Three Cheers for the Gallant Saracen

By: Anne Corke

Aug 13 2011

Tags: ,

Category: Life stories


Today, August 14th, marks the 68th anniversary of the sinking of my Dad’s submarine HMS Saracen. In honour of Saracen and her crew, I am posting an excerpt from my Dad’s prisoner-of-war logbook.

Saracen’s Saga by William T. H. Morris

June 18th, 1942. Perhaps many ships were commissioned, but none of interest to us, but “Saracen”, in those days, only a number “P.247”. The name “Saracen” was adopted from the famous Arab tribe which gave so many gallant battles to “Richard” the “Crusader King”. The submarine P.247, later given the name of “Saracen”, proved herself worthy to carry the name, under the able command of Lt. M.G.R. Lumby, D.S.O., D.S.C., M.I.D.

The first venture on the high seas, as a fighting unit, was very successful, a German U-boat No.335, being sunk in the North Sea, from which there was one survivor, by name Rudolf Younker of Kiel, aged nineteen… Saracen returning to base flying the German Naval Flag under the White Ensign, denoting to all, her first kill. The Officers and Crew are proud men indeed, at this time.

August 23, 1942 marks the departure from England of this tiny fighting unit, 805 tons of machinery, 42 men her crew, heading for the West, to fame or destruction, as fate decreed. A patrol from the “Gateway” of the “Med” resulted in no further additions to the laurels of “Saracen”, so onward, westward she sailed. While on the way an attack is carried out on a German U-boat, missing with her fish, gun action was given, Jerry did not wait, he dived to safety.

Malta, that “Island of Courage”, is the future base of operations. Food is short, cigarettes and tobacco practically none existent ashore, sufficiency of air raids, which were conveniently arranged by the enemy, usually meal times. “Saracen” with her fighting sisters of the Flotilla clothed daily in numerous, stinking and filthy smoke screens, duty watch cursing the raiders, with illustrious curses. Football, swimming, runs ashore, the raiders could not stop the submariners’ fun.

Lady Luck once again smiles on “Saracen” her next victim being an Italian U-boat of the new “Metal” class, her name “Granito”, no survivors. December ushers in a change of base, this time to the East “Saracen” sails, arriving at Algiers in time for Xmas dinner. On the way East a small convoy is sighted near the Bay of Tunis, an attack was carried out, owing to presence of numerous aircraft, the attack was not successful, Enemy aircraft counter attacking, giving “Saracen” her first war scars. The next success is scored on an Enemy convoy off Bizerta, one of the escorting destroyers getting the real benefit of four torpedoes. No counter attack was even attempted by the other destroyers.

To Genoa sails a ten thousand ton tanker, a grand sight thro a periscope, range unfortunately, being extreme. A fish of “Saracen’s” finds it’s way, a large hole, a nice hole, appears in the tanker, and a few depth charges for “Saracen” is her reward from the enemy. (Tanker skipper makes port with his damaged ship and is given an Italian decoration.) Attacks on a cargo ship and an Italian U-boat failed to bring results, not so the gun actions in which an Italian A/S schooner, two German sea going tugs, met their doom, plus two practically completed schooners on the stocks of a shipyard. This action did not suit the enemy, shore batteries opening fire and giving “Saracen” her second lot of battle scars.

The great opportunity occurs, to add even greater laurels to the fame already won. For a change, a real convoy, off Bastia, Corsica, an Italian liner carrying troops, an armed merchant cruiser and a destroyer are safely stowed away in Davy Jones’ locker. A salvo of six, three ships, a grand record. German ammunition for the destruction of Allied Troops in North Africa, passing Monte Cristo, this ship did not arrive in Africa. A cargo ship from Bastia, death to the enemy, and yet another ammunition ship fails to arrive at her port, her last resting place, the bottom of the “Med” also.

Bastia, a fateful name to “Saracen”, one visit too often and two German destroyers, three corvettes, five E-boats attack. “Saracen” mortally wounded is compelled to surface, but not to surrender. The crew calmly but sorrowfully “abandon ship”, the ship they love is on her last patrol, with no guiding hands. “Saracen” dives, a perfect dive, a proud farewell, her funeral dirge the cheers of her crew. Truly a gallant ship, a fighting ship, and as such may she always be remembered, by her crew and the public of England.

Hail and Farewell, “Saracen”.

Copyright 2011 Anne Corke

6 comments on “Three Cheers for the Gallant Saracen”

  1. Please read my comment on Flickr.

    Janet Kinrade Dethick

  2. Hello, I just came across this the other day. My grandad ( G.A. WHITEHEAD )was on the Saracen. Have heard of the book, Twixt the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ? It’s a book about the history of the boat. It’s a great read. Your father and my grandad were not only on the boat together but were in the same POW camp ( Marlag Und ) at the same time.

    • Hi Tim, Nice to hear from you. Yes, I am one of the coauthors of that book. It was a real labour of love. I had been researching Saracen for years and I had old photos and news clippings from an album belonging to my Dad. Welcome to our Saracen family.

  3. Oops, sorry. I should have know that, your name is on the cover. Thank you so much for your part in the book. Is there a way for me to share some pictures and stories with you ? On the cover, my granddad is the man in the front row holding his hat by his side.

  4. That would be wonderful Tim. I would so appreciate any photos or stories that you can share.

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