British Submarines of World War I – Review

hboat1When The Great War started, submarines were as underdeveloped technologically as their aeroplane cousins. Their engineering designs used both petrol as well as diesel engines. Tactics and weapons were still in development with the deck gun only gaining acceptance once the high cost of torpedoes were factored in. With all of these drawbacks both the Royal Navy and the Kaiserliche Marine sent their boats to sea and to war.

The Germans have a better-known story for their submarines and their successes and failure. Few remember the part played by the Royal Navy’s submarines. We are lucky to have Innes McCartney tell their story in British Submarines of World War I.

Dr. Innes J. McCartney is a British nautical archaeologist, historian, author and television contributor who has made impressive discoveries concerning nautical themes and The Great War in particular. It is well worth the time to Google the Doctor McCartney just for the dive photography. Having help, among other projects, to identify the 32 know WWI U-boat wrecks in the English Channel he is well qualified to tell the story of the Royal Navy’s little boats.

9781846033346-th2This book of 48 pages covers the design and theaters were the British boats fought. While the narrative is short (it is an Osprey monograph) it can act as both a primer or as an outline for further reading. Action takes place in the Baltic Sea were the submarines attempt to halt the ore deliveries from Sweden to German. Submarines hunt in the North Sea for both the High Seas Fleet and German U-Boats, often finding both. They are used extensively against the Ottoman Empire causing them to change their supply lines to go overland in the Gallipoli Campaign.

For their small numbers they fought well above their weight, adding 5 Victorian Crosses to the Royal Navy’s count in the conflict. We are also reminded that their story did not end with the peace. While development continued some of these old boats were used in World War II. The last boat from The Great War period to be lost operationally was the H31 during the “Channel Dash” operation. The cause appears to have been a mine.

This is a gem and should be part of any collection of a naval enthusiast. What impressed me were not only the book itself but also the bibliography. I have now added eight books to my wish list. Always a good sign for me.

This is a 5★ book and a Must Have.

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