Friday, 19 February 2016

Chased by a Submarine

German U-Boat

Saturday 19th February 1916: Readers will remember the adjutant of the 1st/5th Battalion in Egypt complaining to us on 12th of this month that a draft of 420 reinforcements they had received was not very fit, many of them being old 1st and 2nd Battalion men still suffering from wounds inflicted on the Western Front. Well, not all the men fall into this category. Private S Bartle, of the 4th Bedfords, wrote to his parents telling them of his experiences on the voyage out to join the 1st/5th Battalion.

“We had a good time coming across with the exception of one morning when we were chased by a submarine for 4½ hours(1). I must say we had a bad time for an hour or two, as the submarine was firing at us all the time(2), but I am glad to say it could not hit us or catch us. We thought we were going to be sunk. I don’t know what would have happened later on if one of our battleships had not come in sight. It only fired one shot(3) and the submarine quickly disappeared(4). You can tell how happy we all were when we saw the battleship coming towards us. You ought to have heard the cheer we gave it when it came alongside to see if we were all right. But all’s well that ends well and I am safe on dry land again”.

“It is lovely out here, and much better than in France. There are some grand sights but I will tell you much more about them in my next letter. It is supposed to be winter out here now, but it is as hot as it is in England in summer, so goodness knows what it will be like out here in the summer”.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 17th March 1916

(1) Troopships were often converted liners or merchantmen, which might manage as much as 15 to 20 knots. A German U-boat typically made 15 knots surfaced and 10 knots submerged.
(2) With its deck gun, usually of around 3.5 inch or 88 mm calibre
(3) Dreadnoughts or battleships were generally armed with guns of the calibre of 12 to 15 inches
(4) One assumes it was out of torpedoes.

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