Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Diary of Commander Joseph K. Taussig, Commander, Destroyer Division Eight

Wednesday

Aug 8.

at sea.

     Proceeding with convoy as yesterday. Last night received a wireless from the C-in-C, Queenstown directing that the Conyningham’s Convoy1 and Wadsworth’s convoy not get too close, and for Conyningham to keep to northward if necessary. My bunch being late, it is evident that the Conyningham’s gang have caught up to us. This forenoon we sighted their smoke on the horizon and we have been steering slightly converging courses since Alfy Johnson will have to do the necessary maneuvering to keep us from coming together –

     Two tugs, the Paladin II and Flying Foam joined this forenoon. They are here for rescue work should it be necessary.

     This morning we intercepted a message from a special service ship stating he was engaging a submarine – A little later he sent a wireless to a British man of war, but we could not translate it. Since then the special service ship reported that he was torpedoed. This was followed by a message to the British man of war to keep away for the present. We are now awaiting further messages as to the final outcome of the fight.

     Later – The special service ship is the Dunraven commanded by Captain Campbell. Another wireless has just been intercepted. It stated that his ship had been torpedoed, the aftermagazine and depth charges exploded, that he had fourteen wounded two of which were transferred to the American Gail Norma for operation. She did not sink the submarine.2 We have also been intercepting wireless messages between the C-in-C at Queenstown and some mine sweepeers in regard to a stranded submarine which they are trying to salve. We do not know whether it is a British or German one. We hope it is German.3

     Not long ago two merchant ships escorted by the Patterson and Warrington joined my convoy. They were sent by Johnson, the smoke of whose ship has been in view to the northward for several hours. I imagine these ships are lame ducks and too slow for Johnson’s bunch which is moving along about a knot and a half faster than mine

     Five British destroyers are due to join at 11 p.m. to take the ships bound for the English Channel off our hands. I sent a wireless to the C-in-C Devonport requesting the destroyers join before dark if practicable but have had no reply.

Source Note: D, RNW, Joseph K. Taussig Papers, Mss. Coll. 97. Naval Historical Collection. The diary is written on ruled paper with a vertical line one inch in along the left margin. The place and date is written in that space. It is sometimes repeated when the diary entry continues on a second page, as it was in this entry.

Footnote 1: The convoy being escorted by Conyngham-commanded by Cmdr. Alfred Johnson-was the convoy escorted by Almanzora. For more on this convoy see: John R. Jellicoe to Lewis Bayly, 8 August 1917. The “C-in-C” was VAdm. Sir Lewis Bayly.

Footnote 2: The action between Dunraven and UC-71 is perhaps the most famous “Q-ship” action of the war. It is recounted in E. Keble Chatterton, Q-ships and their Story (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1922), 203-12. Sometime later, American VAdm. William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, wrote Dunraven’s captain, Gordon Campbell, and called this engagement “the finest of all military action”; adding:

Long after we are all dust and ashes, the story of this last fight will be an invaluable inspiration to British (and American) Naval officers and men – a demonstration of the extraordinary degree to which the patriotism, loyalty, and personal devotion and training of a crew may be inspired. I know nothing finer in Naval history than the  conduct of the after guns crew or, indeed, of the entire crew of the DUNRAVEN. Sims to Campbell, undated, DLC, William S. Sims Papers, Box 23.

Footnote 3: This was the German U-boat UC-44 which hit a German mine off Waterford, Ireland, on 4 August. Credit for the UC-44's sinking is generally given to the British director of Naval Intelligence William Hall. Hall learned that the Germans broke or compromised the British code used when reporting that a minefield was cleared. He arranged with Bayly to report the minefield off Waterford cleared using the compromised code but then to leave the mines in place. Because of this false report, UC-44 was sent to re-lay mines and hit a mine still in place. The wreck of UC-44 was beached at Waterford on 26 September. By then salvage officers had recovered a trove of intelligence including orders to U-boat commanders on how to transit the Straits of Dover safely. Kemp, U-Boats Destroyed, 31.

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