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Date: 16 January 1919

Content:

TALES OF THE CHANNEL.
A SUBMARINE HUNT.
An Adventure Upon Our Coast
By George Long.

[The writer was a pre-war member of the “Cambria Daily Leader” staff, and is returning to us upon demobilisation]

A dark night, not a light showing as the patrol-boat steamed along at a comfortable twelve knots. And this is St. George’s Channel, not so very long since. Lookouts strained their eyes in the endeavour to pierce the inkly [sic] blackness, as the nights of war were not, even when the Hun submarine was not about, very conducive to safety, and collisions were many. Yet the ceaseless vigil had to be kept, for a wireless message from The Admiral ashore had ticked out in code a position when a U-boat had been sighted some hours before.

It was a quarter of an hour to eight bells, and the first watchmen had visions maybe of how such a night might be spent in a four-poster instead of the four hours in a hammock which would shortly be their lot. But the monotony was broken, and all such shattered in the next minute[.]

A FLASH.

A flash on the starboard beam with what seemed a thunderous report in the still darkness, closely followed by about five others, and life sprang into being on the boat. The captain rushed from the chart house, but his advent had been already prepared for by the sharp order from the officer of the watch, “Full speed both, hard a port.” Gun ports were dropped, stokers appeared as though by magic with yards of hose ready for emergencies. Wardroom stewards, messmen and other non-combative ratings hastily passed up ammunition from the magazines—but all to no purpose, for about a twenty-minute run brought a small schooner, sadly damaged, into view. But one of her three masts were standing, that bearing but a few rags of canvas, torn by a shell. And the Hun had submerged—after another example of his frightfulness.

The writer, a Swansea boy, was on board the patrol, and perhaps could give a better account of the subsequent settlement of issues with the cowardly foe by speaking in the past tense.

FLOATING SPARS.

Une of the many drifters in the vicinity was soon on the spot, attracted by the gunfire, and the crew of the schooner—one badly injured—were taken aboard just before the stricken ship took her last plunge. We then resumed the patrol, passing continually to and fro over the scene of the attack. Daylight came eventually, and with it a pathetic sight of floating spars—all that was left at the night’s affair.

A SAIL!

Six o’clock and again gunfire, this time many miles away. The signalman locked through his glass, and reported a small sail just over the horizon on the port bow. Again the turbines trembled and roared as they worked to their utmost capacity. Again the ship’s company went to action stations, and a very short period elapsed before we were very close to another schooner practically on her side. The crew were in the only boat, but the captain still stood by the tiller, as though hoping against hope that she would right herself.

“Over there!” yelled out one of the crew making frantic gestures ahead of us in pointing out the direction in which the submarine had gone. We went on, but saw nothing[.] However, the captain dropped three depth charges in case she should be lurking in the vicinity, but no result was forthcoming, and we returned to the stricken vessel to take aboard the survivors, who were all luckily untouched. Another drifter was shortly afterwards sighted, and they were transferred to her, eventually being taken into Milford Haven.

And we, in accordance with the orders that were in the captain’s pocket, took up our watch once more, very much disheartened at not being able to come into close contact with the enemy.

“THERE SHE IS!”

But yet another move with the U-boat was to be our lot before we returned to our base for the short rest time allowed.

All the hours following Fritz kept low while daylight lasted, and eight o’clock in the evening, just as the first watchmen were relieving, saw us cruising about right under the glare of the ———Lighthouse. The sky was clear, and the moon full, so that visibility extended to some miles. An hour had passed when the signalman on the bridge suddenly raised the telescope to his eye, and a few seconds afterwards uttered the exciting cry:

“There she is, sir, on the port bow in the moonlight!”

Three pushes on the alarm button had the desired effect of getting all the men to their stations within a minute; and we steered at high speed straight for the submarine.

“STAND BY TO RAM!”

“Hold fire,” shouted the captain down the gun voice pipes. “Stand by to ram.” We all clung to the nearest firm object in preparation for the jar as we struck the submarine—but it was not to be. A noticeable alteration of course took place just before the coxswain announced that the helm had jammed, and before it could be righted we found ourselves running on almost the same course as the enemy.

It was evident tha.t she had come to the surface to charge our batteries for her underwater engines and, it seemed to us had taken us for a merchantman that had altered course to avoid her, so that we received orders from the bridge to still withhold fire, but nevertheless we all fully expected to see a torpedo come slithering by.

AT LAST.

Once again we got on a course to hit her, but our manoeuvres had aroused her suspicions, as before we could get to her, she had flooded her tanks and had sunk like a stone. And then was a part played by that greatest of British war inventions—the depth charge. Over the approximate spot where the Hun had submerged a “pill” was dropped, detonating at a depth of about 200 feet. Twice then we altered our course so as to form a triangle, and cut back to cross her course should she be speeding up under the surface. Three deafening explosions, and with the third, as the huge mountain of water rose, came the U-boat to the surface once more, but in two pieces. She had been cut near the conning tower. No trace of any of the crew could we find, but with the daylight we found a large patch of oil on the water—all that was left of yet another pirate.


Source:
Long, George. 'Tales of the Channel.' The Cambria Daily Leader. 16 Jan. 1919. 2.

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