back to 050g-G Submarine "K" class (1934 - 1942)

"K" class submarine
Information as found in the following book

K BOAT catastrophe
Eight ships & Five Collisions
The full story of the "Battle" of the Isle of May

written by
N.S. Nash
ISBN: 184415984-1


The British Royal Navy in general and the submarines in particular, in Dinky Toys

In the early days of British submarines around 1900 (almost fifty years trailing submarine developments in other countries), the British Navy considered them as to be used equivalent to surface boats, operating in fleet formation.
In those days, the "real" Royal Navy ships were:
The heavily armed battleships, (e.g. Dinky Toys 050b-G Battleship "Nelson" );
The fast cruisers(e.g. Dinky Toys 050c-G Cruiser "Effingham" );
Their combination, fast, heavily armed (but sparsely armoured) battlecruisers
(e.g. Dinky Toys 050a-G Battle cruiser "Hood" ).

Move mouse over names to the left to see the Dinky Toys

The K class submarines

The K-class submarine is developed as successsor to the J-class boat.
The J-class was to have sufficient speed to keep up with the fleet moving at 21 -25 knots, but did not get more then 19 knots out of its steam turbine.
Vickers Ltd. then was taken up on its offer to design and build oil-fired, steam-driven boats that would make 24 knots, the K-class.
In 1915, the first four K-boats were build at a cost of 300,000 each:

  • double-hulled
  • DWT 1,883 at the surface, 2,570 submerged
  • 339 ft (103 m) long (half as long as a cruiser!)
  • 27 ft beam (8.2 m wide)
  • 21 ft height (6.4 m)
  • oil-fired steam trubines
  • diesel generator to drive four electric motors
  • 24 knots at surface, 9 knots when submerged
  • two four inch guns and a 3 inch AA gun (although aircraft in those days was not yet a real thread)
  • up to ten torpedo-tubes for eighteen inch torpedos
  • crew of sixty men
The design of the K boats, although the fastest of their time, was far from flawless. Being steam driven, they had two funnels for the exhaust, that were laid horizontal for diving, and two large air intakes, one for each turbine. "Too many holes for a submarine", although the holes were sealed of course.
Although the fires of the steam boilers were damped down for submersion, heat was still generated and the boats were very hot when submerged. On the other hand, rough seas could enter through the funnels during surface sail and extinguish the furnaces!
With their overall length of 339 ft (103 m), the bow could be at the maximum designed diving depth of 200 ft (60 m), while the stern was still at the surface! The real diving depth was severely curtailed by the designed (!) strength of the bulkheads for 70 ft (21 m). Diving itself took up till five minutes, as opposed to seconds for other submarine classes.

The K-class has not been a great success, actually they were feared for their shortcomings. Ernest Leir, Captain of the Marksman-class destroyer HMS Ithuriel and commander of the 13th Submarine Flotilla (K-11, K-17, K-14, K-12 and K-22), which was at the heart of the "Battle" of the Isle of May, said later in his life:"It was just as well that the K boats never engaged the enemy".

The "Battle" of the Isle of May

In short the "Battle" of the Isle of May wasn't actually a battle but a series of mishaps on the evening of January 31st, 1918. While leaving the Firth of Forth in a NE direction, via the channel beween the Isle of May and the coast of Fife, a big fleet, consisting of two battle cruiser units with a submarine flotilla trailing and a third unit of battleships, sailing with a distance of 5 nautical miles in between. Each unit had an unconfirmed number of destroyers as "screen" besides them. The total fleet would have been spread over about thirty miles, sailing at about 21 knots, without lighting.
  • 19:17 - after making a quarter circle to port (left) due to a jammed helm, K-14 collided with K-22, which had gone astray to port somewhat earlier.
  • 19:43 - heading from behind, battle cruiser Inflexible hit the K-22, still afloat but immobilized after the previous collision.
  • 20:32 - the path of Fearless the light cruiser commanding the 12th Submarine Flotilla (part of the second unit), is crossed by the 13th Submarine Flotilla lead by HMS Ithuriel and now consisting of only K-11, K-17 and K-12, on their way back to assist in the rescue of their submarines K-14 and K-22. Fearless hits K-17, while trying to avoid the collision by going "hard astern" and sounding the related alarm
  • 20:36 - K-4, in the 12th Submarine Flotilla of Fearless, hearing the alarm of Ithuriel stopped, but not the trailing K-3, which missed K-4 by inches. Thereafter came K-6, and could not avoid a head on collision against the broadsite laying K-4, splitting it in two halves. Those halves sank almost immediately.
  • 20:38 - K-7, the last of the 12th Submarine Flotilla then passed over the sinking K-4 and hit it once more.
  • Unfortunately, while being held on the deck of K-7, the survivors of K-17 were swept into the sea once againy by the wash of the following battle ships.
Thus, within 80 minutes, five collisions involving eight ships took place, resulting in a loss of 104 men and two submarines.
Both investigation and trial have been kept "Secret" until 1994 and form the basis of the book K BOAT catastrophe/Eight ships & Five Collisions/ The full story of the "Battle" of the Isle of May/

The fate of the K boats
[copied from pages 132, 133]

  1. Sunk by HMS Blonde after collision with K-4 1917
  2. Collided with K-12, collided with H-29 1924; Sold for breaking 1926
  3. Uncontrolled dive during diving trials; Sold for breaking 1921 [picture below]
  4. Sunk in collision with K-6. Fifty-five killed 1918 [picture below; "high and dry" after an accident]
  5. Uncontrolled dive; Sunk in unknown circumstances. Fifty-seven killed 1921
  6. Collided with and sank K-4 1918; Sold for breaking 1926
  7. Sold for breaking 1921
  8. Damaged by fire; sold for breaking 1923
  9. Failed to dive; sold for breaking 1926
  10. Sold for breaking 1921
  11. Sold for breaking 1921
  12. Collided with K-2 1924; Sold for breaking 1926
  13. Foundered. Thirty-five killed 1917; Raised and renumbered K-22 1917; Collided with K-14 1918; Dived with funnels up and almost lost; Broken up 1927
  14. Collided with K-22, two men killed 1918; Boiler explosion caused extensive damage; Sold for breaking 1926
  15. Uncontrolled first dive, stem first; Sunk in Portsmouth harbour, all saved; Sold for breaking 1924
  16. Uncontrolled dive on trials; sold for breaking 1924
  17. Sunk in collision with HMS Fearless. Forty-seven killed 1918
  18. Cancelled 1917, but built and redesignated M-1 1918;Sunk with about sixty killed after collision with a Swedish ship 1925; Found in 1990, off Start Point [picture below; note its 12-inch gun]
  19. Cancelled 1917, but built and redesignated M-2 1918; Sunk on exercise, the reason unknown. Sixty killed 1932 [picture below; catapulting a seaplane]
  20. Cancelled 1917
  21. Cancelled 1917, then ordered and to be redesignated M-4 1917, cancelled again 1917
  22. see K-13. [picture below; with raised bow]
  23. N/A
  24. N/A
  25. N/A
  26. Acceptance trials accident. Two killed 1923; Sold for breaking 1931 [picture below; with raised bow to deal (in part) with high seas]

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 2:17 PM the following message was received:
To: christiaan boland
Subject: K Boat
Dear Mr Boland
I have just received your letter dated 14 September as I have been abroad for the last 6 weeks.
I am happy to give you permission to use my material especially as you will be acknowledging my book by showing the cover on your web site.

Best wishes
NS Nash

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