World War 1 Submarines: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about WW1 submarines.

  • World War I submarines played an important part in the war. Both sides had several types of submarines, and it was the first time that military submarines made a big difference.

  • One of the most famous World War I submarines was the German U-boat. There were 29 U-boats when the war started, although Germany built 360 of them during the war.
  • Over 5,000 Allied ships were sunk by German submarines during World War I. Over 1.4 million tons of shipping was lost during just the first few months of the war.

World War 1 submarines

  • In August, 1914, 10 German U-boats sailed from a base in northern Germany to attack British ships in the north Atlantic Ocean. It was the first ever submarine war patrol.
  • In 1915 the Lusitania was sunk in the Atlantic by German U-boats. Because many American passengers were on board, this event helped to persuade America to join the war.
  • British M Class submarines were up to 90 metres long and could travel up to 8,000 km. A unique feature of them was a 305 mm gun mounted in a turret in front of the tower.
  • British World War I submarines were widely used in the Baltic Sea, including the successful 1915 German blockade. Because so many merchant ships were sunk in that operation, the Germans were forced to introduce a convoy escort system.
  • Most World War I submarines were powered by diesel engines. A maximum speed of about 17 km per hour was standard, and most submarines stayed near the surface as much as possible.
  • Several inventions helped to make World War I submarines more effective. These included circling and magnetic torpedoes, and the gyro compass allowing for more accurate navigation.

WW1 submarine

  • Britain experimented with launching small Sopwith planes from hangars built on the decks of submarines. The idea never worked effectively and was dropped before the war ended.

What next? Discover more World War 1 facts by visiting our World War 1 resources page.

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