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The British Submarine Service

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The British Submarine Service
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Author(s): Klaxon (John Graham Bower)
Date Published: 2010/03
Page Count: 164
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-971-8
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-972-5

Fighting and combating the undersea war

The author of this book has given his readers an overview of the British submarine and anti-submarine effort during the Great War principally by describing incidents that took place involving the sailors and airman involved. His interesting narrative is full of descriptions of vessels and aeroplanes, but particularly benefits from the inclusion of many first hand reports by the men who served in the battleships, fast patrol vessels, armed trawlers and flying boats engaged in this comparatively new kind of warfare. This book is an essential addition to the library of those interested in the First World War at sea. It is available in soft cover and hard cover with dust jacket. 

The Vulcan’s idea was of masterly simplicity. The U-boats found a fishing fleet easy prey; therefore a fishing fleet with a “catch” on it would get results. One trawler of each fleet was to tow, instead of a trawl, a C-class submarine. The submarine would keep well submerged at the end of the hawser, and need not necessarily keep a periscope lookout, in view of the fact that the critical moment for her to slip tow (a tow can be slipped while submerged) would be notified to her by telephone from the trawler’s bridge. Submarine “C 24” was the first to show that the theory worked out in practice.<br>
It will be seen, however, that she did the work under a considerable handicap, and had the most aggravating experience a submarine can have—that of doing an attack with “something wrong with the works.”<br>
Lieutenant Taylor, in command, reported:—<br>
At 9.30 a.m., June 23rd, I heard a report which I took to be an explosive signal from trawler Taranaki to show my periscope, I being at 30 feet. I telephoned her for confirmation and got the answer, ‘Submarine 1500 yards on port bow’; and then again, as trawler altered course, ‘Submarine 1000 yards astern.’<br>
I gave the order to slip, but the slipping gear jammed in ‘C 24.’ I then told Taranaki to slip her end, which she did. I went ahead, helm hard a-starboard, to attack submarine astern. The boat immediately sank to 38 feet with 5° inclination, bow down. The trim then took some time to adjust, as I had at that time 100 fathoms of 3½-inch wire hawser, 100 fathom 8-inch coir hawser, and 100 fathom telephone cable hanging from the bows. Eventually sighted enemy’s conning-tower 1000 yards off.<br>
Closed to 500 yards, manoeuvred for beam shot, and fired 9.55 a.m. Torpedo hit enemy amidships. I then came to the surface and picked up ‘U 40’s’ captain. My propeller then refused to move, and it was found that there were twenty turns of telephone cable round the shaft . . .<br>
Lieutenant-Commander Edwards (in trawler Taranaki) was, of course, ignorant of the fact that “C 24” was somewhat hampered by these cables hanging at the bow:—<br>
. . . 9.30 a.m., June 23rd: Enemy submarine rose and fired a shot across my bows from 2000 yards range—shell burst 20 yards ahead—informed ‘C 24’ by telephone. 9.45: Slipped Taranaki’s end of tow, as ‘C 24’s’ slip had jammed. Got boat out to simulate abandoning ship and panic. Saw ‘C 24’s’ periscope pass, attacking. 9.55: Observed torpedo run and explode under conning-tower of enemy. An officer and a petty officer the only survivors . .<br>
Lieutenant-Commander Dobson, in command of “C 27,” has an abrupt and almost blasé report to make of his sinking of “U 23”:—<br>
7.55 a.m., July 20th: Lieutenant Cantlie in trawler Princess Louise telephoned to me that a hostile submarine was in sight 2000 yards on the port bow—telling me not to slip for a little while. Telephone then broke down [It would—of course].<br>
At 8 a.m. I heard the sound of shots falling on the water and decided to slip, which I did. Turned to starboard to get clear of trawler and came to 18 feet for a look. Closed enemy to 500 yards, and fired port tube at 8.12. As I fired I observed enemy start her engines, and torpedo missed astern. I shifted my deflection and fired the starboard tube. Torpedo hit the submarine just abaft the conning-tower. I blew main ballast tanks and picked up seven survivors (captain, two officers, and four men). The weather being too bad to get in tow again, I returned to harbour.<br>
Lieutenant Cantlie, in the trawler, reports:—<br>
7.55 a.m., July 20: Sighted hostile submarine three points on port bow, distant 2500 yards—informed ‘C 27,’ and told her not to slip yet. Hostile submarine steering across my bows. 7.56: Enemy opened fire, apparently trying to hit trawler. Telephone to ‘C 27’ broke down. 8.3 a.m.: Tow slipped. Enemy fired about seven shots altogether. Employed trawler’s crew in hoisting out boat, rushing about the deck, and appearing to be in a panic.<br>
8.10 a.m.: Observed ‘C 27’s’ periscope on starboard quarter attacking enemy. 8.12 a.m.: Observed ‘C 27’ fire a torpedo, which missed astern. Cleared away starboard gun for action. Enemy opened fire again on trawler, and commenced turning to port. I opened fire with my starboard gun, hoisting white ensign at the main. At the same moment second torpedo hit just abaft enemy’s conning-tower. Column of water and smoke rose about 80 feet high. As it cleared away 30 feet of bow of submarine at a large angle could be seen. . . .