|Name HMS Ursula|
Commissioned 20 December 1938
Acquired 26 June 1944
Launched 16 February 1938
Draft 4.62 m
|Laid down 19 February 1937|
Construction started 19 February 1937
Length 58 m
|Fate transferred to Soviet Navy, 26 June 1944|
HMS Ursula was a U-class submarine, of the first group of that class constructed for the Royal Navy. The submarine entered service in 1938 and saw action during the Second World War in the North and Mediterranean Seas. In 1944, Ursula was transferred to the Soviet Navy and renamed V-4. She remained in Soviet service until 1950 when the submarine was returned to the United Kingdom and was sold for scrap in May 1950.
Construction and career
Ursula was built by Vickers Armstrong, Barrow-in-Furness. She was laid down on 19 February 1937 and was commissioned on 20 December 1938.
At the onset of the Second World War, Ursula was a member of the 6th Submarine Flotilla. From 26–29 August 1939, the flotilla deployed to its war bases at Dundee and Blyth. Ursula started the war operating in home waters. On 9 September 1939, she fired the first British submarine torpedoes of the war when attacking the German submarine U-35. The U-boat escaped, but was sunk about two months later.
On 14 December 1939 Ursula was on patrol off the Elbe estuary when she sighted the German light cruiser Leipzig, escorted by six destroyers. Leipzig was returning to Kiel to undergo repairs, having been torpedoed and damaged by the submarine HMS Salmon. The waters of the Elbe estuary are shallow and to dive deep is a dangerous undertaking involving the risk of getting stuck on a sandbank. Nevertheless, Ursula dived beneath the destroyer screen and got within range of the cruiser, the depth being only just enough to allow this manoeuvre. On coming up again to periscope depth, Ursula found herself to be within point-blank range of Leipzig. She fired a salvo of six torpedoes; the two resulting explosions were so close that Ursula herself was badly shaken. On returning to periscope depth there was no sign of the cruiser, but four of her escorting destroyers were closing in at high speed to attack. One of these, the destroyer escort F9, had been hit and was sinking. Once again, risking the sandbanks, Ursula went deep and managed to evade the inevitable depth charges. Of the cruiser Leipzig no further trace was seen, but when Ursula returned to look for evidence, two of the destroyers were still in the area, apparently, in a search for survivors, and engaged. Ursula's commander, Lt.Cdr. G.C. Phillips, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and promoted. Leipzig had in fact been missed and the torpedoes had instead hit F9. Leipzig reached port and underwent repair.
Service in the North Sea and Mediterranean
Ursula continued to harass enemy shipping in the North Sea, sinking the German merchant Heddernheim, before being reassigned to operate in the Mediterranean. There she sank the Italian auxiliary submarine chaser V 135 / Togo and the German merchants Sainte Marguerite II (a former French vessel) and Odysseus (the former Norwegian Gran). She also damaged the Italian merchant Sabbia, but was herself damaged by depth charges during a counter-attack by the Italian torpedo boat Generale Carlo Montanari. She also launched unsuccessful attacks against the German transport ships Brook and Tilly L.M. Russ, the Italian troop transport Vulcania and the German submarine U-73. She also attacked and damaged the Italian tanker Beppe, which had to be towed to Tripoli.
The 'Ursula suit'
Early in the war Philips and his crew had become dissatisfied with the conventional garb of oilskins and designed a special form of clothing more suitable for submarines. Ursula's navigating officer, Lt Lakin, was a keen motorcyclist and wore a one-piece waxed cotton motorcycling suit made by Barbour. Philips asked the company to adapt the suit, splitting it into jacket and trousers and adding a hood. The suit became standard watch-keeping clothing in Royal Navy submarines.
Ursula was transferred on loan to the Soviet Union on 26 June 1944. She was renamed V-4 "Soviet Svanetia" by the Soviets after a mountainous province in Georgia where the submarine's new commander Yaroslav Iosseliani came from. On 20 October 1944 she sank the German submarine chaser UJ-1219. She survived the war, was returned to Britain in early 1950, and scrapped at Grangemouth in May 1950.