Commander Hugh Seaburne May RN (Rtd)

Commander Hugh Seaburne  May,  R.N (Rtd) Born August 23 1920, son of Captain Archibald Seaburne May M.V.O. RN and Grandson of Admiral of the Fleet, Sir William Henry May, G.C.B. G.C.V.O

Educated Ampleforth College 1932 to 1938.  Passed school Certificate with credits in Higher Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics.  Passed Civil Service Examination for Executive Branch of Royal Navy.

Lieutenant Hugh Seaburne May

Entered the Royal Navy in January  1939






Date Ship Rank Station Responsibilities
Jan 1 1939   Entered Royal Navy Cadet    
Jan 1939 – Sept 1939 H.M.S. Frobisher and H.M.S. Vindictive Cadet (E)    
Septt 1938 – Feb 1940   Cadet (E) RN Engineering College  Keyham – Plymouth  
Feb 1940     Travelled to Canada on Duchess of York (CPR Liner) to join H.M.S. Sovereign
Feb 1940 0 Nov 1941 H.M.S Royal Sovereign Midshipman Transfer to Executive  
Oct 1 1941   Sub- Lieutenant    
Dec 1941 – March 1942 S/M H.M.S. Tigris Sub- Lieutenant    Navigating Officer & !st Lieut War Patrols
March 1942 – Sept 1942 S/M H.M.S. Taku Sub- Lieutenant    
Sept 1 1942   Lieutenant    
Sept 1942 – Oct 1942 S/M H.M.S. Taku Lieutenant    
Oct 1942 – March 1943 S/M H.M.S. Osirus 1st Lieutenant    
Apr 1943 – Aug 1943 S/M H.M.S. Trooper 1st Lieutenant    * See letters below relating H.M.S. Trooper
Aug 1943 – Dec 1943     SM Co Course   
Jan 1944 – Feb 1945 S/M H.M.S. L 23 Lieutenant I/C   In Command.  On loan to Royal Canadian Navy for one year.War patrols
Feb 7 1945 – Mar 1945 S/M H.M.S. Trusty Lieutenant I/C   In Command.
March 1945 S/M H.M.S. Sea Rover Lieutenant I/C   In Command.  War patrols, refitting in U.S.A. and attached to Home Fleet     
1945   Acting Lieutenant Commander  
 – Dec 1945 S/M H.M.S. Sea Rover Act Lt Comdr I/C  
Dec 1945 – July 1946 S/M H.M.S. Sturdy Lieutenant I/C  
Aug 1946 – Feb 1948 H.M.S Rotherham Ist Lieutenant  Destroyer based Portsmouth   
Feb 1948 – Dec 1948 S/M H.M.S. Sanguine Lieutenant I/C  Based Portland  In Command
Dec 1948 H.M.S. Maidstone Lieutenant Depot Ship 7th/2nd SMF (SOC)  Staff officer operations to S/M Flotilla Responsible for organizing submarine exercises
May 1950 – Aug 1950 H.M.S St Angelo Act Lt Cmdr British Naval Mission to Greece (Comdr Temp)  
Sept 1 1950   Lieutenant Commander    
Sept  1950 – Nov 1952     British Naval Mission to Greece   Training Greek Submarine Service
Dec 1952 – 1953 H.M.S. Solebay 1st Lieutenant Comdr. 5th Destroyer Squadron Harbour Training Ship
Jan 1954 – Nov 1954 H.M.S Agincourt 1st Lieutenant Comdr. 4th Destroyer Squadron  In command on occasion when C.O. inspected other ships
Mar 1955 – Dec 1955     Royal Fleet Airarm Retainer On Staff of C in C Home Fleet.  Trials for transfer at sea of stores and ammunition
January 1956   Commander    
Jan 1956 – Oct 1956     Naval Staff Courses  
1956 – Feb 1959 Oslo Norway  Commander NATO Staff of the C in C Allied Forces Northern Europe B Naval intelligence
March 17 1959   Retired from Navy    


Date Position Responsibility 
Apr 1959 – Nov 1961 Milk Marketing Board Sales Work on dairy produce, vending and dispensing machines to caterers, industrial caterers and dairies
Nov 1961 – Nov 1962 Wingfield Manor Nurseries Manager of Florist shop in Bond Street and co-ordinating the work carried out in nursery gardens at Ascot and Ireland
Nov 12 1962  – Nov 68 H.M. Coastguard Northwestern Division (Liverpool to Fort William Inspector
Nov 1968 – Jan 1970 H.M. Coastguard Southeastern Division Inspector
Jan 5 1970  H.M. Coastguard Headquarters – London Deputy Chief Inspector for UK and Chief Staff Officer
7 Oct 1980 H.M. Coastguard – Brixham Search and Rescue Region Regional Controller
1982 Retired.  


Letters From Hugh May relating to his time on board H.M.S. Trooper

Dated April 25th 1943  H.M.S/M “Trooper” C/o Fleet Mail Officer

My Dear Mother and Father

Well the address shows you my new submarine and am I proud to be in it.  She is the best in this flotilla with an excellent Captain.  Lieutenant Johnny Wraith DSO, DCS, RN.  He has had a lot of previous experience and successes as you can see from the decorations.  He is one of the dead eyes, very quiet in his ways and manners, very easy to get on with, liked by the sailors.  The sailors seem to be a good crowd, but what pleases me more than anything is the general layout and cleanliness of the submarine.  To be quite frank from what I have seen so far Trooper is the best ‘TBoat’ that I have ever been in for comfort and general modern inventions.  Everything  in the garden is extremely rosy from every point of view……..

Letter continues  Tuesday 27th.   This is my first night on board this marvellous submarine.  How I wish that you could see me here listening to the radio in the Wardroom writing to you.  Everyone in the flotilla is extremely envious of me to have such a magnificent submarine with one of the very best of Captains and Crew.  The layout is by far the best of any boat.  There is plenty of room in the various messes and all the gadgets suitable for modern submarine warfare.  Nearly all the crew sleep on board while in harbour, as it is far more comfortable than in the depot ship and just as cool.  I have only  been appointed here for one day but I can see all the troops watching me carefully to see what sort of a bloke I am.  I realise only to well that I can make of marr the life and efficiency  of any submarine.  Pray to God that I can keep up with the present standard.  One of the ERA’s has just bought me a cup of cocoa.  It is excellent.  Goodness knows what I have done to deserve to be in such a magnificent submarine.  

Well I must end now as I feel rather tired having had a very hectic day

With all my love 

Your affectionate son, Hugh.


H.M.S Trooper – Destroyed October 1943

HMS Trooper (Lt. John Somerton Wraith, DSO, DSC, RN) sailed from Beirut on 26 September 1943 for a patrol in the Aegean Sea off the Dodecanese islands, including the Leros area. She failed to return on 17th October and was reported overdue on that day. She is presumed lost on German mines East of Leros. The exact date of her loss is not known. It must have been between 14 and 17 October.

Crew: –  All 64 crew  perished

Additional Letter  Saturday Dec 4th 1943

My Dear Mother and Father


My guardian angel must be very much by my side after my accident and the narrow escape from Trooper:  One patrol after I left.  It is  terribly sad because I liked all the officers and men so very much.  During my time there I got to know so much about everyones family life.  It was such a marvellous submarine, by far the best I have ever seen.  However I mustn’t worry but be thankful that I was recommended when I was and had the accident.  If I hadn’t been in hospital I would have sailed in her…… letter continues.

A letter from my father dated August 27 1943

My Dearest Mother & father

….I suppose I have to tell you a bit of bad news but it turned out for the best in many ways.  I had a motorbike accident and a bad one.  A fortnight ago today three days after my five days leave were up. I went for a long ride after lunch through some really beautiful country which I will describe later.  We had supper up in the mountains and on our way back down in the dark I passed one car parked on the right of the road with no lights. then 100 yards further down I saw another similar car with no lights so I pulled out to the left to pass, but too late. I realized that it was moving ahead and over to his proper side of the road when  he saw me.  I tried to get back to my right but no good we hitched on.  The handlebars swung round catching me a very hard blow on my thigh.  The leg is still very swollen with a bruise covered with fantastic colours.  I was then thrown clear somehow receiving the following wounds  A very nasty gash on the back of my skull which needed 13 stitches, cuts of varying degrees on my neck, base of spine, all down on my left leg and a few minor grazes.  One elbow, two thumbs and a right knee were very sore indeed.  For two days I was in agony and could hardly move in bed without yelling.  They took the stitches numbering about 20, out after 3 days.  letting me get up last monday.  I was discharged to the naval sick quarters on Wednesday where I am staying until Monday where I start my journey…..


Author Comments:-

My father was only 23 when this all happened but I think in war people grew up much quicker.  At 24 he was commanding his own submarine!


Further Information on Hugh Seaburne May’s Naval Career

From a local Texas Newspaper undated but assume  1945 close to the end of the war.

British Submarine Commander Is Visitor at NATB  (Naval Air Training Base Corpus Christi Texas)

Lt. Hugh May, Royal Navy, who expects to be transferred to Pacific Submarine duty soon, is at the Naval Training Base on a brief vacation, during which he will speak to personnel of the British contingent at Corpus Christi.

Lieutenant May, who has been in the British Navy, since 1939, served on the Battleship Royal Sovereign until February 1941, when he was transferred to the submarine service.  Before taking  over his own submarine, he saw duty off Norway and in the Mediterranean.

The Britisher served aboard the famous submarine H.M.S. Tigress,  commanded by R Bone, DSO,DSC,RN, before beginning his own duty as submarine commander in December 1943.  He  November 1944, and he was assigned duty in a training submarine for courses.  Now he is awaiting outfitting, in Philadelphia of an operational submarine, for duty in the Pacific


The following link well take you to his”Report Cards” from his various Superior Officers.   – Please take the time to read them.  It is amazing that he kept every single one that was issued and really gives you and idea of what type of character he was.

Hugh May Naval Reports



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