Author(s): Paul Kemp
Conceived in the mid-1930s in a welter of conflicting demands – somewhat nebulous operational requirements playing second fiddle to limitations imposed by Naval Disarmament Treaties – the T-class submarine nevertheless evolved just in time to bear the full brunt of war and to take a (if not THE) major part in the very significant role played by British submarines during the Second World War, especially in Home Waters and in the Mediterranean. Many will consider they proved to be a highly successful design for these theatres: formidably armed, versatile, of adequate endurance, capable of withstanding heavy punishment and, by the standards of those days, providing good living conditions on board.
In the more distant waters of the Far East and Pacific limitations became more obvious: the lack of efficient air conditioning when dived and their comparatively low speed on the surface. This latter put them at a severe disadvantage where the wide open spaces of the Pacific and lack of long-range, anti-submarine Japanese air patrols permitted the tactics of surface operations and night surface attacks. In the light of this it seems ironic that the original Staff Requirement called for a submarine to fight a war against Japan, albeit from bases in Hong Kong and Singapore!