The First U-Boat Sinkings of the Great War.


The Battle of the Broad Fourteens (22 Sept 1914)

Entente : 3 cruisers
Central Powers : 1 U-Boat
Result : Central Powers victory

Losses :
Entente : 3 cruisers sunk, 1,459 dead
Central Powers : None

Known also as The Action of 22nd Sept 1914, it was fought about 25m northwest of Hoek van Holland over a submerged Doggerland plateau 14 fathoms below the surface. It appears on naval charts as a line of 14’s – hence The Broad Fourteens.

After the disastrous first patrol in the opening days of the war (2 boats lost, no Entente ships damaged), the U-Boats needed a success to prove their worth. It wasn’t long coming.

In early Sept 1914, U-21 commanded by Kapitänleutnant Otto Hersing was sent on patrol to the North Sea between Scotland and Norway. His orders were to harass Entente shipping and gather intelligence on ships enforcing the blockade. U-21 was part of the latest class of diesel-powered submarines commissioned by the Kriegsmarine, more reliable and with a longer range; she had a crew of 29. On 5th Sep, U-21 encountered armoured cruiser HMS Pathfinder near the Isle of May in the mouth of the Forth Estuary, Scotland. The U-Boat attacked and the torpedo struck Pathfinder causing the magazine to detonate and the ship to explode; she capsized and sank within 5 minutes. Total British casualties – 261 dead. This was the first successful submarine attack of the conflict.

Two weeks later on the 22nd Sept, U-9 commanded by Kapitänleutnant Otto Weddingen was making across the North Sea to attack troopships carrying British re-enforcements to the beleaguered Entente garrison in Ostend, Belgium when he encountered three obsolete pre-dreadnaught era cruisers, HMS Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy. Weddingen attacked and hit Aboukir from a range of 500 metres. Not seeing any submarines, the British thought they had struck a mine and the other ships stopped to help. Thirty minutes later as Aboukir was sinking, U-9 torpedoed HMS Hogue, which also began to sink. However, the inexperienced U-Boat crew had fired from too shallow a depth and as the torpedoes left, the sub briefly lifted out of the water where she was spotted by Cressy, who opened fire. U-9 submerged again and, 20 mins later torpedoed HMS Cressy as well. Total British dead 1,429.

During the battle Wenman Wykeham-Musgrave, a midshipman on HMS Aboukir, became the only man in history known to have been torpedoed three times on the same day. He swam away from Aboukir as it was sinking, was picked up by HMS Hogue and torpedoed a second time then swam to HMS Cressy and was torpedoed again. He was found later that day by a Dutch trawler, barely alive, clinging to a piece of driftwood. Dutch steamers and trawlers picked up about 400 survivors.

Weddingen returned to a heroes welcome in Germany, where he was awarded the Iron Cross. He was killed in Mar 1915 when in command of U-29, which was rammed by HMS Dreadnaught in the Pentland Firth between John O’Groats and Orkney killing all 29 men on board.

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