HMS E18

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HMS E18.jpg
E18 shortly after passing through the Øresund in September 1915. Note the camouflage paintwork to prevent detection by shore observers
Career
Builder: Vickers
Laid down: 1914
Launched: 4 March 1915
Commissioned: 6 June 1915
Fate: Lost with all hands, late May 1916
General characteristics
Displacement: 662 tons (surfaced
807 tons (submerged)
Length: 54.86 m
Beam: 6.86 m
Draught: 3.81 m
Propulsion: Twin propellers, 2 x 1,600 bhp (1,190 kW) Vickers diesel, 2 x 840 shp (626 kW) electric motors
Speed: 15.25 knots (surfaced)
9.75 knots (submerged)
Range: 325 nm surfaced
Endurance: 24 days
Complement: 3 officers, 28 ratings
Armament: 2 × 18 inch bow tube
2 × 18 inch beam tubes
1 × 18 inch stern tube
(10 torpedoes)
1 x 12 pdr deck gun

HMS E18 was an E-class submarine of the Royal Navy, launched in 1915 and lost in the Baltic Sea in May 1916 while operating out of Reval. The exact circumstances surrounding the sinking remain a mystery. The wreck of the submarine was discovered in October 2009.

History[edit]

1915[edit]

E18 entered service in the UK in 1915, commanded by Lieutenant-Commander R.C. Halahan. She joined HMS Maidstone on 25 June 1915 and soon began North Sea patrols with the 8th Flotilla at Harwich. On her one and only patrol prior to leaving for the Baltic E18 departed Yarmouth with D7 and E13 on 9 July 1915. On 14 July 1915 when at the mouth of the Ems deep in enemy waters Halahan brought E18 to the surface as he preferred the sea to using the toilet arrangements on board. While in this awkward situation a Zeppelin appeared, E18 dived to the sea bed but was easily visible from the air. E18 was then straddled with 12 bombs which caused no damage other than some embarrassment for Halahan in being caught unaware. The fact E18 was surfaced wasn't passed on via Halahan's patrol report, he stated he was submerged at 20 ft, and an inquiry into submarine visibility from the air led E18 being painted in her camouflage scheme. Strangely there is no German claim of an attack on a submarine - the Zeppelins in the air that day in this area were, L4, L6 and L7, none of which sighted a submarine let alone attacked one. L6 was the closest to E18's position when a Zeppelin was sighted but she moved away to the west when the explosions occurred. German minesweeping divisions were exploding mines during the time of the alleged attack which could explain what the crew of E18 heard while submerged.

E18 was dispatched to the Baltic as part of the British submarine flotilla in the Baltic. She left Harwich on 28 August with her sister-ship HMS E19, first travelling to Newcastle to swing their compasses during which E19 burnt out one of her main armatures. After the delay to repair E19 they left Newcastle for the Baltic on 4 September at 1630 hrs. The two submarines separated and passed through the Øresund between Denmark and Sweden on the night of 8-9 September. During the passage E19 at one stage found herself only metres from E18's stern and decided not to enter together. E18 encountered two German destroyers. She dived into water only 23 feet (7 m) deep and — for almost three hours — progressed by crashing into the seabed and rising back up to break the surface. After several hours resting in deep water she surfaced in the morning only to be fired on by the cruiser Amazone; once again she dived to the bottom. The German cruiser and attending destroyers then began to criss-cross over the top of E18 knowing her batteries would be very low. E18 had to sit it out on the bottom until the German left the area. E18 was lucky the German ships were not then equipped with depth charges. After escaping she was set upon by another two destroyers one of which came close to ramming her. On 10 September 1915 Halahan sighted what he thought was the German battlecruisers Lutzow and Seydlitz and tried in vain to get into an attacking position, but in fact they were just two German destroyers as the German battlecruisers where not in the area at this time. On 12 September she met up with E19 and E9 off Dagerort, arriving in Reval (now Tallinn, Estonia) on the 13th. Halahan later wrote that entering the Baltic again should not be attempted unless absolutely necessary.

She operated out of Reval through the autumn of 1915. E18 departed on her first Baltic patrol on 21 September 1915, next day on the 22nd she was in an excellent position to torpedo the German cruiser Bremen, a surfaced Russian submarine caused the Bremen to turn away just as E18 was about to fire and she missed her opportunity, she returned from this first patrol on 29 September 1915.[1]

On 9 October 1915 E18 departed for her second patrol, by 12 October she was in position to attack the pre-dreadnought SMS Braunschweig whilst patrolling off Libau (now Liepāja, Latvia), but her torpedo tube bow caps could not be opened, she then tried her beam tube but was forced to dive by German destroyers, when she did manage to get a torpedo shot off from her stern tube the range was too great and the opportunity passed. She returned to Reval on 16 October 1915 at 1700 hrs.[2]

E18 departed for her third patrol on 9 November 1915, and was to patrol the Swedish trade routes, she arrived back at Reval on 15 November 1915 having sighted nothing of significance. During this patrol the crew had missed the visit of the Tzar.

Her fourth patrol was to patrol off Libau and try and find a way through the mine fields by following the courses of ships coming and going. She departed for this patrol on 30 November 1915 and returned on 4 December 1915. This was her last patrol for 1915.

1916[edit]

E18 left for her fifth patrol on 6 January 1916, her orders were to patrol the area between the Sound and Bornholm. The first two days of this patrol they were trying to call her back in as the patrol had been cancelled but she didn't reply. On returning she encountered gale force winds and icy conditions to the point where she had difficulty closing her conning tower hatch due to ice. She was unable to return to Reval on her own and had to wait hours for the Finnish ice breaker Sampo to arrive and bring her back in, she arrived in Reval on 13 January 1916 completely iced over, after this the British submarines were iced in and could not move until April. Although she did not sail E18 was made ready for sea on 13 February 1916. She was the first of the British subs to make a trip in the bay at Reval on 29 March 1916 after the big freeze.

After operations were halted for the winter, E18 resumed patrols in the spring of 1916. Her second last patrol was to the Gulf of Riga with HMS E1, leaving Reval on 28 April 1916 to show their presence to the Germans, this was achieved by diving twice while the Russian destroyers shelled beaches. While returning via Moon Sound on 1 May 1916 E18 ran aground and had to be towed off, she returned to Reval on 2 May. During this operation E18 and E1 tied up alongside the Russian battleship Slava.[2]

In late May, she sailed for her final patrol; E1, E8 and two Russian submarines left the same day. Records differ on her exact fate, but it is certain neither she or any of her crew ever returned.

The diary of Francis Goodhart, commander of E8, states that E1 and the Russian Bars departed at 1400 hrs, E8, E18 and the Russian Gerpard left port together at 1800 hrs on 25 May; E8 's patrol was uneventful, and she returned to Reval on the 31st. However, E18 failed to return; by 5 June Goodhart noted that the crews were "very worried". On the 6th, he noted that he had "Heard from Essen that their W.T. had vaguely indicated presence of a submarine off Redshoff"[3] on Tuesday[4]. Very slender hope..." By the next day, 8 June, he recorded that a meeting had noted she had sailed with only 15 days food; the situation was "very hopeless now, I fear. No news whatsoever" By the 9 June E8's officers began collecting the belongings of E18's Halahan, Landale and Colson from their cabins. On a sad note Goodhart learnt that Halahan had his future told by a local woman prior to this last patrol. She told him he was in grave danger, this affected the superstitious Halahan who then asked the wife of the British Vice Consul in Reval to send a wire to his family before they got the official Navy telegram in case something happened to him. This indeed she did when Halahan failed to return.[5]

Michael Wilson, a historian, records that E8 and E18 sailed on the 25th and parted the next day. On the 26th, at 4:42 PM, E18 torpedoed the German destroyer V100, blowing off her bow. Had it not been for the calm seas, it is likely she would have sank from the damage; as it was, she was towed back to port with several of her crew killed, requiring major repairs. Two days later, on the 28th, E18 was sighted by a German aircraft off Memel (now Klaipėda, Lithuania), E18 was last sighted on the 1 June 1916 at 1500 hrs sailing north by the German U-boat UB-30 northwest of Steinort. Wilson further states that it is believed she was lost "most likely by striking a mine" on her return to Reval west of Osel.[2] The logs of the German destroyers with V100 also support the same dates as Goodhart's diary and Wilson's observations.

Various sources record her simply as having been sunk on 24 May by a German decoy ship,[6] though this clashes with the known attack on V100 on the 26th and the observations reported by Wilson and Goodhart in subsequent days. It is quite possible that this is a garbling of an encounter between one of the Russian submarines and a decoy vessel around the same time. The German decoy ship Kronprinz Wilhelm[disambiguation needed] (see: SMS Schiff K), known as K, did attack two submarines during E18's patrol in May. K rammed the Russian Gerpard and the following day took the Russian Bars under fire in Hano Bay, the Germans thought they had sunk both submarines, E18 was not in the area of these actions.

Tsar Nicholas II sent a telegram of condolences on the loss of E18, and awarded Halahan the Order of St. George, with the other two officers receiving the Order of St. Vladimir and each of the crew being posthumously awarded a medal. These Orders were not normally awarded posthumously.[2] Three of E18 '​s crew did not sail on her last mission; one, Jeremiah Ryan had measles and later transferred to E19; another, Albert Phillips, missed her patrol for unknown reasons. The other was E18 '​s signalman Albert Edward Robinson who was replaced on this mission by E8 '​s telegraphist George Gaby; he was later sent home in January 1917 and joined E4 on her recommissioning. Ryan and Phillips went home in January 1918. When people research the subject of E18, 11 June 1916 is stated as the date on the crews papers as being lost at sea, as they had no idea when and where E18 was lost at the time this date was purely for administration purposes to close the books on E18.

Discovery of the wreck, 2009[edit]

In October 2009, the wreck of HMS E18 was discovered by a ROV deployed by the Swedish survey vessel MV Triad. The position of the wreck lies off the coast of Hiiumaa, Estonia. Photographs taken of the wreck show the submarine with its hatch open, suggesting that it struck a mine while sailing on the surface.[7]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Forgotten Flotilla, Leslie Ashmore
  2. ^ a b c d Baltic assignment: British Submariners in Russia 1914-1919, Michael Wilson. 1985
  3. ^ There does not appear to be a place called "Redshoff"; it may be a mishearing of Kurisches Haff, a German term for the Curonian Lagoon south of Memel/Klaipėda
  4. ^ i.e. May 30th
  5. ^ Diary of Francis Goodhart, published in Imperial War Museum Review no. 9
  6. ^ e.g. a footnote by the editor of Goodhart's diary, which gives her as "sunk off Bornholm". The German ship is sometimes named as KE41; naval-history.net refers simply to "decoy ship K".
  7. ^ "Sub's wartime grave discovered". BBC News Online. 23 October 2009. Retrieved 23 October 2009.