D-8 Submarine Launch Casket 1911
Traditionally a woman is invited to launch a new naval
vessel and sometimes they are presented with a souvenir of
the event. This is often a single item, but on some
occasions they are presented the mallet and chisel in a
presentation box, made by the naval carpenters. The chisel
would be mounted on a support and be placed to cut a
symbolic rope. She would use the mallet to strike the
chisel, cutting the rope at which point the vessel would
be released to slip into the water. This is the only
example of a launch casket for a submarine that we can
find. The wooden box is 35 cm wide, 23 cm deep and 18 cm
high and has shells carved on the side. The
key has a leather fob which is stamped D8. Set
into the lid is a metal plaque engraved: SUBMARINE D8
LAUNCHED AT CHATHAM BY Honble Lady Barker 23RD SEPTEMBER
The wooden mallet is carved around the head 23RD SEPT.
1911 "D.8." and the head of the chisel is engarved D.8
Submarine D-8 was built by Vickers Armstrong and launched
at Chatham dockyard 23rd September 1911 by The Honourable
Lady Clemency Barker, the wife of Major-General Sir George
Barker, Royal Engineers. She was born in 1856 in
Westminster, London the daughter of John Hubbard, Baron
Addington. She married George Barker in 1888. Lady Barker
died in February 1940.
The Army and Navy Gazette 30 September 1911 reported:
"Submarine D8 was launched on Saturday at Chatham. She is
the eight which has been built at Chatham, and is an
improvement upon the previous submarines. The naming
ceremony was performed by the Hon. Lady Barker, wife of
Major-Gen. Sir George Barker, commanding the East Coast
In 1914 D8 was part of the subamrine force patrolling the
German Bight in the North Sea. During the Battle of
Heligoland Bight on 28th August 1914 she was sent to
prevent any German warships leaving the River Ems.
17th October 1914 D8 took part in the Ophelia Incident.
The marchant ship Ophelia has been taken by the German
Navy and equipped as a hospital ship. However, when she
was operating she was discovered to be transmitting
encrypted messages, which was banned for a hospital ship,
under the Hague Convention. D8 shadowed the ship and
arranged for HMS Meteor to intercept the Ophelia and board
her for inspection. With proof that she was spying, the
Ophelia was seized.
D8 maintained patrols during the war and in 1921 was
retired from the service.
Launch Caskets are rare to ships, but extremely rare for a