The S-Class submarine was a diesel-electric attack submarine operated by the Royal Navy during the Second World War. The first batch of the production line covered 12 vessels and all were delievered before the war broke out. This batch suffered 75% losses and this lead to a rather morbid poem being devised based on a 19th century nursery rhyme. It is unclear who wrote the poem or how it came in to being but it became well known among the submarine service.
For those not familiar with the class, Starfish, Seahorse, etc are the names of the submarines.
Twelve little S-boats “go to it” like Bevin,
Starfish goes a bit too far — then there were eleven.
Eleven watchful S-boats doing fine and then
Seahorse fails to answer — so there are ten.
Ten stocky S-boats in a ragged line,
Sterlet drops and stops out — leaving us nine.
Nine plucky S-boats, all pursuing Fate,
Shark is overtaken — now we are eight.
Eight sturdy S-boats, men from Hants and Devon,
Salmon now is overdue — and so the number’s seven.
Seven gallant S-boats, trying all their tricks,
Spearfish tries a newer one — down we come to six.
Six tireless S-boats fighting to survive,
No reply from Swordfish — so we tally five.
Five scrubby S-boats, patrolling close inshore,
Snapper takes a short cut — now we are four.
Four fearless S-boats, too far out to sea,
Sunfish bombed and scrap-heaped — we are only three.
Three threadbare S-boats patrolling o’er the blue,
Two ice-bound S-boats…
One lonely S-boat…
The survivors, left ominously blank in the fatalistic rhyme, were HMS Sealion (scuttled), HMS Seawolf (broken up), and HMS Sturgeon (sold).