Heritage Minister Protects Wreck Site Of Prototype Submarine

By David Prudames | 04 January 2005
shows a photo of a very small submarine on the surface with a small group of sailors on the casing of the vessel.

Holland no.5 was launched in 1902, but foundered off the coast of East Sussex in 1912. Courtesy Royal Navy Submarine Museum.

The wreck site of a prototype submarine built at the turn of the 20th century and containing one of the first periscopes has been given legal protection by the Heritage Minister, Andrew McIntosh.

Coming into effect on January 4, the order protects the final resting place of the Royal Navy’s Holland no.5 from being damaged by unauthorised interference from divers.

Inside Holland no.1, the Royal Navy's first submarine. Photo: Jon Pratty. © 24 Hour Museum.

"The Holland no.5 played a short but significant role in the evolution of the British submarine and the survival of this boat gives a unique opportunity to study the technology of the time including the possible prototype of the submarine periscope," explained Andrew McIntosh.

"Only two of the Holland submarines survive today. The Holland no.5 is thought to be intact and in good condition," he added.

"I am pleased that this order will preserve the wreck site allowing proper study of the vessel and preventing any vandalism by trophy hunters."

For some early submariners, this was the only way out. Underside view of the hatch to the submarine's outer casing, Holland 1. Jon Pratty. © 24 Hour Museum.

Built by the Holland Torpedo Boat Company and launched by the Royal Navy in May 1902, Holland no.5 was the last of five prototype submarines built after the British Admiralty decided to evaluate the submarine’s potential as a weapon in the 1890s.

The vessel cost what was then a vast £35,000, but in August 1912 she foundered and was lost.

In 2000, the wreck was discovered off the coast of East Sussex and following a survey scan in April 2001, the Archaeological Diving Unit confirmed it as Holland no.5

The Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites advised the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that because of its historic significance the site was a strong candidate for designation.

Under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, the Secretary of State has the power to designate wreck sites which are considered worthy of protection from unauthorised interference on account of their archaeological, historical or artistic importance.

Once such a site has been designated, it is a criminal offence for a person to interfere with it except under the authority of a licence.

Bob Mealings, Curator of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Portsmouth, told the 24 Hour Museum that alongside its predecessors Holland no.5 occupies a significant position in the modern history of submarine craft.

The Holland series of prototypes, he said, "represent a culmination of advances throughout the late 19th century, based on the designs of John Holland."

Irish American inventor John Holland discovered a way to combine electric power and the internal combustion engine to create underwater propulsion and sold his designs to many of the world's navies, including the United States of America.

His system was so successful and important that it would remain at the heart of submarine technology for half a century.

"In many respects," added Bob Mealings, "there’s no great change until the 1950s when you get the first nuclear submarines."

The most significant of the Royal Navy’s Holland craft now has pride of place in the collection of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum.

Holland no.1 was launched in 1901, but was lost in the Solent in 1913 while being towed to the breaker’s yard. In 1981 she was found again and raised from the seabed a year later.

The historic vessel then underwent a painstaking conservation process, before being opened to the public in 2001.

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