Launched: 21-02-1906 as HMS B11
Builder: Vickers – Barrow in Furness
Length overall: 142ft 2½in
Beam: 13ft 7in
Depth: 13ft 7in
Displacement Surface 287 tons / Submerged: 316 tons
Diving Depth: 100ft
Speed Surface: 7 knots (design) 6.5 knots (service) / Submerged 13 to 13.5 knots (design) 12 knots (service)
No. of shafts: 1
Propeller: 3 blades, 5ft diameter
Armament: 2 18-inch bow torpedo tubes (4 torpedoes carried)
Endurance Surface: 1300 miles at 9 knots (design) 740 miles at full power (service) / Submerged: 22.5 miles
B.11 was the last of her class to be constructed. She was completed in 1906, and like her consorts, was considerably larger than the "A" boats, displacing 280 tons on the surface and 313 tons submerged.
She was one third longer again at 135 feet and had a 12 cylinder Wolseley petrol engine developing 600 hp and giving a surface speed of around 12 knots. Her electric motors drove her at eight knots (thereabouts) submerged. Her complement was two officers and 11 men, and she was a good deal easier to control underwater than any of her predecessors.
This was because she was the first submarine to be fitted with forward hydroplanes and with their aid was able to dive under way. Previously it had been the accepted custom to stop before diving.
When the 1914-18 war began the British Mediterranean Fleet based on Malta had three B-class submarines attached. They were, singularly enough, B.9, B.10, and B.11. They were sent to the Aegean Sea, there to languish without a chance of distinguishing themselves.
In November that year the Dardanelle's came into the news for a British naval squadron had bombarded the forts and the German warships GOEBEN and BRESLAU were inside and had been in action against the Russians in the Black Sea. Could nothing be done against the naval strength of Johnny Turk located somewhere near the narrows?
The young officers commanding the three British submarines were all keen to try and force a passage. The hazards were the uncertain submerged endurance of their boats the strong current and the presence of minefields. Human courage was one thing the question of electricity supply was quite another.
HMS B.11 had newer batteries so Lieut. N D Holbrook RN was selected for the task of seeking out whatever he might find and doing the greatest possible damage when he found it. On Saturday, December 12, 1914, B.11 dived at dawn off the entrance to the Dardanelle's. The dive had been postponed to the last minute because the boat would need every ampere she had.
Through the minefields and on towards the Narrows she went. Holbrook raised his periscope and there in Sari Siglar Bay he sighted a warship at anchor. Manoeuvring carefully, Holbrook fired one torpedo and hit the Turkish battleship MESSOUDIEH which immediately opened fire on the B.11 periscope and missed. A few minutes later the battleship rolled over and sank and a means of protecting the minefield against sweeping had gone.
Having thus made history, Holbrook decided to turn for home. He found that his compass, a rudimentary contraption at the best of times, had been so damaged by shellfire as to be useless. Unfortunately the current drove B.11 ashore and every Turkish land gun which could bear opened fire. Miraculously the submarine bumped off, hit the bottom more than once, dodged the mines and somehow escaped being hit.
Her periscope became fogged for quite some time leaving Holbrook to navigate blind, yet she was outside the entrance to the Dardanelle's in the early afternoon and her commander could afford to surface.
He and his crew proved that something considered impossible could be done and they and their boat made a contribution to history. Lieut. Holbrook was awarded the Victoria Cross the first of 14 submariners to be so decorated. Lieut. S T Winn his first lieutenant, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, and everyone in the boat was awarded the DSC or the DSM.
Later the Turks salvaged most of the MESSOUDIEH’s guns but at Chanak they preserved a unique souvenir a piece of the B.11's torpedo that had done such damage.
In April 1915 after HMS E15 ran aground off Kephez point, HMS B11 was one of a number of boats to attempt to destroy the wreck. The attack failed.
On 20 May 1915 HMS B11 sighted SM UB-8 while on patrol off the Gulf of Smyrna. HMS B11 attempted to attack but was spotted and SM UB-8 then dived before escaping.
On 24 July 1916 the Prize court decided that the submarine's company was entitled to prize money for the sinking of MESÛDIYE, and an award of £3,500 was made, of which Holbrook received £601 10s 2d, Win £481 4s 2d, chief petty officers £240 12s 1d, and seamen £120 6s 1d. This represented three years' pay for a seaman. On 24 August 1915 the town of Germanton in New South Wales, Australia, was renamed "Holbrook" in his honour and a replica of B11 can be seen there. The submarine was relocated from Malta to Venice in October 1915 arriving on the 28th. On 11 December of the same year the submarine under the command of Lieutenant Samuel Gravener was engaged by an Austrian flying boat. The attack was unsuccessful and the plane suffered engine failure forcing it to land. Gravener attempted to attack the plane with a Maxim gun but it jammed and the plane was able to take off again before the submarine could ram it.
On 17 January 1916 the submarine managed to capture the crew of an Austrian flying boat after the aircraft had suffered engine failure while returning from a bombing raid. On 17 March it was narrowly missed by a torpedo but was unable to locate the attacker.
Later in the war B11 was converted to a surface patrol craft through raising the deck level and removing the electric motor. In addition the conning tower was replaced by a wheelhouse.
B.11 incidentally, survived the 1914-18 war as did B.9, but B.10 was bombed and sunk in harbour at Venice in 1918. B.11 was sold in 1919 and scrapped in Italy.
Micronesia 2014 $2.00 sg?, scott? Stamp image from internet.
Sources: http://www.rnsubs.co.uk/Boats/BoatDB2/i ... ?BoatID=29
https://www.flickr.com/photos/16118167@ ... EW-4ECXcq/