John Hay Forbes DSO, RN

Born  28 Aug 1906Wandsworth, London
Died  2 Aug 1940(33)HMS Spearfish


Lt.Cdr. John Forbes from a news capture on 22 Apr 1940

Ranks

1 Jan 1927 A/S.Lt.
1 Jul 1927 S.Lt.
1 Jul 1929 Lt.
1 Jul 1937 Lt.Cdr.

Decorations

9 May 1940 DSO

Warship Commands listed for John Hay Forbes, RN


ShipRankTypeFromTo
HMS Spearfish (N 69)Lt.Cdr.Submarine31 Jan 19402 Aug 1940 (+)

Career information

John Hay Forbes was born in Streatham, London on 28 August 1906. He entered the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1920 and served in the Atlantic and Mediterranean before being promoted lieutenant in 1929. He then served in the submarine fleet and served on the staff of Dartmouth College until the war broke out, when he was appointed commander of H.M. submarine Spearfish, In May 1940 he was awarded the DSO for his successful attack on the German pocket battleship Lutzow. He died when Spearfish was torpedoed and sunk on 1 August 1940. Source: Obituaries. The Times (London, England), Thursday, Sep 12, 1940 pg. 7

Events related to this officer

Submarine HMS Spearfish (N 69)


11 Mar 1940
With the repairs completed, HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN), commenced trials off Newcastle. (1)

13 Mar 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) conducted trails off Newcastle, upon completion of these she proceeded to Blyth. (1)

15 Mar 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) departed Blyth for Scapa Flow. (1)

17 Mar 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) arrived at Scapa Flow for a period of training. (1)

30 Mar 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) departed Scapa Flow for Blyth. (1)

2 Apr 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) arrived at Blyth. (2)

5 Apr 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) departed Blyth for her 3rd war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off the western entrance to the Skagerrak.

For the daily and attack positions of HMS Spearfish during this patrol see the map below.

(3)

7 Apr 1940
At 1153 hours (zone -1), HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN), was attacked by a German aircraft near position 56º46'N, 07º00'E. One bomb was dropped when Spearfish passed 20 feet. Spearfish bottomed hard at 95 feet. Some minor damage was caused. (3)

8 Apr 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) was ordered to patrol close west of the Skaw. (4)

9 Apr 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) was ordered to patrol between the Skaw and the Swedish coast. (4)

10 Apr 1940
During the evening, HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN), was hunted and depth charged by 'what was thought to be' a German Leberecht Maass class destroyer. (3)

11 Apr 1940
While patrolling in the Kattegat HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) torpedoed and damaged the German pocket battleship Lützow six nautical miles north of Skagen, Denmark in position 57°50'N, 11°00'E putting her out of action for over a year as repairs were only completed in June 1941.

(All times are zone -1)
0029 hours - Spearfish was on the surface, doing 12 knots on the main engines. The First Lieutenant sighted the bow wave of a ship bearing green 80° (couse of Spearfish was 270°), range was about 3000 yards.

0030 hours - As the enemy was thought to be one of the destroyers that hunted Spearfish the previous day the stern was turned on to the enemy.

Shortly afterwards the enemy was identified as being a large warship. Started attack.

0033 hours - The torpedo tubes were reported ready. Within half a minute started firing six torpedoes from 2500 yards.

0034 hours - Turned on the motors to course 270°.

0035 hours - Proceeded at 12 knots on main engines.

0038 hours - Heard a heavy explosion. Continued to the westward at high speed. Made an enemy report. (3)

15 Apr 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) was ordered to leave patrol and return to base. Lt. Forbes however had decided to return to base the previous evening due to several defects. (4)

17 Apr 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) ended her 3rd war patrol at Blyth. (3)

18 Apr 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) was docked at Blyth. (2)

25 Apr 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, RN) was undocked. (2)

12 May 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) departed Blyth for her 4th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off Flamborough Head.

For the daily and attack positions of HMS Spearfish see the map below.

(3)

14 May 1940
In the evening Spearfish is ordered to take up a new patrol position in the North Sea (zone A 3), to the north-west of Texel, the Netherlands. (4)

20 May 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) sank the Danish fishing vessels S 130 / Orkney and S 175 / Söstjernen with gunfire in the North Sea in approximate position 54°58'N, 03°35'E.

(All times are zone -1)
0115 hours - Sighted a white light thought to be a fishing vessel.

0153 hours - Whilst working round to bring the white light 'up moon' from Spearfish. Sighted a small dark object on the port beam, distance two nautical miles. Turned towards and dived to 45 feet.

0240 hours - Came to periscope depth. Made out a fishing boat without lights, range was now 250 yards.

0255 hours - Surfaced. Took of the crew (two men, two boys and a dog). Whilst they were going down the conning tower hatch a periscope was sighted 500 yards away. Dived.

0333 hours - Surfaced. Saw that the periscope was a dan buoy. Picked up the dog which had been left on the casing when Spearfish dived at 0255 hours. Attempted to sink the fishing vessel by ramming. Got our bow stuck in the fishing vessel and Spearfish only came lose after going full astern for 10 minutes. Sank the fishing vessel with five rounds of HE.

0350 hours - Proceeded on the surface towards the second fishing vessel.

0405 hours - Dived for an aircraft approaching from the north.

0430 hours - Surfaced.

0450 hours - Took of the crew (three men) of the second fishing vessel and sank it with three rounds of HE.

0500 hours - Dived. (3)

24 May 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) ended her 4th war patrol at Blyth. (3)

3 Jun 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) departed Blyth for her 5th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol in the North Sea.

For the daily positions of HMS Spearfish during this patrol see the map below.

(3)

18 Jun 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) ended her 5th war patrol at Blyth. (3)

23 Jun 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) was docked at Blyth. Also the battery was to be replaced. (4)

29 Jun 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) was undocked. (4)

3 Jul 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) departed Blyth for her 6th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off the northern Dutch coast.

For the daily position during this patrol see the map below.

(3)

17 Jul 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) ended her 6th war patrol at Blyth. (3)

24 Jul 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) shifted from Blyth to Rosyth. (4)

31 Jul 1940
HMS Spearfish (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Forbes, DSO, RN) departed Rosyth for her 7th war patrol. She was ordered to patrol off Stavanger, Norway relieving HMS Snapper (Lt. W.D.A. King, DSO, RN). (4)

Media links


U-Boat Attack Logs

Daniel Morgan and Bruce Taylor

Sources

  1. ADM 173/16541
  2. ADM 173/16542
  3. ADM 199/1843
  4. ADM 199/373

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.


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