View Full Version : Submarines In Ireland

29th October 2004, 12:21
Late in World War I, seven U.S. L-class submarines of SUBDIV 5 were transferred to Bantry Bay, Ireland to carry out anti-submarine patrols in an area of responsibility that included St. George’s Channel and the western approaches to the English Channel. Several American battleships were also stationed at Bantry Bay, and an entire division of them formed the 6th Battle Squadron of the British Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys.

Left to right submarines tied up next to a tender in Queenstown, Ireland.
USS L-3 SS 42, USS L-11 SS 51, USS L-10 SS 50, USS L-4 SS 43, USS L-9 SS 49 which seems to be running her diesel. You can see the smoke from her exhaust around her stern. The US "L" class boats had the "A" added to their identifiers so as not to be confused with the British "L" class submarines that were operating at the same time.

USS L-2 SS 41
In July of 1918 while patrolling in the Irish Sea a large explosion rocked the L-2 about 25 feet on her beam. A periscope was sighted and the L-2 submerged and tried to ram the submarine but couldn't track the U-boat well under water, plus the U-boat had superior under water speed. Later it was suspected that a U-boat had fired on the L-2 but another U-boat, the U-65, was in the way and was badly damaged and sank. Some time later when the L-2 was dry docked her hull plating was noted to be heavily dented from the close by explosion. The U-65 never returned to her port.

USS L-10 SS 50 wearing her WW I "A".
The L-10 was heavily depth charged by the American destroyer USS Sterett
in the Irish Sea after she had developed an oil leak. The Sterett thought he had found a German "U-Boat". L-10 managed to surface and identify herself before the destroyer managed to use her guns to try and sink her.

USS L-6 SS 45.

USS L-8 SS 48 from the deck of the USS Whittemore mother ship.
The submarine L-8, designed by the Lake Torpedo Boat Company, was part of a secret project in 1918 by the U.S. Navy in WW I to trap German submarines. Along with the 4 masted schooner USS Charles Whittemore as a mother ship and decoy the pair roamed the Atlantic trying to lure German submarines to attack. The object was to use the L-8 to sink the German submarines. The Whittemore towed the L-8 submerged so the submarine wouldn't be seen by the enemy and that the two wouldn't become separated from each other. The Whittemore carried food and fuel and torpedoes to resupply the L-8 as needed. As it turned out by the time the Whittemore and L-8 arrived on station, all sides were using armed merchant men as decoys so the Germans and other ships would avoid any contact with the duo. The war ended while the Whittemore and L-8 were on patrol with out firing a shot.

USS Charles Whittemore, mother ship and decoy for USS L-8 on WW I war patrols.

31st October 2004, 00:30
nice picccys ...would one or two of them be taken in cork harbour.

There is a picture somewhere of a U Boat in Dunmore east which was taken out and sunk on 1918. Picture was in the book...The Waterford Steamers which relates the tale of the SS Formby and SS ... which were sunk in ST georges cahnnel in 1917.

31st October 2004, 02:33
nice picccys ...would one or two of them be taken in cork harbour.

I don't know Murphy I was hoping that someone like yourself might be able to identify some of the landmarks behind the "L2" to pinpoint where that picture was taken. :smile:

I came across a small item while browsing the other day in a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Phoenix. I picked up copy of the US submariners book -- very nice -- and saw a snippet which mentioned that 12 "L" Class submarines where stationed in Ireland during 1917. I then did a google search and found the pictures posted here. There were other pictures too see http://www.rddesigns.com/subs/l-boats.html

31st October 2004, 05:33
picture #3 looks like the approach to haulbowline with spike island in the back round. It is well known that the southern Ireland destroyer flotilla was based there and this was instrumental in the attempted rescue of Luisitania passengers in the waters off the old head of kinsale.

There was also a US seaplane base at Aghada which there is very little known about except for two gate piers with the in scriptions US Navy.These were very overgrown at the time of my initial investigations back in 1985. there were many US establishments including seaplane bases and airship bases in southern Ireland during WW1.

Hence my question.

As for the L2 photo ..I would hazard a guess at the Waterford harbour area with the large residence in the back round on the Wexford side which is remarkably like loftus hall...but I cannnot be sure. I wonder is the light grey area aft of the conning tower part of the submarine or of the shore behind it...is this a help to anyone ...maybe it is a martello tower which are so prominent around our coast.

it would have to be assumed that the#3 picture is at Cok harbour given the details of her sister ships in #1

31st October 2004, 11:33
I couldn't find much on Aghada related to USN but here's something.

Julius Curtis Townsend served as Commander, USN Aviation Base, Aghada, County Cork, Ireland in World War I; was commander, Cruisers Battle Forces, U.S. Fleet, in 1936.


Also found this tidbit.

February 22nd, 1918 - NAS Queenstown, an assembly and repair station for all Naval Air Stations in Ireland, was established, Lieutenant Commander P. J. Peyton commanding.

This is the seaplane that would most likely have been seen flying over Aghad in 1918.
Curtiss H-16, appeared in 1917 armed with six machine-guns and could carry 920 lbs (416 kg) of bombs.
Performance Data of the Curtiss H-16
Type reconnaissance/bomber
Engine 2 x 400 hp Liberty
Wing Span 95 ft (28.98 m)
Length 46 ft 1 in (14.6 m)
Height 17 ft 8 in (5.4 m)
Maximum Speed 95 mph (153 kph)
Maximum Height 9,950 ft (3,033 m)
Range 378 (608 km)
Armament 5-6 machine-guns; 920 lbs (416 kg) of bombs

A 1917 Curtiss HS-2 flying boat in United States Navy service.

The 1917 Curtiss H-16 Big Fish flying boat, which was painted as a fish, in American Trans-Oceanic Company service, at Lake George, New York, during the summer of 1921, before it was destroyed in a crash.

1st November 2004, 01:36
Good stuff...wonder if there any books available with references...neither of the naval service histories make reference to the base.

Steamy Window
1st November 2004, 02:05
or the flying boat base in wexford town...?

1st November 2004, 06:23
The old Pipe shop in Verolme dockyard was formally a USN sea plane hanger, before Verolme came it was the Plate shop. It was on the Stbd. side as you entered the graving dock, a wooden building with curved roof spans.I expect it is long gone.

1st November 2004, 12:24
Here's some more stuff on US submarines operating off the coast of Ireland which details operating conditions for crews which by all accounts was pretty miserable.

Quite prominent in this photograph of USS L-1 (SS-40) at Berehaven is her disappearing-mount 3-inch/23-caliber gun just forward of the sail. In the gun’s stowed position, only the barrel protruded vertically above the deck. In the background is USS Nevada (BB-36), which operated out of Bantry Bay with two sisters in mid-1918 – and survived the Pearl Harbor attack 23 years later to serve throughout World War II.

USS L-2 (SS-41) at Bantry Bay, Ireland, in mid-1918. The 11 submarines of the L class were commissioned between April 1916 and February 1918, and all eventually crossed the Atlantic to European waters before the end of the war.


1st November 2004, 21:41
Murph, theres plenty of detail on the Aghada base in "Down Paths of Gold", local history book on the Eastern Harbour area - it has pics as well as far as I can remember. There's a copy in the UCC library, not sure if I have one to hand, will have a look and get back to you ...

Goldie fish
1st November 2004, 21:51
There is loads of mostly undocumented history about the Lower harbour. I understand the Submarine that landed Casement in Fenit also scuttled itself somewhere near Roches point.
I understand Daire Brinicardi is in the process of updating His fathers book on the Military involvment in cork Harbour,hopefully this will include more details on who and what was here.