In 1911 the British Admiralty was of the view that submarines were an ungentlemanly form of warfare, as they relied on stealth, and should not be used for military purposes. During the Great War submarines were used increasingly by both the British and German navies.
Submarines can be traced back to drawings made by Leonardo Da Vinci in the 15th Century. The first, reliably documented, submersible vessel was built in 1620 by Cornelis Drebbel, a Dutchman in the service of James I of England.
In 1864, late in the American Civil War, the Confederate navy’s H. L. Hunley became the first military submarine to sink an enemy vessel, the Union sloop-of-war USS Housatonic. In the aftermath of its successful attack against the ship, the Hunley also sank, possibly because it was too close to its own exploding torpedo.
In 1881 the Fenian Ram, designed by John Philip Holland, was launched by the Delamater Iron Company in New York. Built with funding from the Fenians’ Skirmishing Fund. The Fenian was an Irish republican organization founded in the United States in 1858 and the submarine was intended to be used against the British. It was never actually put into service.
Submarines were used increasingly during the First World War. They were still relatively fragile craft and were forced to spend much of the time on the surface as their batteries to power the electric motors used underwater had limited capacity. On the surface they generally used diesel engines which produced toxic fumes and therefore could not be used when submerged.
Many men lost their lives in submarines during the First World War, of these the following came from or had links to Surrey.
HM Submarine D2
HM Submarine D2 was one of eight D-class submarine built for the Royal Navy during the first decade of the 20th century. Built by Vickers Armstrong at Barrow-in-Furness and commissioned on 29th March 1911. On 28 August 1914, D2 fought in the Battle of Heligoland Bight. Lieutenant Commander Jameson was washed overboard off Harwich on 23rd November and as a result Lieutenant Commander Head took over command. D2 was rammed and sunk by a German patrol boat off Borkum, off the coast of Germany, on 25 November 1914, leaving no survivors.
ROLFE, Charles Burt: Leading Seaman
HM Submarine D6
HM Submarine D6 was one of eight D-class submarine built for the Royal Navy during the first decade of the 20th century. Built by Vickers Armstrong at Barrow-in-Furness and commissioned on 19th April 1912. D6 was sunk by UB-73 73 miles north of Inishtrahull Island off the west coast of Ireland on 24th or 28th June 1918.
EVERSFIELD, Frederick: Able Seaman
HM Submarine E3
HM Submarine E3 was the third E-class submarines to be constructed, built at Barrow by Vickers in 1911-1912. Built with compartmentalisation and endurance not previously achievable, these were the best submarines in the Royal Navy at the start of the First World War. She was sunk in the first ever successful attack on one submarine by another, when she was torpedoed on 18th October 1914 by U-27.
BARROW, John Gerald: Sub-Lieutenant
HM Submarine E4
HM Submarine E4 was a British E class submarine built by Vickers, Barrow-in-Furness, costing £101,900. E4 was laid down on 16th May 1911, launched on 5th February 1912 and commissioned on 28th January 1913. On 24th September 1915 E4 was attacked by the German airship SL3. On 15th August 1916, she collided with sister ship E41 during exercises off Harwich. Both ships sank and there were only 14 survivors, all from E41. Both boats were raised, repaired and recommissioned. She was sold on 21st February 1922 to the Upnor Ship Breaking Company.
PRESKETT, Harry: Leading Seaman
HM Submarine E5
HM Submarine E5 was a British E-class submarine built by Vickers Barrow-in-Furness. She was laid down on 9th June 1911 and commissioned on 28th June 1913. She cost £106,700. The E5 was lost on 7th March 1916 while rescuing the survivors of the trawler Resono, just north of Juist (Germany) in the North Sea. In 2016 divers found the wreck of E5 off the island of Schiermonnikoog, (Holland). Her hatches were open, which suggests that the crew had tried to escape. There was no sign of damage to her hull, indicating that she had not sunk as a result of enemy action.
ALDRED, Albert: Stoker (1st Class)
OWEN, Arthur Robert: Petty Officer
HM Submarine E11
HM Submarine E11 was an E-class submarine of the Royal Navy launched on 23rd April 1914. E11 was one of the most successful submarines in action during the 1915 naval operations in the Dardanelles Campaign, sinking over 80 vessels of all sizes in three tours of the Sea of Marmara. 19 ratings on Submarine E11, received the Distinguished Service Medal in connection with the sorties by Submarine E11 into the Dardanelles to attack Turkish Warships and transports supporting or resupplying the Turkish defence of Gallipoli. The E11 was sold for scrap in March 1921.
LAKE, William Theophilus: Engine Room Artificer 4th Class
NASMITH, Martin Eric: Commander
SHARPE, J, Able Seaman
HM Submarine E14
HM Submarine E14 was a British E class submarine built by Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness and commissioned on 18th November 1914. Her hull cost £105,700. During the First World War, two of her captains were awarded the Victoria Cross, and a large number of her officers and men also decorated. She was sunk by shellfire from coastal batteries in the Dardanelles on 28 January 1918.
PITHER, Henry: Leading Seaman
RANDALL, John Benjamin Baldwin: Chief Engineroom Artificer
WHITE, Geoffrey Saxton: Lieutenant Commander
HM Submarine E15
HM Submarine E15 was launched on 23rd April 1914. During the First world War, E15 served in the Mediterranean, participating in the Gallipoli Campaign against the Ottoman Empire. On 16th April 1915, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Theodore S. Brodie, E15 sailed from her base at Mudros (Greece) and attempted to break through the Dardanelles to the Sea of Marmara. Early in the morning of 17th April, the submarine, having dived too deep, become caught in the vicious current and ran near Kepez Point, directly under the guns of Fort Dardanos. E15 was soon hit and disabled; Brodie was killed in the conning tower by shrapnel and six of the crew were killed by chlorine gas released when the submarine’s batteries were exposed to seawater after a second shell strike. Forced to evacuate the vessel, the remaining crew surrendered, to be incarcerated in a prisoner of war camp near Istanbul where six later died. Lieutenant Price was one of the prisoners of war and died of pneumonia.
PRICE, Edward John: Lieutenant
HM Submarine E16
HM Submarine E16 was built by Vickers at Barrow-in-Furnes. She was laid down on 15th May 1913 and was commissioned on 27th February 1915. Her hull cost £105,700. E16 was the first E-class to sink a U-boat. U-6 was sunk off Karmøy island near Stavanger, Norway on 15th September 1915. E16 was sunk by a mine in Heligoland Bight on 22nd August 1916. There were no survivors.
BULBECK, William Henry: Able Seaman
HM Submarine E.18
HM Submarine E18 was an E-class submarin, launched in 1915 and lost in the Baltic Sea in May 1916 while operating out of Reval (Estonia). The exact circumstances surrounding the sinking remain a mystery. In October 2009, the wreck of HM Submarine E18 was discovered by a Remote Operated Vehicle deployed by the Swedish survey vessel MV Triad. The position of the wreck lies off the coast of Hiiumaa, Estonia. Photographs taken of the wreck show the submarine with its hatch open, suggesting that it struck a mine while sailing on the surface
BAGG, Edwin Albert: Chief Petty Officer
EDWARDS, Clement Harry: Leading Telegraphist
HM Submarine E 20
HM Submarine E 20 , built by Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness, was laid down on 25th November 1914 and commissioned on 30th August 1915. She was sunk, torpedoed by UB-14, on 6th November 1915. Operating in the eastern Mediterranean, E20 was scheduled to rendez-vous with the French submarine Turquoise on 6th November 1915. However, on 30th October, Turkish forces sank the Turquoise off Nagara Point in the Dardanelles, refloating her shortly afterwards and retrieving intact her confidential papers. Unaware of her plight, E20 attempted to keep the rendez-vous. The Imperial German Navy submarine UB-14, which was at Constantinople, was sent to intercept E20, reportedly going so far as to radio messages in the latest British code. Upon arriving at the designated location, UB-14 surfaced and fired a torpedo at E20 from a distance of 550 yards. E20’s crew saw the torpedo, but it was too late to avoid the weapon. The torpedo hit E20’s conning tower and sank her with the loss of 21 men. UB-14 rescued nine, including E20’s captain, Clyfford Harris Warren, who was detained as a prisoner of war until 21st November 1918.
WARREN, Clyfford Harris: Lieutenant-Commander
HM Submarine E24
HM Submarine E24 was launched on 9th December 1915 and was commissioned on 9th January 1916. She left Harwich on the morning of 21st March 1916 to lay mines in the Heligoland Bight, off the coast of Germany. She did not return from the mission, and was logged as missing on 24th March 1916. Human remains found in the wreck during a salvage operation in 1973 were buried in Ohlsdorf Cemetery, Hamburg.
TRENDELL, Frederick Arthur: Able Seaman
HM Submarine E26
HM Submarine E26 was built by William Beardmore and Company, Dalmuir. She was one of a pair of submarines ordered by the Ottoman Navy on 29th April 1914, but taken over by the Royal Navy and assigned the E26 name. She was laid down in November 1914, launched on 11th November 1915, and commissioned on 3rd October 1915.
HMS E26 was lost with all hands in the North Sea, probably in the vicinity of the eastern River Ems (North Western Germany), on or about 3rd July 1916. Her wreck has been found by a group of Dutch divers in 2006.
ATKIN-BERRY, Harold Harding: Lieutenant
HM Submarine E36
HM Submarine E36 was built by John Brown, Clydebank, for the Royal Navy. She was laid down on 7th January 1915 and commissioned on 16th November 1916. E36 was sunk in a collision with E43 off Harwich in the North Sea on 19th January 1917. There were no survivors.
CONEY, Herbert Henry: Petty Officer Stoker
HM Submarine E37
HM Submarine E37 was built by Fairfield, Govan, Clyde. She was laid down on 25th September 1915 and was commissioned on 17th March 1916. E37 was lost in the North Sea on 1st December 1916. There were no survivors.
HARLOCK, Philip: Lieutenant
HM Submarine E50
HM Submarine E 50 was built by John Brown, Clydebank. She was laid down on 14th November 1916 and commissioned on 23rd January 1917. E50 was damaged in a collision with the Imperial German Navy submarine UC-62 while submerged in the North Sea off the North Hinder Light Vessel on 19th March 1917. She was lost on 1st February 1918. It was believed that she struck a mine in the North Sea off the South Dogger Light Vessel. In 2011 the wreck was found by a Danish Expedition much closer to the Danish coast, 65 Nautical Miles west of Nymindegab.
HARDS, William Walter Jordan: Leading Stoker
HM Submarine G8
The G-class submarines were designed by the Admiralty in response to a rumour that the Germans were building double-hulled submarines. She was commissioned on 30th June 1916. Her last patrol began from Tees on 27th December 1917, leaving with the submarine HMS G12 and the destroyer HMS Medea for the Kattegat. She was ordered to start her voyage back on or shortly after 3rd January 1918. She never arrived at Tees and was not heard from again. She was officially declared missing on 14 January 1918. The cause remains unknown
ARMSTRONG, Philip Furlong: Sub-Lieutenant. Served on HMS Warspite during the Battle of Jutland.
HM Submarine H3
HM Submarine H3 was built by Canadian Vickers Co, Montreal. She was laid down on 11th January 1915 and commissioned on 3rd June 1915. After commissioning she crossed the Atlantic from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Gibraltar escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Calgarian. H3 was mined in the Gulf of Cattaro, Adriatic on 15 July 1916.
SANFORD, John: Able Seaman
HM Submarine H5
HM Submarine H5 was built by Canadian Vickers Co, Montreal. Launched June 1915. She sank the U-boat U 51 in July 1916. H5 sunk after being rammed by the British merchantman Rutherglen, mistaken for a German U-boat, on 2 March 1918. All on board perished.
COLBRAN, Charles John: Petty Officer
HM Submarine H10
HM Submarine H10 was by the Canadian Vickers Co., Montreal. She was commissioned in June 1915. H10 was lost in the North Sea, reasons unknown, on 19th January 1918.
BRANCH, Robert Douglas: Petty Officer
HM Submarine K4
HM Submarine K4 was built by Vickers in Barrow-in-Furness. She was laid down on 28th June 1915 and commissioned on 1st January 1917. She was lost on 31st January 1918 during the night time fleet exercises later known as the Battle of May Island. She was lost with all hands. The Battle of May Island is the name given to the series of accidents that occurred during Operation E.C.1 in 1918. Named after the Isle of May, an island in the Firth of Forth. On the misty night of 31st January to 1st February 1918, five collisions occurred between eight vessels. Two submarines were lost and three other submarines and a light cruiser were damaged. 104 men died, all of them Royal Navy.
CORFIELD, Alfred Abe Benjamin: Petty Officer
HM Submarine K5
HM Submarine K5 was commissioned in 1917. She was lost with all hands when she sank en route to a mock battle in the Bay of Biscay. George Booker was swept overboard on 31st July 1918, his body was never recovered
BOOKER, George Lewis: Chief Stoker
HM Submarine L11
HM Submarine L11 was built by Vickers Limited, Barrow-in-Furness, She was laid down on 17th January 1917 and commissioned on 27th June 1918. She was one of five boats in the class to be fitted as a minelayer. The L11 survived the war and was sold for scrap in 1932. Leonard Gale was assigned to HMS Lucia, a submarine Depot Ship supporting the 10th flotilla which included submarines E27, E33, E39, E40, E42, E44, L11, L16, L20 and L55. His death is recorded as accidental.
GALE, Leonard Frank: Able Seaman
HM Submarine L.55
HM Submarine L.55 was built by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Govan, Clyde. She was laid down on 21st September 1917 and was commissioned on 19th December 1918. On 4th June 1919 (some sources say it was 9th June), while serving as part of the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War, the submarine unsuccessfully attacked two Bolshevik destroyers that were laying mines to protect Petrograd (now St Petersburg) and in so doing suffered damage and was sunk. L55 was raised in 1928 and refitted for the Russian Navy, she finally was scrapped in the 1953.
CRYSELL, Albert William: Able Seaman