RORQUAL was one of six submarines built in the 1930s designed to lay minefields of up to 50 mines, after which she would use her 6 torpedo tubes within a conventional submarine patrol. Accommodating the mines on rails above the pressure hull, within a steel casing, gave these already large submarines a bulky silhouette which made them particularly vulnerable to being spotted when on the surface, especially from the air, and in the clear waters of the Mediterranean even when submerged. RORQUAL was the only one of the six to survive the war.
There is little World War 2 historical material focusing on the operations of these minelaying submarines, which gives this story of RORQUAL added interest and significance; as well as painting a portrait of Lennox Napier, acknowledged as a distinguished and successful submarine commanding officer, and showing how his unusual attributes for a naval officer of the period served him well in command of RORQUAL.
Based on a long interview given to the BBC, letters, and his writings after the war, much of the material in this publication is in Lennox Napier’s own words, his own reflections including descriptions of “magic carpet” operations for the relief of Malta, sinking of the last Axis ship able to carry Tiger tanks to Rommel in North Africa, an attack which caused Hitler personally to go red in the face, and some very narrow escapes.
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