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Lieutenant Commander Malcolm David Wanklyn

Malcolm David Wanklyn was born on 28th Jun 1911 in Kolkata in India. His father was a successful businessman and engineer who served in the Army in the First World War and his uncle was a Destroyer Commanding who had a successful war fighting U-Boats in the First World War. Malcolm Wanklyn developed a seafaring interest at the age of five and applied to join the Royal Navy aged 14. Despite some minor physical ailments he was able to pass the selection boards.

By 1931 had been promoted to Sub Lieutenant and after serving in a number of surface ships, he joined submarines as a Sub Lieutenant on 8th May 1933 serving first in HMS Oberon as '3rd Hand' from 19th August 1933. He then joined Submarine L56 - again as '3rd Hand' on 19th October 1934.


He was then appointed to Submarine H50 as 'First Lieutenant' on 1st January 1936 followed by HMS Shark as 'First Lieutenant' on 28th January 1937 and HMS Porpoise as 'First Lieutenant' on 1st November 1938. Malcolm Wanklyn joined HMS Otway as 'First Lieutenant' on 2nd August 1939.

On 8th Jan 1940 he was appointed to HMS Dolphin for the Commanding Officer's Qualifying Course – 'the Perisher' - where his 'Teacher' was Lieutenant Commander H P de C Steel, Royal Navy.

Following successful completion of his 'Perisher' Malcolm Wanklyn's first Command was Submarine H32 which he joined on 5th February 1940 and this was followed by Submarine H31 'in Command' from 15th May 1940.

He then joined HMS Upholder 'in Command' on 8th Aug 1940. HMS Upholder was built by Vickers Armstrong Ltd in Barrow-in-Furness as Yard Number 761. The Submarine was 'Ordered' in 1939, 'Laid Down' on 30th October 1939, 'Launched:' on 8th July 1940 and 'Completed' on 31st October 1940.

Upholder 1940
Upholder 1940

HMS Upholder had a short but very successful wartime career. Based in Malta with the 10th Submarine Flotilla she carried out twenty five patrols in the central Mediterranean. Not until her 6th patrol during April 1941 did HMS Upholder begin to build her reputation. In her remaining nineteen patrols she sank three U-boats, one Cruiser and one Destroyer and damaged a further two Destroyers. Equally important, she also sank 119,000 tons of enemy merchant shipping carrying vital supplies and reinforcements to the German 'Afrika Korps' in North Africa.

On her 25th and last patrol before going into refit, HMS Upholder was sunk on 14th April 1942 with the loss of all hands by the Italian MTB Pegaso whilst carrying out an attack on a convoy off Tripoli.

For her outstanding contribution to the War effort the following Official Admiralty Communiqué was issued:

The Board of the Admiralty regrets to announce that HM Submarine Upholder (Lt. Cdr M. D. Wanklyn V.C., D.S.O. and double bar, R.N.) has been lost. Next of kin have been informed. It is seldom proper for their Lordships to draw distinction between different services rendered in the course of Navy duty, but they take this opportunity of singling out those of Upholder under the Command of Lieutenant Commander Wanklyn for special mention.

She was long employed against enemy communications in the Central Mediterranean, and she became known for the uniform high quality of her services in that arduous and dangerous duty. Such was the standard of skill and cool intrepidity set by Lt. Cdr. Wanklyn and the Officers and men under him, they and their ship became an inspiration not only in their own Flotilla, but to the fleet of which it was a part, and to Malta, where for so long it was based. The ship and her company have gone, but their example and inspiration remain.

This was followed by an announcement in the London Gazette dated 16 December 1941

The King has been Graciously pleased to approve of the grant of the Victoria Cross for great valour and resolution in command of His Majesty's Submarine Upholder to Lieutenant Commander Malcolm David Wanklyn, DSO, Royal Navy.

The Citation read as follows:

On the evening of 24th May, 1941, whilst on patrol off the coast of Sicily, Lieutenant Commander Wanklyn, in command of His Majesty's Submarine Upholder, sighted a southbound enemy troop convoy, strongly escorted by Destroyers. The failing light was such that observation by periscope could not be relied on but a surface attack would have been easily seen. Upholder's listening gear was out of action. In spite of these severe handicaps Lieutenant Commander Wanklyn decided to press home his attack at short range. He quickly steered his craft into a favourable position and closed in so as to make sure of his target. By this time the whereabouts of the escorting Destroyers could not be made out.

Lieutenant Commander Wanklyn, while fully aware of the risk of being rammed by one of the escorts, continued to press on towards the enemy troopships. As he was about to fire, one of the enemy Destroyers suddenly appeared out of the darkness at high speed, and he only just avoided being rammed. As soon as he was clear, he brought his periscope sights on and fired torpedoes, which sank a large troop ship. The enemy Destroyers at once made a strong counterattack and during the next twenty minutes dropped thirty-seven depth-charges near Upholder. The failure of his listening devices made it much harder for him to get away, but with the greatest courage, coolness and skill he brought Upholder clear of the enemy and safe back to harbour. Before this outstanding attack, and since being appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, Lieutenant Commander Wanklyn has torpedoed a tanker and a merchant vessel. He has continued to show the utmost bravery in the presence of the enemy. He has carried out his attacks on enemy vessels with skill and relentless determination, he has also sunk one destroyer, one Page 6 of 10 U-boat, two troop-transports of 19,500 tons each, one tanker and three supply ships. He has besides probably destroyed by torpedoes one cruiser and one destroyer, and possibly hit another cruiser.

Malcolm Wanklyn's Victoria Cross and other Awards are held privately.



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