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British Snorting Activity in WWI

Compiled by Peter D Hulme

Following the publication Snorting in the Royal Navy, 1945 onwards, George Malcolmson, RN Submarine Museum archivist, drew my attention to activity in the Britain regarding snorting in the period of the First World War. He sent the facsimile of a sole page from a book believed to be any early history of Scotts shipyard, at Greenock. Reproduced below.

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Searching the web revealed the brief comment in the following article that fits in with the suggestion that the facsimile page was originally from a history about the Scottish Ship Builder, Scotts of Greenock.

"Conventional submarine building at Scott's of Greenock, 191284. With special reference to Australia", an article by Dr Lewis Johnman and Dr Hugh Murphy, University of Westminster and University of Glasgow, published in in the Journal for Maritime Research: December 2003 - ISSN: 1469-1957

Readers with a general interest in submarines built in the UK will find the whole article useful. Here is the extract from the article relevant to the 1916 snort proposal..

"During the Great War, Scott's constructed a designated submarine shed and built eight submarines of various classes, including the first steam turbine driven submersible craft for the Royal Navy, HMS Swordfish. They also designed and patented a earlier version of the schnorkel, an innovation which the Admiralty did not take up." (see footnote)

"SBA (Scottish Business Archives) GD 319/1/1/2 Directors' Reports and Accounts, various years, see also H. Peebles, Warshipbuilding on the Clyde (Edinburgh, 1987) p.93. "

Unfortunately an examination of this book by a friend who owns a copy, shows no reference and the Archivist at Scottish Business Archives can find nothing in the referenced file about snort. Further research in the UK may well show the original source of the reproduced page, but that is beyond my reach here in NZ.

Paul Kemp - "SUBMARINE ACTION" . In his book, this usually well informed submarine author, tells us that "two British submarines of the First World War period, C3 and E35, were fitted with homemade 'underwater breathing tubes' designed by their commanding officers.". Kemp goes on to say, "These were fairly hair-raising from a safety aspect, but their appearance showed that submariners were thinking about the need to use their engines while submerged.".

One can only agree with Kemp's sentiments, expressed in the last sentence.


Patent (PDF) Since preparing this article I have come across this patent that confirms that that Scotts did patent a Snort system in 1916 . However the system drawing in the article differs in detail from that in the patent , but this is of little historical consequence as the Admiralty did not adopt any kind of snort system in WW1, indeed not until until 1945.

FOOTNOTE. In the above mentioned article, the photograph of 'S' class in dry dock mid 1950s, shown on page 2, is not the Scotsman as captioned; she had been converted to quite a different shape at that time. It appears to be a streamlined 'S', first of class being Seraph 1944. See the articles HMS Scotsman and Diesel Submarines 1948-1958


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