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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2006


HMS RORQUAL (74 M) - Grampus-class Minelaying Submarine

HM S/M Porpoise, sister-boat (Navy Photos/Mark Teadham, click to enlarge) return to Contents List 

PORPOISE Class submarines ordered on 1st May 1935  from Vickers-Armstrong at Barrow and laid down on the same day. This minelaying submarine was launched on 21st July 1936 and was the 1st major RN warship to bear  the name, although it had been used by Z-Class Whaler (Z10) during WW1. Build was completed on 2nd February 1937 and this submarine was then commissioned for service in the 4th Submarine Flotilla on the China Station where she was still deployed on the outbreak of war in September 1939. Following a WARSHIP WEEK campaign for National Savings in February 1942 she was adopted by the civil community of Weymouth, Dorset.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s

MEDITERRANEAN 1940-43 - CRETE 1941 - MALTA CONVOYS 1941-42 - SICILY 1943 - AEGEAN 1943 - ATLANTIC 1944

H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge on a Field Blue, a rorqual Proper.



Nec Temere New Timide: Neither rashly nor timidly'


S u m m a r y   o f   W a r   S e r v i c e


1 9 3 9


January                  Deployed with 4th Flotilla for fleet duties based at Hong Kong

to                            (Note: Other submarines in Flotilla were:

July                         HM Submarines PARTHIAN, PHOENIX, PROTEUS, PANDORA and GRAMPUS.

                                supported by HM Submarine Depot Ship MEDWAY


August                  Took up war station for interception of enemy shipping.


September             Deployed for interception patrols with Flotilla

to December


1 9 4 0


January                  Flotilla duties in continuation


February                Nominated for transfer to Mediterranean with Flotilla.


March                    Passage to Alexandria.


April                       Arrived in Alexandria and joined 1st Submarine Flotilla.

                                Retained in Alexandria with HM Submarines PARTHIAN, PHOENIX, PROTEUS,



May                        Deployed in Malta and carried out exercises with Fleet units in anticipation of outbreak of

                                war with Italy

                                Nominated with HMS GRAMPUS based in Malta for minelay off Brindisi

                                Pennant Number for visual signalling purposes changed to N74.


June                        Passage to Malta

                10th        Sailed from Malta for minelay nine miles east of Brindisi. See Naval Staff History

                                (HMSO, 2001.)

                14th        Carried out successful lay of 50 mines and returned to Malta on completion.



July                         Commanding Officer Lieut Cdr  R Dewhurst RN.

                3rd          Sailed from Alexandria for support of Fleet operation to cover passage of convoy to Malta

                                from Alexandria.

                                Deployed off Cape Spartivento, Sicily to intercept any attempt by Italian Fleet units to

                                interfere with cover by Fleet units.

                21st         Carried out lay of 50 mines off Tolmeita, Cyrenaica.

                                (Note: This field later claimed o 3,865 ton mercantile.)


August                  Deployed with five other submarines to intercept convoys between Augusta and

                                Benghazi. See above reference.

                17th        Carried out lay of 50 mines off Taukra, Cyrenaica which later claimed one ship of

                               3,298 tons.


September             Flotilla deployment based at Alexandria in continuation for minelaying and interception




                4th          Laid further 50 mines of Taukra

                5th          Carried out lay of 50 mines off Misurata, Tripolitania.



                9th          Laid further 50 mines off Misurata.

                                (Note: This field claimed an Italian mercantile of 3,300 tons the same day and later the

                                Italian torpedo boats CALIPSO on 5th December and FRATELLI CAIROLI on 23rd



December              Alexandria deployment in continuation.


1 9 4 1



                28th        Carried out minelay of two barrages off Sansego Island and off Ancona.

                                (Note: Italian torpedo boat FRANCESCO STOCCO and a mercantile of 5,101 tons were

                                later damaged by these mines.)


February                Mediterranean deployment in continuation.


March                    Passage to Malta to embark mines and torpedoes.

                25th        Laid 10 mines in the approaches to Palermo

                26th        Laid 40 mines in approaches to Trapani.

                                (Note: Italian torpedo boat GENERALE ANTONIO CHINNOTU was sunk in this field on

                               28th.  One source records submarine CAPPONI also but this is to be confirmed.)


April                       Mediterranean deployment in continuation.



                11th        Carried out lay of 50 mines in Gulf of Salonika

                12th        Sank two small sailing craft off Lemnos by surface gunfire and rescued seven Greek


                                Deployed later with HMS CACHALOT to take petrol to Malta


June                        Deployed with 1st Flotilla at Alexandria and for transport of petrol to Malta.

                                (Note: Submarines in Flotilla included:

                                HM Submarines TRUANT, TRIUMPH, TAKU, TETRARCH, TORBAY, REGENT,

                                ROVER, OSIRIS, OTUS, CACHALOT, PARTHIAN, PERSEUS, PANDORA and

                                five Greek submarines.


July                         Deployed at Alexandria for Flotilla duties.


August                  Commanding Officer Lieut Napier, RN

                26th        Carried out lay of 50 mines off ZANE island in southern Adriatic.

                27th        Sank mercantile of 2,747 tons by torpedo.



                30th        Passage from Beirut to Malta with stores.


October                  Commanding Officer promoted to Lieut Cdr.

                2nd         Arrived in Malta with stores

                8th          Laid 50 mines in Gulf of Athens.

                                (Note: On 20th October this field claimed Italian torpedo boats ALTAIR and then

                                ALDEBARAN which had gone to assist her.)

                                Transferred to western Mediterranean for minelaying operation.

                21st         Laid 10 mines off Cavioli Island, Sardinia

                22nd       Laid 40 mines off Cape Ferrato, Sardina.

                                (Note: Mercantile ss SALPI,  2,710 tons was sunk in this field later.)


November              Commanding Officer: Commander Dewhurst RN.

                                Deployed at Gibraltar for minelaying operation in Bay of Biscay

                19th        Carried out lay of 50 mines off La Rochelle (Operation FD34.)

                                On completion returned to Gibraltar

                                (Note: French fishing vessel COLIGNY of 600 tons was sunk in this field later.)

                                Nominated for refit


December              Passage for refit

                                (Note: Refit may have be carried out in UK. To be confirmed.)


1 9 4 2



February                Refit period. Details to be confirmed

to                            On completion of post refit trials took passage to resume duties with 1st Flotilla

June                        (Note: Base for Flotilla was moved to Haifa from Alexandria because of the German

                                advance towards Egypt.)


July                         Deployed with HM Submarines PARTHIAN, REGENT and PORPOISE to take petrol and

                                urgent stores to Malta

                                (Note: The Naval Staff History (Mining) records no minelay during off Cyrenaica in this

                                month but three other sources record loss of HM Corvette ERICA in February 1943

                                after detonating a British mine laid by this submarine off Benghazi. To be confirmed.)


August                  Deployed for transport of supplies to Malta (Operation MAGIC CARPET.)

                30th        Carried out minelay SE of Corfu

                                (Note: Only 15 Mk XVI mines were laid due to defect in mine rails.)

                                Sank mercantile of 5,311 by torpedo during this operation.


September             MARKET CARPET deployment in continuation with HMS OTUS, HMS PARTHIAN and

                                HMS CLYDE.



                2nd         Delivered petrol and supplies to Malta

                3rd          Carried out lay of 46 mines west of Tobruk


November              Deployed in eastern Mediterranean for Flotilla duties on completion of repairs



                8th          Carried out lay of 36 mines near Cannae Rocks off Bizerta.

                                (Note: Three mines were not laid and later discharged in deep water.)

                17th        Carried out lay of 11 mines of Ischia near Naples.

                                (Note: This field later claimed a small minesweeper.)

                19th        Carried out torpedo attack on Italian mercantile mv PIETRO FOSCARI, 3,423 tons which

                                was damaged..)


1 9 4 3


January                  Deployed for minelaying operations against Italian convoys between Sicily and Gulf of


                18th        Carried out lay of 48 mines near Cannae Rocks, off Bizerta.

                                (Note: Two mines were not laid due to jamming of mine doors.)



                24th        Carried out minelay of 50 mines SE of Marrettimo, Sicily.



                22nd       Carried out minelay of 50 mines off Trapani, Sicily.



                7th          Minelay off Sicily to be confirmed. (Not in Naval Staff History.)

                21st         Carried out minelay of 50 miles off Favignana, Sicily

                30th        Carried out minelay of 50 mines off Marettimo, Sicily


May                        (Note: A blockade of Cape Bon area was maintained during the early part of the month

                                to intercept any attempts by enemy to escape to Sicily by sea.

                                (Operation RETRIBUTION.)

                15th        Carried out lay of 50 mines off Punta Stilo, Calabria.



June                        Flotilla deployment in continuation.



                2nd         Carried out lay of 29 mines in Gulf of Kassandra, Greece.

                                Sank mercantile of 7,020 tons by torpedo

                3rd          Carried out further lay of 21miles in Skiathos Channel, Greece.



                5th          Carried out lay of 29 miles in Gulf of Salonika, Greece

                6th          Carried out lay of 21 mines at Lemnos in Aegean.



                9th          Carried out lay of 15 mines in Trikiri Channel, Aegean.

                11th        Carried out lay of 15 mines in Skiathos, Aegean

                                Carried further lay of 20 mines off Lemnos.


October                  Deployed with HMS SEVERN and four Italian submarines to carry stores in support of

                                military operations in Cos and Leros.


November              Eastern Mediterranean deployment in continuation

                                Refit period to be confirmed.




1 9 4 4


January                  Eastern Mediterranean service in continuation

to                            Post refit trials and resumed Flotilla duties to be confirmed.



March                    Deployed for interception patrol in eastern Mediterranean

                                Sank supply ship in Aegean.


April                       Nominated for transfer to East Indies Station                

to                            Passage to Colombo to join Flotilla

December              Deployed with HM Submarine PORPOISE and Dutch O.19 for minelaying in India Ocean

                                (Note: Part of East Indies Fleet .)


1 9 4 5



                3rd          Carried out lay of 50 MkXV1 mines near Phuket minelay (Operation ML022)

                4th          Carried out further lay of 12 MkII mines near Phuket Island.(Operation ML023)

                26th        Carried out lay of 50 MkXVI mines in Ritchies Archipelago (Operation ML027)

                27th        Carried out lay of 12 MkII mines in Andaman Islands area.


February                East Indies deployment in continuation


March                    During interception patrol sank three coasters and three junks in Malacca Straits

                                Nominated for transfer to British Pacific Fleet


April                       Took passage to Fremantle to join 4th Submarine Flotilla.



                10th        Carried out lay of 50 MkXVI and 12 MkII mines south of Thousand Islands, Java

                                Nominated for return to UK


June                        On passage to UK




August                  Paid-off and reduced to Reserve status


P o s t   W a r   N o t e s


HMS RORQUAL laid 1,214 mines, a greater total than any other submarine and she was  the only minelaying submarine to survive war service. She was place on the Disposal List after VJ Day and sold to BISCO on 19th December 1945 for demolition by J Cashmore at Newport. She arrived at Newport in tow on 17th March 1946. The name was carried forward in 1956 when given to another submarine built at Barrow.


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