Archiver > MARINERS > 2005-03 > 1111432673

Date: Mon, 21 Mar 2005 14:17:53 EST


It is pretty certain that the Duchess of Bedford did not sink any submarine,
German, Italian or otherwise. However, during both World War 1 and World
War 2 merchant ships were given armament for self protection (they were
referred to as Defensively Equipped or Defensively Armed Merchant Ships) and carried
trained gunnery crews to man the guns.
There were several encounters, particularly during WW1, in which the
embarked gun crews exchanged fire with a surfaced submarine - if it became clear to
a submarine commander that he had bitten off more than he could chew, it was
prudent to submerge. Such encounters not infrequently led to claims that
the sub. had been sunk.


Changing tack slightly, but still on the subject of merchant ships versus
submarines, one should not forget the loss of HM submarine H-5. In March 1918
the merchant ship Rutherglen encountered a surfaced submarine in the southern
Irish Sea; believing her to be a U-boat the Master of the Rutherglen altered
course and rammed the boat sinking her, with no survivors. Despite the fact
that the Admiralty had realised that the vessel sunk was British, they
allowed the crew to believe that they had sunk a U-boat, and carried the deception
so far that they did not object to the award of the D.S.O. to the
Master......the news that a British submarine had been rammed might have made others

David H

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