HMS URGE (Lt Cdr E P Tomkinson) was of the U class of Royal Navy submarines intended for short range patrols and anti-submarine training purposes. She was built at Barrow in Furness by Vickers Armstrong and commissioned with Lieutenant Tomkinson in command on 12 December 1940. HMS URGE’s first two patrols were in the North Sea searching for German capital ships, before being ordered to the Mediterranean to form part of what became the 10th Submarine Flotilla at Malta. En route through the Bay of Biscay, URGE sank the 10,000-ton Axis tanker Franco Martelli.

HMS URGE completed 20 intensive war patrols in total, including many special operations involving commandos and other agents. She was one of the most successful Royal Navy submarines of WW2, arguably her most celebrated achievement being the torpedoing of the Italian 45,000-ton battleship Vittorio Veneto and damaging her such that she was out of action for several months at a critical point of the battle for control of the central Mediterranean.

URGE also sank the Italian cruiser Bande Nere on 1 April 1942 and, in total, accounted for 26,000 tons of shipping sunk and more than 55,000 damaged.

In April 1942, URGE was ordered with other submarines of the Tenth Submarine Flotilla to deploy to Alexandria; the severe bombing of Malta had finally made the submarine base untenable.

URGE left Malta on 27 April and was expected to arrive in Alexandria on 6 May. She failed to arrive and was believed, at the time, to have struck a mine in the channels leaving Malta, as enemy mines were known to have been laid and minesweeping operations had at that time been curtailed by Luftwaffe attacks. She was lost along with her crew of 32, and 12 passengers (11 naval personnel and the war correspondent Bernard Gray).

In 2019, a team from the University of Malta, working in conjunction with the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage of Malta, discovered the wreck of HMS URGE lying a short distance from Malta.

The discovery was verified through images and analysis, and the wreck was recognised as the last resting place of HMS URGE and her crew by the UK Ministry of Defence in the same year. Thus, it is clear that URGE was lost on 27 April although 6 May appears as the date of loss in official records prior to the wreck discovery.

In 2022 a commemoration for HMS URGE took place in Malta, including the unveiling of a memorial by the President of Malta at Fort St Elmo, participation by families and a wreath-laying at sea at the wreck site by the Head of the Royal Navy’s Submarine Fighting Arm.

The town of Bridgend in Wales was affiliated with URGE in 1941, and still maintains links with URGE families.

For more information see the following links:

URGE Virtual Underwater Museum

MOD News report about the Malta URGE memorial

There is also an URGE families facebook group


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