S class submarines return to base

Movietone News released on the 25th April 1940 showing the triumphant return of the submarines HMS Snapper and Seal. The Spearfish had returned earlier following the torpedoing of the Lutzow. Of the 12 ‘S’ class submarines in service in 1939, only 3 were to survive the war. As the losses accumulated the S class became the subject of a defiantly morbid verse in submariners circles, based on a popular nursery rhyme:

“Twelve Little S-Boats”

Twelve little S-boats “go to it” like Bevin,
Starfish goes a bit too far — then there were eleven.

Eleven watchful S-boats doing fine and then
Seahorse fails to answer — so there are ten.

Ten stocky S-boats in a ragged line,
Sterlet drops and stops out — leaving us nine.

Nine plucky S-boats, all pursuing Fate,
Shark is overtaken — now we are eight.

Eight sturdy S-boats, men from Hants and Devon,
Salmon now is overdue — and so the number’s seven.

Seven gallant S-boats, trying all their tricks,
Spearfish tries a newer one — down we come to six.

Six tireless S-boats fighting to survive,
No reply from Swordfish — so we tally five.

Five scrubby S-boats, patrolling close inshore,
Snapper takes a short cut — now we are four.

Four fearless S-boats, too far out to sea,
Sunfish bombed and scrap-heaped — we are only three.

Three threadbare S-boats patrolling o’er the blue,

Two ice-bound S-boats…

One lonely S-boat…

Fortunately HMS Sealion, Seawolf, and Sturgeon were not lost, so the verse was never completed. It remains a striking reminder of the rate of losses sustained in the submarine service. HMS Seal, featured in the video, a mine laying submarine and not one of the original 12, was soon to suffer a unique fate.

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