- Blackwood, Henry, Captain, RN
- WWI operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1996 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Captain Downes’s talk in April this year highlighted the less exciting but nonetheless demanding aspects of “Q” ship operations. H.M.S. Stonecrop’s experience in WWI was quite different. Sadly, she herself was sunk by a U-Boat on the following day, with grievous loss of life. The Captain of U-88 (Von Schiewgar) was Captain of U 20, when it sank the “Lusitania” on 7 May 1915.
22nd September 1917
I have the honour to report that at 4.40 pm. on September 17th, 1917 in Lat. 49. 42 N Long. 13.18 W a submarine was sighted on the port bow, on the surface distant 14,000 yards. I continued on my course (West by South) and at 4.43 Submarine opened fire with two guns, falling 150 yards short. I turned 16 points and proceeded at full speed (7 knots). Made S.O.S. signals followed by “Hurry up or I shall have to abandon ship” en clair by W/T. and opened fire with 6 pdr. gun aft.
This continued till 5.15, the Submarine gradually closing and keeping up a steady fire. At 5.15 I had not been hit but majority of shots fell very close, and were probably mistaken for hits. I lit the smoke apparatus, the effect of which was particularly good; the phosphorus leaked out of the container and caught fire outside it on the deck. The port side of after deck house was a mass of flame and being before the wind the whole ship was enveloped in smoke.
Ceased fire with 6 pdr. and at 5.30 stopped and abandoned ship. Two men in Naval uniform to represent 6 pdr. gun’s crew. Submarine then ceased fire and submerged distant 6,000 yards.
At 5.55 I saw a periscope on my port bow distant 2,000 yards. My boats at that time were nearly ahead of the ship about 5 to 7 cables. When they saw the periscope they sailed and pulled across my bows to a position 5 cables on the Starboard bow.
Submarine came slowly towards the ship still submerged and passed down port side about 300 yards off forebridge. I had a chance of a fair shot with both tubes as he passed, but did not fire as the target was rather on an angle and too close.
Submarine rounded our stem at a distance of 1 cable, and came to the surface 600 yards on Starboard quarter. When he ceased rising, the target offered was the whole length of Submarine; and height of Stemhead from water 4 to 8 feet. From the stem he gradually sloped aft till the stem was flush with the water.
Height of base of Conning Tower above water 3’6 ins. to 4 feet. These distances may have been more, probably were as he was 600 yards off.
We looked at each other for 3 minutes but he showed no signs of opening the Conning Tower hatch, and as I thought his propellers were moving and he was pointed at our boats I gave the signal and opened fire with 4″ and howitzers at 6.10 pm. range 600 yards. The first 3 rounds from 4″ were 35, 25, 10 yards short respectively.
4th Shot, hit just at base of Conning Tower and caused a large explosion, volumes of brown smoke and split the Conning Tower from top left to lower right hand comer. Submarine took heavy list to Starboard and slowly righted.
5th Shot, hit just above water line under foremost gun; did not see this shell burst but heard it quite plainly.
6th Shot, hit between foremost gun and Conning Tower.
7th Shot, hit 30 feet from stem; clouds of what looked like steam came out of both sides of submarine. (I have since been told this was probably compressed air and water.)
8th Shot, hit 2 feet below No. 4 shot just at angle of Conning Tower and deck.
9th & 10th Shots, hit on water line between after gun and Conning Tower.
11th Shot, hit deck just abaft Conning Tower and tore up a large piece which remained on edge.
Three more rounds were fired which I did not spot owing to smoke and spray, but I saw no splash except in the case of the 14th round.