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Sunday, 22 September 2013

News of war

Tuesday, September 22nd., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

News of sinking of Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy (12,000 tons each) by submarine or submarines, startled me in the middle of my work this afternoon. I thought: Suppose all our fleet sunk in this way? But then I thought: We have twice as many submarines as Germany, and the trick ought to work both ways. Nothing in the war yet has affected me like this news, of which no details to hand. Thursday I contemplated an article about terms of peace to be imposed on Germany.

During the early months of World War 1 the Royal Navy maintained a patrol of old Cressy class armoured cruisers, in the area of the North Sea known as the Broad Fourteens. There was opposition to this patrol from many senior officers but the Admiralty maintained the patrol on the grounds that destroyers were not able to maintain the patrol in the frequent bad weather and that there were insufficient modern light cruisers available. In the early hours of September 20th 1914 the cruisers HMS Euryalus, HMS Aboukir, HMS Hogue and HMS Cressy were preparing to go on patrol but Euryalus had to drop out due to lack of coal and weather damage to her wireless. Early on September 22nd 1914 the German submarine U9 under the command of Commander Otto Weddigen sighted the Cressy, Aboukir and Hogue steaming NNE at 10 knots without zigzagging. Although the patrols were supposed to maintain 12-13 knots and zigzag the old cruisers were unable to maintain that speed and the zigzagging order was widely ignored as there had been no submarines sighted in the area during the war. U9 manoeuvred to attack and at about 6.25 AM fired a single torpedo at Aboukir, which stuck her on her port side. Aboukir rapidly suffered heavy flooding and despite counter flooding developed a 20 degree list and lost engine power. It was soon clear that she was a lost cause and Captain Drummond ordered her to be abandoned, although only one boat had survived the attack so most crew had to jump into the sea. At first Drummond thought that Aboukir had been mined and signalled the other two cruisers to close and assist but he soon realised that it was a torpedo attack and ordered the other cruisers away, but too late. As Aboukir rolled over and sank, half an hour after being attacked, U9 fired two torpedoes at HMS Hogue that hit her amidships and rapidly flooded her engine room. Captain Nicholson of Hogue had stopped the ship to lower boats to rescue the crew of Aboukir, thinking that as he was the other side of Aboukir from U9 he would be safe. Unfortunately U9 had manoeuvred around Aboukir and attacked Hogue from a range of only 300 yards. It only took Hogue ten minutes to sink as U9 headed for HMS Cressy. Cressy, had also stopped to lower boats but got underway on sighting a periscope. At about 7.20 AM however U9 fired two torpedoes, one of which just missed but the other hit Cressy on her starboard side, Cressy briefly firing on U9s periscope with no effect. The damage to Cressy was not fatal but U9 turned round and fired her last torpedo which hit Cressy sinking her within a quarter of an hour. Survivors were picked up by several nearby merchant ships. 

Additionally for September 22nd., see 'Authorial anxieties' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/authorial-anxieties.html

"Clayhanger" was published in England on September 15th. In U.S.A. publication is delayed about a fortnight.

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