Damned un-English submarine joins other British engineering wonders, including the Thames Barrier, for its part in technological innovation over 111 years ago.
The prestigious Engineering Heritage Award, from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, has been awarded to Holland One, the first operational Royal Navy submarine.
It now joins the world’s first rail locomotive, the Thames Barrier and Bletchley Park’s Bombe code-breaking machine on the list of Britain’s greatest engineering feats.
Isobel Pollock, Deputy President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Chair of the Heritage Committee, said: “Holland One’s remarkable story can easily overshadow the fact that this was the vessel that dragged the Royal Navy into the modern era.
“With this award we want to not only recognise Holland One’s pivotal role in changing naval warfare forever, but also pay tribute to the tremendous restoration job that has saved this crucial part of British heritage for future generations.”
Holland One – History
Launched in 1901, Holland One was commissioned despite the Royal Navy’s traditional mistrust of submarine warfare.
She was built at the Vickers Maxim shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness at a cost of £35,000.
Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson, then Controller of the Navy, described it as “underhand, unfair and damned un-English”.
However in 1900 the Royal Navy secretly placed an order with submarine pioneer John Philip Holland.
Ironically, Holland had originally received the financial backing needed to develop his submarines from the Irish Fenian Society, a forerunner of the IRA, who wanted to use the vessels to carry out hit and run terrorist attacks on the Royal Navy.
Holland’s great technological innovation was marrying the internal combustion engine with the electric motor and electric battery, all in one hydro-dynamic machine. This would set the standard for submarines across the world for decades to come.
In 2008 a stage play written by Dundalk man Aidan Harney was first performed.
Called Submarine Man, it portrayed the life of the Irish born emigrant, who is seen by many to be one of Ireland’s lesser-known heroes.
After Holland One’s secret launch a year later, the boat had 12 years of experimental service before being decommissioned in 1913. However while being towed to the scrap yard it hit stormy weather and sank.
It remained at the bottom of the Plymouth Sound, near to the Eddystone Lighthouse, for 68 years before the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, working with Navy mine sweepers, discovered and salvaged the wreck in 1981.
Holland One is now on permanent public display at the museum.
Image as cutaway showing inside Holland One
Holland Class – BritSub
Barrow Submariners Association – All about the first Sub