Daily Event for March 18


The phrase "Fear God and Dreadnought" was one that brought pride to the people of England and to the Royal
Navy. However the quote "Fear God and Dread Nought" came in a correspondence from Admiral of the Fleet
Lord Fisher of Kilverstone in 1900, six years before the revolutionary battleship HMS Dreadnought was
launched. This was the ship that was supposed to rule the sea, mounting ten 12" guns with a secondary
armament of twenty-seven 12 pounders and five 18" torpedo tubes. She would start an arms race as she was
designed to be able to stand off and sink just about anything on the high seas. However much like later
battleships she would never engage in the type of battle she was designed for.

By the time the Great War was being fought Dreadnought was no longer the best of the best, being out gunned
by a number of newer ships, but she was still a formidable enemy. Her only combat victory came on Mar. 18,
1915 when she engaged, not a large warship, but a little 685 ton submarine, SMS U-29.

The U-29 was not a famous boat like HMS Dreadnought, but her commanding officer was. Kapitänleutnant Otto
Weddigen was known in Germany, as a hero, and in England, as a villain. It was he and his U-9 who on Sept.
22, 1914 sank three British cruisers, HMS Aboukir, HMS Hogue and HMS Cressy. He sank a fourth cruiser, HMS Hawke on Oct. 15, 1914 and with them the took lives of over 2,000 British sailors.

Weddigen, in a conversation with an unidentified American official, supposedly told him that he almost spared
HMS Cressy due to the appalling scene he saw through his periscope. He could see hundreds of men in the
water and the only hope they had of survival was Cressy. Seconds before he made his decision to leave the
ship afloat his second in command reminded him "You know we have four navies fighting us" after which he
sent Cressy to the bottom. Whether this was just a good PR move or was a genuine recollection of the facts I
can not say for sure.

Weddigen himself had survived a sinking when on Nov. 17, 1911 SMS U-3 sank during a training exercise. The
crew were trapped in the boat for twenty-seven hours before rescue came. For anyone trapped in a submarine this is a kind of hell that can not be understood by anyone other than those who have been there. He survived, but three of his fellow crewmen did not. Perhaps his own near death experience had caused him to show a little more compassion to his enemy than some of his comrades. It may also have been why he gave a second thought before sending Cressy to the bottom.

On Mar. 12, 1915 Weddigen again made a triple play when he sank the merchant ships Andalusian, Indian City
and Headlands these would be his last victims. However this time there was no loss of life, he even aided the
survivors by towing some of the lifeboats toward land. Later some of them would say of him that he was a
"Polite Pirate" even expressing regret at having to sink their ships and treating them with great consideration.

There was great sadness in Germany after his loss, however it took some time before the German navy even
acknowledged that he was gone. At first they denied the loss, the Admiralty did not even announce the loss until Mar. 26 and even then it was only speculation that the boat was in fact U-29, but they seemed pretty sure it was. Finally on Apr. 7 the German navy admitted that the U-29 had indeed been lost with all hands.

In June the Germans tried to claim that the British had not played by the rules and that the U-29 had been sunk by a British tank steamer flying a Swedish flag, a strange charge and apparently one made from whole cloth as there were no survivors from the crew of U-29 and no other German witnesses to the sinking. They further
stated;

"It is proof of the British abuse of neutral flags, and that the illegal course followed by ships of commerce
compels the commanders of German submarines to consider their own safety first and sink such ships
without warning".


A tidy little way of attempting to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the terrible loss of life that occurred due to submarine attack. Germany was constantly under attack in the press because of the conduct
of the submarine war, people had not yet figured out just how terrible this relatively new weapon really was,
or how it was going to be used.

The Admiralty denied this claim and said only that the U-29 was sunk by"one of his Majesty's ships", but did
not mention which one. In fact I was unable to find a single reference in the press that did identify Dreadnought
as the ship which sank the U-29, a curious fact for which I have no answer.

One would think the London press would rejoice and revel in the fact that Weddigen, the man who had caused
so much grief, was dead. On the contrary, they treated his loss with a modicum of respect. One reported wrote;

"There seems to be no doubt therefore that Captain Weddigen's career has come to an end with that of his
new boat. our satisfaction with the occurrence is mingled with some regret at the death of a man who, so
far as is known, behaved bravely and skillfully, and where it was possible displayed to his victims the
humanity expected of seaman, but which has not been characteristic of all his brother officers".

© 2009 Michael W. Pocock
MaritimeQuest.com



Roll of Remembrance
Zum Gedenken an die Gefallenen des SMS U-29
"In the memory of the fallen crewmen of SMS U-29"

Name
Rate
Barandon, Karl
Oberleutnant zur See
Bergmann, Friedrich
U-Oberbootsmannsmaat
Bruns, Otto
Leutnant zur See
Brzenk, Johann
U-Heizer
Faust, August
U-Bootsmannsmaat
Friedrich, R. A.
U-Maschinist
Grossmann, P.
U-Heizer
Grundmeier, H.
U-Maschinistenmaat
Gurnik, Felix
Marine Ingenieur
Harck, Hubert
U-Matrose
Heidel, Friedrich
U-Heizer
Henke, Heinrich
U-Obermaschinist Anw
Heyne, Arthur
U-Maschinistenmaat
Kagel, Karl
U-Maschinistenmaat
Kaiser, Ernst
U-Obermaschinistenmaat
Krähe, Ernst
U-Maschinist Anw
Lauth, Johann
U-Heizer
Libprius, Walter
U-Matrose d.Res
Malz, Peter
U-Maschinistenmaat
Michalsky, Otto
U-Heizer
Nabitz, Walter
U-Obermatrose
Paulssen, Hubert
U-Matrose
Pinnow, Emil
U-Maschinistenmaat
Schmidt, Karl
Obermatrose, Kriegslotse
Schneider, Wilhelm
U-Obermatrose
Schröder, Wilhelm
U-Obermaschinist Anw
Schulze, Wilhelm
U-Maschinist
Schumann, E.
F.T.Gast
Simon, Paul
U-Steuermann
Sliwinski, Johann
U-Heizer
Waldow, Max
U-Maschinist Anw
Weddigen, Otto
Kapitänleutnant


Kapitänleutnant Otto Weddigen.

 



2005 Daily Event
2007 Daily Event
2008 Daily Event