Kalamity class

During World War 1, Britain decided to build a new type of giant submarine. The first two flotillas of K-Boats were ready for action by the end of 1917. But when they were put to the test, these 325 foot monsters of the deep proved to be unmanoeuvrable on the surface, slow and clumsy when diving and difficult to bring up again. This was their lamentable track record:

image found here

Fire broke out aboard the K2 on its first test dive. K3 inexplicably dived to the sea bed with the Prince of Wales aboard on its first test. In 150 feet of water she ended with up with her bow buried in the bottom and her stern above the surface, her propellers spinning uselessly in the air. It took 20 minutes for control to be regained and the ship to be bought back to the surface.


Prince of Wales found here

 K13 sank during sea trials when an intake failed to close whilst diving and her engine room flooded. She was eventually salvaged and recommissioned as K22.

image found here

K1 collided with K4 off the Danish coast and was scuttled to avoid capture.

Two boats were lost in an incident known as the Battle of May Island on 31 January 1918. The cruiser HMS Fearless collided with the head of a line of submarines, K17, which sank in about 8 minutes, whilst other submarines behind all turned to avoid her. K4 was struck by K6 which almost cut her in half, and was then struck by K7 before she finally sank with all her crew. At the same time K22 (the recommissioned K13) and K14 collided although both survived. In just 75 minutes, two submarines had been sunk, three badly damaged and 105 crew killed. K4 ran aground on Walney Island in January 1917 and remained stranded there for some time.

Walney Island found here

K5 was lost due to unknown reasons during a mock battle in the Bay of Biscay in 1921. Nothing further was heard of her following a signal that she was diving, but wreckage was recovered later that day. It was concluded that she exceeded her safe maximum depth.

K7 once managed to fire a torpedo at an enemy U-Boat, U95, but it failed to explode and did no damage.

image found here

K15 sank at her mooring in Portsmouth in June 1921. This was caused by hydraulic oil expanding in the hot weather and contracting overnight as the temperature dropped with the consequent loss of pressure causing diving vents to open. The boat flooded through open hatches as it submerged.

image found here

K16, on her trials, crashed into the seabed at the same place that K13 had on hers.

The K-Boats operation was scrapped after it had claimed 250 British lives but not one German soldier was killed.

interesting story about this German sailor here

Published in: on December 20, 2011 at 7:47 am  Comments (54)  
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  1. Wow. If it weren’t for all the deaths, this would have been hilarious.

    • They persisted despite an astounding loss of life

  2. My favourite is the tale of K-5 which was out of her depth – like me when using K (worth 5) in Scrabble.

    • you should make the switch to Banangrams. More exciting than Scrabble

  3. Everytime you write something, Nurse Myra, you insist that I learn something new!! Most refeshing…

    Keep up the good stuff! Spev. x

    • Thank you spevvie xx

  4. I had a comment to make about the ineptness of the high command to come up with this world of wonder called the K series, but I don’t think it would’ve gone over well here.

    Instead, I’ll agree with the first commenter in that this would be incredibly funny if it wasn’t for all the senseles waste of human life.

    • Well I don’t think the high command will be reading this, so you may say whatever you think

  5. K1 scuttled to avoid capture – that’s funny. Who would want them ?

  6. It doesn’t surprise me that it’s my own country’s leaders that doggedly insisted, even at great cost of human life, to the execution of a pet project that has the imprimatur of someone very senior. It’s a very British disease.

    • I love the word “imprimatur”

  7. The K Boats were bloody awful. The M class were pretty dire too (sticking a 12 inch gun on a sub was pretty dumb!) I remember reading about the K class n a book called Few Survived by Edwyn Grey. It s a history of sub disasters.

    On a funnier no you have head of the U boat that sunk because someone flushed the toilet?

    • It was the U 1206. The captain’s name was Schlitt…

      • That boat was bombed as it came to the surface. But you’re right, it was ultimately because someone had set off a chain of events by flushing a toilet. Crazy.

  8. K-stone Kops? I’m amazed that they kept at it for so long. desperate times during a war, and the U-boats were terrifying at the time…

  9. Laura stole my comment. So the question is was the Prince of Wales on K3 that got stuck in the mud, the same man that became king and then abdicated…how different things could have been!

    • Yes, that’s him

  10. January 1918 – a tragic version of dominoes.
    And, yet, the war was won – by the “good guys.”

  11. KO’d

  12. A damn dark patch for the Royal Navy.

  13. I wonder if his experience on K3 set back work on the King’s stutter.

    • That was his brother

  14. Wow! Almost took out HRH. And I’m with Carl: let the Germans capture the thing — the war would be over in no time.

    • Hey Mike, can you check your spam filter….. I think a comment I left on your blog has ended up there

  15. I love Subs!

    I read a great book called “Shadow Divers” about a sub wreck off the coast of the US – great stuff!!

    • Sounds interesting, I love history

  16. Terrible.
    Its the “how you do not do it” from a to z. The blueprint for incompetence.
    Only comparable thing is the Star Fighter, Witwenmacher. Or maybe the very first tank, Mother. But even in the landship one would have had better chances to survive than in such a terrible can.

  17. Were these boats designed by Inspector Clouseau?

    • Haha… you may be on to something there Robin

  18. I’m no engineer, but having a giant bubble at the front section of the sub looks very unbalanced to me…

    What a fucK up!

    The King

    • The designer must have been a wanKer

  19. Didn’t Australia have “some issues” recently with the Kollins(sorry-Collins) Class sub?

    • Indeed. I have a Bro-in-Law who was a nav Officer on one of them. He got off as soon as he could cos “They leaked!”. He now commands one of the HMAS surface ships.

      • Wise move on his part

  20. Britain wasn’t the only one with troublesome subs. France built the “Surcouf” to meet Washington and London Naval Treaty limits, complete with a revolutionary twin 8″ gun turret and not one, but two sizes of torpedoes, larger for warships, smaller for unarmoured commercial shipping. And for dash and daring, she even managed to escape just as the Germans invaded and France collapsed in 1940. Only to be rammed by an American cargo ship and sunk.
    The US had the right idea. Settle on one set of stats, build a crapload of ‘em, and give ‘em all A/C! (For the electronics, but it kept the crews cool and dry, too.)

    • Are you a subspotter John ;-)

      • More of a military tech geek. Planes were my first love, followed closely by tanks. The love of things navy formed a little later, in my teens, when I met the grand old lady USS Texas, the last WW1 battleship anywhere in the world. I go really nerd on any kind of
        numbers – I could quote every barrel diameter of heavy guns used by the German army in WW2 before junior high. Matter of fact, my high-school sophomore-year Social Studies teacher had me teach the unit on the early years of WW2, from the Japanese going into Manchuria up through the German invasion of the USSR in June 1941.
        Like I said, uber-geek! :D

  21. Why anyone would want to be a submariner is unfathomable

  22. Lesson learnt : stay as far away from submarines as possible.

    • Inzy, can you check your spam filter? I think a comment I left on your blog went straight to spam :-(

      • FYI, your last comment on my blog got spamified too.

      • yes, I’ve lost a couple of Nursey’s(and others”) comments on WordPress.

  23. this is funny to read :p
    although i’m sure it wasn’t.

  24. K – that’s enough! Unbelievable how relentless the human spirit can be sometimes.

  25. All too sad to be funny about.

  26. Interesting picture of the U-boat crew. A doll seems so odd to be in that kind of picture.

  27. You would have though that the Germans would have been making them for the Brits in an effort to win the war. And, am I the only one to think they were the most unattractive boat ever built. UUgly!

  28. I’m a bit surprised they didn’t test one or two out before building so many others. It seems like a design this flawed should have been discovered and scrapped much, much earlier.
    This reminds me… what did you think of The Life Aquatic, N.M.?

    • I’m embarrassed to say it’s still sitting unwatched on top of the dvd player. Maybe I’ll get round to it this weekend.

  29. I had a sinking feeling this wouldn’t end well.

  30. They should have just renamed the subs with something else…

  31. Absurd and tragic at the same time. I didn’t know this bit about military history.


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