The rare Second World War 1939 to 1940 North Sea and Norwegian Campaign Sealion Submariner’s New Years Honours 1941 Mention in Despatches and long service group awarded to Leading Telegrapher S.J. Warner, Royal Navy, who served aboard the submarine Sealion on all of her first eleven war patrols when under the command of the famous submariner Lieutenant Commender Ben Bryant. Off Stavanger in July 1940 Sealion was forced to remain submerged for 24 hours, being depth charged several times and attacked by aircraft whenever she surfaced, the air quality was so poor that when she finally surfaced the diesel engines would not start until the boat had been ventilated. Bryant would later recall this experience as his “worst patrol”. It was for his gallant and distinguished services aboard Sealion during 1939 and through 1940 that Warner was awarded a Mention in Despatches in the New Years Honours List as published in the London Gazette for 1st January 1941, one of the first two such awards made to the crew of Sealion, out of a total of 7 to this submarine. In the period leading up to Warner’s award Sealion had conducted 11 war patrols, and sunk 5911 GRT of enemy shipping, having also survived a number of close calls from anti-submarine forces in the process. Warner went on to see service on two further war patrols in support of the Arctic Convoys when aboard the submarine Tribune between June and October 1942, and was with this submarine during August of that year when she put to sea with a filming party on board for the shooting of the film 'Close Quarters’. He also served aboard the submarine Taku in a non operational capacity during the war, and had joined the submarine service back in January 1932. Warner completed in all 13 war patrols, his last being aboard Tribune when on 10th September 1942 at 1037 hours she sighted the German battleship Admiral Scheer, the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper and light cruiser Köln leaving the Gimsostrommen and steering towards Hval Fjord. The range is about 20000 yards so there was no opportunity to attack. Tribune sent a enemy report.
Group of 4: 1939-1945 Star; Atlantic Star; War Medal with Mention in Despatches Oakleaf; Royal Navy Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, GVI 1st type bust; (JX.128675 S.J. WARNER. L.TEL. H.M.S. DOLPHIN)
Condition: Nearly Extremely Fine.
Stanley John Warner was born on 26th September 1911 in Alverstoke, near Gosport, Hampshire, and having worked as a bricklayers labourer, then joined the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class (Devonport No.J.128675) with Ganges from 27th November 1926, being advanced to Boy 1st Class on 3rd July 1927, and then rated as a Boy Telegrapher on 5th July 1928 when serving aboard the battleship Rodney. Rated as an Able Seaman Telegrapher on 26th June 1930, he then joined the Submarine Service with Dolphin for training on 4th January 1932, and having been rated as additional crew, then joined the depot ship Medway from 16th February 1932, being then drafted aboard the submarine Odin from 22nd April 1932, he saw service with the 4th Submarine Flotilla at Hong Kong. Listed as spare crew from 22nd May 1932, he was back with Odin again from 30th May 1933.
Warner transferred home to Dolphin on 12th January 1935, and joined the submarine Swordfish from 22nd February 1935, before reverting to additional duties on 10th May 1935, and being sent off on a training course. He then joined the submarine depot ship Alecto as spare crew from 18th October 1935, and then saw service aboard the submarine H24 from 3rd February 1936, being listed as spare crew from 1st February 1936, and then joined the submarine H43 from 17th April 1936, and the submarine Swordfish again from 18th May 1936 when operating from Dolphin, and transferred with her to the depot ship Lucia from 20th May 1936. He was once again an additional with Dolphin from 26th August 1938, and having taken passage out to Gibraltar, then joined the submarine depot ship Maidstone from 8th September 1938 for service with the 1st Submarine Flotilla and aboard the submarine Sealion, under the command of the soon to be famous submarine commander, Lieutenant Commander Ben Bryant.
With the outbreak of the Second World War Warner was aboard Sealion and conducting exercises off Malta, and then proceeded to the United Kingdom in late October 1939. Sealion departed Portsmouth on his first war patrol on 28th October 1939, being ordered to patrol in the North Sea. On 6th November Sealion fires 6 torpedoes against German U-boat U-21 off the Dogger Bank. All torpedoes fired missed their target. The patrol report reads: ‘0931 hours - The officer of the watch (Lt. Meeke, RN) sighted a U-boat very close. Depth keeping was very difficult in the rough seas. Started attack. 0944 hours - Fired six torpedoes from a range of about 3000 yards. 0946 hours - Heard a torpedo explosion. Shortly afterwards sighted the conning tower of a U-boat ahead. Surfaced and manned the deck gun. It was however not possible to engage the enemy with the deck gun due to the heavy seas. The patrol ended at Rosyth on 7th November. Warner had been appointed to Acting Leading Telegrapher on 2nd November 1939.
After a period under refit, Sealion arrived at Harwich on 25th November, and then participated in her second war patrol in the North Sea from 12th December to 27th December. This was uneventful. On 8th January she departed on a patrol in the North Sea, which was also uneventful and ended on 22nd January 1940. On 8th February Sealion departed Harwich for her 4th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol in the North Sea to the north of Terschelling, the Netherlands. This was also uneventful and ended on 18th February. Then on 5th March Sealion was ordered to patrol in the North Sea near Texel, the Netherlands, the orders being changed at sea on 7th March to patrol to the north of Terschelling, the Netherlands and even later she moved to patrol to the north-west of Heligoland. On 12th March Sealion was was detected, hunted and depth charged by a German armed trawler about 25 nautical miles to the north-west of Heligoland. No damage was done to Sealion and she retired from the area. The patrol report reads: ‘0925 hours - Sighted a merchant vessel in the mist in position 54°25'N, 07°17'E. Started an attack. Two tubes were brought to the ready. During the attack it was seen that the target was a trawler. It was a large trawler with a gun mounted forward. Fire was witheld as it was thought she might be escorted 'bigger prey' but nothing else was sighted. 1030 hours - The trawler turned back so started another attack. This prooved to be very difficult as the target stopped and turned a lot. Another trawler was sighted in the mist from time to time. 1115 hours - Two loud explosions shuddered the boat. 1123 hours - The nearest trawler fired a red Very's light. It was thought that Sealion had been detected and Lt.Cdr. Bryant decided to retire from the area to the westward.’ The patrol ended on 15th March.
On 1st April Sealion departed Harwich for her 6th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off southern Norway. Later she moved to the Kattegat. On 11th April Sealion torpedoed and sank the German merchant August Leonhard (2593 GRT) in the Skagerrak. The patrol report reads: ‘1600 hours - Sighted grey upperworks to the eastward. Turned and closed at high speed. 1615 hours - Identified the target as a merchant vessel. Continued to close at high speed. 1644 hours - Identified the target as German, started attack. 1648 hours - Fired two torpedoes from 2700 yards. The first torpedo hit the target abaft the funnel. The target settled quickly by the stern. Sealion then retired to the east. Then on 16th April Sealion was bombed by an aircraft in the central North Sea sustaining some minor damage. 1246 hours - In position 55°56'N, 03°23'E sighted an aircraft on the port quarter. The aircraft turned towards. Challenged. 1247 hours - Having received no reply, dived. 1248 hours - With 45 feet on the gauge 3 or 4 bombs exploded close causing some damage. This patrol ended on 18th April.
With the Norwegian Campaign, on 28th April Sealion was ordered to patrol in the Skagerrak / Kattegat. On 6th May Sealion attacked the German transports Moltkefels (7862 GRT) and Neidenfels (7838 GRT) with 6 torpedoes about 19 nautical miles south-west of Vaderob in position 58°30'N, 10°30'E. The torpedoes missed their target. Both transports were in convoy and were escorted by ships from the 15th Minesweeper Flotilla. This patrol ended on 16th May. On 26th May she departed on her 8th war patrol, being ordered to patrol in the North Sea. This was uneventful and ended on 3rd June at Rosyth. Then on 25th June she departed Rosyth on her 9th war patrol, being ordered to patrol in the Skagerrak. Before proceeding on patrol two practice attacks were made on H.M.S Winchester. On 1st July Sealion departed her patrol area in the Skagerrak for a new patrol area off the south coast of Norway. On 3rd July Sealion fires 6 torpedoes against a German convoy off the Boknafjord, Norway. None of the torpedoes found it's target and Sealion was heavily depth charged following this failed attack. The ship attacked was most heavily escorted and was the Norwegian Cygnus (1334 GRT). She was escorted by the German auxiliary subchasers UJ 123, UJ 124 and UJ 127 as well was the auxiliary patrol vessels V 1101, V 1102, V 1103 and V 1104. Four boats of the 18th MS Flotilla were either patrolling in the area or were part of the escort as well. These were M-1803, M-1805, M-1806 and M-1807. The patrol report reads as follows: ‘1520 hours - When the rain cleared a convoy was sighted. Six merchant vessels were sighted with an escort of nine trawlers. Started attack. 1545 hours - In position 58°25'N, 05°15'E fired six torpedoes from 5500 yards. The target was the leading merchant vessel of a bunch of three merchants and four A/S trawlers. No hits were obtained. 1552 hours - Returned to periscope depth. Saw the convoy to have altered course to evade the torpedoes. Also and aircraft was seen patrolling. 1600 hours - While returning to 60 feet to retired the aircraft dropped two depth charges. Sealion's bow was flung up and drastic action had to be taken to prevent the submarine from broaching. The aircraft then dropped another two depth charges. Some of the escorts now also joined in the hunt. Until 1642 hours a total of 34 depth charges were counted. 1751 hours - The hunt now appeared to have ceased. Started to return to periscope depth.’ As Ben Bryant’s obituary in later life would record of Bryant’s “worst patrol”: ‘after Sealion was forced to remain dived for nearly 24 hours, her air quality was so poor that when she finally surfaced the diesel engines would not start until the boat had been ventilated. It was one of the few times when Bryant was downcast. The war was going badly, and two submarines commanded by friends of his had just been lost. But when he went up into the fore ends where the sailor’s lived, his mood changed. “Suddenly” he recalled, “the atmosphere of unworried serenity passed from them to me. I realised that they would go into action on the morrow without backward thoughts, that with a crew such as I was privileged to command we could not be beaten; the depression left me.” In the afternoon of the 8th July fired a torpedo at the beached wreck of the German merchant Palime (2863 GRT) off Obrestadt. The Palime was beached after hitting a mine on 5th June 1940 that was laid by H.M.S. Narwhal. The torpedo failed to run properly and it missed. The patrol ended on 11th July.
On 27th July Sealion departed Rosyth for her 10th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off southern Norway. On 29th July Sealion attacks German U-boat U-62 with torpedoes (that miss) and then with gunfire south-west of Stavanger, Norway. The patrol report reads: ‘2041 hours - The Officer of the Watch reported a U-boat crossing our stern. A dark green U-boat was seen to pass very close, at 350 yards. Enemy course was 190°. 2048 hours - Three tubes were now ready. Enemy course was now 210°. Range was 2500 yards and on an extremely broad track. 2049 hours - Fired three torpedoes from 3000 yards. 2054 hours - It was now evident that the torpedoes had missed. Surfaced for gun action in position 58°27'N, 04°24'E. After the third round the enemy dived.’ Then on 4th August Sealion torpedoed and sank the Norwegian merchant Toran (3318 GRT) off Homborsund, Norway. The patrol report reads: ‘1515 hours - Sighted a respectable sized marchant vessel of about 1500 - 2000 tons, inshore. Started attack. 1546 hours - Fired two torpedoes, one hit just aft of amidships. Decided to retire immediately from the area given the fact that the batteries were getting low on power.’ On 6th August Sealion suffered a very close call, when she fires four torpedoes against the German merchant Cläre Hugo Stinnes (5295 GRT) off Kristiansand, Norway. All torpedoes missed their target. The patrol report reads: ‘1404 hours - Sighted smoke to the west-south-west. Turned to close. Noted that the smoke was moving east. 1406 hours - Sighted masts. Continued to run to the southward to intercept. 1428 hours - By now the convoy was seen to be made up of two large and two small merchant vessels. A number of A/S vessels were also seen. 1506 hours - A total of four torpedoes were fired but two appeared not to run correctly. 1512 hours - The submerged Sealion is rammed by one of the escorts, this was UJ 123, heavy damaging her periscope shears. Sealion then made for Rosyth where she arrived on 10th August. On 13th August she shifted from Rosyth to Newcastle where Sealion was to be refitted at the Swan Hunter shipyard, and she would not return to patrol work until November 1940.
Warner then took part in Sealion’s eleventh war patrol when she departed Blyth on 21st November, being ordered to patrol off Utvaer, Norway. On 25th November Sealion attacked a large enemy tanker with two torpedoes about 10 nautical miles west of the Utvaer lighthouse. This was possibly the German naval tanker Adria (6358 GRT). The patrol report reads: ‘1103 hours - Sighted a vessel bearing 102°. Altered course to attack but while doing so the target was lost in the rain. 1107 hours - Sighted the target again. It was seen to be a big oiler. Turned again and one again lost the target in the rain but the target HE was clearly picked up. 1112 hours - In approximate position 61°01'N, 04°04'E fired two torpedoes from about 4000 yards but the target was still barely visible and a good setup could not be made. Both torpedoes missed.’ This patrol ended on 6th December, and it was to be Warner’s last patrol aboard her, he being posted off the submarine and drafted to Dolphin as an additional on 16th December 1940.
It was for his gallant and distinguished services aboard Sealion during 1939 and through 1940 that Warner was awarded a Mention in Despatches in the New Years Honours List as published in the London Gazette for 1st January 1941, one of the first two such awards made to the crew of Sealion, both published in this gazette, along with two awards of the Distinguished Service Cross, and two of the Distinguished Service Medal. His commanding officer, Bryant, had been awarded the only other award to the submarine, when gazetted with the Distinguished Service Cross on 3rd September 1940, this award having been specifically for the sinking of the SS August Leonhard in the Kattegat on 11th April 1940. In the period leading up to Warner’s award Sealion had conducted 11 war patrols, and sunk 5911 GRT of enemy shipping, having also survived a number of close calls from anti-submarine forces in the process. In all only 7 Mention in Despatches were awarded to the crew of Sealion during the Second World War, five awards being gazette for a ‘special service’ on 12th May 1942.
Warner then under went a number of coded postings which are entered in his Submarine Record Card as follows. J.3282 from 6th April 1941; J.3484 from 27th October 1941; J.3686 from 15th December 1941; and J.3859 from 2nd February 1942. These are possibly submarines which were under construction and being trialled, or else these are special signals appointment. Throughout he was shown on the books of Dolphin.
Warner then joined the submarine P.228 from 22nd April 1942, operating from Dolphin. P228 was the number for Splendid, which was launched on 19th January 1942, and commissioned on 8th August 1942, and Warner was aboard her for her trials, being then transferred to the submarine Tribune from 1st June 1942. Tribune was then under the command of Lieutenant N.J. Coe, D.S.C., and was conducting firing trials off Blyth and training submariners. However on 25th June she arrived at Lerwick, and that same day departed on a war patrol, being ordered to provide cover for convoy operations (PQ 17 and QP 13) to Northern Russia. The patrol was uneventful and Tribune returned to Lerwick on 11th July, returning to Blyth on 21st July, and resuming her training role. Warner had been aboard for this patrol. He was still aboard when on 8th August Tribune went to sea off Blyth with a filming party on board for the shooting of the film 'Close Quarters’. Daily through to 24th August she put to sea for filming off Blyth, and Warner was present throughout.
Warner was still on board when on 1st September she arrived at Lerwick, and the following day departed on another war patrol, being ordered to provide cover for convoy operations (PQ 18 and QP 14) to Northern Russia. On 10th September at 1037 hours (zone -1), in approximate position 68°31'N, 13°45'E HMS Tribune sighted the German battleship Tirpitz, heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper and light cruiser Köln leaving the Gimsostrommen and steering towards Hval Fjord. The range is about 20000 yards so there was no opportunity to attack. Tribune sent a enemy report. Tirpitz however was not present, she was still at Narvik. Admiral Scheer was present with the other two ships. Then on 20th September Tribune encounters German U-boat U-403. Signals were exchanged but neither submarine was in a position to attack the other. The patrol report reads: ‘0713 hrs - Sighted conning tower ahead in position 72°00N, 17°52E. Turned towards and endeavoured to close and make a challenge. After 8 minutes several signals were exchanged. The contact was now identified as a German U-boat but it could not be attacked and was out of sight after 10 minutes.’ Tribune returned to Lerwick on 30th September. She was sent to Holy Loch on 3rd October, and Warner, who had by now completed 13 operational war patrols, two aboard Tribune, was posted off her and back to Dolphin as an additional on 26th October 1942.
Posted to Portsmouth Headquarters on signalling duty from 12th December 1942, he was back with Dolphin as an additional from 29th December 1942, and was then sent to Mercury for a signalling course from 14th May 1943, and was back with Dolphin as an additional from 17th July 1943. He then returned to active service aboard submarines from 8th August 1943 when posted to the depot ship Forth at Holy Loch for service aboard the submarine Token under Lieutenant A.J.W. Pitt. She was then undertaking exercises and from October 1943 was the submarine being used for the Commanding Officers Qualifying Course in the Clyde area. Warner reverted to spare crew with Forth from 27th November 1943, and then rejoined Dolphin as an additional from 14th July 1944, and having been awarded the Royal Navy Long Service and Good Conduct Medal on 2nd October 1944, was then latterly spare crew with the depot ships Elfin from 27th November 1944, and Cyclops from 2nd June 1945, being discharged on 12th September 1945. Confirmed as his full entitlement.