Allied Warships

HMS Penelope (97)

Light cruiser of the Arethusa class

Photo from Imperial War Museum (IWM), FL-4822

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeLight cruiser
Built byHarland & Wolff (Belfast, Northern Ireland) 
Ordered5 Feb 1934 
Laid down30 May 1934 
Launched15 Oct 1935 
Commissioned13 Nov 1936 
Lost18 Feb 1944 
Loss position40° 55'N, 13° 25'E

On 18 February 1944, HMS Penelope (Capt. George Devereux Belben, DSO, DSC, AM, RN) was leaving the Anzio area to return to Naples when she was torpedoed in position 40º55'N, 13º25'E, by the German submarine U-410.

The torpedo struck her in the after engine room and was followed, 16' later, by a second one which hit in the after boiler room, causing her immediate sinking.

The remarkable point of the attack by U-410 is that the cruisers was making 26 kn when hit. As far as can be ascertained, this is a unique case in the history of submarine attacks in all of WWII, no other ship running at such speed was ever successfully attacked.

415 of the crew, including the captain went down with the ship. There were 206 survivors.


Hit by U-boat
Sunk on 18 Feb 1944 by U-410 (Fenski).

U-boat AttackSee our U-boat attack entry for the HMS Penelope

Commands listed for HMS Penelope (97)

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

1Capt. Gerald Douglas Yates, RN17 Aug 193912 Sep 1940
2Lt.Cdr. (emergency) Alan Moir Harris, RN12 Sep 194021 Feb 1941
3Lt.Cdr. William Thomas Warren Curtis, RN21 Feb 194115 Apr 1941
4Capt. Angus Dacres Nicholl, RN15 Apr 194115 Jun 1942
5Cdr. John William Grant, DSO, RN15 Jun 194210 Aug 1942
6Capt. George Devereux Belben, DSC, RN10 Aug 194218 Feb 1944 (+)

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Notable events involving Penelope include:

9 Oct 1939
HMS Otway (Cdr. H.R. Conway, RN) conducted exercises off Alexandria. This included a practice attack on HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN). (1)

2 Dec 1939
HMS Otway (Cdr. H.R. Conway, RN) conducted exercises off Malta. This included a practice attack on HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN). (2)

11 Apr 1940
HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN) entered Vestfjord to support the attack of British destroyers against the German destroyer flotilla of Commodore Bonte at Narvik, but on the way in the cruiser ran aground on rocks off Fleinver and was badly damaged. She was towed clear by the British destroyer HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St.J.A. Micklethwait, DSO, RN).
While executing temporary repairs, she was attacked by German bombers, which obtained 4 near-misses to port, within 13 metres of the hull, exacerbating the damage already sustained by hitting the rocks. Penelope eventually reached the Tyne but was under repairs until 7 July 1941.

12 Sep 1941
HrMs O 10 (Lt. Baron D.T. Mackay, RNN) participated in A/S exercises off Scapa Flow with HMS Penelope (Capt. A.D. Nicholl, RN), HMS Ulster Queen (A/Capt. D.S. McGrath, RN), HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, RN) and HMS Castleton (Cdr.(Retd.) F.H.E. Skyrme, RN). (3)

13 Sep 1941
HMS Prince of Wales (Capt. J.C. Leach, MVO, RN) conducted exercises to the west of Scapa Flow together with HMS Penelope (Capt. A.D. Nicholl, RN).

During these exerices Prince of Wales was escorted by HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, OBE, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) and HMS Vivacious (Lt.Cdr. R. Alexander, RN). (4)

21 Oct 1941
HMS Penelope arrived at Malta to join Force "K".

24 Nov 1941
The British Force K, made up of the British light cruisers HMS Aurora (Capt. W.G. Agnew, RN) and HMS Penelope (Capt. A.D. Nicholl, RN) and the British destroyers HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) and HMS Lively (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN), intercept an Axis convoy about 100 nautical miles west of Crete. The Axis convoy is bound from the Aegean to Bengasi.

The two German transports in the convoy Maritza (2910 GRT) and Procida (1842 GRT) are both sunk by HMS Penelope and HMS Lively despite the presence of the Italian torpedo boats Lupo and Cassiopea.

1 Dec 1941
Acting on an ULTRA intercept, a British force sailed from Malta in the evening of 30 November with the British light cruisers HMS Neptune (Capt. R.C. O'Conor, RN), HMS Aurora (Capt. W.G. Agnew, RN), HMS Ajax (Capt. E.D. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Penelope (Capt. A.D. Nicholl, RN) and the British destroyers HMS Kimberley (Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, DSO, RN), HMS Kingston (Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Lively (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN).
At 0330 hrs of 1/12 the British intercept and sink the Italian transport Adriatico (1976 GRT) then proceed towards the Libyan coast.
At a point 60 nautical miles north-north-west of Tripoli, Libya, Penelope, Aurora and Lively intercept a small convoy consisting of the Italian oiler Iridio Mantovani (10540 GRT) escorted by the Italian destroyer Alvise da Mosto (2125 tons) and sink both.

19 Dec 1941
While on their way to intercept an Italian convoy bound for Tripoli the British Force K (light cruisers HMS Neptune (Capt. R.C. O'Conor, RN), HMS Aurora (Capt. W.G. Agnew, RN), HMS Penelope (Capt. A.D. Nicholl, RN) and the destroyers HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, DSO, DSC, RN, HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN), HMS Lively (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN) and HMS Havock (Lt. G.R.G. Watkins, DSC, RN) ran into an newly laid Italian minefield. HMS Neptune and HMS Kandahar sank while HMS Aurora was badly and HMS Penelope was slightly damaged. HMS Aurora was patched up at Malta before returning home for repairs at Liverpool from April to June 1942. HMS Penelope was repaired at Malta until January 1942.

19 Mar 1942
In the aftermath of the Battle of the Syrte, attempted towing the damaged Breconshire (9776 GRT) into port, but the freighter sank before reaching safe waters.

20 Mar 1942
In the period between 20-30 March 1942, Axis air attacks on Malta were extremely heavy. Ammunition expenditure by Penelope during the 10-day period amounted to 6.500 rounds of 102 mm (4") and over 75.000 rounds of small calibre. She sustained so much splinter damage to earn the nickname "Pepperpot.
Folowing a particularly heavy attack on 26 March, it was decided to send her to the US for repairs. She sailed from Malta on 8 April for New York Navy yard and was under repairs until 1 September. Returned to the Med in early 1943 and was assigned to Force "Q", operating out of Bone, Algeria.

Jun 1943
During the first week of June bombarded Pantelleria and Lampedusa islands, in the Sicilian Channel, on 11 June supported the Pantelleria landings.

Aug 1943
Deployed in support of Operation "Husky", the Sicilian landings.

9 Sep 1943
Deployed in support of the Salerno landings, after the announcement of the Italian Armistice ferried troops to Taranto and in October moved to operate in the Aegean.

7 Oct 1943
The British light cruisers HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Belben, DSC, RN) and HMS Sirius (Capt. P.B.W. Brooking, DSO, RN) and the British destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, DSO, RN) and HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.F. Taylor, RN), north of Astipalea (Stampalia) in the Dodecanese, attacked a German convoy consisting of the auxiliary submarine chaser UJ 2111 (667 tons, former Italian Tramaglio), cargo Olympus (5216 GRT) and 5 MFPs. All were sunk.
On the return leg of the mission, the British were repeatedly attacked by German planes while transiting Karpathos Strait (Scarpanto).

Dec 1943
Left the Med for a short period of time to hunt down blockade runners in the Bay of Biscay.

Jan 1944
Deployed in support of the Anzio landings.

18 Feb 1944
My father William C. Moen was a member of PT Boat squadron 216 off the coast of Anzio. My father jumped in the water and helped save several of Penelopes crew just after the Penelope was sunk. He received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for valor. (5)

Media links

U-Boat Attack Logs

Daniel Morgan and Bruce Taylor
(£ 45.00)
(EUR 43.69)


  1. ADM 173/15879
  2. ADM 173/15881
  3. File (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  4. ADM 53/114892
  5. Personal communication

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

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