by: Raul Colon
When the Great War commenced in August 1914, it was the British Royal Navy, not Germany, who possess the strongest submarine force. But as the war progressed, advances in German submarine design and enemy engagement tactics promptly shifted the balance of power underneath the sea. By the late 1916, it was Germany who controlled the type and pace of the submarine warfare. By the early 1917, the new German U-boats were wreaking havoc with the Allies’ merchant shipping. A new strategy and weapons were needed. By the summer of 1917 the British took an unorthodox approach to the U-boat problem. The Admiralty proposed the development of new type of submarine: a sub hunter boat. The R-1 was the forerunner of the modern fast attack submarine. The lead boat hull’s, the class would include ten units, was laid in February 1917. It measured 163’-9” in length with a height of 15’-0” and a conning tower height of 11’-6”. Total surface displacement was 410 tons while underwater the R-1 would displace 503 tons. The highly streamline and clean hull structure, an innovation for those times, would provide the boat with added underwater speed. The R-1 did not mount any deck gun and its ballast tanks were placed internally. A single screw alignment was powered a one 1200hp diesel and one electrical engines. The engines gave the R-1 a top surface speed of 15 knots. Undersea speed was just under ten (9.5) knots. Maximum operational range, at an eight knot clip, was an impressive 2,048 nautical miles. Being a sub hunter-killer, the R-1 had six 18” torpedo tubes.
The R-1 was launched on April 1918 and became operational in October of that year. She was manned by a crew compliment of 36 men. Beside the “new” nature of the boat mission profile, the R-1 class would incorporate some of Great Britain’s most advance technologies. Chief among them was the newly re-developed hydrophones. The R-1 was fitted with four powerful hydrophones with bearing mechanism in its bow section. The R-1 became operational too late to serve the Royal Navy in World War I. She would operate as a costal patrol boat for several years before it became useless for its role. The lead boat was decommissioned in January 1923 and scrapped to pieces the following year.@Raul Colon