SUBMARINE LOSSES - THE LOSS OF HMS E18

Throughout the two world wars, and probably at other times too, many foreigners and many civilians or non-mariners [whether mercantile or naval] have lost their lives whilst sailing or serving in British warships. A couple of the well known losses were those suffered in WW2 with the loss of the Hood, and in WW1 with the loss of the Hampshire. In the former, many sailors from other Allied navies served in the mighty Hood, and the latter, in Hampshire, Lord Kitchener had several in his party [entourage] including civilian servants/stewards, civilian clerks, civilian senior civil servants from the Foreign Office and his army staff officers.

Obviously a great deal of intelligence was shared by the Allies and many liaisons were established on front lines, whether they be land, sea or air, attack or defence platforms. Keeping with the 'theme' of the paragraph above, there were three instances where a 'leaving' and a 'joining' of Allied forces either hindered or assisted the prosecution of war for the Allies, one in WW1 and two in WW2. Those in WW2 were both 'joiners' manifest in the surrender of the Italians onto our side and the public execution of Mussolini, and the joining of the Free French navy with their ships to the Royal Navy side. However, for the purposes of this page, WW1 and the 'leaver' is of greater interest.

The 'leaving part' is obvious for I am talking about Russia which left the Allied cause because of the troubles back home which led to the Russian Revolution, the deposing of the King [the Tsar] and the subsequent murder of his family. Russia's leaving also took the pressure off the Germans and released many more Germans to fight in the West much to our chagrin.

Prior to Russia leaving the pack, many Russians served with the Allied forces as opposed to serving alongside them. The Royal Navy had a sizeable contingent of Russian sailors who were deployed in our ships and in our submarines, some actually appointed to senior leadership, both at the fronts but also back in HQ's assisting with intelligence matters, logistics and reinforcements. Russian ratings were given responsible jobs in communication departments, even to the point of working with the Coder branch using secret encryption devices, machine and books!

In British submarines, especially those operating in near-Russian waters [Baltic and the various Gulfs e.g.,Gulf of Finland] several crew members were replaced with Russian ratings and officers as ships company members. Our story is about the British 'E' class submarine E18, which at the time of her loss was operating in and out of the Capital of Estonia, now called Tallinn but then called Reval as part of the British Baltic Submarine Flotilla. Tallinn today is a beautiful City and always visited by cruise Liners doing the sites which includes St Petersburg in what is now the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States], the former Soviet Union. It is hard to visualise a war-setting of this scenic area.

The story of how and where she was lost was unknown to the British Authorities, but a general opinion supported by sightings a day before she was lost was that she had hit a mine whilst doing a surface transit back to base in Reval. That day was the 1st June 1916, so the 2nd June 1916 was thought to be the day/date of loss. However, just in case she did make it home by whatever means, the Admiralty kept open the books, finally closing them on the 11th June 1916 as a certain loss. As such, a contradiction has occurred which has meant that the 11th June 1916 date was accepted as THE date, and indeed, that is recorded on the Portsmouth War Memorial inter alia. Moreover, the contradiction has resulted in the loss of the boat not even being mentioned in June 1916, on what is considered to be an authoritative website on naval deaths http://www.naval-history.net/xDKCas1916-05May.htm which rather strangely, and against historical facts, shows the lost of the boat on the 24th May 1916. So British-wise, there are two dates for her demise, the 24th May and the 11th  June 1916. So why I have I mentioned the 2nd June 1916 above which the UK Submarine Museum agrees with: the three major naval War Memorials agree with the Admiralty [11th June 1916] - as one would expect!

Well first of all I have mention that date because towards of 2009 the wreck of the boat was found, and the records were gone over again, so that all the known facts could be recorded for posterity 93 long long years after the disaster. With the facts, were near-certain probabilities, enough for a notice to be issued, produced and displayed in 2010 in Tallinn which reads:

E18 struck a mine and sank with all hands on 2nd June 1916. The wreck was discovered on 19th October 2009. This memorial was unveiled and dedicated at a Service of Remembrance for the crew of E18 on 30th May 2010.

The service was conducted at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Tallinn with a large congregation present.

Inside the Church on a large bare wall of the Chancel to the left of the Altar, mounted on a stone surround with silhouette of HM Submarine E18, is an engraved brass plate which is the crews cenotaph. Details of the  date and position of the sinking; list of the thirty British and three Russian officers and men who lost their lives; enameled ensigns of Royal Navy (White Ensign) and Russian Navy (Cross of St Andrew - the Saltire).

This is the E18 Memorial, the LEFT HAND DISPLAY  [SINGLE PANEL] with the enameled Royal N/Russian N badge on the bottom.  The CENTRAL DISPLAY [3 PANELS] , which along the bottom edge reads "British Seamen of the Cross of Liberty"  commemorates men by name who supported Estonia during her War of Independence. The RIGHT HAND DISPLAY [4 PANELS] with  badge at the bottom of the White Ensign and the National Flag of Estonia [which is a horizontal tricolour with a blue, black and white stripe with a coat-of-arms in the middle], known as the BALTIC WATERS MEMORIAL commemorates members of the British Armed Forces [Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen] who also fought in the Estonian War of Independence. As such of course, the White Ensign should have been the Union Flag! The Estonian War of Independence was fought with Russian straight after WW1 had finished, and I covered what the British volunteers did at that time on my website on this page http://www.godfreydykes.info/WW1_and_a_few_things_you_might_not_be_familiar_with.html

This shows the E18 Memorial more clearly


Photograph by Carl Douglas

Note how the Chief Telegraphist of the boat and the signalman are Russians along with one of the wardroom officers

So, a tale of confusing dates and misleading memorials in the UK and abroad with the Admiralty's and local knowledge being ignored, and a British naval history website pandering to a history book instead of naval intelligence recorded at the time of the incident, and foreigners helping to man and fight our submarines.

Good sailing and your aye.