Tributes for 32 submariners lost in loch tragedy

A special ceremony will be held today to honour 32 submariners who drowned 100 years ago in a First World War tragedy.

The K13 was raised and returned to service as the K22.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) at Faslane Cemetery, Garelochead, will pay tribute to the crew of the HMS K13 steam-propelled submarine that sank in Gareloch on 29 January 1917 after seawater entered her engine room during sea trials.

Among those paying tribute are Shirley Thomas and her family who will travel up from Sheffield for the occasion. Thomas’s great-grandfather, Fred Porter, died on the HMS K13 aged 37, leaving behind a young daughter Ethel, who was Thomas’s grandmother, and two sons Fred and George.

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Thomas said: “Fred went to the navy when he was about 15, his father was a lifeboat man. My grandmother told us about him; she would have been about 15 when he was killed and we’re all really proud of him.

“We’ve always wanted to come up and pay our respects and the 100th anniversary seemed like the ideal time.

“Fred was in the navy on the ships, then he went on the submarines – my grandmother told me he did this because it was better pay.”

The event is organised by the Submariners Association and held every year at CWGCs cemetery – with added poignancy this year given it is the 100th anniversary.

There were 80 men in total on board that fateful day, including 53 crew and a pilot, and the captain and engineer of sister submarine K14.

Captain of the vessel, Lieutenant Commander Godfrey Herbert and K14’s captain, Commander Francis Goodhart, attempted to escape from the submarine, hoping to reach the surface in order to use their knowledge of the vessel to help the rescue. Goodhart died after being struck on the head while escaping and was found trapped in the superstructure of the submarine.

The ordeal for those trapped in the forward section did not end until some 57 hours later when an airline was attached allowing the submarine to bring her bow to the surface. A hole was cut in the side of the vessel allowing the 48 survivors to be rescued. K13 was raised from the Gareloch in March 1917 and returned to service as HMS K22.

During today’s ceremony submariners past and present will gather to pay their respects, along with CWGC representatives, submariners from HM Naval Base Clyde, the home of the UK Submarine Service, and the Submariners Association.

The group will attend the service at Faslane Cemetery, adjacent to HM Naval Base Clyde, for a formal wreath laying ceremony. It will end with a march to the grave of Goodhart and individual crosses will be available for those wishing to pay their respects.

Jim McMaster, chairman of the Submariners Association, said: “It is right and proper that we remember those who have gone before us – the brave men who earned the reputation we enjoy today.”

Rear Admiral John Weale, head of service for the UK’s Submarine Service said: “The men who perished in K13 were, in many respects, pioneers who pushed the boundaries. Today’s submariners recognise that the submarines they operate are not only safer, but also more effective, because we have learned from the experience of our predecessors.”