HMS J1, built by Portsmouth Dockyard,launched 11/1915 and commissioned in the Royal Navy on 15 March 1916 under the command of Commander N.F. Laurence DSO RN and was allocated to the 11th Submarine Flotilla based at Blyth, Northumberland.
During the evening of 4 November two German submarines, U-20 and U-30, had grounded in thick fog off Bovbjerg Light on the west coast of Denmark and the 4th Destroyer Flotilla was ordered to proceed to render assistance. The battle cruisers SEYDLITZ and MOLTKE with additional destroyers were ordered to the area of the Horn Reefs in support and four battleships of the 3rd Battle Squadron (KÖNIG, GROSSER KURFÜRST, KRONPRINZ and MARKGRAF) also put to sea. These events were unknown to Commander Laurence in J1 who had sailed from Blyth to patrol off the Horn Reefs. He had dived at dawn on 5 November and was patrolling submerged in a circle of 30 miles radius centred on position 55°56´N, 06°50´E.
In order to economise in battery power and to avoid breaking surface constantly he was patrolling at a depth of 70 feet, rising occasionally to 25 feet to carry out a periscope search. At 1150 he was about 30 miles south west of the Horn Reefs, and coming to periscope depth he sighted four enemy battleships astern, looming only about two miles away in the poor visibility. Going deep to avoid breaking surface he turned to get into an attacking position. Coming to periscope depth again he saw that the battleships were ahead and turning together to reverse course to the south. At this stage J1 broke surface and it was necessary to go full ahead to regain control, but she remained unseen. At 1208 four Mk VII torpedoes were fired with a five degree spread at the third ship in the line, Laurence firing as J1 went deep still unable to keep depth in the heavy seas. Two explosions were heard. Surfacing at 1430 there was nothing in sight and J1 returned to Blyth on 7 November.
The first torpedo hit GROSSER KURFÜRST aft, damaging her rudders and causing her to take in some 300 tons of water. KRONPRINZ was hit on the port bow. Both ships reached harbour under their own steam, but required several months in dock. Commander Laurence was awarded a Bar to his DSO, the original award having been made for his exploit in torpedoing MOLTKE in the Baltic on 19 August 1915.
Following the conclusion of hostilities in World War I, the Admiralty in 1918 presented the six remaining boats of the J Class to the Australian Government – J6 had been sunk in error in 1918 by a British ship. All the submarines commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy at Portsmouth on 25 March 1919, as tenders to the submarine depot ship HMAS PLATYPUS, J7 being the senior boat. The Commanding Officer of J1 was Lieutenant Ronald A. Trevor RN.
Having arrived in poor condition, the submarines were taken in hand at Garden Island Dockyard for refitting. After her refit was completed J1, in company with J4 and PLATYPUS, sailed on 16 February 1920 for the submarine base at Geelong, Victoria.
After uneventful service, little of which was spent at sea, J1 and her five sisters paid off into Reserve at Westernport on 12 July 1922. The boats had become victims of the worsening economic conditions of the time, coupled with their high cost of maintenance.
On 26 February 1924 J1 was sold to the Melbourne Salvage Syndicate. The hull was sunk three miles off Barwon Heads on 26 May 1926.