News from 1915 Californian Torpedoed and Sunk


Mark Baber

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MAB Notes: 1. The Leyland Line's Californian, which is the subject of discussion here from time to time, was sunk by a German submarine on 9 November 1915. The New York Times' report of the sinking appears here.

2. If the France mentioned in that article is CGT's four-stacker, the report of her sinking is erroneous.
 

Pat Winship

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The Californian fell victim to the most lethal submarine of all time, the U 35, under the command of Waldemar Kophamel. This tiny boat, less than 1,000 tons herself, sank 224 ships for a total of 539.741 tons. Most of this was under the command of Lothar von Arnauld de la Periere.

In documentaries on the History Channel, most, if not all, of the World War I U boat action footage you see was taken aboard her.

Pat W
 

Pat Winship

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Hi, Paul

A close friend of mine is writing a novel about a WWI U boat commander. She's basing some of her fictional man's career on that of Robert Moraht of U 64. I read Lowell Thomas's interview of Moraht, and she's translated some of the two books he wrote and passed that along. He comes across as a charmer. She is very fond of teasing me about "being turned to the Dark Side!"

Pat W
 

Paul Rogers

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Hi Pat.

I'd not heard of Robert Moraht (spelt "Morath" on U-Boat.net?) but I see that he had some success and he certainly sounds like a fascinating man. Please do let me know when your friend's book is published as I'd be very interested indeed in reading it.

Your original post got me looking into the story of Kapitänleutnant Lothar von Arnauld de la Perière. Strange that he died in an air crash, of all things...
 

Pat Winship

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Hi, Paul

Yes, I'd seen his name spelled that way. He himself spelled it "Moraht", so that's how I've done it. Suggest you take a look at Lowell Thomas's Raiders of the Deep, and be amused at his jazz-age American slang and thrilled by his adventures. His untranslated Werwolf der Meere is a bit more serious, including a wrenching account of what we know as post traumatic stress syndrome after his boat was sunk with only five survivors. There's a website on the boat: http://u64.iyteman.de/

Von Arnauld originally wanted to enlist in the zeppelin service, but there were no vacancies, so he went to the other extreme!

Joan has completed the first book of a proposed trilogy, and is giving it an extensive editing.

Pat W
 

Paul Rogers

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Hi Pat.

Thanks for the information; I'll put Lowell Thomas's book on my Christmas list. Thanks also for the link re: U-64. As I don't speak German I'm relying on internet translation sites to read the material, but I'm getting there!
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Longer then that as a matter of fact. As the link points out, attempts were made as early as the 1500's, but the first successful combat use of a submarine was when the C.S.S. H.L. Hunley sank the U.S.S. Housatonic. Interestingly enough, the Hunley apparently survived the attack only to sink later because of some damage she took.

The real problem here was in devising a practical means of propulsion. Oar power (Don't laugh, Cornelius Drebble Tried It. ) and handcranked propellors aren't very useful even for port defence much less out on the open ocean. It was by combining the internal combustion engine used for propulsion, on the surface and for charging storage battaries for submerged running that the submarine truely bcame practical as a combat weapon.

I'm surprised nobody mentioned the German submarine pioneer Wilhelm Bauer as he was quite forward thinking in a lot of respects.
 

Paul Rogers

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As we've moved on a tad from the original topic and following on from Michael's post, here is a site devoted to John Holland, one of the great submarine pioneers and, arguably the inventor of the submarine as we know it.

The British Holland No. 1 [Type VII] - the Royal Navy's first submarine - can be viewed at the Submarine Museum, Gosport, UK. There's a section of the John Holland site that has a great photo of Holland 1 underway, together with information on the boat's dimensions: to view, click on the British link under His Submarines. Below is a photo that I took of her a few years ago.

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Below is a photo of the Holland 1's torpedo tube. Apologies for the presence of the small, annoying child on the right (who is quite a bit bigger now).

92579.jpg
 

JHPravatiner

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Hi Paul,
Always glad to see another person interested in the U-boats. I'm still surprised that I converted Pat, since her favorite Titanic person is Lightoller, whose only use for U-boats was to sink 'em and revile 'em.

Silent Otto is a fascinating fellow indeed, even following his capture...the Battle of Bowmanville in Korvettenkapitän von Müllenheim's memoirs is an good read, and finding out Kretschmer's role in it is equally interesting!

Interestingly, von Arnauld's younger brother Friedrich became a naval pilot and actually flew the first launch of a plane from a submarine--off the deck of Walter Forstmann's U-12, the man who, between U-12 and U-39, came up right behind von Arnauld in tonnage before taking a shore command.

I'm at work on (slowly) translating "Werwolf der Meere", and after that will try Moraht's 1917 book about the sinking of the battleship Danton, which, until Prien's sinking of Royal Oak, was the largest warship sunk by torpedo. If you're interested, once I finish, I'd be happy to e-mail you the file.

Moraht had an interesting life in submarines before his capture in June of 1918, and equally interesting following the war. He took a PhD in economics, was elected to the Reichstag in 1932, rejoined the Navy in the '30's and served as a port captain in Norway during WWII. It surprises me that he somehow survived three years ('45-'48) in a Soviet PoW camp, considering he was sixty years old in May of '45.

Thomas is an interesting read, though more anecdotal than military--but where else will you read direct accounts of crazy stuff like von Arnauld's monkey? It definitely gives you a sense for the personalities of the men involved, though.

Less than ten years after the US entered the war in rage over U-boat tactics, an American journalist's book of interviews with these same commanders was a bestseller. Go figure!
 

Paul Rogers

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Hello Joan - thanks very much for your very interesting post.

Unlike Pat, U-Boats were my first love. I started out at age 13, reading a series of fictional books called "U-Boat!" about an imaginary Kapitänleutnant Konrad Bergman and his boat, UB-44. Having caught the bug, I built cutaway models of Kretschmer's U-99 and Prien's U-47, only for my Mum to depthcharge them both with a duster during a spring clean.
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You will see that it was mainly the boats from WWII that caught my interest and I still have a lot of catching up to do regarding the stories of the boats from WWI.

I last read Kretschmer's biography about 10 years ago and have been searching my garage for it without luck since this thread reminded me of it. However, I did find (and re-read) "Submarine!" by Edward L. Beach, who told the story of the US Submarine Service in WWII, providing fascinating histories of boats such as Trigger, Wahoo (and Mush Morton) and Seawolf. A great book, probably long out of print, in which Beach maintains that the US boats would have been more efficient than any other nation's Boats if it wasn't for the dire performance of their torpedoes in 1941-3.
"I'm at work on (slowly) translating "Werwolf der Meere", and after that will try Moraht's 1917 book about the sinking of the battleship Danton, which, until Prien's sinking of Royal Oak, was the largest warship sunk by torpedo. If you're interested, once I finish, I'd be happy to e-mail you the file."
I'd be honoured and thrilled to receive your translation. Thank you very much indeed for thinking of me.
 

JHPravatiner

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I have to blame Robert Ballard myself. When his team discovered the Bismarck I started reading a lot about that era, and that, of course, included the WWII U-boats (as well as got me going on Titanic). Then too, when we visited my grandparents in Chicago I managed to go poke around the U-505 at the Museum of Science and Industry a few times.

Since, though, I've always had a bit more interest in the WWI crowd. Their experiences are rather colorful, as they had a time figuring out a new, and often very primitive, weapon. And since the convoy system and Doenitz's Rudeltaktik were yet to come in 1914, it was rather more free-wheeling.

And too, the U-boats certainly played an enormous role in WWI with their attempted counter to the British naval stranglehold on German supplies, and the struggle to reconcile modern war with chivalrous ideals. It certainly makes for an interesting mix.

Strangely enough, though, U-boat captains like Weddigen had fans in the US, and I've seen newspaper headlines of the times (even after the American entry into the war) marveling at "human Huns" and their kind treatment of those aboard ships they sank.
 

Kyle Hauser

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When the Californain was torpedoed on world war one, how long did it take to sink?

[Moderator's Note: Moved from a separate subtopic under "Other Ships and Shipwrecks" to this pre-existing subtopic. MAB]
 
Jan 5, 2001
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The U35 was indeed dangerous.

A submarine believed to be Lieutenant Commander Lothar von Arnauld de la Periere's U35 attempted to attack Olympic at 6.45 a.m. on February 23rd 1916, in position 36 dgr. 34' North 18 dgr. 50' East...
Source: RMS Olympic: Titanic's Sister. Stroud: Tempus Publishing; 2004. Page 141.

The torpedo missed.

Best wishes,

Mark.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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I've seen no information on that. By this point in time, merchent ship sinkings were so common that this wasn't the sort of thing that would get a lot of special attention unless something about it really stood out.
 

Inger Sheil

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Hallo Kyle -

I have a copy of the report into her sinking (under Shipping Casualities / Return for Wreck Register).

It states the following:

Ship was struck by a torpedo from an enemy submarine at 7.45 a.m. when steaming at a speed of 12 knots. A French torpedo boat was escorting the ship at the time. A French patrol boat came up and tried to tow the vessel but tow rope broke at 1.20 pm. While trying to connect rope at 2.15 p.m. a second torpedo was fired and vessel began to make water fast. Crew were taken on board patrol boats. Master understands that ship sank later. Crew remained by ship for 7 hours, from first torpedo being fired. Second torpedo destroyed all ship's papers which were in ship's boat. Two firemen were scalded.
So no specific time seems to be known, but more than seven hours.
 

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