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The Loss of Submarine A3

Submarine A3 was sunk as a result of a collision with HMS Hazard on 2nd Feb 1912 during trials in the Solent. All members of the crew were lost. The Submarine was raised and the bodies of the crew recovered. They were buried, later, in the Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery.

Hazard - 1984
Hazard - 1984

The Submarine was later sunk as a gunnery target in the Solent. The following details were published in the Scotsman Newspaper over the following days the Scottish interest was mainly related to the Scottish Birth of one of the Officers lost in the Submarine. It is of note that one of the Officers giving evidence at the Inquest was Lieutenant Charles Craven who was later, as Sir Charles Craven, Managing Director of the Vickers Shipyard at Barrow in Furness.

A3 in 1903
A3 in 1903

Salvage Of The Submarine

The work of salving the sunken Submarine A3 off Bembridge was carried on at intervals on Saturday, and will be continued during slack water until the vessel is raised. The dockyard authorities at Portsmouth are in charge of the operations, and they devised a special apparatus, consisting of strong hawsers, which will be placed under the hull of the A3 by divers, and attached to powerful lighters on either side. When the submarine is raised from the shoal on which she in resting, she will be taken into the harbour, and the bodies of her fourteen victims taken ashore for burial. The work has been difficult owing to the strong currents and tides.

Although the Hazard, the tugs, and the salvage lighters remained in position at the scene of the disaster yesterday, the wintry weather prevented a resumption of work. Late in the afternoon the following message was officially posted in Portsmouth Dockyard: "Operations today have been precluded by the roughness of the sea. It is hoped to make further progress today"

Queen Alexandra's Sympathy

Many messages of sympathy have been received at Portsmouth.

Queen Alexandra wired: "I am so deeply distressed to hear of the terrible disaster to Submarine A3, and would ask you to convey to the bereaved families of those who lost their lives my most sincere and heartfelt sympathy."

French Sympathy

Paris February 5th 1912: President Fallieres, on learning of the loss of the British Submarine A3, immediately telegraphed to King George assuring His Majesty that he shared the sorrow of the British Navy in the disaster which had overtaken it. M. Poincare, Premier, also instructed M. Cambon French Ambassador in London to express to the British Government his personal condolences, as well as those of the French Government.

Immediately on being informed of the disaster M. Delcasse, Minister of Marine, proceeded in person: to the British Embassy to express his condolences to Sir Francis Bertie, and sent a telegram to Mr Winston Churchill:

Funeral Of The Victims

The funeral of the victims, which took place yesterday, was a most impressive Ceremony, and although the hour of interment was not generally known, there was a large gathering of sympathising spectators lining the route and at the Naval Cemetery, adjacent to the hospital grounds, where thirteen of the victims were buried. The fourteenth, Lieutenant Campbell, is to be interred privately at Oban, and his remains were conveyed to Gosport Station and entrained for Scotland.

The thirteen were placed on gun carriages the men in fours, and the officers singly, each coffin being covered with the Union Jack, and there were fully three hundred wreaths. A procession, which was estimated to be a mile and a half in length was formed, contingents of Naval ratings being present from every ship in the port.

The mourners included several relatives of the deceased Officers and Men, and the King was represented by Captain Campbell, ADC, whilst the local Naval authorities were headed by Admiral Sir Arthur Moore, Commander in Chief at Portsmouth. The Japanese, Naval Attache was also in attendance at the cemetery.

The bodies were laid in graves placed close to those containing the remains of the victims of the A1 disaster, and the obelisk, which records both that catastrophe and the names of those who perished in the A8 at Plymouth, will have the names of the victims of the A3 added to its inscription in due course.

A Scottish Victim

Lieutenant Donald Patrick Colin Campbell one of the officers on the ill fated Submarine A3, was the only son of the late Campbell of Baleveolan, Argyllshire, who, it may be remembered, was also drowned. The late Campbell of Baleveolan, accompanied by Mr Waverley Cameron, of the Oban Times, and two friends, were sailing of the Sound of Lismore, when a sudden squall overturned the boat, and Mr Campbell and Mr Cameron lost their lives. At that time Lieutenant Campbell was scarcely eighteen months old.

Another feature of peculiar sadness was that Lieutenant Campbell had joined the submarine only a day or so before the disaster in order to get instruction in it.

Lieutenant Leonard Faber Richardson, another of the victims, was a younger son of the late Sir Thomas Richardson formerly Unionist Member of Parliament for the Hartlepools.

Opening Of THe Coroner's Inquest

At the Royal Naval Hospital, Haslar, yesterday Mr Leonard Warner, Coroner for South Hants, opened an inquest upon the bodies of the fourteen victims of the Submarine A3 disaster. The bodies had been removed during the night after the salvaged vessel was placed in dock in Portsmouth Dockyard.

The names of the deceased Officers and Men were:

  • Lieutenant Frank Thomas Ormand (aged 23)
  • Lieutenant Ernest James Vernon Thornton (21)
  • Lieutenant Donald Patrick Colin Campbell (23)
  • Lieutenant Leonard Faber Richardson (22)
  • Petty Officer 1st Class George Wilder (36)
  • Leading Seaman Charles Farr (32)
  • Able Seaman Parker Kelly (27)
  • Able Seaman William Thomas Barden (28)
  • Able Seaman Charles George Page (27)
  • Able Seaman Edward Frederick Compton (24)
  • Engine Room Artificer Arthur Ernest Good (38)
  • Engine Room Artificer Charles Elliott Armstrong (29)
  • Stoker 1st Class Alfred William Gent (31)
  • Stoker 1st Class George Herbert Fowler (39)

The Coroner referred briefly to the circumstances of the disaster. On the morning of February 2nd certain evolutions were being performed, the Submarines being accompanied by the parent ship Hazard. The procedure was for the Hazard to steam away in a certain direction towards the east end of the Isle of Wight, and the submarines were to attack by firing torpedoes. The A3 was seen on the starboard side of the Hazard as it proceeded on its arranged direction. After a time it was not seen, but suddenly something struck the Hazard and it was felt that this must be the submarine.

Exactly how or what happened was for the jury to consider, but, unfortunately, there was no one left alive on the submarine to help to explain it. The Coroner added there was one matter that he would like to mention.

There was not the slightest doubt that the injury to the vessel was such that the water came in in such a volume that death must have been swift and practically immediate. The jury then proceeded to view the bodies. On their return to the inquest room Lieutenant Charles Worthington Craven, the Officer really in charge of the A3, identified the bodies, and said Lieutenant Ormand was temporarily in command of A3 though his own vessel really was the A4.

Lieutenant Thornton was second in command, and Lieutenants Colin Campbell and Richardson were on board for instructional purposes. Witness added that he aw the submarine after it was brought into dock. There was a hole between six and eight feet long and about a foot wide at the widest part of the upper part of the hull, a few feet forward of the conning tower. The conning tower itself appeared to be dented. The hole which was found would admit a large volume of water straight into the submarine where the men would be. Staff Surgeon Louis Dartnell RN also gave evidence as to the conditions under which the bodies were found. The inquest was adjourned.

Verdict Of The Coroner's Jury

The inquest on the fourteen victims, of the Submarine A3 disaster was resumed at the Royal Naval Hospital, Haslar, yesterday. Lieutenant Charles Worthington Craven continued his evidence. He said that Lieutenant Ormand, who was in command, had had good experience of submarines during two years. Witness thought the submarine must have filled in a very few seconds, and no salvage appliances would have been of avail to save human life.

Water was being blown off from the ballast tanks at the time of collision, and the electric motors were switched on to go astern, and there were indications that the propeller had actually moved astern. He formed the opinion that the submarine was not aware of the close proximity of the gunboat Hazard until a few seconds before the collision, and it was evident that means were being taken to rapidly come to the surf ace and to avoid a collision. The course the captain apparently took was the proper one under the circumstances, as he would not have room to dive under the Hazard, being so close. When he examined the submarine in dock he found a large block of wood jamming the propeller. Had it not been there she might have been able to go astern and clear the Hazard.

Lieutenant Commander Little, who was in charge of the gunboat Hazard on the day of the collision, said the A2 was the only submarine engaged in the Operations. The last time he saw her was just after 10:40, when she was slightly on the starboard side about a mile off. The collision occurred at 10:53. He thought the reason why the submarine came too close was due possibly to the Hazard not being seen was because of the periscope being below the surface.

An interesting piece of evidence was produced in the shape of a wrist watch, found on one of the deceased officers. The watch had stopped at 10:53, the exact .time mentioned in the Hazard's log as the time the collision occurred.

Commander A R Palmer, who was in charge of the manoeuvres and on board the Hazard on February 2nd, said there was a sufficient and proper lookout kept on the Hazard. The baulk of timber jamming the submarine's propeller put the vessel out of control, but she could have come to the surface.

The Coroner having summed up, the foreman of the jury said they could come to no other decision than that the deaths were due to accidental collision and they attached no blame to anyone. They expressed sympathy with the relatives of the deceased, and thanked the officers for their lucid evidence.



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