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Hms/m E49: Balta Sound, Unst, North Sea

Submarine (20th Century)

Site Name Hms/m E49: Balta Sound, Unst, North Sea

Classification Submarine (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Hms E49; Hmsm E49

Canmore ID 102956

Site Number HP60NE 8002

NGR HP 65603 06570

Datum Datum not recorded


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Shetland Islands
  • Parish Maritime - Shetland Islands
  • Former Region Shetland Islands Area
  • Former District Maritime
  • Former County Not Applicable

Archaeology Notes

HP60NE 8002 c. 655 068

N60 44.4 W0 47.9

NLO: Lanca Skerry [name: HP 647 059]

Balta [name: HP 660 080]

Huney [name: HP 650 064]

Balta Sound [name centred HP 652 083].

Formerly entered as HP70SW 1 at cited location HP 6556 0654 [N60 44.2333 W0 47.85].

E 49: [max. date] 1917

Blown up by German mines, presumably spotted entering Baltasound by German vessel. All crew lost, now war grave

Source: Shetland Archive Service [undated]

MS/3025, no. 945.

E49, British submarine. Blown up by German mines, at entrance to Balta Sound in 1917. Presumably spotted entering Balta Sound by German vessel. All crew lost, now war grave.

Archive Ref:

Source: Shetland Archive Service

E class submarine, first built 1913-14. Displacement 791 tons surfaced, 835 dived. Horsepower 1700 surfaced, 860 dived. Maximum speed 15kts surfaced, 10 1/4kts dived. 30 tons fuel. Four torpedo tubes.

F T Jane 1918.

E49 noted as war loss. Class built under emergency war programme. Dimensions of class cited as 181'oa x 22 1/2' x 12 1/2'. Torpedo tubes 3-5 x 18".

F T Jane 1919.

Dimensions cited are for main body of class. E49 is evidently a late construction; wartime censorship restrictions evidently precluded a full description in Jane's.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 26 March 1991.

Scrap metal removed from wreck 1990/91.

(Undated) information in NMRS.

(Classified as submarine: date of loss cited as 12 March 1917). HMS [HMS/M] E49: this vessel was mined 2.75 cables 213 degrees from Balta Light, behind Hunley Island.

Registration: London. Built 1916. 807 tons displacement. Length: 55m. Beam: 7m.

(Location of loss cited as N60 44.23 W 0 47.85).

I G Whittaker 1998.

Material reported under RoW amnesty (2001):

A1947 1 compass binnacle: from seabed.

NMRS, MS/829/35.

Length: 181ft (55.2m)

Beam: 22ft 6ins (6.9m)

Displacement: 660/800 tons

Propulsion: diesel engines: two screws: 1600/840hp; 15-16/10 kts

Torpedo tubes: 5 x 18 ins (457mm) - 2 bow, 2 beam, 1 stern

Gun: 1 x 12 pdr

Complement: 30

This submarine was a unit of the E21 variant of the E class, and was built by Swan Hunter (on the Tyne) in 1916. She was mined off Shetland in 1917.

Built under the Emergency war Programme between 1913 and 1916, this class of submarine were all of Admiralty wing-tank type, and were the first British submarines to have beam tubes and to be internally subdivided by watertight bulkheads. The heavy losses sustained by this class (28 out of 58 being lost) reflect their status as the standard British submarine class in the First World War.

No accurate location is currently cited but the recorded discovery of the vessel 'between Balta and Huney Islands' suggests a location at about HP 655 068, in a charted depth of about 29m. The chart names this area South Channel but does not indicate the seabed type.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 17 December 2002.

H M Le Fleming 1961; [Jane] 2002.

HO chart no. 3282 (1980, revised 1991).

Plans (but not photographs) of this vessel are held in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

Information from Ms G Fabri (NMM), 7 November 2003.


Reference (1995)

Quality of fix = PA

Horizontal Datum = OGB

General water depth = 30

Circumstances of Loss Details


The submarine E39 was mined with the loss of 3 officers and 28 ratings.

Source: World War I Shipping Loses.

The mine is thought to have been laid by the German submarine UC76.

Surveying Details


The wreck's position is given as 60 44 14N, 000 47 51W, or 509 metres, bearing 213 degrees from Balta light.

1917. A report made by divers states that the bows have been blown off. The wreck is not to be salvaged.

28 December 1923. An application by Scapa Flow Salvage and Shipbreaking Co Ltd to purchase the wreck has been refused.

Report by Department of Naval Contracts 2 July 1924.

8 May 1980. An application was made by Shetland Sub Aqua Club for permission to locate the wreck.

Report by Department of Naval Contracts - Disposal Sales.

2 September 1983. Nothing was found during extensive search of the area around the charted position. The services of qualified hydrographic surveyor, using sonar, was employed. Two diver searches were made.

Report by A J Carter, Shetland SAC, 29 Augsut 1983.

19 September 1990. The wreck is reported to have been located and artefacts have been removed by divers. The local police are considering bringing charges.

Report by Mrs Penney, MOD Disposal Sales.

22 October 1991. The wreck was located in a general depth of 33 metres between Balta and Huney Islands in August 1987.

Report from Western Morning News, 12 October 1991.

Hydrographic Office, 1995.

Reference (2011)

Whittaker ID : 280

Name : HMS E49

Latitude : 604414

Longitude : 4751

Date Built : 1916

Registration : LONDON


Tonnage : 807

Tonnage Code : D

Length : 55

Beam : 7

Position : Exact Position

Loss Day : 12

Loss Month : 3

Loss Year : 1917

Comment : Mined 2.75 cables 213 degs from Balta Lt, behind Hunley Island

Reference (19 April 2012)

UKHO Identifier : 000121

Feature Class : Wreck

Wreck Category : Non-dangerous wreck

State : LIVE

Classification : Unclassified

Position (Lat/long) : 60.73682,-0.79883

Horizontal Datum : ETRS 1989

WGS84 Position (Lat/long) : 60.73682,-0.79883

WGS84 Origin : Original

Previous Position : 60.73690,-0.79885

Position Method : Differential Global Positioning System

Position Quality : Surveyed

Position Accuracy : 3.0

Depth : 29.5

Depth Method : Found by multi-beam

Depth Quality : Least depth known

Water Depth : 32

Water Level Effect : Always under water/submerged

Vertical Datum : Mean Low Water Springs

Name : HMSM E49



Length : 55.2

Beam : 7.0

Sonar Length : 43.3

Sonar Width : 4.8

Shadow Height : 2.1

Orientation : 18.0

Tonnage : 800

Tonnage Type : Displacement

Date Sunk : 12/03/1917

Bottom Texture : Sand

Magnetic Anomaly : Strong

Sonar Signal Strength : Strong

Scour Depth : 0.0


Contact Description : Entire wreck


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