A description of a unique Submarine and the tragic loss of the vessel and crew.
The “M1 submarine tragically sunk with the loss of all crew members in 1925. This tragedy isn’t very well known or talked about I will try to add my contribution to keeping their memory alive.
The M1 submarine was designed as a coastal bombardment vessel. The odd looking vessel differed from most submarines as its armament was a huge naval gun, that was 12inches in diameter! This gun could fire a shell at a target, at a distance of 20miles! Away.
The gun was larger in length and width than some dreadnaughts possessed. (Battle ships) The basic idea was to increase the range that a submarine could engage surface ships or coastal defences. The M1 was built in 1917 but didn’t serve in WW1. The submarine was immense for its day, it was over 295ft long, and weighed 1,594 tonnes! It had a crew of 69 sailors. At 10knots the M1 had a range of 4,500 nautical miles. The M1 could dive to a depth of 200ft.
After the end of WW1 the M1 submarine was despatched to all the corners of the British Empire on publicity missions. These missions were to get the message across the globe of the superiority of the Royal Navy. Camera footage of the mighty M1 surfacing and firing the 12inch gun were shown in cinemas.
There were rumours leaked from the wives and family of the crew of the M1. These rumours were of a shocking nature, it was claimed by the crew that the mighty M1 had a serious problem. According to the rumours the submarine had extremely poor handling when submerged. The rumours continued to say when the ballast tanks were blown the M1 almost refused to surface! (sea water is taken onboard a submarine to increase its weight so it can effectively sink, when the submarine needed to surface compressed air blows out the stored sea water, and the submarine will float to the surface)
The shear weight of the massive gun was effecting the handling and safety of the M1. Such was the concern of the crew several sailors considered applying for reassignment to another vessel.
In 1925 a major naval training exercise was taking place, the M1 was ordered to take part. The role of the M1 was to dive and stalk a naval destroyer, then surface and fire a blank shell in a simulated attack sequence. The exercise took place in the English channel off the coast of Portsmouth. The English channel is the busiest shipping lane in the world. The exercise had to take place along side the normal commercial shipping.