Lancaster honours submarine Syrtis and Arctic heroes

In the seemingly endless, unforgiving grey of the Norwegian Sea, HMS Lancaster paused from working with the country’s navy to remember forebears lost in action.

Commander Will Blackett cast a wreath into the waters near Bodø, believed to be the last resting place of submarine HMS Syrtis.

The S-boat was lost with all hands in 1944 on her sixth war patrol – all of which bar one were conducted off the coast of Norway and in the Arctic.

After sinking a Norwegian merchant ship pressed into German service 50 miles southwest of the northern port of Bodø, nothing was heard of the boat or her 48 crew again.

Her wreck has never been found but it’s assumed she fell victim to a German minefield laid off Bodø, an important base for the occupying Luftwaffe at the time.

Portsmouth-based Lancaster has been operating in the High North recently, the latest Royal Navy vessel to venture into Arctic waters to demonstrate the UK’s commitment to the safety and security of the region.

The connection to our forebears was felt keenly throughout the ship and we very much enjoyed the opportunity to reinforce our relevance in the 21st-Century context

Commander Will Blackett

The memorial service off Bodø, led by chaplains Timothy Ndegwa and Thomas Backulumpagi, was a reminder of the efforts made by the Royal Navy off Norway during five years of war – from the bitter two-month campaign to prevent the kingdom being overrun by the Nazis in 1940, to the convoys dispatched to the Kola Peninsula between 1941 and 1945 to support the Soviet war effort which cost 16 British warships, more than 80 merchant vessels and hundreds of seafarers’ lives.

A two-minute silence, started by sounding the ship’s siren was held as the crew of HMS Lancaster lined the deck to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice as their frigate sailed side-by-side with the HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen. A signal flare from the Norwegian vessel marked the end of the solemn act.

“This was a poignant moment – two allies meeting in misty waters on a very significant day,” said Commander Will Blackett, Commanding Officer of the ‘Queen’s frigate’ (it’s named after her in the role of Duke of Lancaster).

“The connection to our forebears was felt keenly throughout the ship and we very much enjoyed the opportunity to reinforce our relevance in the 21st-Century context as we worked with HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen to develop our fighting edge.”