Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, February 17, 2020

German Tactical Bombing on the Western Front (Late War)

 A German Friedrichshafen GIII Bomber

German tactical bombing on the Western Front was conducted only at night after early 1917. They used their A.E.G., Friedrichshafen, Gotha, and Giant bombers to attack rail targets, ammo dumps, cities, armies’ headquarters, and supply depots. In addition to the more well known raids on Paris, the Germans attacked the port of Dunkirk night after night. (These sustained attacks were unique in the Great War and have never been adequately researched by historians.)  

Of particular note is the German attack on the British ammo dump at Audruicq, France the night of 20/21 July 1916. It was raided by only four light bombers which dropped a total bomb load of only 752 kilograms. The devastation in the ammo dump reached the equivalent of $80 million in 2001 US$, probably the most destructive raid in the First World War. It led to a formal inquiry and a redesign of British ammo dumps to avoid such destruction in the future.

Damage at the Site of the Audruicq Raid

Beyond these circumstances, however, German tactical bombing on the Western Front could be characterized more as a serious nuisance than a serious threat. It did force the Allied armies to move at night and curtailed the use of lights outdoors for many miles from the front itself, but the one raid on Audruicq was the only time the bombers even came close to affecting overall events on the Western Front. Part of the reason for this, of course, was that there never were that many bombers—they totaled only from 150 to 200 throughout 1918. 

Thanks to aero-historian Steve Suddaby for this material

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Who Paid for the War?

Some French Soldiers with German Prisoners

By T. Hunt Cooley
From: "The Morning of November 11, 1918"

As Paul Fussell made clear in his masterpiece The Great War and Modern Memory, the multi-layered ironies of the conflict created the war's most lasting legacies. And none of the ironies was quite as striking as the fact that those groups of politicians, bureaucrats, generals, and bankers on all sides who created the war and directed it, had had a mortality rate of zero, more or less, at least until the Spanish Flu emerged late in the war to kill with a little less social and demographic selectivity.

It is fitting to end this short contemplation of 11 November 1918 with a song that emerged from the soldiers who fought the war, performed in a recent recording by a modern musical organization that thrives on ironies, both present and past, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. The performance is a spare and thoughtful rendition of a British soldier's ditty from the war, "Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire," a reference to that little-celebrated fate of Great War fighters who made it to the killing zone of the enemy's barbed wire in no-man's-land, only to be killed by the interlocking machine gun fire which everyone knew would be zeroed in on that simple but effective obstacle.

If you want to find the General
I know where he is.
He's pinning another medal on his chest.
I saw him, I saw him,
Pinning another medal on his chest

If you want to find the Colonel
I know where he is.
He's sitting in comfort stuffing his bloody gut.
I saw him, I saw him,
Sitting in comfort stuffing his bloody gut.

If you want to find the Sergeant
I know where he is.
He's drinking all the company rum.
I saw him, I saw him,
Drinking all the company rum.

If you want to find the private
I know where he is.
He's hanging on the old barbed wire.
I saw him, I saw him,
Hanging on the old barbed wire,
Hanging on the old barbed wire.

Like many soldiers' perceptions, this simplistic view did not tell the whole truth (in most armies, lieutenants died at a higher rate than privates since they led the attacks over the top for example), and it did not extend to the political and economic structures which created the war to begin with. The German sailors in Kiel, who had by early November already started the German Revolution of 1918 by carrying out a mutiny at the Kiel naval base, understood only peace. And they called for it in the shorthand expression: "We want Erzberger!" (Matthias Erzberger would pay dearly for his courageous call for peace negotiations and his grim duty in carrying out the first step when he was assassinated by an ultra-nationalist terrorist group in 1921.)

Yet there was a kernel of truth in the cynical but simplistic perceptions of many Great War soldiers. The personal bravery and the sacrifices on all sides belonged chiefly to the soldiers. The postwar costs would be paid by societies which had had little to do with bringing about the massacres. The victory was in the hands of gentlemen in ornate rooms in the financial and political capitals of the "great powers," the representatives of the modern state, an entity which collectively perceived the results of the war as its own fulfillment.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Boston Navy Yard at War

Boston Navy Yard on the Eve of War

by David Hannigan, Park Guide

At the turn of the 20th century, the Boston Navy Yard (now known as Charlestown Navy Yard) entered its second century of service by embarking on its first major expansion since the Civil War. This growth was in line with the goals of President Theodore Roosevelt’s administration, which wanted the United States Navy to expand and modernize, heralding the emergence of America as a world power. In Boston several new buildings and a second dry dock were built to meet the demands of the growing fleet that it served.

Shortly after the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared that the United States would remain neutral. It would become the navy’s job to protect the nation’s neutrality at sea and at home by stationing destroyers at Boston Navy Yard.

In the aftermath of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in May 1915, President Wilson sided with the growing number of advocates of military preparedness who sought to protect America’s interests at home and abroad. As part of the preparedness movement, Wilson called upon Congress to authorize the construction of over 150 warships. With the passage of the Naval Act of 1916, the Boston Navy Yard prepared for an increase in the number of ships built, outfitted, and repaired at the facility.

Throughout the war years, many of the yard’s older buildings were renovated or replaced, while several new buildings were erected, including a massive general storehouse. An inclined shipway, where vessels could be built and launched, was constructed and towering hammerhead cranes were erected after the Navy Department selected the Boston Navy Yard for the construction of the first ship specifically built to carry supplies and provisions for overseas fleet replenishment. For the repair of smaller vessels, a marine railway was constructed between the yard’s two dry docks.

As preparations intensified, the number of workers at the yard increased dramatically, growing from approximately 2,500 to 4,400 skilled and unskilled laborers by 1917. This workforce would come to include a number of women who filled a variety of roles from clerical workers to manufacturing assistants in the yard’s rope walk, which had greatly increased its production of cordage for the navy.

Three Destroyers at Pier 9

By January 1917, the land war in Europe had reached a stalemate, prompting Germany to resume its campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare in an attempt to cut off Britain’s supply lines and starve the country into submission before America joined the war. After the sinking of several American vessels with loss of life, the United States declared war on Germany on April 6 and rapidly began to mobilize its forces.

Immediately following the declaration of war, the United States Navy ordered Destroyer Division 8 to assemble at the Boston Navy Yard and prepare for deployment to European waters. Six destroyers departed Boston on 24 April 1917 and arrived at the British naval base at Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland on 4 May. A second group of destroyers left Boston on 7 May to join in escort duties and patrol for German U-boats. Thereafter, the port of Boston and its navy yard would become one of the principal points of departure for troops, arms, and supplies to Britain and France.

Supply Ship USS Bridge Launching

Though the Boston Navy Yard would build a number of support ships during the war, the Navy specifically assigned the yard the task of repairing warships and support vessels. Equally important, the yard oversaw the outfitting and commissioning of a steady stream of warships built by private shipbuilding concerns. These would include destroyers and submarines constructed at Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation’s Fore River Shipyard and its Victory Destroyer Plant, both located in Quincy, Massachusetts.

In addition to readying and repairing warships, workers at the Boston Navy Yard also outfitted ships of the American Merchant Marine with armament provided by the federal government. Boston also converted, fitted out, and commissioned former cargo carrying merchantmen and passenger vessels that had been purchased or leased by the Navy. The smaller and swifter vessels were converted for use in anti-submarine warfare and coastal patrol, while larger vessels were converted for use in transporting troops and carrying cargo. Perhaps the most complicated conversion work at the yard involved five German passenger ships that had been seized in American ports by the United States government after the declaration of war. Prior to the vessel’s seizure, their crews had sabotaged the ship’s’ engines, necessitating extensive repairs before these vessels could be transformed into transports to carry troops and supplies from the United States to France.

Source: Boston National Historical Park, National Park Service

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Flies of the Somme

Body of a Dead German Soldier Covered by Flies

From Civilization by Georges Duhamel

My task as stretcher-bearer was finished. I could return to my carpentering. I set to work shaping heavy pieces of green wood, while I thought of many things, such things as rise in the mind when it is deprived of slumber and steeped
in bitterness.

About eight o'clock in the morning the whole population of flies saluted the sun, which was slowly disengaging itself from the mists; and these creatures began to give themselves up to their great daily orgy.

All those who were on the Somme during 1916 will retain forever the memory of the flies. The disorder of the battlefield,its richness in carrion, the abnormal accumulation of men, animals, spoiled food " all these causes brought about thatyear a formidable hatching of flies. They seemed to have assembled from all points of the globe to be present at an exceptional and solemn occasion.

They were of all species,and the world of men, delivered over to their hatred, remained without defense against this loathsome invasion. During a whole summer they were the mistresses, the queens, and they did not have to bargain for their food.

At Hill 80 I saw wounds swarming with larvae, a sight one had almost forgotten since the Battle of the Marne. I saw the flies hurl themselves upon the blood and pus of the wounds and gorge themselves with such drunken frenzy that you could seize them with your fingers or with a pair of pincers before they would consent to fly away and leave their feast. They spread all sorts of infections and gangrene. The army suffered cruelly from them, and it is really astonishing that
the victory did not remain definitely with them.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Musical Imagery from the Great War

Found at the Europeana Collections

Click on Images to Enlarge

Bagpipe Band Performing at Gare du Nord, Paris, 1916

Elsie Janis, Future "Sweetheart" of the AEF in 1915

War Music by Camille Saint-Saëns

Banjo Band of Blinded War Veterans

British Postcard

Trench Musician

French Bugler 

A Regimental Band Leads the Troops Off to War

Composer Maurice Ravel, Who Drove a Truck at Verdun

Thanks to Andrew Melomet for bringing these to my attention.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Offutt Air Force Base and the Great War

By Editor/Publisher Mike Hanlon

I spent three formative years of my life stationed at Offutt, AFB, Nebraska. Back then, it was known for being the Headquarters, Strategic Air Command, and for its starring roles in the Cold War classic films Fail Safe and Dr. Strangelove.  Most important for my post-Air Force career was my service there under three memorable lt. colonels. Two were great bosses, Colonels Cooke Leutwyler and Tom Madigan.  One was not, but the lessons I learned from him may have been the most valuable I carried over from my military service.

Anyway, it popped into my head recently that the airfield for what was way back then the Army's Fort Crook had been active during the Great War and that it had been dedicated sometime after the Armistice in honor of a local aviator, Jarvis Offutt, who had died in the war. I decided to check out how my old duty station remembered its WWI service during the Centennial and discovered these very nicely done graphics prepared by the Air Force. These the story of Fort Crook, Lt. Offutt, and of the units associated with Offutt AFB today that can trace their lineage back to World War I.  

Click on Images to Enlarge

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Rape of Belgium: The Untold Story of World War I

by Larry Zuckerman
NYU Press, 2004
John D Beatty, Reviewer

Dinant Memorial to Its 674 Civilians Killed by the German Army

One of the benefits of being a casual student of the Great War is that you can be surprised by new information when reading about subjects "everyone knows about already". Larry Zuckerman has produced one of those books in the pantheon of Great War literature where even the most knowledgeable Great War scholars can learn something or, if not get new facts, learn how the West came to see what the Germans seemed to be capable of. The Rape of Belgium starts with a description of a Belgium that few people before 1914 can appreciate. It was a happy, industrious, prosperous state with the fifth-largest manufacturing base in Europe, secure within its borders with a small professional army and navy, a treaty recognizing her neutrality, and influential friends in Germany and France. Belgium, a country carved out of what had been both French and Dutch territory by the Congress of Vienna, embraced Flemish, Walloon, and Luxembourgian ambitions within its borders. Its railroads and other commercial highways were the envy of Europe.

And those excellent roads, Zuckerman holds, was their problem. Germany's Schlieffen Plan depended on Belgium's granite roadways as highways to Paris and the early defeat of France so that they could turn their attentions to slow-mobilizing Russia. The author expounds on this topic as easily and as clearly as he does on the lowly tubers in his The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World (North Point Press, 1998)—with verve and detail that never gets dull. He's quite clear about German Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg's contemptuous "scrap of paper" dismissal of Belgian neutrality and its effect on world opinion, especially Britain. He's also quite clear on how the Belgian atrocity stories that started not long after were gross exaggerations and that the truth was worse.

The truth of the story that followed the early reports and wild tales is something between a Kafkaesque tragedy of disbelief and ignorance and a preview of what was to come in 1939, when Germany would march again. The Germans blamed the Belgians for not allowing them to simply stroll through, standing aside so they could destroy the French more quickly, with an offhand thought about how puny Belgium dragged Britain into the war. This attitude toward Belgium triggered the real "rape" of Belgium: systematic looting, confiscation of machinery, forced labor, ignoring Belgian laws and customs, and a halfhearted attempt to separate Flemings and Walloons by suggesting that Belgium would be partitioned.

The book pulls few punches when it comes to describing Germany's years of abuse of Belgium's resources. Zuckerman holds that Germany held Belgium in contempt for simply obeying German demands and that Germans could not understand why the world thought Germany was somehow a bad actor in the case of Belgium. The occupiers even went so far as to punish the families of people who killed themselves with guns, fining them for the cost of the ammunition and advising others to hang themselves, as copper was short.

Even as the war ended in 1918, when the armistice negotiations were going on between Berlin, Paris, London, and Washington, Belgium was not consulted. When the Versailles conference began, Belgium was treated with less regard than even China, but Zuckerman admits that may have been because of Belgium's small military contributions. While acknowledging that Belgium had a small and fragile force on the Western Front, her total military casualties from 1914 to 1918 amounted to four days of French losses in August 1914 alone. After the war, Zuckerman tells us, there were war crimes trials of a sort, but they were held in Germany, by German courts, and the sentences handed out were minor.

There are some surprises. For instance, The Rape of Belgium states that Germany was running low on ammunition as early as October 1914; after the Somme/Verdun catastrophes of 1916, much of the German Army no longer cared if the war was won or lost as long as it ended; as late as July 1918 it was clear that German officials expected to stay in Belgium indefinitely. The role of Belgian Relief, the Herbert Hoover-driven American organization, was also somewhat smaller than most Americans had been led to believe—and the Germans thought their agents to be spies. Also, Belgian relief ships were torpedoed by German submarines, marked or not.

In all, The Rape of Belgium is an interesting and informative read, recommended for Great War aficionados who are looking to get away from battle narratives (there are none here) and learn something they thought they knew about poor little Belgium.

John D. Beatty, MA, Am Mil History

Monday, February 10, 2020

Clemenceau to the Front

Georges Clemenceau visited the Western Front —all of the sectors—many times after the war began. His tours of inspection had taken him to the North Sea and to the Vosges, to the Somme and to Verdun. He met with troops and observed the condition of their trenches, the state of their armaments, and the quality of their medical care. He shared meals with the poilus, discussing the mud, the noise, the rations, and the fleas. He befriended doctors at the Red Cross stations and hurled creative insults and threats at the German soldiers on the other side of the line. 

There was a political strategy behind this.  The poilus were encouraged by his many visits to the trenches. This confidence began to spread from the trenches to the home front. After years of criticism against the French Army for its conservatism and Catholicism, Clemenceau needed help to get along with the military leaders to achieve a sound strategic plan. The support of the troops and the citizenry was essential for gaining the generals' support.

In parallel with his political strategy was his military diplomacy. Clemenceau was equally energetic in visiting the Allied forces. There are countless  photos of him with British Tommies and American Doughboys. He also got along well with Field Marshal Haig, especially since Haig had supported naming Ferdinand Foch as generalissimo of the Allied forces. On the other hand, Clemenceau never seemed to embrace American commander John J. Pershing. This may have had its origin in Pershing's unbending  attitude on the amalgamation issue or, maybe, just personality differences. There's a hilarious account of Clemenceau's rage at Pershing over being trapped in a massive traffic jam in the opening of the Argonne Offensive.

(Sources: Stories Under Paris, Wikipedia)

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Goeben and the Naval War in the Black Sea, Part II of II

Russian Battleship Imperatritsa Mariia

By Steve McLaughlin

(Part I of this article was presented yesterday, 8 February 2020, in Roads to the Great War)

The next few months saw only a few minor actions. The Russians continued to snap up Turkish shipping on the Anatolian coast, and during one of these sweeps the destroyers Derzkii and Gnevnyi had a brief encounter with the Breslau off the Bosporus on the night of 11 June. Gnevnyi was disabled by the cruiser's gunfire, but Derzkii managed to cut across the Breslau's stern and rake her, scoring three hits that killed seven men and wounded 15. Derzkii had to tow Gnevnyi back to Sevastopol. On 18 July, Breslau struck a mine, which put her out of commission for several months. That same month the strength of the Russian fleet was considerably increased by the completion of the Imperatritsa Mariia, a 23,000-ton dreadnought with a battery of 12 l2-in guns. Although Imperatritsa Mariia was far more powerful than Goeben, she was a couple of knots slower. A sister ship, Imperatritsa Ekaterina Velikaya, joined the fleet in October.

The Russians had by mid-1915 achieved a commanding position in the war in the Black Sea. Dozens of Turkish steamers and hundreds of sailing ships had been captured or destroyed, seriously interfering with both the coal supply to Constantinople and the support of the army in the Caucasus. Goeben made few appearances in the Black Sea for the rest of the year. The appearance of German U-boats in July, however, forced the Russians to be more cautious in their operations against the Turkish coast.

1916 opened with a brief encounter between Goeben and lmperatritsa Ekaterina Velikaya off Zonguldak on 8 January. Both sides had been drawn there by the same thing—a freighter full of coal, bound for Constantinople. Goeben was sent out to convoy her safely to the capital, but the freighter had already been sunk by Russian destroyers by the time Goeben arrived. Goeben chased the destroyers and suddenly found herself confronted by the new Russian dreadnought. Both big ships opened fire at a range of more than 20,000 yards, but neither side scored any hits and once again Goeben's speed got her out of trouble. In a somewhat similar encounter in April, Breslau managed to escape from some accurate salvos from Imperatritsa Mariia.

Cruiser SMS Breslau

In spite of the growing submarine menace, the Russian Black Sea Fleet was able to provide gunfire support for the army on the Caucasus front and also carried out two successful amphibious landings that aided the Russian drive toward the important port of Trebizond, which was captured in April.

In July, Admiral Ebergardt was replaced by Vitse-Admiral Aleksandr Vasilievich Kolchak. Although successful in containing the Goeben and in disrupting Turkey's seaborne logistics, Ebergardt had apparently had arguments with army commanders over supporting the Caucasian offensives and there was dissatisfaction with his handling of the U-boat threat. Kolchak was a young, aggressive commander who had acquired a great deal of experience with mine warfare in the Baltic. One of his first actions was to begin a mining offensive against both the Bosporus and the main U-boat base at Varna, in Bulgaria. These efforts were remarkably successful—in September and October, four U-boats were lost, virtually ending the German submarine threat in the Black Sea. The only Russian setback in this period came on 20 October, when Imperatritsa Mariia blew up in Sevastopol harbor. Unstable ammunition was the cause, although it was widely rumored that the ship had been sabotaged by German agents.

Even with this loss, however, the Black Sea Fleet had a decisive margin of superiority over the Turko-German fleet. In fact, the Russian offensive against the coal transports between Zonguldak and Constantinople had been so successful that the Goeben and the Breslau spent most of the latter part of 1916 riding at anchor in the Sea of Marmara, practically immobilized. The old Russian battleships provided valuable support not only on the Caucasus front but also to the collapsing Romanian Army, their only opposition coming from increasingly active (but as yet merely annoying) German aircraft.

Vitse-Admiral Aleksandr Vasilievich Kolchak

With Goeben contained and the U-boat problem under control, the Russians now had almost complete command of the Black Sea; ambitious officers at Stavka turned their thoughts toward that ancient Russian desire, seizing the Bosporus and capturing Constantinople. The idea had already received the blessing of Russia's allies in secret agreements, and given the military situation at the end of 1916, a successful amphibious assault could have been decisive. It would almost certainly have knocked Turkey out of the war and, more important for Russia's tottering economy, opened the Straits to Allied cargo ships. Tsar Nicholas II himself informed Kolchak of these plans. Troops were assembled at Odessa and transport ships gathered.

All this came to naught. The February Revolution that overthrew the tsarist government also led to military and political confusion; the assault on the Bosporus was forgotten as Kolchak struggled to maintain the fighting efficiency of his fleet. The Baltic Fleet had already been wracked by mutiny and the murder of officers, but the Black Sea Fleet continued its operations throughout the spring. By summer, however, the effects of the revolution were making themselves felt. Strikes and industrial disruption had left many ships languishing for want of repairs and slowed the supply of mines to a trickle. Worse, revolutionary sailors from the Baltic Fleet had arrived and were goading their Black Sea brethren to throw off the aristocratic oppression of the officer corps. In June 1917, the Council of Soldiers, Sailors, and Workers passed a resolution ordering officers to surrender their personal weapons. Enraged, Kolchak berated the crew of his flagship, pointing out that even the Japanese had allowed him to keep his sword while in captivity during the Russo-Japanese War. With that, he flung overboard his golden sword—given him for bravery in the war with Japan—and resigned his command. Kontre-Admiral Veniamin Kostantinovich Lukin took command of the fleet, but by then there was no real fighting force left to command.

As the Russians collapsed, Goeben and Breslau continued to support the Turkish war effort. On 20 January 1918 they steamed out of the Dardanelles for a daring raid on the British blockading force, based at Imbros. The monitors Raglan and M.28 were sunk, but Breslau was sunk in a British minefield and Goeben was damaged by three mines. She limped back into the Dardanelles, ran aground, and was subject to numerous attacks by British aircraft before she was finally got off and limped back to Constantinople.

Battleship Panteleimon (former Potemkin)
In March 1918, Goeben achieved her pinnacle of glory—she steamed into Odessa harbor with an armistice commission aboard, and a few days later she was in Sevastopol, supervising the disarming of the Russian ships there. This triumph was short-lived—the Turks agreed to an armistice with the Allies on 31 October 1918. Shortly after, the Goeben's German crew departed, and the ship, for the first time crewed by Turkish officers and men, was immediately disarmed. She had a long, sleepy career in the Turkish Navy as Yavuz Sultan Selim (later renamed simply Yavuz) and was finally scrapped in the mid-1970s.

As for the Black Sea Fleet, it became "Ukrainian" when the Germans seized the Crimea. The Armistice in November led to a German withdrawal but brought little peace to Russia. During the Civil War most ships joined the White cause, but British observers noted that the crews were disaffected and the officers arrogant and sometimes cruel. With the collapse of General Baron Petr Nikolaevich Wrangel's White army in November 1920, the remnants of the once-powerful Black Sea Fleet ferried some 145,000 refugees from the Crimea to Turkey, then steamed on to Bizerte in French Tunisia. There, in October 1924, the St. Andrew's flag was raised for the last time—until Boris Yeltsin ordered the Black Sea Fleet to hoist it once again in 1991.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 1992 issue of Relevance: The Journal of the Great War Society

Drashpil, Boris. "Re: Goeben," Warship International, 30 June 1971.

Greger, Rene. The Russian Fleet, 1914–1917.

Nekrasov, George. North of Gallipoli: The Black Sea Fleet at War, 1914–1917.

Photos from the collection of the late R.D. Layman

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Goeben and the Naval War in the Black Sea. Part I of II

By Steve McLaughlin

Prelude: The Pursuit of the Goeben and Breslau to Constantinople

"I shall crush the Russian Black Sea fleet." This was Kontre-Admiral Wilhelm Souchon's answer when Enver Pasha inquired what he intended to do with his two ships, the battlecruiser Goeben and the cruiser Breslau, recently arrived in Constantinople.

Souchon seemingly had good reasons for this confident boast. Having thumbed his nose at the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean by unexpectedly slipping up the neutral Dardanelles, Goeben was now the most powerful warship in the Black Sea, a 22,000-ton dreadnought battlecruiser capable of more than 25 knots and armed with ten 28cm (11-in) guns. Unlike her British contemporaries, she was also well protected, with a waterline belt almost 11 inches thick. Breslau was a modern light cruiser, completed in 1912 and armed with 12 10.5cm (4.l-in) guns. With a maximum speed of 27.5 knots, she was one of the fastest ships in the Black Sea.

Better than any technical advantage, though, was one of morale. German intelligence had recently assessed the military capabilities of the Black Sea Fleet as negligible, citing the "poor discipline of its crews and its obsolete ships."

SMS Goeben

So, on the morning of 29 October 1914, Goeben (now officially renamed Yavuz Sultan Selim, but her crew and commander remaining German and among themselves still using the ship's German name) stood off the Russian naval base at Sevastopol. It was Souchon's intention to bombard the harbor works and ships in port, although war had not yet been declared and some ministers of the Turkish government still opposed this action.

The Russians had warning—the Turkish torpedo boats Mouavenet and Gairet had already attacked Odessa, sinking the old gunboat Donetz and damaging several other ships. So as Goeben steamed into range of the coast defense batteries at Sevastopol, they opened fire without hesitation. In the action that followed, Goeben fired 47 shells from her main battery, damaging a few buildings ashore, principally a hospital. In return, she was hit three times by the shore batteries, forcing her to withdraw under cover of a smoke screen laid by her two attendant Turkish torpedo boats. It was the Germans' first taste of Russian gunfire, and the accuracy was an unpleasant surprise.

On her way back to the Bosporus, Goeben encountered the elderly Russian minelayer Prut (completed in 1879) and three torpedo boats, Leitenant Pushchin, Zharkii and Zhivuchii. In an attempt to protect the slow and nearly defenseless Prut, the three torpedo boats attacked the Turko-German force, but the fire of the Goeben's secondary battery of 15cm (5.9-in) guns drove them off after severely damaging Leitenant Pushchin. The officers of the Prut thereupon scuttled her to prevent her falling into enemy hands.

Meanwhile, Breslau (officially renamed Midilli) had laid mines off the Kerch Strait and shelled the harbor and an oil tank farm—warning the nearby municipal  authorities, so that civilians could be evacuated from the target areas.

Admirals Souchon and Ebergardt, the Respective Fleet Commanders

Souchon had succeeded in bringing Turkey into the war on the side of the Central Powers, but he had not harmed the Russian Black Sea Fleet in any material way. The Russian commander opposing Souchon was Vitse-Admiral Andrei Avgustovich Ebergardt, one of the many officers of Swedish descent in the tsar's navy. Ebergardt's battle line was composed of five pre-dreadnought battleships. The oldest were Tri Sviatitelia and Rostislav, both completed in 1898; next came Panteleimon (the former Kniaz Potemkin Tavricheskii renamed after her crew's mutiny in 1905), completed in 1903, and finally Evstafii and Ioann Zlatoust sister ships completed in 1910. All were armed with four l2 in. guns except Rostislav, a small and unsuccessful ship that carried only four of 10 in. She was also the slowest ship of the line, barely capable of 15.5 knots; the other ships were all a full knot faster. Not one of these could have engaged Goeben with any reasonable chance of success.

Before the war, Turkey had ordered two super-dreadnoughts from British shipyards, intended for delivery in mid-1914. The Russians had three powerful dreadnoughts under construction at Nikolaev, but none would be ready for sea before mid-1915 at the earliest. Ebergardt was well aware of this one-year Turkish advantage in delivery times; if war came during that period, his pre-dreadnoughts would have to face a far superior force of enemy dreadnoughts. He therefore trained his captains to maneuver their ships in close formations and to act in mutual support As long as the squadron stayed together, Ebergardt could hope to face individually more powerful enemy ships.

The threat of the British-built Turkish dreadnought disappeared in August 1914 when the Royal Navy confiscated the just-completed ships and added them to the Grand Fleet. But the arrival in Constantinople of Goeben and Breslau largely made up for that loss. So now Ebergardt found himself facing the sort of situation for which he had been preparing his fleet.

The Black Sea Fleet Takes to Sea

Two weeks after war came to the Black Sea, Ebergardt began his first offensive. Because the roads of Anatolia were few and poor, the Turks were forced to rely on coastal traffic to transport supplies. Most of this was done by small sailing vessels. The Russian fleet sailed from Sevastopol on 15 November 1914 and carried out a sweep along the Anatolian coast, shelling Trebizond and picking off any of the small coastal ships they came across. On hearing of the Russian action, Souchon took Goeben and Breslau out to sea, steering a course intended to cut the Russians off from Sevastopol.

The sea south of the Crimea was covered by patchy fog on the morning of 18 November; the Russian battle fleet was steaming in line ahead, led by Ebergardt's flagship, Evstafii, on a course west by northwest following her were Ioann Zlatoust, Panteleimon, Tri Sviatitelia and Rostislav. A cruiser screen steamed ahead of the fleet. At 1140 hours, the leading cruiser, Almaz, sighted smoke, and at 1210 reported "I see the enemy straight ahead."

The Goeben was steaming straight for the Russian fleet, with Breslau off her starboard quarter. Souchon was apparently intent on closing quickly, perhaps hoping to cripple one or more of the Russian ships while the theirs were shrouded in fog. The Russian squadron turned south to open up its full broadside firing arcs and Breslau continued straight for the Russians on an east-by-southeast course. Both sides opened at a range of about 8,000 yards. At 1224 Evstafii hit Goeben with a 12-in shell. Other bits followed, and things were clearly not going as Souchon had expected; he altered course southward, now steaming parallel to the Russians to open up his full broadside. Because of poor visibility, the battle was virtually a duel between the Goeben and the Evstafii, during the brief action—the two sides fired for a total of 14 minutes— Goeben was hit by three 12-in and 11 8-in and 6-in shells, including one hit amidships that started a large fire in the ready-use ammunition of her secondary battery. Souchon decided to break off the engagement. The slower Russian fleet made no attempt to pursue.

The Russian gunnery had been excellent. On Goeben, 105 men were killed and 59 injured. The ship had come perilously close to even greater damage—the fire started by the Evstafii's hits had almost reached the 15cm magazines, but they had been flooded just in time to prevent an explosion. Evstafii had been hit four times, with 33 men killed and 25 wounded.

The next month passed relatively quietly for the two navies. Goeben and Breslau served as convoy escorts for troopships and freighters supplying the Caucasian front, where Enver Pasha was planning his first offensive. Ebergardt was also busy planning, with two objectives in mind—one, the mining of the Bosporus, would bar the Turko-German ships from entering the Black Sea, while the second, using old freighters filled with stones as block ships, would obstruct the port at Zonguldak. This town, about 140 miles east of the Bosporus, was Turkey's main source of coal.

Russian minelayers secretly planted 585 mines off the Bosporus on the night of 21–22 December. The simultaneous effort to block Zonguldak was foiled by the untimely appearance of the Breslau, and the block ships were hurriedly scuttled far out to sea. The crew of one block ship was captured by Breslau, but the others were taken off by the Russian escort ships.

Goeben had meanwhile been operating in the eastern portion of the Black Sea. She rendezvoused with Breslau on Christmas Day and shared course for the Bosporus. The next afternoon, as she neared her destination, the great ship was rocked by a powerful explosion. Two minutes later another blast shook her. She had struck two of the Russian mines laid a few days before. She limped through the Bosporus, having taken on 600 tons of water.

Repairs were a problem there were no docks in Turkey big enough to handle the crippled battlecruiser. Workers were sent from Germany, and a cofferdam was built. This was essentially a wooden box that was fitted to the curve of the ship's hull; once it was in place, the water was pumped out, forming a dry working space right down to the ship's bottom. This technique had been developed by Admiral Stepan Osipovich Makarov at Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War. While under repair, Goeben twice anchored in Beikos Cove in the Sea of Marmara, ready to use her undamaged artillery if the Russians appeared off the Bosporus. Her repairs were completed by 1 May 1915.

The Russians had meanwhile begun a series of raids along the Anatolian coast, shelling shore batteries, planting mines and capturing or sinking several steamers and dozens of small cargo schooners. On 9 May 1915 Ebergardt steamed for the Bosporus, intending to bombard its fortifications. On the morning of 10 May he sent the battleships Panteleimon and Tri Sviatitelia close inshore to shell the forts, while  Evstafii, Ioann Zlatoust, and Rostislav stayed out to sea as a covering force. Two cruisers, the Pamiat Merkuria and Kagul were posted further out as pickets. Also accompanying the fleet were the seaplane carriers Imperator Aleksandr I and Almaz, plus several destroyers and minesweepers.

The Bosporus at the Time of the War

As Ebergardt's ships took up their positions off the Bosporus, Goeben was on her way back after a patrol off Eregli, 115 miles east of the Bosporus. About 0700 she came upon Pamiat Merkuria one of Ebergardt's pickets. Goeben set off in chase of what looked like a lone Russian ship. Pamiat Merkuria immediately headed at full speed for the main body, signaling to the flagship as she dodged shells from the German battlecruiser. Ebergardt immediately recalled Panteleimon and Tri Sviatitelia from their bombardment mission and ordered them to join his other three battleships at full speed.

At 0753 Souchon once again found himself face to face with the Russians. Evstafii, Ioann Zlatoust, and Rostislav had formed a line, while Panteleimon and Tri Sviatitlelia were still some two miles away, racing to catch up. Goeben opened fire at a range of 18,800 yards, and the Russians soon replied. Ebergardt slowed his three engaged ships, giving the Panteleimon and Tri Sviatitelia a chance to catch up; by the time the Russians formed their full battle line, the range had dropped to 16,000 yards. The two forces were now steaming on slightly converging courses. Panteleimon's second salvo scored a hit on Goeben, two more hits followed, and the battlecruiser sheered off, using her superior speed first to get out of range and then work her way around the Russians to get back to the safety of the Bosporus.

The action had lasted 23 minutes, during which the Russians fired 169 l2-in and 36 8-in shells, hitting Goeben three times. The latter had fired 160 11-in shells but scored no hits. Goeben had been lucky; she suffered no casualties. Once again, the excellent Russian gunnery had forced the German ship to withdraw; once again, Goeben's superior speed made escape possible.

Part II continues tomorrow, 9 February 2020,  in Roads to the Great War

This article originally appeared in the Fall 1992 issue of Relevance: The Journal of the Great War Society

Friday, February 7, 2020

A Wounded Ernest Hemingway Writes Home: A Roads Classic

While he was recuperating from his wounds in Milan, Ernest Hemingway wrote this letter to his parents.

Ernest Hemingway Recuperating in Milan

18 October 1918

Dear Folks:

Your letter of September 24 with the pictures came today, and, family, I did admire to hear from you. And the pictures were awfully good. I guess everybody in Italy knows that I have a kid brother. If you only realized how much we appreciate pictures, pop, you would send 'em often. Of yourselves and the kids and the place and the bay—they are the greatest cheer producers of all, and everybody likes to see everybody else's pictures. 

You, dad, spoke about coming home. I wouldn't come home till the war was ended if I could make fifteen thousand a year in the States—nix. Here is the place. All of us Red Cross men here were ordered not to register. It would be foolish for us to come home because the Red Cross is a necessary organization and they would just have to get more men from the States to keep it going. Besides we never came over here until we were all disqualified for military service, you know. It would be criminal for me to come back to the States now. I was disqualified before I left the States because of my eye. I now have a bum leg and foot and there isn't any army in the world that would take me. But I can be of service over here and I will stay her just as long as I can hobble and there is a war to hobble to. And the ambulance is no slacker's job. We lost one man, killed, and one wounded in the last two weeks. And when you are holding down a front line canteen job, you know you have just the same chances as the other men in the trenches and so my conscience doesn't bother me about staying.

Three Views of Hemingway in Italy.  Right Image Is After Hospital Discharge

I would like to come home and see you all, of course. But I can't until after the war is finished. And that isn't going to be such an awful length of time. There is nothing for you to worry about, because it has been fairly conclusively proved that I can't be bumped off. And wounds don't matter. I wouldn't mind being wounded again so much because I know just what it is like. And you can only suffer so much, you know, and it does give you an awfully satisfactory feeling to be wounded. It's getting beaten up in a good cause. There are no heroes in this war. We all offer our bodies and only a few are chosen, but it shouldn't reflect any special credit on those that are chosen. They are just the lucky ones. I am very proud and happy that mine was chosen, but it shouldn't give me any extra credit. Think of all the thousands of other boys that offered. All the heroes are dead. And the real heroes are the parents. Dying is a very simple thing. I've looked at death and really I know. If I should have died it would have been very easy for me. Quite the easiest thing I ever did. But the people at home do not realize that. They suffer a thousand times more. When a mother brings a son into the world she must know that some day the son will die, and the mother of a man that has died for his country should be the proudest woman in the world, and the happiest. And how much better to die in all the happy period of undisillusioned youth, to go out in a blaze of light, than to have your body worn out and old and illusions shattered. 

So, dear old family, don't ever worry about me! It isn't bad to be wounded: I know, because I've experienced it. And if I die, I'm lucky. 

Does all that sound like the crazy, wild kid you sent out to learn about the world a year ago? It is a great old world, though, and I've always had a good time and the odds are all in favor of coming back to the old place. But I thought I'd tell you how I felt about it. Now I'll write you a nice, cheery, bunky letter in about a week, so don't get low over this one. I love you all. 


Source: Ernest Hemingway Selected Letters 1917–1961

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Pozières Tank Corps Memorial

Your Editor at the Memorial Discussing the Mark-series British Tanks

Commemorating the first use of tanks in history, the British Tank Corps Memorial was an early commemorative addition to the Somme battlefield. Today it is still a must-see on any visit to the Somme. Located where tanks gathered on the evening of 14 September 1916, it is on  the south side of the D929 Albert-Bapaume road just to the north of the village of Pozières and directly across the road from the Windmill of Mash Valley Australian memorial.  

On the morning of 15 September, the tanks attacked in a sub-action of the Battle of the Somme, known as the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. Of the 36 tanks assembled on this site, seven were attached to the Canadian forces assigned the capture of the village of Courcelette and a sugar factory about half a mile to the east.

1917 Photo of One of the Tanks That Attacked Courcelette on
15 Sep 1916

French Color Depiction of the First Tank Attack, December 1916

The memorial's structure consists of an obelisk, surrounded by four tank models. The models include a basic Mark-series tank, two Whippet tanks, and a gun carrier version. Actual tank parts were used to construct the chains and bollards protecting the monument. The memorial was dedicated in July 1922. The bronze plaques attached to the main monument list the actions in France in which the Tank Corps fought. A smaller memorial is located in the town center in Poelkapelle, Belgium, honoring the Flanders tank actions.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Notice the Resemblance?

Arthur Loomis Harmon, the design architect of the New York firm Shreve, Lamb & Harmon is credited with the design of the Empire State Building and the U.S. Sommepy Memorial that sits upon Blanc Mont Ridge in the Champagne in France in 1918. It commemorates the 70,000 Americans who fought in the surrounding area. Harmon was elected into the National Academy of Design  in 1935. He died on 17 October 1958 in White Plains, New York.

The Harmon's participation in the work of the American Battle Monuments is an indicator that, at General Pershing's insistence, the nation's very best designers were involved in honoring the service of the AEF in World War I.

Tip of the hat to Jim O'Donnell,who pointed this out on my 2018 AEF battlefield tour.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Shadow of the Sultan's Realm: The Destruction of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East

by Daniel Allen Butler
Potomac Books, 2011
Michael Kihntopf, Reviewer

1915 Magazine Cover Celebrating the Central Powers' Early Successes

The end of the Great War brought about the ouster of nearly 20 royal families from thrones that had existed for over 500 years. The most renowned were the Romanovs of Russia, the Hapsburgs of Austria-Hungary, the Hohenzollerns of Germany, and the Osmans of Ottoman Turkey. The latter's final history is often relegated to dim corridors of university libraries. Author Daniel Allen Butler, however, brings to light the experience of the Ottoman Empire in its last years in a brief but mesmerizing look through an uncomplicated format and style that is a joy to read. It is a fitting compliment to Edward J. Erickson's Ordered to Die (2000).

Butler is an author of some literary fame, having written books about the Titanic and the Battle of Jutland. In this work he forwent the usual academic format of footnotes and end notes to bring the reader an almost story-like explanation for the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The author admits from the beginning that the book is not a military history endeavor, yet the history of the sultanate's demise must still be told through the battles that the Turks endured during World War I. Butler very accurately shows how the Three Pashas—Enver, Talaat, and Ahmed Djemal—plunged the empire into World War I for the sake of throwing off the financial and diplomatic restrictions that the United Kingdom and France had imposed upon Turkey to repay unfair loans. However, in declaring war on the Entente, the Three Pashas unwittingly became more involved than they had expected or could handle.

Without a political or military goal, the Three Pashas went from one disaster to the next with an army already gutted by a war in Libya with the Italians in 1911 and two Balkan Wars from 1912 to 1913. The defeats in the Caucasus and on the Suez Canal in 1914 and 1915 depleted what little resources were available and utterly destroyed the army's morale. The victories at Gallipoli and Kut had given them hope, but the Turkish economy and army were unable to fend off the unrelenting, better-equipped British drive from Egypt and through Mesopotamia in 1917 and 1918.
Yet the real hardship came as Turkey's allies capitulated. Whereas Germany and Austria were left to sort out their own differences both internally and externally, the Turkish Empire faced dismemberment at the hands of the United Kingdom and France. Not only were non-Turkish areas reorganized, renamed, and placed under English or French mandates, the homeland of the Anatolian Plains was also subdivided between Italy, Greece, Kurds, and Armenians. The once illustrious capital of Constantinople was subjected to international rule. Butler does not stop at this juncture, however. He very accurately presents how Mustafa Kemal, taking advantage of British and French war weariness and Russia's Vladimir Lenin's desire to punish those nations for their support of reactionary forces in the Civil War, brought together Turkish nationalists to fight off occupation and create a strong and respected republic.

Shadow of the Sultan's Realm is an excellent overview of the Ottoman Empire in the Great War. He precisely describes not only the major battles but also the Armenian massacres and the influence of T. E. Lawrence. The work would be an excellent post-graduate textbook, although most academics will pass it up since it doesn't have detailed footnotes or end notes to support the descriptions of political actions. This lack of academic format nevertheless makes it worthwhile; it is not something that will induce sleep as so many scholarly endeavors do. It is a thriller of intrigue, deceit, and retribution, with a happy ending.

Michael Kihntopf

Monday, February 3, 2020

Charles Sorley's "When You See Millions of the Mouthless Dead"

By David  F. Beer

Lt. Charles Sorley

Charles Hamilton Sorley enjoyed a rather privileged upbringing, being educated at Marlborough and then at University College, Oxford. He was traveling in Germany when war broke out in 1914 and immediately returned to England. He was commissioned in the Suffolk Regiment, sent to France in May 1915, and killed by a sniper at the Battle of Loos on 15 October, age 20.

This was his last poem, written in pencil and found in his pack after he was killed. Technically, it’s a perfect sonnet. It was composed after the war had shredded the last of the Christian sensibilities Sorley had absorbed during his younger years.

     When you see millions of the mouthless dead
     Across your dreams in pale battalions go,
     Say not soft things as other men have said,
     That you'll remember. For you need not so.
     Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they know
     It is not curses heaped on each gashed head?
     Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.
     Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.
     Say only this, “They are dead.” Then add thereto,
     “Yet many a better one has died before.”
     Then, scanning all the o'ercrowded mass, should you
     Perceive one face that you loved heretofore,
     It is a spook. None wears the face you knew.
     Great death has made all his for evermore.

Sorley had always been suspicious of Rupert Brooke’s patriotic poetry and disliked the sentimentality he found in Brooke’s work. It’s thought Sorley wrote this poem as a rebuttal to “If I should die, think only this of me…” Certainly the millions of mouthless dead are a long way from a corner of a foreign field that is forever England. Sorley’s dead are utterly dead, and they are impervious to communication and commemoration.

The "you" in the poems is, of course, us—the reader, whether in 1915 or now. Sorley gives us a list of negatives regarding the dead: don’t bother to say nice things; don’t give them praise; don’t weep for them or honor them; don’t try to recognize them even in your dreams. They are simply dead, gone, or imaginary ghosts—"spooks." War has made Sorely brutally realize this.

One of the most striking sonnets to come out of the Great War, it was admired by other leading poets who survived. It embodies sadness, cynicism, anger, and an atheism that some might find hard to accept. According to one critic, however, it is the kind of poem Rupert Brooke may well have written had he seen much more of the war himself.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Living Aboard a U-Boat in 1914

This account of life in a 1914 German U-Boat was written by Johannes Speiss, First Watch Officer of the early kerosene powered submarine U-9, captained by Otto Weddigen. U-9 is one of the most famous submarines of all time. It served and survived the entirety of the Great War. On 22 September 1914, U-9 found a squadron of three obsolescent British Cressy-class armored cruisers (HMS Aboukir, HMS Hogue, and HMS Cressy, sardonically nicknamed the "Live Bait Squadron"), which had been assigned to prevent German surface vessels from entering the eastern end of the English Channel. She fired four of her torpedoes, reloading while submerged, and sank all three in less than an hour. Fourteen hundred fifty nine British sailors died. She sank 18 ships, including the three cruisers, before being relegated to training service for the remainder of the war. U-9 and the raider SMS Emden were the only ships which Kaiser Wilhelm II awarded the Iron Cross. 

The original document is in the Royal Navy Submarine Museum and was published in the book Submarines and the War at Sea, 1914–1918, written by Richard Compton-Hall, MacMillan:1991.

Living Aboard U-9 in 1914

U-9 Ready for Sea

Far forward in the pressure hull, which was cylindrical, was the forward torpedo room containing two torpedo tubes and two reserve torpedoes. Further astern was the Warrant Officers' compartment, which contained only small bunks for the Warrant Officers (Quartermaster and Machinist) and was particularly wet and cold.

Then came the Commanding Officer's cabin, fitted with only a small bunk and clothes closet, no desk being furnished. Whenever a torpedo had to be loaded forward or the tube prepared for a shot, both the Warrant Officers' and Commanding Officers' cabins had to be completely cleared out. Bunks and clothes cabinets then had to be moved into the adjacent officers' compartment, which was no light task owing to the lack of space in the latter compartment.

In order to live at all in the officers' compartments a certain degree of finesse was required. The Watch Officer's bunk was too small to permit him to lie on his back. He was forced to lie on one side and then, being wedged between the bulkhead to the right and the clothes-press on the left, to hold fast against the movements of the boat in a seaway. The occupant of the berth could not sleep with his feet aft as there was an electric fuse-box in the way. At times the cover of this box sprang open and it was all too easy to cause a short circuit by touching this with the feet. Under the sleeping compartments, as well as through the entire forward part of the vessel, were the electric accumulators which served to supply current to the electric motors for submerged cruising.

On the port side of the officer's compartment was the berth of the Chief Engineer, while the centre of the compartment served as a passageway through the boat. On each side was a small upholstered transom between which a folding table could be inserted. Two folding camp-chairs completed the furniture.

While the Commanding Officer, Watch Officer and Chief Engineer took their meals, men had to pass back and forth through the boat, and each time anyone passed the table had to be folded.

Further aft, the crew space was separated from the officers' compartment by a watertight bulkhead with a round watertight door for passage. On one side of the crews space a small electric range was supposed to serve for cooking - but the electric heating coil and the bake-oven short-circuited every time an attempt was made to use them. Meals were always prepared on deck! For this purpose we had a small paraffin stove such as was in common use on Norwegian fishing vessels. This had the particular advantage of being serviceable even in a high wind.

The crew space had bunks for only a few of the crew - the rest slept in hammocks, when not on watch or on board the submarine mother-ship while in port.

Crew of the U-9

The living spaces were not cased with wood. Since the temperature inside the boat was considerably greater than the sea outside, moisture in the air condensed on the steel hull-plates; the condensation had a very disconcerting way of dropping on a sleeping face, with every movement of the vessel. Efforts were made to prevent this by covering the face with rain clothes or rubber sheets. It was in reality like a damp cellar.

The storage battery cells, which were located under the living spaces and filled with acid and distilled water, generated [hydrogen] gas  on charge and discharge: this was drawn off through the ventilation system. Ventilation failure risked explosion, a catastrophe which occurred in several German boats. If sea water got into the battery cells, poisonous chlorine gas was generated.

From a hygienic standpoint the sleeping arrangements left much to be desired; one ' awoke in the morning with considerable mucus in the nostrils and a so-called 'oil-head'.

The central station was abaft the crew space, dosed off by a bulkhead both forward and aft. Here was the gyro compass and also the depth rudder hand-operating gear with which the boat was kept at the required level similar to a Zeppelin. The bilge pumps, the blowers for clearing and filling the diving tanks - both electrically driven - as well as the air compressors were also here. In one small corner of this space stood a toilet screened by a curtain and, after seeing this arrangement, I understood why the officer I had relieved recommended the use of opium before all cruises which were to last over twelve hours.

In the engine room were the four Korting paraffin [kerosene] engines which could be coupled in tandem, two on each propeller shaft. [The use of kerosene gave off a large amount of smoke and necessitated the use of a demountable funnel. This funnel was not required in later diesel-powered submarines..] The air required by these engines was drawn in through the conning-tower hatch, while the exhaust was led overboard through a long demountable funnel. Astern of the gas engines were the two electric motors for submerged cruising.

In the stem of the boat, right aft, was the after torpedo room with two stem torpedo tubes but without reserve torpedoes.

The conning tower is yet to be described. This was the battle station of the Commanding Officer and the Watch Officer. Here were located the two periscopes, a platform for the Helmsman and the 'diving piano' which consisted of twenty-four levers on each side controlling the valves for releasing air from the tanks. Near these were the indicator glasses and test cocks.

Finally there was electrical controlling gear for depth steering, a depth indicator; voice pipes; and the electrical firing device for the torpedo tubes.

Above the conning tower was a small bridge which was protected when cruising under conditions which did not require the boat to be in constant readiness for diving: a rubber strip was stretched along a series of stanchions screwed into the deck, reaching about as high as the chest. When in readiness for diving this was demounted, and there was a considerable danger of being washed overboard.

The Officer on Watch sat on the hatch coaming [keeping out the water], the Petty Officer of the Watch near him, with his feet hanging through the hatch through which the air for the gas engines was being drawn. I still wonder why I was not afflicted with rheumatism in spite of leather trousers. The third man on watch, a seaman, stood on a small three-cornered platform above the conning tower; he was lashed to his station in heavy seas.

This was the general arrangement for all seagoing boats at that time of the Types U-5 to U-18 with few exceptions.

Submitted by Dr. Geoffrey Miller  at the WWI Resource Center