Κυριακή, 29 Νοεμβρίου 2015

HMS Rover: The unknown story of the submarine in Souda Bay, Crete, 1941

In this rare and previously unpublished photo, dated April 1941, HMS Rover is seen in Souda Bay, Crete

Few are aware of the fact that Souda Bay in Crete, a large naval base used by the British in early WW2, is in a way similar to Pearl Harbor, Scapa Flow and Truk Lagoon. 

Used as an allied naval base, Souda was the target of both nazi German as well as fascist Italian raids in the early part of WW2, which resulted in a large number of shipwrecks, axis aircraft shot down and extensive damage in the facilities around Souda. 

Many ships remained sunk for the duration of the nazi occupation, such as HMS York and were only removed and sold as scrap after the end of WW2. Others were refloated and used by the nazis, while a handful of heavily destroyed ships that could not be removed post-war remain at the seabed to this day.

Unfortunately, as Souda is still a naval base, used by NATO and the Hellenic Navy, is a restricted area and scuba diving is not allowed to most parts of the Bay. 

In April 1941, amidst the Battle of Crete, Rover arrived at Souda Bay from Alexandria to assist in an attempt to salvage the disabled the heavy cruiser HMS York, which had been severely damaged by the Italians. 

HMS Rover in a stock photo

Rover was used to provide electrical power to operate anti-aircraft guns during the operation, but on 24 April 1941, the submarine was bombed and had to be towed to Alexandria to receive temporary repairs before being towed to Singapore for more permanent repairs in late 1941. 

In early 1942, as the Japanese advanced down the Malay Peninsula towards Singapore, Rover was moved to Bombay, in India, where repairs were completed.

HMS York in Souda bay, Crete, May 1941

At the conclusion of repairs, Rover operated out of Trincomalee, in Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka), escorting several convoys and sinking a total of ten Japanese ships. In 1945, Rover took part anti-submarine training, before being sold to Joubert of Durban.

Gunners at HMS York, in an early WW2 stock photo

Rover was the only submarine in her class to survive the war and had a total of six commanders throughout the war. She was scrapped on 30 July 1946.

R-Class Patrol submarine ordered on 28th February 1929 from Vickers-Armstrong at Barrow with HM Submarines REGENT and REGULUS. 

This submarine was laid down on 24th July 1929 and launched with HMS REGENT AND REGULUS on 11th June 1930. 

She was the 10th RN warship to bear use the name introduced in 1777 when given to a captured US Brig and last used in 1909 until renamed ROLLICKER in 1929 so it could be given to this submarine in June 1930. 

Build was completed on 29th January 1931 and she then commissioned for service in the 4th Submarine Flotilla for service on the China Station where she was deployed until 1940. 

After a WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaign in December 1941 this submarine was adopted by the civil community of Winchester, Hampshire.

HMS Rover Submarine -  Log Book 1 9 4 1

Commanding Officer Lieut Cdr Marsham, RN

7th During patrol off Tobruk sustained damage from depth charges by Italian torpedo boats CLIO and CASTORE in defect of convoy being attacked.

9th Sank sailing vessel by surface gun action. 

Returned to Alexandria for repair to batteries.

On completion resumed operational service by patrol off Calabria

8th Carried out unsuccessful torpedo attacks on both a mercantile and a submarine.

14th Damaged tanker CESCO of 6,160 tons in a torpedo attack. (Note : This ship later sank.)

Deployed at Suda Bay for support of convoys taking troops to Greece.

30th Provided electric power supplies to HM Cruiser YORK which had been damaged at Suda Bay by an explosive motor boat launched from an Italian destroyer. 
(Note: This cruiser had been at anchor and later beached to prevent sinking. Later sustained damages in an air raid at Suda Bay and disabled.)

Taken in tow by HM Netlayer PROTECTOR and towed to Alexandria for repair.
Under temporary repair by at Alexandria and later in drydock at Port Said.

Passage to be made to Singapore for permanent repair .

Passage to Singapore with call at Aden.

Taken in hand for repair and refit by HM Dockyard, Singapore.

September to December
Under refit

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