K13 Disaster 29th January 1917

K13 Disaster 

A service to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the K13 submarine disaster is took place Saturday 28/01/2017 at 10.00am in Elder Park at the K13 memorial.  It was well attended by friends and relatives, British Legion and the Royal Navy. 

K13 was launched at Fairfield on the 11th November 1916; she was a K Class submarine and was the biggest and the fastest submarine at the time, capable of speeds of up to 24 knots (on the surface). Her role was to accompany the Grand Fleet in the Great War. Her fast speed was provided by oil-fired steam turbines which required two 5 feet high funnels for venting and air-intake valves to provide oxygen, the funnels were folded and locked away into water tight well before diving. 

K13 was carrying out her final acceptance trials in Gareloch on the 29th January 1917 prior to the Admiralty officially taking her over from Fairfield. She was carrying her regular crew of 53 officers and also 14 directors and employees of Fairfield, 15 other civilians, and two Royal Navy submarine officers acting as observers to gain K-boat experience. K13 signaled to HMS E50 that she was about to start her last dive, prior to acceptance by the Royal Navy, the K13 did not level at 20ft and continued to dive, the boiler room reported that the engine room along with the after torpedo room was flooding and the water tight door to the stern had to be sealed trapping 31 men. As the submarine sank, a 10 ton ballast weight was dropped, but this did not arrest the decent. K13 leveled at a depth of 50ft on the seabed. 

Two men were seen on the surface by a maid in a nearby hotel a mile or so away, but her report was ignored.  The crew of E50 became concerned when the submarine did not surface again, and saw no traces of oil on the surface.

The HMS Gossamer and HMS Thrush were dispatched from the Clyde to aid K13 and arrived almost 8 hours later by then the surviving men were dangerously low on air, Gossamer had only one diving suit and no diver, Thrush had neither. A diver was sent from Fairfield but was almost killed due to the suit from Gossamer being faulty. Eventually one of Fairfield’s own suits was brought up from Govan and the diver went down and made contact with the trapped men by tapping Morse messages on the plating. 

The K13 skipper Lt. Cdr. Herbert decided to stay with the K13 and instead decided to send one of the officer passengers, Captain Goodhart, D.S.O. to the surface by flooding the conning-tower and blowing him upwards in a bubble of compressed air, (Goodhart was captain of the not yet completed K-14 also being built by Fairfield). The Lt. Cdr. and the Captain both entered the conning-tower but accidentally both of the men were forced through the hatch due to the pressure of the air. Captain Goodhart hit his head on the wheelhouse roof and drowned, Lt. Cdr. Herbert was more fortunate and was carried by the air to the surface where he was pulled aboard by rescuers.

John Lipton of the drawing-office in Fairfield devised a system of pipes allowing air to be pumped into the submarine; the pipe was also used to pass a small bottle of brandy to the men. After a total of 57 hours trapped the bow of K13 was lifted with a steel wire running under the hull and a hole was cut into the bow with an oxy-acetylene torch freeing the men. 48 were rescued, 31 were expected to be still on the submarine, but only 29 were found, and it was concluded that the maid had indeed seen two people escape from the engine room. One of there bodies was recovered from the Clyde two months later. 

At 6pm the following day K13 tore the bollards out of the barges and sank again, flooding through the hole. The submarine was finally salvaged on 15th March, repaired and re-commissioned as HMS K22

The Court of Enquiry found that four of the 37inch diameter ventilators had been left open during the dive and that indicator lights in the control room had actually shown them as open. The engine room hatch was also found to be open. An Engineer Lieutenant Arthur Lane was perhaps wrongly blamed for the accident and having died in the accident was unable to defend himself and was posthumously court martialled. Captain Goodhart, D.S.O. was posthumously awarded the Albert Medal for Gallantry. 

The Admiralty designed submarines were the most unsuccessful and ill-fated submarines of the First World War period and were nicknamed “The Kalamity Kay’s”  due to accidents. Of the 17 built none were lost through enemy action but 6 sank in accidents. Only one ever engaged an enemy vessel, hitting a U-boat with a torpedo which did not explode. K13 was raised fully on 15th March 1917, refitted and returned to service as the K22. The K13 was the last submarine Fairfield built and no other RN submarine has carried the number 13 since. The K Class submarines continued to live up to their “Kalamity Kay” nickname when in 1918 both submarines built at Fairfield the K14 and the K22 (K13) collided on a night exercise off May Island. The K22 was scrapped in December 1926. 

The men are buried in Faslane Cemetery and to commemorate the 100th anniversary a special service is being held there on Sunday 29th January 2017 at 10.0am.  A service is also being held on Sunday 29th January 2017 in Carlingford, New South Wales, Australia where there is a K13 memorial that was commissioned by the widow of survivor Charles Freestone. 

SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF THOSE NAMED WHO LOST THEIR LIVES IN H.M. SUBMARINE K13 IN THE GARELOCH 29TH JANUARY 1917

FAIRFIELD EMPLOYEES               

J.P.STEELE

F.T.S NEATE

W. SMITH

W. LEWIS

J. KIRK

W.A. STRACHAN

NAVAL RATINGS

F.H.H. GOODHART, COMMANDER, R.N.

A.E. LANE, ENG. LIEUTENANT, R.N.

H. PRATT

F.W.G. SMITH

J. ROBERTS

T. BRADLEY

W.A. FENSON

G. FIELDWICK

G. WILLIAMSON

C.S. CLARK

T. MITCHELL

F.J. HOWARD

R. HOOPER

R. DYMOND

W. ROBERTS

H. SIMPSON

T. HALLIHAN

J. DICKSON

A. SCARLETT

H. GODDARD

G.W. BEVIS

H. CORNISH

L. WHITE

F.R. PORTER

R.W. WILLIAMS

F. HOLE

From Wikipedia & Sunny Govan Facebook

By Harry Silvers