The History of the Submarine

Mon 24 October, 2022 @ 10:30 – 11:30
La Senieta, Moraira
Speaker: John Hopwood

This talk ends at the beginning of the first World War before submarines became sophisticated vessels so there is no highly technical content.

The first fully recorded submarine was built in 1620 by a Dutchman, Cornelius Van Drebbel, who was in the service of King James 1st of England. Despite it being an underwater rowing boat, it proved to be very successful and Von Drebbel later built two larger versions in one of which it is believed the King accompanied Van Drebbel in a voyage up the river Thames.

Von Drebbel’s submarine was watched by thousands of disbelieving Londoners who gathered along the banks of the Thames.

However, it wasn’t until 155 years later in 1775 when an American called David Bushnell built a submarine intended to sink British warships during the American revolution against the British, that the full possibilities began to be realised by Governments and various prototypes began to be constructed.

In 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte commissioned another American, called Robert Fulton to build a submarine intended to sink British vessels but despite building a submarine which proved to be perfectly viable the French Naval authorities decided to abandon the project.

Various other experimental submarines were built in the following years but it wasn’t until the American Civil War that the Confederate submarine ‘Hunley’ successfully sank the Union warship ‘Housatonic’ in 1864 by ramming an explosive charge into its hull. Unfortunately, the explosion was so powerful that the Hunley submarine also sank.