Holland 5 Submarine, Eastbourne

I was lucky enough in June to have the opportunity to dive the Holland 5 submarine, a protected wreck site with the Nautical Archeological Society. Sometimes when an opportunity like this pops up, irrelevant of cost it is worth it. I went by myself, without a known buddy, so had to pay for fuel etc., on top of the usual costs of diving and boat costs. The history of the sub is rounded up below from the NAS website (http://www.nauticalarchaeologysociety.org/…/holland-no5-sub…)

“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 English Heritage added the Holland No.5 to the Heritage at Risk Register.”

After getting my kit on the boat and meeting my buddy, we set off from the harbor with a short brief from the NAS team, who briefed us all on the wreck and the do’s and do not’s of the dive site. Being a protected wreck you are obviously not allowed to take anything, as a diver I have very rarely, if ever taken anything of a site, but I know some people do.

Once on site, I was ready pretty quickly and waited for my buddy, it was a lovely sunny day, with not much surface movement. Waiting for the blob to come up, so we knew the anchor was in the right place. Once most of the other divers were in, we made the jump off the back of the boat, unfortunately my buddy had a leak in his dry suit, so we were back on the boat pretty sharpish, although at least the cold water cooled me down in my dry suit that was boiling me in a bag!

It turned out that his cuff dump was on wrong so a quick change on the surface and we were back in, Even by the time when we got down there was still some tide, and slack had not hit. We started at the rudder end and the water was nice and clear, nearly giving me a view of the whole sub. At this end you could clearly see the propeller and just behind them was a conger eel poking is head out, maybe an exhaust port? On the floor there were other parts that I could not recognise. Moving down the sub was the conning tower, or stump tower as it’s so small. On the top, there is a small window that was cleared by another diver, which is great to see on a dive. This was on the brief so I was keeping an eye out for it.

We approached the other end of the sub and as I withdrew for a wider shot, you could clearly see the torpedo tube. I came in later for a closer inspection, but could see nothing inside. This was the wreck in a nutshell, although seeing a very intact sub was very cool. We did a couple of laps, and got some better video, and called the dive to my buddies plan as he was on a single.

In summary, the wreck is small, but is complete and an amazing gem at the bottom of the ocean. With its protected status, I hope many more will get the chance to see it, at some point in the future I will go to the Royal Navy submarine museum in Gosport and have a look at the Holland submarine they have in there and compare the two.


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