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15 October 2014
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The Sinking of the First U-boat of WW2

by Carol Smith

Contributed by 
Carol Smith
People in story: 
Robert Charles Larner
Location of story: 
Off Rockall Bank
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
20 November 2003

In September of 1939, my father Robert Charles Larner, was serving on H.M.S. Foxhound doing anti U-boat sweeps giving protection to H.M.S. Ark Royal, along with five other destroyers.

On 14th September, off the Rockall Bank, U39 fired two torpedoes at the Ark Royal. Luckily both missed. My father was the ASDIC operator on watch at that time and he immediately picked up contact and position of the U-39.

H.M.S. Foxhound went into attack, followed by the Faulknor and Firedrake. All three destroyers dropped depth charges and seconds later the U-boat came to the surface. This was the first U-boat to be destroyed in WW2. All of the U39 crew were picked up, with only one of them having a slight injury. These men were at a later date sent to Canada to spend the rest of the war working as lumberjacks.

My father was awarded the DSM for his actions that day.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Re: The sinking of the first U-boat of WW2

Posted on: 20 November 2003 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Hi Carol

That is a fine short contribution. Although the facts of that first sinking are well documented, it is rare to get the name of a principal participant, like your father clearly was.

You can see technical details of U-39 here: links

The Distinguished Service Medal was awarded for acts of gallantry by Petty Officers and men of the Royal Navy; which gives some idea of your father's contribution. I look forward to hearing more about him.


Message 1 - Robert Charles Larner

Posted on: 14 February 2004 by Pat Carter

Hello Carol Smith
Your story interested me as my mom's maiden name was Larner. Incidentally she married and became a Smith! As it isn't a very common name I always get excited when I find another. Do you know where your dad's family come from? I have a shortened family tree started by my great uncle but it only shows his wife's family in full detail. She was a Larner too and they traced the first one back to the 14th century.
kind regards Pat Carter


Message 2 - Robert Charles Larner

Posted on: 25 October 2004 by Carol Smith

Hello Pat,

So sorry its taken me so long to reply to your message. I am doing a family tree on my fathers side of the family (Larner). I havent got back very far but I can tell you my dad was born in Winterton on Sea in Norfolk on 16/12/1914.
His father was George Henry Larner 1875 - 1952 a fisherman from Winterton on Sea.
George was married twice having 6 sons from his first marraige then he married Florence May Popay and they had 2 sons and 4 daughters. My dad being from the second marraige.
Maybe there is a link between our families. I look forward to hearing from .
Regards Carol

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Royal Navy Category
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