Primary Documents - Report on the Sinking of the Aboukir, Cressy and Hogue by the U-9, 22 September 1914

Otto Weddigen Reproduced below is a report of the sinking of three British cruisers - the Aboukir, Cressy and Hogue - by a single German U-boat, U-9, on 22 September 1914.

Written by the commander of the Cressy, Bertram W.L. Nicholson, the report describes the rapid sinking of all three vessels, and of the subsequent rescue operation.

Click here to read an account of the operation by the commander of U-9, Otto Weddigen.

Report on the Sinking of the Cressy, Aboukir and Hogue by Commander Bertram W. L. Nicholson


I have the honour to submit the following report in connection with the sinking of H.M.S. Cressy, in company with H.M.S. Aboukir and Hogue, on the morning of the 22nd of September, while on patrol duty.

The Aboukir was struck at about 6.25 a.m. on the starboard beam.  The Hogue and Cressy closed and took up a position, the Hogue ahead of the Aboukir, and the Cressy about 400 yards on her port beam.

As soon as it was seen that the Aboukir was in danger of sinking all the boats were sent away from the Cressy, and a picket boat was hoisted out without steam up.  When cutters full of the Aboukir's men were returning to the Cressy the Hogue was struck, apparently under the aft 9.2 magazine, as a very heavy explosion took place immediately.  Almost directly after the Hogue was hit we observed a periscope on our port bow about 300 yards off.

Fire was immediately opened and the engines were put full speed ahead with the intention of running her down.  Our gunner, Mr. Dougherty, positively asserts that he hit the periscope and that the submarine sank.  An officer who was standing alongside the gunner thinks that the shell struck only floating timber, of which there was much about, but it was evidently the impression of the men on deck, who cheered and clapped heartily, that the submarine had been hit.  This submarine did not fire a torpedo at the Cressy.

Capt. Johnson then manoeuvred the ship so as to render assistance to the crews of the Hogue and Aboukir.  About five minutes later another periscope was seen on our starboard quarter and fire was opened.  The track of the torpedo she fired at a range of 500 to 600 yards was plainly visible and it struck us on the starboard side just before the after-bridge.

The ship listed about 10 degrees to the starboard and remained steady.  The time was 7.15 a.m.  All the watertight doors, deadlights and scuttles had been securely closed before the torpedo struck the ship.  All the mess stools and table shores, and all available timber below and on deck, had been previously got up and thrown over side for the saving of life.

A second torpedo fired by the same submarine missed and passed about 10 feet astern.  About a quarter of an hour after the first torpedo had hit, a third torpedo fired from a submarine just before the starboard beam hit us under the No. 5 boiler room.  The time was 7.30 a.m.  The ship then began to heel rapidly, and finally turned keel up, remaining so for about twenty minutes before she finally sank, at 7.55 a.m.

A large number of men were saved by casting adrift on Pattern 3 target.  The steam pinnace floated off her clutches, but filled and sank.

The second torpedo which struck the Cressy passed over the sinking hull of the Aboukir, narrowly missing it.  It is possible that the same submarine fired all three torpedoes at the Cressy.

The conduct of the crew was excellent throughout.  I have already remarked on the bravery displayed by Capt. Phillips, master of the trawler L.T. Coriander, and his crew, who picked up 156 officers and men.

The report of the Admiralty of Commander Reginald A, Norton, late of H.M.S. Hogue, follows:

Commander Norton's Report

I have the honour to report as follows concerning the sinking of the Hogue, Aboukir, and Cressy: Between 6.15 and 6.30 a.m., H.M.S. Aboukir was struck by a torpedo.  The Hogue closed on the Aboukir and I received orders to hoist out the launch, turn out and prepare all boats, and unlash all timber on the upper deck.

Two lifeboats were sent to the Aboukir, but before the launch could get away the Hogue was struck on the starboard side amidships by two torpedoes at intervals of ten to twenty seconds.  The ship at once began to heel to starboard.

After ordering the men to provide themselves with wood, hammocks, etc., and to get into the boats on the booms and take off their clothes, I went, by Capt. Nicholson's direction, to ascertain the damage done in the engine room.  The artificer engineer informed me that the water was over the engine room gratings.

While endeavouring to return to the bridge the water burst open the starboard entry port doors and the ship heeled rapidly.  I told the men in the port battery to jump overboard, as the launch was close alongside, and soon afterward the ship lurched heavily to starboard.

I clung to a ringbolt for some time, but eventually was dropped on to the deck, and a huge wave washed me away.  I climbed up the ship's side and again was washed off.  Eventually, after swimming about from various over-laden pieces of wreckage, I was picked up by a cutter from the Hogue, Coxswain L. S. Marks, which pulled about for some hours, picking up men and discharging them to our picket boat and steam pinnace and to the Dutch steamers Flora and Titan, and rescued, in this way, Commander Sells of the Aboukir, Engineer Commander Stokes (with legs broken), Fleet Paymaster Eldred, and about 120 others.

Finally, about 11 a.m., when we could find no more men in the water, we were picked up by the Lucifer, which proceeded to the Titan and took off from her all our men except about twenty who were too ill to be moved.

A Lowestoft trawler and the two Dutch ships Flora and Titan were extraordinarily kind, clothing and feeding our men.  My boat's crew, consisting mainly of Royal Navy Reserve men, pulled and behaved remarkably well.  I particularly wish to mention Petty Officer Halton, who, by encouraging the men in the water near me, undoubtedly saved many lives.

Lieut. Commander Phillips-Wolley, after hoisting out the launch, asked me if we should try to hoist out another boat, and endeavoured to do so.  The last I saw of him was on the after-bridge, doing well.

Lieut. Commander Tillard was picked up by a launch.  He got up a cutter's crew and saved many lives, as did Midshipman Cazalet in the Cressy's gig.  Lieut. Chichester turned out the whaler very quickly.

A Dutch sailing trawler sailed close by, but went off without rendering any assistance, although we signalled to her from the Hogue to close after we were struck.

The Aboukir appeared to me to take about thirty-five minutes to sink, floating bottom up for about five minutes.  The Hogue turned turtle very quickly - in about five minutes - and floated bottom up for several minutes.

A dense black smoke was seen in the starboard battery, whether from coal or torpedo cordite I could not say.  The upper deck was not blown up, and only one other small explosion occurred and we heeled over.

The Cressy I watched heel over from the cutter.  She heeled over to starboard very slowly, dense black smoke issuing from her when she attained an angle of about 90 degrees, and she took a long time from this angle till she floated bottom up with the starboard screw slightly out of water, I consider it was thirty-five to forty-five minutes from the time she was struck till she was bottom up.

All the men on the Hogue behaved extraordinarily well, obeying orders even when in the water swimming for their lives, and I witnessed many cases of great self-sacrifice and gallantry.

I have the honour to submit that I may be appointed to another ship as soon as I can get a kit.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. II, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

'Whippet' was a term used to describe any light tank.

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