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) departed from Port Said for Alexandria. (9)

19 Apr 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) arrived at Alexandria. (9)

20 Apr 1942
Around 1900C/20, 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.] (6)

28 Apr 1942
At 0059C/28, east-north-east of Benghazi, in position 32°16'N, 19°27'E, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) sighted two ships bearing 210°. They were proceeding on a course of around 010°. One of the two ships was thought to be a Spica-class torpedo boat. They passed out of range.

29 Apr 1942
At 1347C/29, close inshore to the south of Benghazi, in position 31°37'N, 19°50'E, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) picked up HE bearing 180°. This turned out to be a three-funnelled torpedo boat proceeding on course 050°.

This was probably torpedo boat Generale Antonio Cantore. Cantore had been escorting the transport Salona (664 GRT, built 1913) and the motor tanker Ennio (464 GRT, built 1917) and auxiliary minesweeper Balear from Tripoli to Benghazi when both freighters ran aground in position 31°24'10"N, 20°01'15"E at 0405B/29. Cantore attempted to tow them away but, due to the bad weather, was unsuccessful and abandoned the attempt at 1040B/29. She was waiting for instructions when she met the motorboat Cotugno and three German E-boats. At noon, she was ordered with Cotugno to patrol 5-6 miles off the coast to discourage enemy submarines and to drop 30-kg intimidation depth charges. Thorn was only 15 miles away from the grounded ships but the poor visibility prevented her from spotting them and an opportunity was missed. Ennio was freed without damage and towed by the tug Porto Fossone to Benghazi where she arrived at 2000B/30. Salona was finally disengaged on 5 May 1942.

1 May 1942
At 1900C/1, off Ras Tayones, just south of Benghazi, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, RN) sighted what is thought to be an MASB. She was proceeding on a course of 200° at a speed of 10 to 12 knots. She passed at a range of 1500 yards.

At 2330C/1, in position 31°56'N, 19°44'E, a small vessel was sighted bearing 110° at a range of 4000 yards (up moon). HMS Thorn turned away but the vessel closed and HMS Thorn dived five minutes later. It is considered this may have been the same vessel sighted earlier in the day.

This was possibly motorboat Cotugno proceeding for patrol near the beached transport Salona (664 GRT, built 1913) about 12 miles farther to the south [see also the event for 29 April 1942.]. (6)

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.

According to Italian sources this convoy was made up of the Italian merchant vessels 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.

1732C/7 - In position 34°34'N, 17°59'E sighted smoke bearing 335°. Turned towards.

1802C/7 - Sighted masts and funnels of three merchant ships. Range 10000 yards, course 170°. Five escorting aircraft had also been sighted.

1815C/7 - Sighted two destroyers, one ahead of the convoy and one on the Port beam.

1822C/7 - 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. (6)

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

27 May 1942
Around 1900C/27, 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. Some exercises were carried out before proceeding on patrol.

[No log is available for this period so no map can be displayed.] (6)

3 Jun 1942
At 1403C/3, well north of Benghazi, in position 34°01'N, 20°16'E, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) sighted what are thought to be two Spica-class torpedo boats bearing 130° at a range of 5 nautical miles. Enemy course was 310° at 12 knots. They were seen patrolling the area for around four hours. (6)

4 Jun 1942
At 0126C/4, in position 34°32'N, 20°37'E, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) sighted what are thought to be two Spica-class torpedo boats bearing 090° at a range of 5000 yards. Enemy course was 180° at 10 knots. They were lost from sight to the southward at 0150C/4. They were considered to be the same two ships sighted the previous afternoon.

At 0409C/4, a convoy, which was expected, was sighted against the moon bearing 100° at a range of 5 to 6 miles. Enemy course was estimated as being 160° and 180°.

At 0415C/4, the convoy was seen to draw slowly ahead. Thorn was proceeding at full speed but and the chase continued for an hour after which it was obvious the convoy could not be overtaken. Course was then set direct to Benghazi hoping to encounter the convoy if it was to proceed there which was expected.

At 0515C/4, HMS Thorn dived in position 34°11'N, 20°46'E with the convoy bearing 150° at a range of 8 nautical miles.

At 1133C/4, when in position 34°04'N, 20°43'E, HMS Thorn sighted two Spica-class torpedo boats bearing 215° at a range of 5 miles. Enemy course 030° at 12 knots. There were then patrolling on various courses until disappearing steering 310°. One of them had closed to 500 yards while doing 18 knots.

At 1500C/4, HMS Thorn was informed by Capt. S.1 (in a signal timed 1253C/4) that a damaged ship was reported in position 34°10'N, 21°01'E. Course was set to proceed to that position. [This was the Italian transport Reginaldo Giuliani which had departed Taranto for Benghazi on 2 June escorted by the destroyer Freccia and the torpedo boats Partenope and Pegaso. The transport had been heavily damaged by aircraft and sank on 5 June while in tow by the Freccia.]

At 2052C/4, when in position 34°00'N, 20°46'E, smoke was sighted on bearing 135°.

At 2121C/4, sighted, in the last of the light, two Spica-class torpedo boats bearing 265° proceeding on course 350°. Went to 80 feet and proceeded to the south-east.

At 2202C/4, HMS Thorn came to periscope depth preparatory to surfacing. Three small depth charges were then to explode fairly close so immediately went deep again.

At 2300C/4, HMS Thorn surfaced in position 33°59'N, 20°49'E. A destroyer / torpedo boat was then sighted beam on bearing 350° at a range of 3000 yards. She was signalling to her consort a bit further away. Proceeded slowly on the surface on the main motors for about 15 minutes to increase the range and then set course to search for the damaged ship previously reported but she could not be found.

Italian sources give the following, The Spica-class torpedo boats sighted were most likely the torpedo boats Pallade and Climene from Benghazi on their way to reinforce the Reginaldo Giuliani-convoy (escort leader destroyer Freccia, with the torpedo boats Partenope and Pegaso). They were to join at 2200B/3 in position 36°00'N, 20°44'E (actually met at 2110B/3). Reginaldo Giuliani was hit astern by a torpedo dropped from an aircraft at 0245B/4 in position 34°07'N, 20°53'E. She was successively torpedoed by another other at 0453B/4. Despite these two hits, the merchantman remained afloat and there were hopes to save her. Freccia attempted to take her in tow but could not make any headway and the German tug Max Behrendt was sailed from Benghazi to assist her. In the meantime, the destroyer Euro from Benghazi had reinforced the escort at 0520B/5. At 0312-0500B/5, following orders from Freccia, Partenope sank the Reginaldo Giuliani with her 3.9" guns. (6)

6 Jun 1942
At 0010C/6, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN), received Capt. S.1's signal timed 1945C/4 reporting two small transports eastbound from Tripoli. Course was then set to Ras Tayones, just south of Benghazi to intercept them when they approached Benghazi. They were however not sighted. (6)

7 Jun 1942
At 2214C/7, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN), received Capt. S.1's signal timed 1227C/7 ordering Thorn to patrol to the west of 17°E. Course was set accordingly. (6)

10 Jun 1942
At 1440C/10, when in the western part of the Gulf of Sirte in position 32°02'N, 15°53'E, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN), sighted the masts of a merchant vessel and escorting torpedo boat bearing 200° at a range of 13000 yards. Commenced closing to attack at slow speed on account of the air escort which had been seen at the same time. Enemy course was estimated to be 350° at 8 knots.

1520C/10, Enemy speed was re-estimated as being 7 knots and it was seen that there were two merchant vessels instead of one. They were of around 2000 tons and in ballast. They were escorted by a Generali of Cosenz-class torpedo boat (three-funnelled), an E-boat or R-boat and an auxiliary trawler of about 300 tons. Decided only to attack if torpedoes could be fired from close range due to the merchant vessels being in ballast with very shallow draft and thus a great chance of the torpedoes running under.

1533C/10, When closing nicely for a shot from 1000 yards, the trawler, then at 1200 yards, was seen to alter course towards and the air escort was seen approaching at a height of 100 feet on the same bearing. It was thought Thorn had been sighted and also that there was enough time to go deep, pass underneath the trawler and then come up again and then set up another attack.

1539C/10, The trawler passed overhead.

1540C/10, Returned to periscope depth 200 yards astern of the trawler but found the position Thorn was now in unfavourable to fire torpedoes so reluctantly broke off the attack and set off in pursuit of the convoy working round their quarter to seawards.

1749C/10, Surfaced and proceeded at full speed to try to intercept the convoy but the enemy was not seen again.

Late in the evening HMS Thorn departed the Gulf of Sirte and take up a patrol position in the Ionian Sea for the upcoming operation 'Vigorous'.

The convoy sighted by Thorn was most likely the one made up of the transport Sant'Antonio (Italian, 1480 GRT, built 1919) and the refrigeration ship Amba Aradam (Italian, 405 GRT, built 1932) which were escorted by the torpedo boat Generale Antonio Cantore and the auxiliary submarine chaser Cotugno on passage from Benghazi to Tripoli. (6)

13 Jun 1942
At 0515C/13, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN), dived for a submerged patrol in 'Position W' (35°54'N, 20°07'E) which was her ordered position to provide cover during this part of 'Operation Vigorous'. (6)

15 Jun 1942
At 0226C/15, a signal was received ordering, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) to intercept a battleship, two cruisers and two destroyers in position 37°30'N, 19°35'E, steering 190° at 20 knots. At 0747C/15, she sights the masts of a battleship at 12000 yards but could not get within attacking range.

Later that day, at 2040C/15, in position 36°04'N, 19°04'E, a ship was sighted bearing 315° at a range of 8 miles. This was though to be a Spica-class torpedo boat. The enemy was proceeding on course 180° at 18 knots. The enemy was seen to alter course to the westwards at 2100C/15 but was soon lost from sight.

The ships sighted were part of the Italian Italian Battle Squadron made up of the battleships Littorio, Vittorio Veneto, the heavy cruisers Gorizia, Trento, light cruisers Giuseppe Garibaldi, Emanuele Filiberto Duca D'Aosta and the destroyers Alpino, Bersagliere, Mitragliere, Legionario, Freccia, Folgore, Aviere, Geniere, Camicia Nera and Corazziere. They had sailed from Taranto between 1235- 1410B on 14 June 1942 to operate against a convoy coming from Alexandria (operation 'VIGOROUS'). (6)

16 Jun 1942
At 2215C/16, a signal was received ordering HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) to patrol off the West coast of Greec within 50 miles from Navarino Bay. The patrol area was later expanded. (6)

18 Jun 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) patrolled the approach to Argostoli.

At 1530C/18, in position 38°09'N, 20°17'E, two caiques were seen bearing 100° at a range of 10000 yards. They were on course 280° and were escorted by a small motor A/S boat. All three turned around 16 minutes later presumably making for Argostoli. (6)

19 Jun 1942
At 1415C/19, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) is ordered by Capt. S.1 to leave patrol and return to Alexandria. (6)

20 Jun 1942
At 0519C/20, when in position 37°56'N, 20°08'E, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) is ordered by Capt. S.1 to patrol between positions 37°22'N, 20°15'E and 36°50'N, 20°59'E. course was set to proceed to the first position.

At 1559C/20, HMS Thorn is ordered by Capt. S.1 to return to Alexandria as had been previously ordered. (6)

26 Jun 1942
HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) ended her 7th war patrol at Alexandria. (6)

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. (9)

21 Jul 1942
Around 2000C/21 [this is according to her sailing instructions], HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) departed from Beirut for her 8th war patrol. She was (initially) ordered to patrol off Tobruk. (10)

24 Jul 1942
In a signal timed 1532C/24, Capt. S 1, ordered HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) to be about 30 miles to the eastward of Ras-el-Tin, Libya by dawn on the 26th.

This order was later cancelled in Capt. S 1's signal timed 2137C/25.

Movement perhaps in anticipation of;
(1) The tanker Rondine (Italian, 6468 GRT, built 1924) which ULTRA had revealed was now re- routed to Tobruk instead of Benghazi [signal of 0816B/23 and 1314B/23 to be found in file DEFE3/766/frames 3 & 64] and / or perhaps;
(2) The transport Tripolino (Italian, 1474 GRT, built 1912) escorted by the torpedo boat Clio expected to sail from Benghazi for Tobruk at 0800B/24 July [signal 1147B/23 to be found in file DEFE3/766/frame 18] [actually Tripolino and Pertusola (Italian, 1502 GRT, built 1882) escorted by the torpedo boat Clio and auxiliary Oriole sailed from Benghazi at 1730B/24 and arrived at Tobruk at 0759B/26] and / or perhaps
(3) The transport Vettor Pisani (Italian, 6339 GRT, built 1939) who sailed at 1200B/23 from Taranto for Tobruk escorted by the torpedo boat Antares until Santa Maria di Leuca when the escort duties were taken over by the torpedo boats Orsa and Calliope [to be found in file DEFE3/766/frame 24]. However, Vettor Pisani was sunk by torpedo bombers at 0930B/24. (11)

25 Jul 1942
In a signal timed 0914C/25, the Senior Officer Submarines Alexandria, reported to HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) that a 6000 tons enemy tanker had been attacked by aircraft early that morning while about 40 nautical miles east of Ras el Tin. It was thought the tanker was destined for Tobruk but might be damaged and stopped.

This must have referred to the tanker Rondine (Italian, 6468 GRT, built 1924) that had left Suda Bay around 2350B/23 for Tobruk where she arrived around 1200B/25. She was escorted by the Italian torpedo boat Lince later reinforced by the Italian torpedo boat Saggitario.

Rondine escorted by the Lince sailed from Suda at 2300B/23 (ULTRA signal of 0535B/24 [in file DEFE3/766/frame 93] had given her departure as 2200B/23 and she was expected at Tobruk at 0700B/25. Sagittario joined the convoy at 0145B/25. She had sighted the convoy under attack from aircraft from a distance from 2250B/24 to 0100B/25. An aircraft had dropped flares at 2250B/24 and the convoy came under air attack by four torpedo bombers at 2342-2350B/24 but all torpedoes fired missed. The aircraft then dropped flares three times at 10–15-minute intervals. (12)

26 Jul 1942
The small German transport Ostia (359 GRT, built 1905, former Spanish Nere-a-Metza) reported being missed at 1345B/26 with two torpedoes close to Bardia (In grid CO 9135, which has it center in position 31°57'N, 25°30'E). If this is a genuine attack then the culprit must have been HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN).

Ostia was on passage from Tobruk (departed around 0600B/26) to Marsa Matruh (arrived around 1900B/27) escorted the German motor minesweepers R 12 and R 13. The R boats dropped some depth charges following the attack. The convoy then entered Bardia soon after the attack leaving only at 0340B/27 to continue their passage. (13)

26 Jul 1942
In a signal timed 1225C/26, the Senior Officer Submarines Alexandria, informed HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) that enemy ships leave Tobruk at night and remain just outside the harbour to avoid air raids.

In an amplifying signal, timed 1846C/26, HMS Thorn was informed that aircraft might attack this night.

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In a signal timed 2125C/26, Capt. S 1, informed HMS Thorn that a submarine had been sighted at 2110C/26 in position 34°17'N, 22°20'E on course 150° at 12 knots.

This must have referred to the Italian submarine Antonio Sciesa which had departed Taranto at 1425B/24 for Tobruk where she arrived at 0700B/28. She had surfaced at 2020B/26 and it is possible that at this time she was sighted by a RAF aircraft although the submarine did not report any aircraft in vicinity. (11)

28 Jul 1942
In a signal timed 1033C/28, the Senior Officer Submarines Alexandria, ordered HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) to patrol in the vicinity of position 33°50'N, 22°00'E to intercept an enemy convoy.

The signal was cancelled in a signal timed 2237C/28, when HMS Thorn was informed that the enemy transport in this convoy had been damaged in an air attack and was now at Navarino.

The convoy in question was the one made up of the transport Monviso (Italian, 5322 GRT, built 1941) which had departed Brindisi at 1453B/27 destined for Benghazi. She was escorted by the destroyer Freccia and the torpedo boat Calliope. At 1214B/28 the convoy was attacked by Beauforts of 39 Squadron when in position 185° - Sapientza Island - 10 nautical miles and the transport was thought to be hit once. This was indeed the case as the Monviso was hit by one torpedo amidships. The damaged ship was then towed to Navarino by the Freccia with Calliope providing A/S escort. They arrived at Navarino at 1700B/28. (12)

29 Jul 1942
In a signal to Capt. S 1, timed 0219C/29, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) reported having encountered many targets in the Tobruk area and requested permission to stay in that area. This was approved in Capt. S 1's signal timed 0855C/29. She was ordered to patrol to the south of 35°N and between 19°00'E and 24°30'E.

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In a signal timed 1802C/29, the Senior Officer Submarines Alexandria, informed HMS Thorn that a merchant vessel and three E-boats [or R-boats] had been sighted at 1505C/29 to the north-north-east of Sidi Barrani in position 31°53'N, 26°05'E on course 280° at 8 knots.

This most likely referred to the small transport Ostia (German, 359 GRT, built 1905, former Spanish Nere-a-Metza) escorted the German motor minesweepers R 12 and R 13 by which had departed Marsa Matruh around 0530B/29. They were ordered to return to Marsa Matruh mid morning, as three landing barges en-route from Tobruk to Marsa Matruh were reported overdue, and returned at Marsa Matruh around 13300B/29. [This was the only ship on this route at this moment so either the aircraft position is off or there is an error with the time in the German records.] (14)

30 Jul 1942
In a signal timed 1234C/30, Capt. S 1, ordered HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) to arrive in position 33°10'N, 20°30'E by daylight on August 1st. If unable to do so then arrive there by 0001C/2.

The British were probably aware (through ULTRA, see below) that the previously damaged transport Monviso (Italian, 5322 GRT, built 1941) had been making temporary repairs at Navarino and would be able to continue her passage to Benghazi. As a matter of fact she departed Navarino around 1740B/2 escorted by the Italian destroyers Alpino (S.O.) and Corraziere.

An ULTRA signal of 2046/29 [to be found in file DEFE3/767/frame 60] had revealed that repairs to the Monviso were expected to be completed in about five days. The movement was perhaps based on
(1) ULTRA signals of 2203/29 and 0736/30 [to be found in file DEFE3/767/frames 64 & 91] which mentioned that cruisers of the Eighth Division were in Navarino and expected to bring support to the Aventino convoy (see below) which was later known to be expected to pass through 35°27'N, 23°26'E at 0300/30.
(2) ULTRA signal of 1731/30 [to be found in DEFE3/767/frame 135] which revealed that the small tanker Stige (German, 869 GRT, built 1917) escorted by the auxiliary Arborea was expected to move southwards through 39°56'N, 19°14'E at 0700/31.

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In a signal timed 1811C/30, Capt. S 1 informed HMS Thorn that she would be required to remain on patrol until 6 August 1942 and was expected to arrive at Beirut on the 11th.

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In a signal timed 1816C/30, the Senior Officer Submarines Alexandria informed HMS Thorn that an enemy convoy made up of two transports and four destroyers had been sighted at 1305C/30 in position 34°28'N, 22°14'E on course 200° at 10 knots.

This must have referred to the convoy made up of the transports Milano (Italian, 4152 GRT, built 1913) and Aventino (Italian, 3794 GRT, built 1907). They were escorted by the destroyers Bersagliere (S.O.), Saetta, Quintino Sella and the torpedo boats Lince and Sagittario. The transports were on passage from Bari to Benghazi via Piraeus and Suda Bay (departed 2245B/29). At 1710B/30, Aventino lagged behind due to engine defects. Bersagliere ordered Saetta and Sagittario to stand by her to give assistance. Later Saetta indicated that Aventino could make 6 knots and shortly after she managed 8 knots.

At 0008B/31, in position 038° - Benghazi – 56 miles (approximately 32°51'N, 20°49'E but position in Supermarina Diaries is given as 010° - Tolmeita – 18 miles which is approximately 33°00'N, 21°01'E) two torpedo wakes were observed by Bersagliere on the port side [at the time she was escorting Milano with Sella and Lince). She dropped eight 100-kg depth charges. They arrived at Benghazi at 0931-0945B/31. The Aventino and her two escorts arrived at Benghazi at 1110B-1214B/31. No Allied aircraft reported making attacks during this night (file AIR 27/399/14). Probably the torpedo wakes sighted were fish (porpoises). (12)

31 Jul 1942
In a signal timed 1011C/31, the Senior Officer Submarines Alexandria, directed HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) to patrol nearer the coast during daylight hours at the Commanding Officers discretion. At night she was to operate in the position given in the signal timed 1234C/30. HMS Thorn was also told that the volume of traffic in the Benghazi area was expected to increase.

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In a signal timed 1654C/31, the Senior Officer Submarines Alexandria, informed HMS Thorn that an enemy transport and a destroyer had been sighted at 1455C/31 in position 34°37'N, 22°10'E on course 220° at a speed of 10 knots.

This most likely referred to a convoy made up of the transport Manfredo Campiero (Italian, 5463 GRT, built 1925) and her escort, the italian torpedo boat Pegaso. They were en-route from Isthmia (departed 0630B/30) to Benghazi where they arrived around 1115B/1. During the passage, at 0100B/1, they had observed two rockets being fired astern but they escaped detection.

In an amplifying signal, timed 1914C/31, HMS Thorn was informed that an air striking force was to attack this convoy around 0100C/1 and that flares may be used.

No aircraft in the end attacked this convoy. Possibly HMS Thorn spotted the enemy ships but was unable to attack herself and then fired rockets to attract the attention of the aircraft which she had been told would be active this night as in the Senior Officer Submarines Alexandria's signal timed 1914C/31, (see above). (11)

1 Aug 1942
In a signal timed 1202C/1, the Senior Officer Submarines Alexandria, informed HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) that aircraft had sighted a transport and two destroyers at 0925C/1 in position 35°44'N, 23°22'E on course 220° at 12 knots and one merchant vessel and one destroyer at 0910C/1 in position 35°24'N, 23°26'E on course 220° at 10 knots.

Later an amplifying report was sent, timed 1857C/1, that this was most probably only on convoy of one transport and two destroyers. HMS Thorn was also informed that air cooperation during the night would not be possible but that single aircraft may attack the enemy around 0200C/2. It was estimated that the position of the enemy at 0500C/2 would be 32°50'N, 20°22'E.

This most likely referred to the (troop) transport Italia (Italian, 5203 GRT, built 1905) escorted by the destroyer Premuda and the torpedo boats Pallade and Polluce. They were on passage from Isthmia (departed 1700B/31) to Benghazi where they arrived between 1122B/2 and 1200B/2. The torpedo boat Polluce sailed from Suda Bay at 0525B/1 and joined the escort at 1415B/1. The convoy had passed through positions 34°20'N, 22°32'E (around 1600B/1) and 33°53'N, 21°45'E at 2020B/1. (15)

2 Aug 1942
In a signal timed 1115C/2, the Senior Officer Submarines Alexandria, informed HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) that aircraft had sighted a transport and a destroyer at 0855C/2 in position 35°08'N, 22°44'E on course 220° at 10 knots.

This must have referred to the transport Tergestea (Italian, 5890 GRT, built 1926) and her escort, the torpedo boat Orsa on passage from Isthmia (departed 1200B/1) to Benghazi where they arrived around 1025B/3. Two Wellington bombers ('S' and 'U' of 221 RAF Squadron) were sent to intercept the convoy and cooperate with HMS Thorn. Aircraft 'U' (Flight Sergeant Deschamps) located the convoy in position 33°10'N, 21°05'E but was unable to contact the submarine. Aircraft 'S' (Flying Officer Alfke) located the convoy in position 33°29'N, 20°50'E steering 200°, circled and awaited contact with the submarine, sending W/T signals and dropping flares every 20 minutes. It shadowed the convoy until 33°15'N, 24°47'E but this aircraft also was unable to make contact with HMS Thorn. [Both aircraft failed to make contact with HMS Thorn, is this an indication that she had already been lost by this date ???]

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In a signal timed 1817C/2, referring to the earlier signal of 1115C/2, the Senior Officer Submarines Alexandria, ordered HMS Thorn to proceed to position 33°10'N, 20°35'E and then cooperate with aircraft between 2300C/2 and 0300C/3. Flares would be dropped close to the north-east of the target until 0130C/3. Aircraft would be homing on 214 K/Cs and the aircraft call sign would be QZ7 suffixed S or U (see above). In the same signal HMS Thorn was also informed that aircraft had reported enemy A/S craft 50 nautical miles to the north-north-east of Benghazi. (15)

3 Aug 1942
At 1525B/3, in position 333° - Sidi Sueicher – 8 nautical miles (approximately 16 miles NNW of Benghazi), the Italian destroyer Alpino, stationed on the port side of the transport Monviso (Italian, 5322 GRT, built 1941), observed an explosion on the starboard side of Monviso, just forward of the bridge, shortly followed by another explosion on the bow section which caused a large fire. The vessel took immediately a sharp list and Alpino signalled the other escort, the Italian destroyer Corazziere to drop depth charges while she was rescuing survivors. The Italian torpedo boat Pegaso and the Italian auxiliary submarine chaser Cotugno were ordered to sail from Benghazi to assist. At 1754B/3, Alpino had barely picked up 129 survivors including twelve wounded when a torpedo wake was sighted, she went full speed ahead and the torpedo missed by 20 metres astern. In all there were 241 survivors and 6 victims from the Monviso.

Was this an attack by HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) ???. If so then she would have proceeded quite close inshore, closer than she had been ordered at that time. The depth charges dropped by the Corazziere were for intimidation purposes to keep the submarine away while Alpino was picking up survivors. It is unlikely that these did damage to a submarine if one had indeed been present.

There is also a remote possibility that Monviso ran into a minefield laid on 17 August 1940 by HMS Rorqual. The position of her sinking is very close to where this minefield had been laid. The minefield had been cleared by now but it is always possible some mines may have survived to this day.

3 Aug 1942
In a signal timed 1201C/3, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) and HMS Taku (Lt.Cdr. J.G. Hopkins, RN) received orders from the Senior Officer Submarines Alexandria.

HMS Thorn was to patrol on a line between positions 34°48'N, 22°04'E and 33°52'N, 21°52'E. She was to be in the former position at 1801C/4.

HMS Taku was to patrol on a line between positions 32°40'N, 23°15'E and 32°22'N, 23°36'E by dawn on the 5th.

An enemy convoy of large ships had been sighted off Otranto at 1035C/3 and these were probably bound for Benghazi and / or Tobruk.

(1) The transport Sestriere (Italian, 7992 GRT, built 1942) and Nino Bixio (Italian, 7137 GRT, built 1941) escorted by the Italian destroyers Legionario (S.O.), Corsaro, Grecale, Freccia, and the Italian torpedo boats Calliope and Partenope sailed from Brindisi between 0505-0600B/3 for Benghazi.
(2) The transport Ankara (German, 4768 GRT, built 1937) equipped with METOX (installed at Taranto on 2 August) had sailed from Taranto at 0100B/3, escorted by the Italian destroyers Turbine and Folgore.

The two convoys merged between 0935-1015B/3. They split up at 1930B/3 and reunited again at 0700B/4. At 1842B/4, in position 34°31'N, 22°10'E, they came under air attack by about ten Liberators from a height of about 3-4000 metres without result.

Nino Bixio had engine defects, and the convoy reduced speed to 6 knots to allow her to keep station but at 2205B/4 Legionario ordered Freccia, Corsaro and Partenope to remain with Nino Bixio

Sestriere escorted by Legionario and Calliope then proceeded ahead at 12.5 knots.

The Nino Bixio section came again under air attack at 2325B/4 in position 33°39'N, 22°09'E.

At 2212B/4, Ankara, Turbine, Folgore and Grecale were detached to proceed for Tobruk where they arrived between 1200-1232B/5.

At 0655B/5, the torpedo boat Pegaso from Benghazi reached the Sestriere convoy to reinforce the escort and provide sonar protection. The convoy arrived at Benghazi between 1058-1218B/5.

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Later an amplifying report was sent (Capt. S 10's signal timed 1930B/3) giving the position of this convoy at 1400B/3 as 39°27'N, 19°42'E on course 140° at 11 knots. (15)

4 Aug 1942
In a signal from the Senior Officer Submarines Alexandria, timed 0925C/4, HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) is ordered to patrol on a line between positions 34°48'N, 22°30'E and 33°52'N, 22°30'E.

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In a signal from Capt. S 1, timed 1134C/4, HMS Thorn is ordered to leave patrol P.M. on the 6th and then to proceed to Beirut through the following positions 33°34'N, 25°52'E and 33°37'N, 34°30'E. She was to arrive off Beirut at dawn on the 11th.

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In a signal from the Senior Officer Submarines Alexandria, timed 1847C/4, HMS Thorn was informed that she had freedom of action in her area after 2100C/4. (15)

4 Aug 1942
In a signal timed 1155C/4, the Senior Officer Submarines Alexandria cancelled his instructions for HMS Taku (Lt.Cdr. J.G. Hopkins, RN) given in his previous signal timed 1201C/3. HMS Taku was now ordered to patrol on a line between positions 32°25'N, 23°35'E and 32°14'N, 23°44'E by dawn on the 5th.

It also stated that aircraft would be attacking around 0200C/5 and would also drop flares.

This signal was also repeated to HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN).

In a signal timed 2345C/4, the Senior Officer Submarines Alexandria informed both submarines that an enemy convoy of one transport and four destroyers had been reported at 2305C/4 in position 33°36'N, 22°32'E proceeding on course 143° at 12 knots. The submarines were also informed that they were to act independently after 0901C/5. The convoy mentioned in this signal must have been the transport Ankara (German, 4768 GRT, built 1937) and her escorting destroyers Turbine, Grecale and Folgore en route from Taranto to Tobruk [see also the event for 3 August 1942.] (15)

5 Aug 1942
In a signal timed 0917C/5, the Senior Officer Submarines Alexandria, informed HMS Thorn (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Norfolk, DSO, RN) and HMS Taku (Lt.Cdr. J.G. Hopkins, RN) that at 0601C/5 an aircraft had reported a small tanker and eight motor lighters in position 35°20'N, 23°24'E on course 185° at 9 knots.

In a signal timed 1314C/5, it was reported that the position of this convoy at 1210C/5 was now 34°44'N, 23°12'E. Course and speed were unknown.

This must have referred to the convoy made up of the transport Scillin (Italian, 1579 GRT, built 1903), the German self propelled landing barges F 343, F 344, F 353, F 354 and (most probably the following) Italian self propelled landing barges MZ 703, MZ 705, MZ 734, MZ 742, MZ 748, MZ 751, MZ 755 and MZ 762 which had departed Suda Bay around 2015B/4 and arrived at Tobruk around 0900B/6. They were escorted by the Italian torpedo boat Castore. (15)

7 Aug 1942
In a signal timed 0955C/7, the Senior Officer Submarines Alexandria informed HMS Proteus (Lt. R.L. Alexander, RN), HMS Traveller (Lt. M.B. St. John, RN) and HMS Taku (Lt.Cdr. J.G. Hopkins, RN) (and not HMS Thorn as she should have left patrol already !!!) that one merchant vessel and two destroyers had been sighted at 0835C/7 in position 33°52'N, 23°25'E proceeding on a course of 350° at 11 knots and that a merchant vessel and one destroyer had been sighted at 0901C/7 in position 33°38'N, 21°36'E proceeding on a course of 050° at 9 knots.

The first sighting referred to a convoy made up of the transport Apuania (Italian, 7948 GRT, built 1942) escorted by the Italian destroyer Folgore and the Italian torpedo boat Castore. They had departed Tobruk between 1857-1911B/6 for Brindisi where it arrived between 1910-1920B/8.

This convoy passed through the following positions during its passage; (1) 34°50'N, 24°06'E at 0850B/7.
(2) 35°50'N, 22°18'E at 1355B/7.
(3) 36°58'N, 22°30'E at 2200B/7.
(4) 38°50'N, 19°28'E at 0700B/8.
(5) 39°36'N, 18°30'E at 1205B/8.

The second sighting was the transport Istria (Italian, 5441 GRT, built 1921) escorted by the torpedo boat Pegaso (equipped with S-Gerät). They had departed Benghazi 1645B/6 for Piraeus. They arrived at Navarino at 1006B/8 (they subsequently sailed for Patras on 10 August and Istria proceeded then alone to Piraeus through the Corinth Canal).

At 1255B/7 in position 34°25'N, 22°36'30"E an escorting Junkers 88 dived and machine-gunned and then bombed a spot about 5000 metres from the Pegaso. The torpedo boat turned to port, sighting a periscope followed by a large bubble of air from where the submarine had dived. She launched a rocket to alert Istria and proceeded at 12 knots to the attack. On closing the position a sonar contact was obtained at a distance of 1400 metres. The submarine appeared to move rapidly, twisting and turning to port or to starboard. Pegaso dropped her first depth charges at 1301B/7 and then returned for another run, dropping a second pattern at 1310B/7. A large patch of oil and air bubbles were observed. At 1318B/7 a third pattern of depth charges was dropped, large bubbles of air came to the surface and the oil patch was seen to increase in seize. More patterns of depth charges were dropped at 1327B, 1336B, 1343B and 1347B. At 1350B/7, the sonar echo had disappeared and ten minutes later Pegaso altered course to rejoin Istria.

If HMS Thorn was indeed sunk by the Pegaso that would mean that HMS Thorn had remained on patrol longer than she had been ordered to do so. She had been ordered by Capt. S 1 to leave patrol P.M. on the 6th so as to arrive at Beirut at dawn on the 11th. It is possible she decided to extend her stay in the area as there was quite a bit of Axis traffic going to and from North Africa around this time and the situation in the desert was at a critical stage. Given the fact that HMS Thorn had only had limited success on this patrol so far we consider it certainly not unlikely that Lt.Cdr. Norfolk would have decided to stay in the area for (at least) an additional day.

We can see from the passage of HMS Travaller, which passed through this area a few days later while on passage from a patrol in the Adriatic, that it took about 4.25 days to proceed from this area to Beirut. If HMS Thorn had left the area as ordered by Capt. S 1 she would have got 5.25 days to get to Beirut so it is quite possible HMS Thorn could extend her stay by a day and still return to Beirut at the time she had been ordered to do so.

Bombing restrictions for HMS Thorn on her return passage would have been arranged for, but HMS Thorn could always have made a signal, when clear of the patrol area, to amend these if she would be late returning from patrol.

In a signal timed 1844C/7, the Senior Officer Submarines Alexandria stated that the second convoy (Istria convoy) at 1735C/7 was in position 34°31'N, 22°46'E, proceeding on course 050° at 9 knots. This signal was addressed to HMS Proteus and HMS Traveller. (15)

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. Report of proceedings of HMAS Nizam for November 1941
  6. ADM 199/1218
  7. ADM 199/1218 + ADM 199/2237
  8. ADM 173/17596
  9. ADM 199/2572
  10. ADM 199/1925
  11. ADM 199/2247
  12. ADM 199/2247 + Official Italian naval history (USMM) volume 7
  13. KTB 6th R-boat Flotilla 16 to 31 July 1942 (NARA, T 1022, roll 3432, PG 73444)
  14. ADM 199/2247 + KTB 6th R-boat Flotilla 16 to 31 July 1942 (NARA, T 1022, roll 3432, PG 73444) + KTB Seetransportstelle Marsa Matruh 27 June to 5 October 1942 (NARA, T 1022, roll 2560, PG 45416)
  15. ADM 199/2248

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


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