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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2005

HMS BONAVENTURE (ii) - Midget Submarine Depot Ship

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net;

HMS Bonaventure (Photo Ships, click to enlarge) return to Contents List 

 Midget Submarine Depot ship built for mercantile use by the Clan Line and purchased by the Admiralty in 1942. The ship was launched on 27th October 1942 by Greenock Shipyard and when completed was converted for use as a Depot Ship by Scotts of Greenock. Commissioned on 26th January 1943 she was named HMS BONAVENTURE and was the 11th RN ship to carry the name, introduced in 1489. The name had previously been used by a DIDO Class cruiser launched in 1939 and completed in May 1940. The cruiser was sunk by Italian submarine ABRA north of Sollum on 31st March 1941.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s


LOWESTOFT   1665  - FOUR  DAYS BATTLE   1666 - ORFORDNESS  1666 - SOLEBAY  1672 - SCHOONEVELD  1673 - TEXEL  1673 - BEACHY HEAD  1690 - BARFLEUR  1692 - CHINA  1900 - MALTA CONVOYS  1941-42.


H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge:: On a  Field:  Barry wavy of 6 white and blue: within a horse shoe

 inverted Gold, a Griffin red.



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


(for more ship information, go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search



1 9 4 3


January                      Under conversion.

            26th                Commissioned for RN service as HMS BONAVENTURE.


February                    Under conversion.

to                               On completion of trials took passage to Loch Striven on west bank of Clyde for

July                            service as main training base and depot ship for midget submarines ("X" Craft).


August                       Deployed at Loch Striven.

to                                (Note: During this period passage and trials crews of Midget submarines X5, X6,
September                              X7, X8, X9 and X10 were prepared for an operation to attack the German

                                               battleship T1RPITZ in Altenfjord, Norway.

                                               HM Submarines THRASHER, TRUCULENT. STUBBORN,  SYRTIS, SCEPTRE

                                               and SEA NYMPH each towed a midget submarine to Norwegian waters

.                                              Training of crews of the midget submarines and preparation for this operation was

                                               carried out at Loch Striven.


                                               During Operation SOURCE on 22nd September X9 and X8 are were lost when on

                                               passage. X10 had to return to parent submarine because of a failure of equipment

                                               and later was lost during return tow.


                                               Although X5, X6 and X7 entered the fjord, only X6 and X7 are able to put their

                                               Limpet mines on TIRPITZ which sustained major damaged and was not able

                                               to be deployed operationally for almost six months.


                                               Crews of X6 and X7 were taken prisoner and their commanding officers awarded

                                               the Victoria Cross.


                                               The fate of X5 and her crew is not certain but possibly sank after hitting a mine

                                               (See THE MYSTERY OF X5 by F Walker and P Mellor.) It has been suggested

                                               that X5 placed mines on TIRPITZ and was sunk on return passage down the Fjord

                                               For details of Operation SOURCE see Naval Staff History, BR1756(22),)


October                      Passage to Govan for refit by Alex. Stephens

                                    Paid-off and taken in hand


November                  Under refit including fit of radar equipment




1 9 4 4



               2nd              Refit work  completed

                                   (Note: Some planned work was not completed, presumably because of operational need.

                                               See below)

             22nd              Re-commissioned for service with British Pacific Fleet.

                                    Deployed at Loch Striven to prepare for operational use.


February                    Loch Striven deployment in continuation.


March                         Passage to Govan to complete outstanding dockyard work.


April                           Under refit.




September                  On completion of post refit trials took passage to Loch Striven


October                      Deployed at Loch Striven for training.

to                                (Note: During this period a modified design of midget submarine (XE Type) ordered in

November                               January 1944 became available for use in SW Pacific and were embarked for

                                                operations  against targets in the Far East.)


December                   Preparation in continuation.

                                    Nominated for deployment as Depot Ship for the 14th Submarine Flotilla in SW Pacific.


1 9 4  5


January                       Departure delayed.

                                     Embarked six XE craft.



             21st                Took passage to Australia via Panama.


March                         Passage across Pacific from Panama.

               7th                At Pearl Harbour.

                                    (Note: Attitude of US Navy was most discouraging and the use of this type of submarine was

                                                 not looked on with any enthusiasm.)


April                            Passage from Pearl Harbour to Australia.

             27th                 Arrived at Brisbane.

                                     (Note: Approval was given to move nearer the operational area and to approach the local US

                                                 Navy  authorities.)


May                              Took passage to Townsville, Queensland.

                                      (Note: Visit by Senior Officer 14th Flotilla to US Navy Base at Subic Bay did not improve the

                                                  situation and it was suggested that the ship be used in Fleet Train after conversion for a

                                                  wider support role.)

             31st                  Proposal made to use midget submarines for cutting Japanese telegraph cables.


 June                            Transferred to Hervey Bay, Queensland (250 miles from Brisbane ) and thence to south of

                                     Townsville) to prepare for cable cutting operations.

                                      (For details of this change of policy see THE SEA OUR SHIELD by WR Fell)

                                      Carried out extensive training and experiments in Hervey Bay using a disused telegraph cable

                                      between Australia and New Guinea.

                                      (Note: Two divers lost their lives by oxygen poisoning.)

                                      (Operational targets selected and approved.

                                      Passage from Hervey Bay to Labuan, Borneo.


July                               Prepared for three operations.

                                             Operation STRUGGLE - To place Limpet Mines on two Japanese cruisers MYOKO and

                                             TAKAO based at Singapore in 10th Fleet.

                                             Operation FOIL - To cut telegraph cables in Lamma Channel, Hong Kong

.                                           Operation SABRE - To cut telegraph cables at Cap St Jaques, Saigon.

                                             (Note: These cables were vital to Japanese signal security as all radio signals were being

                                                          deciphered by US authorities.)

             26th                  HM Submarine STYGIAN sailed from Labuan for Singapore with XE3 in tow.

                                      HM Submarine SPARK sailed from Labuan for Singapore with XE1 in tow.

                                      (Operation STRUGGLE - Cruiser TAKAO was badly damaged and sank to sea bed.

                                                                                 Cruiser MYOKO attack failed.)

                                      HM Submarine SPEARHEAD sailed from Labuan for Saigon with XE4 in tow.

                                      Operation SABRE - Two cables were cut and sections brought back to BONAVENTURE).

                                      (Note: Operation FOIL to cut cables at Hong Kong was carried out by XE5.

                                                  HM Submarine SELENE was used for tow and XE5 was deployed from HM Depot

                                                  Ship  MAIDSTONE which was based at Subic Bay in the Philippines.

                                                  Tow of XE5 failed but submarine managed to proceed to target area under own power

                                                  and succeeded in severing cable although this result was not confirmed until after Hong

                                                  Kong was re-occupied.)



               3rd                 XE4 returned in tow of HM Submarine SPEARHEAD.

               4th                 XE5 returned in tow of HM Submarine SELENE

                                     XE3 returned in tow of HM Submarine STYGIAN.

               5th                 XE1 returned in tow of HM Submarine SPARK

              20th                Passage to Sydney from Labuan.


P o s t   W a r   N o t e s


HMS BONAVENTURE returned to UK from Australia and was retained in RN service until placed on the Disposal List in 1948. She was sold to the Clan Line and after conversion back to a mercantile role deployed in trade until sold during 1963 for demolition at Hong Kong.



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