HMS Porpoise (N14)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS Porpoise.
HMS Porpoise-1-.jpg
HMS Porpoise
Name: HMS Porpoise
Ordered: 11 June 1931
Builder: Vickers Armstrong, Barrow
Laid down: 22 September 1931
Launched: 30 August 1932
Commissioned: 11 March 1933
Fate: sunk 19 January 1945
PORPOISE badge-1-.jpg
General characteristics
  • 1,768 tons surfaced
  • 2,035 tons submerged
Length: 289 ft (88 m)
Beam: 29 ft 10 in (9.09 m)
Draught: 15 ft 10 in (4.83 m)
Propulsion: 2 shaft, Diesel (3,300 hp) plus electric (1,630 hp)
  • 15.5 knots (28.7 km/h) surfaced
  • 8.75 knots (16.21 km/h) submerged
Complement: 59
  • 6 × 21 in torpedo tubes (bow)
  • 12 torpedoes
  • 1 × 4 inch deck gun
  • 50 mines

HMS Porpoise (N14) was one of the six-ship class of Grampus-class mine-laying submarines of the Royal Navy. She was built at Vickers Armstrong, Barrow and launched 30 August 1932. She served in World War II in most of the naval theatres of the war, in home waters, the Mediterranean and the Far East. She was sunk by Japanese aircraft on 19 January 1945, and was the last Royal Navy submarine to be lost to enemy action.


In 1940 she was operating in the North Sea. She unsuccessfully attacked the German submarine U-3, and later sunk the German minesweeper M 5 when she hit a mine laid by Porpoise. She reported firing on an unknown submarine, which may have been U-1 which disappeared about this time. However U-1 may have hit a mine laid by Porpoise's sister, HMS Narwhal.

Throughout late 1941 and 1942 Porpoise operated in the Mediterranean. On 9 December a few miles south of the Peloponnese she torpedoed and badly damaged the German passenger and cargo ship Sebastiano Veniero, which was carrying about 2,000 UK and Dominion prisoners of war. At least 300 PoWs were killed, and the Germans beached the merchant ship at Methoni in Greece to prevent her sinking and further loss of life.[1] Porpoise then returned to minelaying off Crete.

In 1942 she sank the Italian merchant Citta di Livorno and later the Italian transport Ogaden, but missed the escorting Italian torpedo boat Montanari. Porpoise went on to torpedo and sink the Italian merchant Lerici, and unsuccessfully attacked the merchant Iseo, during which she was damaged by depth charges from the escorting ships. Towards the end of the year she sank the Italian tanker Giulio Giordani and the auxiliary patrol vessel F-39 / Fertilia, several days after an earlier attack on the ship had failed. The Italian torpedo boat Generale Antonio Cantore struck a mine laid by Porpoise and was also sunk.

1944 found Porpoise operating in the Pacific against Japanese forces. She directly sank several small sailing vessels, whilst the Japanese auxiliary submarine chasers Cha 8 and Cha 9, the army tanker Takekun Maru and the auxiliary minelayer Ma 1 were sunk after hitting mines laid by Porpoise. The auxiliary minesweeper Kyo Maru No. 1 and the submarine chaser Ch 57 were damaged by mines.[2]

On September 11, 1944 Porpoise took part in Operation Rimau by ferrying 24 Australian Commandoes to the island of Merapas, a small island off the coast of Singapore.[3]

Porpoise returned to Fremantle, Australia on October 24. On its return from Operation Rimau, Porpoise is noted to have encountered a small enemy convoy and later a large tanker. Porpoise declined an engagement at either opportunity as her orders were to remain hidden unless an important target presented itself. Porpoise is believed to have sustained unknown damages during the Rimau mission and was noted to be leaking fuel. Heavy weather was also encountered during the return trip to Fremantle. The submarine's journey was mainly on the surface during heavy rainstorms. The Porpoise was required to dive somewhere in the Lombok Strait nearly losing control as it plunged violently in the strong currents and eddies associated with that strait.[3]

After repairing at Fremantle, Porpoise sailed to Ceylon in November 1944 and operated from that area for the rest of the war.[3]


In January 1945 HMS Porpoise was laying mines in the Straits of Malacca in the vicinity of Penang. On January 9, Porpoise signalled confirming their mission had been successfully carried out.[3] The submarine was never heard from again.

Japanese records show that a submarine was spotted and bombed by aircraft in the vicinity of Penang. Although not destroyed in this attack, the submarine was damaged and leaking oil, that left a trail for the Japanese anti-submarine forces to follow, and it is likely that she was sunk shortly after by anti-submarine aircraft.[4]


  1. ^ Lettens, Jan; de Neumann, Bernard (2 June 2013). "MV Sebastiano Veniero [+1941]". WreckSite. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  2. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur (1995–2014). "HMS Porpoise (N 14)". Guðmundur Helgason. 
  3. ^ a b c d Outhit, Jeff (14 August 2015). "Vanished: Waterloo woman’s brother died in 1945 Pacific battle". Waterloo Region Record. 
  4. ^ "Page 18". Submarine losses 1904 to present day. Royal Navy Submarine Museum. 2010.