Diving the Holland 5
The Nautical Archaeology Society will be continuing to record the hull of the Holland 5 submarine with cameras, video and tape measure survey after being commissioned by Historic England to create a virtual diver trail of the wreck.
The team will also be looking to improve the waterproof information notelet to enhance the visiting diver's experience. We will also be taking the opportunity to dive on the Norman's Bay wreck on the second dive of the day.
2017 dates to dive the Holland 5 with us are 14th June, 30th June, 25th August and 11th September. Contact the NAS to see if there are places available on any of these dates. Diving in 2017 will be from "Dive125" <www.dive125.co.uk> out of Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne. Cost £70 for two dives - Holland 5 submarine (30-35m) in the morning and the Norman's Bay wreck (8-15m) in the afternoon. Price does not include air or nitrox fills which are available on the boat.
No NAS qualifications are required to visit the wreck, however for the Holland 5 the minimum Diving Qualification is BSAC Dive Leader / PADI Rescue Diver equivalent with recent dives to over 30m. Nitrox use is preferred and NO SINGLE TANKS - Pony rig or twin sets mandatory.
Several videos of the Holland 5 submarine can be found on the NAS YouTube Channel including news clips for 100th annniversary dives that were made in 2012.
The Holland 5 Introduction
The Holland No.5 submarine is a remarkable piece of our naval heritage. She was the first submarine to actually be commissioned in the Royal Navy, on the 19th January 1903 at the same time as Holland 3. At this time the Holland's 1, 2 and 4 were still being reworked. The Holland class of submarine rapidly become obsolete and in 1912 Holland 5 was destined for destruction and was being towed to Sheerness when she foundered and sunk at her present location 6 miles SE of the Royal Sovereign Lighthouse, Sussex, England.
The wreck remained undiscovered (although not undisturbed) until 1995 when she was found by chance by Kent diver, Jerry Dowd. Mr Dowd informed Innes McCartney of the find in 2001 and he made his first exploration of the site in the same year. The Holland 5 was protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973) in 2005. In 2011 the Holland No.5 was added to the Heritage at Risk Register by English Heritage. Mark Beattie Edwards, the NAS Programme Director, currently has a survey licencee to record the site.
Condition of the Holland 5
The submarine is upright and in a fair degree of overall preservation. This is primarily because the single-hull design means that the pressure hull contains all of submarines workings, ballast and fuel tanks within. The pressure hull is, (according to the Royal Navy Submarine Museum) made of a rare "S" Grade steel only seen these days on the Holland submarines and the Forth Bridge. The durability of this material is probably why the main hull of the submarine is still durable and intact.
Sadly the same cannot be said of the submarine's external features. The upper superstructure has largely gone and the stern fins and propeller guard have also been pulled off. The periscope, which lay down on the deck when not in use, has been torn away along with the vent pipes for the interior and the external exhaust piping. There is no evidence of the upper steering position or compass binnacle and it is possible they were removed before her final voyage. However the presence of the exhaust box cover (which was not
present on Holland 1 when it was raised) seems to suggest that she was probably reasonably complete when she foundered in 1912.
It is the belief of the licensee that the site is subjected to damage by commercial fishing. In 2005 and 2006 the wreck was very heavily netted (much more so than in 2001) and the NAS and visiting divers spent at least 3 hours of bottom time cutting some of the netting away this summer. Alarmingly there was also a steel cable wrapped over the wreck, which has almost certainly caused of the destruction of the submarine's upper works and external features.
In June 2010 during a licensed dive by the Nautical Archaeology Society it became apparent that the torpedo bow cap of the Holland 5, the only surviving example on the seabed of this class of submarine anywhere in the world and a designated wreck, was no longer attached to the submarine. A further survey dive on the 9th August 2010 confirmed it was no longer on the site. English Heritage reported the matter to Sussex police on 26th August and are working closely with them to bring offenders to account and to recover this nationally important asset. It is not clear whether the bow cap was removed by fishing trawler or by divers.
It had been impossible to visit the site in 2009 due to bad weather and the last positive sighting of the hatch was in September 2008. The submarine appears to have significant marine growth in the area the hatch was removed which might indicate the bow cap was removed some time ago. Removing the cap and accessing the site without a licence is illegal under the Protection of Wrecks Act, 1973. Initial enquiries show that if it was removed by divers it was not then reported to the Receiver of Wreck, which would also suggest an offence under the Merchant Shipping Act may have been committed.
English Heritage would like to appeal to the diving community for help in locating this important piece of the Holland 5. Individuals can contact Sussex Police or Crime Stoppers on 0800 555111.
Work on the Holland 5
The dives conducted on the site as part of the Holland 5 Project have primarily aimed to cover three areas of activity: a) Net clearance, b) Photo/Video survey c) Comparative studies of particular features with Holland 1, now housed at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport, Hampshire. In 2012 the NAS has also, with the help of 3deep Media Ltd produced a online visualisation of the wreck.
The dives conducted since 2006 have led to the site being freed of major nets, which had infested much of the hull sometime between 2001 and 2005. The nets were removed by both cutting and moving them off the wreck. This was laborious work for which thanks should be paid to all of the divers who assisted in doing this. The buoy line which had become wrapped up around the bow cap was also freed. Only a small amount of net remains around the stern area. This net will be removed in future, but at present is not considered a threat to the wreck.
The major damage the nets caused appears to have been to the cast iron exhaust pipes which lead from the top of the pressure hull over the petrol engine to the exhaust box further aft along the upper deck. It was noted that two of the four pipes had been totally trawled off and a further pipe was only partially present. It was noted that the outcome of the successful net clearance of the foredeck in 2005 has encouraged the marine growth witnessed in 2001 to begin to grow back.
With the net removed divers were tasked with taking measurements and photographs of some of the features, which had been uncovered. The use of video and wide-angle (fisheye) photography has revealed much about the Holland 5, which differs from Holland 1. With permission from the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in February 2006, Innes McCartney was given access to the top deck of the Holland 1 exhibit and was able to undertake a photographic survey of the entire deck as it is currently preserved.
It has become readily apparent that the deck of the Holland 5 differs greatly from that of Holland 1. It was always suspected that this was likely due to the experimental nature of these submarines. Of particular note were the differences in construction of the upper deck, different periscope housing designs, and different construction methods for the torpedo-loading hatch. This study is at its beginning and we hope to have a fuller assessment of the differences in future years. Drawing of the exhaust box lid by David Dooley.
NAS divers David Dooley and Darren Gosling were tasked with making a scale drawing of the exhaust box cover. Over two dives they gathered the measurements and photos needed to do this and have subsequently produced the finished drawings. The drawings have been submitted to the Royal Navy Submarine Museum were it is currently being evaluated to see whether a replica of the Holland 5 exhaust box cover can be fabricated for the Holland 1 exhibit.
Licensee reports for English Heritage
- Holland 5_Licensee Report Oct 2010
- Holland 5_Licensee Report Nov 2011
- Holland 5_Licensee Report Nov 2012
- Holland 5_Licensee Report Nov 2013
- Holland 5 Condition Assessment Jan 2014 (please note that this report contains low resolution images)
- Holland 5_Licensee Report Nov 2015
- Holland 5_Licencee Report Nov 2016