:: E CLASS (1912-1917) ::

E class attack submarine (1912-1917) High resolution picture

E class minelayer submarine E34 (1917) High resolution picture

The E class was a long series of attack submarines launched between 1912 and 1917 for the Royal Navy. These units served throughout the First World War as the backbone of the British submarine fleet, being eventually replaced by the newer submarines of the L class. All of the units of the E class were retired from service by 1922. They were possibly the best British submarines deployed during the war, and also the first British submarines which had transverse bulkheads. These divided the inner space into three compartments, increasing survivability in the event of flooding.

Following the capture of the wrecked German minelayer UC-2 in 1915, six units of the E class were fitted as minelayers, with eight vertical mine chutes placed in each of the two ballast tanks, containing two mines each, for a total of 32 mines. The armament was increased after the first ten units built, by adding a deck cannon and an additional torpedo tube in the prow. The transverse - or beam - torpedo tubes were removed in the minelaying units, and over time their presence would be discontinued in subsequent classes of British submarines, because they were deemed as irrelevant.

The history of these submarines is bound to the Dardanelles and the Sea of Marmara. During 1915 a number of units managed to cross the dangerous strait, sown with mines and crossed by strong currents, and arrive to the inner sea. But also the German submarine UB-15 had managed to cross the strait, and the 30th October she managed to sink the E20. Meanwhile, the diverse units of the class started to be equipped with deck cannon mountings to be used against small surface units, saving so the valuable torpedoes. Thanks to these cannons it was also possible to damage the railway going from Istambul to Gallipoli, for that one had been built next to the coast.

Another theater of operations in which the units of the E class were of vital importance was the Baltic Sea, then very dangerous for submarine navigation because of the low depths, the very numerous minefields and the continuous surveillance from German ships and aircraft. The only advantage was the presence of the Russian ally and its bases, from which operations could be carried out. In the Baltic Sea several units of the E class, along with several Russian units, sank numerous merchant ships and four German cruisers. But after the Russian Revolution in 1917, and the consequent peace treaty between the future Soviet Union and the Central Powers, the British submarines would have to leave the Baltic waters to avoid being imprisoned.

E class: 58 units (E1 to E27, E29 to E56, AE1 and AE2 for the Royal Australian Navy)

Type: Attack submarine

Length: 54 meters (E1 to E8, AE1 and AE2); 55 meters (E9 to E27, E29 to E56)

Beam: 4.6 meters

Draught: 4.6 meters

Displacement (surfaced): 665 tonnes (E1 to E8); 664 tonnes (AE1 and AE2); 667 tonnes (E9 to E20); 662 tonnes (E21 to E27, E29 to E56)

Displacement (submerged): 796 tonnes (E1 to E8); 780 tonnes (AE1 and AE2); 807 tonnes (E9 to E27, E29 to E56)

Propulsion: 2 x shaft, 2 x Diesel engine Vickers 800 horsepower, 2 x electric motor 600 horsepower (E1 to E8, AE1 and AE2) or 2 x electric motor 840 horsepower (E9 to E27, E29 to E56)

Speed (surfaced): 15 knots (28 kilometers/hour) E1 to E8, AE1 and AE2, E21 to E27, E29 to E56; 15.25 knots (28.24 kilometers/hour) E9 to E20

Speed (submerged): 9.5 knots (17.6 kilometers/hour) E1 to E8; 10 knots (18.5 kilometers/hour) AE1 and AE2, E21 to E27, E29 to E56; 10.25 knots (19 kilometers/hour) E9 to E20

Range (surfaced): 3000 nautical miles (5555 kilometers) at 10 knots

Range (submerged): 65 nautical miles (120 kilometers) at 5 knots

Fuel: 46 tonnes of petrol

Test depth: 60 meters

Complement: 30

Armament (E1 to E8, AE1 and AE2): 4 x 457-millimeter torpedo tube (1 at prow, 2 in transverse, 1 astern), 8 x torpedo

Armament (E9 to E27, E29 to E56): 5 x 457-millimeter torpedo tube (2 at prow, 2 in transverse, 1 astern), 10 x torpedo, 1 x 76-millimeter deck cannon

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