Project 11: The Project Report
The A7 Project was an investigation of the early Royal Navy submarine HMS/M A7 lost with all hands during a training exercise in Whitsand Bay, Cornwall, on 16th January 1914. The project started in October 2013 with a proposal put to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to undertake an archaeological investigation of the submarine. The A7 is a Controlled site under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 and unauthorised access to the site is prohibited. The project proposal was accepted by the MoD and a license to visit the site was issued to the SHIPS Project for a two month fieldwork season in the summer of 2014.
The aims and objectives of the project have been completed:
- Document the story of the loss of the submarine
- Undertake a detailed assessment of the wreck site
- Undertake a condition assessment of the submarine
- Raise public awareness about the story of the submarine and its loss
- Investigate the cause of the loss of the submarine
- Create an archive of information about the submarine
The historical research produced a detailed narrative on the origins and development of the A class submarines of which A7 is one of the thirteen that were built, and collated information about the last crew of the A7 as the submarine is their last resting place. The site was investigated by remote sensing then a detailed condition assessment of the outside of the submarine was completed by divers; this also included ultrasonic hull thickness measurements used to investigate corrosion of the hull. The documentary research and the results of the condition assessment were used to formulate a new theory about why the submarine was lost. The story of this forgotten submarine has been the subject of media attention, has been promoted locally and nationally, at international conferences, on social media and is the subject of a number of publications. The virtual reality (VR) model of the submarine has brought this hidden heritage to a wide cross-section of the public in a simple but dramatic way. A digital archive of material has been created about the life and loss of this submarine which can now be shared publicly with a number of organisations and institutions.
The A7 submarine is the last complete example of the first type of submarine developed by the Royal Navy. The class were developed rapidly and in secret by a Royal Navy officer with no previous experience in submarines, yet what was produced was the forerunner of the British submarines that fought in WWI. As such this contribution should be recognised and the name of Reginald Bacon R.N. be added to the list of the great submarine designers.
The remains of the A7 submarine are still largely intact so the undocumented secrets of how this submarine was constructed and operated still remain a mystery. But the hull is corroding and this project suggests that a conservative estimate for the survival of the hull to be between 40 to 50 years. The significance and rate of deterioration of the A7 have led to proposals in this report for further work on the site including monitoring change during annual site visits, further corrosion studies and more detailed recording of the unique features of the submarine.
The results of the A7 Project was published in 2015 by BAR Publishing:
Subjects covered in the 120 page illustrated report include:
- Project aims and objectives
- Early Royal Navy submarine development
- Submarine losses
- The Loss of HM Submarine A7
- Early submarine crews and the last crew of the A7
- Site history
- Site investigation
- Initial estimate of condition
- Marine geophysical survey
- 3D model
- Condition assessment
- The significance of submarine A7
- Condition Assessment - Features
- Hull plate thickness measurements
- Identification of targets on the seabed around the hull
- Marine biology survey
- Engineering drawings
- Why was A7 lost?
The report is available from the BAR Publishing web site, click here for more details.