The British and French missed an opportunity to get into the very early days of submarines. In the early 1800's American engineer Robert Fulton built and demonstrated the Nautilus, a 21-foot-long copper-sheathed submersible. He submerged it in the Seine, and blew up a surface vessel in front of none other than Napoleon Bonaparte. Later, he accomplished the same feat in Kent for the British.
Rejected, Fulton returned to the U.S. The torch was passed to others to continue his work.
The name Nautilus was immortalized by Jules Verne in his remarkable story "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea", and surfaced again as USS Nautilus, the world's first true submarine.
My novel set in a Cold War submarine will be launched in late summer/fall 2014.