Holland-class Submarines

The Royal Navy's first submarines

1901 -Holland Submarines


1901 Holland 1 1901 Holland 1
 
Following meetings with the Admiralty, an agreement was made on 27th October 1900 between the Electric Boat Company and Vickers Sons & Maxim Ltd of Barrow-in-Furnace, giving Vickers 25-year licence to manufacture the Holland-class of submarines, using Electric Boats patents. 
 
In addition to the United Kingdom, the licence also covered the whole of Europe and allowed Vickers to grant sub-licences to other firms and countries.
 
The Royal Navy had not originally been enthusiastic about the idea of submarines but by the end of the 19th Century they were becoming increasingly concerned by the emphasis being placed on them in France. This led to major concerns regarding the defence of the realm.
 
In America, The Electric Boat Company had built their submarine ‘Holland’ for the US Navy and following its customer acceptance in 1900, company owner (Isaac Rice) visited the UK as part of a tour seeking orders from the European nations.
 
The first boats to be built at Vickers’ Barrow Shipyard were five vessels for the Royal Navy after the Admiralty had placed an order in December 1900. Subsequent to placing the order, they sent a Captain Reginald Bacon to Cumbria to oversee the construction. 
 
Apparently, the negotiations had been carried out so quickly that the Admiralty had to ask the Treasury for the funds to pay for the already ordered submarines – Such was the excitement surrounding the new innovation that permission was given just three days later!
 
The first appointed Commanding Officer (Lieutenant F Arnold-Foster) was also dispatched to Barrow and was very keen to see his new command.  He later recalled that no-one in Barrow appeared to be aware of a submarine being built in the shipyard, until it was eventually found in a building with a sign over the door that read ,Yacht Shed’. Such was the secrecy that any of the parts being delivered marked simply as ‘Pontoon Number One’.
 
Holland submarines were 63’ 4” in length, with a breadth of 11’ 9”, carried a crew of eight and were armed with a single torpedo tube.  A speed of about 8-knots could be achieved on the surface, produced by the 160hp gasoline engine - using the 70 HP electric motor whilst submerged the vessel could still make 6-7 knots.  The surface range was recorded as around 600 miles, weather dependent and they could run submerged for about four hours.
 
The first vessel ‘Holland 1’ was launched on 2nd October 1901 and it saw a chequered service career.
1901 Holland 1 under way
Following various trials, she arrived in Portsmouth in September 1902. On 3rd March 1903 she suffered an unexplained explosion which injured 4 of the newly-commissioned submariners.
 
She carried out a number of duties over the next decade until she was eventually decommissioned in 1913 and sold for scrap.  Sadly however, she sank whilst under tow just off the Eddistone Lighthouse some 9 miles off the Cornish Coast. She was unmanned and so the crew of the tug simply released the tow rope and let her sink.
 
Following an extensive search she was located in 1981 and raised the following year and is now on display in a climate controlled building at the RN Submarine Museum in Gosport.
1902 - Barrow - Holland 2 1902 Holland 2
Unfortunately for the Electric Boat Company, by 1902 they had run into financial difficulties and during that year, Vickers Sons & Maxim Ltd started buying shares in the company in order to support them.  5 Holland-class submarines were completed, the last (Holland 5) being launched on 10th June 1904.
 
The companies continued their relationship for a number of years, with Vickers eventually selling its shares before the Second World War.
 

Variants & Numbers

 
Holland 1 
October 1901
On display at Royal Navy Submarine Museum - Gosport                      
Holland 2
February 1902
Sold for scrap 19138 ft 4 in
Holland 3
April 1902
Sank during trials 1911
Holland 4
May 1902
Sunk as gunnery target 1914
Holland 5
June 1902
Sunk 1912

 

Other information