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Warship Wednesday18th April 2023

Warship Wednesday: HMS STURGEON

This month for Warship Wednesday, we are focusing on historic warships that have an underwater theme in connection with our new exhibition: Monsters of the Deep.

The River Medway has been central to many tales of monsters and incidents involving sea creatures over the centuries. Whether real, or imagined, they have sparked great intrigue and excitement. In the Monsters of the Deep exhibition, you can see an entire panel dedicated to the fabled ‘Monsters of the Medway’.

In 1868, it was reported that the largest Royal Sturgeon ever captured in this country was caught in the Medway. It was even sent to Windsor Castle as a gift for Queen Victoria. Historically any Sturgeon caught in the Medway belonged to the Mayor of the City to do with as they wished.

It is only fitting that this month, we cover the story of HM Submarine STURGEON.

But before we learn about this interesting submarine, what is a Sturgeon? Sturgeon is the common name for the 27 species of fish belonging to the family Acipenseridae. Sturgeon are descendants from other earlier acipenseriform fish, which date back 174-201 million years ago.

STURGEON was an S class, diesel electric Patrol submarine constructed at Chatham Dockyard and launched on 8 January 1932. STURGEON was 187 ft in length and displaced 640 tons surfaced, 927 tons submerged, with a compliment of 38 men.

Four S Class submarines from the first group known as Swordfish were constructed here at Chatham and STURGEON was the only submarine of the group to survive the Second World War. On 14 September 1939 STURGEON fired in error, three torpedoes at HM Submarine SWORDFISH (a sister S class submarine, also built at Chatham), fortunately without result.

On 20th November 1939 STURGEON torpedoed and sank the German Anti-submarine Trawler V209 – the first British submarine success of the Second World War. Between 1940 and 1942 STURGEON sank 10,000 tons of shipping in the North Sea and off Norway.

Towards the end of the Second World War, STURGEON was loaned to the Dutch Navy between 11 November 1943 and 14 September 1945, renamed ZEEHOND.

The S class eventually consisted of three groups: Group 1 – Swordfish (4 submarines), Group 2 – Shark (8 submarines) and Group 3 – S class Medium Patrol Submarines (54 submarines). Chatham Dockyard built 11 of the submarines in the S class.

STURGEON was returned to the Royal Navy in September 1945, and broken up in January 1946 at Granton.

A small window into our past

Like what you’ve read? Learn more about the work of the Dockyard and the people who not only built ships at Chatham but served on them for 400 years.

Our Collections Online, Digital Exhibitions, Reading Room, Online Dockyard History, and much more are available to help you dive a little deeper into our history.

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