HMS A5

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Career
Laid down: 19 February 1902
Launched: March 1904
Commissioned: 11 February 1905
Decommissioned: December 1915
Fate: Scrapped in 1920 at Portsmouth Dockyard
General characteristics
Displacement: 190 tons surfaced, 207 tons submerged
Length: 105.25 ft (32.08 m)
Beam: 12.75 ft (3.89 m)
Draught: 10.5 ft (3.2 m)
Propulsion:

550 hp (410 kW) petrol engine

150 hp (112 kW) electric engine
Speed:

11 knots (20 km/h) maximum surfaced

8 knots (15 km/h) maximum submerged
Range:

325 nautical miles at 11 knots (600 km at 20 km/h) surfaced

20 nautical miles at 6 knots (37 km at 11 km/h) submerged
Complement: 11 (2 officers and 9 ratings)
Armament: Two 18 inch (457 mm) torpedo tubes, plus two reloads

HMS A5 was an early Royal Navy submarine. She was a member of Group Two of the first British A-class of submarines (a second, very different A-class submarine appeared towards the end of the Second World War). Like all members of her class, she was built at Vickers Barrow-in-Furness.

Immediately after commissioning she and her tender HMS Hazard travelled to Queenstown, (now Cobh) Ireland. On 16 February 1905 at 10:05 whilst tied up alongside Hazard an explosion occurred on board.

Six of the crew were immediately killed by the explosion or died shortly afterwards:

The captain, Lieutenant H G J Good, and the other four crew members survived.

Sub-Lieutenant Skinner's remains were buried with military honours in his home town of Bedford, Bedfordshire whilst the other five dead crewmen were interred in Old Church Cemetery near Cobh on 20 February 1905. The town virtually closed down for the funeral as a mark of respect, and bands and pipers from HMS Emerald, the Gordon Highlanders and that of Rear Admiral McLeod, the commanding officer of Haulbowline Naval Base.

An inquiry and inquest were held in Haulbowline Base and Cobh Town Hall respectively. The conclusion of the inquiry was that the first explosion was caused by the ignition of a mixture of petrol vapour and air which had accumulated towards the stern of the boat. It had been triggered by a spark from the electric switch when the submarine's main propulsion motor was turned on. Either clothing or electrical insulation which was smouldering from the first explosion triggered the second which was underneath the conning tower.

She was returned to Barrow-in-Furness the following month for repairs and returned to service in the Home Fleet in October. She was used for training until paid off for disposal in December 1915 and was finally broken up in Portsmouth in 1920.

As the accident occurred in peacetime, the graves do not form part of the responsibility of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and eventually fell into neglect. The Irish Naval Service donated a granite block with a brass plaque giving details of the A5 tragedy, and this was unveiled in March 2000.

On 13 February 2005 there was a ceremony to mark the centenary of the accident. LÉ Eithne of the Irish Naval Service and HMS Richmond of the Royal Navy visited Cobh for the occasion.

Much of the material relating to the Cobh accident was provided by Mr John Gregory, Secretary Cork & County R N A. It was first published in the journal of the Maritime Institute of Ireland. Publication is encouraged so that these submariners will not be forgotten.

Text written by Charles Edward Sinden's Grandson Michael John Sinden on 22nd June 1995:

"On the 16th February 1905, Charles Edward Sinden, Chief Engine Room Artificer, was killed aboard the "A" class submarine - A5. He was my Grandfather. The submarine launched just five days previously from Vickers in Barrow, was being refuelled with petrol from the Torpedo Gunboat HMS Hazard at about 11.30am in Cork Harbour, Co. Cork, Eire., prior to leaving for sea trials in the immediate area. But, during the refueling a leakage from the Port petrol pump; due to insufficient packing in the plunger-rod gland, caused a strong petrol vapour to penetrate throughout the length of the 105ft submarine. This vapour had been observed some hours before. My Grandfather, proud with the responsibilities of this brand new submarine's engines and fittings, was working at the propeller clutch aft. He had been there rather a long time. Becoming giddy from the strong petrol smell, he went forward to stand under the open fore hatch for fresh air. Lt. H.J.G. Good who was working in the submarine, went aft, and gave the order to start the electric motors to clear the aft part of the boat of the vapour. Petty Officer A. Manly pressed the switch to start the motors to revolve the engine to exhaust the vapour. Sparking of the brushes once the engine started supplied the necessary ignition to the mixture and immediately, or shortly after an explosion occurred.

"IF A MAN GIVES AN ORDER TO REVOLVE AN ENGINE ENDUCING AN ELECTRIC SPARK INTO A SUBMARINE BOAT SMELLING STRONGLY OF PETROL, HE DOES SO WITH THE RISK OF ALMOST CERTAIN DISASTER AND AN ABSOLUTE DISOBEDIENCE TO THE REGULATIONS"

So stated Captain R.H.S. Bacon RN, Naval Assistant to the First Lord of the Admiralty. Also in attendance was Doctor Boverton Redwood F.R.S.E. Advisor to the Home Office on Petroleum Oils at Haulbowline Dockyard during the official enquiry into the disaster on submarine A-5. The finding was that there had been a flagrant violation of the Admiralty regulations for the Management of Submarines. The violent explosion and fireball killed my Grandfather, and also on that fateful morning five others were killed and five injured. Apart from Charles Edward Sinden were Sub Lieut F.C. Skinner, Petty Officer A. Manly, Petty Officer W.J. Prior, Leading Stoker E. Golthorpe and Stoker Davis. Five of these men, including my Grandfather, were buried with Full Naval Honours in the Old Church Cemetary, Cobh, County Cork, Eire. Shortly after that first explosion another occurred. This was when HMS Hazard had gone to the aid of the stricken boat. The new explosion thought to have been caused by a spark or smoldering clothing, tore into the volunteer crew blowing several overboard into the harbour and injuring a number of them as well.

The full Naval Honours for the five men killed in the first explosion consisted of the bodies being conveyed on separate biers, covered by Union Flags and all, almost hidden from view by immense and beautiful floral tributes."



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