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, much 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:
- Sub-Lieutenant F C Skinner
- Chief Engine Room Artificer Charles Sinden
- Petty Officer 1st Class Arthur Manley
- Petty Officer 1st Class William J Pryor
- Leading Stoker Earnest Goldthorpe
- Stoker Harry Davis
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.
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.