News Item

Obituary for a navigator

Lt Cdr Michael Marwood, who has died aged 96, was a Royal Navy navigator who helped to sink two U-boats.

On the outbreak of war Marwood was a 19-year-old acting-sub-lieutenant in the destroyer ANTELOPE. 5 February 1940 found ANTELOPE south of Ireland as the sole escort of a convoy and, after 'months of appalling boredom', he was longing for the excitement of a U-boat attack to relieve the monotony - when the German submarine U-41 attacked.

The U-boat's torpedoes sank the freighter Beaverburn and damaged the tanker Ceronia, but ANTELOPE pounced, fixed the U-boat with her Asdic, and dropped a pattern of depthcharges. Nothing more was ever heard of U-41, which was afterwards reckoned to be first U-boat to be sunk in a one-on-one engagement between a U-boat and destroyer.

Eight months later, on the morning of 2 November, ANTELOPE fought a second singleton battle when U-31 crash-dived off north-western Ireland, intending to attack the destroyer. But U-31 was detected by ANTELOPE, which carried out an attack, dropping depthcharges and driving the German deep.

Marwood then carefully plotted the U-boat, and a cat-and-mouse skirmish ensued lasting several hours. After losing and regaining Asdic contact, he guided ANTELOPE to several accurate attacks with depthcharges which ruptured the ballast tanks of U-31, which surfaced and was scuttled. Marwood was awarded the DSC.

Michael Marwood was born in Portsmouth in May 1919 and first went to sea as a boy on a raft of planks and oil drums on which he attempted to cross Langstone Harbour. He was educated at King’s College, Taunton, and entered the Navy as Special Entry cadet in 1936. Still under training, he joined the cruiser DELHI, then the cruiser DEVONSHIRE and the battleship BARHAM. After Sub-Lt's courses at Portsmouth and Greenwich, he joined ANTELOPE in August 1939.

He was involved in many other exploits during the war, dealing with the hazards of mines, aircraft attack and U-boats and culminating in the sinking of the Japanese battle cruiser Haguro in one of the last classic destroyer actions of the war. He was mentioned in despatches for his 'coolness, skill and devotion to duty under fire'.

The 1956 classic memoir of the war at sea, 'Stand by for Action ' states: 'Marwood was the First Lieutenant: tall and slim, he was a good seaman, and carried out his duties as Number One very well. He had a remarkable penchant for laying on wild parties, and an even more remarkable ability for emerging scatheless from all of them.' . . a fitting tribute to a navigator.

Marwood remained in the Navy until 1958, serving as flag lieutenant and signals officer to several admirals. After leaving the Navy he worked for Marconi Marine in Chelmsford before retiring in 1986.

Lt Cdr Michael Marwood - born 16 May 1919, died 5 January 2016

A fascinating full obituary can be found at The Telegraph link below . .

  • 03 February 2016
  • RIN

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