Daily Event for September 22

September 22, 1914: Three ships from cruiser force C sailed for a patrol in the North Sea from which they would never return. The cruisers HMS Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy were patrolling in the North Sea when the
U-9, commanded by Otto Weddigen located the three cruisers some eighteen miles off the Hook of Holland. At the time he was running with about five feet of his periscope showing. After sighting the cruisers he dove his boat and took a course he believed would put him into a better position to fire.

On board the cruisers there was no real expectation of engaging the enemy after all it was early in the war and no U-boats had been sighted in these waters. The cruisers were running at about 10 knots in a straight line even though the general orders were to run at 12 to 13 knots and to zigzag. However the old cruisers could not operate at that speed and the orders were ignored.  It would be pure speculation to assume that even if they had run a zigzag course the situation would have ended up any differently.

The first torpedo struck the HMS Aboukir at 06:25 on her port side. She quickly took on a list and lost power after the engine room flooded. Capt. Drummond ordered the ship abandoned. The other two cruisers, believing that the Aboukir had hit a mine, closed to pick up survivors. Capt. Johnson of the Cressy lowered his boats to pick up survivors and stayed about 400 feet to the Aboukir's port beam. The U-9 now chose her second target, the HMS Hogue. While the dying Aboukir was going under a torpedo slammed into the Hogue under her aft magazine. It was now clear that an enemy U-boat was targeting the British ships.

The Cressy under the command of Capt. Johnson opened fire and got up steam to run the boat down. One gunner claimed he had hit the sub and that it had sunk. However an officer disagreed but, the men on the deck evidently cheered believing the enemy had been bested. This was not the case for just minuets later the U-9 fired another torpedo and this time the Cressy was hit. This was not a fatal wound but, a second hit at 07:30 finished off the Cressy. By 07:40 all three cruisers were gone and along with them 1,439 men, 837 were rescued by nearby ships.

While strategically the loss of three old cruisers was something that would hardly go noticed by the Royal Navy the morale and the psychological effect on the British was quite dramatic. For the captain and crew of the U-9 it meant fame and awards. Kaiser Wilhelm personally awarded Weddigen the Iron Cross First and Second Class and the crew the Iron Cross Second Class. Weddigen became famous and even wrote a book but, he was now high on the target list of the Royal Navy. On March 18, 1915 he was in command of the U-29 when he was run down and sunk with all hands by the HMS Dreadnought.

© 2005 Michael W. Pocock