Hove's 'adopted' Submarine

“Adopt” a warship

During the second week of  March 1942 the Hove Borough Council ran a National Savings ‘Warship Week’ campaign to raise funds for the war effort, their target was £425,000, on achieving this goal the town was able to “adopt” a warship. The final tally of funds raised was £521,000 and the submarine H.M.S. Unbeaten was “adopted” by the town.

H.M. S. Unbeaten

H.M. S. Unbeaten was a ‘U’ class submarine built by Vickers Armstrong ship builders in Barrow-in-Furness and she entered service on November 10th 1940 At the time of her “adoption” H.M.S. Unbeaten was operating in the Mediterranean as part of the 10th Submarine Flotilla under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Edward ‘Teddy’ Woodward, DSO, RN and was engaged in anti-shipping operations against German and Italian vessels.

A silent hunter, a distinguished record

Between December 1940 and July 1942 the Unbeaten had sunk the German submarine U-374 and the Italian submarine Guglielmotti, the Italian sailing vessel V 51 / Alfa, and the Vichy-French merchantman PLM 20.  She also torpedoed and damaged the Italian merchantman Vettor Pisani which was later sunk by British aircraft. She returned to the UK in August 1942 for repairs and a refit after being damaged in Malta

Presentation of the ‘Jolly Roger’

Shortly after their return to the UK the commanding officer and some of the officers and crew were entertained privately to lunch at Hove. Speaking to the Brighton & Hove Herald about the occasion the Mayor said “as long as our destiny and our fate rest upon the efforts of such men as I met  we need have no fear of the ultimate outcome of the present grim struggle.” During this meeting the ships ‘Jolly Roger’ flag was presented to the Mayor. This was a special flag unique to submarines; permission to fly the Jolly Roger was normally granted to a submarine after her first successful patrol by the Flotilla Commanding Officer. The crew would then sew on the appropriate emblems following each successful action; the flag would then be flown when entering harbour at the end of each patrol to signify the success of the patrol. Unfortunately this special gift was lost when the Hove Town Hall was bombed during a German air raid.

A commemorative plaque

Later, on Wednesday December 9th, an impressive ceremony was held in the Hove Town Hall at which a commemorative plaque from the residents of Hove was exchanged for a replica of the ships badge by the Mayer of Hove Councillor A. H. Clarke, and Rear Admiral D. W. Boyd, -C.B.10., D.5 C., representing the Admiralty and the Unbeaten which had left the UK early in November to return to Malta.  Hove’s plaque, to be placed in the submarine, bore the inscription that the sum raised in Warship Week was equivalent to £10 per head of population, men, women and children.

Tragedy at sea

Sadly at the time of this presentation dinner HMS Unbeaten has been reported lost, a fact that was not made public until December 19th when the  Brighton & Hove Herald carried the story that the Admiralty had announced the submarine was “overdue and must be considered lost”. Unbeaten had sailed for the Mediterranean via Gibraltar after a refit in Britain under the command of her now C.O. Lieutenant. Donald E. O. Watson, DSC, RN. On 11 November 1942 she was attacked and sunk in error by an RAF Wellington of No. 172 Squadron, Coastal Command while in the Bay of Biscay. She was lost with all hands.

This article was composed from materials originally supplied to the office of the Mayor of Brighton & Hove by Mrs, Barbara Woodward, widow of the late Commander ‘Teddy’ Woodward D.S.O.** Unbeaten’s first commanding officer. Special thanks to Mrs Pat Dines, Mayoral Secretary for allowing access to this material.

Can you help?

Since writing this piece I have been contracted by Mr. David J.B. Smith about assistance with researching H.M. S. Unbeaten. He is writing a book about the submarine and would welcome any contributions. You can contact Dave via his blog about the submarine and progress on the book by clicking here.

Comments about this page

  • “My father Geoffrey H Wright DSM is on the far right of the  front row. I have this photo in our family album. He was on board “Unbeaten” when she was sunk in error by friendly fire (stated to be a Wellington Bomber) on llth November 1942 in the Bay of Biscay. Every year since, wherever we have been in the world, we celebrate his life on Armistice Day by attending the 11 am. service to pray for the crews of both submarine and bomber. Living in Sydney now my sons come along to the memorial in Martin Place and bring their children to this very emotional Remembrance service (the tradition lives on). My mother attended every Armistice service until she died in 2001 aged 91 and her ashes were spread over the known coordinates of “Unbeaten’s” resting place as she wished (46 deg.50’N, 6 deg.51’W) by Capt Alex Tweedie master of the “Resolution Bay”. As a six year old I went to Buckingham Palace and received my dad’s DSM from King George VI. I am 72 now and though his ‘leaves’ were short I remember him well. He holds a sacred place in our hearts and we are blessed with the freedom for which he gave his life. My mother knew “teddy” Woodward and other crew members. Their memories live on for ever.

    By Jan Brenton Eavis, nee Wright (28/05/2008)
  • My grandfather was her second Commanding Officer, Lt. Donald E. O. Watson. Thank you very much for this information.

    By Douglas (31/07/2008)
  • My father Geoffrey Wright was an officer on board HMS Unbeaten (he is in the picture shown on this site). Our entire family (including his great grandchildren) celebrate his life with love and thanksgiving, and remember his fellow crew members and the crew of the Wellington bomber involved in our prayers every Armistice Day during the ll am Service of Remembrance in Martin Place,
    Sydney, Australia

    By Jan Brenton (nee Wright) (22/10/2008)
  • My great-grandfather, John ‘Pop’ Stockwell, served on HMS Unbeaten and was on board when she went down in November 1942. He is in the group photograph above back row, far right.

    By Charlotte Jardine (11/11/2008)
  • My brother Clifford Smith is in the photograph and is at the extreme right of the middle row. He too went down with the submarine ‘Unbeaten’. Thank you for letting me see the photograph.

    By Evelyn Davies (31/12/2008)
  • My brother H.H.Bayne, aged 17 years was lost whilst serving on ‘Unbeaten’. Thank you for the opportunity to read about the submarine and its crew. Is it possible to obtain a photograph of the Unbeaten?

    By Derek I Bayne (14/07/2009)
  • My wife’s great uncle Albert Piper served onboard HMS Unbeaten as the Leading Telegraphist and went down with her on 11/11/42 in the Bay of Biscay. Up until very recently all my wife’s side of the family thought Albert was lost at sea just off Plymouth. I have recently left the Royal Navy and find myself in a good position to research HMS Unbeaten with the firm intention of writing a book about the short life of this vessel and the essential part it played during WW2.  My research over the last year has developed very well and I have amassed allot of additional information not in the public arena.   I would love to hear from more ex crew members or relatives who would be willing to pass on any information, written or photographs, regarding Unbeaten for inclusion in the book.  Mr Tony Drury who compiled this great webpage has been an inspiration and help to me in this endeavour, any information passed on to me will be treated with the utmost respect.  I can be contacted by email: davemgb@yahoo.co.uk and marked FAO David JB Smith.

    By David Fenner-Smith (24/07/2011)
  • I was very interested to read about the history of HMS Unbeaten and will buy the book Silent They Speak. My late Aunt Eileen Turner formerly Gale nee Else married Edward Gale who served on the Unbeaten in March 1942 before going back to sea on the Unbeaten, he never came home but went down with the valiant crew. I have his photograph if anyone is interested.

    By Pauline Bronks (10/08/2013)
  • Yes, but Teddy Woodward was not lost.

    By Jordan Lott (18/09/2015)

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