South Scotland

Submarine's 'great leader' honoured in Portpatrick

Lt Cdr Malcolm Wanklyn Image copyright Submariners Association
Image caption Lt Cdr Malcolm Wanklyn took command of HMS Upholder in 1940

The exploits of a Victoria Cross recipient are being recognised at his former home in south west Scotland.

Lt Cdr Malcolm Wanklyn spent part of his childhood at Knockinaam Lodge in Portpatrick.

A commemorative blue plaque is being put on the property as part of a wider project by the Submariners Association.

The latest one will honour the man who is considered to be "the most successful submarine commander of World War Two".

Malcolm David Wanklyn was born on 28 June 1911 in India.

His father William was a successful businessman and engineer who served in the army during the World War One and who had grown up in Ayrshire.

At the end of the war the family moved to Knockinaam which was prompted by his father's new posting to Scotland as Inspector of Munitions.

The family stayed there for five years in which time the young Malcolm became a keen and proficient angler and was fond of shooting and boating.

Image copyright Submariners Association
Image caption Lt Cdr Wanklyn (centre) and his crew carried out a string of successful attacks

The Submariners Association said he came to consider himself to be Scottish and developed "a close affinity for the country and people".

Determined to join the Royal Navy, he overcame colour-blindness to pass the selection board at the age of 14.

He rapidly rose through the ranks and eventually took command of HMS Upholder in August 1940 while the submarine was being built.

Once it was complete he sailed via Gibraltar to join the 10th Submarine Flotilla based in Malta.

HMS Upholder was described as having a "short but very successful wartime career" which established Lt Cdr Wanklyn's "fearsome reputation".

Things started slowly, with his first patrols being "largely unsuccessful", but they soon picked up.

"Using a combination of innate skill and inspired tactical awareness, he went on to success after success," said the Submariners Association.

"Not only was he a renowned attacker but was also cool and calm in defence."

HMS Upholder survived numerous depth charges and of 36 attacks made under Lt Cdr Wanklyn's command, 23 were successful.

The one described as the most daring was the sinking of the large liner-troopship Conte Rosso on 24 May 1941 which earned him the Victoria Cross.

Image copyright Submariners Association
Image caption Lt Cdr Wanklyn, second from left, died when his submarine was lost in 1942

His citation, published in the London Gazette later that year, recognised his "valour and resolution in command of HMS Upholder".

Despite failing light and enemy Destroyers providing a strong escort, he attacked the troop convoy off the coast of Sicily.

Not only did he sink the large troop ship, he was also praised for the "greatest courage, coolness and skill" in bringing his submarine safely back to harbour.

"He has continued to show the utmost bravery in the presence of the enemy," the citation added.

"He has carried out his attacks on enemy vessels with skill and relentless determination, and has also sunk one Destroyer, one U-boat, two troop-transports of 19,500 tons each, one tanker and three supply ships.

"He has besides probably destroyed by torpedoes one Cruiser and one Destroyer, and possibly hit another Cruiser."

'A giant among us'

However, the dangers of patrolling such waters eventually saw him pay the ultimate price.

Lt Cdr Wanklyn was killed along with his crew when HMS Upholder was lost on patrol on 14 April 1942.

By that time he had become the Allies' most successful submariner in terms of tonnage sunk.

After his death, his squadron commander, Cdr George Simpson, said: "I have lost a friend and adviser who I believe I knew better than my brother.

"His record of brilliant leadership will never be equalled. He was by his very qualities of modesty, ability, determination, courage and character a giant among us.

"The island of Malta worshipped him. This tribute is no overstatement."

He will be honoured again this weekend at the home where he grew up on the western edge of Dumfries and Galloway.

A range of dignitaries and family members will be present at the unveiling of the plaque in his memory.

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