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Submariners gather to remember 100 years on…

30 January 2017
Royal Navy submariners past and present gathered today (January 29) to mark the centenary of the sinking of early submarine K13.

The ceremony, which was held at Faslane Cemetery in Garelochhead, was attended by veterans, serving submariners from nearby HM Naval Base Clyde, representatives from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and local Sea Cadets.  Also attending were some of the relatives of the 32 men who perished in the disaster and who are buried at the cemetery.

The steam-propelled submarine K13 sank in the Gareloch on January 29, 1917, during sea trials.  On board at the time were fifty-three Royal Navy submariners, fourteen employees of Govan shipbuilder Fairfields, five Admiralty officials, a pilot, and the captain and engineer from sister submarine K14.

Each year the Submariner’s Association holds memorial events to mark the anniversary.  This year the special commemorations were in three parts – a service at the memorial in Govan’s Elder Park on Saturday the 28th, the main service at Faslane Cemetery on Sunday, and, for the first time, a poignant wreath-laying on the water above where the submarine went down. 

We must never forget them and I am honoured to be commemorating them on the centenary of their deaths

Colin Kerr, Director of External Relations for CWGC

“The men who perished in K13 were, in many respects, pioneers who pushed the boundaries to gain an operational advantage over potential adversaries,” said Rear Admiral John Weale, Head of the UK Submarine Service.

“Today’s submariners recognise that the submarine’s they operate are not only safer, but also more effective, because we have learned from the experience of our predecessors.  In this respect, the special bravery, ethos and comradeship of submariners and the Submarine Service endures.”

The crew of K13 were trapped beneath the icy waters of the Gareloch for some 57-hours before help arrived.

Captain of the vessel, Lieutenant Commander Godfrey Herbert, and K14’s captain, Commander Francis Goodhart, made a desperate attempt to escape the stricken submarine in order to get help.

The pair used the space between the inner and outer hatches as an airlock, but only Herbert made it to the surface alive, Goodhart sadly dying after striking his head during the escape.

An airline was eventually attached to the vessel allowing the submarine to bring her bow to the surface where a hole was cut allowing the survivors to be rescued.  Unfortunately, by that time 32 submariners had already perished.

The submarine was later raised from the Gareloch and returned to service as HMS K22.

Also at the service were Shirley Thomas and her family who travelled from Sheffield for the occasion.  Her great-grandfather, Fred Porter, was a 37-year-old submariner who died on board K13 after seawater entered the vessel’s engineer room during the sea trials.

“We’ve always wanted to come up and pay our respects and the 100th anniversary seemed like the ideal time,” said Shirley.  “Fred was in the navy on ships, then he went on the submarines – my grandmother told he did this because it was better pay. We’re all really proud of him.”

Speaking after the ceremony at Faslane Cemetery, Colin Kerr, Director of External Relations for CWGC, said: “Every death of a forces personnel is a huge loss, but for these 32 men to die during sea trails of the then new K13 submarine is tragic.  We must never forget them and I am honoured to be commemorating them on the centenary of their deaths.”

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