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Holland 1 in the new viewing hall

ASTOUNDING INVENTIONS HM submarine Torpedo Boat No 1 (HOLLAND 1), the navy’s first submarine

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Did you know that Gosport houses the first Royal Navy commissioned submarine? She’s had an interesting history…

Holland 1 (or HM submarine Torpedo Boat No 1), built in 1901, is the first submarine in a six-boat batch of the Holland-class submarine commissioned by the Royal Navy. She was lost in 1913 while under tow to the scrapyard following decommissioning.

In 1901 Holland 1 was ordered from John Philip Holland and built at Barrow-in-Furness. In order to keep the boat’s construction secret, she was assembled in a building labelled “Yacht Shed”, and the parts that had to be fabricated in the general yard were marked for “pontoon no 1”.

She was launched on 2 October 1901 and dived for the first time (in an enclosed basin) on 20 March 1902 with sea trials beginning in April 1902.

In September 1902, she arrived at Portsmouth with the other completed Holland boat and along with HMS Hazard (their tender) made up the “First Submarine Flotilla“, commanded by Captain Reginald Bacon. On 3 March 1903 Holland 1 suffered an explosion that caused four injuries. On 24 October 1904, with the rest of the Holland fleet and three A-class boats, Holland 1 sailed from Portsmouth to attack a Russian fleet that had mistakenly sunk a number of British fishing vessels in the North Sea in the Dogger Bank incident.
Holland 1 was therefore decommissioned and sold in 1913 to Thos. W. Ward for £410.
By the time the submarine was sold she was considered so obsolete that she was sold with all fittings intact, and the only requirement put on the purchaser was that the torpedo tube be put out of action.

While being towed to the scrapyard, Holland 1 encountered very severe weather and sank about a mile and a half off Eddystone Lighthouse, south of Plymouth. No one was on board the submarine at the time, and, since the submarine had been seen to be sinking earlier in the journey, the crew of the tug released the tow rope, preventing any damage to the tug.

The wreck was located in 1981 by Plymouth historian Michael Pearn and in November 1982 she was raised. From 1983, after coating in anti-corrosion chemicals, she was put on display at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport. A fibreglass tank was then built around her and she was immersed in sodium carbonate solution from 1995.
After four years the corrosive chloride ions had been removed, and she was able to be displayed again after restoration work. Listed as part of the National Historic Fleet, in 2001, on her centenary, a new purpose-built climate-controlled building was opened by Countess Mountbatten. In 2011 the submarine was given an Engineering Heritage Award by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

This year visitors can visit Holland One at the Submarine Museum, to meet a member of the Royal Naval Submarine Musuem’s Conservation team for a unique insight into the techniques the museum uses to take care of the Royal Navy’s first submarine.

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Holland 1 in 1991
Torpedo tube of Holland 1