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U-Boat War 1914-1918: Volume 2

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U-Boat War 1914-1918: Volume 2
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): Georg-Günther von Forstnerr, Paul König & Baron Spiegel von Und Zu Peckelsheim
Date Published: 2010/10
Page Count: 240
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-233-8
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-234-5

Three invaluable and exciting accounts of the German U-Boats of the Great War

Following the success of the original Leonaur volume concerning the U-Boat War 1914-1918, the Leonaur editors have brought together three more interesting and vital accounts for the sake of good value and because, in view of their comparatively small size, they are unlikely to see individual re-publication in modern times. Here, in volume two, the first account is the journal of a U-Boat Commander at war and its author eloquently describes his patrols and his attacks on merchant shipping. König’s account of the ‘Deutschland’ may be a revelation to many. König captained an unarmed commercial submarine until his vessel was eventually commissioned into the Imperial German Navy. It plied a highly successful and lucrative submersible merchant trade to the still neutral United States of America under the waters of a hostile Atlantic Ocean patrolled by the Royal Navy. The final piece in this trilogy of U-Boat accounts is an interesting and immediate account which draws the reader inside the close community of the submariners and contains much vital detail, dialogue and inevitable humour. A tour-de-force for submarine enthusiasts, this special Leonaur edition is available in softcover and hardcover with dust jacket.

On the occasion in question everything went as calculated. The steamer could not see our cautious and hardly-shown periscope and continued unconcerned on its course. The diving rudder in the “Centrale” worked well and greatly facilitated my unobserved approach. I could clearly distinguish the various objects on board, and saw the giant steamer at a very short distance—how the captain was walking back and forth on the bridge with a short pipe in his mouth, how the crew was scrubbing the forward deck. I saw with amazement—a shiver went through me—a long line of compartments of wood spread over the entire deck, out of which were sticking black and brown horse heads and necks.<br>
Oh, great Scott! Horses! What a pity! Splendid animals!<br>
“What has that to do with it?” I continually thought. War is war. And every horse less on the western front is to lessen England’s defence. I have to admit, however, that the thought which had to come was disgusting, and I wish to make the story about it short.<br>
Only a few degrees were lacking for the desired angle, and soon the steamer would get into the correct focus. It was passing us at the right distance, a few hundred metres.<br>
“Torpedo ready!” I called down into the “Centrale.”<br>
It was the longed-for command. Everyone on board held his breath. Now the steamer’s bow cut the line in the periscope—now the deck, the bridge, the foremast—the funnel.<br>
“Let go!”<br>
A light trembling shook the boat—the torpedo was on its way. Woe, when it was let loose!<br>
There it was speeding, the murderous projectile, with an insane speed straight at its prey. I could accurately follow its path by the light wake it left in the water.<br>
“Twenty seconds,” counted the mate whose duty it was, with watch in hand, to calculate the exact time elapsed after the torpedo was fired until it exploded.<br>
“Twenty-two seconds!”<br>
Now it must happen—the terrible thing!<br>
I saw the ship’s people on the bridge had discovered the wake which the torpedo was leaving, a slender stripe. How they pointed with their fingers out across the sea in terror; how the captain, covering his face with his hands, resigned himself to what must come. And next there was a terrific shaking so that all aboard the steamer were tossed about and then, like a volcano, arose, majestic but fearful in its beauty, a two-hundred metre high and fifty-meter wide pillar of water toward the sky.<br>
“A full hit behind the second funnel!” I called down into the “Centrale.” Then they cut loose down there for joy. They were carried away by ecstasy which welled out of their hearts, a joyous storm that ran through our entire boat and up to me.<br>
And over there?<br>
Landlubber, steel thy heart!<br>
A terrible drama was being enacted on the hard-hit sinking ship. It listed and sank towards us.<br>
From the tower I could observe all the decks. From all the hatches human beings forced their way out, fighting despairingly. Russian firemen, officers, sailors, soldiers, hostlers, the kitchen crew, all were running and calling for the boats. Panic stricken, they thronged about one another down the stairways, fighting for the lifeboats, and among all were the rearing, snorting and kicking horses. The boats on the starboard deck could not be put into service, as they could not be swung clear because of the list of the careening steamer. All, therefore, thronged to the boats on the port side, which, in the haste and anguish, were lowered, some half empty; others overcrowded. Those who were left aboard were wringing their hands in despair. They ran from bow to stern and back again from stern to bow in their terror, and then finally threw themselves into the sea in order to attempt to swim to the boats.<br>
Then another explosion resounded, after which a hissing white wave of steam streamed out of all the ports. The hot steam set the horses crazy, and they were beside themselves with terror—I could see a splendid, dapple-gray horse with a long tail make a great leap over the ship’s side and land in a lifeboat, already overcrowded—but after that I could not endure the terrible spectacle any longer. Pulling down the periscope, we submerged into the deep.<br>
When, after some time, I came again to the surface there was nothing more to be seen of the great, proud steamer. Among the wreckage and corpses of the horses three boats were floating and occasionally fished out a man still swimming in the sea. Now I came up on the surface in order to assist the victims of the wrecked ship. When our boat’s mighty, whale-like hull suddenly arose out of the water, right in their midst, a panic seized them again and quickly they grasped their oars in order to try to flee. Not until I waved from the tower to them with my handkerchief and cap did they rest on their oars and come over to us. The state in which some of them were was exceedingly pitiful. Several wore only white cotton trousers and had handkerchiefs wrapped around their necks. The fixed provisions which each boat was required to carry were not sufficient when the boat’s crew was doubled and trebled.<br>
While I was conferring with our mess officer as to what we could possibly dispense with of our own provisions we noticed to the north and west some clouds of smoke which, to judge from the signs, were coming towards us quickly. Immediately a thought flashed through my head:<br>
“Now they are looking for you. Now comes the whole swarm.”<br>
Already the typical masts of the British destroyers and trawlers arose above the horizon. We, therefore, did not have a minute to lose in order to escape these hostile and most dangerous enemies. I made my decision quickly and called to the captain of the sunken steamer that he could let one of the oncoming ships pick them up as I could not spare the time, but had to go “northeast.” Then I submerged—right in front of the boats full of survivors. They saw me head north and I steered in that direction for a time. Then I pulled down the periscope and, without being noticed, changed my course to the south.<br>
When I, after a considerable time, again cautiously looked around, I perceived to my amazement that an entire scout fleet in a wide circle was heading towards us from the south also. From three sides the enemy spurred his bloodhounds on us, and I thought to myself it would not take long before, by extending their wings, they would encircle us completely, and the great chase would begin. The thought was not cheerful, particularly as the depths in this part of the ocean were not sufficient so that we could, by submerging deeply, guard ourselves against the dangers of grappling hooks, nets and mines.<br>
“The wildcat has become a hare,” I thought to myself and, at the same time, I decided what to do.
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