From the start of the Great War German U-Boats caused a serious problem for the Allies, destroying about half of all the food and supplies transported by British ships.
Within the first ten weeks of the conflict they had already sunk five British cruisers, including HMS Aboukir, HMS Hogue and Cressy in less than an hour with much loss of life, including several sailors from Bournemouth.
“On September 22 the armoured cruiser HMS Aboukir and her sister ships HMS Hogue and Cressy were at sea off the Hook of Holland,” said Rod Arnold, who researched the fate of the ships.
The Royal Navy began patrolling the area on the outbreak of the war, to help screen British Expeditionary Force transports and its supplies to France from attacks by the German Navy.
The patrol was also well placed to prevent the enemy from laying mines near the British coast. Unfortunately, the ships were outdated in design and the tasks they were performing were better suited to the more modern light cruisers and destroyers.
They were nicknamed ‘the live bait squadron’ as they were within striking distance of the German North Sea naval bases.
“Just after dawn there was an explosion on the starboard side of the Aboukir. It was known that there was a German minefield nearby and the captain believed that his ship must have hit a drifting mine,” said Rod.
The Cressy and Hogue closed in to stop and pick up survivors as the Aboukir began to sink. The cause of the explosion was not a mine - it was much worse. The Aboukir had been torpedoed by the German submarine U9 under the command of Lt. Otto Weddigen.
The submarine dived deep after firing to reload and then returned to periscope depth. Two torpedoes were fired at the stationary Hogue and both hit home.
“Within three minutes Hogue had developed a list of 40 degrees and was obviously doomed. The crew abandoned ship,” Rod continued.
Again the U9 submerged and manoeuvred for a firing position. On board the Cressy the captain spotted the submarine and ordered ‘full speed ahead’, but it was too late.
“One of the two torpedoes fired by the U9 was avoided, but the second hit and stopped the ship, and its one remaining torpedo sent the third cruiser to the bottom,” Rod finished.
Of the 2,200 officers and men on board the three British cruisers, 1,459 lives were lost. Amongst the casualties from HMS Aboukir were two Bournemouth men Gunners Charles F.Day and Alphonzo Gollop of the Royal Marine Artillery. Their names are recorded in the Bournemouth Book of Remembrance and they are commemorated on the Naval War Memorial at Southsea.
Three weeks later the U9, still with Lt. Weddigen in command, sank another British cruiser, HMS Hawke, in the North Sea with the loss of 524 men, including another Bournemouth man, Petty Officer Ernest H Osmond.
Lt Weddigen went on to command U29. On March 18, 1915, it was rammed and sunk by the British battleship HMS Dreadnought. There were no survivors.
CHARLES FREDERICK DAY Charles Frederick Day served in the Royal Navy as a young man and would have been called up from the Naval Reserve when war was declared.
Born at Godwins Croft in Bransgore, Charles married Elizabeth Hansford from Knighton in Dorset, at Christchurch, in 1906. Two years later they had a daughter Elsie Lilian. Elizabeth already had a daughter, Dorothy, from a previous relationship.
By 1911 Charles was employed as a contractors' labourer and the family was living at Capstone Road in Bournemouth, the same road where both of Bournemouth’s Great War VC recipients lived.
At the time of his death, aged 45, Elizabeth was still living at Capstone Road. It is believed that she died in Bournemouth in 1954 aged 76.
Heroes who served in the Navy
ALPHONSE GOLLOP Alphonse Gollop also served in the Royal Navy as a young man, but later worked as a farm labourer. He would also have been recalled to serve in the Naval Reserve in 1914.
Born in 1880, Alphonse was christened at St John's Wimborne Minster. His parents, Harry and Clarissa Kate Gollop, came from the Wimborne area and had at least four other children.
In 1891 the Gollop family were living at Weathermore Lodge in Talbot Woods where Harry Gollop was a woodsman.
Alphonse’s death was reported to his father who was then living at Hawthorne Road in Winton.
Claude Mauleverer Among the survivors from HMS Aboukir was midshipman Claude Mauleverer of Mount Grace, Lilliput in Poole, who gave his account of the sinking to the Echo on his return home.
“I was in my hammock in the stern and was awakened by the explosion of a torpedo, which struck us more for’ard. We turned out at once, put on our shoes, and found the ship was listing to one side.”
When they got on deck the list had increased, and it wasn’t long before the ship sank.
He was in the water for about fifteen minutes before he was rescued by a passing boat and witnessed the Hogue and Cressy being torpedoed.
“When the Hogue was struck she began to sink stern first and then turned completely upside down. As she heeled you could see the men sliding down the decks and into the water.
“The Cressy came alongside our boat to take us aboard, but when near she suddenly went off at full speed, having sighted a submarine. Shortly afterwards she, too, was torpedoed. I saw three strike her. She was hidden by a cloud of smoke, and the next I saw was that she was upside down.
“There were about 20 of us in the boat, and there were men in the water we could not take in.”
Midshipman Mauleverer, still in his pyjamas, and his colleagues were in an open boat for four hours before they were picked up by HMS Lowestoft. They were given clothes and were quickly taken to Harwich, where accommodation was found for them at the Great Eastern Hotel.