HM Submarine Sportsman
Sportsman was laid down on 1 July 1941 and launched by Lady White on 17 April 1942.
Ordered under the 1940 Emergency War Programme, she was the first Royal Navy vessel to have the name Sportsman
The cost of her building was met by contributions made in the Borough of Gillingham during one of the wartime ‘Warships Weeks’. As a result, when Twydall Estate was built shortly after the war one of the estate pubs was named ‘The Sportsman’. The pub had an amount of memorabilia from HMS Sportsman displayed on its walls. The pub is now closed and regrettably it is not known what happened to the items from Sportsman.
Thanks to B Fowler for this information.
Following her commissioning, she sailed to Holy Loch for her workup.
On 15th February 1943 Sportsman sailed with three other new boats on her first war patrol. Her orders were to provide support for convoy TW53 and patrol off Alten Fjord. Following this first patrol, she returned to Holy Loch before sailing again on 1st May for a patrol in the Bay of Biscay and then onto Gibraltar.
Sportsman’s first success came in May 1943 when she sank the French General Bonaparte of 2800 tons. One week later she attacked and damaged the tanker Marguereta Finaly of 1200 tons. During the same patrol she carried out a gun action against a tug towing three lighters. She sank one of the lighters before being forced to dive when the gun jammed.
During a patrol in June 1943 Sportsman landed agents in Italy, made an unsuccessful attack on a coastal railway and sank the Bolzanete of 2200 tons.
Following the surrender of the Italians ion September 1943, Sportsman picked up 44 survivors from two Italian destroyers which had been attacked by the Germans. During this same patrol she was bombed and damaged by an American Liberator.
More success followed in November when she sank two 100 ton Caiques with a gun action.
In February 1944, Sportsman attacked and hit the German ship Petrella. Although the ship did not sink, she was stopped. The RAF followed up and bombed the Petrella which latter sank. After this sinking, news broke that the Petrella was carrying Italian prisoners of war. Over 2000 lost their lives.
The early programme for Sportsman in 1943 was for her to sail to the Far East but in March, she was in need of a refit and the move was cancelled.
After a short docking at Port Said, she carried out two more war patrols in the Mediterranean before returning to the UK. These last two patrols saw her sink one MTB and two other ships of 200 and 5800 tons.
On his return home, Lt R. Gatehouse who had been in command of Sportsman since her commissioning, received a Bar to his DSC.
After the war, Sportsman was one of the 'S' boats fitted with a Snort mast.
In April 1946 she went into reserve. Renamed Sybylle, in 1951 she was loaned to the French Navy. On 29 September 1952, Sybylle was lost off the coast of Toulon with 47 of her crew. The cause of the loss was unknown.