Holyhead - HMS Thetis Memorial 2013

Glyn Jones, from Rhyl, was just a teenager when he watched the tragedy unfold on the news. The 91-year-old, who was living with his father in Greenfield, Flintshire at the time, recalled: “The sinking of the HMS Thetis was a very big disaster and was all over the news.

Holyhead - HMS Thetis Memorial 2013

HMS Thetis was salvaged,recommissioned as HMS Thunderbolt and lost in March 1943 near Sicily

Holyhead - HMS Thetis Memorial in 2005

HMS Thetis’s hull was clearly visible as it was above the water line, and it would have been a simple task to drill or burn into the hull to rescue the people inside. In fact it was recently revealed that the admiralty would not allow this as it would permanently undermine the strength of the sub, and it must have been a conscious decision that those inside would perish.

Holyhead - HMS Thetis Memorial, Panel 2 Casualties Names

HMS Thetis’s hull was clearly visible as it was above the water line, and it would have been a simple task to drill or burn into the hull to rescue the people inside. In fact it was recently revealed that the admiralty would not allow this as it would permanently undermine the strength of the sub, and it must have been a conscious decision that those inside would perish.

HMS Thetis was salvaged,recommissioned as HMS Thunderbolt and lost in March 1943 near Sicily
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HMS Thetis was salvaged,recommissioned as HMS Thunderbolt and lost in March 1943 near Sicily

Holyhead - HMS Thetis Memorial, Panel 2 Casualties Names

However, among the excitement, there was a shadow over the ship as they passed the wreck of the HMS Thesis at Cape Frio. Darwin simply notes:

Holyhead - HMS Thetis Memorial, Panel 4 Casualties Names

A consideration of the loss of HMS Thetis in 1939 and its aftermath.


I was drafted to HMS Thetis, a new type of submarine known only as "T" Class. The draft, there were two of us, was delayed a few days so that we could assist in preparing for an Admiral's inspection of the base. This did not appear to be important at the time as Thetis had a full crew and was ready for seatrials.

After the inspection I received orders to proceed next day to Barrow in Furness to join my new boat. I left the Fort (Fort Blockhouse) with the other young stoker the next morning, and it was not until we reached the station that we heard that Thetis had sunk on trials. We were terribly upset and returned to the Fort for further instructions. I was immediately put back into the office.

This was a bad time in the submarine service. Poor communications, bad decisions, lack of proper equipment etc resulted in the loss of the boat and all butfour of the people on board. About forty of them were civilians and Admiralty experts. There is a book written on this disaster. A score of my old friends including Captain Bolus were lost. We could not afford to lose these types of men in so useless a fashion.

The list of the crew "discharged dead" was placed on my desk for the records. My name was included. I was thankful to go home that night.

Shortly after this I was drafted to HMS Truant..........."

HMS Thetis was salvaged,recommissioned as HMS Thunderbolt and lost in March 1943 near Sicily

HMS Thetis was a T-class submarine launched in 1938

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