Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday: March 16, 2016, the Tale of the Photogenic Tyrant
Here we see the forward view from the conning tower of the British T (Triton)-class diesel electric submarine HMS Tribune (N76) of HMs Royal Navy running along the surface in Scottish waters, 1942. Though modern and relatively low mileage, this 275-foot fleet boat only served for a decade, but she will live on for eternity.
With the World War I era boats getting long in the tooth, the Admiralty commissioned twelve 275-foot Odin-class, six 289-foot Parthian-class, six 287-foot Rainbow-class, 62 much smaller 202-foot S-class, three huge and rather experimental 345-foot River-class and six 289-foot Grampus-class submarines in the 1920s and 30s. With lessons learned from these 95~ diesel boats, it seemed the brass liked the 275-foot range as a sweet spot for general sub size and pushed ahead with 53 new T-class boats to replace the 1920s era O, P and R class submersibles mentioned above.
These sea monsters, designed in 1935, had an impressive armament of 10 torpedo tubes (6 bow, 4 aft) which was considered devastating at the time, room for 16 torpedoes, and mounted a QF 4-incher on deck. A crew of 48 manned the 1,500-ton smoke boat and twin diesel/electric engines/motors could drive them at nearly 16 knots on the surface and 9 when submerged. They weren’t flashy compared to the German, U.S. and Japanese fleet boats of the day, but they could sail 8,000 nautical miles and could operate at a 300 foot depth with no problem.
The hero of our tale, HMS Tribune, was the sixth and thus far last ship of the fleet to carry that name since 1796. Laid down 3 March 1937 at Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company in Greenock on the River Clyde in Scotland, she was commissioned into the fleet on 17 October 1939– just six weeks after the start of World War II.
While still working up Tribune may have brushed into U-21 thought neither ship exchanged fire.
Over the next three and a half years she would complete an impressive 18 war patrols, though cranky engines proved her undoing. Many of Tribune’s patrols were quiet, with nothing but neutral ships spotted. Covered in great detail over at Uboat.net (go read it!), she had a series of 15 skippers over this period, typically reserve lieutenants. She spent extensive time off the coast of Norway and in the Kattegat while operating from Rosyth but just couldn’t make the hits when needed.
Tribune made unsuccessful torpedo attacks on the German armed merchant cruiser Schiff 33 / Pinguin off Standlandet, Norway; U-56 in the Hebrides; U-138 with 5 torpedoes about 10 nautical miles South-West of Ile de Groix; the German tanker Karibisches Meer in the Bay of Biscay; and finally sighted the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper and light cruiser Köln leaving the Gimsostrommen and steering towards Hval Fjord in Sept. 1942 but was unable to attack.
During 1942, Admiralty photographers who captured a number of images that endure in the IWM today toured her at Scapa Flow.
Then came the Crown Film Unit who, with a barebones cast and director Jack Lee, cameraman Bill Chaston and cinematographer Jonah Jones with a few WRENs in-tow, filmed the Ministry of Information film “Close Quarters” aboard the vessel.
In the 75-minute film, she was referred to as HMS Tyrant and, while most of the scenes were fleshed out by a full production crew at Pinewood Studio in a superb full-sized model of the submarine, footage of the boat underway and her spaces were retained.
Transferring to Gibraltar in November 1942, Tribune began patrols in the Med with about the same success she had off Norway. Although she caught some depth charges from a RAF Wellington by mistake, and more from an Italian patrol boat, she did come in handy by landing SOE agents in Corsica in January 1943 and carried out close recon of the Copaiba Bay shoreline from just 1,000 yards or so offshore.
On 10 Jan 1943, Tribune finally drew blood by pumping torpedoes into the Nazi-flagged French merchant Dalny (6672 GRT, built 1914) 15 nautical miles from San Remo, Italy, which had to be beached in order to prevent sinking.
She followed this up later with damaging the German tanker Präsident Herrenschmidt (9103 GRT, built 1932) about five nautical miles South-West of San Lucido, Italy, in March.
With her engines untrustworthy, Tribune was sent back to Portsmouth in April 1943 and spent the rest of the war as a training boat. Placed in reserve in June 1945 even before the war ended in the Pacific, she was transferred to Falmouth in November 1945 then sold to be broken up for scrap July 1947.
As such, Tribune was luckier than many of her sisterships, of whom 16 were destroyed, largely by mines and in scraps with Italian and German subs in the Med. After the war, some were modernized similar to the same program as the USN did with the GUPPY boats, but the last of these, HMS Tabard (P342), was discarded by 1974.
The stills and movie reels taken of Tribune will continue as a tribute to the class and HMs submarines as a whole during the war.
1,290 tons surfaced
1,560 tons submerged
Length: 276 ft. 6 in (84.28 m)
Beam: 25 ft. 6 in (7.77 m)
12 ft. 9 in (3.89 m) forward
14 ft. 7 in (4.45 m) aft
Twin diesel engines, 2,500 hp (1.86 MW) each
Twin electric motors 1,450 hp (1.08 MW) each
15.5 kn (28.7 km/h; 17.8 mph) surfaced
9 kn (17 km/h; 10 mph) submerged
Range: 8,000 nmi (9,200 mi; 15,000 km) at 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced with 131 tons of fuel
6 bow torpedo tubes
4 external torpedo tubes
QF 4 inch (100 mm) deck gun
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