Personal account of the submarine commander who made Hitler “go red in the face.”

We are proud to announce that the new book HMS RORQUAL – Commanded by Lennox Napier DSO DSC June 1941-December 1943 by Christoper Napier OBE has been published on our website, free to members and non-members alike.

As the official press release says:

In the centenary year of the start of the Perisher, the daunting test of prospective Royal Navy submarine commanding officers, comes a personal account of command by Lennox Napier of the submarine HMS Rorqual in the Mediterranean in the Second World War. This is in a new online publication compiled by his Petersfield-based son Christopher Napier OBE.

HMS RORQUAL, commanded by Lennox Napier DSO DSC, June 1941-December 1943 focuses on both the tactically important missions of HMS Rorqual and Napier’s character and approach to submarine command in a sea dominated by Axis sea and air forces.

HMS Rorqual not only brought the first submarine relief to the beleaguered island of Malta, but cut off the supply of Tiger tanks to the German Afrika Korps in North Africa, and sank one of the last remaining Axis tankers in the Mediterranean – an act, which according to Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz, made Hitler go red in the face, something considered by Lennox as a lifetime achievement.

With much success, but after several narrow escapes Lennox Napier successfully brought HMS Rorqual home when many other submarines did not return.

This is an untold tale of commanding a minelaying submarine in the Second World War. Christopher Napier recounts the story through extracts from his father’s extensive interview for the BBC and accounts written after the war, all in Lennox’s own words.

Short extracts from publications give the perspective of others on the same events. These all link into a timeline describing what Rorqual was doing on each patrol, and why.

There are maps and contemporary photographs and a foreword by Vice Admiral Sir Tim McClement KCB OBE, Patron of the Friends of the Submarine Museum.

Christopher Napier explains: “The story of Rorqual under my father’s command is a remarkable one, full of drama played out during the most critical and challenging period of the Mediterranean campaign.

“His somewhat unconventional approach to command, life in a submarine in wartime and the perilous strategic situation comes across in his own accounts. Although, as a submariner myself, I have always taken an interest in the exploits of HMS Rorqual under my father’s command, bringing it all together in this way inevitably opens one’s eyes to the risks, to the courage and stamina needed to make the best of adverse circumstances, and at the same time to the satisfactions and rewards of what my father said was the best time in his life.”

A more light-hearted side of Lennox Napier is to be found in letters written by him to Christian Lamb, Third Officer WRNS, describing wartime life in Beirut, Malta, Algiers and Devonport. He was a talented artist and these letters are illustrated with charming colour drawings.

Built in the 1930s, minelaying submarine HMS Rorqual was designed to both lay minefields and use torpedoes. She played an integral part in the Allied campaign in the Mediterranean under Napier’s command. She was the only one of her class of six sister submarines to survive the war.

Read the book in either pdf or epub (especially good for use on smaller screens and opens in iBooks on a Mac) format.

5 comments on “Personal account of the submarine commander who made Hitler “go red in the face.””

  1. Gerald Lloyd-williams says:

    Is the book (HMS Rorqual) available in normal book format for those whose age makes reading a screen a tiring effort?

  2. clnapier says:

    I regret not. Much of the document consists of extracts from a transcript of an interview my father gave to the BBC and, in giving consent to use the transcript, the BBC imposed a condition that the document should be free of charge and available to all. The online version hosted by the Friends of the RN Submarine Museum meets these requirements but a printed version would not. However, to read a paper version you can download the pdf version from the Friends website onto a computer and print off (77 pages) or, if that is too much for your printer, you can load it onto a memory stick and take it to your local print shop to print it off. I hope this helps. Christopher Napier

  3. Gerald Lloyd-williams says:

    Many thanks for this explanation. Hope my antique computer won’t get indigestion!

  4. D A Feary says:

    Suppose no mention of RORQUAL’s patrol into Japanese waters (Tokyo Bay ??) in 1939 ?? Jap navy very pee’d-off when the knowledge was gained after the take-over of Singapore. My father was aboard during the three patrols.

  5. clnapier says:

    Sounds interesting, but regret no mention of that as the publication is confined to the period June 1941 to November 1943, when my father was in command. Christopher Napier

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