Daily Event for February 8, 2012

In February of 1916 the French armoured cruiser Amiral Charner was patrolling off Syria, by Feb. 13 concerns for her safety were expressed by the Ministry of Marine in Paris as she had not been heard from since the 8th. However a telegram sent by the Germans claimed that a French warship had been sunk on Feb. 8 off Beirut, it was believed to have been the battleship Suffren. On the 14th the French confirmed that the ship sunk was the Amiral Charner, and the tragic emerged.

On Feb. 13 a raft was found drifting with fifteen sailors, however only one was still alive, and he was the only survivor from Amiral Charner. She had been torpedoed on the morning of February 8, 1916, the ship sank in four minutes which allowed no time to get any boats away. In total three hundred and seventy-four (or more) were lost. Apparently the fifteen men boarded the raft and awaited rescue, but for all but one rescue came too late.

Amiral Charner had become the victim of Kapitänleutnant Otto Hersing, a legendary U-boat commander. It was Hersing and his SMS U-21 which had struck the first blow at the Royal Navy when on Sept. 5, 1914 he torpedoed sank HMS Pathfinder, the first modern warship torpedoed and sunk by a submarine. (The first ship ever sunk by a submarine was USS Housatonic which was sunk by CSS H. L. Hunley on Feb. 17, 1864, it should be noted that Oberleutnant zur See Walther Schwieger, the man who later sank the Lusitania, sank a cargo ship, SS Dictator, on the same day that Pathfinder was sunk, but in this case the ship was stopped and scuttled with charges.)

Hersing and U-21 had made an epic voyage from Germany to the Mediterranean of over 5,000 miles, a feat unheard of at that time. And since the British did not fear U-boats in the Med, because it was thought they could not get there, Hersing made a daring attack which rivaled and perhaps eclipsed that of Otto Weddigen, who in one attack sank HM cruisers Aboukir, Cressy and Hogue. Hersing moved into the Dardanelles during the thick of the fighting between the British and ANZAC forces against the Turks. He moved carefully and in two days sank HM battleships Triumph and Majestic.
© 2012 Michael W. Pocock

Amiral Charner postcard.

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