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
Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen – A Wolves Side Story  

Episode Five

The author does not speak Danish, German or Swedish, and rather than offend those who do speak those languages, the dialogue is rendered up in American English with a few local words mixed in.

September 22, British Submarine E1,  Course 005  Speed 11 knots, Surfaced,  2250 hours.
8 nautical miles South by West of Landskrona, Sweden

The first officer was on watch and he, like his lookouts was dazzled by the star shell.  When the second one went up he saw the shell fall between him and it seemed something that was shooting at them.

“All ahead full.  Captain to the bridge.”

The E1’s engines responded almost instantly and the E1 was at 15 knots in a minute.  Laurence got to the bridge and relieved the First Officer.

Another dazzling pyrotechnic blinded Laurence.  Laurence had been on the bridge only a few moments and did not have the situation in hand.

“Come right 20 degrees”

Right into the old minefield.

September 22, Danish Gunboat Falster,  Course 185  Speed 5 knots,  2255 hours.
20 kilometers NNW of Malmo, Sweden

“Come right to 355  Full speed.  Bow gun load another star shell”

“Signals, wireless to Copenhagen.  Contact believed to be submarine, give our position.  Am investigating.”

The old (built 1883) gunboat wallowed around and worked up to her best 12 knots.

“Bow gun  20 degrees elevation and fire”


This time everyone was alert and knew where to look.  Sure enough, it WAS a submarine, running fast – right into a minefield.

September 22, British Submarine E1,  Course 025  Speed 15 knots, Surfaced,  2300 hours.
5 nautical miles South of Landskrona, Sweden

Laurence looked back and he was definitely pulling away from whatever was shooting at him.  The other ship was quartering him to port rather than directly pursuing.  Why was that?     

It came to him: “We’re in a bloody minefield!”

That was indeed why the Falster was not directly pursuing him, but - so far - the E1 was incredibly lucky, zooming past a number of mines but not hitting any, but there were other hazards.  Actually he had run right through the minefield into the shallows.

Laurence was still panicking about mines when the boat ran up on a gravel bar protruding about 300 yards offshore.

GRRRRRaunnnch.  Everybody on the boat was tossed forward in a 17 MPH collision.  Four men, including the first officer, were knocked cold.  Laurence was knocked off the bridge and landed on the deck and rolled into the water.  Literally everyone on the boat was injured.

Worse yet, the pressure hull was ripped open under the forward torpedo tubes.  The boat was certainly in no danger of sinking, but she had only vestigial subdivision and salt water was into the batteries within moments.  The chemical reaction between battery acid and seawater generated chlorine gas and the crew - injuries and all - bailed out on to the deck.  The whole thing happened so suddenly the engines were still running at maximum speed – there was no one left below to shut them down.  As the boat partially filled with water, she listed to starboard a few degrees and the starboard prop was back in the water, kicking up foam but not moving the boat one inch.

September 22, Danish Gunboat Falster,  Course 355  Speed 12 knots,  2315 hours.
10 kilometers SSW of Landskrona, Sweden

Another star shell showed the submarine about 2,500 meters to starboard and clearly grounded.

“All stop.  Officer of the deck, get a fix on the range lights.  I don’t want us in the minefield or on the beach”

“Signals.  Wireless to Copenhagen.  Contact confirmed submarine.  Submarine grounded on Swedish side.  Give our location.”

September 23, Danish Naval headquarters, Copenhagen  0005 hours

The wirelesses from the Falster had stirred up a hornet’s nest at headquarters.  With news of a positive contact, the Naval Chief of Staff had been called as well as the Army.  With the report of a submarine grounded in Swedish waters the Swedes were notified as well.  Further wireless communication with the Falster indicated the submarine was hopelessly grounded and its crew was sitting on its deck.  Headquarters ordered Falster to stand off in safe water and observe.  The Swedes would contact the submarine after daylight.

September 23, British Submarine E1,  Course 025  Speed 0 knots (hard aground), Surfaced listing 15 degrees to starboard,  0300 hours.
5 nautical miles South of Landskrona, Sweden

“Bloody ‘ell!  They just sit out there an’ look at us!”

Able Seaman Brighton’s complaint about the Danes overestimated the situation.   The Danes were not even looking at the E1 because they could not see them in the pitch black night.  Brighton did not know the Falster was out of star shells by now and she was not fitted with a searchlight.  All she could do was beat back and forth in waters she felt were safe and wait for daylight.  But she was showing her navigation lights and the crew of the E1 could see them.  The crew by now had huddled in little clumps as far as possible from the hatches.  To get near a hatch was to get a whiff of chlorine.  The E1 had not been issued gas masks.  A number of the crew seemed to be in a bad way.  Two of the four unconscious men had come to, but the other two – one was the First Officer – were still out.  There were broken arms (one man had what would later be diagnosed as a compound fracture of the bones of the lower arm.  There were several men with what appeared to be broken ribs – the lookouts and the Captain had rib problems.  In addition to at least one broken rib Laurence had a dislocated shoulder and some nasty bleeding scrapes from falling off the bridge onto the deck and he was chattering with cold from his dunking.  It had taken a few minutes for two of the less injured crewmen to drag him from the water.

In the mad dash out of the chlorine gas chamber the submarine had become, no one had grabbed any medical supplies.  They’d just have to wait until help came, no doubt after dawn.

Maddeningly, light showed up through the poisoned hatches.  The engines were still running at full speed and the generator was still working.  Both propellers were flailing at flank RPM.  The starboard prop was about one-third of the way out of the water and madly churning the water.  The port prop was out of the water and spinning rapidly.

There was nothing to do but sit there until dawn.

September 23, British Submarine E1,  Course 025  Speed 0 knots (hard aground), Surfaced listing 15 degrees to starboard,  0650 hours.
5 nautical miles South of Landskrona, Sweden

Dawn came and with it a small boat putted down from the north onshore of where the E1 lay.  The boat lingered a few minutes and disappeared back to the north.  During the long, cold morning the First Officer had met his Maker and the dry port prop bearing began to howl.

September 23,  Landskrona Pier,  0810 hours

The constable, who had commandeered a boat to look at what the crazy Navy man had woke him up for, had come back.  He needed more boats.  He sent his deputies off to get more boats while he made a report to the Navy.

“Ja, it is a submarine.  She’s run so far aground her props are out of the water. … No, I did not try to talk to them.   All I had was a little skiff.  It looks like twenty to thirty injured men are sitting on the deck.  It appears that nearly all of them are injured.   …  I intend to gather up some boats and retrieve all the men off the dock and take them to the hospital.  By time I do that I expect someone from the Army or Navy will be here to take charge. … Ja, I know the area is mined.  We will approach only from the landward side. … Ja, ja, I know.  Good day.”

“Harumph!  Navy men!”

At least while the constable was wasting his time talking to the Navy windbag, his deputies had rounded up ten small boats to retrieve the sailors.

September 23, British Submarine E1,  Course 025  Speed 0 knots (hard aground), Surfaced listing 15 degrees to starboard,  0940 hours.
5 nautical miles South of Landskrona, Sweden

The crew of the E1 was colder, wetter and weaker than before.  What was worse, the submarine was now clearly on fire.  The hatches still could not be approached due to chlorine but now brown smoke accompanied the gas.  Apparently the port prop seal had gone dry and gotten hot enough to ignite some oil in the engine area.  Fortunately, the E1 had expended all its torpedoes and all but a few rounds of the twelve pounder shells.  What worried the engineer – now in charge as the Captain was semi-comatose and the First Officer was clearly dead – was that his compressed air tanks were full.  If they got too hot they could explode.

But it looked like help was on the way.  The little boat had come back with some friends.  After some yelling and arm waving the little boats pulled up one at a time and took off injured seamen.  At the end of the process they had to leave the body of the First Officer to get everyone else on board.    Well he won’t mind.  They’d come back and get his body after they got everyone else ashore.

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