Heritage Category:
Maritime Wreck
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Royal Sovereign Bank, off Bexhill, East Sussex


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Royal Sovereign Bank, off Bexhill, East Sussex
National Grid Reference:
TV 77685 91305


The Holland No. 5 was the first commissioned submarine in the Royal Navy and was lost under tow in 1912. She was an experimental submarine, amongst the first ever to be built for the Royal Navy; completed in 1903 of steel with a petrol engine.


In response to submarines entering service in foreign navies during the late 1890's the British Admiralty reluctantly decided that they should acquire some submarine boats for the purpose of evaluating their potential as a weapon. Agreement was made with the Holland Torpedo Boat Company that five of their Holland No. X design would be built at Vickers Sons & Maxim Ltd at Barrow-in-Furness. The first submarine was launched in October 1901. No.5 was launched in May 1902, two months before the launch of No.6, the first of the improved Holland types, one of which is the designated A1.

The boats were built in great secrecy and with direct involvement from the Holland Company. The Admiralty regarded the boats as wholly experimental and extensive trials were carried out. Many developments were made on the boats and several of these ideas were taken back to the USA. Not least of which was the first application of a periscope to a submarine in order to allow surface vision whilst the boat was submerged, all previous submarines were dependant on porpoising up and down to view through deadlights.

The Holland boats served their purpose well and even before the last of the type was launched the improved class that was to supersede them was already being built. Once their function was fulfilled the Navy quickly disposed of the Holland's. No.4 had foundered in 1912 but was raised and expended as a gunnery target, all the rest were sold to ship breakers. No.5 foundered on 8th August 1912 whilst under tow to the breakers yard.

The hull of No. 1, the first of the experimental class, was located and salvaged in 1982 and is displayed at RN Submarine Museum. Due to the nature of their service lives the Holland boats produced a great deal of surviving documentation and photographs; these are now housed in the extensive archive of RN Submarine Museum at Gosport.


Designation History: Statutory Instrument: No 3249, 2004 Designation Order made: 9th December 2004 Laid before Parliament: 9th December 2004 Came into force: 4th January 2005

Protected area: Within 200m of 50 41.655 N and 000 30.867 E

No part of the restricted area lies above the high-water mark of ordinary spring tides.

Documentary History: Invented by J. P. Holland as a means to counter British Naval supremacy, the Holland class boats ironically became the Royal Navy's first submarines.

In 1888, Holland entered a US Navy competition to design a submarine torpedo boat; he won the competition but not the contract. Entering, and again winning, a second competition in 1893, he formed the Holland Torpedo Company and went on to both produce and test several designs of Holland Class boats for the US Navy, leading to the Holland No. 7 which was to form the basis of the Royal Navy's submarine boats (Holland Nos. 1-5). All five boats were built by Vickers Sons and Maxim Ltd. in Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire, in the short period between October 1902 and May 1903.

The Holland No. 5 served with the 1st Flotilla, based at Fort Blockhouse, until she was removed from the Navy List in August 1912 and decommissioned.

The hull of Holland No. 1 was located and recovered in 1982 and is displayed at the RN Submarine Museum, Gosport.

Archaeological History: Discovered in September 2000 by a diver who contacted the Archaeological Diving Unit, the boat was designated as she is the only surviving example of this type of vessel on the seabed anywhere in the world. She is crucial to the history of the early development of submarine technology.

Geophysical surveys of 2000/1 show the submarine to be intact, upright on the seabed with the periscope standard or a ventilator apparently still upright. Photographs show the wreck to be virtually complete and closed up, with only the lighter external fittings missing. It is therefore assumed that all internal fittings are in place and in good condition.

In 2005, two anomalies close to the site were investigated; one proving to be geological and the other a large metal object, thought possibly to have formed part of the arrangement used while the vessel was being towed to Sheerness. The bow cap is reported to have broken off during 2010.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:
AMIE - Wrecks


HMS/M Holland No.5, East Sussex: Designated Site Assessment: Archaeological Report, Wessex Archaeology, April 2006, Ref: 53111.03ii
Wessex Archaeology, October 2007, Ref: 53111.03aaa, HMS/M Holland No.5: Designated Site Assessment: Archaeological Report,


This site is designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 as it is or may prove to be the site of a vessel lying wrecked on or in the sea bed and, on account of the historical, archaeological or artistic importance of the vessel, or of any objects contained or formerly contained in it which may be lying on the sea bed in or near the wreck, it ought to be protected from unauthorised interference. Protected wreck sites are designated by Statutory Instrument. The following information has been extracted from the relevant Statutory Instrument.

Statutory Instrument

Information provided under the Statutory Instrument heading below forms part of the official record of a protected wreck site. Information provided under other headings does not form part of the official record of the designation. It has been compiled by Historic England to aid understanding of the protected wreck site.

Statutory Instruments: 2004/3249

End of official listing

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