The Doomed Patrol

The Sinking of the Cressy, Aboukir and Hogue by Henry Reuterdahl.
A painting by Henry Reuterdahl depicting the aftermath of a devastating U-boat attack off the eastern coast of England.

On September, 22nd 1914, in the initial months following the start of World War One, the Royal Naval Secretary of the Admiralty communicated the following statement:

"HM Ships Aboukir (Captain John E Drummond), Hogue (Captain Wilmot S Nicholson) and Cressy (Captain Robert W Johnson) have been sunk by submarines in the North Sea. The Aboukir was torpedoed, and whilst the Hogue and the Cressy had closed and were standing by to save the crew, they were also torpedoed.

A considerable number were saved by HMS Lowestoft (Captain Theobald W B Kennedy), and by a division of destroyers, trawlers and boats. Lists of casualties will be published as soon as they are known..."

This official announcement would eventually lead to drastic changes in English naval policy as modern warfare would re-write centuries of time honored tactics in just a few years time.

HMS Cressy
The HMS Cressy, one of three armored cruisers sunk by German submarine U9.

By the time the deadly attack became a matter of public knowledge, neither the Admiralty nor the British public knew that the carnage at sea was the work of a single submarine. Thousands of sailors were killed as three great ships of the Royal Navy, on a routine patrol, were sank in the English Channel.

At the end of WWI, it was learned that the horrific attack was conducted by a single German submarine, U-Boat U-9. U-9 sunk a total of three ships that day manned by nearly 3,000 English sailors.

During it’s commission in The Great War, the sub sunk a total of 14 ships and 3 warships until it was finally surrendered and scuttled in 1918. Part of it's success was due to the fact that U-9 was the first submarine to reload its torpedoes while submerged and manned by one of the most highly disciplined naval crews in all of naval combat history.

The day of the battle, at 6:20 AM, the HMS Aboukir was torpedoed by U-9 and sank in 35 minutes. The crew believed that had struck a mine, and sinking fast, the order was given to abandon ship. Hogue and Cressy approached to pick up survivors, throwing anything that would float into the water for the survivors to cling to.

At 6:55, Hogue was struck by two torpedoes. U-9 dived and remained submerged. At 7:20, Cressy sighted a torpedo track, and the order was given "full speed ahead both", too late. Cressy was hit forward on the starboard side, and lurched high enough out of the water that a second torpedo passed under her stern.

At 7:30, a third torpedo hit Cressy on the port beam, rupturing tanks in the boiler room and scalding the men. Cressy rolled to her starboard side, paused, then went bottom up with her starboard propeller out of the water. She remained in this position for 20 minutes, then sank at 7:55.

German submarine U-9
German sub U-9 leaving dock to patrol for Allied ships.

In U-9's brief encounter with the Cressy, Aboukir and Hogue, lasting less than one hour in duration, it single-handedly cost the Royal Navy the lives of an estimated 1600 men and 60 officers - most of whom where cadets and raw recruits assigned to protect the eastern coast of England in this doomed patrol.

Of the men who went overboard during the attack a total of 837 men, who tread water for anywhere hours in the early morning, were rescued. They were rescued by fishing boats, trawlers, and steamships.

As a result of the losses, the Admiralty ordered all capital ships to remove themselves from danger in the future, and leave rescue attempts to smaller ships. Zigzagging was made mandatory for all large warships in submarine waters.

Wikipedia, WWI Naval War
Wikipedia, HMS Cressy
World War One, WWI Naval Combat, U-9 on

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