An Unlucky Sub: Remembering The Crew Of HMS K13

Dying in a First World War submarine accident, as many of the men aboard HMS K13 did, must have been a horrific way to go.She was one of the...

Dying in a First World War submarine accident, as many of the men aboard HMS K13 did, must have been a horrific way to go.

She was one of the K-class subs. Steam-propelled and quick for the time, they were designed to be able to keep up and operate with the main battle fleet.

But of the 18 built, only one ever attacked an enemy ship, while six were lost to accidents.

Now Royal Navy personnel, the Submariners Association, and family members of those on the sub have gathered to remember what happened to her in Gareloch, Scotland a century ago. 

She was meant to be performing routine sea trials in the loch, but things very quickly took a turn for the worse when the submarine would not level out at a depth of 20 feet, and very quickly plunged into the depths.

There were 80 people aboard - 53 of them crewmen - and they were dragged down with her.

The engine room was flooding because key openings had not been closed. An inquiry later found that four ventilators had been left open, despite warning lights showing in the control room.

By the time those on the surface realised something was wrong and sent over a rescue vessel, it was the dead of night and divers were forced to await the coming of the following day.

Down below, some managed to survive in unflooded parts of the sub, and when rescuers did reach the sub in the morning, they used Morse code to communicate with those inside.

The captain of K13 was Lieutenant-Commander Godfrey Herbert, who'd been involved in the 'Baralong incidents' of 1915, where war crimes were reported.

Herbert used the conning tower's inner and outer hatches to create an airlock, then escaped to the surface.

Unfortunately Commander Goodhart, the captain of the K14 who'd been with him, perished in the attempt, becoming trapped in the K13's superstructure.

Rescuers managed to connect an airline to the sub, fill its ballast tanks with air and she was brought to the surface where the hull could be cut open.

48 crew were rescued in the end, while 32 perished.

K13 herself was rebranded as K22, and would be involved in another incident along with seven other vessels.

Known as the Battle of May Island, this was a huge naval accident in which over 100 people died, and remained covered up until the 1990s.

Cover image: HMS K4

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