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Information about the War at Sea 1914-1918

We want to use this issue of our “flotsam” series to point at a most welcome publication, which is being produced by our friends from the “Working Group War at Sea 1914-1918” already in third year: It is the “Marine-Nachrichtenblatt”, with several volumes per year on a regular basis. So far, it is written in German only. For each issue, the team of authors compiled several articles about findings based on thorough research of events in the War at Sea 1914-1918.

Meanwhile, 9 volumes of the “Marine-Nachrichtenblatt” have been published, constituting an extremely valuable contribution to the writing of the history of the War at Sea in WW I. We in the U-Boat Museum and Archive are most grateful for the new findings of the working group, which then often mean an enormous enrichment of our collection of documents of the U-Boat war 1914-1918. We, therefore, strongly recommend seeking access to these publications, ideally through ordering volumes of interest.

The “Marine-Nachrichtenblatt” can be ordered at the editor, Karsten Klein at Butjadinger Strasse 37 in 26125 Oldenburg under kontakt@seekrieg14-18.de, costing 5,00 Europs per volume plus 0,85 Euros for mailing. 

Ongoing problems with HMS “Astute”

In the past, media repeatedly reported about problems during the construction and the operation of the new British SSGN HMS Astute and her sister ships. In our “Flotsam” of June 2012 we referred to the final accident report about the grounding of the submarine on 22 October 2010 before the Scottish west coast. Now, media had another go at this submarine and its class, because allegedly it has not managed yet to reach its maximum speed as confirmed in the building contract, believed to be beyond 30 kn.

More problems are added to the list: There are already first signs of corrosion, computer circuit boards had to be moved or replaced as they did not meet safety standards, instruments monitoring the nuclear power system cause concern as the wrong type of lead was used, there was a water leak during routine underwater operations requiring the submarine to execute an emergency surfacing maneuver, and the new periscope does not allow “live” observation of the surface. The British MoD declared the problems as rather expectable for any First of Class ship, calling them “teething problems”, but stating that “Astute” and her class will “provide an outstanding capability for decades to come”.

The SSGNs of the “Astute”-Class have a length of 97 m and a beam of 11.3 m, their underwater displacement is about 7,800 t. Their nuclear power system will allow speeds under water beyond 30 kn and their operational diving depth is said to be 300 m. They are able to operate submerged up to 70 days. The armament can be delivered from 6 torpedo tubers of 53.3 cm diameter, composed of a mix from “Spearfish” heavyweight torpedoes and “Tomahawk” Cruise Missiles (TLAM-C Block IV), up to 48 of these weapons can be taken along. The crew may range from 84 to 97 soldiers, with female soldiers being among those as well soon.

The 7 SSGN of the “Astute”-Class will be the replacement for the 5 SSGN of the “Swifture”-Class (Sovereing/ Superb/ Sceptre/ Spartan/ Splendid, commissioned between 1974 und 1981) and 2 remaining SSGN of the “Trafalgar”-Class (Trafalgar/ Turbulent, commissioned between 1983-1984). Building order for the first three submarines of the new class were given in 1997, total cost estimated at that time to be around 2 Bill. Brit. Pounds. All submarines are built and will be built at the British submarine shipyard of meanwhile BAE at Barrow on Furness in Cumbria at the Irish Sea.

However, significant rise in costs and time delays in the building program had to be accepted: Meanwhile costs have soared to more than 50 % above the original estimates and the building program has slipped to almost 4 years delay. Currently, total costs for the 7 submarines are estimated to reach 9.75 Bill. Brit. Pounds (= approx. 12 Bill. Euros, i.e. an amazing 1,7 Bill. Pounds per submarine). Most embarrassing for the British submarine industry was the necessity to contract for some years (2004-2007) the expertise and support by experienced submarine designers and workers from General Dynamics Electric Boats from the USA. Explanation for that might be the fact that BAE, apart from supporting operations and maintaining the SSBNs and SSNs/ SSGNs currently operated by the Royal Navy, had not designed and constructed any submarine after 1999 (commissioning of SSBN HMS Vengeance).

Last stated was the number of 7 “Astute”-Class SSGNs in the Defence White Paper (Strategic Defence and Security Defence Review/ SDSR) of October 2010. Currently, the “Astute” is the first and so far only one commissioned (27 August 2010) of the 7 submarines planned. The second of class, HMS Ambush was launched on 06 January 2011 and has undertaken her first diving tests on 30th of September 2011, her commissioning is scheduled for 2013. The third of class, HMS Artful, was keel laid on 11 March 2005 and shall be in service in 2015. The fourth of class is HMS Audacious and has been keel laid on 24 March 2009, to be commissioned in 2018.

The fifth of class will be HMS Anson, and it has been keel laid on 13th of October 2011, to be commissioned in 2020. Building order has been given for the sixth of class, HMS Agamemnon and first work has started already. The last of class will be HMS Ajax, but no building order or any other preparatory work has been initiated yet.


RN Petty Officer sentenced for violating Official Secrets Act

In our “Flotsam” of May 2012 we mentioned the revelation of a case of high treason and the legal proceedings resulting from it against the 30year old Petty Officer of the Royal Navy, Edward Devenney.

Between November 2011 and March 2012 Devenney did spread unfiltered news on social networks about his experiences on board the British SSGN HMS Trafalgar and details about the operation and the operational readiness of the systems on board this submarine. Absolutely illegal, however, his amateurish attempts to give information about the periscopes and the systems for Electronic Warfare of British nuclear submarines to a foreign embassy (said: Russia). Luckily this could be prevented by a targeted anti-espionage operation of the British Intelligence Agency MI5. Devenney was already under training for his next appointment on board the British SSBN HMS Vigilant.

On 08 March 2012 the High Court at London (Old Bailey) placed Devenney under trial, and he pleaded guilty during the proceedings. Among other things, the court heard that as well as offering the supposed spies details of an Enigma-style ‘cryptography’ device used for coded messages, Devenney also offered secret information about the movements of two submarines carrying nuclear missiles.

On 12 December 2012 Devenny has been sentenced to 8 years imprisonment, the maximum penalty to be expected in case of violation of the Official Secrets Act could have been 14 years of imprisonment.