In Memoriam        Sub Lt. Robert Troath    RNVR                                                                                  Home


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Robert Troath

Died after Korean War: Raymond-Kimber Leslie Walters

HMS Ganilly  PQ17  U-390  German Account of What Happened   English Reports of sinking of U390    

Dive to U-390  

ROBERT WILLIAM HARKER TROATH, born 9.6.1921, entered the School in September 1932.  He played for the 1st Rugby XV and excelled at P.T. and Boxing.  He was a King’s Scout in the School Troop.  He gained the Oxford School Certificate in 1937, and in April 1938, he joined the Staff of Lloyds Bank Ltd., at Tamworth, later moving to Derby and Leicester. 

He joined the Navy in January 1942 and served on HMS Ledbury.  He was commissioned and served on H.M.S. Cottilian, and later on H.M.S.  Ganilly, in which he lost his life when it struck a mine off the Normandy coast in 1942.  The Troath History and Geography Prizes have been founded to preserve his memory. 

He was the second son of Mr. and Mrs. L. E. Troath, 89 Northampton Road, Wellingborough.  'In Memorial'  book


HMS Ledbury was commissioned on 11th February 1942 and took up escort duties between Scapa Flow and Iceland.

On 27th June 1942 she was attached to the ocean escort of the infamous Arctic convoy PQ17*  (referred to in Alistair Maclean's HMS Ulysses

*PQ17     27th June-28th July - Destruction of Convoy PQ17 - PQ17  left Reykjavik, Iceland with 26 ships, of which two returned**. The close escort under Cdr J. E. Broome included six destroyers and four corvettes. Two British and two US cruisers with destroyers were in support (Rear-Adm L. H. K. Hamilton), and distant cover was given by the Home Fleet (Adm Tovey) with battleships "Duke of York" and the US "Washington", carrier "Victorious", cruisers and destroyers. The British Admiralty believed the Germans were concentrating their heavy ships in northern Norway. In fact pocket battleship "Lutzow" had run aground off Narvik, but this still left battleship "Tirpitz", pocket battleship "Admiral Scheer" and heavy cruiser "Admiral Hipper" - all formidable adversaries, which reach Altenfiord on the 3rd. At this time PQ17 had just passed to the north of Bear Island, after which German aircraft sank three merchantmen. Fear of attack by the German ships led the First Sea Lord, Adm Pound, far away in London, to decide the fate of the convoy. In the evening of the 4th the support cruisers were ordered to withdraw and the convoy to scatter. Unfortunately Adm Hamilton took the six escorting destroyers with him. The merchantmen were now to the north of North Cape. Thirty-one try to make for the isolated islands of Novaya Zemlya before heading south for Russian ports. Between the 5th and 10th July, 20 of them were lost, half each to the aircraft and U-boats sent to hunt them down. Some sheltered for days off the bleak shores of Novaya Zemlya. Eventually 11 survivors and two rescue ships reached Archangel and nearby ports between the 9th and 28th. In fact "Tirpitz" and the other ships did not leave Altenfiord until the morning of the 5th, after the 'convoy was to disperse' order. They abandoned the sortie that same day. History suggests the vital decision on the future of PQ17 should have been left to the commanders on the spot. The US reacted strongly to the Royal Navy apparently leaving its merchantmen to their fate.


** Number of merchant ship varies according to the source between 23 and 26

      the sinking of 23 ships. source:

    11 of the 35 merchant ships  survived  Source:

      11 of the original 37 merchant ships reached their destination, 153 seamen died, and precious supplies were lost including an

      estimated 3,850 vehicles, 430 tanks and 2,500 aircraft

     Only 12 of the 35 merchantmen make it unscathed to the Soviet Union

Two months later Ledbury was close escort in the ‘Pedestal’ convoy to Malta during the air attacks which pounded the convoy, Ledbury claimed three enemy aircraft destroyed and five damaged, and was one of three destroyers which helped the crippled tanker Ohio into Grand Harbour.


After gaining his commission Robert Troath served initially on HMS Cottilion, a Dance class ASW (armed trawler used for anti-submarine (A/S) and minesweeping work) and then to HMS Ganilly. 


HMS Ganilly. In the 'In Memoriam' book it is reported that Ganilly hit a mine, in fact she was sunk by U-390 off Utah Beach, Normandy  on 5 Jul, 1944. (D Day June 6).


The German submarine U-390, itself, was sunk at 1500hrs on 5 July 1944 in the Baie de la Seine, English Channel, in position 49º52'N, 00º48'W, by depth charges from the British destroyer HMS Wanderer (Lt.Cdr. R.F. Whinney, DSC and Bar, RN) and the British frigate HMS Tavy (T/A/Lt.Cdr. Frank Ardern, RNR).


German Account of What Happened:     As is evident from the language this account is from German sources (Mrs Zipperling, Mr Erich Stein (survivor), Mr Wolfgang Freese, Mr Roland Berr.)      Source:


U 390 began her career on March 1943. On January 1944 she attacked without success a small convoy and was violently depth charged over several hours but succeeded in escaping safely, arriving at Saint-Nazaire where she was fitted with a Schnorchel. On June she brought weapons and ammunitions for the besieged German soldiers in Cherbourg and miraculously succeeded in escaping from an aerial attack as she was unable to dive due to a jammed rear dive hydroplane. The mission was aborted while Cherbourg was falling and the Grey Wolf had to cast off for the English Channel, the best watched place at this time, full of anti-submarine chasers.

The U390 crew were then like the damned who are under sentence of death. But the braves succeeded in frustrating the enemy and on 5 July 1944 U390 torpedoed the Britannic patrol boat HMS Ganilly and damaged the American steamer Sea Porpoise.

The submarine was quickly stricken by the destroyer HMS Wanderer and the frigate HMS Tavy which were fitted with efficacious ASW (anti-submarine warfare) techniques, offering no hope for Donitz’s wolves to escape safely, especially with little depth under their keel. Numerous depth charges … hedgehogs were dropped. The U-Boot is mortally hit at the first shot making surfacing impossible. Several compartments flooded drowning the crew.

Obermaschinist Erich Stein was standing in the centre with Geissler, the L.I. Kurman, a radio-operator and a few crewmembers ... about nine men, prisoners of their own boat. Water is still flooding into the compartment. The submariners wait for the inside and outside pressures to equalise in order to open the Turmluk. All are prepared for this eventuality but the situation becomes tragically different. The English vessels are approaching for a lethal shower of hedgehogs into this water which freezes the limbs and the darkness which petrifies the minds. This amazingly quiet crew knew they were in the antechamber of death. A last glance to their comrades and a last farewell. Only Erich Stein succeeded in crawling out of the conning tower, quite without consciousness, and escapes to the surface.  He was picked up by the Allieds.  About 30 more depth charges were laid again to be sure of the destruction of U390 which is now and for ever the steel coffin of 48 German submariners.


English Reports of sinking of U390    

1.   Source: Lost Patrols: Innes McCartney, 2002, Submarine wrecks of the English Channel

U390 was not to escape. She was located and attacked by HMS Tavy which sent her to the bottom with a well-placed hedgehog attack. Here has been some confusion as to whether U390 attempted a counter attack by T5 torpedo during HMS Tavy’s initial approach. Ian Bailey who was serving in HMS Tavy as Gunnery Officer, witnessed the proceedings from HMS Tavy’s bridge, from where he took the astonishing photos seen here for the first time in print. He related to the author that U390 made the first attack with two T5 acoustic-homing torpedoes. One passed on and disappeared and the other exploded prematurely, as HMS Tavy was turning into its tracks. It was at this point that contact with the U-boat was made by hydrophone effect. Shortly thereafter, the decisive hedgehog attack was made. Minutes later, HMS Wanderer joined in and both vessels plastered the wreck. The end result was the certain destruction of U390. The anti-submarine summary issued at the time stated that the sinking of U390 was carried out entirely by hedgehogs. Depth charges were used only to open up the wreckage to ensure identification and destruction. This was confirmed when one survivor was picked up from the sea by HMS Wanderer. Throwing him a float before she attacked with depth charges, (see No3/7) surely saved his life. He was the chief Engineer, Eric Stein. The commander of HMS Wanderer formed a low opinion of his prisoner describing him as a sour bad-mannered man, very much a Nazi. He did not even thank us for helping him; Perhaps this is not too surprising under the circumstances.

2.   Source:

 A Second World War D.S.C. for the destruction of the U-390, awarded to Lieutenant-Commander Frank Ardern, Royal Naval Reserve, H.M.S. Tavy    The following recommendation is taken from the official report made to the U-boat Assessment Committee on the destruction of the U-390 by the Wanderer and Tavy on 5 July 1944: 'As Commanding Officer H.M.S. Tavy for his prompt action in attacking the diving swirl of the U-boat; for the accurate attack made with hedgehog by his ship at 1457 which at least severely damaged the enemy; and for the subsequent attacks which, together with those of H.M.S. Wanderer encompassed the U-boat's final destruction. This action reflects credit on Lieutenant-Commander Ardern, R.N.R., both for the skill he displayed at the time and for the efficient state of performance of his Anti-Submarine armament.'


HMS Ledbury

HMS Ledbury (Pennant L90) was an escort destroyer of the Hunt Type II class. The Royal Navy ordered Ledbury's construction two days after the outbreak of the Second World War and J. I. Thornycroft Ltd laid down her keel at their Southampton yard on 24 January 1940.  Air raid damage to the yard delayed her construction and she did not launch until 27 September 1941. Her initial assignment was to perform escort duties between Scapa Flow and Iceland. She remained in this theatre for the first part of the war, during which time she served with the ill-fated Arctic convoy PQ17 in June 1942, from which twenty-four ships were lost.


Only two months later she took up the role of close escort in the Pedestal convoy to Malta. During the fierce attacks that dogged the convoy, Ledbury claimed three enemy aircraft destroyed and five damaged, and was one of three destroyers that helped the crippled oil tanker SS Ohio into the Grand Harbour. She added to her battle honours with the Allied landings in Sicily, Salerno, and operations in the Adriatic and Aegean. The Royal Navy finally scrapped Ledbury in 1958.    Source:


HMS Ledbury was ordered two days after the outbreak of World War II. She was an Escort Destroyer of the ‘Hunt’ class type II and she was built at the Southampton yard of Thornycroft Ltd. Construction began on 24th January 1940 but the yard was bombed and the work delayed so that she wasn’t ready for launching until 27th September in the following year. She had a displacement of 1580 tons a maximum speed of 29 knots and a complement of 164 men.

The Hunt Class destroyer were conceived as a destroyer for use in the confines of coastal operation such as the North Sea and Mediterranean, they were required to have a good all round armament of six 4" HA guns plus lighter weapons. They were not required to be fitted with torpedo tubes. Due to a substantial error in the design it is reported that HMS Atherstone ‘lent against the dock’ when fitting her X twin 4 inch mount. This gun was removed and several changes made before the Type II was produced. The Type II was wider than the Type I to avoid the instability problem.

The ship was commissioned on 11th February 1942 and took up escort duties between Scapa Flow and Iceland.

In June 1942 she was attached to the ocean escort of the Arctic convoy PQ17 from which 24 ships were lost.

Two months later she was close escort in the ‘Pedestal’ convoy to Malta during the air attacks which pounded the convoy, Ledbury claimed three enemy aircraft destroyed and five damaged, and was one of three destroyers which helped the crippled tanker Ohio into Grand Harbour.

After further escort duties in the north Atlantic she returned to the Med and took part in the invasion of Sicily and the Allied landing at Salerno. She did further convoy work based in Malta and then Alexandria. She covered the British troops return to Athens in October 1944. She was stood down from active service in March 1946 and finally sold for scrap and broken up at Rosyth in April 1958.   

HMS Cotillion (T 104)

ASW Trawler of the Dance class 


The Royal Navy


ASW Trawler Class Dance


T 104


by Ardrossan Dockyard (Ardrossan, Scotland) : Plenty Ordered

Laid down  

21 Jun, 1940


21 Dec, 1940


13 Jun, 1941


Sold 28 March 1947


ASW Trawler


530 BRT


161 feet


35 men


1 4" guns   3 20mm AA (3x1)

Max speed  

11.5 knots


Reciprocating engine (V.T.E.), 1 shaft Power 850 IHP


HMS Ganilly (T 376)    Source:


HMS Ganilly (T 376)


A/S trawler     (Isles)


545 tons


1943 - Cook, Welton & Gemmell Ltd, Beverley 


The Admiralty 

Date of attack

5 Jul, 1944

Nationality:      British


Sunk by U-390 ( Heinz Geissler)


49.36N, 00.57W - Grid BF 36


? men (39 dead and ? survivors).

Notes on loss

On 5 Jul, 1944, U-390 attacked ships off Utah Beach, Normandy and claimed the sinking of two vessels. The ships hit were HMS Ganilly (T 376) and Sea Porpoise. 


U-390     Source:

Schnorchel-fitted U-boat  (Schnorchel underwater-breathing apparatus in April 1944.)





21 Nov, 1940


Laid down

6 Dec, 1941

Howaldtswerke AG, Kiel (werk 21)


23 Jan, 1943



13 Mar, 1943

Ltnt. Heinz Geissler


13 Mar, 1943 - 5 Jul, 1944     Oblt. Heinz Geissle       Crew  66


4 patrols 13 Mar, 1943 - 30 Nov, 1943  5. Flottille (training) 1 Dec, 1943 - 5 Jul, 1944  7. Flottille (front boat)


1 auxiliary warship sunk for a total of 545 GRT
1 ship damaged for a total of 7.934 GRT


Sunk 1500hrs on 5 July, 1944 in the Baie de la Seine, English Channel, in position 49.52N, 00.48W, by depth charges from the British destroyer HMS Wanderer and the British frigate HMS Tavy. 48 dead and 1 survivor


First Sailing - active patrol U-390 left Kiel under the command of Heinz Geissler on 2nd Dec 1943 and arrived at return on 5th Dec 1943 after three days. 07.12.1943 - 13.02.1944

Second Sailing - active patrol On the 7th Dec 1943, U-390 left Bergen under the command of Heinz Geissler and after more than nine weeks arrived at return on 13th Feb 1944. 21.06.1944 - 24.06.1944

Third Sailing - active patrol U-390 departed under Heinz Geissler from St. Nazaire on 21st Jun 1944 and arrived at return on 24th Jun 1944 after three days. 27.06.1944 - 05.07.1944 Fourth Sailing U-390 left Brest under the command of Heinz Geissler on 27th Jun 1944 and after just over one week arrived at return on 5th Jul 1944.

Heinz Geissler hit two ships on this patrol.

• On 5th Jul 1944 he sank the British 545 ton HMS Ganilly.

• On 5th Jul 1944 he damaged the American 7,934 ton Sea Porpoise.


U-Boat Dive

The dive site is about 20 nautical miles from the coast and at a speed of seven knots and guidance from our DGPS, we had plenty of time for lunch. It’s incredible how a nice piece of farmhouse bread served with a succulent slice of smoked ham can embellish a boat trip!
As soon as we arrived we see an echo on our sounder. Antoine goes over it twice before launching beacons. It is unthinkable to drop an anchor here because of the strong currents and the heavy shipping across this area. The support ship has to remain totally free to move quickly, avoiding collisions or for picking up a diver adrift.

Antoine brings us close to the buoy and the descent begins, into a very muddy sea. After 40 metres of sinking I see U 390, 10 metres down! Fabulous! We touch our 20kg shot line which is close to the U390. Well thrown Antoine! Despite the numerous particles the clearness of the water is exceptional and the show is simply fantastic.

The submarine looks intact sitting about 45° on her starboard side. The visibility is really good and we immediately notice the portside propeller, the rudder and the dive hydroplane. A few metres up, we swim alongside the bridge. As usual on listed submarine wrecks the anti-aircraft defence and the ‘Wintergarten’ have broken off the structure and are now lying in a pile of tubes with pieces of iron and steel. Nevertheless the rest of the conning tower is astonishingly well preserved. We can see the attack periscope retracted into its housing and the famous Überwasser Ziel Optik. I then caress the sky-search periscope with its characteristic shape, trying to distinguish the lens. The ‘Turmluk’, the access panel to the conning tower where the only survivor Erich Stein miraculously escaped is opened. All these pieces are covered by a vegetal cocoon. Kirill turns around the radio direction-finding loop, the ‘Funkpeilrahmen’, and stays above the opened hatch trying to look through the darkness. Temptation, temptation!

 But entering has to be prepared down to the smallest detail to reduce the risk. Moreover is it acceptable to disturb the sleep of these braves who have been in this steel coffin for 60 years? The 88mm/3.46” deck gun has disappeared, perhaps it lay on the ground, under a layer of sediments? Andreï and I take photographs before proceeding, with many fish, toward the bow and discovering, with amazement, that the hatch used to load the torpedoes into the bow is completely open! Why? Erich Stein escaped through the Turmluk, did other crewmembers try to escape without success through this? Or perhaps the violent explosions unlocked the panel despite the closing system? An exciting mystery.

A look into the bow, guarded by enormous conger eels who aren’t a bit shy, and where the beacons of our torches vanish. We arrive at the lethal wound which caused the death of U390 : the starboard side and a part of the deck are smashed open, the sheets of metal are torn, crushed. The submarine couldn’t survive such a strike! A mass of severed cables and various tubes hang down to remind one that it is forbidden to violate this underwater coffin. We progress up to the stern which is softly disappearing into sand like a gigantic sabre laid down the channel. Wonderful! We turn and come back to the shot line along the other side but after 25 minutes at the bottom we have to abandon U390 and prepare to ascend. During the decompressing stages, and our fight with the increasing current, we exchange satisfied glances, each with the same idea ‘This is only a temporary farewell and we’ll be back. See you soon Grey Wolf !’




 R W H


 United Kingdom




 Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve

Unit Text:  

 H.M. Trawler Ganilly.

Date of Death:  


Additional information:  

 Son of Leonard Eustace and Mabel Millicent Troath, of Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.

Casualty Type:  

 Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference:  

Panel 13, Column 3.