THE nightly cruises from the foremost patrol line by
Heligoland were continued and extended. On August 12 the light cruisers
Köln (Flagship of the First Flag Officer of the destroyer
flotillas, Rear-Admiral Maass) and Hamburg went out with Flotilla VI;
Köln and Stuttgart with Flotillas I and II on the 15th, and
the light cruiser Mainz with the Flotilla VIII on the 16th. As no enemy
was met on any of these enterprises the light cruisers Stralsund
(Captain Harder) and Strassburg (Captain Retzmann) were sent out to the
Hoofden against the destroyer patrol line, the existence of which had been
reported by submarines.
They put to sea on the morning of August 11 with two
U-boats, which stood by near Vlieland while the cruisers steamed south to about
the line LowestoftScheveningen. When this was reached they turned), early
on the morning of the 18th. Shortly afterwards the Strassburg sighted
three enemy submarines, distant about l00 hm. (11,000 yards). These were fired
on and one of them seemed to be hit. Soon after eight destroyers were sighted
in a northerly direction and a light cruiser with another eight destroyers in
an easterly direction, which were in a position to cut off the retreat of our
cruisers. The range, however, did not fall below l00 hm., so that no success
was obtained on either side. The possibility that there might be other English
forces not far off seemed to make it imperative for our ships not to lose time
in manuvring for attack, for the sixteen destroyers of the enemy had an
immense preponderance of gun-power over our cruisers armed only with 10.5 cm.
guns. Both cruisers returned home without trouble.
In the second half of August the number of reports of
submarines sighted at the mouth of the Ems and in the Heligoland Bight
increased, and very heavy demands were made on the destroyers to drive them
out. On August 21 the light cruisers Rostock and Strassburg with
Flotilla VI made a sweep in the direction of the Dogger Bank with a view to
searching the fishing grounds for English fishing-smacks. They also met enemy
submarines, one of which fired two torpedoes at the Rostock, but both
missed. On this cruise six fishing-steamers were destroyed which were found,
well separated, in a circle round Heligoland, and were suspected of working
with English submarines.
As all these cruises pointed to the conclusion that we
could not expect to find considerable enemy forces in the southern half of the
North Sea, our two mine-laying cruisers, Albatros (Commander West) and
Nautilus (Commander Wilhelm Schultz) received orders to lay a minefield
at the mouths of the Humber and Tyne. By day their operations were covered by a
light cruiser and a half-flotilla of destroyers, as mine-layers must be kept
out of action it at all possible. Both ships were able to carry out their
commission undisturbed and laid their mines accurately at the places indicated.
The actual work began at midnight and was favoured by thick weather. On the way
back another six fishing-steamers were sunk.
The previous raids had been favoured by luck inasmuch as the
forces employed, which were anything but strong, had not been located and cut
off by superior forces. Their safety lay in speed alone. Before support from
units lying ready in; the estuaries could reach them it might easily be too
late. But for that purpose it was considered inadvisable to have proper
supporting forces hanging about in the Heligoland Bight on account of the
submarines reported there.
August 28th brought us the first serious collision with
English cruisers. The reports taken back by the English submarines as to our
offensive arrangements in the Heligoland Bight must have decided the English to
roll up our patrol line. As the English dispatches on the events of this day
have been published, a clear idea of the course of the action can be obtained
(see map below). My own observations from Squadron II, which lay in the Elbe,
are confined to the wireless messages received. About nine o'clock in the
morning the first of these came in. "In squares 142 and 131 [that is 20 sea
miles north-west of Heligoland] enemy cruisers and destroyers are chasing the
5th Flotilla." ¹
¹ - Naval charts are drawn squared, to simplify the
location of places according to length and breadth, in degrees and minutes.
This facilitates delivery of reports or commands and the identification of
places on the chart. The size of the squares, a side of which represents five
or ten sea miles, is governed by the scale of the chart.
The Stettin and Frauenlob (light cruisers)
were sent out to help. Two flotillas of U-boats took up station for attack. The
remaining wireless messages from nine o'clock in the morning to five in the
afternoon gave the following picture:
The ships which took part in the action comprised Destroyer
Flotillas I and V, the light cruisers Mainz, Strassburg, Köln,
Stralsund, Ariadne, Kolberg and Danzig, and two mine-sweeping
On the enemy's side were several cruisers of the "Town "
class, armoured cruisers of the "Shannon " type, four battle-cruisers under the
command of Admiral Beatty in Lion, and about thirty destroyers and eight
About six o'clock in the morning one of these submarines
had fired two torpedoes, which missed, at a ship of Destroyer Flotilla I, which
was retiring to the day patrol line. We had no other information on our side of
the further doings of the English submarines on that day; the weather was
thick, and as there was hardly any wind, visibility in the neighbourhood of
Heligoland was only three to four miles. The upper part of the island was
completely shrouded in mist.
The marine artillery on the island saw nothing of the action
which raged within range of the island in the morning. It was not possible for
our battle-cruisers to put to sea before one o'clock owing to the state of the
tide at the bar of the Outer Jade. Their intervention came too late. The orders
which were issued by the Flag Officer of the German cruisers proceeded on the
assumption that the same weather conditions prevailed outside as in the Jade,
and the cruisers regarded the situation as such that they would be able to
retire in time before a superior force. Unfortunately this was not the case.
Mainz and Köln, all unsuspecting, thus came upon English
battle-cruisers and fell victims to their guns. Our plan of surrounding the
English forces which had penetrated by cutting off their retreat to the west
with Mainz, which was in the Ems, while other light cruisers barred the
way in the north, was actually put into execution before a general view of the
whole situation had made it feasible.
Exceptionally high demands were made on the presence of
mind of the Flag Officers in command when they saw themselves faced with more
powerful ships than they had expected. The battle training of our light
cruisers revealed a high standard of efficiency. In spite of the serious damage
to the ships and heavy losses in personnel, the gun crews served their guns and
overcame the confusion of action with exemplary calm and precision. The bold
intervention of the other ships and the impulse to hasten to where the thunder
of the guns called and bring help, cost us, in addition to the loss of
Köln and Mainz, the loss of the light cruiser
Ariadne, which had been so damaged by fire that the men had to throw
themselves overboard. The question was put whether it would have been of any
avail for our big ships to come out of the estuary. They could have had no
success, and this is obvious enough in view of the prevailing low
In the action between the cruisers and destroyers, the
light cruiser Ariadne and the torpedo-boat "V 187," leader of Flotilla
I, were sunk on our side. Most of the ship's company of Ariadne were
saved by Stralsund and Danzig. Half of that of "V 187 were taken
off by other ships of Flotilla I.
" Wireless communication with Köln and
Mainz has stopped. They are both sunk. Two cruisers (Strassburg
and Stettin) are damaged as well as the torpedo-boats D 8, V I and T 33.
Many dead and wounded. Nothing known of English losses."
After the first news arrived Squadron II was held ready to
45 raise anchor in case battleships were required to go out in support.
However, we received no order to intervene.
The surprise of our patrols by the two English cruisers
Arethusa and Fearless, which were escorted by seventeen
destroyers of the "I" class and fourteen of the "L" class (according to English
reports), was a success for the enemy. The intervention of our two light
cruisers Stettin and Frauenlob limited the losses on our side to
one torpedo-boat, "V 187." As soon as the news of the break-through of light
forces was received all other available light cruisers were sent out to meet
them. In the action that now followed Arethusa and Fearless were
seriously damaged and had to call in the help of the very strong English force
held ready in support and not yet employed. Its intervention put our cruisers
in an evil plight. Very thick weather made a survey of the whole situation
There are some who think that the way in which the light
cruisers went out separately is open to criticism as a piece of temerity. With
the safe withdrawal of Flotillas I and V and the driving off of the cruisers
Arethusa and Fearless as the result of the prompt and resolute
intervention of Stettin and Frauenlob, the English attack had
lost the character of a surprise, and the plan, which involved a great show of
force, had gained but a moderate success with the sinking of "V187." On the
other hand, was a baffled enemy to be allowed to withdraw from the Heligoland
Bight unpursued in broad daylight?
Four weeks had passed before the first occasion had
presented itself of getting to close quarters with the enemy. Were our ships to
content themselves, the first time enemy light forces appeared, with hiding in
the estuaries and make no attempt to deal with the enemy, who might perhaps
fall into our hands if he were badly damaged ? The Flag Officers and commanders
would have incurred a serious reproach if they had neglected to make the
attempt to get to close quarters with the enemy. If the impression of the first
meeting had been a feeling of inferiority and the conviction that we could do
nothing but retire before the English, it would have had an unhappy effect on
the spirit of the ships' companies and the further course of the operations.
The effect produced was exactly the opposite, and we were all burning to avenge
the slap in the face we had received.
The disintegration of the engagement into a number of
detached actions which were fought at close range, owing to the poor
visibility, produced such remarkable examples of the presence of mind and
contempt of death of our men that they deserve better than to sink into
oblivion. I shall therefore give a few extracts from war diaries.
REPORT OF THE ACTION OF THE FLOTILLA LEADER OF THE
DESTROYER FLOTILLA I, WALLIS'V 187 " (Drawn up by Lieutenant Jasper)
"The Flotilla leader ' V187 ' was on patrol (at 16 knots)
about 24 sea miles N.W. to W. of Heligoland on a W.N.W. course. Shortly after
eight o'clock the ship on our right, ' G 194 ' (Lieutenant Commander Buss)
reported: ' Am chased by enemy armoured cruiser.' We turned and made for ' G
194.' At 8.20 A.M. in thick weather, two destroyers came in sight in N.W. about
three miles off, and were reported to S.M.S. Köln by wireless. The
ship bore S.E. to E. and put on speed. The destroyers were kept in sight. After
a short time another four destroyers or cruisers were observed. Accurate
observation impossible owing to failing visibility. ' V 187 ' now put on full
speed and altered course for Heligoland.
"Meanwhile an order from Köln to Flotillas I and V had
been received, ' Make for shelter of Heligoland.' Simultaneously, four
destroyers, which stood between us and Heligoland, emerged from the mist on our
port quarter about four degrees to 50 hm. away. At about 40 hm. they opened an
intermittent fire. ' V 187 ' turned south and replied with her after 8.8 cm.
gun. The destroyers' shooting was mostly very poor. Only at regular intervals
one gun fired shells which passed close over our bridge. The Commander intended
to make shooting difficult by altering course and reaching the Jade or Ems at
top speed. The ship ran 28 or 29 miles. The destroyers had only caught up a
little and were now shooting at about 30 hm. Suddenly an enemy cruiser with
four funnels appeared four points on our starboard bow. She apparently made a
signal with her searchlight to ' V 187 ' or her own destroyers. Immediately
afterwards she fired a series of salvos at 35 to 40 hm. After the third salvo
the shooting was good. As escape was no longer possible the officer in command
decided to close. The whole ship's company with the exception of the stokers
caught hold of firearms and lifebelts. ' V 187 ' ported her helm and tried to
cut her way through.
"The running action was fought at la to 8 hm. The
destroyers, apparently surprised, ceased fire at first, but then they subjected
us to an extremely rapid fire. A shell fell close to the 8.8 cm. gun and put
the crew out of action with the exception of a slightly wounded petty officer.
The forward gun only fired a few rounds after that.
"Another shell fell in stokehold 4 and penetrated the
bunkers. Splinters wounded the stokers, the lights went out, the steam escaped
and the boiler would not fill any more.
"Simultaneously other shots and splinters fell on the
bridge. I turned to starboard with a view to ramming the destroyer immediately
behind us and clearing our way past it.
"Hits now followed one another with rapid succession.
Shells and splinters rained! down, and the ship was completely shrouded in
smoke and fumes.
"The forward turbine was hit twice and stopped. Steam, mixed
with black smoke, poured out of the hatches and ventilators.
"Boiler 2 was damaged and boiler 1 had also received hits.
"Some of the bridge personnel had fallen; the ship had
little way on and was listing to port for no obvious reason. The officer in
command!, who had been seriously wounded, now gave the order to sink the ship.
I took one of the four explosive charges which were on the bridge, set it and
threw it in the forward turbine room. The bridge personnel put two others in
the forward part of the ship.
"Meanwhile two other destroyers coming from the north had
joined in the fight. After fixing up the charges I gave orders to leave the
ship on the leeside of the firing.
"I jumped overboard just before (according to my
calculations) the charges would take effect. The rest of the gun crew of the
after gun, which had continued firing to the last (among them Lieutenant
Braune), sprang simultaneously into the water. The destroyers now ceased fire
and sent out boats. Several men were picked up with lines and buoys. After a
few minutes' swimming about I myself was picked up by an English boat. Just as
I was getting in ' V 187 ' went down by the bows. No one could be seen on deck.
The boat had three other men of the ship's company of 'V 187' on board.
"At that moment a German light cruiser (Stettin)
opened fire on the destroyers. The English boat's crew went on board their
destroyer. I refused to go on board, I with my three men as I did not want to
be made prisoner. The English destroyer then started off at high speed. An
English sailor had let go the hawser apparently in error.
"I then hauled another sixteen survivors into my English
" Another English boat, under the command of an English
officer, was left behind by the destroyers in the evening. It had on board
Lieutenant Braune and several survivors.
"After a considerable time a partially submerged English
submarine came from the east towards us.
"It came right up and took on board the English crew of one
boat and Lieutenant Braune. At first I kept away from the submarine and took
off my monkey jacket lest I should be recognised as an officer and taken
prisoner. The submarine, which had the mark ' E 4 ' on the bows and the number
' 84 ' (as well as ' E 4 ' again) on the conning tower, dived and disappeared,
half submerged, in the west.
"Another smaller English boat, which had on board five more
survivors of ' V 187, ' now came up to me. The three boats then rowed for some
considerable time in an E.S.E. direction towards the German patrol line. They
were subsequently picked up by ' G 4 ' and ' G T I.' The more severely wounded
of our men were bandaged on board the destroyers while the boats were sunk.
After the destroyers had picked up six dead and had tried to identify the spot
at which ' V 187 ' went down from the remains of charts and books, they
proceeded to Heligoland. From there the six dead and forty-four survivors, the
latter including seven severely and about twenty slightly wounded men, were
brought to Wilhelmshaven in the steamer Arngast."
The light cruiser Mainz (Captain Wilhelm Pasche) was
sunk on this day. According to the record made by the First Officer, lieutenant
Tholens, who was taken as a prisoner to England, the action developed as
"The order, ' Mainz immediately put to sea and take
the reported English forces in the rear,' leached the ship at lo A.M. in the
Ems. Thanks to the previous wireless messages from the Wallis Flotilla, she had
steam up in all her boilers and was ready for sea. Mainz could therefore
put out immediately and develop full speed very quickly. A northerly course was
taken at first to cut off the retreat of the enemy ships. The aeroplane at
Borkum, which was placed at the ship's disposal, was sent on in the same
direction. When the ship started from the Ems the weather was calm, the air
clear and visibility good. The conditions for reconnaissance by the aeroplane
appeared to be the best imaginable, but after a short flight it returned
without any results to show. Meanwhile the Mainz had run into haze. This
made a surprise by enemy forces possible. About half-past twelve the
Arethusa, with eight destroyers, appeared in N.E., moving on a westerly
course and distant about 70 hm. To such a degree had visibility already
"To bring the enemy under fire with the starboard guns we
turned to port somewhat on a line of bearing N.N.W. Shortly after the first
salvos, to which the enemy ships replied with some of his guns, the enemy
turned off on a northerly course. The conditions for shooting were extremely
unfavourable, as the enemy ships were very difficult to make out in the haze.
'All the same, several salvos were very well placed, and hits were certainly
observed on two destroyers, one of which wrecked a bridge and put out of action
everyone on it, including the commander. With a view to keeping the enemy in
sight, Mainz herself gradually turned on a northerly course. At 12.45 masses of
smoke were suddenly reported in N.W., and a few minutes later revealed three
cruisers of the ' Birmingham ' class. Mainz immediately turned hard to
starboard, and even as she turned the salvos of the new enemy fell around! her,
and a few minutes later she received the first hits. The fire of
Arethusa and the destroyers, which had now apparently passed out of
sight, had been without result.
"Our own fire was now directed exclusively at the new enemy,
and simultaneously the latter was reported by wireless. By 12.55 P.M. the enemy
cruisers were only distinguishable by the flashes of their guns. Shortly
afterwards even this had ceased, and with it the hail of enemy shells.
Mainz ran 25 sea miles, approximately S.S.W. in the direction of the
eastern Ems, and emitted' large quantities of smoke. Meanwhile almost abreast
on our port beam another cruiser of the ' Birmingham ' class (Fearless)
had come into sight, as well as six destroyers close together and several
others by themselves. In the course of the action which now developed with
these ships and in which several torpedoes were fired at the Mainz, the
helm suddenly jammed at 10° to starboard.
" The order, ' Steer from the wheelhouse,' came through at
the very same moment as the signal from the quartermaster, ' Port your helm.'
The helm remained jammed, however, as the result of an explosion under the
wheelhouse. The result was that although the steering gear throughout the ship
was in working order, all our efforts to steer the ship were without success.
We could only conclude that a hit under water had given the whole rudder a bend
to starboard. The port engine was stopped.
" Mainz slowly turned more and more to starboard, and
thus came again within range of the first three cruisers of the ' Birmingham '
class and the Arethusa, with her eight destroyers. At the same moment
the report reached the bridge that three guns, with their crews, had been
completely put out of action. In the stage of the action that followed, in
which Mainz, with her helm jammed and going round in a circle to
starboard, faced four cruisers of the ' Birmingham ' class and about twenty
destroyers, our own fire was directed exclusively at the enemy destroyers.
Against these only was a success worth mentioning possible. As several of the
destroyers came quite close, it was possible to observe several hits upon them.
"Meanwhile casualty had followed upon casualty on the
Mainz. About 1.20 P.M. most of the guns and gun crews were already out
of action. The decks were shot to pieces. The sending up of ammunition had come
to a standstill, and more than once compartments under the armoured deck had to
be cleared on account of the danger from smoke and gas. The starboard engine
could only go half speed.
" It was in this condition that about 1.20 P.M. the ship was
struck by a torpedo amidships on the port beam. The effect of this on the
conning-tower was that the whole apparatus for transmitting orders, with the
exception of the speaking-tube and telephones to the central and torpedo rooms,
were put out of action. The commander thereupon gave the order, ' Abandon ship,
ship's company get clear with life-belts,' and left the conning-tower. This
order, however, only reached the nearest action-stations, and accordingly was
only carried out in part. As the result of the torpedo we had stopped firing
everywhere. At this moment the First Gunnery Officer and the Torpedo Officer
were in the conning-tower. The First Officer, who thought that the Commander
must have fallen and knew nothing of his last order, gave orders to resume
firing, and tried to launch some torpedoes. The torpedoes he fired, one from
port at a light cruiser and two from starboard at destroyers, had no luck, as
the enemy ships kept out of torpedo range. On the enemy's side two
battle-cruisers had now intervened in the action. Whether they also tried to
get in a few hits has never been definitely ascertained. In the Mainz
only the first and fifth starboard guns were now in action."
The picture of the scene below decks after the explosion of
the torpedo is amplified by the following observations of the senior surviving
engineer, whose action-station was by the pumps.
" 1.15 P.M. - Hit by a torpedo. The ship staggered, heeled
over quite sensibly and remained thus for a considerable time. Took even longer
to right herself. The emergency lights went out. All the glass which was not
already broken by concussion of the bursting shells was now broken. The
electric light became dim and gradually went out. In the end our electric
torches were the only light we had. The engines ceased to revolve. The gauge
already showed that the ship was slowly settling by the head. The efforts to
ascertain where the hole was were without result, as we could no longer get a
reply from any of the compartments. After a short pause we could hear that
firing had been resumed, but when the firing, and shortly afterwards the hail
of enemy shells ceased, we could not get into touch with any other part of the
ship. The conning-tower, too, did not reply. The water that poured out of the
speaking-tube showed that the water had reached the armoured deck, and
therefore that the flooded compartments must be submerged.
" As the ship was bound to sink very soon, amidships was
now cleared. Between-decks over the armoured deck was so full of smoke that you
could not see a yard ahead. Both the companions leading up from there were shot
to pieces. It was only by scrambling through the holes made by shells, over the
relics of hatches and lockers, that we managed to get out. The space under the
forecastle was also filled with smoke from right forward as far as over the
"As soon as the firing had ceased on all sides the English
ships made the greatest efforts to pick up the survivors. At a summons from the
Mainz, which had not listed at all until about 2 o'clock, a destroyer
came alongside the stern to take the wounded on board. All the wounded whose
cases did not seem perfectly hopeless were thus removed to the destroyer,
assisted by everybody who had not yet left the ship. About 2.10 P.M.
Mainz heeled over to port and sank."
For a last example I will give the report of the action
prepared by Captain Seebohm, commanding the light cruiser Ariadne-:
"On the 28th August S.M.S. Ariadne, flagship of the
Harbour Flotilla of the Jade and Weser, was lying in the Outer Jade. On hearing
the sound of guns about 9 o'clock, and more particularly on receiving a
wireless from Stettin that cruiser support was requested, Ariadne
set a course for Heligoland. Near the Outer Jade Lightship she met the cruiser
Köln, flagship of Rear-Admiral Maass, which was making west at high
speed. Ariadne then took much the same westerly course as Köln,
which had soon disappeared in the haze. We received further wireless messages
from Mainz and Strassburg that they were in action with enemy
" Avoiding a certain area where a minefield was suspected,
we steered towards the position of the ships named. Judging by her wireless
reports, Köln appeared to be taking the same course. About l0
o'clock an enemy submarine was sighted square on our port beam. It immediately
dived, and seemed at first to be manuvring for position, but then
suddenly disappeared, so that we had no chance to fire.
" Shortly afterwards gunfire was heard on our port bow, and
we made straight in that direction. Shortly before 2 P.M. there emerged from
the mist two ships, one of which, on our starboard bow, did not reply to our
signal. It was recognised as an armoured cruiser so we immediately turned
about. The second ship was Köln, which was being chased and would
doubtless have got away if Ariadne had not appeared. The enemy
immediately shifted his fire from Köln to Ariadne. Ariadne
soon received a hit forward which started a fire in the coal, so that the
stokehold had to be abandoned on account of the danger from smoke. Five boilers
were thus put out of action and Ariadne's speed was reduced to fifteen
knots. Behind the enemy, which, judging by its silhouette, was the English
Flagship Lion, a second English armoured cruiser soon appeared and
joined in the action, firing at Ariadne for about half an hour at a
range of from 45 to 60 hm., at times even from 33 hm. This last distance is
only an estimate, as by now all the recording instruments were out of action.
Ariadne received many hits from heavy guns, among them a whole series
aft, which was soon enveloped in flames. Such of the personnel there as made
good their escape owed it entirely to luck. The fore part of the ship also
received a number of serious hits, one of which penetrated the armoured deck
and put the torpedo chamber out of action, while another destroyed the sick-bay
and killed its personnel. Amidships and the bridge, strange to say, were almost
entirely spared. It is perfectly impossible to say how many hits in all the
ship received. Apparently many shells passed through the rigging and were
thereby detonated. Others were observed to fall in the water without
detonating. Many others passed to right and left as Ariadne was running away
from the enemy and offered but a small target.
"The English salvos followed in succession with somewhat
long pauses. The shells produced their effect mainly by starting fires. All the
living quarters fore and aft were immediately in flames. The tremendous flames
made it impossible to extinguish a fire which had once started. Further, the
fire-extinguishers on the armoured deck had been utterly destroyed.
"About 2.30 the enemy suddenly turned west. I assume that he
could no longer distinguish the Ariadne, which was enveloped in smoke
from the fires. On the Ariadne the undamaged guns were still being
worked and independently of the fire-control, as there were no means of
transmitting orders. Further, the fumes from the ship made it impossible to see
anything from the bridge.
"In spite of the enemy's annihilating fire the ship's
company worked with the greatest calm, as if on manuvres. The wounded
were carried down by the stretcher-bearers. All ratings tried to carry out such
repairs as were possible by themselves. The First Officer was carried away by a
shell while between decks with the repairing section.
"After the enemy turned away I first ordered 'all hands' to
extinguish the fire. This turned out to be impossible as we could no longer get
aft and the ship had to be cleared forward as well almost at once. On the order
' Flood the magazine,' the men ran to the forward magazine. It was ascertained
that this was already under water. It was impossible to get to the magazine
aft. A previous attempt to open the compartments 1 and 2 where some of the men
were still imprisoned proved witless, as the deckplates had been bent by
shells. The engine-room and the after boiler room had remained uninjured
throughout, and the same was true of the rudder. The telegraph apparatus
failed. The cable was apparently cut by an explosion under the conning-tower.
"The heat and smoke made it more and more unpleasant to
remain on the ship, and it was even worse when the ammunition piled round the
guns began to go off. These explosions, however, did not do much damage. A
large number of small splinters were scattered which, for example, penetrated
the bridge from below.
"The ship's company assembled in perfect order on the
fo'c'sle, whither the wounded also had been brought. I asked for three cheers
for His Majesty and then the flag hymn and ' Deutschland, Deutschland uber
alles' was sung. Even the wounded joined in. One man asked for three cheers for
"Just before 3 o'clock S.M.S. Danzig (Captain Reiss)
came up and sent boats to us. As has already been mentioned, we had not
suffered so severely amidships and it was therefore possible to lower the
Ariadne's cutters also. The first to be put in the boats were the
wounded, who were lowered from the fo'c'sle with ropes. As it gradually became
impossible to remain on the fo'c'sle the rest of the ship's company jumped into
the sea at the word of command. Some of the stronger swimmers swam all the way
to the Danzig and Stralsund (Captain Harder), which had also
approached. The non-swimmers, who had lifebelts and rafts, were picked up by
the boats. Meanwhile the fire on the shipwhich was guttedhad died
down somewhat, and the explosions were less frequent. I therefore betook myself
to Stralsund with a few men who had returned in Ariadne's boat,
in order to request her captain to take Ariadne in tow. However, just
about this time Ariadne suddenly heeled over to port and then capsized
to starboard. The keel was visible for some time above the water."
If it was already known that the Heligoland Bight was
insufficiently protected, because our scouting did not extend far enough, this
day brought us the knowledge that a determined raid of the enemy against our
weak forward patrol must inflict loss upon us every time. By the repetition of
such surprises it might gradually be worn away altogether, while the Fleet got
very little value out of its patrolling operations. The continuous employment
of personnel and material on patrol work in the lengthening nights weakened
both and thereby prejudiced the efficiency for their main taskto fight
the enemy fleet. The unmolested irruption of the enemy cruisers and destroyers
and the complete freedom of movement they had enjoyed in the Heligoland Bight
must be made much more difficult, as also must the perpetual harassing
operations of English submarines, although the latter had not hitherto
displayed any great skill in torpedo work.
Far-reaching changes were made in both directions. As
regards the patrol service a large number of armed fishing steamers were
secured and prepared with the utmost despatch. They had previously been
employed only in the harbour flotillas, which looked after the security of the
estuaries. Moreover, in the middle of September two large minefields were laid
west of Heligoland, which increased the danger for the enemy and offered a safe
retreat for our patrols when they were hard pressed.
On September 13 an English submarine, "E 9," succeeded in
torpedoing the cruiser Hela south of Heligoland. The ship took twenty
minutes to sink, so that there was time to save the whole ship's company, and
our losses were limited to three men killed where the torpedo exploded..
The minefields before Heligoland proved effective, and in
conjunction with progressive defensive measures such as aeroplanes and the
equipment of our patrols with weapons which could be employed offensively
against submerged submarines (such weapons were wholly lacking at the beginning
of the war), kept the inner area so clear that the danger from submarines came
at last to be quite a rare and exceptional possibility.
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