Submarine BX1

Posted: March 15, 2015 by saraherhodes in 1915

Our boat crew has been working from 7a.m. to 11.p.m. The weather has been very cold and stormy too.  One day it is bright sunshine and the next the bleakest of bleak days. Yesterday it was awfully cold, but today was one of the best that could be had. There was hardly a ripple on the sea, and the sun was just nice and bright.

Last night we earned the Royal Humane Medal. A party of Marines were landed on the shore early in the day and left there. We saw their signal fires burning at 9p.m., and went to investigate. They had been there since 4.30 waiting for their boats. We had to take 36 of them and two Officers.

This morning we went ashore with one of the Officers, and whilst waiting for him had another look at he village I was telling you of. It is the town of Mudros. The streets are just roughly cut out, winding about any way. The houses are small and patched but very clean. The first thing that strikes one is the cleanliness of the place, especially after Cairo. There is quite a fleet of French Transports, and the harbor is just about full of boats. The little town is quite gay with a mixture of uniforms of Greek, French, English and Australian soldiers and sailors of all nationalities.

This afternoon we took the Brigadier ashore and then pulled off to have a look at the H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth; she is absolutely indescribable. She is abnormally long and about half as wide as she is long.  The first thing to strike your eye are four 15” guns at each end. They are in pairs, one above the other.  Alongside each side are eight 6” guns, she also has four 12” guns mid-ship. This practically completes her armament except for a few three pounders for potting aeroplanes. Every time the 15” guns speak bang goes 97 Pounds. The shell weighs 2,000 lbs. They can only shoot eighty shells and then the gun wants re-rifling; she was throwing these shells 25,000 yards the other day. We couldn’t go aboard as she was just weighing anchor.

We saw the Irresistible, Queen Elizabeth, and Lord Nelson steam off for the Dardanelles. I bet there will be some dirty work up there before long. The Agamemnon went out also. The Q.E. is cleared for action, not a thing to be seen bar guns. It was a very impressive sight.

On our way back for the Brigadier we boarded the Submarine BX1. You will probably remember her by the fact that she was the first boat to get through the Dardanelles. She went through five fields of mines, torpedoed one of the Turkish battleships and returned. At one time she was submerged for as log as nine hours. Her Commander Lieut. Comdr. Holbrook got the V.C. and her crew each got the D.S.M. The crew are a fine body of men. They showed us all over the boat, gave us a big bowl of nice hot tea (the best I have had since leaving Australia) some bread and jam, and a tin of oxtail soup to bring back with us and a whole pile of magazines.

I believed we were very highly privileged at being able to see over her. Even in peace times it is very hard even for a naval man to get a look over these boats. When they are at the surface there is only a little deck and the conning tower visible. You climb in through a narrow tube – the conning tower, just the size of the body, and climb down a stairway about 10 feet into the body of the boat. Inside there is barely room to stand upright, there is a narrow passage way running from stem to stern, and on either side, top and bottom is one mass of screws, wheels, cogs and all manner of intricate machinery. Through the periscope you can see all that goes on above the water, and through another tube you can see a compass. In the bows are two torpedo tubes, all ready to fire. They carry four torpedoes all together, when I was drinking my tea I was sitting on one of the brutes, only two hundred pounds of gun cotton in them too. These torpedoes are about 15 feet long and about 2 feet in diameter – like big brass bound cigars. Besides the tubes, these submarines carry a small 3lb. Quick firer for use whilst above the water. The whole affair, I suppose is about 70’ long. The Officers (two in number) have the waist of the ship for their quarters, and the crew doss practically anywhere – amongst the machinery, and all over the place. There are 13 in the crew besides the Officers. When a torpedo is fired, the boat has to come to about 15 ft. below the surface, and as soon as it is fired she drops to about 40ft., and clears.

The crew in describing their trip said in a casual way “Oh we just bunged through and practically chanced to luck at getting there. They had given themselves up for sure long before they sank the Turk. They all volunteered for the job.

The outside of the whole affair is very much like and aeroplane in the matter of fins and wings and tails etc. From what I could see there are elevating planes on the bow and the stern and steadiers on either side like big fins. They, the boats, are painted blue or dark green to match the colour of the sea. Each boat carries a little collapsible dinghy, capable of carrying about two men with care, so if anything goes wrong even when they are on top, they have very little chance of doing any good for themselves; and if they are below, it is pack up. One of the crew said that they are issued with wooden plugs to stop any gunshot that may pierce them, but it would be impossible to use them owing to the pressure of the sea. Now they are using this craft as a decoy. They proceed up the Dardanelles followed by a battleship – when the forts open fire the big boat settle the bill. The day before yesterday she went up, one shot fell just in front, another just behind them. They didn’t wait for the third, but dived. Somehow they don’t seem to appreciated the job. As we have an invitation to visit them again I think it won’t be long before we have another look over her.

The second class smoking room on board has been turned into the orderly rooms of both Battalions. It has been divided and forms two very cosy rooms. Since the 9th have been ashore their half has been vacant.  Tom Whyte, Davey, and myself, have quietly appropriated this portion, and now sleep in luxury – instead of sleeping on hard boards we have nice soft cushions, and chairs etc. to hang our clothes on. It is very nice and comfortable I can tell you.



V.C. – Victoria Cross
D.S.M. – Distinguished Services Medal

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ColoniesMap1914 19140312


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