Lieutenant Commander 

John Hay 



Royal Navy

Boat Crest
Died On:
2 August 1940


Born in Streatham, London, on 28 August 1906, the son of the late Captain Charles Hay Forbes, CBE, RN, and Emily Fawkus Forbes (née Carrall), John Hay Forbes joined the Royal Navy as a Cadet at Osborne in May 1920 and was promoted to Midshipman on 15 Sep 24. In August 1927, following Service in the Battleship HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH, Acting Sub Lieutenant John Forbes (Seniority 1 Jan 27) completed his Lieutenant’s Courses at the RN College, Greenwich, to which he had been appointed on 30 Dec 26. 

He joined the Royal Navy Submarine Service at HMS DOLPHIN on 16 April 1928, qualified as a Submariner that same year and was appointed to HMS DOLPHIN (5th Submarine Flotilla) ‘for Submarines’ on 3 September 1928.  On 15 April 1929 he was sent to the Mediterranean, having been appointed to the Submarine Depot Ship, HMS CYCLOPS (1st Submarine Flotilla) at Malta ‘for HMS X1’, where he was promoted to Lieutenant on 1 July 1929. Upon return to the UK in September 1930, Forbes joined the Submarine Tender HMS ALECTO (Training Half Flotilla) at Portsmouth to be the First Lieutenant of HMS H31.

Returning to the Surface Fleet for his ‘Big Ship’ time on 26 April 1931, he served for a year in the Battle Cruiser, HMS HOOD, before resuming his submarine career as the First Lieutenant of HMS L21, part of  2nd Submarine Flotilla at Devonport. Sent to Hong Kong on 2 June 1933, he then became the Second-in-Command of HMS PHOENIX.

In August 1935, on his return home, John Forbes joined HMS DOLPHIN (5th Submarine Flotilla) for the Commanding Officers Qualifying Course (COQC).  After successful completion, he was appointed to HMS DOLPHIN ‘for HMS H49 in Command’ to date 14 Dec 35. There followed, in May 1937, a prestigious appointment to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth ‘for the Naval Staff’ and promotion to Lieutenant Commander on 1 July 1937.  He remained at Dartmouth until the outbreak of WW2 in September 1939.

Days after the war started, Forbes joined the Submarine Depot Ship HMS TITANIA (6th Submarine Flotilla) at Blyth ‘for Submarines’ where he became the Commanding Officer of HMS SPEARFISH on 15 February 1940.  At that time, HMS SPEARFISH was in Newcastle ‘for repairs and refitting’ after being badly damaged in a depth charge attack while out on patrol.  On 11 April 1940, once operational again, HMS SPEARFISH carried out an attack, north of The Skaw, which resulted in damage to the German Cruiser LUTZOW.  For this attack John Forbes was awarded the DSO – see London Gazette dated 9 May 1940.

HMS SPEARFISH sank on 2 August 1940 after a torpedo attack by the German Submarine, U-34, about 180 miles West of Stavanger in Norway.  John Forbes left a widow, Edith Sheilah Forbes (née De Crecy Steel).  He is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval War Memorial on Panel No 36 Column No 3.


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