25 February 1917 – Sunk after action against U-boat (UC-18) – all hands saved

25 February 1917

Sunday

Portsmouth Barracks

Dear Mother & Father

Just a line to let you know that I am still alive and kicking. We were given a new kit yesterday our old one being lost.

We all got ready for leave yesterday & were waiting ready to go when orders came through that the leave had been postponed. It was a big disappointment but I shall make the best of it and the leave is practically certain to be granted in a few days time.

You will no doubt have received my postcard from Cherbourg, France where we landed.

You will be anxious to know what has happened & I will tell you a little only keep it to yourselves.

Last Monday we were in the region of the Chanel islands when a sub fired at us. We waited for her and she plugged us.  We plugged her & they are now one less.

We settled down astern and left our ship, in the boats. We were picked up by a French Destroyer & all hands were saved.

The Froggies were fine and I had a chance to show my faint knowledge of French.

Don’t write until I can give you my present address.

I hope all are well at home and I expect to see you all in a few days time. Best love to all

James

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The Lady Olive built by Dundee Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., Dundee in 1913 and operated at the time of her loss by Royal Navy, was a British Q-ship of 701 tons. 

Q-ships, also known as Q-boats, decoy vessels, special service ships, or mystery ships, were heavily armed merchant ships with concealed weaponry, designed to lure submarinesinto making surface attacks. This gave Q-ships the chace to open fire and sink them.

Britain was by 1915 in desperate need of a countermeasure against the U-boats that were strangling her sea-lanes. Convoys, which had proved effective in earlier times (and would again prove effective during WWII, were rejected by the resource-strapped  Admiralty and the independent captains. Depth Charges of the time were relatively primitive, and almost the only chance of sinking a submarine was by gunfire or by ramming while on the surface. The problem was how to lure the U-boat to the surface.

A solution to this was the creation of the Q-ship, one of the most closely guarded secrets of the war. Their codename referred to the vessels’ home port of Queenstown in Ireland. These became known by the Germans as a U-Boot-Falle (“U-boat trap”). A Q-ship would appear to be an easy target, but in fact carried hidden armaments. A typical Q-ship might resemble a tramp steamer sailing alone in an area where a U-boat was reported to be operating. By seeming to be a suitable target for the U-boat’s deck gun, a Q-ship might encourage the U-boat captain to make a surface attack rather than use one of his limited number of torpedoes. The Q-ships’ cargoes were light wood (balsa or cork) or wooden casks, so that even if torpedoed they would remain afloat, encouraging the U-boat to surface to sink them with a deck gun. The crew might even pretend to “abandon ship”. Once the U-boat was vulnerable, the Q-ship’s panels would drop to reveal the deck guns, which would immediately open fire. At the same time, the White Ensign (The Royal Navy flag) would be raised. With the element of surprise, a U-boat could be quickly overwhelmed

There may have been as many as 366 Q-ships, of which 61 were lost.[5] After the war, it was concluded that Q-ships were greatly overrated, diverting skilled seamen from other duties without sinking enough U-boats to justify the strategy.[6] In a total of 150 engagements, British Q-ships destroyed 14 U-boats and damaged 60, at a cost of 27 Q-ships lost out of 200. Q-ships were responsible for about 10% of all U-boats sunk, ranking them well below the use of ordinary minefields in effectiveness On February 19th, 1917, Lady Olive was sunk by the German submarine, UC-18(Wilhelm Kiel). There were no casualties. As order was given to abandon ship and his ship was sinking, gunner William Dumaresq sighted UC-18 and decided to take a shot at it and managed to hit UC-18 several times and sink her with all hands. He was awarded the DSM.

On the 19th February 1917 The Lady Olive was sunk possibly by torpedo when in action against German coastal minelayer UC-18. The U-boat was caught in a mined anti-submarine net, forced to surface and finished off by gunfire.

In this action, A.B. Dumaresq was awarded the DSM for having placed several decisive hits on the submarine. The crew had been ordered to abandon the ship but William Dumaresq sighting UC 18 directly in line to his gun sight, decided upon himself to take a shot at it and managed to place several hits in the hull. UC 18 was sunk with all hands in that action. Lady Olive sank at 0930 and the French destroyer Dunois rescued her crew the following day.

SM UC-18 was a German Type UC 11 mine laying submarine or U-boat in the German Imperial navy during WWI. The U-boat was ordered on 26 August 1915 and was launched on 4 March 1916. She was commissioned into the German Imperial Navy on 15 August 1916 as SM UC-18.  In 6 patrols UC-18 was credited with sinking 35 ships, either by torpedo or by mines laid. UC-18 was sunk by the British Q Ship Lady Olive on 19 February 1917.

 german_u-boat_ub_14_with_its_crew1

Date U-boat Loss type Position Location Route Cargo Casualties
1 19 Feb 1917 UC 18 (Wilhelm Kiel) Sunk off St Malo. Or 49.10N, 02.40W per French Admiralty. 49° 15’N, 2° 34’W     0
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