Vice Admiral Sir John Roxburgh, who was one of the best known submarine commanders in Malta in World War II, has just died in London aged 84.
Roxburgh was just 23 when he was given command of the tiny submarine United in Malta in 1942. One of his first patrols involved the landing of a beach reconnaissance party on the Sicilian coast prior to the invasion of Sicily. Unfortunately the beach party got lost and could not be recovered by the submarine, but, undeterred, the party paddled the whole 75 miles back to Malta!
Roxburgh sank some 30,000 tons of shipping while operating from Malta, but his most momentous patrol was while operating off Tunisia on July 15, 1943. The submarine sighted a large Italian submarine on the surface and promptly sank it. Then, as United itself surfaced to recharge its batteries, it received a signal from Malta saying: "Grommet."
This announced the birth of Roxburgh's daughter. Had he had a son, the signal would have read: "Toggle".
As well as the customary Jolly Roger, signifying a successful patrol, United returned to Malta sporting a Stork flag!
Later in the war Roxburgh operated in Northern waters and became one of a very few submarine commanders to have sunk two enemy submarines, the second being a German U-boat in April, 1945.
After the war Roxburgh commanded a destroyer, then served on the battleship Vanguard before assuming command, in 1965, of the Eagle, one of the largest ever Royal Navy aircraft carriers.
He served as Flag Officer, Submarines between 1969 and 1972, with command of more than 20 attack submarines, including six which were nuclear powered and armed.
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