The first submarines that entered Sarawak waters

Do you know that about a century ago three submarines actually made their ways into Sarawak waters?

On Mar 1, 1922, The Sarawak Gazette reported that HM Submarines L1, L2 and L3 arrived in Kuching on Feb 24 under the command of Lieutenant-Commander A.B Greig of L3.

Hms l1 submarine

“They berthed alongside the Ban Hok Wharf and through the courtesy of the officers, a number of people including the Datus and other natives, were enabled to go over the ships during their stay,” the report stated.

Rajah Vyner Brooke even organised a ‘most enjoyable dance’ at the Astana in honour of their visit on Feb 25.

The locals also managed to get in few rounds of football matches with the visiting submarine crew.

During their stay in Kuching, the Hockien School at the head of Jalan Tabuan was converted into shore quarters for them.

These submarines were bound for Jesselton (present-day Kota Kinabalu) before making their ways to Manila.

The submarine L2 left Sarawak on Feb 28 while the other two submarines on Mar 1, 1922.

If camera phones were exist back then, we bet there would be tonnes of photos coming out from this historical visit.

So what happened to these submarines in the end?

943px Firing at Aircraft. Hm Submarine L2 Art.IWMART1108
Hm Submarine L2 image: a seascape with a submarine on the surface, firing its deck gun. In a large skyscape, two aircraft are seen in the distance. This is photograph Art.IWM ART 1108 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.

HMS L1, L2 and L3 were L-class submarines built for the Royal Navy during World War I. All three survived the war.

By 1923, all of the three submarines placed in the reserve flotilla in Hong Kong.

In March 1930, HMS L1 was stranded at Penanwell Cove in Cornwell England while being towed to Newport.

She was scrapped where she lay and some of her metal remains can still be seen there today on low spring tides.

Meanwhile, HMS L2 was also sold for scrapping in March 1930. About a year later, HMS L3 found herself in similar fate being sold for scrapping in February 1931.

British submarine L3 1918
Photograph of British submarine L3 and some crewmembers, at Plymouth

All images are under public domain.

Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight.

She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science.

She is currently obsessed with silent vlogs during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Due to her obsession, she started her Youtube channel of slient vlogs.

Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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