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Starfish (S19)

Built By: Chatham Dockyard (Medway)
Build Group: S Group 1
Fate: Depth charged and sunk by German minesweeper M7 in the Heligoland Bight on 9 Jan 1940

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The boat has conducted five uneventful war patrols in the North Sea but, on 9th January 1940, during her sixth patrol, she attacked a German minesweeper off Heligoland Bight, but after the attack failed and her diving planes jammed. Starfish was repeatedly attacked with depth charges. Badly damaged, she was forced to surface but sank after all her crew were rescued by German ships.

Related Pages
RN Submarines scuttled or captured in WWII
Descriptions of the events in WWII that led to the loss of Royal Navy Submarines in actions where the submarines were sunk, usually by scuttling, with the captains and crew taken prisoner. Included are two variations - in one case the submarine was captured and in another the captain was killed in action.

Roll of Honour

Name Rank Number Hons Age
Wilkinson, John  Engine Room Artificer  D/MX48436    33
Died 25/01/1943 while PoW in Germany


26-09-1931 : Laid Down
14-03-1933 : Launched
27-10-1933 : Completed
09-01-1940 : Lost

On 5 January 1940 HMS Starfish (Lt. T.A. Turner, RN) sailed from Blyth. On 9 January 1940 she attacked a German minesweeper off the German North Sea coast in the Heligoland Bight. However this attack failed because, due to drill error, the torpedoes remained stuck in the tubes!

She returned for second attack but the hydroplanes jammed and the CO decided to bottom for the remainder of day to carry out repairs in about 27 metres of water. The German minesweeper M-7 located her & dropped 2 DCs which did no damage, but @ 1050 hrs one of the electricians asked for permission to restart one of the Sperry motors to prevent the gyro from wandering, it was granted and, no sooner the motor started, 4 DCs rained on top of the boat, fairly close aboard, causing widespread damage.

At 1440 another DC attack was carried out, 20 of these falling fairly close to the hull, shearing rivets & starting plates which began leaking. by 1800 hrs the situation inside was serious, the engine room crankcases and starboard main motor bearings were flooded, the torpedo trenches & bilges were full, water was pouring through the starboard engine clutch and lapping the starboard main motor casing.

Starfish laid on the bottom until the CO, having formed the opinion the enemy was not likely to leave the vicinity in the near future, at 1820 hrs gave the order to surface. In order to accomplish this, the sub was forced to drop the ballast keel, barely making it due to loss of HP air and water in the hull, coming up at a 45° angle. She sank very shortly after with no loss among the crew, which was picked up by the waiting ships and taken as POWs.


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