Military Wiki
British W-class submarine
Class overview
Builders: Armstrong Whitworth
Operators: Royal Navy Ensign Royal Navy
Built: 2500nm at 9 kts surfaced
Completed: 4
General characteristics
Class & type: British W class

W1, W2 331 tons surfaced/499 tons submerged

W3, W4 321 tons surfaced/379 tons submerged
Length: W1, W2 171' 11"; W3, W4 149' 11"
Beam: W1, W2 15' 4"; W3, W4 17' 10"
Propulsion: 2-shaft diesel, electric motors, 740bhp/ 380shp
Speed: 13 knots surfaced/ 8 knots submerged
Range: 2500 nmi at 9 knots
Complement: 18
Armament: 2-18in TT (bow) torpedoes, 4-18in torpedoes in external drop collars (removed), 1-3in AA gun

The W class submarines were built for the Royal Navy as experimental boats. They were based on a French Schneider-Laubeuf design. The design for W3 and W4 was heavily modified to meet Royal Navy requirements, overcoming some of the deficiencies of the 'off the shelf' design. In particular, the drop-collars were removed in the later boats.

Only 4 W class were built from 1913 to 1916. The first 2 boats took 15 and 17 months to build which at the time was a remarkable feat compared to other building times.

The W class had a very good performance with excellent diving control and efficient venting and flooding systems. The W class did have problems with habitability but other than that, they were good submarines.

All 4 of the W class submarine were transferred to the Italian Navy in August 1916, where they retained their numbering.

  • HMS W1 launched 19 November 1914
  • HMS W2 launched 15 February 1915
  • HMS W3 launched 1 April 1915
  • HMS W4 launched 26 November 1915


  • The Royal Navy Submarine Service, A centennial History, by Antony Preston.
  • Gardiner, Robert; Gray, Randal; Budzbon, Przemysław (1985). Conway's All the world's fighting ships, 1906–1921. Conway. ISBN 0-85177-245-5. 

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