Warship Wednesday, August 11, 2021: The Guacolda-class submarines, via Quincy, Mass

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, August 11, 2021: The Guacolda-class submarines, via Quincy, Mass

Original caption: July 4, 1917, Boston (Charlestown) Navy Yard, “Six British subs bottled up in Navy Yard because of U.S. Neutrality are given to the Chilean government in exchange for a Man of War which could not be built by England.”

The Chilean flag was hoisted in that day over six Holland-type submarines, marking the creation of the Chilean Navy’s submarine branch, which has the motto, “Semper Fidelis.” Photo by Leslie Jones, via Boston Public Library, Print Department. Note the famed “original six” frigate USS Constitution in the background. 

Ordered in 1914 from the Fore River Yard at Quincy, Massachusetts, once the Great War kicked off, then-neutral Uncle Sam interned HMS H11 through HMS H20 for the duration of hostilities (or at least, it turned out, American neutrality), despite the fact they did not have their torpedo tubes installed.

Holland 602 type submarines designed to meet Royal Navy specifications, nine other 150-foot/360-ton H-class boats were built by Vickers Canada in Monreal for the Admiralty while another 23 were ordered from Vickers, Cammell Laird, Armstrong Whitworth, and William Beardmore in Britain.

HM Submarine H.4, one of the Canadian Vickers-made boats, at Brindisi, August 1916. Notably, H4 sank U-boat UB-52 in the Adriatic on 23 May 1918, one of the biggest wins for the class. Photograph SP 578 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums

Of the 10 Yankee “H” boats, the British eventually transferred two, later christened HMCS CH-14 and CH-15, to Canadian service, while HMS H11 and H12 were cleared to sail after the U.S. entered the war in April 1917 only to be scrapped shortly after the conflict.

CH14 and CH15, Canadian submarines 1920-22

Likewise, the Canucks laid up their H-boats by 1922 and disposed of them soon after.

The remainder, H13 along with H16 through H20, were transferred to the Chilean government to partially compensate for Chilean vessels under construction in Britain that were seized in 1914 (such as the dreadnoughts Almirante Latorre/HMS Canada and Almirante Cochrane/HMS Eagle) for the fight against the Kaiser.

Commissioned into the Chilean Navy as Guacolda (H1), Tegualda (H2), Rucumilla (H3), Guale (H4), Quidora (H5), and Fresia (H6), on 28 March 1918, the flotilla set sail for Valparaíso on its maiden voyage under the command of RADM Luis Gomez Carreño.

These obsolete craft remained in service in Latin American waters through WWII, with the last only scrapping in 1949. Rucumilla had a particularly interesting rescue/salvage after she was lost at sea. 

As far as I can tell, they were the last pre-WWI Holland design sent to the breakers, and probably the last to submarines to carry 18-inch tubes on active duty. Of note, the Brits completed H21 and above with 21-inch tubes, some of whom continued to serve in WWII. 

Chilian Guacolda (Holland 602/H-class) submarines, via Jane’s 1946

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