What about the allied submarines?

We hear so much about the German subs and their exploits, but we never seem to hear much about allied subs. Did they not have any? Where they not used as much? Or did they just not put as much emphasis on them as the Germans so theres not as many stories to tell?

Sorry if this has been asked/answered already. I’m a little behind in the timeline and working on catching up. Had to ask this question though.


I made several entries about exploits of Royal Navy submarines in Mediterranean Sea. Check my past threads in this forum. British submarines were extremely active in Mediterranean Sea and Norwegian Sea and Arctic Ocean then later in Indian Ocean in 1943-45


Amazing, thank you!
I will definitely take a look at those


The US navy submarine service basically did to Japan what the U-Boats tried to do to Britain. How you look at it depends a lot on culture. From your maple leaf I’m guessing you’re Canadian so, culturally, had a very Euro focussed perspective on WW2, where allied submarines weren’t so significant. The Italy to N Africa supply route was basically it.
In the US the submarine service had a much more significant role in the Pacific and is more culturally recognized.
This shows up in war movies, think how many British war movies feature submarines compared to US.
The same is true for convoy escorts, Japanese submarines were not used effectively against supply lines while the U-Boats made the Battle of the Atlantic central to victory. The U-Boats sank over 10 million tonnes of merchant shipping while the Japanese only sank about 1.


Interesting! I didn’t know that.
And ya that’s a good point that I never though about. I guess I have had a very Eurocentric learning about the war. I don’t really know all that much about the war in the Pacific (other than the major events like Pearl Harbor), so I’m definitely looking forward to getting to that point in the series and getting more detailed information about it.
Thanks for the info though, very cool!


Hi Andrew, a very heartfelt welcome to the forum. Let us know should you have any queries or anything.

Indeed the Allied submarine compaign against Japan was devastating after the Allied mark 14 torpedo mess worked out.

Drachinfell has some nice vids on specific ships. E.g. this mentions the Archerfish which sunk a carrier. The German U-Boat campaign has far more movies etc than the Allied Campaigns. Not sure why. Maybe it was seen as an unfair way of fighting by the movie producers so they started producing “Operation Petticoat”.

USS Balao - Guide 169 - YouTube


I’m Canadian too, and yes, Canada’s war was VERY European-centric. Our involvement on the Pacific was somewhere between tragedy and farce. Hong Kong was the tragedy, the farce is still to come.


Royal Navy submarines were very active in Norwegian Campaign in 1940 , inflicted , sank 14 German cargo ships in seven weeks along with several German Navy vessels or damaged them

From Admiral Arthur Hezlett’s “British and Allied Submarines in Second World War” :

*The attempt by the Royal Navy, especially its submarines, to prevent the invasion of Norway had failed. On 10th May, the Germans invaded the Netherlands and the whole maritime strategic situation was radically changed. Although operations continued for another month or so around Narvik, the Norwegian campaign as far as submarines were concerned had ended. It is time, therefore, to summarise the results. Altogether twenty-nine individual British and Allied submarines opposed the invasion of Norway. They made forty-seven torpedo attacks firing 166 torpedoes and laid five minefields totalling 232 moored contact mines. Twenty of the torpedo attacks succeeded, sinking German light cruiser Karlsruhe, the sloop Brummer, three minesweepers or patrol craft and severely damaging German pocket battleship Lutzow. They also sank thirteen German cargo ships and tankers of 66,527 tons and probably sank or damaged five more ships of 19,900 tons. Against this they lost five of their number: two to U-boat attack, one to the counter attacks of anti-submarine vessels, one by striking a mine and one by accident. *

The German Navy admits that the losses initially among the supply ships were heavy. They say that six out of the seven large cargo ships sent in advance were sunk as well as two of their tankers. There were altogether thirty-eight ships in the follow up convoys and these lost seven of their number. The number of ships used in the campaign reached a total of 270 of 1,200,000 tons and by mid June, they had transhipped over 100,000 troops, 16,000 horses, 20,000 vehicles and 110,000 tons of stores of which they admit to the loss of 21 ships of 112,000 tons and a total of 2400 men. It was claimed that it was the rapid build up by the supply organisation that ensured the ultimate success of the invasion, and this cannot be disputed.

Nevertheless the performance of the British and Allied submarines in the Norwegian campaign was very good. They were the only part of the British Forces whose commander foresaw what was going to happen and had the foresight to have them in the right place at the right time. Although they missed all the groups that left for the invasion from German North Sea ports, they intercepted and reported the unit that left by the Kattegat. Furthermore they investigated two of the merchant ships which preceded the invasion and gave the high commands in the United Kingdom and Norway the chance to realise what was going on had they chosen to do so. Again they missed German ships on their way home in the North Sea due to the low visibility and the German mastery of intelligence, but they caught two heavy ships in the Skagerrak. Subsequently they were able to operate in the face of first line shore-based air power, which the Home Fleet itself could not do. They took a toll the ships in the invasion’s supply line but it was not enough to affect the campaign substantially. Submarines are weapons of attrition and attrition takes time to have its effect. Not only the length of the campaign limited the time they were able to spend on the supply lines, but also by the short nights. Nevertheless they thoroughly deserved the signal of appreciation received from the First Lord of the Admiralty:

‘Please convey to all ranks and ratings engaged in these brilliant and fruitful submarine operations the admiration and regard with which their fellow countrymen follow their exploits’.

In the Mediterranean (during the Siege of Malta), British U-class submarines began operations against Italy as early as January 1941. Larger submarines began operations in 1940, but after 50% losses per mission, they were withdrawn. U-class submarines operated from the Manoel Island Base known as HMS Talbot. Unfortunately no bomb-proof pens were available as the building project had been scrapped before the war, owing to cost-cutting policies. The new force was named the Tenth Submarine Flotilla and was placed under Flag Officer Submarines, Admiral Max Horton, who appointed Commander George Simpson to command the unit. Administratively, the Tenth Flotilla operated under the First Submarine Flotilla at Alexandria, itself under the admiral commanding in the Mediterranean, Andrew Cunningham. In reality, Cunningham gave Simpson and his unit a free hand. Until U-class vessels could be made available in numbers, British T-class submarines were used. They had successes, but suffered heavy losses when they began operations on 20 September 1940. Owing to the shortage of torpedoes, enemy ships could not be attacked unless the target in question was a warship, tanker or other “significant vessel”. The flotilla’s performance of the fleet was mixed at first. They sank 37,000 long tons (38,000 t) of Italian shipping; half by one vessel, the submarine Truant. It accounted for one Italian submarine, nine merchant vessels and one Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB). The loss of nine submarines and their trained crews and commanders was serious. Most of the losses were to mines. On 14 January 1941, U-class submarines arrived, and the submarine offensive began in earnest.

One of the most famous Mediterranean submarines was HMS Upholder, commanded for its entire career by Lieutenant-Commander Malcolm Wanklyn. He received the Victoria Cross for attacking a well-defended convoy on 25 May 1941 and sinking an Italian liner converted to troopship, the Conte Rosso. In her 16-month operational career in the Mediterranean, before she was sunk in April 1942, HMS Upholder carried out 24 patrols and sank around 119,000 tons of Axis ships – 3 U-boats, a destroyer, 15 transport ships with possibly a cruiser and another destroyer also sunk. Wanklyn and HMS Upholder were most sucessful submarine and sub commander among Allies in term of tonnage sank.