British E-class submarine HMS E3
|Class and type:||E-class submarine|
|Laid down:||27 April 1911|
|Launched:||29 October 1912|
|Commissioned:||29 May 1914|
|Fate:||Sunk by SM U-27, 18 October 1914|
|Length:||178 ft (54 m)|
|Beam:||15.05 ft (4.59 m)|
|Draught:||12 ft 6 in (3.81 m)|
|Range:||325 nmi (602 km; 374 mi) (surfaced)|
|Complement:||3 officers, 28 ratings|
|Armament:||4 × 18 in (460 mm) torpedo tubes (1 bow, 2 beam, 1 stern; 10 torpedoes)|
HMS E3 was the third E-class submarines to be constructed, built at Barrow by Vickers in 1911-1912. Built with compartmentalisation and endurance not previously achievable, these were the best submarines in the Royal Navy at the start of the First World War. She was sunk in the first ever successful attack on one submarine by another, when she was torpedoed on 18 October 1914 by U-27.
E3 had sailed from Harwich on 16 October to patrol off Borkum in the North Sea. On 18 October, she spotted some German destroyers ahead but was unable to get into a position to take a shot at them. Unable to pass them, Commander Cholmley retreated into the bay to wait for them to disperse. As he did so, he failed to see that the bay was also occupied by U-27, under Kapitänleutnant Bernd Wegener.
Wegener was surfaced and patrolling between the Ems and Borkum when at 11:25, an object resembling a buoy was spotted where no buoy should be. Suspecting a British submarine, U-27 immediately dived and closed the object. Although ‘conned down’, the number 83 was clearly visible on the conning tower of the British boat, now identified as such beyond reasonable doubt. Wegener tracked the submarine for two hours until able to approach ‘up sun’. He noted that the look-outs were staring intently in the other direction, towards the Ems. When the distance had closed to 656 yd (600 m), two G6 torpedoes were fired by U-27. Detonation followed 12 seconds later, and E3 sank immediately. The KTB records that men (probably the look-outs from the bridge) were visible in the water but fearing a second British submarine might have been lurking nearby, U-27 dived and withdrew. 30 minutes later, the U-boat returned to the scene to search for evidence and possible survivors but without success. All 28 members of E3's crew were lost.
In 1990, the stern section was snagged by a fishing boat, which in turn alerted divers from Zeester. The wreck of E3 was discovered on 14 October 1994. The stern of E3 had been blown off in the explosion and was found to be completely detached. The stern section— including the stern torpedo chamber — was later raised. The stern hatch was open, but the nature of the explosion indicates that men in the engine room and motor compartments would have died instantly. The motor and engine rooms are fully exposed and have consequently been looted of all removable fittings, including the bell.
The conning tower has been removed by fishing nets and the broken periscope standards are still evident. The conning tower ladder is said to have been donated to the Submarine Museum but is not officially listed within their collections. E3's torpedo loading hatch is open and the bow section is largely intact.
- A movie about the discovery of the E3 with English subtitles
- 'Submarine losses 1904 to present day' - Royal Navy Submarine Museum