K Class (1917) SS

The K Class (1917) were an attempt to obtain a submarine which had a fast enough surface speed to operate with fleet heavy armoured units. 

The design speed on the surface was 20kts, and this was achieved with K13 achieving 23.5kts during sea trials in Jan-1917. Unfortunately steam was selected as the method of surface propulsion. Even although the only British experimental steam powered boat the S1 had been a disappointment. 

It took an average of 5 minutes to shut down the boilers, evacuate the boiler room and shut down the ventilators before a boat could dive. The record was held by K8 at 3 minutes 25 seconds. 

Also with a total of 12 hatches and hundreds of valves, its watertight integrity was questionable. 

As if that was not enough, the original flush level bows gave them a tendency to dive on their own.

Another fatal flaw in the concept was to try to operate low lying surfaced submarines at night at high speed in concert with surface units of the Fleet. This was proved on the night of 31-Jan-1918 when during the so called "Battle of May Island" in the Firth of Forth; when within 75 minutes, out of nine submarines, two were sunk , three more badly damaged and 105 men were lost.

As a class they can only be described as unlucky, and the concept of steam powered fleet submarines, disastrous.

Submarine operations in concert with fleet surface units have only worked when nuclear boats with full electronic aids and sonar were developed much later in the century.


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This page last edited - 05 March, 2013.

Copyright Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.