Speaker Meeting 27th November 2017

Graham Hayes - Above us the Waves
Submarine Warfare 1900-1945

The members of the Rotary Club of Church Wilne welcomed Graham Hayes to its speaker meeting at the Royal Oak in Ockbrook on Monday 27th November.

Graham's subject was British Submarine Warfare 1900 to 1948 coupled with details of much earlier attempts to successfully construct one.

The first Submarine, around 1620, was produced by a Dutchman who demonstrated it to James 1st but was just like two rowing boats stuck together. Other examples were spoken about from the Nautilus in 1800, the Hunley in 1864 and the first torpedo by Richard Whitehead in 1875.

In 1900 Britain's first Sea Lord said that the submarine was unfair and unbritish and was a weapon of a weaker nation. At this time France and Germany were steadily building up their own fleet.

Graham spoke about Britain's first five A class submarines built in 1902 with trials around the Isle of Wight, 4 broke down and reliability was a problem. From this the C and D class were developed which again were very limited until the E Class which was much more reliable and had a range of 2,500 miles with a radio and 6 torpedoes onboard. The members heard the improvements over several years including a sea trial of K13 when 32 crew lost their lives.

WW1 saw the domination of the German U Boats and in September 1914 a U Boat spotted 3 British ships and torpedoed and sank them with over 1,450 losing their lives.

America entered WW1 On the 6th April 2017 following a U Boat sinking the RMS Lusitania, a liner on its way to Britain.

On 16 July 1914, the crew of U-9 reloaded her torpedo tubes while submerged, the first time any submarine had succeeded in doing so.
On 1 August 1914, Kapitänleutnant Otto Weddigen took command. On 22 September, while patrolling the Broad Fourteens, a region of the
southern North Sea, U-9 found a squadron of three obsolescent British Cressy-class armoured cruisers (HMS Aboukir, HMS Hogue, and
HMS Cressy, sardonically nicknamed the "Live Bait Squadron"),which had been assigned to prevent German surface vessels from entering
the eastern end of the English Channel. She fired four of her torpedoes, reloading while submerged, and sank all three in less than an hour.
1,459 British sailors died. It was one of the most notable submarine actions of all time.
Members of the Admiralty who had considered submarines mere toys no longer expressed that opinion after this event.

Graham then moved onto WW2. In 1939 we suffered three severe blows when HMS Thetis sank when being launched in Liverpool harbour with 99 lives lost and just 4 surviving. Then the Royal Oak was sunk in Scapa Flow by a U Boat with 833 lost at sea followed by HMS Oxley losing its bearings and being sunk by HMS Triton.

Life at sea created a strong bond for the 50 crew who were all very young with the oldest being the Captain who was near to 25. There was little sense of night or day and it was very unpleasant like the tropics. The waste and rubbish was dumped in the sea overnight and within 10 days at sea the only food remaining on board was in cans.

During WW2 we lost 73 of our submarines with over 3,500 losing their lives which was approximately 25%. Churchill said "Of all the branches in the forces there are none better that those on the submarines"

The Club's vote of thanks was given by Mick White who said it had been a thought provoking and interesting talk and having been around a submarine he found it very compact and life must have been most difficult.

For more information on Rotary, our speaker evenings, events and the main activities organised by our club please contact our Secretary, Mick White at: rccw1220@gmail.com

Ray Terry
For the Rotary Club of Church Wilne

20th November 2017


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