Ottoman submarine Abdül Hamid

The Nordenfelt-class Ottoman submarine Abdül Hamid (1886) was the first submarine in history to fire a torpedo while submerged.
Ottoman Empire
Name: Abdül Hamid
Namesake: Sultan Abdul Hamid II
Launched: 6 September 1886
In service: 24 March 1888
Out of service: 1910
Fate: Scrapped 1910
General characteristics
Class and type: Nordenfelt
Displacement: 100 tons
Length: 30.5 m (100 ft)
Beam: 6 m (20 ft)
Propulsion: Coal-fired 250 hp Lamm steam engine
Test depth: 160 ft (49 m)
  • Two 356 mm torpedo tubes
  • Two 35 mm machine guns

The submarine Abdül Hamid (also Abdülhamid) was an early steam powered submarine built in England in 1886 at the Barrow Shipyard.[1] It was bought and put in service by the Ottoman Navy and named after Sultan Abdülhamid II. It was also the first submarine in the world to fire a live torpedo underwater.


The Ottoman Empire carried out various military modernizations as a result of emergence of new technologies in the 19th century. Sultan Abdul Hamid I instructed the Minister of the Navy (Bahriye Nazırı), Bozcaadalı Hasan Hüsnü Paşa, to purchase these new boats for the navy, deciding that it was crucial to have these boats in the navy. The Greek interest in buying submarines was also a factor that prompted Sultan Abdul Hamid II to purchase these boats to establish a more powerful navy.

Barrow Shipyard built two steam-engine powered boats, designed by Swedish industrialist and arms dealer Thorsten Nordenfelt. These were ultimately sold to the Ottoman Empire and Russia. The submarine for Russia never reached her customer, foundering on the Jutland (Danish) coast on her delivery voyage.

Abdul Hamid, was dismantled for delivery by ship and re-assembled at Taşkızak Naval Shipyard (Turkish: Taşkızak Tersanesi) along the Golden Horn in Constantinople under the supervision of its English designer, George William Garrett. Another boat of Nordenfelt class, Abdul Mecid was built at the same time and later delivered to the Ottoman Navy.

Abdul Hamid was first launched on September 6, 1886 in front of many international dignitaries lined along Golden Horn. First diving tests were carried out in February 1887. Three dives were attempted successfully, 20 seconds each, with only the hemispherical navigator cockpit remaining above the water. On another test run in early 1888, the submarine was able to navigate through the strong currents around the Seraglio Point, making up to 10 knots of speed, and successfully sank an old target ship with a single torpedo.[2] After more tests and trial at Izmit naval base, they officially joined the Ottoman Navy in a flag ceremony on 24 March 1888.

Technical details

Abdül Hamid was powered by a coal-fired 250 hp Lamm steam engine turning a single screw. It carried two 356mm torpedo tubes and two 35mm machine guns.

One of the torpedoes used by Ottoman submarines Abdül Hamid and Abdül Mecit.

It could carry a total of 8 tons of coal as fuel and could dive to a depth of 160 feet. It was 30.5m long and 6m wide, and weighed 100 tons. It had a normal crew of 7. It had a maximum surface speed of 6 knots, and a maximum speed of 4 knots while submerged.

In preparation for the dive, the crew had to close the boiler and pull down the funnel. Air tanks that were pressurized while sailing on the surface were used to propel the boats a short distance under water, allowing them to remain submerged for only a few minutes. They had multiple torpedo tubes, a first, all on the deck.

The boats turned out to not be battle-worthy, as their speed and (submerged) range were limited at best, and they were poorly balanced which was made even worse when firing off a torpedo.

After a few more trials that showed their limitations, the Abdul Hamid and Abdul Mecit were pulled from active service in 1910 and were scrapped not far from where they were first assembled.


  1. "Submarine Heritage Centre - submarine history of Barrow-in-Furness". Retrieved 26 June 2014.
  2. There is some confusion in some sources if the torpedo was fired by Abdül Hamid or Abdül mecit
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