First sinking of a U-boat by a Q-ship around the Irish Coast on 22 March 1916 100 years ago today on 22 March 1916 the commander of the German U-boat U-68 (pictured below) spotted a Merchant Navy vessel off the coast of SW Ireland near Dunmore Head and decided to attack. He fired a torpedo which missed its target but, seeing the panic on board the merchantman, decided to surface in order to sink her with his gun. Little did he realise he was attacking the 3200 tonne Q-Ship HMS Farnborough. Q-Ship’s were merchantmen armed with concealed weaponry. They were intended to lure submarines to the surface before exposing the weaponry, typically a deck gun, and opening fire upon the submarine. The name ‘Q-ship’ is derived from the name of their WW1 base i.e. Queenstown, Co Cork. One such Q-ship, HMS Result (built in Carrickfergus), is on display at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. The term ‘Panic Stations’ originates with Q-ships. Once a Q-ship was attacked, the order ‘Hands to Panic Stations’ would be given. This would result in the crew acting panicked, possibly launching lifeboats to give the impression of abandoning ship, in order to draw attention away from the remaining crew who would be preparing to fire the weaponry. On board HMS Farnborough, Lieutenant Commander Gordon Campbell ordered ‘Panic Stations’ upon seeing the torpedo. The panic party got away in a lifeboat and the remaining crew readied the deck gun. U-68 surfaced and closed in on Farnborough from astern which duly raised its White Ensign and opened fire hitting U-68 which quickly dived. Farnborough manoeuvred into position and dropped a depth charge which lifted the bow of U-68 to the surface. This allowed Farnborough to open fire gaining further hits on the submarine’s conning tower which soon disappeared beneath the surface. Farnborough dropped two further depth charges which sealed the fate of the already sinking U-68 with the loss of all hands. As a result of his actions, Lieutenant Commander Campbell was promoted to Commander and awarded a DSO. HMS Farnborough was later torpedoed by U-83, beached and subsequently scrapped (see picture below). GRATEFUL, hired drifter, 25 March 1916, North Channel - 107grt, built 1907, Inverness-reg INS322, hired 2/15 as net drifter, 1-3pdr, Admiralty No.2399, 9 crew, Skipper W Ralph (He - Skipper John Reaich RNR), sailing in WNW force 8 gale and snow storm. Driven ashore 100yds from Lloyd's Signal Station, Torr Head, Co Antrim (wi - in 55.11.50N, 06.03.45W); Coastguard called Portrush RNLI, but coxswain “reluctant to leave the harbour in such heavy seas”, later launched with another coxswain and volunteers from Portstewart as well as Portrush, reached the scene at 0900, but all crew already rescued by breeches buoy three hours before. Salvaged, served in WW2 (H/C/D/He/dk/wi) BEGONIA, fleet sweeping sloop, 29 March 1916, Atlantic off S Ireland - Azalea-class, 1,200t, on patrol. Torpedoed by U.44 (Paul Wagenführ), towed into Queenstown; 2 ratings lost. Reconstructed at Haulbowline to resemble small coaster 1916-17, commissioned 8/17 as Q-ship Q.10 (Cn/D/qs/un) ZYLPHA, Q-ship/special service ship, 12 April 1916, Atlantic off SW Ireland - ex-collier, 2,917grt, built 1894, in service from 9/15 as Q.6, 3-12pdr, Lt-Cdr John Macleod. Submerged U-boat attempted torpedo attack, but failed. Zylpha proceeded to Bantry Bay to alter her appearance (Cn/D/qs/sk) BLUEBELL, fleet sweeping sloop, 23 April 1916, Irish waters – during the Irish Easter Rebellion, Bluebell intercepted German auxiliary Libau, disguised as Norwegian tramp SS Aud carrying arms in support of the Irish rebellion. Aud scuttled off Queenstown GERMAN RAID ON LOWESTOFT AND YARMOUTH, 25 April 1916, North Sea - The German High Seas Fleet was expected to make a demonstration in the North Sea, possibly in support of the Irish Easter Rising which broke out on the 24th. Grand Fleet was ordered out, together with Harwich Force which included 5th LCS Conquest (broad pendant, Cdre Tyrwhitt), Cleopatra and Penelope, leader Lightfoot with 7 destroyers, followed by leader Nimrod with 8 more, then by two divisions of L-class destroyers operating with Dover Patrol. Sailing on the night of 24th/25th, Harwich Force ran up the East coast while destroyer Melampus with six Yarmouth-based submarines positioned them first between Southwold and the Hook of Holland, then in a more northerly position. The German 1st SG, less Seydlitz which struck a mine that morning, was sailing to bombard Lowestoft and Yarmouth. Harwich Force sighted the Germans about 0350 and tried to induce them to chase south, but instead Lowestoft was badly shelled around 0410. The 1st SG then headed north for Yarmouth, Harwich Force followed and probably helped save Yarmouth from a full half hour battlecruiser bombardment. Tyrwhitt opened fire on the German light cruisers at 0430, the battlecruisers stopped bombarding to support their cruisers, and were sighted at 0445, following which Tyrwhitt turned south and came under heavy, accurate fire. Cruiser Conquest, now at the rear of 5th LCS line was severely punished and destroyer Laertes damaged. The Germans now headed back home, their retirement covered by Flanders-based U-boats including UB.18 and UB.29 off Lowestoft/Yarmouth. Adm Beatty's battlecruisers, Harwich Force and the submarines continued to search and seek action, then as Harwich Force returned home after recall, Penelope was torpedoed just before 1000 and patrolling submarine E.22 sunk around 1145: BRADFORD, hired trawler, 28 October 1916, Atlantic off S Ireland - 163grt, built 1896, Grimsby-reg GY132, Consolidated Steam Fishing & Ice, hired 1915 (D - 11/14) as patrol vessel, 1-6pdr, Admiralty No.829, 12 crew, Skipper William Bruce RNR, believed Queenstown-based, took part in rescuing Lusitania survivors in 1915, on patrol. (dk - casualties dated lost 26th) – last seen at 1640 on the 26th, disappeared and believed foundered in gale off Old Head of Kinsale, Co Cork, presumed on the 28th (wi - in 51.30N, 08.30W); Skipper and 11 ratings lost, no survivors (H/Lr/C/D/He/ap/dk/wi; ADM.137/455) FILEY, Admiralty trawler, 2 October 1916, Atlantic off N Ireland - 226grt, built 1914, Hull-reg H8, Hull Steam Fishing, purchased 1915, in service from 3/15, 1-12pdr, Admiralty No.1363, Skipper Daniel Stather RNR, serving as patrol vessel. Driven ashore in high winds and seas in Camusmore Bay, Tory Is, off Co Donegal, wrecked and abandoned; no lives lost. Salved 1917 (D/He - salved in 1917 and re-acquired July 1918), believed assigned new Admiralty No.3826, sold 1920 (H/Lr/C/D/He/dk/hw; ADM.137/282) DAFFODIL, fleet sweeping sloop, 15 December 1916, believed southern Ireland – serving with 1st Sloop flotilla, Queenstown. Damaged in collision, one man DOI next day (dk/pl) Mark McCrea
On Saturday 19th March, participants of North Belfast Remembers set sail glass bottles with LED lights and details of individual men and women from North Belfast who served in the First World War. Adults and children across North Belfast took part in workshops to tell the stories of First World War servicemen from their areas. The adults have researched a serviceman and written a letter to a local child about his life. Each child received a letter and designed their glass bottle to represent his story. This memorial event was the culmination of the project when the participants released their letters in painted glass bottles into the water at the Titanic Pump House near HMS Caroline. Members of the public were invited to bring their ancestor’s story and write a message for a bottle which was provided on site and was thrown into Alexandra Dock. The sea of lights was a poignant reminder of those who died in the First World War. Adult groups taking part were: The Hubb Community Resource Centre on the Shore Road, Survivors of Trauma Centre from Cliftonville, Alexandra Presbyterian Church on the York Road, Dalariada Community Organisation, ACT North Belfast and Brantwood History Group from Skegoneill Avenue. Children’s groups taking part were the Hammer Youth Centre and Clonard Youth, the Church of God Boys Brigade on the Shankill, The Hubb Community Resource Centre on the Shore Road and Ardoyne Youth Club. This project has been funded by Belfast City Council and Community Relations Council.
Public Call: North Belfast Remembers - Add your story to our Sea of Lights: Bring your ancestor’s story, write your message in a bottle, and add to a sea of lights to remember those who died in the First World War. On Saturday 19th March at 7pm, participants of North Belfast Remembers will set sail glass bottles with LED lights and details of individual men and women from North Belfast who served in the First World War. All members of the community are invited to attend. Bring your ancestor’s story and write your own message to place into bottles which will be provided on site and can be thrown into the channel. If you would like to write a letter for a bottle, please arrive at the Titanic Pump House at 6.30pm. The event will begin at 7pm. Members of the public will need to pay for car parking. Adults and children across North Belfast have been taking part in workshops to tell the stories of First World War servicemen from their areas. At workshops in North Belfast, the adults have researched a serviceman and written a letter to a local child about his life. Each child has received a letter and designed their glass bottle to represent his story. This memorial event is the culmination of the project when the participants release their letters in painted glass bottles into the water at the Titanic Pump House near HMS Caroline. The sea of lights will serve as a poignant reminder of those lost during the First World War.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), supported by the World War One Centenary Committee in Northern Ireland, have announced details of Living Memory – a project to highlight and engage communities in Northern Ireland with the 2,700 war graves of the two world wars to be found there in 400 cemeteries and burial grounds. The Living Memory Project is designed to raise awareness of the 300,000 war graves and commemorations in the UK. In 2016, the CWGC, in partnership with Big Ideas Company, are asking the public to re-connect with the war dead buried in their own communities. CWGC wants the public to visit these sites, take a personal interest in those buried there, organise a commemoration of their own and ultimately, champion these places – tell their friends or other local community groups that these war graves must not be forgotten. Funding and a creative resource pack will be available from March 2016 for community groups in Northern Ireland wishing to participate in this initiative. The Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson MP is supporting the project and said: “As chairman of the Northern Ireland World War One Centenary Committee, I am delighted to be co-hosting this event at the Linen Hall Library to highlight the fact we have a significant number of war graves here in Northern Ireland, including many associated with those who died during the First World War. The CWGC has undertaken excellent work to preserve and maintain these graves and I believe it’s important to increase awareness of the graves and to encourage local people to visit during the current centenary period. The fact is that you don't have to travel to France or Belgium to visit a WW1 war grave. There may be one in your local cemetery." Mr Colin Kerr, CWGC Director of External Relations, explained: “Living Memory is about discovering, exploring and remembering those war graves to be found in cemeteries, churchyards and burial grounds here at home. “When people hear about the First World War, they think of the large, set-piece battles on the Western Front, and the cemeteries and memorials there that the CWGC maintains. But there are war graves and memorials literally on your doorstep – many lie in forgotten corners of graveyards. The CWGCs Living Memory initiative aids their rediscovery and remembrance. “Living Memory presents a unique opportunity for communities to work together to gain a fuller understanding of the war’s impact and the ongoing importance of remembrance.” Big Ideas Chief Executive, Virginia Crompton, said: “When you stand at the graveside of someone who lost their life in war some of the politics of the past fall away. The headstone brings you back to the individual, and their family. It’s a powerful reminder of the impact of war. The Living Memory project is an opportunity for us all to make a very simple and human gesture in remembering those who died in the two world wars and are buried near us. We are proud to be working with the CWGC to invite communities to take part.” Mr Ken Best was one of those who took part in a pilot of the Living Memory Project in November 2015. He said: “The opportunity to participate in the CWGC Living Memory Pilot was enthusiastically embraced by The Grammarians, the Association of Old Boys of Bangor Grammar School. The School has a long tradition of remembering the former pupils who served and died in both world wars. The Guided Walk to Bangor Cemetery in November 2015, to pay our respects at some of the war graves opened up a new dimension to remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice as well as bringing the knowledge about these graves in the town to the wider community.” To support the initiative, the CWGC is bringing a number of its unique archive documents to Northern Ireland for the very first time. The documents include details of how the CWGC commemorated a female typist, Sarah Hale, who died in the sinking of the SS Lusitania in 1915 and correspondence between CWGC Founder Fabian Ware and Belfast City Hall over the care of war graves.