§ 63. Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he has any further information to give the House with regard to the sinking of the A7 submarine, particularly with regard to the statements made that she had remained on the bottom for an hour a short time before the accident occurred?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Sir, these statements have been closely investigated. The statement contained in the published letter of Colonel Morrison, father of Sub-Lieutenant Morrison, who lost his life in A7, to the effect that A7 sunk to the bottom when exercising off Plymouth, and that it took over an hour of hard work to get her to the surface again, is, according to all the information I have received, quite untrue. I am informed that Sub-Lieutenant Morrison was only present in A7 during one exercise prior to Christmas, namely, on the 16th December. Three men who were then on duty in A7 depose that she did not go below a depth of twenty feet on that day. Sub-Lieutenant Morrison joined His Majesty's ship "Onyx" on the 1st December, 1913, and the only other exercises in "A" boats in which he took part prior to Christmas, were three dives in A8. On one occasion, owing to a personal error, A8 was over-trimmed, and dived to a depth of seventy-eight feet. The interval of time from the moment she dipped her periscope until she regained the surface did not exceed one minute. She did not touch the bottom; and diving at such a depth is not considered dangerous, in fact, it is frequently deliberately undertaken. 1948 The lieutenant commanding A8, and the whole crew of the vessel who have been examined, declare that on no other occasion did A8 go below a depth of twenty feet. It is not for me to explain this apparent discrepancy; but it is possible that Colonel Morrison confused his son's account of his recent experiences in A8 with some reference to an accident which occurred in that vessel four years ago, in 1910, when, owing to a personal error, A8 sunk to a depth of about 200 feet, and remained there twenty minutes before she could be brought to the surface. Had she been fitted with the efficient pumps with which all the "A" class are now fitted, she could have been brought up immediately. Submarines have been on the bottom scores of times; but this incident in A8 four years ago is the only occasion during diving exercises on which a British submarine, prior to the loss of A7, has remained there more than a few seconds longer than she wished. Statements similar to that in Colonel Morrison's letter were attributed in the Press to Mrs. Wag-staff and Mrs. Northam, widows of men who lost their lives in A7. In addition to the three men already mentioned, three other seamen witnesses can also testify that A7 had never dived below normal depth or remained on the bottom. The services of these six men cover the whole of the period during which Wagstaff and Northam served in A7.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Will the right hon. Gentleman take advantage of the opportunity to tell the House the position of A7 at the present moment?