Submarine Losses

Since the formation of the Royal Navy's Submarine Service in October 1901 there have been 174 British submarine losses. The distinction of having been the first falls to the unfortunate HMS A1. It foundered with the loss of all hands following a collision with the surface ship SS Berwick Castle on the 18th March 1904. During the following 67 years up to 1971 the Submarine Service of the Royal Navy would suffer losses in both World Wars as well as a number of peace time accidents. The circumstances surrounding each loss are varied with including those lost to enemy mines and those never fully explained. Thankfully the last submarine on this long list does not involve any loss of life but it does mark a low point for the diesel submarine fleet, since HMS Artemis sunk alongside the main submarine depot HMS Dolphin on the 1st July 1971.

 

The question is often asked "why are there so many conflicting dates for British wartime submarine losses?"  The answer lies in the fact that the Admiralty used take the date that the submarine was due to have returned to harbour. This is because the Admiralty had no information as to the cause or date of the loss of the submarine but only knew when a submarine failed to return after a war patrol. The paying off date was therefore used for administration purposes. The crews were then listed in their personal records as having been D.D. (discharged dead) on this date.

 

Subsequent information gained in the post war era or from captured enemy records often provided details about the actual date that a submarine was attacked and sunk.  This therefore creates variation on the dates as both the paying off date and the true sinking dates are used on official documents.

 

During WWII, submarines from France, Netherlands, Poland, Greece and Norway operated under British operational control, all suffered losses which included small British liaison teams among their crews. These records were treated in the same manner and therefore can have variance in their dates.  

 

The Royal Navy Submarine Museum features an "Area of Remembrance" that contains a wall of names listing all British submariners killed on active service.

 

Other significant memorials to the Royal Navy and Allied Submarine Services include:

 

·         The Submarine Memorial Chapel, situated within the military establishment Fort Blockhouse, Gosport (formerly known as HMS Dolphin). 

·         The National Submarine Memorial, situated on the Thames Embankment, London. 

·         The Submariners Memorial which forms part of the Combined Services Memorial. situated in the west cloister of Westminster Abbey.  

·         The Allied Submariners Memorial situated in Dundee. 

 

For further reading on the subject of British submarine losses the following books are recommended:

 

·         Beneath the Waves - A History of HM Submarine Losses, A. S. Evans, Published by William Kimber London 1986.

·         Few Survived – A History of Submarine Disasters, Edwyn Gray, originally published by Leo Cooper 1986.

 

For information relating to individual submariners visit: The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website at:  http://www.cwgc.org/

HMS Hermes returning from the Falklands