Wreck of Royal Navy submarine scuttled in 1918 given protected status

·2-min read

The wreck of an early British submarine off the Devon coast has been given protected status.

Known as HMS/m D1 it was the forerunner to the Royal Navy’s patrol submarines and saw service during the First World War.

It was built by Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness and was the secret prototype for the D-class, the Royal Navy’s first diesel-powered submarines.

Multi-beam image of HMS/m D1 submarine which was deliberately sunk off the coast of Dartmouth (Wessex Archaeology/PA)
Multi-beam image of HMS/m D1 submarine which was deliberately sunk off the coast of Dartmouth (Wessex Archaeology/PA)

Launched in 1908 and commissioned in September 1909, the D-class was a significant development on the C-class submarine, being larger and more powerful.

At the outbreak of war in 1914, the submarine was assigned to protecting the coast of Dover from enemy invasion.

In September 1917, HMS/m D1 joined the Portsmouth local defence flotilla and a year later it was relegated to training duties.

Weeks before the end of the war, it was decommissioned and scuttled off the Dartmouth coast.

The submarine was later used as a target for Royal Navy training exercises involving the detection of enemy submarines.

The wreck, which sits upright and largely intact on the seabed, was identified by divers who are skilled at working at depths of more than 40 metres.

It had been identified by U-boat historian Michael Lowrey who was writing a book about First World War U-boat losses.

The submarine has now been granted protection by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England.

The submarine was a prototype and saw service during the First World War (Wessex Archaeology/PA)
An image shows the submarine’s location on the seabed (Wessex Archaeology/PA)

It means divers can dive the wreck, but its contents are protected by law and must remain in situ.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: “The D-class submarine was superior to the C-class, with innovations that became integral parts of future Royal Navy submarines.

“These included diesel propulsion, twin propellers and a wireless telegraphy system which allowed the submarine to transmit and receive signals.

“This is a fascinating survival which deserves protection as an important part of our seafaring history.”

Lead diver, Steve Mortimer, said: “Every diver dreams of identifying a historically important wreck.

“Expecting to find the remains of a German U-boat, we were thrilled to discover a ground-breaking British submarine instead.

“It’s tremendous that D1 is now protected but divers can still visit.”

Eight D-class submarines were built.

HMS/m D2, HMS/m D3 and HMS/m D6 were sunk outside English territorial waters, while HMS/m D4, HMS/m D7 and HMS/m D8 were sold and scrapped in 1919.

The wreck of HMS/m D5 is located off Lowestoft in Suffolk, and is protected under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.

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