Merchant Shipping Losses of WW1


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Sep 20, 2000
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Does anyone know of a web site or publication that offers a *comprehensive* listing of merchant ships lost during the 1914-18 "season", to submarine warfare, mines, surface raiders, etc.? (I'm not looking for *details* on the vessels, necessarily; just a *complete* list showing ship names, dates, and hopefully nationalities.)

I've seen a few sites that specify, say, British or American shipping losses *alone*, but none yet that report the full, international spectrum, except in summary (by tonnage). Especially since Germany was practicing *unrestricted* submarine warfare at various times in the war, *any* merchant vessel of any nation -- in the wrong place, at the wrong time -- was a potential target. And I'm curious to know the results of this in terms of individual vessels.

Any hints, O sage comrades? Thanks!

Cheers,
John
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Thanks, Mike. I'd visited "The Maritime War" site before without finding that, but there's always the chance of new additions. (It is a pretty fabulous site.)

Think I'll peruse your search results, too.

Cheers,
John
 

Mark Baber

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John---

The Lloyds War Losses volumes for the two world wars includes all allied losses, if I recall correctly. They're pricey, though...over US$200 each. Barnes & Noble's web site has them listed as available; amazon may have them too.

The Admiralty reports cover British shipping only; they've been reprinted several times and a search on bookfinder.com should turn them up.

I'm not aware of any listing of shipping losses on the other side of either war.
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Mark: Thanks very kindly. (Alas, "yeowch" on the price. But I may well look into library approaches to that one -- sounds like a winner.)

Mike: No real luck online. "The Maritime War" has a very good, monthly calender-style table showing GRT by country that occasionally hints at individual losses. (Like, say, when Japan loses 5,450 tons one month, it seems at least likely to be from a single ship.)

It seems odd to me that even vessel counts rarely *accompany* those tonnage totals. I can certainly understand why tonnage *would* be tallied from a logistical viewpoint, but from the perspective of the individual ship, it's seems a little like measuring casualties only in pounds. (Know what I mean?)

Cheers,
John
 
Oct 28, 2000
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John -- tonnage is the valuable number in war because it directly reflects the carrying capacity lost. The number of vessels is misleading because the loss of 10 small 500-ton vessels sounds impressive in pure numbers. But, that's only the equivalent of a single 5,000-ton ship. Sinking 10 larger 5,000 ships is the equivalent number of victims, but represents a whopping 50,000-tons of capacity.

Note that the cost to the enemy of sinking 10 small or 10 large ships remains the same--10 torpedoes.

-- David G. Brown
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Understood, David. It's just that my own personal interest in this case dealt more with the numbers. And I suppose, though that wasn't my goal, that being able to figure, say, average tonnage per ship would yield some meaningful information.

But I know you're right -- submariner "aces" were typically ranked by their tonnage results without regard to the tally. Still it seems strange, in my mind, that the *afflicted* nations wouldn't automatically include counts of the vessels. (Maybe I'm just being sentimental.)

Cheers,
John
 
Oct 28, 2000
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John -- reading your post I noticed your use of the word "sentimental." That triggered a thought. Most governments do not like to expose their failures. Sunken ships are hard to ignore, but it is possible to confuse. Tonnages are hard for the public to comprehend, so most people don't bother. In other words, I think use of tonnage is a way for governments to hide the real magnitude of the loss. Just a guess.

--David G. Brown
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Hi, David: Interesting thought! I can see that a fairly bland (but statistically meaningful) number like tonnage alone would help to obscure the individual tragedies, while still providing the "net" information.

A form of "de-personalization"? God knows, wars are typically *full* of euphemisms and obfuscations.

Thanks!
John
 
V

Victor Turon

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If this information can be of any interest, neutral Spain lost 81 vessels during WW1, mostly to U-boat attack. Some may be regarded as legitimate targets (ships carrying iron ore from northern Spain to England and Wales), others were just crossing the Mediterranean with goods for/from Spain. Some few sinkings were just useless; I can't imagine what profit obtained Germany when UC-53 sank on 16 June 1917 the small sailing vessel TERESINA, 30 grt, carrying matweed from Oran to Alicante.
When in the first months of 1918 the big U-cruisers operated in the Canary Isles area, the sinking of several Spanish vessels with much-needed supplies caused such a difficult time in the isles, that there was a crisis in the Spanish Government.
Generally speaking, U-boat commanders behaved correctly with the crews of the Spanish ships they sank, giving warning and time to abandon ship. There were however a few outrageous episodes, for example on 4 May 1917, when UC-72 sank by gunfire two smacks (MAMELENA nº 9 and MAMELENA nº 12) which were fishing near the Spanish coast, killing four of the fishermen.

Sincerely,

Victor Turon
 
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