Wreck of British submarine used in First World War given protected status

The ‘D1’ was the first long-range, diesel-powered submarine deployed by the Royal Navy to patrol off the British coast and beyond. It was recently discovered off Devon by divers looking for German U-boat wrecks.

The wreck of a pioneering British submarine used to patrol the English Channel during the First World War has been granted protected status after it was rediscovered by divers.

The prototype long-range diesel submarine, known as HMS/m D1, was launched in secret from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, in 1908 and was the first of the Royal Navy’s patrol submarines used to defend British waters and undertake longer missions.

The vessel was deployed off Dover at the outbreak of the First World War to deter a German invasion before later being used outside UK territorial waters to spy on enemy shipping movements. The D-class submarines had a number of valuable innovations, including being equipped with wireless telegraph to send and receive messages.

The D1 was eventually scuttled off Dartmouth in Devon in 1918 to act as a training vessel for submarine detection techniques. It was recently rediscovered as part of a project to trace sunk German U-boats and found by divers sitting upright and largely intact on the seabed.

Following a recommendation from heritage watchdog Historic England, the wreck site has been given scheduled status, meaning it can be visited by divers but its contents are protected by law.

Embargoed to 0001 Friday May 14 Undated handout multi-beam issued by Wessex Archaeology of HMS/mD1 submarine which was deliberately sunk off the coast of Dartmouth. Issue date: Friday May 14, 2021. PA Photo. The early British submarine, which was the forerunner to the Royal Navy???s patrol submarines and saw service during the First World War, has been given protected status.See PA story HERITAGE Submarine. Photo credit should read: Wessex Archaeology/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
The HMS/mD1 submarine was deliberately sunk off the coast of Dartmouth (Photo: Getty)

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: “This is a fascinating survival which deserves protection as an important part of our seafaring history.”

The D1 was the first of eight D Class submarines to be built, five of which were sunk with the remaining three eventually sold as scrap.

Steve Mortimer, the leader of the diving team which accidentally discovered the D1 while looking for a U-boat wreck, said: “Every diver dreams of identifying a historically important wreck. Expecting to find the remains of a German U-boat, we were thrilled to discover a ground-breaking British submarine instead.  It’s tremendous that D1 is now protected but divers can still visit.”