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L4

Built By: Vickers (Barrow)
Build Group: L Group 1
Fate: Scrapped February 1932

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Events

21-06-1916 : Laid Down
17-11-1917 : Launched
26-02-1918 : Completed
16-11-1927 : It is believed that the only occasion on which a submarine engaged pirates was in 1927, off Bias Bay NE of Hong Kong (outside HK waters but whether in International Waters or Chinese waters is unclear).

HMS/M L4, when running on the surface at night, sighted a vessel steaming without lights and in suspicious circumstances. The Captain of the submarine, having reason to believe that the ship might be the Chinese steamer ss IRENE which had been seized by pirates on the previous day, the ship was ordered to stop and when she failed to do so a practice round was fired across her bows but this had no effect and a live 4" round was fired into the sea ahead of her.

As there was still no response, the third round was lobbed into her engine room and killed a pirate who was "supervising". The Chief Engineer, disabled the engines and started a fire which eventually led to her sinking. The L4 went alongside and rescued most of the IRENE's crew and some 220 passengers.

Three other warships and a tug arrived later but the IRENE sank, gutted by fire. Ten pirates were secured, tried and later hanged (after having made a dramatic attempt to escape from prison in Hong Kong).

The China Merchants Steam Navigation Company, which owned the IRENE, was controlled by the Chinese Government which considered L4's actions as flagrant aggression and disregard for international law. They subsequently brought a case against the captain of the L4 which was unsuccessful.


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