The History of the Royal Navy


The History of Submarines.

This page is not finished yet,  BUT 

wait till it's done,it will be worth it!


Evidence of the Submarine goes back in history an estimated 2000 years,Aristottle has described for us a type of submersible chamber,that was used in 332 BC. These were used by the sailors of Alexander the Great during the blockade of Tiros in order to put obstacles and some types of charges of an unknown kind.             And in China there had also been a report that a primitive submersible was in existance around 200 BC. It was said to be able to move by the bottom of the sea.

In 1578,the first submarine was designed by William Bourn,but it never got passed the drawing stage,he designed the use of ballast tanks which could be filled with sea water to enable the vessel to submerge.

In 1620,Cornelius Drebbel,a Dutchman,built an oared submersible (the 1st successful submarine),it was made of wood,encased in greased leather,and had a crew of 12 rowers and a total of 20 men.Amazingly it could dive to a depth of 20 meters,and travel at 10km.  He also addressed the problem of oxygen replenishment.He did in fact incorporate some of the ideas of William Bourne.The oars protruded through the sides of the boat to propel it.


In 1653,De Son,designed and built a Submersible Catamaran,it was a revolutionary design for the times.

Another unique design was by Papin in 1692.

In 1775, David Bushnell,an american engineer designed and built the Turtle.It was egg shaped,opperated by just one man.It had two hand cranked screw propellers one for forwards and the other for vertical movement. It had a complex system of valves,air vents and ballast pumps to control the submergence.It also had a mine with a time fuse,which was supposed to be attached to the target ship.Piloted by Sgt.,Ezra Lee, it was the first combat submarine.In 1776 he attacked the British flag- ship,HMS EAGLE in New York harbour.But the mine failed to attach to the ship's copper sheathing,and had no choice but to jettison the mine.


The NAUTILUS,designed and built by Robert Faulton in 1798,it had two forms of power,a sail when on the surface and a hand-cranked screw when submerged.  He used the same priciples as the Turtle to develope the Nautilus and improved it by fitting diving planes to adjust the angle of descent.Approximately 22 feet long it carried a crew of four.The "torpedo"was basically a box of dynamite.It could stay submerged for up to 8 hours at a depth of 8 meters.He also experimented with compressed air for the replenishment of oxygen.Sadly the whole project was dropped,when he failed to get support money from the government:

GERMANY,The Brandtaucher was designed and built by Wilhelm Bauer in 1850,after two successful dives on 1st February 1851,on it's 3rd dive it sank 15 meters to the bottom of Kiel Harbour.After 5 hours Bauer and his two crewmen escaped to the surface.It was raised in 1887 and restored for posterity.It is the oldest preserved submarine in the world.At 8.07 mtrs long,3 mtrs wide & 3.76 mtrs high,the hull was built from steel and iron plates and was propelled by two treadwheels,energy being transmitted to the shaft and propellor by toothed gears.Explosive charges were attached to the hull to be applied manually under water to the hull of the enemy ship.


RUSSIA.1855. The Seeteufel (Sea Devil) built for Russia in St Petersburg by Wilhelm Bauer,it was designed to go to 150 feet.It was 16.32 mtrs long,3.45 mtrs wide &  3.92 mtrs high and made 134 test dives,it had a  4 man crew and similar treadwheel system as the Brandtaucher,on October 2nd 1856 a valve was left open and it sank.The 1877 Drzewiecki no 3 reconstruction at the Central Museum St Petersburg.

SPAIN, The ICTINEO,was designed and built by  Narciso Monturiol in 1856,and launched at Barcelona on 28th,June 1859,and on 23rd September remained submerged for over two hours.However,potential customers were not impressed and Monturiol had to finally move to the recovery of ship wrecks.

As Submariners began to dive deeper into the unknown depths of our oceans,they encountered a problem that they would have to overcome.They found that they and their vessels could not withstand the  pressure  that  increased the deeper they went.It was a new challenge which puzzled them,considering that fish and marine mammals could dive into the darkest depths,but they could not.Now was the time for further experiments.

American Civil War,in 1861,the Confederate Government gave citizens permission to operate armed warships as "privateers" (pirates).    A New Orleans  consortium headed by Horace L Hunley approved the building of the 'PIONEER' a 20 ft. long 3 man Subarine (1 to steer & 2 to crank the propeller),designed and built by James McClintock.In March 1862 while in a demonstration on Lake Portchartrain,the Pioneer sank a barge with a towed floating torpedo.    In April the  US Navy captured New Orlrans,and the pioneer was scuttled by it's builders,it was recovered in 1868 and scrapped.

The American Civil War,the US NAVY'S 1st Submarine the Alligator was built by Villeroi in 1861 by order of the US Navy.It was 46 feet long,had 16 oarsmen and an improved 3 ft diameter hand-cranked propeller. The weapon was an explosive charge to be set against the hull of the enemy ship by a diver.Placed in service on the 13th June 1862,she was towed south from Philadelphia for operations in the James River,but proved to be too large to hide and support the divers in the shallow water,In 1863 while being towed  to an operating area off the coast of South Carolina,   she foundered in a storm and sank.

There were hundreds of different designs in the 1860s, too many to list,here is just a few examples of ideas , some good and some bad.It was the experiments of these inventors that enabled the subsequent success of the Submarines of the future:

Unknown design

And more designs.Water Bug,by De Villerio

Water Bug

The Nova Whale


Le Plongeur

Le Plongeur

1870,Jules Verne,this French author did considerable research into submarines to enable him to write his book     "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea"       He also calculated the compressibility of sea water     as- '0' for most purposes & .0000436 for each 32 feet of depth.    And was indeed influenced by J.P.Holland's designs of the "Nautilus"

John Philip Holland,was renowned for his designs,but allways had difficulty convincing the US Government to invest in these projects.Holland's first design-in 1874 was a   15.5 ft long,1 man boat,with a foot operated treadle to drive the propeller and control the 1 cubic ft,ballast tank and discharge used air.

Nova Holland

In 1881,Holland found sponsorship with the Finians,a group of Irish revolutionaries eager to harras the  British Navy.He built a prototype which included the use of a gasoline engine.It was successful enough to warrant the building of a larger more warlike vessel.  And in 1881 built the "Finian Ram" 31 feet long,armed with a ram bow and air powered canon,capable of diving to a depth of 60 feet and speed of 9 knots.   However the Finians stole the boat and hid it in a shed in New Haven,where it remained for 35 years,it was finally donated to the city of Patterson,where it is on display at West Side Park.

1885, Joshia Tuck designed a submarine called  the "Peacemaker" it was powered by a chemical (fireless) boiler using over half a ton of caustic soda which only provided 5 hours of service.His inventing days ended, when his relatives had him committed to an asylum for the insane for squandering the family fortune.

The Peacemaker

Subs that never made it, allthough they were built and tested,most of them failed to perform and nearly all of them sank! But it was an opportunity to learn by the mistakes that were made.And subsequently gaining the knowledge to progress.

Simon Lake's Argonaught Jr

1898,  The French  148 ft., 266 ton   "Gustav Zede"  torpedoed an anchored battleship,the success of this prompted an international competition for the design of a vessel with a surface range of 100 miles and a submerged range of 10 miles.   Of  the 29 entries the "Narval", Maxime Laubeuf's 188 ft,136 ton submarine which was steam powered was the winner,it was later converted to diesel.


1900, Inspite of all the problems,all the navies of the world continued to invest in the design and building of submarines.The US, Great Britain,France and Spain all had similar designs and it was a race to see who could produce the best,it was in fact,an arms race.In 1901 Frances' Gustav Zede was continuing to progress well and had success in torpedoing moving warships and France launched a public fund raising drive to build submarines for their navy and in 1901 launched the "Francais" and in 1902 the "Algerien"

1902,       The German navy was initially unimpressed by the prospect of under water craft,in fact Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz stated  that "The submarine is,at present,of no great value in the war at Sea,and will not waste money on experiments" However Kaiser Wilhelm II was impressed and instructed his brother,an Admiral,to take a ride in one.

Also in 1902,The Spanish designer Ramondo Lorenzo D'Equevillex   had  allready  built  submarines  at the  Krup Germania Shipyard with gasoline engines and onboard battery charging systems,and subsequently Russia ordered three and Germany one,the Germans specified Kerosine engines instead of gasoline.

The race was now getting serious, we all know how the German U-Boats progressed into an efficient fighting force in both the world wars.Their "wolf packs"sank more tonnage than any others of their time.



HMS Astute-attack Submarine-click the link below.

HMS Astute-Specifications and Building

Members Area

Webs Counter

Recent Blog Entries

Recent Forum Posts

Recent Videos

1238 views - 0 comments
1403 views - 0 comments

Newest Members