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HMS Ambrose

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Submarine Memorial, 2013
Submarine Memorial
© Douglas Nelson

HMS Ambrose was a World War II based in Dundee, a Royal Navy submarine base located at Dundee Harbour, and which served as headquarters and home port of the 9th Submarine Flotilla from 1940 to 1946. The flotilla was an international force made up of British units operating with those of the Free French, Dutch, Norwegian, and Polish, after their countries had been overrun by the Nazis. During the summer of 1944, they were joined by the crews of Russian submarines.

Nothing remains of the base, but a Submarine Memorial was erected during development work on the harbour area, and dedicated by HRH the Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO, on September 17, 2009.''

HMS Ambrose history

HMS Ambrose was originally a merchant ship conversion built by Raylon Dixon NE Marine, and launched on March 31, 1903. Displacement: 6,600 tons, Speed: 14.5 knots, Compliment: 238, Armament: Two 3-inch guns.

This ship saw service during World War I, and was removed from the effective list in 1938, at which time she became HMS Cochrane.

HMS Ambrose was assigned to the Dundee base, where HMS Cochrane was deployed to serve as a submarine depot ship.

Following the end of the war, HMS Cochrane was finally scrapped at Inverkeithing in November 1946.[1]

Submarine base

Dundee first became home to a submarine base prior to the start of World War I, but the boat were withdrawn from there in 1912, as the Admiralty had established more facilities at its base in Rosyth , which it had been developing steadily since 1903.

The submarines returned to Dundee following the declaration of war, and with the arrival of the 9th Flotilla, then became Britain's most modern and powerful submarine flotilla stationed in home waters. The same boats had already been patrolling the waters around Britain prior to the actual declaration, keeping watch for any German warships that might have been looking for an easy way to break out into the North Atlantic. Once the war proper started, the boats maintained their patrols all the way to the enemy coast, in defiance of German patrols and aircraft.

As well as their patrol duties, the submarines would also attack enemy shipping. HMS Trident severely damaged the German cruiser Prinz Eugen, famous for accompanying the German battleship Bismark when it attacked and sank HMS Hood, and damaged the Prince of Wales. The German cruiser's stern was damaged in the attack, which also resulted in the death of some 50 enemy crew members. The flotilla carried out patrols which reached into the Arctic Circle, where they offered protection to the Murmansk convoys as the carried essential supplies to the Soviet Union.

Attacks by submarines from Dundee on enemy supply convoys became so successful that the German garrison in northern Norway eventually had to be withdrawn, when it began to run out of food. Aided by Enigma decrypts from Bletchley Park, they were able to find German U-Boats which had been sent to attack the Atlantic convoys, and were credited with sinking a number of the enemy craft.

Yet more missions were carried out in secrecy, as the submarines were used to aid the Resistance in Norway, transporting agents, weapons, and supplies deep into the fjords under cover of darkness.[2]

Six British, Dutch, Norwegian, and Russian submarines stationed at the base never returned from operations. A total of 296 sailors and commandos operating from the base were killed in action.

Hitler's commando order

Musketoon memorial, 2013
Musketoon memorial
© Douglas Nelson

One of the most notable losses took place following the success of Operation Musketoon. The objective was to destroy the power plant at Glomfjord, south of Narvik, which supplied electricity to an aluminium plant. The mission was a success, and the power plant was put out of service for the rest of the war. However, a plan to extract the commando team using a Short Sunderland flying boat was cancelled after the risk to the aircraft was deemed to be too great. Their escape was instead to be made by making their way to neutral Sweden.

The team split into two groups, to become less noticeable and improve their chances if spotted. After an encounter with German troops, most of one group managed to escape. However, seven commandos in the other group were captured and sent to Colditz. There, they managed to make contact with other prisoners who passed their names on to MI5. The commandos were then sent to the SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RHSA) headquarters in Berlin, where they were individually interrogated by Obergruppenführer Heinrich Müller. From there, they were taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The day after they arrived, all seven commandos were shot in the back of the neck, and their bodies cremated. These commandos had been the first to fall victim to Adolf Hitler's infamous Commando Order, issued on October 18, 1942, which called for the immediate execution of all commandos following their capture.[3] The official story given to the Red Cross was that the seven had escaped and not been recaptured.

Dundee Submarine Memorial

A memorial to all those lost was unveiled in 2009.[4]

The memorial inscription is set into the ground and reads: Dundee Submarine Memorial 1939-1945 Honouring Gallantry Commemorating Sacrifice Dedicated by HRH Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO 17 September 2009

Submarine Memorial, 2010
Submarine Memorial
© Bill Nicholls
Submarine Memorial, 2013
Submarine Memorial
© Douglas Nelson
Submarine Memorial, 2013
Submarine Memorial
© Douglas Nelson
Memorial inscription, 2010
Memorial inscription
© Bill Nicholls

Russian video report of Dundee memorial to Allied submarine crews
unveiled September 17,2009.


In 2011, an exhibition of rarely seen photographs of the base and its vessels was held at the Frigate Unicorn, timed to coincide with a service at the Dundee International Submarine Memorial at the Victorian Dock complex.[5]


1 Submarine Depot Ships Retrieved October 16, 2011.

2 What Did You Do In The War, Dundee? — HMS Ambrose Retrieved October 15, 20110.

3 HITLER COMMANDO ORDER Retrieved April 17, 2013.

4 Memorial unveiled to Dundee submariners | Scotland | STV News Retrieved October 16, 2011.

5 The Courier - Dundee pays tribute to wartime submariners Retrieved October 16, 2011.

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