Submariners remember maritime tragedy

Topic: Fighting armsSubmarine Service

Veterans and serving submariners gathered recently to remember those lost during an early maritime disaster.

Submarine K13 sank during sea trials on the Gareloch on January 29, 1917, leading to the tragic death of 32 people on board.

Over the weekend of January 26, members of the Submariners Association from around the country headed to HM Naval Base Clyde for annual commemoration events. 

They were joined by serving Royal Navy submariners from the Home of the UK Submarine Service both at Elder Park in Govan on the Saturday and at Faslane Cemetery on Sunday morning.

The Submariners Association’s Jim McMaster, said: “At the time of the disaster there were 14 shipyard employees on board from Fairfields in Govan, seven of whom died in the tragedy.

“Each year we make sure we remember them at the memorial in Elder Park before heading the next day to Faslane Cemetery where we commemorate the service and civilian personnel who perished.”

He continued: “Those early submariners and builders were pioneers and it is right that we remember their courage in pursuit of progress.”

The steam-propelled submarine sank on the Gareloch after seawater entered her engine room.

There was a total of 80 people on board at the time – 53 Royal Navy personnel, 14 Fairfields employees, five sub-contractors, five Admiralty officials, river Clyde pilot Joseph Duncan, and two crew from sister-submarine K14.

A frantic 57-hour rescue mission followed with Captain of K13, Lieutenant Commander Godfrey Herbert, and Captain of K14, Commander Francis Goodhart, attempting to escape the vessel to aid the surface rescue attempt.

Sadly, Commander Goodhart died after hitting his head on the vessel’s superstructure and drowning.

Eventually an airline was attached allowing the bow of the submarine to rise to the surface and a hole to be cut in the casing to evacuate the 48 survivors.

The memorial service at Faslane Cemetery on January 27 was also attended by Senior Naval Officers, local Sea Cadet units, members of the public and local dignitaries.

During the service the ship’s bell from K13 was rung 32 times, once for each of the people who died.

As well as the memorials in Glasgow and Faslane, there is also a K13 memorial in Carlingford in New South Wales.  The memorial was financed by the widow of a submariner on board K13, Charles Freeston, who survived the disaster and later emigrated to Australia.

Those early submariners and builders were pioneers and it is right that we remember their courage in pursuit of progress.

Jim McMaster