By Tony Drury & David J.B. Smith
During the second week of March 1942 the Hove Borough Council ran a National Savings 'Warship Week' campaign to raise funds for the war effort, their target was £425,000, on achieving this goal the town was able to "adopt" a warship. The final tally of funds raised was £521,000 and the submarine H.M.S. UNBEATEN was "adopted" by the town.
A rare image of UNBEATEN bearing her pennant number N93
H.M. S. Unbeaten was a 'U' class submarine built by Vickers Armstrong ship builders in Barrow-in-Furness and she entered service on November 10th 1940 At the time of her "adoption" H.M.S. Unbeaten was operating in the Mediterranean as part of the 10th Submarine Flotilla under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Edward 'Teddy' Woodward, DSO, RN and was engaged in anti-shipping operations against German and Italian vessels.
Between December 1940 and July 1942, the UNBEATEN had sunk the German submarine U-374 and the Italian submarine GUGLIELMOTTI, the Italian sailing vessel V 51 / Alfa, and the Vichy-French merchantman PLM 20. She also torpedoed and damaged the Italian merchantman VETTOR PISANI which was later sunk by British aircraft. She returned to the UK in August 1942 for repairs and a refit after being damaged in Malta.
Photo: Tony Mould, courtesy www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk
Shortly after their return to the UK the commanding officer and some of the officers and crew were entertained privately to lunch at Hove. Speaking to the Brighton & Hove Herald about the occasion the Mayor said "as long as our destiny and our fate rest upon the efforts of such men as I met, we need have no fear of the ultimate outcome of the present grim struggle." During this meeting the ships 'Jolly Roger' flag was presented to the Mayor. This was a special flag unique to submarines; permission to fly the Jolly Roger was normally granted to a submarine after her first successful patrol by the Flotilla Commanding Officer. The crew would then sew on the appropriate emblems following each successful action; the flag would then be flown when entering harbour at the end of each patrol to signify the success of the patrol. Unfortunately, this special gift was lost when the Hove Town Hall was bombed during a German air raid.
Later, on Wednesday December 9th, an impressive ceremony was held in the Hove Town Hall at which a commemorative plaque from the residents of Hove was exchanged for a replica of the ships badge by the Mayer of Hove Councillor A. H. Clarke, and Rear Admiral D. W. Boyd, -C.B.10., D.5 C., representing the Admiralty and the UNBEATEN which had left the UK early in November to return to Malta. Hove's plaque, to be placed in the submarine, bore the inscription that the sum raised in Warship Week was equivalent to £10 per head of population, men, women and children.
Sadly, at the time of this presentation dinner HMS UNBEATEN had been reported lost, a fact that was not made public until December 19th when the Brighton & Hove Herald carried the story that the Admiralty had announced the submarine was "overdue and must be considered lost". UNBEATEN had sailed for the Mediterranean via Gibraltar after a refit in Britain under the command of her now C.O. Lieutenant. Donald E. O. Watson, DSC, RN. On 11 November 1942 she was attacked and sunk in error by an RAF Wellington of No. 172 Squadron, Coastal Command while in the Bay of Biscay. She was lost with all hands.
This article was originally published as part of My Brighton and Hove living history community web site in March 2008. It was composed from materials originally supplied to the office of the Mayor of Brighton & Hove by Mrs, Barbara Woodward, widow of the late Commander 'Teddy' Woodward D.S.O.** UNBEATEN's first commanding officer. Special thanks to Mrs Pat Dines, Mayoral Secretary for allowing access to this material.
His Majesty's Submarine UNBEATEN was fully operational for just over two years. During her short tenure she returned to Malta many times symbolically flying her Jolly Roger. HM Submarine UNBEATEN was 1 of a number of U-Class, group 1, single hulled coastal submarines, ordered by the Admiralty in 1939. These smaller size boats measured around 190 feet in length or approximately 58 meters. By the end of the war a total of 19 U-Class boats would be lost on active service. Action in the Mediterranean would claim 13 and the Atlantic and North Sea would add another 6 boats to that deadly count.
UNBEATEN was launched on the 9th of July 1940. Her launch took place a day after her sister UPHOLDER which was commanded by LT David Wanklyn, soon to be, most highly decorated Royal Navy officer in WWII. UNBEATEN and UPHOLDER would be inextricably linked throughout the war, the crew of UNBEATEN were the last to see the UPHOLDER before Wanklyn and her crew disappeared forever.
Several WWII submarines have had books written about them, UNBEATEN's activities were no less daring than of UPHOLDER or any other submarine in WWII but she had to wait 70 years before her story to be told. Her un-timely loss on Armistice Day 1942 was over shadowed by media reports from Operation Torch, the code name for the combined British and American invasion of North Africa which commenced four days earlier. Author and Naval researcher David J.B Smiths’ meticulously researched true story follows UNBEATEN from Holy Loch to Malta and back in his book 'BEING SILENT THEY SPEAK'. Read more about this and where to get a copy on our Book Review.