Motto: “Neither Rashly Nor Timidly.”
A submarine of 1,520 tons, H.M.S. Rorqual was launched at Barrow-in-Furness in 1936. She is the only unit out of a class of six to come safely through the war, all five of her sisters – Cachalot, Grampus, Narwhal, Porpoise and Seal – being lost. Though primarily designed for minelaying, each of them was armed with six torpedo tubes, one 4-in. and two smaller guns. The Rorqual was adopted by the borough of Weymouth.
During 1940-43 the Rorqual is claimed to have inflicted more damage on the enemy than any other submarine. She sank 40,000 tons of shipping and laid over 1,200 mines. She also torpedoed an enemy submarine, and laid a minefield near the head of the Adriatic which ended the career of the Italian destroyer Francesco Stocco in January 1941.
Together with other large submarines, the Rorqual undertook the supply service to beleaguered Malta in 1941-42, known as the “Magic Carpet”, delivering quantities of aviation spirit, food and munitions. In 1943 she carried a complete battery of light anti-aircraft guns, a jeep, and other material to the British force on the island of Leros.
In a night encounter with a U-boat, an enemy torpedo exploded a few yards astern of the Rorqual. On another occasion she was rammed by a ship in a convoy she was attacking; both her periscopes were broken, and she had to grope her way back to the base completely “blind”. In 1944, following her return from the Mediterranean, 15 of her officers and men received decorations.