British Holland Type Submarines
(Type 7)

Britain-03-Launch of the British Holland No 1

British Holland No 1

British Holland No 1

Photos courtesy of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum

Length 63 feet 4 inches
Diameter 11 feet 9 inches
Displacement 120 tons

Five boats were built by Messrs. Vickers, Sons and Maxim in Britain under license from the Holland Torpedo Boat Company. These boats were:

Name Laid Down Commissioned Disposition
No 1
No 2
No 3
No 4
No 5
4 Feb 1901
4 Feb 1901
4 Feb 1901
2 Feb 1903
1 Aug 1902
1 Aug 1902
2 Aug 1902
19 Jan 1903
  Sold in 1913 and sank while under tow
Sold 7 Oct 1913
Sold 7 Oct 1913
Foundered 3 Sept 1912
Sank being towed to the breakers in 1912

(Courtesy of Dave Hallas and the British Submarines website)

Isaac Rice travelled to England during the summer of 1900. While there, he was introduced to the Admiralty by Lord Rothschild and negotiated a license agreement with Vicker Sons and Maxim in Barrow-in Furness. The following November, the British Admiralty approached the Treasury for the money to purchase five submarines from Vickers Sons and Maxim. A firm order was placed in December 1900 and Captain R H S Bacon, a torpedo specialist, was sent to oversee the construction.1

Construction proceeded in great secrecy. When Lieutenant F D Arnold-Forster, who was to become the first commanding officer of H.M. Torpedo Boat No. 1, arrived at Vickers Sons and Maxim, he could not find anyone who could direct him to the submarine. "Eventually the boat was found in a large shed prominently marked 'Yacht Shed' while parts were made and delivered marked 'Pontoon No One'."2

During construction both the builders and Captain Bacon became convinced that there was something wrong with the drawings provided by the Electric Boat Company.3 In John Holland's obituary published by the New York Gaelic American, John Devoy claimed that Holland had opposed the sale of his boats to England and been overruled, so he altered the drawings. However, Dr. Richard Morris argues that it is unlikely that Holland had the opportunity or inclination to do so. 4 It is more likely that the drawings included the inventor's latest ideas for automating submarine operation, and that these devices failed to operate as intended. 5

  1. Wilson, Michael, The First Submarines for the Royal Navy. p. 268.
  2. Ibid., p. 268
  3. Lipscomb, Commander F. W., Historic Submarines. (London: Hugh Evelyn Limited, 1970), p. 26.
  4. Morris, Richard Knowles, John P. Holland: Inventor of the Modern Submarine. (Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute, 1966; 2nd ed., Univ. S.C. Press, 1998), p. 113.
  5. This conclusion is based on Morris' story of the contraptions on the dock, Burgoyne's remark regarding the amount of elbow room in the 'A' boats and Commander Bacon's comment regarding "jimcracks".

For more information on the British boats, read Alan Burgoyne's accounting of the British submarine fleet in 1903 or visit the British Submarines website at

Copyright 1999,2000,2001,2002 Gary McCue

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