HMS Umpire - 1941



HM Submarine Umpire

Ships Name :HMS Umpire

Date Lost : 19/07/1941

Type : "U" Class Submarine

Cause : Collision/Rammed

Skipper : Lt Mervyn Wingfield

Location : Off Sheringham Shoal Norfolk.

Displacement: 730 Tons

Length: 58.10 metres

Complement: 33 Officers & men

Armament : 4 - 21" torpedoes

Surface Speed : 11.5 Knots

Submerged speed : 9 knots

Power : 825 HP

Position : 53-00'N 01-00'E


U Class Submarine

HM Submarine Umpire

The U class was developed as small and manoeuvrable coastal submarines for use in the waters around the UK with a displacement of some 730 tons and were designed to replace the First War H class boats. The U class was a "single hull" design with water ballast and fuel tanks located within the pressure hull and with no external saddle tanks. HMS Umpire was laid down in 1939, initially as the P31, and was built at HM Dockyard Chatham, Kent. The boat was finally launched on the 30th December 1940 and commissioned on the 10th July 1941.

Armaments consisted of four 21" torpedo tubes with a cache of eight Whitehead torpedoes together with a three inch deck gun which could fire a 17.5 lb shell to a range of 12,000 yds.


Location of HMS Umpire


The boat was was on a work up patrol and left Chatham on the 18th July and stopped overnight at Sheerness on the Ise of Sheppey to wait for assembly of a north-bound merchant convoy leaving the Thames and gathering off Southend. The boat then set out for Dunoon Scotland and the Clyde to join the 3rd Submarine Flotilla and was under way on the surface following the northbound merchant convoy EC4 in a swept corridor around the East Anglia and then towards Scotland.

A Heinkel attacked the convoy and Umpire crash dived to avoid it ( as per standing orders) but on surfacing, one of the diesels developed a fault on the night of the 19th July and had to be shut down. This reduced Umpire's speed and a radio message was sent to the Commodore of the convoy, reporting this. A Motor Launch was sent back as escort but lost Umpire in the gathering darkness.

A second merchant convoy was expected travelling south, also in the swept channel and both convoys passed starboard to starboard, which was unusual. Umpire spotted the southbound convoy and altered course to port to avoid a collision, but was rammed by a Royal Naval armed trawler "Peter Hendriks". Umpire suffered damage to the starboard side and sank within 30 seconds in about 60 feet of water. The skipper and the OOW Tony Godden were on the bridge with two lookouts when the submarine sank beneath them, leaving all four in the water.

The remainder of the crew and two offices ers were trapped in the hull which was gradually filling with water. Four made an escape from the conning tower without DSEA while the remainder made their escape from the engine room with DSEA.

tHe chief ERA was awarded the British Empire Medal for walking about on the submerged hull to check the crew were escaping safely.

A total of two officers and twenty men were lost, the wreck is classified as a war grave and lies some 20 nautical miles north of Wells-next-the-sea Norfolk.


A Survivor's Tale

Lt Young

Lt. Cdr. EP Young

Edward "Teddy" Young, who has died aged 89, was the man who found the penguin for Penguin Books - literally, at London Zoo. Later, he immortalised his distinguished war service as a submariner in the bestselling autobiography, One Of Our Submarines.

After attending Highgate school, north London, Young went into publishing, working his way up at Bodley Head to designing dust-jackets, for which he showed a natural aptitude. This was remembered by Allen Lane when, in 1935, he resigned as managing director to effectively invent the modern paperback.

Lane chose to call his new enterprise Penguin Books, and sent the 22-year-old Young to London Zoo to make sketches of the eponymous bird, which soon became world-famous as a symbol both of the company and of affordable, high-quality books. Young also designed Penguin's instantly recognisable paper covers, with their colour-coded bands: orange-white-orange for novels, green for crime, and pale blue for the Pelican series of accessible books on academic subjects.

After four years at Penguin, Young moved to the Reprint Society. But with the threat of war, he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, where his experience as a yachtsman earned him an instant commission as a sub-lieutenant.

He then volunteered for submarine service while at King Alfred in Hove and, by July 1941, was on HMS Umpire as third hand, one of the simple and sturdy U-class boats designed for work in shallow, coastal waters. However, after avoiding a south bound convoy on the surface at night off the Wash, Umpire was rammed and sunk by a trawler escorting the coastal convoy; of the 37 crew, 22 were lost. Shortly after the boat hit the bottom at 60ft, Young and three others escaped through the conning tower without breathing apparatus , others ascaped from the engine room.

Shortly after Young transferred to HMS Sealion and spent a short period in the bitterly cold, Soviet northern waters, as torpedo officer of the larger boat Sealion (which gave its name to that class of submarines), Young was later on promoted to first lieutenant on HMS Saracen. He earned a mention in the dispatches of his skipper, Lieutenant-Commander Michael Lumby, when Saracen attacked a U-boat east of Iceland, en route to the open waters of the north Atlantic. Only one German survived.

Saracen was then reassigned to the warmer waters around Malta, where the 10th submarine flotilla played a gallant role in defending the beleaguered island, and in the campaign against German and Italian convoys to north Africa. Young was awarded the first of two DSCs for his part in sinking an Italian submarine off Sicily in late 1942.

The following June, he became the first RNVR officer to command a submarine, taking charge of the latest Sealion class boat, HMS Storm. However, by the time the boat was ready for patrols, the battle of the Atlantic had been won, the Mediterranean was secure and the Admiralty was sending naval reinforcements to the far east.

From her new base in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), the Storm took part in surface actions against enemy shipping in East Indies waters, and Young earned his second DSC. A trap was set for the submarine after an agent it had landed on Sumatra was captured by the Japanese and forced to lure the boat inshore. A brisk exchange of cannon and machinegun fire ensued, but Young did not leave the scene until the rubber dinghy carrying the two would-be rescuers returned to the Storm. One sailor was wounded.

With the Indian Ocean quiet, British submarines began to work in the American south-west Pacific command, from the western Australian base of Fremantle. Young won his DSO for a series of eventful patrols, before bringing his boat home in spring 1945. Promoted acting commander, he finished the war in a staff posting, and left the navy at the end of the year.

He returned briefly to the Reprint Society, but soon transferred to Pan Books, one of Penguin's earliest paperback rivals. Rupert Hart-Davis Ltd, where he was appointed production director, published his gripping memoir in 1952, and, two years later, Penguin honoured him by making the book its 1000th paperback. It is still in print.

In the early 1970s, Young spent three years as managing director of the Rainbird publishing group. He wrote several other non-fiction books in his sparetime. He is survived by the two daughters of his first marriage, to Diana Graves.

Edward Preston Young, publisher, writer and submariner, born November 17 1913; died January 28 2003


A Diver's Report - HMS Umpire


The wreck lies on its starboard side only about 18 metres below the surface and is partly broken up. On exposed ribs some spectacular anemones can be seen and due to the shallow depth and the clean sandy seabed, there is good visibility and plenty of sunlight . The conning tower has become detached from the hull with the main gun mount just forward of it. Further forward the torpedo space shows signs of damage but the torpodo loading hatch is visible.

The bow is damaged and there appears to be a live re-load torpedo visible inside the hull. The four inch deck gun lies on the seabed a few metres away from the hull and a few metres aft of the gun mounting position on the upper deck.

Fourteen of the crew managed to escape when the Umpire was rammed, with most of the survivors escaping through the engine room escape hatch, using submarine DSEA apparatus. However this area of the wreck is heavily damaged in the vicinity of the engine room and the aft section of the wreck is separated from the keel. Looking forward the two diesel engines are clearly visible, but there are no signs of electric motors. It appears that the wreck has been damaged by anchors, trawlers and divers during the years that have elapsed since it sank.


Submarines of the U Class


HMS P33 (lost 18 Aug, 1941)

HMS P36 (lost 1 Apr, 1942)

HMS P38 (lost 23 Mar, 1942)

HMS P39 (lost 26 Mar, 1942)

HMS P48 (lost 25 Dec, 1942)

HMS Ultimatum

HMS Ultor

HMS Umbra

HMS Umpire (lost 19 Jul, 1941)


HMS Unbeaten (lost 11 Nov, 1942)

HMS Unbending

HMS Unbroken (Became the Soviet submarine V-2)

HMS Undaunted (lost 13 May, 1941)

HMS Undine (lost 7 Jan, 1940)

HMS Union (lost 15 Jul, 1941)

HMS Unique (lost 7 Oct, 1942)

HMS Unison (Became the Soviet submarine V-3)

HMS United

HMS Unity (lost 29 Apr, 1940)

HMS Universal

HMS Unrivalled

HMS Unruffled

HMS Unruly

HMS Unseen

HMS Unshaken

HMS Unsparing

HMS Unswerving

HMS Untamed (Vitality) (lost 30 May, 1943)

HMS Untiring

HMS Upholder (lost 14 Apr, 1942)

HMS Upright

HMS Uproar

HMS Upstart

HMS Urchin (Became the Polish submarine Sokol)

HMS Urge (lost 1 May, 1942)

HMS Ursula (Became the Soviet submarine V-4)

HMS Usk (lost 3 May, 1941)

HMS Usuper (lost 11 Oct, 1943)

HMS Uther

HMS Utmost (lost 24 Nov, 1942)


Further Information & Charts

Admiralty Chart 108, Approaches to the Wash.

Admiralty Chart 106, Cromer to Smiths Knoll.

Admiralty Chart 105, Cromer Knoll and the Outer Banks.

Ordnance Survey Landranger map 132, North-west Norfolk, King's Lynn and Fakenham.

Ordnance Survey Landranger map 133, North East Norfolk, Cromer and Wroxham.

Shipwreck Index of the British Isles Vol 3, by Richard & Bridget Larn.