July 15 1943 Roxburgh was one of an outer ring of submarines
defending Operation Husky, the Allied landings on Sicily, when he
intercepted the Italian submarine Remo on the surface and fired a full
salvo of torpedoes at 500 yards. United shuddered as Remo exploded;
Roxburgh watched through his periscope as the Italian boat's stern
reared high, its propellors spinning, before it sank. He recalled that
he felt "no elation after such a rapid end to one's own kind, but a
Capitano di Corvetta Salvatore Vassallo, the rescued captain of Remo,
proved an enthusiastic cook and a quiet but interested spectator during
his nine days' imprisonment in United, during which Roxburgh carried out
an unsuccessful attack on a fast-moving cruiser. Since Vassallo's wife
was pregnant, he joined in celebrating the news of the birth of
Roxburgh's daughter, announced by the codeword "Grommet"; if the baby
had been a boy, the codeword was to have been "Toggle". The two captains
became friends, though Roxburgh was careful to take his farewell of
Vassallo in private.
In addition to the usual Jolly Roger, Roxburgh entered Malta flying a
white flag showing a stork carrying a baby. His logbook recorded "A
happy day, taken all in all", and Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew
Cunningham signalled congratulation at the "double event".
THE TELEGRAPH Vice Admiral Sir John Roxburgh
Times of Malta
Vice-Admiral Sir John Roxburgh KCB CBE DSO DSC
John Roxburgh (Royal Navy officer)
Vice-Admiral Sir John Roxburgh,
was one of the most effective and ebullient submarine
commanders of the Second World War.
His youthful appearance dismayed United's
crew when he took command in December 1942, aged 23; but
they quickly discovered that he was "a cool customer". Over
10 days on his first patrol off Italy, Roxburgh saw 11 enemy
merchant ships being escorted by air patrols, as well as by
numerous destroyers and anti-submarine craft.
Vice-Admiral Sir John Roxburgh, KCB, CBE, DSO, DSC & Bar,
died 13 April, 2004. He was aged 84.
John Charles Young Roxburgh was born 29 June, 1919, the only
son of Sir (Thomas) James (Young) Roxburgh, Kt, CIE
(1892-1974), Puisne Judge of the High Court, Calcutta, by
his wife, the former Mona Heymerdinguer, and was educated at
the Royal Naval College Dartmouth.
Career: Naval Cadet 1933; Midshipman 1937; Sub-Lieutenant
1939; Lieutenant 1941; Lieutenant-Commander 1949; Commander
1952; Captain 1958; Rear-Admiral 1967;
Vice-Admiral 1970; Submarines from 1940; served in operations off Norway,
in the Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean, 1940-42;
commanded HM Submarines H43, United and Tapir,1942-45 in
operations in the Med and off Norway; HMS Vanguard 1948-50;
HM Submarine Turpin,
1951-53; HMS Triumph 1955; HMS Ark Royal 1955-56; HMS
Contest 1956-58; British Joint Services Mission, Washington
1958-60; in command of 3rd Submarine Squadron & HMS Adamant,
1960-61; Imperial Defence College 1962; Deputy Director of
Defence Plans [Navy], Ministry of Defence, 1963-65;
commanded HMS Eagle,
1965-67; Flag Officer, Sea Training 1967-69; Flag Officer
Plymouth, 1969; Flag Officer Submarines & NATO Comdr
Submarines, East Atlantic 1969-72; retired from the Navy
1972; Chairman, Grovebell Group, 1972-75; Member, Management
Committee, The Freedom Association, 1978-85; President,
Royal Navy Benevolent Trust, 1978-84; Member, Friends of
Hong Kong Committee 1986 (Chairman 1987-95); County
Councillor for Surrey, 1977-81; &c.
Roxburgh was awarded the DSC in 1942 (Bar added 1945); DSO
1943; CBE 1967; CB 1969; KCB 1972.
He married in 1942, Philippa, third daughter of Major C.M.
Hewlett, MC, by whom he had one son and one daughter.
| 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.