Jutland Side Stories
Into Glory, Steam!
The Gunnery Officer
The Pasha
Return of the Dutchman

After Jutland
Side Stories
Hammerle and U-14
The Woes of June
A Moment's Respite
Ripples Across an Ocean
Symphony In Black
This is No Place for a Boy
Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen
The Wolves
U-20: Parts 5 - 7  
U-20 Table of Contents
Part 1 Snapshot from Letterstime - May 30, 1915
Part 2 Distant Thunder - May 30, 1915
Part 3 Echoes of Armageddon - May 30, 1915
Part 4 Waves of Death - May 30, 1915
Part 5 Fog of War - May 30, 1915
Part 6 Knife Fighting - May 30, 1915
Part 7 The Devil in the Deep - May 30, 1915
Part 8 Aftershocks - June 1, 1915
Part 9 The Third of June - June 3-6, 1915

Fog of War

--- SM U-20 Northsea 31/5 1915

Schwieger turned from Conqueror's wreck when the sound of the intensive gunfire ahead reached U-20. He studied the flashes of gunfire and glow of burning ships on the eastern horizon through his binoculars. There was obviously a major engagement underway. They were not close enough to actually see any ships.

"All ahead flank!" Schwieger ordered.

U-20 left HMS Conqueror behind her and headed north-east at 15 knots, towards the still distant battle. Schwieger's gaze swept over the horizon, visibility was at least 8000 yards in all directions, except to the north where a thin greyish mist mixed with lingering smoke from the battle, limited the visibility to less than a quarter of that distance.

"Lookout, pay extra attention to that mist to port." Schwieger ordered. Anything could hide behind it or in it.

"Sir!" the lookout acknowledged. He thought it looked more like a thin smoke screen though.

"Sir. The engineer says that if we maintain this speed much longer we might have to use oars to get back home." the XO said.

"We have to risk it, lieutenant." Schwieger replied with a faint smile "The fleet is going to need all the help it can get."

"Yes sir." the XO replied.

The massive barrage ahead seemed to be rapidly fading to a much lower intensity. U-20 was straining its engines to the limit but U-boats were much slower than the battle fleets. Visibility began to drop rapidly as U-20's northerly course took it into the cool veils of mist drifting over the sea.

"Damn, it looks like we are going to be late again." the XO murmured as the sounds of battle started to die out ahead.

"Perhaps we should change course to a more northerly heading XO?" Schwieger said.

"Well we are never go..."

"Sir! To port! it seems to be a ship." the port side lookout shouted suddenly.

"You can see masts and smoke."

"Where? I can't see it!" Schwieger replied.

"There." the lookout responded and pointed into the smoke and mists. "You can only see the mast and the smokestacks."

"I got it, it seems to be a large ship." the XO said. "Can you make out if she has tripod masts?"

"No, not yet sir." the lookout responded.

"Where, damn it?" Schwieger asked annoyed. "Ah there, I see it now. Helm come to 320, engines ahead half." he ordered.

"What range do you estimate sir?" the XO asked.

"Hard to say, four-five thousand yards perhaps. What's your estimate, XO?" Schwieger asked.

"No more than four. She is big though, definitely a battleship or a battle cruiser, but I can't identify her. We are only seeing the higher parts, the rest is still out of sight. Is it a British ship?" the XO wondered.

"I can't tell either, we have to go in closer. Helm, course 340, that should take us clear of the fog somewhat sooner." Schwieger ordered as he continued watching the diffuse shadow.

"Yes sir." came the reply from the helmsman below.

"She seems almost dead in the water sir." one of the lookouts said.

"Yes, but she still has power." the XO remarked "There is smoke coming from the stacks. If they see us they might try to run. We would have spotted it sooner if we had remained on our original course." The ship was closer than he had thought.

"Shall we dive sir? There could be other ships around, destroyers." the XO asked.

"No. The visibility is too low, especially close to the surface. We might lose her if we dive and then she might escape." Schwieger answered "Even a crippled Dreadnought can outrun us if we dive. If it's a British ship we will have to make a surface attack."

"Perhaps they can't run sir, why else would they still be here?" the XO pointed out hopefully.

"I can't be sure, but it seems there is another ship beyond the first one. Perhaps they are assisting or evacuating that other vessel." Schwieger said and pointed towards the extra smokestacks and masts barely visible over the shadowy shape of the battleships superstructure.

"I still can't identify her." the XO said.

"Bring up the signalling lamp. Just in case it's a friend rather than a foe." He said to his XO "We don't want any accidents and a battleship is likely to fire first and ask questions later where U-boats are concerned."

"Yes indeed sir." the XO agreed "Damn! I still can't make out the class, she doesn't seem to have super firing turrets though. But it is difficult to say for sure." the XO observed. "Perhaps its one of the older British classes. Could it be the Dreadnought? Perhaps we shall have the opportunity to avenge U-29 and Weddigen today!"

Schwieger didn't reply; they would know soon enough. U-20 slid slowly, silently through the water, its low silhouette invisible in the mist and with the rapidly darkening eastern horizon behind it.

"Forward tubes stand by!" Schwieger ordered. The fog was thinning noticeably now.

"Tubes one and two ready." the weapons officer replied.

"Helm come to course 290, engines all ahead flank!" Schwieger ordered and U-20 turned to begin its attack run.

--- SMS Westfalen Northsea 31/5 1915

"How is the evacuation coming along?" the captain asked. He was acutely aware of his ship's vulnerable position.

"Captain von Mueller reports that the evacuation is almost complete. They are making sure all secret material it either destroyed or transferred to Westfalen sir."

"Good. As soon as they are finished make best speed on course 90." The captain replied.

He was keeping a close eye on the sea around his motionless ship. The visibility had dropped dramatically as moist in the air had condensed on particles from the coal and cordite smoke that the fleets had spewed out during the battle. Visibility was only a few thousand yards and his ship was a sitting duck for any torpedo-boat or submarine in the area.

On board SMS Hessen captain von Mueller received his last reports, fires are out below, all codes and cipher material transferred or destroyed, all hands have been evacuated. He looked at his watch and made one final entry in the ships log before he, as the last man, reluctantly abandoned the slowly sinking Hessen.

--- SM U-20 Northsea 31/5 1915

"DESTROYER! Bearing 315!" the lookout screamed suddenly.

"Scheisse!" the XO exclaimed and Schwieger silently agreed with him.

"Continue the attack, they haven't seen us yet." Schwieger ordered. "Engines, I need everything we have left."

"I'm not holding anything back!" came the irritated response from the engineer.

"Can you identify the type of destroyer, is it British?" He asked his XO who was watching the diffuse shape intently.

"No. I can't identify her yet!" the XO answered. "But she is close, and she is making smoke."

Knife Fighting

--- SM U-20 Northsea 31/5 1915

The smoky mist that had inhibited their view suddenly parted before the charging U-20 and revealed the target to the men in U-20's conning tower. Their target wasn't 3000 yards away as they had thought but only about 1500 yards ahead the huge shape of a British super Dreadnought was suddenly sharply visible as U-20 raced out from the concealing mist.

"My God!" the XO whispered.

The huge ship seemed mortally wounded, images of HMS Conqueror flashed through their minds. The sea was almost at main deck level and the ship also was listing, in fact the bow was submerged beneath the waves of the north sea. It was hardly surprising that they had mistaken the range to the ship. It was so low in the water that it probably wouldn't survive the night.

---HMS Thunderer 31/5 1915

"...we also haven't completely stopped the flooding in the torpedo room but the pumps are keeping pace with the leaks down there for now." a lieutenant was reporting.

"Have all non essential personnel left the ship?" the captain asked.

"Yes sir the last went over about fifteen minutes ago." another officer answered.

An exhausted looking crewman stepped onto the bridge.

"Sir. The chief reports that he has patched most of the leaks in engineering and that the pumps are keeping pace with the flooding. He estimates that the remaining leaks in engineering will be stopped in one hour." he said wearily. "We should be able to make five knots in four to five hours."

"Good. tell the..."


A 4" gun fired suddenly.

"Sir! U-boat on starboard side!" an officer shouted.

"Get us moving NOW!" the captain roared, moving might sink his ship but staying would surely do so.


Another gun also fired but it was probably too late, he saw that the U-boat was only some thousand yards away.

--- British Destroyer Northsea 31/5 1915

Everyone on the bridge flinched when Thunderer's secondary guns fired.

"There! bearing 120. Helm bring us about guns fire at will!" the commander shouted. "Get all the crew to battle stations, get the crew from Thunderer below deck."

Crack! Crack!

The destroyer's guns opened fire on the charging U-boat, the splashes of the falling shells were close but not close enough.

--- SM U-20 Northsea 31/5 1915

"Range twelve hundred, bearing zero-zero-zero. Tube one fire!" Schwieger ordered as the second shell narrowly missed U-20.

"Tube one away!" the weapons officer acknowledged.

"The destroyer has seen us, sir!" the XO said calmly "She is coming about."

"Keep an eye on her XO." Schwieger said "Tube two fire!" he ordered.

"Tube two away!" the calm voice of the weapons officer reported.

"Destroyer has opened fire." the XO reported.

More splashes rose around U-20.

"Prepare to dive! XO let's get be..."


Schwieger and his XO was thrown against the railing by the blast.

"Let's go lieutenant." he said and shook the other. When the XO rolled over, a piece of shrapnel the size of a hand was sticking out of his forehead. The face of the XO looked surprised more than anything else.

"Dive! DIVE!" Schwieger shouted and climbed down the ladder from the tower.

The north sea rushed in through the shell hole in the tower as he closed the hatch.

"But what..." someone began but fell silent when they saw the blood soaking Schwieger's uniform.

"Report!" he croaked.

"The pressure hull is intact sir." the dive officer said at once.

"Both torpedoes running straight at the target..." the weapons officer began.

WHAM! Wham! Wham!

More shells fell into the sea nearby.

--- British Destroyer Northsea 31/5 1915

"Nail the bastard, damn it" the commander almost screamed at his gun crews. The U-boat, having fired its shots was diving to escape retribution and the gunners hadn't been able to cause enough damage to prevent its escape. The pressure hull made the submarines very hard to kill. You needed a direct hit, not just a glancing blow to sink them. This coward wasn't going to give them the opportunity though.

"Helmsman, ram the devil!" Well, there were alternatives, the commander thought.

"YES SIR!" the Helmsman replied eagerly.

The U-boat was going down fast but not fast enough. The hit on the deck gun had probably killed the captain and that thought delighted the commander, all submariners were scum but the German ones were also the enemy.

"Aim for the conning tower." the commander said.

"Aye aye sir!" the helmsman replied.

They had to get them before they submerged, unlike the flotillas patrolling outside Scapa Flow, the flotillas serving with the fleet hadn't yet been equipped with depth charges. The motivation for that being that torpedoes would be more useful in a fleet action and that the fleet could always outrun a U-boat. Well Thunderer surely wasn't going anywhere and once the U-boat made it into the deep...

--- SM U-20 Submerging Northsea 31/5 1915

"Helm hard to starboard!" Schwieger ordered. It was going to be close.

--- British Destroyer Northsea 31/5 1915

"NO! They are getting away, more speed!" the commander ordered as the conning tower of U-20 disappeared beneath the waves.

A sharp jolt shook the ship and the sound of tortured metal screamed through the hull followed by several sharp banging noises. The crew and the survivors from Thunderer cheered when they felt the impact.

"YES! Good show, helmsman you nailed the devil!" the commander said and looked for signs in their wake that the U-boat was surfacing. But no such signs could be observed.

The Devil in the Deep

---Port engine room HMS Thunderer 31/5 1915

The massive propellers started to turn but not fast enough. In the port engine room the ship's engineer wondered what was going on on the bridge, this manoeuvre might sink us, he thought.


The great ship shuddered beneath him as a torpedo struck somewhere aft , the starboard list increased rapidly.


The second torpedo struck the already flooded starboard engine room and the shock of the blast was transferred through the water and on to the already strained bulkheads inside HMS Thunderer.

The men in the engine room watched as the entire bulkhead moved under the blow and moments later gave way and the cool waters of the Northsea rushed in.

---Bridge HMS Thunderer 31/5 1915

He had hoped the submarine would be as surprised as he was by their encounter but they had fired their torpedoes and there really wasn't anything left to do.


The first torpedo hit his ship. The list grew rapidly and several men grabbed for something to hold onto.


The second torpedo hit and the ship straightened itself somewhat. The water was already halfway up A-turret.

"All hands, abandon ship." the captain ordered. He was watching the rapidly rising water closing over A-turret. When the rising waters reached the bridge he calmly swam away from the ship towards the waiting destroyer. Many of the topside volunteers had also managed to get off Thunderer when she sank, but no one survived from the many damage control teams that had been far below decks fighting to save the ship.

--- British Destroyer Northsea 31/5 1915

"Sir there is some minor flooding forward and aft starboard side. The engineer reports that the starboard propeller is damaged and must be stopped."

"Thank you ensign." the commander said and dismissed the ensign. The masts and smokestacks of Thunderer were rapidly disappearing into the sea.

"We will circle here until the others have picked up all the survivors from Thunderer and then we will head home." he said.

"Yes sir." the helmsman acknowledged.

"That was excellent manoeuvring back there, I will make sure you are mentioned in the report."

"Thank you sir." the helmsman replied. He didn't really want his name anywhere in the reports describing this battle. The entire day had been one long painful disaster ever since admiral Sturdee had engaged the Germans. The fewer names the Lords of the Admiralty had to vent their anger on the better.

"Sir!" one of the gunners shouted and pointed at a mass of bubbles surfacing just of the port bow.

"Dear God, please let that be her hull rupturing." the commander whispered for himself. "Guns, stand by to open fire if they surface." there really wasn't any reason to give the Huns a chance to surrender.

--- SM U-20 Submerged Northsea 31/5 1915

The impact of the destroyer's bow hitting the conning tower shook the entire boat, the force of the impact tipped the boat hard to starboard, the lights went out. The deafening screech of metal on metal echoed through the entire boat. The bow of the U-boat was forced down by the force of the collision and simultaneously the stern was forced up into the hull of the destroyer. The impact of the destroyer's propeller sounded like a giant machine gun being fired inside the boat.

"Report!" Schwieger shouted over the noise in the boat.


Several crewmen had flashlights out and illuminated the control room as the boat straightened itself somewhat.

"Bow rudder up ten... no fifteen..." the dive officer struggled to regain control of the runaway U-boat.

"FLOODING! Flooding in aft torpedo room!" someone screamed.

"XO..." Schwieger began.

"I'm on it!" the weapons officer said and rushed past his captain.

"Good! " Schwieger replied.

The lights flickered on again but they seemed faint.

"Aft rudders down five!" the dive officer ordered.

"They are stuck! Help me!" several men tried to move the rudder but not even the combined efforts of three men could budge it.

"Bow rudder up twenty!" the dive officer ordered.

"Engine reverse, flank." Schwieger ordered.

"Sir! The engineer reports that half the battery is out and the hatch to the torpedo room has been sealed at the order of the WO." one of the engine crew reported.


"That's one!" someone said calmly.


"Yes! Both hit." Schwieger murmured.

The crew paused to cheer for a brief moment and then continued their efforts not to join their victim in the deep. The sounds of Thunderer's collapsing bulkheads could be heard quite clearly through the hull. The large ship seemed to be screaming curses at its killer from its watery grave.

--- SM U-20 Aft torpedo room Northsea 31/5 1915

The port tube had been warped by the collision with the destroyer and if it hadn't been for the torpedo being jammed in the tube the room would have been wide open to the sea.

"Hurry get the gear in here!" the weapons officer shouted at the damage control team. With a quick glance at the leak he turned to the man on the other side of the bulkhead "Close this hatch behind us!"

"Use the forward bulkhead to brace the support." he ordered, they had to close the tube before the water pressure pushed the torpedo into the room.

--- SM U-20 control room Northsea 31/5 1915

"Twenty meters and dropping." the dive officer reported.

"All stop!" Schwieger ordered.

"Still dropping sir, twenty-five meters now."

"Bow rudders up full." Schwieger ordered "Ahead slow."

The bow started to move up but the stern didn't.

"All stop. The damned stern rudders are pulling us down." Schwieger said. "Can we go reverse?" he asked the dive officer.

"Yes, but if we do we might lose the aft torpedo room and that would be that." the dive officer replied. "Thirty-five." he added.

"Blow the tanks!" Schwieger ordered reluctantly, the British would be glad to see them again. The roar of pressurised air rushing into the ballast tanks surrounded them.

"Damn! The stern still won't come up!" the dive officer growled.

"Bow rudder down five or we will stall, engine ahead slow" Schwieger ordered.

"We are stable sir." the dive officer said with surprise evident in his voice.

"Good, engine, how long can we maintain this speed?" Schwieger asked.

"Twenty minutes!" came the reply from engineering.

"I'm coming back there, you have the bridge." Schwieger told the dive officer.

--- SM U-20 engine room Northsea 31/5 1915

"What's the situation?" Schwieger asked.

"Not good sir." the engineer replied "The collision knocked lose several old repairs and caused much new damage, twelve new cells ruptured and the repaired cables were knocked lose and short circuited many more. We will be lucky to get back half our capacity."

"How long to make repairs?"

"An hour, perhaps more. We have to save power." the engineer replied.

"All right, anything new from the torpedo room?" Schwieger asked a man, he realised it was the sailor from the Elbing.

"Nothing since your weapons officer ordered the hatch closed," he answered. "But they are still working back there sir, you can hear them through the bulkhead."

"Switch off all nonessential systems here, Im going forward." Schwieger said.

"Yes sir." a few lamps were turned off and the crew continued to work in the gloom.

--- SM U-20 control room Northsea 31/5 1915

"Thirty-eight meters sir." the dive officer reported when he saw the lieutenant captain. "She is holding steady, but we are taking on too much water aft sir."

"I know that, they are working on the problem. Pass the word; all unnecessary systems and lamps are to be switched off, we need to conserve electricity." Schwieger said and looked at the gages. "We have to slow the engine, we will have to go as slowly as possible without destabilising the boat."

"Yes sir." the dive officer replied.

"The periscope is destroyed, apart from that there is no serious damage forward sir. We are loading the last torpedo in tube one," the signal ensign reported.

"Thank you ensign." Schwieger said. "Go see if the engineer needs any help."
Now it was up to him to keep them alive long enough for the engineer to conduct the necessary repairs. They probably could surface but with the two enemy ships up there it would be suicide.

"Helm come to course 140 and prepare to reduce speed further." he ordered. That course should take them into the mists above, just in case they had to surface.


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