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Urge (N17)

Built By: Vickers (Barrow)
Build Group: U Group 1
Fate: Reported lost whilst on passage from Malta to Alexandria on 29th April 1942.

Experts believe that the HMS Urge was fatally struck by a German mine shortly after leaving Malta's Grand Harbour, while the vessel was still surfaced.

At the time of her loss, the submarine was carrying ten ratings as passengers in addition to the normal crew as part of the evacuation of the 10th Submarine Flotilla from Malta to Alexandria and a War Correspondent.

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Ex P40

HMS Urge was ordered as part of the 1939 Emergency War Programme and was built at the Barrow-in-Furness Yard of Vickers Armstrong Ltd.

The Submarine was ordered on 4th Sep 1939, was laid down at Barrow on 30th Oct 1939 and was launched on 19th Aug 1940 and was completed on 12th Dec 1940.

After Contractors Sea Trials and Working Up patrols in Home Waters HMS Urge (under Lieutenant Edward P Tomkinson, Royal Navy) was sent to the Mediterranean to join firstly the 8th Submarine Flotilla based on the Submarine Depot Ship HMS Maidstone at Gibraltar and then the 1st Submarine Flotilla based on HMS St Angelo at Malta. Also on board for the passage was Lieutenant Ian McGeoch, Royal Navy who was to be the 'Spare Commanding Officer'.

In May 2021 the wreck of a submarine sunk off the coast of Malta was finally verified as the missing HMS Urge which vanished with all hands en route to Alexandria in April 1942.

Archaeologists from the University of Malta dove to the wreck twice in April and were able to identify the vessel based on the 'N17' ID embossed on its conning tower. The confirmation put an end to controversial claims that the sub was instead sunk off of the coast of Libya by Italian warplanes while undertaking a secret mission.

Experts believe that the HMS Urge was fatally struck by a German mine shortly after leaving Malta's Grand Harbour, while the vessel was still surfaced. It was discovered in 2019 after Francis Dickinsno, grandson of HMS Urge's captain, Lt Cdr Edward Tomkinson, pushed for a search of an area heavily mined by Nazis.


Bridgend adopted HMS Urge after raising £215,623 during their Warship Week held 15-22 November 1941. HMS Urge was lost in April 1942 and thereafter HMS Tudor (P326) was adopted.

It is believed that the RN Museum holds the adoption plaque for HMS Tudor. The commemorative plaque for HMS Urge resides at the Local and Family History Centre at Ty'r Ardd, Bridgend.

By Dr Peter Schofield

Missing WWII Submarine Adopted by Bridgend found off Libyan Coast

From BBC News - South East Wales, 29th April 2015

A submarine adopted by the people of Bridgend during World War Two may have been found 73 years after it sunk. HMS Urge left Malta for Alexandria on the north coast of Egypt on 27th April 1942 and was never seen again.

No definite explanation has ever been agreed upon for the loss of HMS Urge which was officially reported missing in the Mediterranean on 29th April 1942. However, historian Jean-Pierre Misson claims he has identified the submarine on sonar recordings taken near Libya. His research will shortly be available to view at the Local and Family History Centre at Ty'r Ardd, Bridgend.

In 1941 there was a national "Warship Week" which raised money to meet the costs of providing military machinery and vehicles for the war. Nationally, £955m was raised, of which Bridgend contributed around £300,000 - which would be the equivalent of more than £12m today - and the town adopted the submarine HMS Urge along with two other warships.

The submarine played a key role in winning the battle for North Africa during World War Two. The vessel aided the Malta Squadron, known as the fighting 10th, to cut off supplies to Rommel's Afrika Corps.

In 2011, to mark the 69th Anniversary of the submarine's disappearance, a plaque honouring HMS Urge and its 29-strong crew and 10 passengers was rededicated to the people of Bridgend in recognition of their efforts.

Roll of Honour

Name Rank Number Hons Age
Allen, David Bennett  Lieutenant    DSC*  22
Ashford, Harold George  Leading Telegraphist  D/JX 127562    32
Ashford, William George  Stoker Petty Officer  C/KX 82966  DSM  28
Attewell, Robert Henry  Stoker 2nd Class  D/KX 116457    21
Extra personnel carried as O/P (On Passage)
Baxter, Leslie Gordon  Able Seaman (RNVR)  C/LD/X 3971    24
Botting, Henry John  Petty Officer  C/JX 137747    25
Extra personnel carried as O/P (On Passage)
Brown, Cyril  Stoker 1st Class  P/KX 84490    28
Bryant, Albert Edward  Stoker 1st Class  P/K 61633  MID  38
Chamberlain, Sidney William  Leading Seaman  P/SSX 22878    22
Extra personnel carried as O/P (On Passage)
Davison, Robert  Able Seaman  D/JX 190316    21
Day, Frederick  Able Seaman  C/SSX 20578    21
Goss, Ronald Henry  Able Seaman  D/SSX 20989  MID  22
Gray, Bernard  War Correspondent (Civilian)      26
Bernard Gray (Journalist) on board for passage to Alexandria. Long story, powerful friends.
Groves, Laurence Frank  Leading Seaman  C/J 101563  DSM  36
Harman, Stanley Gordon  Engine Room Artificer 4th Class  C/KX 76070    26
Extra personnel carried as O/P (On Passage)
Hellyer, Reginald  Engine Room Artificer 2nd Class  C/MX 47775  DSM  28
Jackman, Charley John  Chief Petty Officer  P/J 110919  DSM*, MID*  33
Lamb, James Wilfred  Leading Stoker  P/KX 94635    24
Law, Eric Charles  Leading Signalman  C/JX 145120  MID  22
Leeke, Ronald William  Leading Signalman  C/JX 154364    20
Extra personnel carried as O/P (On Passage)
Maidment, John  Leading Telegraphist  P/SSX 22031    22
McDiarmid, Fred  Able Seaman  P/SSX 32644    21
Extra personnel carried as O/P (On Passage)
McMillan, Joseph Cresswell Dixon  Stoker 1st Class  D/SSX 32970  MID  21
Morris, Frederick Harold  Leading Seaman  P/JX 145545    22
Extra personnel carried as O/P (On Passage)
Norris, Jesse  Leading Seaman  C/JX 142500  DSM  23
O'Neill, John  Able Seaman  P/JX 21725  MID  22
Osborn, Herbert George Arthur  Leading Seaman  C/JX 134094  DSM  27
Parkinson, John Leslie  Able Seaman  D/JX 204152    24
Poole, James Malcolm Stuart  Lieutenant    DSC*  23
Ransome, John Sandeman Deane  Lieutenant (RNR)    DSC  26
Rogers, Roy William George  Leading Telegraphist  D/SSX 26082  DSM  22
Extra personnel carried as O/P (On Passage)
Rowley, John Kenneth  Able Seaman  C/SSX 21371  DSM  27
Rutter, Ronald Frederick  Engine Room Artificer 4th Class  C/MX 59915    24
Extra personnel carried as O/P (On Passage)
Stanger, Marcus  Stoker 1st Class  D/KX 90258    26
Tomkinson, Edward Philip  Lieutenant Commander    DSO*, MID  30
Commanding Officer
Toms, Charles Herbert  Chief Engine Room Artificer  D/M 35358  DSM  38
Twist, Henry Ernest  Telegraphist  D/JX 225829  DSM  21
Varley, Eric  Engine Room Artificer 3rd Class  D/MX 52497  MID  28
Watts, Henry Roland Joseph  Petty Officer  P/JX 129967  DSM*  31
Watts, Henry Roland Joseph P/JX 129967. CWGC has Watts, Henry Ronald Joseph
White, William Peter  Engine Room Artificer 4th Class  C/MX 76840    21
Wildman, Richard  Able Seaman  D/JX 204322    22
Wilkes, Samuel Cornelius  Leading Stoker  C/KX 81223    29
Extra personnel carried as O/P (On Passage)
Wiseman, Peter Dugdale  Petty Officer Telegraphist  D/JX 134000  MID  27
Woolrich, John Edward  Leading Stoker  P/KX 90716    24


30-10-1939 : Laid Down
19-08-1940 : Launched
12-12-1940 : Completed
18-04-1941 : Whilst on the way to Malta on Submarine HMS URGE made an attack on the 10,585 ton Italian Tanker FRANCO MARTELLI in position 46`51'N 08`29'E in the Bay of Biscay firing torpedoes at a range of approximately 2,000 yards. One torpedo hit and the target sank. It is reported that the tanker had been returning to Italy from Brazil.
20-05-1941 : Whilst on Patrol along the Sicily/Gulf of Sirte route an attack was made on two escorted Italian Merchant Vessels in position 35`46'N 11`57'E. Four torpedoes were fired of which the first two hit, the third missed and the fourth one also hit. As a result the 4,857 ton PERSEO was damaged and the 5,165 ton ZEFFIRO was sunk.
21-05-1941 : An attack was made on two Italian Cruisers escorted by three destroyers and a torpedo boat in position 35`30'N 12`25'E both of the Cruisers were missed however the 1,200 ton Destroyer CURTATONE,which was one of the escorts was sunk.
24-05-1941 : HMS URGE returned to Malta.
09-06-1941 : An unsuccessful attack was made on the 3,950 ton German Tanker INGO in position 35`38'N 12`11'E.
29-06-1941 : HMS Urge attacks and claims to have damaged the 10,000 ton Italian heavy cruiser Bolzano with four torpedoes east of Sicily in position 37`55'N 15`35'E.
02-07-1941 : HMS Urge fires four torpedoes at the 6,696 ton BRARENA, which resulted in one hit and the ship sinking
07-07-1941 : Damage was claimed on a 9,000 ton Merchant Vessel in position 37`48'N 15`21'E
24-07-1941 : In position 38`15'N 13`24'E a 2,500 ton Tanker was missed.
26-08-1941 : HMS Urge attacks the Italian tanker Pozarica with torpedoes off Marettimo Island, Italy but miss.
27-08-1941 : HMS Urge torpedoes and damages the Italian passenger ship Aquitania 7 nautical miles bearing 13 from Punta Mignone.
27-08-1941 : Urge attacked a Merchant Vessel and the 4,791 ton Italian Tanker AQUITANIA in position 38`11'N 12`07'E. The tanker was hit and sank.
29-08-1941 : HMS Urge fires three torpedoes against an Italian troop transport the 23,600 ton Italian Liner DUILIO off Capri Island, Italy in position 4`25'N 14`15'E. The Liner was later confirmed as damaged.
24-09-1941 : An attack was made a 2,500 ton Merchant Vessel. All torpedoes missed.
30-09-1941 : Overnight, HMS URGE took part in an operation to deliver a package to an agent on a beach in the Gulf of Gioia. It turned out that the agent was a double agent and the officer who was paddling ashore to deliver the package was killed by gunfire from the shore.
02-10-1941 : On 2nd Oct 1941 an unsuccessful attack was made on an Italian Submarine of 600 tons in position 38`43'N 12`52'E.
12-10-1941 : Sub Lt Brian Neville Thornley Lloyd had been appointed to HMS St Angelo in Malta and it is reported that he was killed on a Special Operations Mission when operating from HMS Urge. No details of the operation are available. He was aged 20.
22-10-1941 : Urge was patrolling off Kuriat Island, Tunisia when he sighted a Merchant Vessel which he fired three torpedoes. They were seen and avoided by the target but a fourth torpedo hit and sank the 1,407 ton MARIA POMPEI. On the same day another attack resulted in the sinking of the 5,996 ton MARIGOLA.
14-12-1941 : HMS Urge torpedoes and damages the Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto about 10 nautical miles west-south-west of Capo dell'Armi in position 37`52'N 15`30'E. Urge had fired at two Battleships (the other was the LITTORIO) and had claimed two hits and one possible hit but the VITTORIO VENETO was definitely damaged by one torpedo.
30-03-1942 : A 3,000 ton Merchant Vessel was missed with a salvo of three torpedoes in position 40`04'N 13`07'E . After this missed torpedo attack Urge surfaced and attacked the ship by gunfire but had to withdraw to avoid damage from return fire.
01-04-1942 : While on patrol north of Sicily, the 5,070 ton Italian Cruiser GIOVANNI DELLA BANDA NERE and two escorting Destroyers was attacked with a salvo of four torpedoes. Two hits were claimed and the Cruiser was sunk in position 38`37'N 15`22'E.
12-04-1942 : Torpedoes were fired at a two ship convoy. This was unsuccessful as the torpedo tracks were sighted by a flying boat acting as the escort and the ships were warned to slow down and stop.
27-04-1942 : On 27th April 1942 HMS Urge left Malta on passage to Alexandria, where she was due to arrive on the 6th. The submarine failed to arrive. It is possible that Urge struck a mine outside Malta or that she was sunk by the Italian torpedo boat Pegaso in the eastern Mediterranean.
29-04-1942 : Reported lost whilst on passage from Malta to Alexandria on 29th April 1942.

At the time of the loss the submarine was carrying ten ratings as passengers in addition to the normal crew as part of the evacuation of the 10th Submarine Flotilla from Malta to Alexandria.

1 comment


I'm reading about HMS Urge today 08/05/20, it's was one of the saddest WW2 stories I've never heard of. It seems that the front of the boat was damaged but the rest was intact. This would mean that the men never drowned, which would have been bad enough, but would have suffocated. It's worse than a horror film, I can't even imagine what it would have been like. What brave Men.

My uncle was a WW2 submariner, he died of lung cancer in 1964, he never smoked and I've since read that the fumes given off by the batteries in the subs could contribute to such deaths.
   Desmond Moylan Fri, 8 May 2020

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Utmost (N19)