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The Victoria Cross awarded for outstanding Gallantry


(A brief look at those RN Submariners awarded the VC for gallantry during the first 100 years of the Royal Naval Submarine Service).

World War 1


The first submariner VC was Lieutenant Norman Holbrook captain of the submarine B11 who, on December 13th 1914, early in the first world war during the campaign in the Dardanelles, took B11 through the Dardanelles passage, which was heavily mined with heavily fortified gun positions on either side and notorious for its strong currents, after which he torpedoed the Turkish Battleship 'Messudieh'. He then returned to the open sea, beneath the minefields and avoiding gunfire and torpedo boats, having been dived for over nine hours in all. An amazing feat considering that the 'B' class submarines were fairly crude and uncomfortable little boats that were only slightly more advanced than the original Holland class boats.



The next submariner to be awarded the VC was Lieutenant-Commander Edward Boyle who took the submarine E14 through the Dardanelles in April 1915 and into the Sea of Marmara where he joined the Australian submarine AE2 commanded by Irish born Lieutenant-Commander Hew Stoker to attack the Turkish Navy ships based in the area. Unfortunately the AE2 was damaged by a Turkish torpedo boat soon after and the crew of British and Australians was forced to surrender to the Turks. Boyle, however, remained in the Sea of Marmara for two weeks sinking three ships and causing panic among the enemy naval forces there.


Another VC was awarded went to Lieutenant-Commander Martin Nasmith in E11. His exploits read like a Boys Own story book adventure. During several trips to the Sea of Marmara in 1915 he sank several vessels and carried out various commando style raids and caused all sorts of mayhem with the enemy forces there. His was the longest, record breaking, first world war patrol lasting 47 days and his total 'tally' was 5 sailing vessels, 11 steam vessels and 31 other assorted small vessels.  


Lieutenant-Commander Geoffrey White in command of Boyles former submarine E14 transited the Dardanelles in early 1918 in an attempt to sink the German Battle Cruiser Goeben which had run aground at a place called Nagara Point but it had been re- floated and taken away before he reached it. On his way back to base he fired a torpedo at a large ship but the torpedo exploded as it left the tube and badly damaged the submarine. Having been forced to surface, the submarine was immediately fired on by shore batteries and was badly damaged. To give his crew the best chance of survival he attempted to beach the boat but he was killed by gunfire shortly before the boat sank. His wife later received his posthumous VC on his behalf.


One more VC was awarded to a submariner during the first world war. This went to Lieutenant Aubrey Sandford in command of C3. He volunteered to carry out an extremely dangerous mission as part of a plan to scuttle ships in the seaward entrance at Zeebrugge. His job was to blow up a mole to block the entrance to the German submarine base near Bruges in Belgium. The plan was to also to blow up a viaduct to cut off any troops reinforcements sent to intercept the ships involved. This was risky because it would mean working immediately under the guns of the defending troops so it was planned to aim the boat at the viaduct from a safe distance and for the crew to escape in a small boat before getting within range of the guns. This meant that there was a chance the submarine might not hit its target and fail to do its job so Sandford and his crew of five stayed with the boat until it was beached alongside its target and then made their escape. Predictably they were subjected to fierce fire from the defenders and four of the six were wounded, including Sandford (who was hit twice). All the crew were decorated with Sandford receiving the last WWI VC awarded to a submariner.


  (Click to read about the World War 2 submariner VC's)         


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