Steam submarine K-12

Steam submarine K-12. „The most fatal error imaginable would be to put steam engines in submarines“

„The most fatal error imaginable would be to put steam engines in submarines“

With these words, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir John „Jackie“ Fisher commented on the British Royal Navy’s plans to build the „K“-class submarines. These boats were designed to be submarine cruisers fast enough to operate as reconnaissance vessels with the Grand Fleet. To this end, they were to reach a speed equal to that of the latest British dreadnoughts. A smaller design with diesel propulsion, which eventually became the „J“ class, reached only 19 knots when surfaced, so it was decided to use steam turbines in the „K“ class. The result was a surface maximum speed of an incredible 24 knots, a record that remains unbroken for a submarine to this day. But a combination of design flaws and bad luck made life difficult for this type. Steam propulsion required air circulation in the submarines, which were equipped with funnels. This made preparations for diving lengthy and complicated. The extremely narrow and long shaped hull of the „K’s“ (103 m x 8 m) also caused problems. The submarines of the so-called „Kalamity“ class had a disastrous record in World War I and afterwards.

Of the 21 units originally planned, a total of 18 were built, with „K3“ being the first unit to enter service in 1917. None of the boats were lost due to enemy action, but six were lost in accidents. They took many of their crewmen with them to their deaths. The reputation of the class was poor, which made it difficult to find volunteers for the crews.

This 1:144 scale model (builder unknown) depicts the „K-12“. She was built between 1915 and 1917 by the Armstrong Whitworth shipyard in Newcastle upon Tyne. She survived the „Battle of May Island“ undamaged. This was not a battle, but a series of accidents that occurred on the foggy night of January 31, 1918, when the ships went out into the North Sea for fleet exercises. „K4“ and „K17“ sank, while „K6“, „K7“, „K14“, „K22“ and HMS „Fearless“ were damaged; 105 sailors lost their lives. The „K12“ continued her unspectacular career, which included a collision with the „K2“ in 1924, and was finally scrapped in Charlestown in 1926.