HMS Warspite encounters a U-boat after Jutland
HMS WARSPITE: HIDDEN MENACE

*At Jutland, HMS Warspite was in the thick of the action. Battle damage forced the new Queen Elizabeth Class battleship to return early to Rosyth for repairs. At 6.00am on June 1 1916, Warspite was about to enter a danger zone off Scotland, where German submarines traditionally lurked to attack British warships leaving or returning from the Firth of Forth. At 7.00am the upper-deck 6-inch guns were readied for an attack. Just after 9.30am, a U-boat fired two torpedoes, which passed down either side of the battleship. The Warspite increased her speed to 21 knots and zig-zagged away as fast as she could - but with some underwater compartments flooded, the battleship felt sluggish. At 10.00am a 6-inch gun opened fire at what looked like a U-boat off the port quarter, which had just fired a torpedo. Despite firing eight rounds Warspite's gun hit nothing. Surgeon Lieutenant Ellis had followed the torpedo track: "It had come from astern, and, as we watched, the periscope and top of the conning tower of the submarine from which it had been despatched emerged above the surface about half-a-mile distant on the port quarter. The gun's crew of the port 6-inch on the forecastle deck immediately fired in its direction and the shell pitched sufficiently close for the spray to hide all sight of it. It probably wasn't a hit, but at any rate when the spray subsided it was no longer visible..."

Not long after, a submarine periscope was seen right under the battleship's bows. Despite Warspite's delicate condition an attempt to ram the U-boat was made - the 6-inch guns opened up, too. But it was all in vain as the target, the lucky U-63, disappeared unharmed. Surgeon Lieutenant Ellis also observed this attack from Warspite's upper deck: "He dived in such a hurry that his tail came up out of the water."

*Edited extracts from 'WARSPITE: Ships of the Royal Navy' by Iain Ballantyne.

 


image
image