By Steve Williams/teamlocals.com.uk
5 Mar 2015
A new exhibition which focuses on the role of the Royal Navy’s submarines during the First World War is set to open on Thursday 2nd April at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport.
Titled ‘First Out, Last In’, the exhibition will document and showcase how the use of submarines was still in relative infancy when war was declared with Germany on August 4th 1914, though they were still amongst the first vessels to be prepared for battle and put to sea.
Initially, the Admiralty regarded the role of submarines as limited to harbour defence, coastal patrols, and reconnaissance, but within a few months, British submarines were on the offensive and carrying out some of the most daring and successful operations of the entire war at sea.
A press release from the National Museum of the Royal Navy, which oversees the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, said: “the courage and professionalism of these pioneering submariners led to the award of five Victoria Crosses while their heroic endeavours caught the popular imagination.
“The submarine service became known as the Trade and by the end of the war had won the respect of the whole of the Royal Navy. But it came at a high price; one in three submariners did not return home.”
Bob Mealings, Head of Collections at the National Museum of the Royal Navy and Senior Curator of Submarines explained: “Winston Churchill First Lord of the Admiralty 1911—1915 famously said, ‘Before the war what submarines could do was one mystery. What they would be ordered to do was another’. By drawing on every aspect of the collections, objects, photographs, rare moving images, and personal accounts, we are able to tell a story of extraordinary courage and daring.
“In the icy waters of the Baltic Sea, Royal Navy submarines demonstrated how a handful of well-operated ‘boats’ could effectively deny enemy shipping free movement and strangle important German supply lines. Where Royal Navy battle cruisers had failed the submarines found a way through the ferociously defended Dardanelle Straits and into The Sea of Marmara, the backyard of the Ottoman Empire. The submarines ran amuck against Turkish shipping cutting off the seaborne the supply lines to Gallipoli.”
Britain’s submariners developed their unique ability to stay on patrol independent of all support, dispensing much of the social conventions that ruled the rest of the Navy. Men lived, fought, ate, and laughed together in filthy uniforms with unshaven faces.
The opening of the exhibition forms part of the National Museum of the Royal Navy’s Great War at Sea series of historical showcases, which together detail the role of the Royal Navy on the sea, under the sea, and in the air between the years of 1914 and 1918. The launch of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum’s exhibition in Gosport coincides with the opening of Gallipoli: Myth and Memory at sister museum the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
‘First Out, Last In’ opens on Thursday 2nd April 2015 and will run through to Sunday 3rd January 2016. Entry is free with a valid museum ticket.
Find out more about the Royal Navy Submarine Museum on the museum’s official website.