H-Class Submarines - Photo Gallery

(Click on each photo to get an enlarged view)

All photos and their captions courtesy of J. D. Perkins (Click on each photo for an enlarged view).

British H-boat under construction, May 1915
[Photo1] A detailed-filled view of the interior of one of the Canadian Vickers Ltd. building sheds at Montreal. A very interesting photo of one of the British H-boats under construction. This shows the arrangement of the torpedo tubes and the structure of the bows particularly well. The circular opening in the side of the forward hull plating is the starboard Fessenden transducer. Only the ten Montreal-built British boats had this equipment. The conning tower and periscope standard arrangement is clearly visible. All of these sections were bronze castings. (RN Submarine Museum)

Launching a British H-boat, May 1915
[Photo2] Thought to be HMS H10. A fascinating view of the old Canadian Vickers Ltd. works at Montreal.(JD Perkins collection)

British H-boats and HMS Carnarvon, 29 May 1915
[Photo3] All six of the H5-H10 group fitting-out and undergoing trials. H7 has laid-off and is preparing to make a test dive. The cruiser HMS Carnarvon is in the Duke of Connaught floating dock undergoing repairs to her bottom received through an accidental grounding. Carnarvon would eventually escort this group of boats to England. (RN Submarine Museum, Charman collection)

Halifax, July 1915
[Photo4] An intriguing view of the old dockyard. The location is roughly where Jetty 4 now is. Three of the H5-H10 group alonside during their 2-week stopover before making the crossing to England. (CF No. CN-6391)

HMS H5, Yarmouth, July 1916
[Photo5] H5 under the command of Cromwell H. Varley, RN, has just returned from her patrol in the Bight where she torpedoed the U-boat U51 (14 July 1916). Although this is not the first time a British submarine flew the Jolly Roger to celebrate her victory, it is the first known photograph of one. (RN Submarine Museum)

[Photo6] H10 diving off Yarmouth. H5-H10 were assigned to the 8th Flotilla based at Harwich. because of the crowded conditions there, the depot ship HMS Alecto, the H-boats and two V-class boats were based at Yarmouth. In a later re-organization, the Yarmouth flotilla became the 8th while Harwich became the 9th Flotilla. (RN Submarine Museum)

HMS H1 on passage from St. John's to Gibraltar, July 1915
[Photo7] An incredible photo of an H-boat at sea. Things look pretty relaxed. The engine room hatch is open with a sentry standing in the hatchway, dhobeying is lashed to the guardrails for'd and aft, the full suit of canvas has been rigged around the bridge, a temporary mast with a masthead steaming light has been rigged forward of the bridge. On the fore casing the seamen's "haversack" is getting an airing draped over the for'd guardrail. This was a padded, canvas, communal sleeping bag that was spead on the deck in the fore-ends for the seamen. (Hey you lot - don't you know there's a war on??) (RN Submarine Museum)

The bird-bath
[Photo8] Even submariners take baths. This is the bird-bath. It was supposed to be rigged under the conning tower ladder in heavy weather to catch water comming down the tower. Here it has been rigged on the for'd casing and is being kept filled with the cable washdown hose connected to the main line in the control room. The bather has been identified as the captain, Lt. Wilfrid B. Pirie, RN. (JD Perkins collection)

HMS H2 in the Adriatic, 1916

An excellent view of the 6-pdr gun. The mountings for these were made in the dockyard at Malta. The officer in the middle is Lt. David Fell, RN, captain, and on his left is Lt. Ronald C. Watson, RCN, the first lieutenant. The third officer is not identified. (JD Perkins collection)


A good picture of one of the Mediterranean-based Montreal-built H-boats as they appeared at the end of the war. Particularly noticeable is the permanent sheet metal bridge screen (chariot bridge). At the rear of the bridge is the portable wireless aerial that would have to be disassembld prior to diving and re-assembled upon surfacing. (RN Submarine Museum)

Torpedo tubes and stowages. USS H5, 1919

An incredible photo of an H-boat fore-ends fully fitted-out. Most of the features are self explanatory, (see also the article on the rotary bowcap). The large object in the centre of the deckhead is the capstan-windlass gearbox. The electric drive motor is on the other side of the gearbox housing (see the next photo below). According to the drawings, bunks could be rigged in this space for 16 seamen. For fairly obvious reasons, this was seldom done during the war. The space under the forward half of the compartment was occupied a group of four main fuel tanks. (USN Historical Centre, NH-46745, J. E. Hogg)

Forward compartment looking aft. Italian group, April 1917
[Photo12] In the Design 602 submarines, the forward battery compartment and torpedo space were combined into one large compartment. The photographer is standing with his back to the tubes and is facing aft. The torpedo stowages and transport rails are plainly visible. In the centre of the space is the HP air bottle well. The bottles were piped into four groups and the manifolds are just above the bunk frames on the port side, in what will become the wardroom. There were no other HP air bottles except for one large bottle outboard of the port engine used for engine starting. Aft of the bottle well is the forward battery tank which is covered with heavy planks. The pipes rising from the deck against the control room bulkhead are part of the battery ventilation system. The cubicle in the port after corner is the head, the only one on board. The door on the starboard side leads to the control room.Flanking the battery tank can be seen the curved tops of the "U" shaped main ballast tanks. These tank-tops extend aft to the after battery engine room bulkhead. Over the photographer's head is the capstan and windlass motor with the gearbox beyond. The personal lockers for the crewmen are arranged in a single bank on the starboard side aft. The space just forward of the lockers will become the Chief & PO's mess. The big locker opposite is the officer's wardrobe. The HP air firing resevoirs for the torpedo tubes were located in the wing bilges either side of the bottle well. (PAC C-32280)

Control room, port forward corner, looking forward. Italian group H1, 4 November 1916
[Photo13] Please note that the chain block in the deckhead is a piece of builder's equipment.

The after planes and fore planes handwheels are prominent on the port side while some of the helm can be seen on the right. The chain drive for the fore planes is partly uncovered and can be seen extending upwards and across the deckhead to the rod gearing drive overhead. Between the planes is the shallow water depth gauge at the bottom of which is a small clinometer (the "bubble") directly in front which is the after planes angle indicator. The angle indicator for the fore planes is arranged vertically. These angle indicators showed the applied angle only, there was no way of telling what the actual angle of the planes themselves was. The twin-tubed item with what looks like hydrostatic connections top and bottom has not been identified.

Prominent on the for'd bulkhead is the gauge panel in the top centre of which is the control room clock. The small hand on the gauges is set on the safe blowing pressure and the large needle indicates actual pressure. The left gauge of the three large ones is the master pressure gauge and it reads about 140 psi. The right hand one is for the buoyancy tank while the centre one is for the auxiliary ballast tank.

Below the gauges is the main vent and blowing manifold. The blowing side was supplied with LP air from a reducer that dropped the 2,500 psi HP ring main supply down to 150 psi for the panel. One row of valves was for blowing, the other for venting the tanks when using the ballast pump to adjust their contents.

Stowed in a bracket on the bulkhead next to the helm is the portable electric steering control with enough cable to allow it to be mounted in the tower. Just above this is the voicepipe to the bridge. (PAC C-32287)

Planesmen's position, USS H5, 1919
[Photo14] The hydroplanes handwheels, after planes angle indicator and clinometer are clearly shown here as also are the deep and shallow depth gauges. Below the fore planes handwheel is the resevoir for the peiscope desicating gear. The electric pump for this equipment is behind the after planes handwheel. The object stowed against the after bulkhead appears to be a Lewis gun.

It is interesting to note that although the boat is afloat, the gauges read a depth of zero-feet which indicates that the depth reading datum was the waterline, unlike today when the the depth datum is the underside of the keel. (USN Historical Centre, NH 46751, J. E. Hogg)

Control room, starboard after corner, looking aft. Italian group H1, 4 November 1916
[Photo15] The photographer is standing with his back to the hydroplanes handwheels. To the bottom left of the photo are five of the six kingston valve levers with the handwheel for the buoyancy tank kingston in the centre. On the tank-top behind the levers is the drive motor for hoisting the periscope which is prominent in the top right of the photo. Lining-up gear has been temporaily installed in front of it. The bulkhead door leads into the after battery compartment. The opening in the top of the photo is the conning tower lower coaming with the ladder hooks visible. (PAC C-32300)

After battery compartment looking forward. Italian group H1, 4 November 1916
[Photo16] To the right of the control room doorway is the Sperry gyro installation and immediately aft of that are two lockers for mess traps. On the right hand edge of the photo is the low-power distribution panel. In the centre of the forward bulkhead are the two battery ventilation intakes for the battery tank below the deck. Stowed on the bulkhead are the combination oil & electric portable navigation lights. To the left is the galley sink which drained into a bucket. Along the port side is the electric galley range, hot water boiler and oven. Between the sink and the range is the handpump for bringing fresh water up from the tank situated directly below. Above the range is a bank of knife-switches thought to be for the range elements. The deep frame running over the galley must have been a real "skull cracker". There was others, one in the fore-ends and another in the engine room. Overhead in the centre are two emergency hand-operated bilge pumps. To the left of these are the helm (Stbd) and after planes (port) control rods. The large pipe in the centre of the deckhead is the battery ventilation exhaust trunking leading to an outboard exhaust through a hull valve. The after escape hatchway can be glimpsed above the two intakes on the bulkhead. (PAC C-32292)

After battery compartment looking aft. USS H5, 1919
[Photo17] This photo shows some of the refinements of a submarine in commission, most notably the Motorman's (equivalent to an RN L.T.O.) desk, lamp and two types of fire extinguisher, a soda-acid to port of the the engine room doorway and a pyrene below the starboard switchboard.

On the switchboard, the big switch at the top is the ahead-astern switch, the bank of knife switches below it are the main motor starter switches while above the ahead-astern switch is the field current rheostat. The telegraph indicator and order gong are in the same area. The large rheostsat sticking out from the deckhead was provided for the bridge searchlight, a feature of USN submarines of the era and for many years afterward. A small, steel, safe has been installed betwen the electrical panels. The handle of the grouper switch is just visible in front of the safe. One of the two large meters was the main motor field current, the other for the armature voltage. There is a dark coloured electrical earth indicator lamp below the meters.

This arrangement was repeated on the opposite side of the compartment. All hands ate in this compartment and there were two mess tables and seat lockers for that purpose. Six men also slept in this space.

According to the motor room clock, this photo required a four minute exposure. (USN Historical Centre, NH 46752, J. E. Hogg)

Sperry gyro installation. Italian group 30 May 1917
[Photo18] An excellent illustration of this equipment. (PAC C-32299)

Engine room, looking aft. Italian group, H1, 4 November 1916
[Photo19] The photographer is standing just inside the engine room under the escape hatchway. The engines are NLSECO (New London Ship and Engine Company) 8-cylinder, 4-cycle, 480 HP diesels. The large, bell-mouthed pipes either side are part of the engine air supply system which runs down the inboard side of both engines and continues aft with another intake in the auxiliary machinery space.These intakes supplied combustion air to the crankshaft driven, tandem, 2-stage air compressors located at the forward end of each engine. The compressors discharged to the engine air-start bottle group and to a large HP resevoir which in turn supplied the spray valves with compressed air. Immediately behind these pipes can be seen the water-cooled engine-exhaust pipes leading from the exhaust manifolds along the outboard side of each engine, through the deckhead and to the mufflers under the after casing. The two valves are not identified. The muffler shut-off valves are in the deckhead just beyond the two light fixtures. The camshafts run along the inboard sides of the engines and can be seen at the bottom left and right leading forward. The crankcase doors are fully exposed along the bottom of each engine and the rocker arms do not have covers. These engines were "driven" from the after end. The white, curved, objects projecting into the passageway are the covers for the main motor. (PAC C-32161)

Engine room, looking forward. Italian group, H1, 4 November 1916
[Photo20] The photographer is standing between the main motors, the covers of which have been removed giving a good view of the and motors their brush gear. These are single armature, Electro Dynamic HP/2, DC motors each with a continuous rating of 160 HP. Immediately above each motor are the engine circulating-water pump starters with their discharge valves just beyond. On the after end of each engine are the polished cam-shaft interlocks and throttles. Above these are the engine cylinder temperature gauge boards. On the deep frame in the centre of the deckhead are mounted the battery charging ammeters and between them, the engine order indicator and gong. The large levers between the engines are for operating the engine clutches. (PAC C-32161)

Auxiliary machinery space. Italian group, H1, 4 November 1916
[Photo21] The photographer is standing between the main motors facing astern. Running aft from the two bottom corners of the photo are the main shafts. The lubricators for the pedestal bearings located here are apparent. To port can be seen the 5 HP electric motor connected to the 2,000 gpm (rated at 20 ft) centrifugal ballast pump with the starter overhead and the main line connection valve below. On the deck opposite is the 200 gpm (at 200 ft) rotary bilge and ballast pump. This was driven off the starboard shaft and its drive is enclosed inside the prominent, white painted, casing. Beyond the pumps are the rectangular covers of the two HP air compressors which were also driven off the shafting through gear trains and clutches. The two cylinders in the deckhead are the compressor intercoolers while behind the bilge pump can be glimpsed one of the separator columns. The short stemmed valve in the deckhead is No.4 main vent. Running along the hull to starboard is the trim line leading to the after trim tank in the stern. The main line aft ran under the deck plates and the two valves in the deck right aft were for the after bilge suction and the after trim tank. The bell-mouth pipe in the deckhead is an air intake for the port engine and the control rodding for the steering and after planes can be seen overhead. (PAC C-32012)

Last Updated: 1 August, 1999.

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