Top honour for Royal Navy’s first submarine

PROUD Ian Clarke with the Engineering Heritage Award.     Picture: Steve Reid: (111634-403)
PROUD Ian Clarke with the Engineering Heritage Award. Picture: Steve Reid: (111634-403)

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THE Royal Navy’s first operational submarine has been recognised as one of the world’s greatest engineering feats.

When Holland One was launched in 1901 with a crew of eight men – and three mice – the head of the navy at the time called her ‘underhand, unfair and damned un-English’.

UNDERWAY Submarine Holland 1

UNDERWAY Submarine Holland 1

But 110 years later, the boat on display at the Royal Submarine Museum in Gosport has been honoured with an Engineering Heritage Award from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

It sees the submarine join the world’s first train, the Thames Barrier and Bletchley Park’s Bombe code-breaking machine on a proud list of Britain’s greatest engineering triumphs.

Vice Admiral Sir Tim McClement, chairman of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, said: ‘It’s a huge honour for the museum to receive this award.

‘This was the beginning of the Royal Navy Submarine Service and the crew that operated this submarine for 12 long years revolutionised warfare – not only for the Royal Navy but for the world. They made history every day.’

Holland One was named after her designer, the submarine pioneer John Philip Holland. He was a member of the Irish Fenian Society – a forerunner to the IRA – and had originally planned for his submarines to be used against the Royal Navy. However, in 1900 money talked and he agreed to take a secret order from Britain despite the Senior Service’s mistrust of submarine warfare.

Holland One was launched in 1901 and underwent 12 years of sea trials that changed naval warfare forever. By the time she was decommissioned in 1913 the navy had 100 submarines.

Holland One was due to be scrapped but she sank in the English Channel while being towed to a breakers’ yard.

She was submerged for 69 years before the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, working with navy mine sweepers, discovered and salvaged the rusty wreckage in 1982 and spent millions of pounds restoring her.

Isobel Pollock, Deputy President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, unveiled an Engineering Heritage Award plaque at the museum yesterday.

She said: ‘Holland One’s remarkable story can easily overshadow the fact that this was the vessel that dragged the Royal Navy into the modern era.

‘We want to not only recognise Holland One’s pivotal role in changing naval warfare forever, but also pay tribute to the tremendous restoration job that has saved this crucial part of British heritage for future generations.’