Military Review

Brandtaucher. The first submarine of Germany

The first submarine projects were proposed and implemented in the 17th century, but the full-scale development of the promising direction began only in the middle of the 19th century. It was during this period that Germany made its first attempt at creating a submarine. In 1850, designer enthusiast Wilhelm Bauer prepared the first German project of this kind. Its development was embodied in the metal and was named Brandtaucher.

In March 1848, the war began between the German Union and Denmark, fighting for the duchy of Schleswig and Holstein. The fights were going on with varying success, and both sides tried to gain an advantage over the enemy. For example, in the spring of 1849, the Danish forces forced one of the water barriers with the help of pontoon bridges, which turned out to be an unpleasant surprise for the Germans. It was after this that one of the German enthusiasts had a curious suggestion aimed at combating the actions of the enemy on the water.

Submarine Brandtaucher in the museum. Photo of Wikimedia Commons

During that war, Corporal Wilhelm Bauer served in the 10th field battery of the Bavarian auxiliary corps. He was an artilleryman, but this fact did not prevent him from participating in the development. fleet. By the summer of 1849, Corporal Bauer had worked out a proposal for the construction of a special ship capable of covertly operating underwater. He could quietly approach the ships or enemy crossings and lay subversive charges. With the help of such means, German troops could fight both the enemy fleet and its engineering facilities.

In July of the same year, the parties concluded a truce, which allowed W. Bauer to distract from his service and focus on the creation of a new submarine. At the beginning of 1850, he announced his design to the command and received approval. In March, the commanders ordered to complete the design and build the first model of the new vessel.

It is curious that at this stage the project of Corporal Bauer received mixed reviews. So, the commission of the military department, in general, approved the unusual proposal, but in its report it was noted that it has some problems and, probably, the full potential of the boat can be realized only in ideal conditions. In addition, the project turned out to be too expensive for a country that had recently ended hostilities. According to preliminary estimates, the construction required to allocate 9 thousand marks.

For several months, B. Bauer and his colleagues continued to work on the project and were preparing for future construction. Nevertheless, the military still could not find the necessary finances, and therefore the real prospects of the project were questionable. The continuation of the work contributed to the military-political situation. In the middle of the year, the truce ended, and the fighting began again. Fearing the new actions of the Danish army, the German command was forced to force work on the submarine. A construction permit was received, although problems with money still persisted. The first part of the payment in the amount of a third of the estimate was received only in November.

Preliminary version of the project. Figure Wikimedia Commons

According to various sources, the construction of the Bauer submarine began in August or September 1850. The construction site was the Maschinenfabrik und Eisengiesserei Schweffel & Howaldt plant in Kiel. In just a few weeks, the company manufactured all the required units and assembled a full-fledged vessel suitable both for testing and for subsequent operation in sea and river theaters of military operations.

The project of Wilhelm Bauer during the development was called Brandtaucher, which can be translated as "Fire diver". Attacking targets was proposed using a specially designed destructive charge called the Brand. A little later, a nickname stuck to the submarine. For its characteristic appearance and body shape, it was called the Eiserner Seehund - “Iron Seal”.

From the point of view of its construction, the Brandtoher submarine was similar to some developments of its time and differed significantly from the later models. It was proposed to build a metal hull consisting of a frame and sheet plating. Such a body should have specific contours, due to the composition of the internal equipment, layout and other design features. Transportation of weapons inside the case was not provided for, but in the nose there was unusual equipment for its use.

The case had a large elongation and a complex streamlined shape with curved sides. Below the board converged and connected with the keel. On top of the case there was a slightly arched roof. In the bow of the hull, on the deck, placed the wheelhouse characteristic angular shape. She rose above the vertical stem, and her frontal unit stood forward relative to the other elements of the body. The hull lining consisted of steel sheets 6 mm thick. Initially, it was proposed to use a casing with a thickness of 12,5 mm, but later it was made less thick.

The internal volume of the hull was not divided into compartments and was fully habitable. In its nose part was provided a platform for work in the wheelhouse. Small wooden platforms also passed along the sides and were located in the stern. On the bottom, next to the keel, there was a ballast in the form of cast-iron blocks with a total mass of 20 t. A deck was installed above it. The hull volume under the deck was supposed to perform the functions of a ballast tank with a capacity of 2,8 cubic meters. It is curious that such a tank was not separated from the total volume of the hull. A hand pump was used to set or remove the ballast water.

Scheme built submarines. Figure Wikimedia Commons

The submarine Bauer Brandtaucher was supposed to use a very simple engine using the muscular strength of a man. A pair of large-diameter flywheels with rims fitted with stem-steps was placed near the center of the body. The common axis of the wheels was part of an uncomplicated gearbox that rotated the propeller shaft. Actually the screw had a three-blade construction and was located behind the hull's stern. Under him put a relatively long steering wheel. The latter was controlled by a pair of chains moved with a hand wheel inside the hull.

The main and only weapons The submarine was supposed to be a specially designed blast charge. A product with a hermetic case and a timeless fuse should have contained 50 kg of explosive. The charge called "Brand" was proposed to be transported on mounts in the forward part of the body. In the protruding part of the cabin there were hatches with a pair of diving mittens. With their help, one of the crew members was to fix the charge on the target and start the fuse.

According to the project, the crew of the Brandtaucher submarine consisted of only three people. The commander, who is also the helmsman, was on the front platform, on a small seat. He could observe the situation with a set of windows in the wheelhouse and control the direction of motion using the steering wheel. Two other crew members were responsible for the maintenance of mechanisms, and also played the role of the engine. They were asked to use the "ladder" of the steps on two wheels and thereby set the mechanisms in motion. Crew members could observe with the help of two rectangular windows on each side. A sunroof in the cabin was used for access to the inside of the submarine.

The total length of the finished submarine design B. Bauer was 8,07 m, width - a little more than 2 m, height - 3,5 m. Displacement - 27,5 t. The real ship turned out to be slightly larger than the one proposed by the original project. According to calculations, the muscular engine allowed the boat to reach a speed of no more than a few knots. The strength of the hull ensured immersion to a depth of no more than a few meters.

Brandtaucher. The first submarine of Germany
Submarine "Brandtoher" after lifting from the bottom. Photo "Silent Killers: Submarines and Underwater Warfare"

The lack of funding and limited capabilities of the contractor enterprise led to the fact that the Brandtoher submarine was completed only at the very end of 1850. Soon the ship was taken to the harbor of Kiel and lowered into the water. In the near future, it was planned to start sea trials, the results of which the military could draw conclusions. However, the start of the test had to be postponed.

At the very beginning of January 1851, the submarine, which was moored at the pier, suddenly sank. Apparently, during the assembly of the hermetic hull, some miscalculations were made, and the seawater could get inside the boat. However, it was soon raised and sent for repairs. Repairing damaged devices and repairing the case did not take much time. At the end of the month, the second launch took place, and the authors of the project began to prepare for tests.

On the morning of February 1 1851, the crew climbed onto the submarine. The commander and helmsman in her first crew was Wilhelm Bauer himself. The work of the mover and the pumps were the responsibility of the carpenter Friedrich Witt and the fireman Wilhelm Thomsen. Using their own muscular strength, the crew took the submarine from the pier and went into the water area with sufficient depth, where it was planned to test the possibilities of diving and ascent.

Without haste, the crew scored a ballast tank and completed the first dive. Then the water was pumped out of the hull, and the submarine rose to the surface. The first dive passed without any problems. W. Bower and his colleagues immediately made a second dive at a shallow depth. Again managed to solve the problem without difficulty. The tests went well, and the designer-submariner decided to conduct a third test. This time, he wanted to determine in practice the maximum possible depth of immersion. As subsequent events showed, this check was superfluous.

The crew worked with the pump, collecting ballast water, and the submarine gradually increased the depth. However, at a certain point, the external pressure exceeded the strength of the body, and it gave a leak. Due to the influx of water and the lack of balancing equipment, the Fiery Diver began to dive with a big trim to the stern. Soon he lay down on the bottom at a depth of about 10 m. The situation was the most serious. The crew could not save his ship, and he now had to think about his lives.

The interior of the submarine, the view of the engine in the direction of the nose. The steering wheel is visible in the background. In the direction of the camera is the shaft of the propeller. Photo

Submariners decided to leave the boat, but it could not be done immediately. They had to wait until the seawater completely filled the hull and squeezed the air out of it. After equalizing the pressure inside and outside, it was possible to open a single hatch and get out of the submarine. The wait lasted several hours, but the three testers still had enough air.

It should be noted that the crews of surface vessels, which ensured the testing of the submarine, understood in time that it was in distress and took measures. For several hours they tried to hook the submarine with cables and nets, and with their help lift it to the surface. Unfortunately, these attempts were unsuccessful.

W. Bower, F. Witt and W. Thomsen waited until the hull was completely filled, could open the hatch and went outside. Submariners independently reached the surface, and they were immediately taken aboard a support vessel. Two testers survived the accident and remained unharmed. The third crew member received minor injuries, but soon recovered and returned to work. The only Brandtaucher submarine, in turn, remained at the bottom of the bay.

Despite the unsuccessful completion of the first test "campaign", the project received a good assessment of military experts. Wilhelm Bauer has become a real celebrity. Soon he returned home to Munich, where he continued work on the subject of underwater shipbuilding. Later, the designer-enthusiast proposed a number of new ideas, which allowed to solve certain problems in the framework of the construction of submarines and their weapons. He repeatedly presented his decisions to the German military department. In addition, one of the projects of V. Bauer was able to get into Russia.

After unsuccessful trials, the Bauer submarine remained at the bottom. As early as April 1851, the Schleswig-Holstein military attempted to lift it to the surface. This operation, however, was not crowned with success. In 1855 and 1856, Denmark tried to take over the German boat, but it remained at the bottom again. The flooded vessel was able to be raised only in the summer of the 1887 year, when work was carried out in the area of ​​its death to dredge the bottom. 36 years on the seabed had a bad effect on the condition of the vessel. It had numerous injuries and managed to fill with sludge.

Layout of the submarine B. Bauer in one of the German museums. Photo of Wikimedia Commons

The further fate of the Brandtaucher boat became a topic of controversy, and as a result, the decision of principle was made personally by Emperor Wilhelm I. The ship was restored. Over the next few years, a unique sample of technology was stored at different sites until it was transferred to the Berlin Museum of Oceanography. The submarine was there for several decades and survived World War II without any problems.

In the fifties, the Federal Republic of Germany wished to receive the submarine W. Bauer and place it in one of its museums, but the German Democratic Republic refused to hand it over to its neighbor. In the mid-sixties, the shipyard in Rostock carried out a new reconstruction, and for several years the boat returned to Berlin. In 1972, a unique exhibit became the property of the military history museum in Dresden.

At the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, German industry carried out a new restoration of the first domestic submarine. After completing all the necessary work Brandtaucher was transported to Kiel, where he remains to this day. In the course of several repairs, the integrity of the hull was restored and the dents obtained during the tests were removed. Also, experts rebuilt all the internal equipment of the submarine. Saved side windows allow museum visitors to look inside the hull and view its equipment.

In the context of the Brandtoher project, one should also recall the model of the submarine, now in the Munich German Museum of Science and Technological Achievements. Shortly after the completion of the main project and returning home to Munich, Wilhelm Bauer continued design work and proposed an updated version of the submarine. She had a body of a different shape, and also had to be equipped with a movable cast-iron load for trimming. Such a project was implemented only as a scale model. Now it is stored in the Munich Museum.

Wilhelm Bauer continued to work in the field of submarines until his death in 1875. He proposed new versions of ballast systems, power plants, onboard equipment and weapons. Some of his ideas were immediately rejected, while others were developed and found application in subsequent projects of submarines. Together with other engineers in Germany and other countries, V. Bauer made a significant contribution to the emergence and improvement of submarines of modern appearance.

As often happens, the very first project was not the most successful and did not leave the test stage. Moreover, the first German submarine could not even return from the first test exit to the sea. Structural problems led to the leakage and flooding of the submarine. However, the Brandtaucher project was able to occupy a prominent place in stories German shipbuilding, as well as affect the further development of the entire direction. Fortunately for lovers of history and technology, they managed to raise a unique sample from the seabed, restore it and send it to the museum. Thanks to this, everyone can get acquainted with the history not only by books.

Based on:
Delgado JP Cussler C. Silent Killers: Submarines and Underwater Warfare. - Osprey Publiching, 2011.

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  1. Vard
    Vard 12 June 2018 05: 05
    The German school of submarine construction is traditionally one of the most advanced .. thanks to the author ... A very informative article ...
  2. polpot
    polpot 12 June 2018 09: 47
    Thank you very interesting, the work of people in such conditions is respectful, it is difficult to be a test.
  3. region58
    region58 12 June 2018 17: 49
    I never cease to be surprised at our ancestors. There was practically nothing, no experience, no relevant materials ... nothing. However - both in the air, and under the water, and on the pole ... And it worked. Respect is probably not the right word ... there is more to it.
  4. Heterocapsa
    Heterocapsa 12 June 2018 18: 41
    in such only under the threat of execution would climb
  5. Dead duck
    Dead duck 13 June 2018 13: 24
    And on July 1 1866 of the year in the center of St. Petersburg was launched the Alexandrovsky submarine.
    At that time the largest. request
  6. Alex
    Alex 9 August 2018 23: 03
    had to be equipped with a movable cast-iron load for trimming
    The same solution was implemented by Jacques-Yves Cousteau on his “Diving Saucer”. Only there instead of the pot mercury was pumped over.