HM submarine A3 was built by Vickers, Sons & Maxim Ltd. in Barrow-in-Furness. She was launched in March 1903 and commissioned on 13th July 1904.
Following her ramming by the depot ship HMS Hazard in February 1912 with the loss of 14 crewmen, the A3 was raised and later sunk as a target east of Portland in May 1912 by HMS St. Vincent. The A3 had been towed out to sea by the tug Seahorse and the dreadnought St. Vincent opened fire at 2,000 yards with her 4-inch guns. At the third shot, the A3 slid from view.
The A3 is one of only three surviving A-class submarines anywhere in the world.
Reasons for Designation
The remains of HM submarine A3 is designated a Protected Wreck Site for the following principal reasons:
* Period: the A-class was the Royal Navy’s first class of British-designed submarines, laid down during 1903. The class was designed for coastal defensive work;
* Potential: together with submarines A1 and A7, the A3 demonstrates experimentation and technical evolution in form, displacement and stability;
* Rarity: the A3 is one of only three surviving A-class submarines anywhere in the world and is a unique survivor from the second group of boats built in the class;
* Vulnerability: the A3 remains vulnerable to legitimate, but uncontrolled, salvage.
Forming one of four vessels in the first group of A-class submarines, the A3 was built by Vickers, Sons & Maxim Ltd. in Barrow-in-Furness. She was launched in March 1903 and commissioned on 13th July 1904.
Following her ramming by the depot ship HMS Hazard in February 1912 with the loss of 14 crewmen, the A3 was raised and later sunk as a target in May 1912 by HMS St. Vincent. The A3 had been towed out to sea by the tug Seahorse and the dreadnought St. Vincent opened fire at 2,000 yards with her 4-inch guns. At the third shot, the A3 slid from view.
Of the other three boats in the Group, the A1 is a Protected Wreck Site under the 1973 Act in the Solent, the A2 was scrapped after being sold in 1925 and the A4 was scrapped following her sale in 1920. Of the nine submarines that formed the second Group of A-class boats, only the A7 survives (as a controlled site under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 off Plymouth Sound) as the other vessels were all scrapped.
Many submarines were built during the late 19th century by various inventors, but it was not to become a fully effective weapon until the 20th century following the invention of the internal combustion engine coupled with that of the electric motor, an effective storage battery, and the development of the Whitehead locomotive torpedo (perfected in 1866 and first used successfully in combat in 1878 during the Russo-Turkish war).
Initially, the Royal Navy was reluctant to develop submarine capability in the early twentieth century: it was considered ‘an underhand form of warfare…and a damned un-English weapon’. The then First Lord of the Admiralty, George Goschen, even commented that ‘submarines are a weapon for maritime powers on the defensive.’ However, this attitude was quick to change after submarines had entered service with foreign navies. The British A-class submarines were to become the test-bed for early British submarine design, and were fitted with a petrol engine (for surface propulsion) and an electric motor (for submerged propulsion).
Special interest in the A3 lies in it being one of the earliest developments of the submarine by the Royal Navy during the Anglo-German naval arms race between 1898 and 1912. The construction of all A-class submarines pre-dates the First World War, the A3 being one of only three surviving A-class submarines anywhere in the world.
Designation History: Designation Order: 685 Made: 27 June 2016 Laid before Parliament: 30 June 2016 Coming into force: 21 July 2016. Protected area: 50 metres within 50° 31.424’ N 002° 11.315’ W.
No part of the restricted area lies above the high-water mark of ordinary spring tides.
Documentary History: the initial success of the early Holland boats encouraged the adoption of a regular submarine programme and money was included in the 1902-03 defence estimates for four A-class submarines. They were laid down at the beginning of 1902. Nine more vessels (submarines A5-A13) were included in the 1903-04 defence estimates and laid down during 1903. The A13 was completed by 1905.
The A, B and C-classes which followed were progressive developments of the Holland submarines. Throughout the A Class there were such changes that they can really be classed as four types: A1, A2-4, A5-12 and A13. The A3 was commissioned under the 1902-03 programme, at a cost of £41,000.
The A1, the first boat to be designed by Vickers followed, was 3 knots faster than the Holland's and in every way a success. The A, B and C-classes followed of entirely Vickers design and differed in every respect from any other known type of submarine. Submarines A1-A4 were an improved Holland-type, fitted with a high conning tower and short periscope.
The 'spindle hull' form was retained in the A, B and C-classes. In submarines A2-A13 an effort was made to better the form to improve speed. The maximum beam near amidships was increased and the lines in the forward body and at the extreme after end made finer. These efforts were however largely nullified since the introduction of a second bow tube made it necessary to make the sections right forward much fuller and the bows blunter than in submarine A1. In submarine A1 the conning tower was made 7 ft high with a freeboard of 8 ft 10 inches. but there was only 2 ft freeboard to the superstructure top. In submarines A2-A4 the conning tower height was reduced to 5 ft 6 inches and a portable bridge fitted at the aft side. Because of the latter presumably, no superstructure was fitted amidships.
Archaeological History: the site lies in approximately 30-40m of water, east of Portland, Dorset. The A3 is reported to lie on an even keel, measuring 34m in length with a beam of 4m. While the sea bed drops to 38-39m, the depth to the conning tower is 32m. The submarine is believed to be comparatively intact with the exception of the conning tower hatch and windows. Three hatches are reported to have been removed from the wreck, with the conning tower hatch having been displayed at the Diving and Shipwreck Centre, Weymouth.
This list entry was subjkect to a Minor Amendment on 09/03/2017