No wonder the submarine casing party hated their sparker ship mates?


The following file depicts the embryonic days of W/T in British submarines


This picture shows how the 'deck tube' which protruded well above the line of the casing, passing through it, to sit resting on the top watertight cap, acted as a gateway to the special pressure hull gland. A system designed for the earliest of times c.1910'ish.

Don't worry or fret for no question are to be asked of you, so look and learn and have pity for the riggers and un-riggers, the casing party.

A submarine sailed from port to a sea patrol rigged as you see in the top picture, rigged almost certainly by sparkers. However, when on station it prepared to dive, so the casing party would be called to unrig this jury-rig aerial system and in all weather's, first collapsing and stowing the main structure into the deck slots clearly marked, and the rest taken below and stowed ready for the command, "shut off from diving - re-rig the W/T aerial" - not, mark you, antenna - that's a Yankee word!

In each and every evolution the casing party would provide the labourers and the sparkers, but not if above a sea state of 2 or it's raining up top, would do the final connection and testing.  If either of those two mentioned states persists, the sparkers would  advise the skipper of a more appropriate timing!

That's it - there is no more unless you want to continue reading the last few lines of text below.

At least now you know what a tough life it was to be a sparker back in the early 20th century - Oooops, at any time come to that !


The Type 10 wireless telegraphy spark transmitter and associated receiver was the very first British attempt at giving a boat the ability to communicate to shore and to other fleet units at sea. It was fitted into one 'B' class; eleven 'C' class; eight 'D' class; seven 'E' class two of which were built for the Australian navy namely the  AE1 and AE2, and one 'X' class, with HMS Vernon having a full set for test and experimental purposes.

The aerial array you see above was standard for that equipment fit in all types of boats mentioned.

It involved the use of a pole-mast clamped the leading edge of the conning tower which in the 'B', 'C' and 'X' classes was thirty feet high, and in other classes thirty  five feet high. Forward and aft there was a stump-mast, taller aft than forward, and each could be lowered forward towards the bow with ease and rapidity, into crutches attached the casing. The gland through which the wire passed was watertight [see above]. The pole and stub masts were lowered by hand before diving and the wires were left hauled taut and left roved on the casing upon diving. On surfacing the tautness was relaxed and each of the three masts placed in the vertical position re-hauling to take up the slack for efficient and safe use whilst on the surface.  However, it was the Admiralty's declared intention to allow commanding officers latitude in the way they used their aerial,  for it was a mechanical decision and not an electrical/wireless telegraphy decision as long as the deck-tube was not damaged, and as such, it became more and more the norm to dive and surface with the array rigged as shown. The records do not show the relationship between the tip of the pole mast [either 30 or 35 feet above the casing] and the tip of a periscope when fully raised, so which would have broken surface first when at normal periscope depth is not known. Circumspection would have been the order of the day if having dived with the mast in its upright position, so as not to give the boats position, its calculated speed and course steered away,  for surely the wash on it would have been greater than on a raised periscope especially an attack as opposed to a search periscope where the former is a lot thinner than the latter!

Many trials were conducted between 1912 and 1914 with the technical assistance of a civilian company.  They were tasked to research a system using their core expertise which was in hydraulics and pneumatics, such that masts could be raised and lowered telescopically  from within the submarine. Eventually two such masts were trialed and subsequently accepted for the duration of the war, one forward of the bridge and one some way aft which were raised simultaneously pulling a suitable horizontal wire aerial array laying in a pre determined pattern on the casing to the upright position, having as its main feature a "slack" deck-tube feed point, circumventing the possible weak-point of the system which would have been a rupture of the watertight glad.