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HMS Somali was a Tribal-class destroyer of the British Royal Navy that saw service in World War II. She was launched in 1937, captured the first prize of World War II and served in Home and Mediterranean waters. She was torpedoed on 20 September 1942 in the Arctic.

HMS Somali (F33).jpg
Somali at anchor
United Kingdom
Name: Somali
Namesake: Somalis
Ordered: 19 June 1936
Builder: Swan Hunter, Tyne and Wear, United Kingdom
Cost: £340,095
Laid down: 27 August 1936
Launched: 23 August 1937
Completed: 7 December 1938
Identification: Pennant numbers: L33/F33/G33
Fate: Torpedoed by German submarine U-703 and sank while under tow, 25 September 1942
General characteristics (as built)
Class and type: Tribal-class destroyer
Length: 377 ft (115 m) (o/a)
Beam: 36 ft 6 in (11.13 m)
Draught: 11 ft 3 in (3.43 m)
Installed power:
Propulsion: 2 × shafts; 2 × geared steam turbines
Speed: 36 knots (67 km/h; 41 mph)
Range: 5,700 nmi (10,600 km; 6,600 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Complement: 190
Sensors and
processing systems:



She was built by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson, in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear. She was laid down on 26 August 1936, launched on 24 August 1937, and commissioned on 12 December 1938.

On 3 September 1939, Somali intercepted the German freighter Hannah Böge, 350 miles south of Iceland, and took her as a prize. This was the first enemy merchant ship to be captured during the war.[1]

On 15 May 1940, during the Norwegian Campaign, Somali was carrying Brigadier the Hon. William Fraser, commander of 24th Guards Brigade, back to Harstad from a reconnaissance of Mo when she was bombed by German aircraft and forced to return to the United Kingdom for repairs, taking the Brigadier with her. He did not reach Harstad until 23 May.[2][3] On 23 October, Matabele, Punjabi and Somali shelled and sank WBS 5 Adolf Vinnen in the Norwegian Sea off Stadlandet, Norway.[4]

Somali was the leader of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla and spent most of the winter of 1940–41 screening Home Fleet sweeps. In May 1941, Somali boarded the German weather ship München. Prior to being boarded, the crew of München threw overboard the ship's Enigma machine in a weighted bag. However, documents on the operation of the Enigma machine were left on board, as were vital codebooks providing a breakthrough for Allied codebreakers.

On 13 August 1942, Somali rescued all 105 crew of the American cargo ship Almeria Lykes, which had been torpedoed by E boats while taking part in Operation Pedestal. The rescued crew were landed at Gibraltar.[5]


Lieutenant Commander Colin Maud took over as captain in September 1942 when her own captain, Jack Eaton, was ill. On 20 September 1942 Somali was torpedoed by U-703 while covering Convoy QP 14 during the Russian convoys. She was hit in her engine room, and although taken under tow by the destroyer Ashanti, she sank on 25 September, after heavy weather broke her back. Of the 102 men on board, only 35 were rescued from the Arctic waters. Leading Seaman Goad of Ashanti was awarded the Albert Medal for "great bravery in saving life at sea" after diving into the freezing water to save Lieutenant Commander Maud.[6]

Somali was the last Royal Navy Tribal-class destroyer to be sunk during the war.


  1. ^ "ADM 199/393 - Home Fleet War Diaries 1939-41". Royal Navy Flag Officers 1904–1915. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
  2. ^ Derry, pp. 182–3.
  3. ^ Joslen, p. 270.
  4. ^ "NAVAL EVENTS, OCTOBER 1940 (Part 2 of 2) Tuesday 15th - Thursday 31st". Naval History. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  5. ^ "Joel Blane James". K Mahlberg. Retrieved 6 June 2010.
  6. ^ "No. 35877". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 January 1943. p. 493.


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  • English, John (2001). Afridi to Nizam: British Fleet Destroyers 1937–43. Gravesend, Kent: World Ship Society. ISBN 0-905617-64-9.
  • Friedman, Norman (2006). British Destroyers and Frigates, the Second World War and After. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-86176-137-6.
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  • Haarr, Geirr H. (2009). The German Invasion of Norway, April 1940. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-310-9.
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  • Lenton, H. T. (1998). British & Empire Warships of the Second World War. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-048-7.
  • Rohwer, Jürgen (2005). Chronology of the War at Sea 1939–1945: The Naval History of World War Two (Third Revised ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-119-2.
  • Whitley, M. J. (1988). Destroyers of World War Two. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-326-1.
  • T.K. Derry, History of the Second World War: The Campaign in Norway, London: HM Stationery Office, 1952.
  • Joslen, Lt-Col H.F. (2003) [1960]. Orders of Battle: Second World War, 1939–1945. Uckfield: Naval and Military Press. ISBN 978-1-84342-474-1.

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