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Captain Michael Lumby

Submarine skipper who wreaked mayhem on axis shipping

Michael Lumby's war service in command of the submarine Saracen was unusual in that he was one of very few submariners who sank two enemy submarines - in his case one German and one Italian.

In the summer of 1942 Saracen was a new submarine and Lumby her first captain. She was working up in the waters northwest of Shetland on August 3 when Lumby sighted U335 on the surface.


The U-Boat was making a passage from Kiel to her patrol area in the North Atlantic and did not spot the British submarine. An accurate torpedo attack by Saracen sank her.

Lumby them looked for survivors, of whom there appeared to be three. One man raised his arm and then sank below the surface, the second was a corpse and the third, a signalman, was picked up. He said that the other two had been the Captain and a warrant officer. 41 other men went down with the boat. Lumby was awarded the DSC.

On the way from Gibraltar to Malta in October of that year, Lumby had another chance against a German U-boat, but missed with his torpedoes. On November 5 Saracen was submerged on patrol in support of the Allied landings in North Africa - Operation Torch - when Lumby sighted the Italian submarine Granito and hit her with three of the four torpedoes fired. Granito sank with all hands.

Between December 1942 and August 1943 Lumby and Saracen were extremely active In the central Mediterranean. The submarine sank cargo vessels and tankers, landed agents in Corsica and bombarded a shipbuilding yard at Cervo on the Italian Riviera. During the invasion of Sicily, Saracen and others provided a defensive patrol line and subsequently landed advance base parties in Sardinia. Saracen survived several counter-attacks during these patrols, the success of which earned Lumby the DSO and a mention in dispatches.

The frequently calm and often glassily clear Mediterranean waters, the constant hostile air cover and increasing enemy tactical proficiency made for many British Submarine casualties in the theatre, and on August 14th 1943, Saracen's own luck ran out. Spotted by the Italian corvettes Minerva and Euterpe off Bastie, Corsica, she was depth charged to the surface, damaged beyond recovery. Lumby lost four of his men, the remainder being taken prisoners of war.

Lumby was interned in a Marlag und Milag a camp for naval merchant marine personnel at Tarnstedt, near Bremen. In April 1945 the approach of British forces caused the authorities to try to march the naval and Royal Marines Marlag prisoners to an unknown destination. By cutting the wire and using various subterfuges, the Milag Merchant Navy prisoners hid the Marlag men creating what Lumby called the "underground navy''.

His memoir recalled that when the march party was paraded, there were more than a thousand men absent and discipline collapsed. The camp was next strafed in error by Allied aircraft, the first merciful action by British being the accidental "liberation'' of several pigs from nearby farms into the compound.

Lumby was repatriated in May.

The son of an Indian Army Officer, Michael Lumby was born at Simla, and went to Dartmouth, where he won the King's Dirk and the mathematic prize in 1934.

Qualifying in submarines in 1938, he joined the Sturgeon and was awarded a mention in dispatches for his part in operations in the Heligoland Bight. He commanded the Submarines Tribune and L23 before being appointed to Saracen.

His post-war appointments included the battleship Vanguard on the royal visit to South Africa in 1946, and a number of commands, including two further submarines and the cruisers Bermuda and Belfast. In 1958 he was sent to sort out the fleet minelayer after a notorious mutiny on board her.

In 1962 he commanded the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Research Establishment at Portland and subsequently the depot ship Maidstone and the 3rd Submarine Squadron in Scotland. He was much admired for his gentle and thoughtful style of leadership, never needing to raise his voice.

Retiring in 1966, he worked for the shipbuilders Scott Lithgow, trying with mixed success to sell submarines to the South American navies. When the Company was taken over by British Shipbuilders, he bought some farming land in Dorset and raised cattle and horses.

Captain Michael Lumby, DSO, DSC Wartime Submarine Captain Born 17th Sept 1917, Died Dec 7th 2001 Aged 84



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