“First Out, Last In” New exhibition puts spotlight on Royal Navy Submarines during the First World War

A new exhibition focusing on the role of the Royal Navy’s submarines during the First World War opens on Thursday 2nd April at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Gosport. 


The use of submarines was still in its relative infancy when war was declared with Germany on 4th August 1914 however they were amongst the first vessels to put to sea ready for war.


Whilst initially the Admiralty regarded the role of submarines as limited to harbour defence, coastal patrols and reconnaissance, within a few months British submarines were on the offensive carrying out some of the most daring and successful operations of the entire war at sea.


The courage and professionalism of these pioneering submariners led to the award of five Victoria Crosses while their heroic endeavours caught the popular imagination. The submarine service became known as the Trade and by the end of the war had won the respect of the whole of the Royal Navy. But it came at a high price; one in three submariners did not return home. 


Bob Mealings, Head of Collections at the National Museum of the Royal Navy and Senior Curator Submarines explained: “Winston Churchill First Lord of the Admiralty 1911-1915 famously said 'Before the war what submarines could do was one mystery. What they would be ordered to do was another....”  By drawing on every aspect of the collections, objects, photographs, rare moving images and personal accounts, we are able to tell a story of extraordinary courage and daring”

Umbra Crew

Crew of the HMS Umbra.