Nowadays, submarines are quite common and are considered safe. But when the first functional submarines appeared in the early 1900s, they were dangerous and unreliable due to various design defects. The technique of creating submarines at that time was just beginning to develop by trial and error. And the reliability of modern submarines has been achieved through many years of research and experimentation.
Unfortunately, these mistakes at the beginning of the submarine era often led to catastrophic accidents. For example, a flaw in design led to the first disaster of the ill-fated HMS Thetis, a Royal Navy T-class submarine that was one of the few warships to sink twice (with both crews killed).
The Tethys was designed by Cammell Laird and Vickers-Armstrong and launched in June 1938. The first test dive was scheduled for June 1939. There were 102 people on board, including 51 crew members, 27 Cammell Laird employees, 4 Vickers-Armstrong employees, and several admiralty and naval observer officers. When the submarine sank under the water, it turned out that the vessel had excess buoyancy. It was decided that the tube of one of the torpedo tubes remained closed.
A quick inspection showed that the dried enamel stain prevented one of the torpedo tubes from opening. The crew tried to solve the problem manually by opening the pipe from the inside, but it turned out that there was still water in it, which poured into the submarine. Since no emergency closure of the inner cover of the torpedo tube was foreseen, the entire front of the submarine was filled with water and the Tethys lay down on the ground at a depth of 48 meters.
Only four men (out of 102) managed to get out of the sinking ship, including Captain Harry Oram and Lieutenant Frederick Woods. People could leave the submarine through the emergency evacuation chamber only one at a time, and before leaving the vessel, the chamber had to balance the pressure with the water pressure outside. In this way, only four people managed to get out, and the fifth panicked and prematurely opened the outer hatch of the cell, without waiting for the pressure to equalize. As a result, the water rushed inside, literally smearing this man on the wall, after which it began to flood the Tethys. The rest of the people in the submarine drowned or suffocated due to the rapid rise in carbon dioxide levels.
A year later, in 1940, Thetis was brought to the surface, refurbished and put back into operation. The sub was renamed HMS Thunderbolt, and a new crew was assigned to it under the leadership of Lieutenant Commander Cecil Crouch. This time the submarine successfully "survived" the test dive and subsequently achieved significant success in sea battles.
While patrolling the Atlantic in December 1940, Thetis sank an Italian submarine commanded by Captain Raffaele Tarantini. Two years later, the ship was transferred to the Mediterranean with two other submarines of a similar class. Their mission was to attack Italian naval harbors and destroy supply caravans. During an Allied operation in Palermo harbor, a submarine under the new name Thunderbolt managed to sink the cruiser Ulpio Traiano and a freighter named SS Viminale.
Nevertheless, Thunderbolt once again did not escape its sad fate. On March 14, 1943, the submarine was sunk by depth charges from the Italian corvette Cicogna. This time, the submarine sank at a depth of 1340 meters along with its entire crew.
As a result, the submarine, despite the fact that its name was changed, remained unlucky, taking the lives of almost 200 people in total.
The only positive moment that was associated with the ill-fated ship was the introduction in the submarine fleet of the so-called "Tethys clamp" - a safety device that controls the opening of torpedo tubes and prevents the flow of water from the tube of the apparatus into the hull of the submarine. The Tethys Clamp is today an indispensable part of every British and Australian submarine.
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