Encyclopedia - Sinking of the 'Sussex'

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson Germany sparked an international diplomatic crisis when, on 24 March 1916, one of its submarines - UB-29, mistakenly sank a French cross-channel ferry - the Sussex of 1,350 tons - believing it instead to be a minelayer.

The ensuing crisis stemmed from the 25 American civilian casualties (out of a total of 80 casualties, including 50 fatalities) who were on board the Sussex.  The torpedoed ferry nevertheless managed to limp onwards, towed to the French port of Boulogne.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson consequently addressed Congress on 19 April 1916, vehemently condemning the German action.  During the course of his speech he demanded "that unless the Imperial German Government should now immediately declare and effect an abandonment of its present method of warfare against passenger and freight carrying vessels this Government can have no choice but to sever diplomatic relations with the Government of the German Empire altogether".

German reaction - and alarm - in the wake of Wilson's speech was swift.  Five days later, on 24 April 1916, Germany abandoned its U-boat campaign directed around Britain and the Mediterranean.  Henceforth passenger ships were to be left unmolested and merchantman searched before being sunk.

A Kite Balloon was an observation balloon controlled by a cable from the ground.

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