Rainbow-class submarine

The Rainbow-class submarine or R class was a quartet of patrol submarines built for the Royal Navy in the early 1930s.

HMS Regent underway
Class overview
Name: Rainbow class
Operators:  Royal Navy
Preceded by: Parthian class
Succeeded by: S class
In commission: 19301946
Planned: 6
Completed: 4
Cancelled: 2
Lost: 3
Retired: 1
General characteristics [1]
Type: Submarine
  • 1,763 long tons (1,791 t) surfaced
  • 2,030 long tons (2,060 t) submerged
Length: 287 ft (87 m)
Beam: 30 ft (9.1 m)
Draught: 16 ft (4.9 m)
  • Diesel-electric
  • 2 × Admiralty diesel engines, 4,640 hp (3,460 kW)
  • 2 × electric motors, 1,635 hp (1,219 kW)
  • 2 shafts
  • 17.5 knots (20.1 mph; 32.4 km/h) surfaced
  • 8.6 kn (9.9 mph; 15.9 km/h) submerged
Complement: 53

Design and description

The Rainbow-class submarines were designed as improved versions of the Parthian class and were intended for long-range operations in the Far East. The submarines had a length of 287 feet 2 inches (87.5 m) overall, a beam of 29 feet 10 inches (9.1 m) and a mean draft of 13 feet 10 inches (4.2 m). They displaced 1,772 long tons (1,800 t) on the surface and 2,030 long tons (2,060 t) submerged. The Rainbow-class submarines had a crew of 56 officers and ratings. They had a diving depth of 300 feet (91.4 m).[2]

For surface running, the boats were powered by two 2,200-brake-horsepower (1,641 kW) diesel engines, each driving one propeller shaft. When submerged each propeller was driven by a 660-horsepower (492 kW) electric motor. They could reach 17.5 knots (32.4 km/h; 20.1 mph) on the surface and 9 knots (17 km/h; 10 mph) underwater. On the surface, the boats had a range of 7,050 nautical miles (13,060 km; 8,110 mi) at 9.2 knots (17.0 km/h; 10.6 mph) and 62 nmi (115 km; 71 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged.[2]

The boats were armed with six 21-inch torpedo tubes in the bow and two more in the stern. They carried six reload torpedoes for a grand total of fourteen torpedoes. They were also armed with a QF 4.7-inch (120 mm) Mark IX deck gun.[3]


Six boats were planned, but economic considerations resulted in the cancellation of the projected boats HMS Royalist and HMS Rupert.

Name Builder Launched Fate
Rainbow Chatham Dockyard 14 May 1930 Sunk 4 October 1940 in collision with the Italian merchant ship Antonietta Costa[4]
Regent Vickers, Barrow in Furness 11 June 1930 Sunk 18 April 1943 by mines near Barletta, Apulia, Italy
Regulus Vickers, Barrow in Furness 11 June 1930 Sunk 6 December 1940 by mines near Taranto, Apulia, Italy
Rover Vickers, Barrow in Furness 11 June 1930 Scrapped 1946

It is often stated that the Italian submarine Enrico Toti sank HMS Rainbow. However, the submarine Enrico Toti sank was HMS Triad.[4]


  1. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships
  2. Bagnasco, pp. 106–07
  3. Chesneau, p. 49
  4. "HMS Rainbow (N 16)". uboat.net. Retrieved 20 June 2015.


  • Akermann, Paul (2002). Encyclopaedia of British Submarines 1901–1955 (reprint of the 1989 ed.). Penzance, Cornwall: Periscope Publishing. ISBN 1-904381-05-7.
  • Bagnasco, Erminio (1977). Submarines of World War Two. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-962-6.
  • Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) [1969]. Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Rev. ed.). London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-281-8.
  • Chesneau, Roger, ed. (1980). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922–1946. Greenwich, UK: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-146-7.
  • McCartney, Innes (2006). British Submarines 1939–1945. New Vanguard. 129. Oxford, UK: Osprey. ISBN 1-84603-007-2.

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