Holland V and the history of Subs
THE WRECK OF THE HOLLAND V had been beckoning me for a while. Jamie Smith from Tunbridge Wells SAC holds a visitor licence and had been reminding me of it each time we discussed other matters of wreck history.
The final bait he dangles in front of me is an anniversary dive to mark the centenary of the sinking, on 8 August this year. Jamie is already in contact with Mark Beattie-Edwards of the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS), who will also be making a centenary dive.
Lo and behold, I now have two invitations. From Newhaven by RIB with TWSAC, and from Eastbourne on Our-W, a big Offshore 125 hard boat, with the NAS.
Knowing that TWSAC would be pushed for boat space for club-members, I accept Mark’s invitation to join the NAS charter.
Well, that’s the politically correct way of putting it. Choosing between a nice big hardboat versus a RIB ride, even on a RIB as nice as TWSAC’s, I take the comfy option.
Jamie, I’ll see you at the wreck site.
Exceptionally luckily for this year’s diving season, the designated weather and designated date match up. On the way down the shotline I conclude that, unfortunately, the designated visibility does not. It’s good enough to see the wreck, which lies in 30m, but less than I would have hoped for in August.
I begin at the bow, where the single torpedo tube gapes open. A slight recess and then a shaft hole above it are, Mark later explains, where the outer hatch would have swung up and been controlled. This hatch went missing a few years ago among press claims of diver theft, but could just as easily have been pulled off by a trawl.
Moving aft, the torpedo-loading hatch is rectangular. There just wouldn’t have been room for the sloping tube to a circular hatch with which we are familiar on larger submarines.
NEXT IS A SHORT conning tower, rising just 2ft above the hull with a closed circular hatch on top.
Behind the conning tower, a slightly ovoid ball-joint to the starboard side would once have held the swivelling periscope mechanism.
Here I bump into Jamie, easily recognised under water by the tartan bonnet and ginger wig tastefully attached to his hood. The TWSAC divers have kindly given us a short start but, like us, they all need to get in and out while the water is slack.
A series of valves and openings along the back of the hull are, first, the air inlet and then the exhaust outlets for the petrol motor. These would have connected to the stubby exhaust box just forward of the propeller.
These areas were once wrapped in trawl-nets, cut loose by Innes McCartney and Mark a few years ago and now hanging down the side.
A stub poking out of the port side of the hull would have once been linked to the hydroplane at the stern.
The propeller consists of three short but wide blades on a rather wide boss. Behind the prop, the rudder and hydroplanes have broken off and now rest on the seabed just to starboard of the stern, as does the steering linkage.
On a wreck this small I don’t get anywhere near decompression, so take the lazy way back up the shotline.
Find out more at www.nautical archaeologysociety.org; wwwsubmarine-museum.co.uk or www.english-heritage. org.uk. Dive125 (Our-W): www.dive125. co.uk; Tunbridge Wells SAC: www.twsac. org. For the latest visitor licensees, or to apply for a visitor licence, email alison. email@example.com
|JOHN PHILIP HOLLAND: HUNG UP ON A DREAM|
BORN IN IRELAND on 29 February, 1840, John Philip Holland emigrated to America when he was 33. His first submarine design in 1875 failed to interest the US Navy, but drew the attention of the Feinian Brotherhood as a means of striking at the Royal Navy.
The Feinians funded continued development of Holland I, the larger Feinian Ram and then the Holland III. By 1883, growing internal disputes within the Feinians led to one faction sneaking in at night and taking both the Feinian Ram and Holland III with them to Connecticut.
What they hadn’t considered is that none of them knew how to operate the submarines, and Holland was not disposed to help them. The Feinian Ram is now preserved in the Patterson Museum in New Jersey.
Holland’s designs evolved and eventually pulled together the essential elements of an operational submarine in his sixth boat, which entered service with the US Navy as USS Holland in 1899.
The Holland Torpedo Boat Company was incorporated in 1893. In 1899, this was merged with the company that built the batteries and motors to form the Electric Boat Company.
Differences between Holland and other engineers and management of the company
led to his resignation in 1904.
Holland tried to develop a new submarine business, but the Electric Boat Company disputed the rights to his numerous patents and even the use of his name in a submarine-linked business.
A period of funding and procurement indifference led to the Electric Boat Company selling derivatives of the Holland designs for export or licensed to other nations for construction, including both sides in the Russian-Japanese war. Many navies of the world gained their initial submarine operating experience on Holland boats.
John Philip Holland died of pneumonia on 12 August, 1914, aged 73. Electric Boat grew into General Dynamics, and still builds submarines for the US Navy. Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness is now part of BAE Dynamics and is still building submarines for the Royal Navy.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF SUBMARINES
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo drew sketches of a submarine around 1500 but, like many of his sketches, it was never developed any further. He didn’t get under water until the Italian navy of World War Two named a submarine after him.
In 1578 British mathematician William Bourne drew up plans for a submarine that changed its buoyancy and hence dived or surfaced by decreasing or increasing the overall volume.
The hull was to be made of wood wrapped in leather and rowed by oars projecting through leather gaskets.
Cornelius Jacobszoon Drebbel
In 1620 a submarine incorporating such devices was built by Dutchman Drebbel for King James 1. Based on a rowing-boat hull, it stayed submerged in the Thames 4.5m deep for three hours, with 12 oarsmen supplied with air by floating tubes.
Drebbel had also invented the submarine snorkel. Its buoyancy was controlled by squashing water out of pigskin bladders connected through the hull to increase air volume inside the hull.
During the American War of Independence David Bushnell created the one-man submarine Turtle. Its wooden hull, reinforced with steel bands and waterproofed with tar, was propelled at 3 knots by a hand-cranked screw.
Buoyancy was controlled by pumping water in and out of the bilges, and a 90kg lead weight could be jettisoned in an emergency. The contained air lasted about 30 minutes.
In September 1776, Turtle attacked the Royal Navy flagship HMS Eagle off New York. Having navigated to the anchorage, submariner Ezra Lee was unable to use a drill to attach explosives to the Eagle’s hull.
Various accounts attribute this to the copper-plating of the hull, its curvature, and the difficulty of keeping Turtle stable enough for the drill to purchase. In the end Lee was discovered, and released explosives while making his escape.
A competing analysis is that Turtle never got close enough to attack, and the entire story was fabricated as propaganda.
Turtle was later destroyed when the sloop carrying it was sunk.
In 1800 the French revolutionary government funded American Robert Fulton’s development of the submarine Nautilus. The hull was copper over a wooden frame, with a propeller cranked by two crew and Fulton at the helm.
A junk-like sail could be erected when surfaced, and air contained within the hull was supplemented by a tube floating to the surface. In trials Nautilus successfully dived to 7.5m, stayed submerged for more than an hour, and attached explosive mines to the hulls of targets.
Napoleon expressed an interest, but Nautilus had leaked and been dismantled by Fulton, leading the general to decide that it was a failure.
This may have been connected with the British then immediately hiring Fulton to develop a second submarine, but his work was soon sidelined and, frustrated, he returned to America.
He was developing a steam-powered submarine when he died of consumption in 1815.
During the American Civil War, Horace Lawson Hunley, James McClintock and Baxter Watson jointly developed a series of experimental submarines culminating in the Hunley. The inventor after whom it was named died with the crew the second time it sank during trials.
Despite having to be salvaged twice, the Hunley was crewed again and, on the night of 17 February, 1864, attacked and sank the USS Housatonic by ramming a barbed explosive torpedo into her hull.
The Hunley failed to return. Various accounts suggest that it was sunk by its own explosives, that the crew died of asphyxiation an hour later, that it was unknowingly rammed by USS Canandaigua rushing to aid survivors of the Housatonic, and that a rifle ball fired by one of the Housatonic’s crew penetrated a window.
In 1970 the Hunley wreck was found about 100m from the Housatonic by archaeologist E Lee Spence, though novelist Clive Cussler subsequently claimed that he discovered it in 1995.
The wreck has since been salvaged, and can be visited at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in Charleston.
The next big step came in 1879 when Reverend George Garrett of Manchester built Resurgam.
This was the first sub with motive power, driven for up to four hours by residual steam from a pre-heated boiler. A side-effect was to make the interior very hot. A previous smaller model was hand-cranked.
Resurgam was a 3m-diameter iron cylinder fitted with conical ends to make it 14m long. Initial tests went well, but while under tow to Navy trials in Portsmouth it foundered and was lost off North Wales.
Garrett then teamed up with Swedish munitions manufacturer Thorsten Nordenfelt to build a series of submarines for Greece, Turkey and Russia. None of them achieved any success.
In 1995 the Resurgam was found by diver Keith Hurley and is now a protected wreck. The licensee is Mike Bowyer.
From the mid-1880s, a number of experimental submarines were built with electric power. In Britain, James Ash and Andrew Campbell built another Nautilus, which in 1886 got stuck into the silty bed of Tilbury docks with the Royal Navy’s Chief Engineer Sir William White on board.
Nautilus was eventually freed by the crew rocking it from end to end. On surfacing they refused to continue.
In France in 1888 Gustave Zede built the 8-knot electric-powered Gymnote, with the innovation of compressed air to clear the ballast.
In Spain in 1889 Isaac Peral built a submarine powered by twin electric motors. The Peral is preserved in Cartagena.
In 1887 and 1888, John Holland won design competitions for the US Navy, but politics and funding issues prevented either from being purchased.
With electric power providing underwater propulsion, the next problem to be solved was adding another engine for power on the surface and to recharge the batteries.
In an 1893 US Navy competition, George Baker’s innovation was a clutch between a steam engine and electric motor, enabling the motor to double as a dynamo.
A design by Simon Lake added wheels to enable the sub to run along the seabed, and the fourth submarine from John Holland won, leading the politically connected Baker to cry foul.
In 1895 Holland was finally awarded a contract from the US Navy to build the Plunger, his fifth submarine. Against Holland’s wishes, the Navy insisted on steam power for the surface. The interior of the submarine became so hot that it was inoperable, and a complete failure.
By the end of the 19th century, all the design innovations for a successful submarine were in place and designers were starting to put them together.
A combined steam and electric design by Maxime Laubeuf won a French competition and entered service with the French Navy in 1899 as the Narval.
In America the Holland VI (John Holland’s sixth design, and not to be confused with the Royal Navy designations), was powered by a petrol engine on the surface clutched to an electric motor and a compressor, thus recharging both batteries and banks of compressed air for blowing ballast.
Another innovation was the split of ballast tanks between fully flooded main tanks and smaller trim tanks, avoiding the stability issues that had plagued other designs.
Holland VI was launched in 1897 and purchased by the US Navy in 1900 as the USS Holland. The Navy ordered further submarines to a slightly larger design as the Adder class. The USS Holland was scrapped in 1912.
Royal Navy submarines
It was this improved design under licence that formed the basis of the Royal Navy Holland class, five of which subs were built by Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness between 1901 and 1903. Holland V was the second to enter service. All carried a periscope that rotated into position.
Submarine design was now proceeding so fast that the Holland class had already been superseded by the larger A-class by the time they entered service.
On 8 August, 1912, Holland V foundered off Beachy Head while under tow to the breakers. The wreck was located in 1995 by Gerry Dowd.
The licensee is Mark Beattie-Edwards, and Jamie Smith of TWSAC holds a visitor’s licence.
Holland I also foundered while under tow to the breakers. The wreck was located in 1981, and is preserved at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport.
HMS A1 entered service in 1902 with a hull that was stretched from what would have been Holland VI. In 1911 it was lost in an unmanned test off Selsey Bill.
The wreck was discovered in 1989 and is now protected. The licensee is Martin Davies.
Subsequent A-class boats were slightly larger, with twin torpedo tubes.
HMS A3 was sunk off Dorset when used as a gunnery target in 1912, and is not currently protected.
It may come as a surprise that the German Navy has yet to feature in this history of submarines. It was not until 1906 that Krupp launched U1, the first U-boat, and German production was slow compared to that of other navies.
Yet by the time World War One began, it was the few German U-boats that were soon noticed.
On 5 September, 1914, U1 sank the cruiser HMS Pathfinder in the Firth of Forth. On 22 September, U9 sank the cruisers HMS Hogue, HMS Aboukir and HMS Cressy in the North Sea.