News from 1918 SANK 2 UBOATS GOT D S O

Mark Baber

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[MAB Note: On 12 May 1918, Olympic rammed and sank U-103 off the Lizard, the only sinking of a submarine by a liner during World War I. By war's end, though, as this article demonstrates, Olympic had sunk two subs that day, after having sunk one two years earlier. For what it's worth, only one sub sinking---a ramming on 12 May 1918---is described in Hayes' Hull Down.]

The New York Times, 18 November 1918

SANK 2 U-BOATS, GOT D. S. O.
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Captain Hayes Also Shared In $10,000 with Officers and Crew
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The end of the war has made it possible to tell how Captain Bertie Hayes of the British transport Olympic, which sails this afternoon for Liverpool, won the Distinguished Service Order for sinking two U-boats on May 12, 1918, in the English Channel off Portsmouth. For this exploit $10,000 was given by the Admiralty to the Captain, officers, and crew. Both submarines were destroyed at daylight, and survivors were picked up from them by the American destroyer Davis, which was about a mile away on the port quarter.

One submarine came up on the starboard bow of the Olympic as the mist cleared away, and was rammed immediately. As the bow of the 60,000-ton ship was cutting her in two another U-boat appeared on the port quarter, half a mile away, and was sunk by a shot from the six-inch stern gun. Twenty-seven of her officers and men were rescued by the Davis, with five men from the U-boat that was rammed. The Olympic sunk another U-boat in the Mediterranean In June, 1916, by gunfire, but as there were no survivors it was not counted as official by the Admiralty.

Captain Hayes has commanded the Olympic since the end of October, 1914, when she figured in the unsuccessful attempt to tow the battleship Audacious after she had been mined. The Olympic has carried nearly 300,000 troops since then to Mudros, Alexandria, and from Canada and the United States to England and France without accident. She has had many narrow escapes from torpedoes, some missing her by barely five feet.

-30-

MAB
 

Pat Winship

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May 8, 2001
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Many U boat commanders were occasionally accused of exaggerating their tonnage figures. However, Sir Bertram Hayes did so as well in this case. I knew about the U 103 sinking, but had never heard of a second submarine sunk on that day. So I queried the uboat.net forum-- their World War I database is a work in progress-- and received a swift reply from one of the members

Brian wrote:

"While Sir Bertie may have been under the impression he actually accomplished thedeed of sinking a second Uboot by gunfire on 12 May, the only other one lost for several days before or after was UB 72, lost the same 12/5 to a torpedo by HMS D.4 between Geurnsey & Portland Bill;
as for the claim of a sub sunk in June 1916, that is rubbish: there was not a single uboot lost that month at all, be it Austrian or German. If he actually made the claim, than, yes, he likely artificially inflated his claim.
Now, since a ship the size of Olympic does not travel unescorted, there may have been something actually occurring somewhere in the Med, it would be interesting to find event reports from the convoys she sailed with."

Now there's a thought. Does anybody over here know?

Pat W
 

Mark Baber

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I've never been quite sure whether this story originated with Hayes himself, Pat, or is just a case of a reporting error that became accepted as true through repetition. I've seen several references in newspaper stories to two sinkings on 12 May, this one now being the earliest one, but I don't think I've seen any that attributed that claim to Hayes himself. Also, anyone who has read Hull Down knows that Hayes was his own greatest fan and didn't hesitate to toot his own horn; nonetheless, he only claims the one sinking. The exaggeration is out there, to be sure, and was oft-reapeated---among others, it also appeared in Hayes' NYT obit, 16 May 1941---but I have no basis at this point to attribute it directly to him.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
>>So far, they've been unable to locate it in the position where it supposedly went down.<<

Can't say as that's much of a surprise. Navigation wasn't up to the sort of quality one can expect from GPS back then. What you have in the official record was probably the best they could do but off by some margin.
 

Pat Winship

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Another item of interest from uboat.net. There was a query for information about the commander of the U103, Claus Rucker.

"We have the complete military estate of Claus R&uuml;cker in the "U-Boot-Archiv" in Cuxhaven/Altenbruch."

Since primary source material is always of interest, just thought I'd post it over here
 

John DeLoache

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Recently the Discovery Channel's show Treasure Quest, which follows the company that found the HMS Victory, aired an episode that showed the company exploring what they believed to be U-103. Exploration of the craft found telltale damage around the conning tower that would indicate damage caused by the screws of the Olympic. If you check local listings I would assume Discovery will replay that episode several more times in the next couple of weeks.
 
Jan 29, 2001
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Yes John & Mark B, it was an interesting special, I particullary enjoyed the computer generated graphics of OLYMPIC under her "razzle dazzle" scheme. The propellor blade wound in U-103's conning tower peaked some interest...were there any newspaper reports of a propellor blade refit after this particular incident?

Michael Cundiff
NV, USA
 

Bob Godfrey

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Yes, that's it. It's now in a trophy cabinet in the banqueting room of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners in London. Unfortunately it's hard to get in there unless you're a master mariner! Or you turn up on the one day in the year when they do guided tours.
 

Ralph Currell

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Aug 5, 2007
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Bob,

Thanks for that photo! I had read about the plaque in Bertram Hayes's memoirs and wondered what happened to it after Olympic was scrapped.

Regards,
Ralph
 

Bob Godfrey

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And this is the Honorable Company's 'livery hall' on the River Thames. The HQS Wellington is a converted Royal Navy sloop (convoy escort vessel) from WW2. The banqueting hall is in the space formerly occupied by the engines and boilers. It's nice to know that the Olympic's plaque is still afloat, and in a vessel which itself saw plenty of action against U-boats. But both the sloop and the plaque are in retirement and won't be making any more voyages across the Atlantic! If anyone's interested, the banqueting hall can be hired for private functions. I imagine it's not cheap.

135771.jpg
 
Jan 29, 2001
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A couple weeks back I dined with friends on Alameda Island, (Bay Area, CA). I was told that Frankin D. Roosevelt's personal yacht resides there...and understand guided tours are available.

Michael Cundiff
NV, USA
 
M

MATTHEW JOSEPH COOPER

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What was the name of the submarine that Olympic rammed.

[Moderator's note: This message was originally posted to an unrelated thread in a different topic, but has been moved to this pre-existing thread addressing the same issue. MAB]