24 May 1941: Malta Submarine Sinks 3 Enemy Convoy Ships

24 May

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HMS Upholder

HMS Upholder


HM Submarine Upholder has sunk a third enemy ship in a month in an attack today off the coast of Sicily. On her 10th patrol since joining the Mediterranean Fleet, Upholder spotted three very large troop-carrying liners.  Despite the troop convoy being well-protected by a destroyer and torpedo boats from the Italian fleet, the submarine launched an attack, firing torpedoes at the largest of the liners, the 18000 ton Conte Rosso, which sank within 40 minutes, with the loss of some 1300 from the 3000 plus troops on board. Upholder escaped undamaged despite being attacked with 37 depth charges during the encounter.

Commanded by Lt Commander M D Wanklyn, RN, HMS Upholder has been in Malta since December, as part of 10th Submarine Flotilla, based at Lazaretto.  In the past month, the submarine has sunk German ships Arcturus and Leverkusen, as well as the Italian Antonietta Lauro and the Conte Rosso.  Just yesterday Upholder torpedoed and damaged a French tanker.


Malta’s telephone systems are inadequate to cope with the demands of its defensive forces, according to the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief. Essential telephone communications systems have frequently been cut in recent raids, placing the entire defensive operation under threat.

The problem is due to the shallow depth of underground cables, which are no more than 18 inches below ground level, leaving them extremely vulnerable to damage in heavy bombing raids such as those in recent weeks. As the subsoil of the whole island is rock, it is not possible to bury cables deeper underground. 

As a result, Lt Gen Dobbie has concluded that military communications need to be installed independently of the telephone system. He has made an urgent request to the War Office for 45 radio sets, plus nine operators for specialist models, to be sent to Malta as a matter of urgency.  He has also asked London for an expected despatch date for the equipment, as he believes that some supplies destined for are currently being delayed in the Middle East.


Weather  Heavy rain and strong, cold wind, clearing later.

1455-1505 hrs  Air raid alert for a patrol of 12 enemy aircraft which approach to within 10 miles of the north coast of the Island before turning back to the north.


ROYAL NAVY  Upholder sank Conte Rosso.

AIR HQ 69 Squadron PM  Maryland patrol east Sicilian coast. 2 Marylands patrols eastern Tunisian coast including Lampedusa Harbour to Zuara reported several vessels and convoy movements.  One Maryland machine-guns a Dornier 18 from 50 feet with no opposition. 139 Squadron Two Blenheims are despatched to attack merchant vessels south of Djerba and score hits with two bombs.  

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  General Alarm Exercise due to begin at 0300 hrs cancelled due to heavy rain.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Two Other Ranks are selected to act as gang-leaders for Maltese labourers.


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Posted by on May 24, 2016 in 1941, May 1941


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