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Ariecho

September 17 - Focus: HMS Courageous

Allied ships lost to U-boats  

10 members have voted

  1. 1. What was the largest ship (in tons) sunk by a U-boat (German submarine) during WW2?

    • HMS Barham (British battleship)
      5
    • HMS Royal Oak (British aircraft carrier)
      1
    • HMS Eagle (British aircraft carrier)
      0
    • Empress of Britain (passenger ship)
      3
    • Strathallan (troop transport)
      1

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General

  • 5 U-boats were commissioned on a September 17: 2 in 1941, 2 in 1942, and 1 in 1943.

  • U-boats sank 6 ships on a September 17, for a total over 46,000 tons.  5 were British and 1 was American.

  • 24 Allied boats and ships were commissioned on a September 17.

  • 5 Allied ships were lost on a September 17.

  • September 17 (1912) is also the day USS Arkansas (BB 33) was commissioned.

Poll: The answer to the poll question is in the spoiler.  Read the question carefully.  It's not about the largest ship sank by a submarine, but the largest ship sank by a U-boat.  The largest ship to be sank by a submarine was the IJN Shinano, a Yamato-class battleship converted into an aircraft carrier.

The largest ship (in tons) to be sunk by a U-boat was the Empress or Britain (42,000) tons.  The largest military ship sank by a U-boat was the HMS Barham.

1939
  • On September 17, 1939, HMS Courageous, a Courageous-class aircraft carrier was struck by 2 torpedoes launched by U-29, southwest of Ireland.  Laid down on March 29, 1915, she was launched on February 5, 1916, and commissioned on November 4, 1916.  519 men were lost during the attack.

HMS Courageous was originally built as a battlecruiser.  The ship was of an odd design, as it had to follow limitations that banned the construction of ships larger than a light cruiser in 1915.  While she carried 15-inch guns, her belt armor was no more than 3 inches.  The most armored part of the ship was the conning tower, with a maximum of 10 inches, definitely not typical of battlecruisers.  In comparison, the Renown-class battlecruiser had a belt armor that was typically double (up to 6 inches).

HMS Courageous participated in the 2nd battle of Heligoland Blight where she is credited for hitting SMS Pillau, a German light cruiser originally ordered by the Russian navy.  During the engagement, she fired 92 15-inch shells, but no damage was generated by them.

Posted Image

HMS Courageous as a "large light cruiser"

The Washington Treaty saved HMS Courageous.  While most older battleships and battlecruisers had to be scrapped, Courageous did benefit from a clause that allowed the conversion of ships into aircraft carriers.

When World War II started, Courageous who had until then fulfilled the role of a training aircraft carrier was reassigned to the Home Fleet.  The Royal Navy's doctrine called for the use of aircraft carriers in the task of submarine hunter-killer groups, a scheme that would prove very costly.

Posted Image

HMS Courageous (1935)

On September 15, 1939, Courageous was performing such a duty when a convoy nearby her position was spotted.  Two U-boats (U-29 and U-53) were tasked to attack the convoy, which they reached by September 17.  U-53 spotted and attacked Kafristan, a British freighter.  When the convoy called for help, 2 of Courageous's escort of 4 destroyers left her to assist the merchants.

U-29 was also searching for the convoy when she spotted a Swordfish, a clear indication that an aircraft carrier was in the vicinity.  Around 18:00, she had the Courageous in sight, which didn't mean an easy task to attack her, as the carrier could outrun the submarine, who couldn't surface in broad day light, especially with 2 of Courageous' escort still around her, and aircraft on the hunt.

U-29 kept shadowing the carrier until around 19:30, she got lucky.  Courageous had to turn into the wind to launch more aircraft, placing her in intercept course for the U-boat.  U-29 fired 3 torpedoes at a distance of 3,000 yards, then dived, relying on her accoustic devices to witness any explosion.  Two were heard, then the revenge chase started.  U-29 was hunted for 4 agonizing hours, until the destroyers launched their last depth charge.

The sinking of Courageous marked the end of anti-submarine duty for aircraft carriers, giving them the upper hand for a few years.  The entire crew of U-29 was awarded the iron cross for her action.

3 Courageous-class "large light cruisers" were built: Courageous, Glorious, and Furious.  Only Furious survived the war.  Glorious was sunk by Sharnhorst and the Gneisenau in June 1940.

U-29 was a type-VIIA German submarine.  Laid down on January 2, 1936, she was launched on August 29, 1936, and commissioned on November 16, 1936.  She was credited for sinking 13 ships and participated in 7 patrols.  She was scuttled on May 4, 1945.

Recommended links regarding HMS Courageous:

Edited by Ariecho
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Alpha Tester
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All U-Boat fan/experts know the answer is the HMHS Britannic.

Brain exploded.  :amazed:

Edited by icoleman

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All U-boat experts know she was sunk during World War I...   :sceptic:

EDIT: Edited to replace "sank" by "sunk".

Edited by Ariecho

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Alpha Tester
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View PostAriecho, on 18 September 2013 - 12:23 AM, said:

All U-boat experts know she was sank during World War I...   :sceptic:
I just saw it said WW2, My apologies.  :hiding:   :trollface:

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