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HMS Triton (N15)
HMS Triton.jpg
HMS Triton
Career (UK)
Name: HMS Triton
Builder: Vickers Armstrong, Barrow-in-Furness
Laid down: 28 August 1936
Launched: 5 October 1937
Commissioned: 9 November 1938
Identification: Pennant number: N15
Fate: sunk 18 December 1940
General characteristics
Class & type: T-class submarine
Displacement: 1,090 long tons surfaced
1,575 tons submerged
Length: 275 ft (84 m)
Beam: 26 ft 6 in (8.08 m)
Draught: 16.3 ft (5.0 m)

Two shafts
Twin diesel engines 2,500 hp (1.86 MW) each

Twin electric motors 1,450 hp (1.08 MW) each

15.25 knots (28.7 km/h) surfaced

9 knots (20 km/h) submerged
Range: 4,500 nautical miles at 11 knots (8,330 km at 20 km/h) surfaced
Test depth: 300 ft (91 m) max
Complement: 59

6 internal forward-facing torpedo tubes
4 external forward-facing torpedo tubes
6 reload torpedoes

4 inch (100 mm) deck gun

HMS Triton was a submarine of the Royal Navy named for the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, the personification of the roaring waters, was the lead ship of her class. Her keel was laid down on 28 August 1936 by Vickers Armstrong at Barrow-in-Furness. She was launched on 5 October 1937, and commissioned on 9 November 1938 with Lieutenant Commander H. P. de C. Steel in command.


Triton had a brief but eventful career, serving in the North Sea and the Mediterranean.

The sinking of HMS Oxley[]

When the Admiralty was notified that His Majesty's Government would declare war on Germany, five submarines of the Second Flotilla were ordered to patrol on the Obrestad line off Norway on 24 August 1939. Thus, on 3 September all British submarines were in their combat patrol sectors.

At 1955 on 10 September 1939, Triton had surfaced, fixed a position off the Obrestad Light, set a slow zigzag patrol, and began charging batteries. Lieutenant Commander Steel, having verified that the area was clear and having posted lookouts, gave the bridge to the officer of the watch and went below, leaving orders that he was to be called if anything unusual appeared. At 2045, he was called to the bridge when an object in the water could be seen very fine on the port bow.

Steel ordered propulsion shifted to the main motors, the signalman to the bridge, and torpedo tubes 7 and 8 readied for firing. The object was recognised as a submarine low in the water.

Once on the bridge, the signalman sent three challenges over several minutes with the box lamp, none of which were answered. Steel wondered if the boat could be HMS Oxley, which should have been patrolling next in line, but some distance away. Steel and his bridge crew studied the silhouette, but could not distinguish what type of submarine it was.

A fourth challenge was sent: three green rifle-grenade flares. After firing, Steel counted slowly to 15 and then decided that they were seeing a German U-boat. He ordered tubes 7 and 8 fired with a three-second interval. Less than a minute later, an explosion was heard.

Triton moved into the area to investigate and heard cries for help. The light from the Aldis lamp revealed three men floundering amid oil and debris.

Lieutenant Guy C. I. St.B. Watkins and Lieutenant Harry A. Stacey entered the water and rescued Lieutenant Commander H.G. Bowerman, Oxley's commanding officer, as well as Able Seaman Gluckes, a lookout. The third person in the water, Lieutenant F.K. Manley, was seen to be swimming strongly when he suddenly sank from view. Neither Manley's body nor any other survivors from Oxley were found.

A Board of Enquiry found that Steel had done all he reasonably could in the circumstances. Oxley was out of position, Triton had acted correctly, and the first Allied submarine casualty of World War II was due to "friendly fire." During the war, the loss of Oxley was attributed to an accidental explosion. After the war, it was explained to have been a collision with Triton. The truth was not revealed until the 1950s.[1]

Home waters and the Mediterranean[]

Triton continued her war patrols, first in Baltic waters. On 8 April she fired 10 torpedoes at the German cruisers Blücher, Lützow and Emden off Skagen. All torpedoes missed their targets. On 10 April 1940, she sank the German steamers Friedenau, Weibert, and patrol vessel Rau 6 in the Kattegat. She shifted patrol areas to the Mediterranean Sea, basing her operations in Alexandria. During her first patrol in the Gulf of Genoa, Lieutenant Watkins, now Triton's commanding officer, decided to enter the harbour of Savona. She found a supply ship at anchor in the harbour, at which she fired a single torpedo and claimed an 8000-ton kill, though the sinking could not be confirmed. No other ships were available to torpedo, so Watkins surfaced Triton. The submarine began shelling a large factory and a gas works on the shore, damaging both of them before departing.


On 28 November 1940, Triton left Malta for a patrol in the southern Adriatic Sea. On 6 December, she picked up a distress message from the Italian merchant Olimpia and set course to intercept and finish her off. Neither Olimpia nor Triton was heard from again. Triton was declared lost with all hands on 18 December. The Italians claimed that she was sunk by torpedo boats, probably Confienza, possibly by Clio, but the date they cite was several days after contact was lost. The British claimed that she was sunk by naval mines in the Strait of Otranto.[2]

See also[]


  1. HMS Triton,
  2. Submarine losses 1904 to present day, RN Submarine Museum, Gosport


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