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German submarine activities on the Atlantic coast of the United States and Canada online

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spoke slightly, and afterwards in English.

The prize officer and six men of the submarine got into the boat and rowed back
to the Sydland with the captain, and asked if he had any license from the German
Government to show that the Sydland was a Belgian relief ship. As the captain
could not produce the necessary German papers, the prize officer returned to the
Bubmaiine and at 4.10 p. m. came back to the Sydland with papers from the com-
manding officer of the submarine stating that the Sydland must be sunk. Orders
were given to the crew of the Sydland to man the boats, and at 4.25 p. m. they aban-
doned the ship. Between 2.30 p. m. and 4 p. m. the submarine had moved, and
at the time the ship was abandoned she was lying about a ship's length on the star-
board side of the Sydland. Capt. Larson protested against leaving his ship, and
demanded a paper from the prize officer showing for what reason he was about to
sink the vessel. After a little conversation he gave the captain a document, copy of
which was obtained by this office.

After the vessel was abandoned the boats rowed about five or six ship's lengths
from the submarine and one of the boats went alongside of the submarine to obtain
the proper course to steer for land. The course was furnished to the man in the boat,
and the crew of the submarine were very insolent. The boats started to row away,
steering on a coui'se due west. As they were rowing away, the captain noticed that
a number of the men fi-om the submarine were making for the Sydland. The last
seen of the submarine was about 5 p. m., as the weather grew foggy and it was impos-
sible to see after that time. When last seen the submarine was alongside the Sydland.

At 8 o'clock p. m., August 8, while the crew of the Sydland was still rowing, three
or four explosions were heard, three loud and one very slight, which it was thought
to be explosions of bombs on the Sydland. At the time that the prize officer returned
to the Sydland, about 4.10 p. m., he brought three bombs on board the Sydland.
These bombs were round and appeared to be about 12-inch and were painted gray.

One of the members of the crew of the submarine told the second officer of the
Sydland that he had been chief officer on board one of the Hamburg-American Line
vessels, that he was married in New York, and that although he was qualified to be
an officer in the German Naval Reserve he had to take the place of a seaman on a
submarine because he was married in New York and had a brother in the United
States Navy.

The sinking of the S. S. Sydland has previously been charged to
TJ-117, but a comparison of the receipt given to Capt. Larsen for
his ship and that given to Capt. Hans Thorbyonsen for his ship (the
San Jose, which is known to have been sunk by the TJ-156) proves
conclusively that the loss of the Sydland should be charged to the
account of the TJ-156. Further evidence develops in the fact that
while the TJ-156 was busy with the Sydland, the U. S. S. Tingey
sighted another submarine, without doubt the TJ-117, Smiles south-
east of Sable Island.

A photographic copy and a translation of the two receipts are as



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(Page 61.)

THE U-156. 61

17. August, 1918.
Der norwegische Dampfer San Jose wurde von einem Deiitschen Unterseeboot
angehalten iind versenkt: da keinerlei Charter party an Bord, auf Grund eines
Schreibens vom 2. Juli 1918 aber anzunehmen war, dass der Dampfer in Charter der
Britischen Fimia Fnrness-Wihtj^ & Co. (Furness Withy & Co.) fuhr. Ein Schreiben
vom 31. Juli 1918 konnte diese Annahme nicht wiederlegen.

J. Knoeckel, Obit. z. S. d. R.

August 17, 1918.

The Norwegian steamer San Jose was stopped by a German submarine and sunk,

as there was no charter party on board, but it was to be concluded on accoimt of a

communication of July 2, 1918, that the steamer ran imder the charter of the British

firm Furness-Withy & Co. A communication of July 31, 1918, could not contradict

this assumption.

J. Knoeckel, Lieutenant.

Rederi: S. S. "Sydland,"

Axel Brostrom & Co. den 19. .


Ich bescheinige dass der Dampfer Sydland von einem Deutschen Unterseeboot
am 8. August 1918 angehalten worden ist. Auf Grund der Charter party und des
ganzlichen Fehlens jeder Deutschen Bescheinigung, dass das Schiff fiir den Dienst
der Commission of Belgian Relief bestimmt, ist das Schiff aufgebracht, da der Verdacht
der feindlichen Bestimmung als bewiesen gilt.

J. Knoeckel, Obit. z. S.

Shipowners: S. S. "Sydland,"

Axel Brostrom & Co. • the 19..


I certify that the steamer Sydland was stopped by a German suljmarine on
Augiist 8, 1918. The ship is captured as the siu^picion of the hostile intentions is
considered proved by reason of the charter party and the complete lack of any German
certificate that the ship is intended for the service of the Commission of Belgian Relief.

J. Knoeckel, Lieutenant.

On August 11 the British S. S. Pennistone, 4,139 gross tons, was
torpedoed and sunk about 1 mile astern of latitude 39° 50' N., longi-
tude 67° 25' W. ; and on the same day the Herman Winter,^'^ 2,625
gross tons, an American steamship, was attacked in latitude 40° 45'
N. and longitude 67° 10' W.

David Evans, the master of the Pennistone, was taken aboard the
submarine when his vessel was destroyed and remained a prisoner
for six days. He' tells an interesting story of the loss of his ship and
of his subsequent captivity.

The Pennistone left New York on the 9th of August in convoy. There were 18 all
told in the convoy at the time I was torpedoed and we were the last ship in the right
wing of the cohunn. Our escort was at the head of the formation with one cruiser.
At time of attack, we were about 3 miles behind convoy in latitude 39° 46^, longitude
67° 30'. The weather conditions were fair, with a moderate sea.

The first indication we had of the attack was when we were struck about 10 a. m.,
August 11. We were hit on the starboard side, engine room. The signal man told
me that he saw the torpedo about 15 feet away. I know we did not strike a mine.
We started to sink. The explosion smashed one lifeboat, so we got out in two small

'» The Herman Winter was reported as sunk at the time of the attack, but this report proved to be


boats. We sent out an S S after we had been hit. Our speed was 8 knots. The
speed of the convoy was 8^ or 9. We had fallen behind dining the night from 4
o'clock till morning (up to time we were hit). We were driving along as hard as we
could to get up to them. The cruiser came back about 8 o'clock and warned us for
keeping behind. We were not zigzagging.

It took us five or ten minutes to get away in the small boats. There were 41 in our
crew. One of our engineers was killed and a fireman. There were only 39 in the boats
when I counted them. We rowed away from the ship. The submarine did not come
to the surface. The ship went down almost to her decks and then she hung. The
wireless officer, third engineer, and three gunners, signalman, and one fireman were in
our boat when I saw she was hanging. I was going to go aboard her, but when we
were about 20 yards from ship the submarine came up alongside of us. She came up
broadside. She came toward us, we went alongside, and I went on board. They
asked for the captain and I said I was the captain, although I was not in uniform.
When I was in the submarine, they kept the boat alongside and the boarding officer
and two men went on board and went on the boat. They went to my room and took
some clothing and shoes. I was sent down below immediately when I went on the
submarine, but was not covered by guns. They took bombs on board oiir boat.
It took the boarding officer about ten minutes to bomb our boat and sink her. I did
not see her sink or hear the explosion; they just told me that she had sunk. I did not
destroy the confidential publications before they got on board. I did not have my
plans on board. I had Instructions for Ship Masters, Ocean Code, Marconi Code, and
Radio Code. I don't know whether the radio operator destroyed them. They were
eft on the ship as far as I know.

I was aboard the submarine from noon on Sunday to noon on Saturday — six days.

1 was rescued by a Norwegian steamer. As soon as the crew of the submarine saw
smoke on the horizon I was sent below. I was about an hour and a half below when
the commander sent for me to come on deck. He said he was going to sink the Nor-
wegian boat and that I was entitled to go with the crew of the Norwegian steamer in
the lifeboats or stay on the submarine. I chose the lifeboats. The boats came
alongside of the submarine with Norwegian crew in it and I went on board the boat.
The crew of the submarine gave me provisions for tluee or four days. They told us
how to make the beach and told us we were 84 miles from Cape Sable. The Derby-
shire picked us up at half past 2, August 18. We had been in the open boats from
half past 1 till half past 2 — 25 hours.

The crew of the submarine told me it was 200 feet long. The breadth was about 25
or 30 feet, I should say. It had two guns, one forward and one aft; the forward gun
was about 20 feet from conning tower, the after gun 25 to 30 feet. Both guns were of
same size and caliber, 15 centimeters or 5.9. The barrel was about 10 feet long. The
ammunition was kept under deck almost amidships, just aft of the conning tower.
There was a tube from the deck down to the locker where the ammunition was kept
and a- small derrick fitted under the conning tower to go over these tubes. They had
cases to put the shells in and heave them up. They hoisted the supply up through
the tube to the gun. It was fixed ammunition in big brass cases, somewhere about

2 feet long. Judging by the looks of the shells, they would weigh about 50 or GO
pounds. The shell was about G inches and had a brass cap on the end of it. I saw them
using them on Friday afternoon. At that time they fired on an American oil tanker,
but they did not get it, as she was too fast for them. Whenever anything was doing I
was sent below, that is, as soon as smoke was seen on the horizon; at all other times I
was allowed roam of the deck. She had a smooth deck as far as I know, except the
hatches. She had one anchor on the starboard side, just flush of the water. They
told me she was of the same class as the Deutschlnnd. Her bow sloped away gradually
into the water. The conning tower was rounded and had three steps going up on after
end. The conning tower was of iron. She had a screen and a periscope coming up

THE U-156. - 63

from conning tower riglii in the middle. She had two periscopes— one on starboard
side of conning tower, tlie other in the conning tower. She had two wires running
from conning tower aft, fastened to a stanchion on the conning tower on the starboard
side. They rah aft to same place. These wires were for wireless (radio wires); she
had no wire from forward to conning tower. She had two mast8 for wireless that she
could raise up. They were about 30 feet high. She used to put them up sometimes.
There were two wires on these. There was about 120 feet space between these poles.
They lay right on deck and were made of thin steels. The poles were 6 or 8 inches in
diameter. The wires were always fastened to poles. It took three men to raise the
poles up. They had guide wires for them and the guide wires fastened on the after
pole. The poles braced each other. The two of them came up forward. They were
lying down aft. There w as a guiding wire from the forward one of the deck. All they
did was to connect the wires on them onto the other wireless. They made the connection
on the conning tower. The deck was sloped. About three feet from the curve up to
the top of the rail there was a platform. There were three holes in the curve-like
steps. I, when boarding submarine, jumped right from boat to curve. The sub-
marine was painted gray (old paint). They told me she had been out for two months.
There was no name or number on submarine, neither were the names on caps the
same. One of the caps had the name "Porsen," another the German words meaning
"Under the sea boat."

Wliile on the submarine, I was quartered along with the sailors and firemen. There
were about 40 men in the one room. We slept on wooden lockers. They gave me a
kit the same as a man-of-war is given, with a hammock and a thin mattress. There
were 77 men on board. There were five on watch always. Some of the crew were
active service men, others were Reserves. The skipper was an active service man,
but I could not say as to his rank. I do not know the names of any of the officers.
The discipline on board was very lax. There was disagreement between officers and
sailors and firemen. Captain did not mix much with crew, except to pass time of day.
I noticed her torpedo tubes back of forward end. She had just one tube on port side
and the only time I saw that, they were just finishing putting a torpedo in after the one
they used on me. Then the place was closed up. I don't know whether the sub-
marine carried mines. There were iron doors at the toi'pedo locker.

There-was no machinery in the crew's quarters. There were some stores underneath
the deck. There were iron shutters and underneath were little compartments. I
saw them getting stores up one day. The second compartment was about 35 to 40
feet long. I was not in the first compartment. After crew's quarters there was an
alleyway to the right forward hatch. There were some rooms there ''on the right
where some of the petty officers used to live. After that came the officers' mess rooms
and the officers' and commanders' rooms. On the left of the alleyway there was nothing.
Alleyway ran along the left side of craft, not amidship. I was not in the officers' mess
rooms. The officers had separate staterooms. There were three or four on each side,
occupjang a space of about 50 or 60 feet to a place called the "Central," where the con-
trolling A^alves were. The conning tower rose right above the central quarters. There
were two decks — one into lower part of conning tower and the second in the top of the
conning tower. We went on deck through forward hatch by way of an iron ladder.
There was just one flight to main deck. The air in the submarine was very foul;
they did not seem to have many ventilators. There was one ventilator on forward
deck that opened right into hold. I only saw that open up once, and as soon as the
alarm was given a man was ordered to take that down. Just aft of the central compart-
ment was where the munition lockers were. The munition lockers were on both
sides. Aft of munition lockers there were rooms for the engineers and the galley was
in the after end of the engine room. I never was in the engine room. The farthest
aft I ever got was to engineers' quarters. The place seemed to be full of engines. I
could not say how many engines there were. There were engines on the starboard


side and engines on the other side and engines in the middle. There seemed to be no
longitudinal in engine room. There was a horizontal wheel controlling the periscope.
The glass of the periscope was not more than an inch in diameter, so far as I could see.
There were some figures on the line of ^dsion in periscope. These figiires were on
horizontal line.

The captain of the submarine was a man about 5 feet 7 inches. He was about 30
years, German appearing, and weighed about 170 pounds. He was fair, had a fresh
complexion and blue eyes, light eyebrows, medium nose. He was of very military
appearance. He spoke English, but not very well. The man next in command was
thinner than the captain. He was about 35 years old, weighed about 150 pounds, and
was about the same height as the captain. Thej' looked healthy and were tan. The
second commander had a little mustache. He also was fair. I would recognize these
men if I were to see them again. The first officer was the best English-speaking man.
The boarding officer had whiskers, weighed about 140 poimds, was about 5 feet 6
inches. He spoke very little English. Boarding officer was about 30 or 35 years old.

The officers wore American dungarees and had on their caps, indicating commis-
sioned officers. The ages of the crew ranged between 20 and 30 years. All were young
men. The crew was very contented. We had tea and coffee, bread and butter and
marmalade, all tin stuff. There was a Little sugar, but not much. Crew got very
little sugar, and butter was not very good. Everything was canned, even the bread.
The bread was dark and was made up in tins.

Several of the crew spoke English and some of them had been sailing on the Ham-
burg-American Line and on the North German Lloyd Line. The war was never
mentioned. We did not discuss the sinking of ships and they never asked me for any
information whatsoever. They treated me fairly well, and never jeered or insulted
me. The submarine had been out two months and was supposed to stay another
month. The submarine ran on the siiriace all the time and they did not submerge from
Sunday till Thursday afternoon. We just ran along slowly, and two or three nights we
just lay to. We never sighted anything from Sunday till Thin-sday afternoon. We
were probably somewhere around the entrance of New York. After that we started
north, then south again. W^e did not sight land at all. I spent most of my time on
deck. The speed on the surface was about 12. They fired about 40 shots after an
American oil tanker from the forward gun, as I stated above, but she got away. The
first I knew of the oil tanker was when I was ordered below, then I felt the \dbration
of the shots. The guns appeared to be far too heavy for the ship. The oil tanker
made smoke like a fog and got away. That was Friday afternoon. The next thing
attacked was the Norwegian San Jose, which they sank. They sank her with bombs,
but did not torpedo her. We saw one explosion from out lifeboat about 5 o'clock,
and we had left at half past 1. At about 6 we could see nothing.

From the 11th until the 16th, when the British steamer Lackawanna
was gmmed, the movements of the TJ-156 are not definitely kaown.
At 3.20 that afternoon when the Lackawanna was m latitude 40° 45'
N,, longitude 64° 40' W., the officer on watch sighted a periscope
about 2,000 yards away. Shortly after two torpedoes were fired from
the su])marine, the first passmg about 20 feet astern and the second
being diverted by gunfire. After this failure the submarine opened
fire with her bow gun, closing up to 1,200 yards and holding her
position in spite of the effort of the merchantman to put on speed
and escape. The submarine fired rapidly and badly, as none of the
40 shells took effect. The Lackawanna returned the fire and her
twentieth shot was observed to take effect on the bow of the sub-

THE U-156. 65

marine, which submerged very soon afterwards, while the steamer
made the best of the opportunity to escape.

On the followmg da,y the Norwegian steamer, San Jose, 1,586 gross
tons, in ballast from Bergen to New York, siglited the TJ~156 emcrghig
from the water in latitude 42° 10' N., longitude 64° 42' W. The
submarine o]iened fire as soon as she was on the surface and the steamer
at once hove to and stopped her engines. Acting upon orders from
the raider the master of the San Jose rowed to the submarine, took a
prize officer and crew into his small boat, and returned to his ship.
The prize officer examined the papers of the steamer and despite the
protests of her captain decided that she must be sunk. Capt. David
Evans, of the Penistone, was placed in boat with the master of the
San Jose, who was given a receipt for his vessel signed by "Knoeckel,
Oberleutnant zur See," informed the best direction to make sail, and
ordered to leave the vicmity. The crew of the San Jose saw their
ship setthng in the water as they pulled away but did not hear the
explosion of the bombs M^hich sank her. The boats of the Sail Jose
were picked up almost immediately by the British S, S. Derhysliire
which was so near at the time of the sinking of the San Jose that they
heard the explosion of the bombs aboard her.

After this sinking the submarine made her way to the northward,
where, on August 20, she made a new attack on the fishing fleet. The
results of this fresh outburst of "schrecMicJilceit" was the suikmg of 11
fishing vessels, only one of which registered above 1 60 gross tons.

The method used in this attack was entirely new, the first step
being the caj^ture of the 239-ton Canadian steam trawler Triumph
and the arming of the prize as a raider. The story of the seizure as
told by the crev/ of the trawler is as follows:

At 12.10 p. m., August 20, 1918, ship's time, approximately 60 miles S. by W. off
Canso, Nova Scotia, the captain and crew of the Triumph sighted the conning tower
of a submarine, coming out of the water astern, 1^ to 2 miles away.

Five minutes later a shot was fired, landing in the water over port side about amid-
ships. Engines were stopped, lifeboats manned, and hasty preparations were made
to shove off, taking practically no belongings except a box of biscuits for each boat.

After putting off, the submarine came up to within 50 yards of the trawler and Capt.
G. Myhre proceeded for the side of the submarine in a dingy with the ship's papers and
articles, while the other boats laid by. The commander of the submarine took the
papers from the captain and ordered him aboard. He then ordered another one of
the lifeboats to come alongside. The 11 men in this boat were ordered aboard the sub.

The Germans then put armament into the lifeboat and proceeded with two of the
Triumph crew to board the ship The armament taken aboard consisted of the fol-
lowing :

(a) Either one or two 3-pounders, not assembled, including base and all.

(b) Approximately 25 high-explosive bombs, about 1 to 1^ feet in height and 6 to 9
inches in breadth, with time attachment visible.

(c) A large sea bag, the contents of which were not visible or possible to learn, it
being about twice the size the Navy regulation sea bag.

181062°— 20 5


(d) Two large boxes of 3-pound shells. Three or four members of the submarine
crew spoke Norwegian and English, while others spoke English; one petty officer who
spoke excellent Norwegian and English stated that he had been sailing on Norwegian
ships previous to the war.

It was 12.35 p. m. when the crew (new crew) was aboard the Trmmph and had the
engines running, but they did not move until 1.15 p. m., the time that the Triumph
crew left the submarine.

As soon the Triumph had been armed the Germans carried into
execution the plan for the destruction of the fishing fleet. While
the submarine remained partially submerged at a distance of 3 miles
or more the new raider, known by sight to almost the entire fishing
fleet, stopped and destroyed the American schooners A. Piatt Andrew,
141 gross tons; Francis J. O'Hara, Jr., 117 gross tons; Sylvania, 136
gross tons, and the Canadian schooners Lucille M. Schnare, 121 gross
tons, and Pasadena, 119 gross tons. The Uda A. Saunders, 124
gross tons, another Canadian schooner, was sunk by the submarine
on the same day. The ease with which the Germans accomplished
their purpose, as a result of their strategy, is shown by the testimony
of the survivors of the destroyed vessels.

On August 20, at about 2.45 p. m.

said Capt. Wallace Bruce, of the A. Piatt Andrew,

the srhooner was about 55 miles south half east off Canso, Nova Scotia, when the beam
trawler Triumph approached to within about one half mile of my schooner and
suddenly commenced firing shots or shells, which fell in the water ahead of the
schooner. I thereupon caused the schooner to lie to and shortly thereafter waa
ordered by an officer on board the trawler to come alongside in a dory with my ship's
papers. I carried out these instructions and upon arriving alongside the Triumph, I
found that she had been seized by the crew of a German submarine and converted into
a raider with a rapid-fire gun fore and aft.

Three members of the German crew, armed with revolvers and carrying bombs, then
got into my dory. We were ordered to abandon ship and take to our dories. We
were given only a few minutes and had not sufficient time to save but very little of

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