19 April 1941: Malta Submarine in Dramatic Rescue Attempt

19 Apr

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HM Submarine Regent

HM Submarine Regent


A Malta-based submarine has been engaged in a dramatic mission to rescue British dignitaries and civilians from German-occupied Yugoslavia. The Balkan state has been under Axis occupation for several days following invasion by German and Italian troops.  As the enemy advanced rapidly, the British Ambassador Sir Ronald Campbell and his staff found themselves potentially stranded in a hostile country.  The Ambassador is understood to have cabled a message out to London and left immediately for the Yugoslav coast with the other British civilians. 

HM Submarine Regent was ordered to leave Malta on Thursday 17 April for the naval port of Kotor (1) in the hope of rescuing the stranded group.  However, within hours of her sailing, the Yugoslav government had signed an armistice with the Axis powers, due to come into effect at noon yesterday.  The submarine had to negotiate two minefields in her approach to Kotor. As Regent neared the harbour entrance, Lt Edward Stanley was sent up on deck to fly a white flag to signify a peaceful mission.  However, two German aircraft swooped down and dive-bombed the submarine, scoring a near-miss with a bomb which injured Lt Stanley in the chest. 

The white flag in place, the decision was taken to proceed with the mission and Lt D Lambert was sent ashore to meet the British Ambassador; he was immediately taken prisoner. The submarine’s commanding officer, Lt Cdr H C Browne, and a rating were also seriously wounded by machine gun fire from the shore.  Lt Cdr Browne was forced to depart without Ambassador Campbell, who it is believed has been taken prisoner.  


Four merchant ships left Malta at dusk today, having delivered their supplies safely to the Island. British steamers City of Lincoln, Clan Ferguson, City of Manchester and Perthshire formed the supply convoy which was bombed within an hour of arriving in Grand Harbour on 23 March.  Both Lincoln and Perthshire were hit in the raids but are now fully seaworthy. 

The merchantmen were escorted on their departure today by four destroyers Jervis, Janus, Nubian and Diamond, the latter having completed refit at Malta.  They expect to rendezvous with other ships of the Mediterranean Fleet tomorrow for the steamers to be escorted back to Alexandria.


Weather  Fine.    

1214 hrs  Air raid alert for two ME 109 fighters which circle the Island and are engaged by Tigne anti-aircraft guns; no claims.

1511-1530 hrs; 1606 hrs  Air raid alert; raids do not materialise.

2018-2043 hrs Air raid alert for two JU 88 bombers which cross the coast singly and drop bombs in isolated localities causing no damage or casualties. Searchlights illuminate the raiders on two occasions and anti-aircraft guns engage heavily, causing the raiders to withdraw; no claims.

Military casualties  2nd Lieutenant Harry Leslie Deacon, Royal Army Service Corps.

Civilian casualties Msida  Nicolo Cassar, age 40; Michael Sammut, age 40; Jane Zammit, age 60; John Zammit, age 50; Joseph Zammit, age 65.


ROYAL NAVY Convoy ME7 – City of Lincoln, Clan Ferguson, City of Manchester and Perthshire – sailed for Alexandria escorted by Jervis, Janus, Nubian and Diamond, the latter having completed refit at Malta. 

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance Taranto; chased by three Macchi 200 fighters; no damage. Maryland reconnaissance western Ionian Sea. 148 Squadron 8 Wellington bombers night bombing attack on Tripoli Harbour.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 2 (1 x 50kg; 1 x 500kg).

(1) Now in Montenegro 


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Posted by on April 19, 2021 in 1941, April 1941


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2 responses to “19 April 1941: Malta Submarine in Dramatic Rescue Attempt

  1. Roslyn Berry

    April 19, 2021 at 9:44 pm

    My dad (Tich Whiteley) was the pilot of Glenn Martin AR714 on that day, along with P/O Potter and Sgt Gridley. In the words of his logbook, the day’s duty was “Malta to Taranto and Return.Chased out by 3 Maccis.” – exactly as you say…

    • Peter Whiteley

      July 11, 2022 at 2:39 pm

      Hello Roslyn
      My grand father was your uncle A Jack Whiteley


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