Langstone Harbour protected by old submarine | Nostalgia

Recently I asked if anyone knew anything about the large sheets of steel used as breakwaters along Langstone Harbour’s northern foreshore. Regular contributor and historian Ralph Cousins did

Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 1:42 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 3:19 pm
The F-class submarine in the mud at Langstone ready for breaking. Picture: Ralph Cousins' collection.

Until the late 1980s the bank along the shore between Langstone and Pook Quay, Havant, was reinforced with chunks of a submarine which, rumour had it, was German.

For a long while it thought the boat was Italian, which was a confusion of hearing the letter F as S and hence attributing it to the S-class which were built in Britain for the Italians but retained by the Admiralty for a while.

However, all the S-class were later sent out to Italy and none retained in this country.

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The submarine broken up ready to be used as a breakwater. Picture: Ralph Cousins' collection.

It turned out it was a British F-class coastal submarine, built to an Admiralty design by White of Cowes and launched in 1914.

Ralph says: ‘In the event this class of boat was not very satisfactory, partly because of buoyancy problems.

‘These may be traced to the Admiralty having added an extra torpedo tube and other refinements to the original – essentially pirated – Vickers design.’

Only three of the projected eight were built, and these were relegated to training duties.

The section of foreshore at Langstone once protected by the remains of an F-class submarine. Picture: Bob Hind

Ralph adds: ‘According to the archivist at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, at Gosport, F2 was paid off in October 1918 at Campbeltown, and sold for scrap in July 1922. The submarine was bought after the war by Charles Welton, whose family were general dealers in Fratton.

‘It seems that Mr Welton resold the submarine at some stage, as there is a 1964 newspaper cutting in Portsmouth library dated July 23 in which D Himmens of Emsworth says he worked on the boat during the 1920s, in close proximity to a Mr Jones of Copnor.’

The submarine was towed to Langstone in the early 1920s and beached off Warblington Quay at the bottom of Pook Lane.

A photograph of the submarine afloat in Chichester Harbour was taken by Eileen Ford, a local historian living in Pook Lane. One can just see ‘F2’ on the conning tower.

Ralph continues: ‘Mr Jones' intention was to establish a ship-breaking business employing redundant workers from Portsmouth dockyard but his efforts failed because of a lack of finance, cost of transport.

‘Ninety per cent of the submarine's plating was galvanised and in the late 1920s a considerable portion of non-pressure hull was used to support the sea banks west of Pook Quay. The idea seems to have been to have been to try to start a minor ship-breaking business at Langstone but the experiment with F2 was not repeated.’