Vol. 12 No. 2, February, 2016

On sinking submarines:

Every once in a while, someone contacts me with a story passed down from a father or grandfather, of serving on a chaser in WWI and sinking or capturing a submarine. I would like to think that one day a diver will make a discovery, or a historian will uncover a set of documents, that will support a claim that a WWI chaser could be considered responsible for sinking a sub -- but I'm not really expecting that to happen.

When someone sends me a story of sub kill, It always seems like a delicate thing, to suggest that the story should be thought of as a war story, and not taken too literally. And, one shouldn't feel too disappointed: Everyone came home telling stories of sinking subs.

Officially, no credit was given to any chaser crew for sinking a submarine; and the records we have of chaser pursuits and bombings pretty well bear this out. In almost all cases, a simple reading of an account almost always leaves the sense that no, they almost certainly didn't sink a submarine. Further, the Admiralty had access to radio interceptions that allowed them to triangulate the locations of the U-boats with pretty good accuracy. In many cases of reported sinkings, there weren't any submarines in the area; and in others, the submarine supposed to have been sunk showed up later on, in port.

It's possible that there were submarine pursuits by chasers that are not included among the official records -- possible, but not likely. Stories of depth-charging a submarine moved quickly. It would be improbable that both the official record and all printed stories should managed to be lost, for a given incident. So, while not certain, I'm fairly well satisfied that we have a complete list; and while there are one or two "maybes" in there, there are no conclusive kills.

So, that bad news, if you have a family story of a chaser-sub encounter: It probably didn't really happen like that...

The good news: Sinking submarines was certainly a goal, but the overarching purpose of the chaser fleet was to neutralize the submarine menace. Bottling them up and hampering their progress to open ocean accomplished the goal. The barrage lines -- in which chasers and many other vessels participated -- quite effectively reduced the impact of enemy submarines, which in turn reduced losses of merchant shipping and warships, and helped lead to victory.

--Todd Woofenden, editor

 

This Month's Additions:

Added to the Hull Number Collection page for SC 284: Photo of SC 284, courtesy of Clayton Rogers.

Added to the Subchaser Crews section: several photos of crewman, probably on submarine chaser SC 284, although the photos are not captioned. Thanks to Clayton Rogers for submitting the photo scans to The Subchaser Archives.

Added to the Subchaser Crews page for SC 344, more crew photos, courtesy of Janet Salathiel.

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