It is well known that Robert Fulton produced a submarine boat, the Nautilus, at the end of the eighteenth century when he endeavored, but without success, to get the French government to take it up. In 1804 he came over to England and proposed the use of his “catamaran” for operations against the Boulogne “invasion” flotilla; a few of these were used on active service, but the results obtained were not very satisfactory. While the Prime Minister, William Pitt, and other Ministers of State appear to have been attracted by this invention, Admiral Earl St. Vincent would have none of it. “Pitt,” he said, “was the greatest fool that ever existed to encourage a mode of warfare which those who commanded the seas did not want, and which, if successful, would deprive them of it.” The Nautilus, which had been broken up before Fulton left France, was considered by Napoleon to be an impracticable proposition, as the means of underwater propulsion depended entirely on handworked winches driving a screw propeller; the adoption of this type of vessel was not, therefore, proposed to the British government.
Robert Fulton's Turtle Boat
By Commander W. B. Rowbotham, Royal Navy (Retired)