|Wilhelm Bauer was a
cavalryman during the war between Germany and Denmark.
Appalled by the amount of damage done by the Danish fleet
blockading the German coast, Bauer set his mind to
developing a means of breaking the blockade. A short time
later, Bauer left the army to devote himself to the
development of a workable submarine vessel capable of
attacking a surface ship.
Bauer's first submarine was built
at the iron foundry of Schweffel and Howalt in Kiel, Germany.
The boat was completed in December 1850 and named the Brandtaucher.
It was 26.5 feet long, 6.5 feet wide and drew 8.5 feet when
surfaced. Brandtaucher was propelled by two men
turning large tread wheels attached to a crude propeller
through a simple gear arrangement. The ballast tank was
located below the deck. It was filled by opening valves and
emptied with handpumps. There was a 500 kg weight which
could be moved fore and aft to adjust the longitudinal trim.
Accounts of the trials of Brandtaucher
very. According to Cyril Field, the first trial was a
surface trip which alarmed the Danes causing the blockading
fleet to stay further offshore.1 On the other
hand, Richard Compton-hall reports that the Brandtaucher
sank alongside the dock during her first trial.2
All accounts of the trial in February 1851 have the Brandtaucher
sinking. According to Alan Burgoyne, the submarine was empty
at the time,3 but most other reports place Bauer
and two others on board when she went down. Again accounts
differ. Some accounts have Bauer and the crew sitting on the
bottom for five or six hours as the submarine slowly filled
with water. When the interior and exterior pressure
equalized, the hatch popped open and the men escaped. Other
accounts have Bauer convincing the crew that their only hope
is to flood the submarine quickly, then opening the hatch
and escaping. The facts are clear. Brandtaucher sank
in Kiel harbor, and Wilhelm Bauer survived to build another
submarine. (Brandtaucher was recovered in 1887 and
was on loan to the Shipping Museum in Kiel from the Dresden
War Museum in June 2002).
Bauer's financial supporters lost
interest after Brandtaucher sank, forcing Bauer to
take his designs elsewhere. He pitched his ideas to the
government of Prussia, but they were not interested, so he
travelled to England where he captured the interest of the
Prince Consort. Mutual mistrust hampers progress, and Bauer
leaves England for Russia before the submarine is completed.
Bauer's third submarine called Seeteufel,
Diable Marin or Sea Devil was built in St.
Petersburg, Russia in 1855. She was twice the size of Brandtaucher
(53 feet long and 11.5 feet wide). The submarine was moved
to Kronstadt the following year. During the coronation of
Alexander II on September 6, 1856, Bauer performed his
famous experiment in underwater sound. When the gun salute
began, musicians on board the submarine began to play the
national anthem which was heard by other ships in the harbor.
Eventually, Seeteufel also sank, and Wilhelm Bauer
was forced to retire for the submarine business.
feet 5.5 inches
feet 7.5 inches
Sources: Gary Mc