It is inevitable that most books in English on any conflict in which British Forces were engaged tend to view the subject from a British perspective. The number of accounts or histories from the other side of the battle smoke translated and published in English are Hard to find and in the minority, they are therefore essential for any student who seeks a well-rounded view of a historical event. The great actions at sea during the First World War were few in number so it is fortunate that we have been left with this account by von Hase, who was both a German and a sailor in the service of his country. The book is part history and part a report from an eyewitness and it examines in depth the momentous Battles of Kiel and Jutland fought in the Skagerrak. An invaluable source work on the Imperial German Navy at War.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
And now a terrific struggle began. Within a short time the din of the battle reached a climax. It was now perfectly clear to us that we were faced with the whole English Fleet. I could see from her gigantic hull that I had engaged a giant battleship. Between the two lines light cruiser and destroyer actions were still raging. All at once I saw through my periscope a German light cruiser passing us in flames. I recognized the Wiesbaden. She was almost hidden in smoke, with only the quarter-deck clear, and her after-gun firing incessantly at an English cruiser. Gallant Wiesbaden! Gallant crew!<br>
The only survivor was Chief Stoker Zenne, who was picked up by a Norwegian fishing boat after drifting about for three days on a raft; all the rest, including the poet, Gorch Fock, who loved the sea above all else, sealed their loyalty to their Kaiser and Empire by a sailor’s death. The Wiesbaden was subjected to a heavy fire by an English light cruiser. Again and again her shells struck the poor Wiesbaden. Seized with fury, I abandoned my former target, had the English cruiser’s range measured, gave the range and deflection, and “crash!”—a salvo roared out at the Wiesbaden’s tormentor. One more salvo and I had him. A column of smoke rose high in the air. Apparently a magazine had exploded. The cruiser turned away and hauled out at top speed, while I peppered her with two or three more salvoes.<br>
At this moment Lieut.-Commander Hausser, who had been engaging destroyers with his secondary armament, asked me: “Is this cruiser with four funnels German or English, sir?” I examined the ship through the periscope. In the misty grey light the colours of the German and English ships were difficult to distinguish. The cruiser was not very far away from us. She had four funnels and two masts, like our Rostock.<br>
“She is certainly English,” Lieutenant-Commander Hausser shouted. “May I fire?”<br>
“Yes, fire away.” I was now certain she was a big English ship. The secondary armament was trained on the new target. Lieutenant-Commander Hausser gave the order: “6,000!” Then, just as he was about to give the order: “Fire!” something terrific happened: the English ship, which I had meanwhile identified as an old English armoured cruiser, broke in half with a tremendous explosion. Black smoke and débris shot into the air, a flame enveloped the whole ship, and then she sank before our eyes. There was nothing but a gigantic smoke cloud to mark the place where just before a proud ship had been fighting. I think she was destroyed by the fire of our next ahead, Admiral Hipper’s flagship, the Lützow.<br>
This all happened in a much shorter time than I have taken to tell it. The whole thing was over in a few seconds, and then we had already engaged new targets. The destroyed ship was the Defence, an old armoured cruiser of the same class as the Black Prince, which was sunk on the following night by the Thüringen and other ships of the line. She was a ship of 14,800 tons, armed with six 23.4-cm. and ten 15.2-cm. guns, and carrying a crew of 700 men. Not one of the whole ship’s company was saved. She was blown to atoms and all the men were killed by the explosion. As we saw the ship at a comparatively short distance in good visibility, magnified fifteen times by the periscopes, we could see exactly what happened. The whole horror of this event is indelibly fixed on my mind.