Unheard, Unseen Submarine E14 and the Dardanelles by David Boyle should be an interesting non-fiction work for readers with interests in military history, in this case, the history of submarine warfare. It is well referenced with an interesting note at the end explaining the relationship of the author to the central character of this work, Courtney Boyle. Approximately 80% of this short work is about the E14 and Boyle; the remaining 20% is devoted to an extract of an additional David Boyle book.
A very good, but incomplete, synopsis of the book is provided by the author on page 90:
E14 is many things. A grave, a symbol of the heroism of the crew, a memory of those pioneering submariners a century ago which first learned how to sail and fight underwater. It also remains the only submarine in the world which provided both its two commanding officers with the highest national decoration for bravery.
I believe this incomplete because there are also fascinating accounts of daily life aboard a submarine. If we believe the general population’s view of submarines comes from movies about “the War,” we might forget those movies are about WWII. This account is about the early days of submarine development, of the technology available in WWI. There wasn’t radar or sonar. The crew of a submarine was blind and totally isolated absence the opportunity to surface or have the privilege to use periscopes. Both of these opportunities could endanger the boat as there was a possibility of being spotted and attacked by an enemy.
There were no lavatories or bathrooms. Crew members did not brush their teeth during submerged deployment, shirts were worn to the point of near-rot. There was no air conditioning. The air was humid due to condensation on the interior hull, condensation that was formed by the metabolism of many humans working in close proximity. Early submarines had no escape mechanism; if they couldn’t surface, submariners died. Health problems were several and varied both due to diet and stress. PTSD was not recognized for what it was.
Then there were the social concerns. Families left behind during extended deployments felt stress. Divorces were accepted as part of the cost of service. Inside the military, there were the “social” concerns of what to do about incompetent leadership. There were commanders who could not be relieved due to their position in British society. Those with competence in leadership, such as Winston Churchill, lost their position (Lord of the Admiralty) and faded, albeit briefly, into the political wilderness. And finally, there are the ways people in this account accepted the deaths of friends and loved ones as a result of the war.
I recommend this book as a well-researched (check the listed references) account of a lesser examined instrument of war, the submarine, and the struggles of early pioneers to overcome hurdles naturally associated with new endeavors. There might be a similar comparison made to present-day astronaut training and earlier space flight.