Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Norway - Submarine Branch Centenary

Considering my nautical background, my dear friend Pia very thoughtfully gave me this Norwegian FDC, which celebrated a hundred years in 2009 since the launching of Norway’s first submarine at Germaniawerft in Kiel. This submarine, which was christened "Kobben" and later renamed A-1, surpassed all expectations and in 1911 a decision was made to build another three submarines at the same shipyard. A fifth was also started, but the German navy confiscated it when the First World War broke out. The history of Norwegian submarines really began in 1808, when a village genius and blacksmith, Mikkel Hallsteinson Lofthus from Hardanger, designed the first known Norwegian underwater boat. He submitted drawings to a society in Bergen that promoted useful products, but the boat was never built. There was too little interest and not enough money. However this was put right 101 years later.

"Kobben" was commissioned on 28 November 1909 after its launching and completion of diving tests in the Great Belt. It arrived in Horten two weeks later and after a few days it went into full service with a crew of 12 men. "Kobben" remained in service until 1919. It was broken up some years later, but its conning tower was preserved and is mounted as a memorial at the Navy officers' training school in Horten.

After the first world war, the Storting granted funds for new submarines, this time choosing the American Holland class which had the same diving depth as the A class but carried a larger crew (23 men). Between 1923 and 1930 the main Navy shipyard in cooperation with the Kaldnes and Thunes yards built six Norwegian submarines. Norway took over three submarines from the British Navy during the Second World War and a further three after the war. The Germans also left behind fifteen submarines. Four of these were repaired and incorporated into the Norwegian Navy. They had a crew of 47 men and a diving depth of 180 metres. In line with the Navy's Fleet Plan of 1960, the Storting approved the building of fifteen new submarines during the period from 1964 to 1967. These were of a German type and called the Kobben class. Further additions, also German in type, were made to the fleet between 1989 and 1992. These Ula class submarines are often described as the world's most advanced coastal submarines, with an official diving depth of 250 metres.  They can in fact dive much deeper – down to 500 metres it is claimed.

An exceptional thing about this limited edition FDC is the postmark or special cancellation. It is in gold!

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