Posted 03 January 2007 - 10:57 pm
The Guardian, 17 October 1914
Torpedoed in the North Sea
HMS Hawke sunk by German submarine
Lamentable loss of life
Saturday October 17, 1914
The Secretary of the Admiralty made the following announcement through the Press Bureau yesterday at noon:- H.M.S. Theseus (Captain Hugh Edwards, R.N.) was attacked by submarine in the northern waters of the North Sea yesterday afternoon, but was missed.
H.M.S. Hawke (Captain Hugh P. E. Williams, R.N.) was attacked at about the same time, and was sunk.
The following officers, together with 49 men of the crew, have been landed at Aberdeen from a trawler:-
Mr. Sidney Austin, boatswain.
Mr. James Dennis, gunner.
Mr. Harry C. T. Evitt, acting gunner
The remaining officers and men are missing. Further particulars will be published as soon as they are available. H.M.S. Hawke was a cruiser built in 1889.
At 8.25 last night the Secretary of the Admiralty issued through the Press Bureau the following further announcement:- Lieutenant Command (G.) Robert R. Rosoman and 20 men have been saved from a raft. [A list of the petty officers and men of the Hawke who are saved appears on the next page.] The Hawke and Theseus were sister ships, protected cruisers, and together with the Edgar, Endymion, Crescent, Gibraltar, Grafton, and Royal Arthur they formed the Tenth Cruiser Squadron attached to the Third Fleet.
These are the oldest ships on the effective list, and their chief use recently has been for instructional duties. They are of similar size, equipment, and speed. The Hawke displaced 7,350 tons, steamed 20 knots when new, and carried two 9.2in. and ten 6in. guns for principal armament. Launched in 1891 at Chatham, she was completed two years later at a cost of Ł400,702.
She was commissioned the same year and spent some time in the Mediterranean. She was last recommissioned in February last year with a nucleus crew, and most of her present officers joined her in August last. Her full complement was 544 officers and men, but there is no official information as to the number actually on board on Thursday.
The Hawke, it will be remembered, collided with the White Star liner Olympic in the Solent on September 20, 1911, when undergoing steam trials after refitting. both vessels were damaged, the cruiser requiring a new stern. The incident led to litigation which is not ended yet, an appeal against the decision of the Admiralty Court in reference to liability for the damage being yesterday set down for hearing in the House of Lords on Tuesday next.
Sank in five minutes
The Aberdeen correspondent of the "Evening Standard" reported yesterday that the steam trawler Ben Rinnes landed at Aberdeen yesterday morning 58 survivors of the crew of the Hawke. The cruiser (he added) was torpedoed on Thursday, and sank in about five minutes. Captain John Cormack (presumably of the trawler) stated that he took the survivors off a Norwegian steamer on Thursday night.
The survivors had escaped in an over-crowded beat, but nothing could be done to save those floating in the water with cork jackets or on rafts. The periscope of the submarine disappeared directly after the explosion. A Peterhead report in the London "Evening News" states that a Swedish vessel made an attempt to assist in saving the cruiser's crew, but had to "clear out."
The deadly torpedo
"Manchester Guardian" and "Daily Telegraph" war service.
We have to deplore another success by a German submarine. The official particulars at present available are very scanty. It appears that the cruisers Theseus and Hawke, sister vessels, were on patrol duty "in the northern waters of the North Sea" when they were attacked by under-water vessels.
The torpedo - or torpedoes - aimed at the former ship did not hit her. About the same time the Hawke became the target of the enemy, and she was struck - sinking, it is stated, in four or five minutes. We could spare the ship, for she was old, but we could not spare the officers and men of the ship, for they were in the very prime of life.
The loss of life - apparently between 450 and 500 have been drowned - is a cause of sorrow which we cannot conceal. Once more, as when the Aboukir, Hogue, and Cressy went down, the questions will be asked, "Should these cadets, even though rated as midshipmen, be afloat? Is their presence necessary?" Would it not be better if they completed their training, so that when the war is over we may have young officers to take up the duties which others have had to relinquish - to fill, in fact, the gaps in the fleet at sea?"
It is a matter on which there is room for difference of opinion. It is, however, the custom of the navy for budding officers to be on board ship in war time. This is one of those matters which are "service." The navy has its own customs and standards. There are nearly 1,000 Midshipmen and cadets in his Majesty's ships.
The Hawke's rapid sinking
The Hawke and her sister ship were well-designed cruisers, as good ships as any for which the late Sir William White was responsible, with a speed originally of about 20 knots, which had since fallen off. They were given protective decks varying in thickness from three to five inches, and they were well subdivided. The hulls of the Hawke consisted of no fewer than 192 compartments, and there were 98 watertight doors. Apparently she was struck near a magazine.
If this were the case it helps to explain the rapidity with which she sank, for to the damage done by the enemy's torpedo would be added the injury due to the simultaneous explosion of the ship's own charges. If this were not a fact it would be difficult to understand how a vessel so well designed and built, though old, could, with her watertight doors closed, go to the bottom so quickly. It has already been suggested that the German torpedoes are far more deadly than any in other navies owing to the use of an explosive known as "T.N.T."
It must now be concluded either that the Germans have been exceedingly fortunate in hitting the most vulnerable parts of the ships we have lost, or that they possess in their explosive an agent far more deadly than was known. Certainly the experience of war has not confirmed the comfortable conclusions of peace.
It was assumed that under the attack of a single torpedo no ship such as the Hawke, except she was struck near a magazine, could be sunk. She would, it was conjectured, get a list to port or starboard or go down somewhat ahead or astern. Happily, in designing our latest ships, far more complete precautions were taken against the peril of the torpedo. The main bulkheads are solid, without a single door which may or may not be closed in case of a sudden emergency and which may or may not resist the pressure of an immense volume of water.