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Diary of Blacksmith Angus W. Wiggins


     Queenstown, Ireland, November 17, 1917: At 1211 we got underway and stood out to sea. To this date, since I arrived on board January 27, 1917, the Fanning has steamed 2,200 hours, traveled 39,970 knots, and escorted one hundred thirty-five ships.

     At sea, November 17, 1917; This is a dismal Saturday afternoon. The Fanning passed Daunt Lightship about 1200 and began scouting for submarines. At 1400 the convoy steamed out of Queenstown’s harbor.

     At 1400 the Fanning took her place on the left flank of the convoy, steaming at 15 knots and, as always zig-zagging when at sea, for zig-zagging was the ship’s salvation when in the submarine zone.

     I was relieved of my watch at 1540 and went below and removed my boots and hit the sack. Since my station was topside, I wore leather boots, knee-high. When removed from my feet they were tied to the rail of my bunk with twine so that when General Quarters sounded I could put both feet into the boots at the same instant and bound off for my battle station. All hands on the ship slept fully dressed except shoes and hat. The sailors could be relieved of watch and be in deep sleep in ten minutes. I was asleep at 1600.

     At 1600 a south breeze was blowing with a light mist of rain and low visibility. David D. Loomis, Coxswain, captain of forecastle gun, sighted the periscope of a submarine 23 points on the starboard quarter. He was so accurate in his report that the officer on the bridge looked and saw the periscope instantly. I was sound asleep.

     General Quarters was sounded at 1608. With my hat in hand I slipped into the boots and bounded for the ladder without loosing the twine which held the boots in the upright position, breaking the twine. We slept in our life jackets. As I climbed the ladder I felt the concussion of a depth charge. In seconds I was on my battle station. My first responsibility was to keep an accurate knowledge as to the amount of fuel oil and how fast it is being expended. The Fanning by this time was making 27 knots. It was a bull’s-eye for the depth charge.

     The U-58 was so damaged she surfaced and at a great angle, her bow surfacing before the conning tower was seen. The destroyer Nicholson joined the Fanning in the operation. She opened fire on the U-Boat with her forecastle gun. The U-Boat submerged and the Nicholson crossed the U-Boat’s course and dropped a depth charge. By this time the Fanning was headed back for more battle with the U-Boat. When the sub surfaced again the Fanning opened fire with the forecastle gun and the shell pierced the bow of the U-Boat. When the shell hit the sub one of the crew emerged from the conning tower waving a white shirt. Then in fast succession the crew was popping out of the conning tower, each one with both hands high in the air.

     The Fanning and Nicholson began circling. I ran down into my compartment and got my camera, which was loaded and ready.1

     When I returned to my battle station topside the Fanning was closing in on the helpless, surrendered U-Boat. During this circling operation I made two pictures. Finally the Fanning circled in close enough to get two lines to the submarine, one forward and one aft. I made two more pictures. By this time all the crew were topside. When the Fanning had the U-58 moored alongside, the crew leaped into the water and began swimming to the sea ladder on the starboard side of the Fanning. The U-Boat sank in minutes.2 The Fanning rescued all the survivors, 41 in all. In 30 minutes after the periscope was sighted the U-58 sank, leaving her crew floundering in the ocean.

     One of the crew was having a bad time in the water. The hospital steward and a seaman jumped overboard and rescued him in the midst of his shipmates. His name was Franz Glender, Chief Engineer. He died shortly after we brought him aboard.3

     The prisoners were served sandwiches and coffee. The enlisted men thought the Fanning was English. When one of the sailors saw the white bread he said, “What, English white bread?”

     The mess cook replied, “No English, American.”

     Then the prisoner said, “America in war?”

     The mess cook replied, “Yes.”

     The prisoner said, “Me American two years in Hoboken, New Jersey.”

     The Fanning proceeded into Queenstown. Now we have won a battle. The Fanning has captured the crew of a U-Boat. We had hoped to tow the U-Boat into Queenstown as a trophy.

     The Fanning anchored inside the net in Queenstown harbor at 1910. The USS Melville’s boat came alongside at 1940. The prisoners debarked. When they were shoving off from the Fanning they gave three cheers for America and we returned the cheers.

     At 2100 the Fanning stood out to sea for the funeral of Chief Engineer Franz Glender. I prepared the body for burial at sea as the Fanning steamed out into the Atlantic Ocean. Fifty pounds of iron was enclosed in canvas wrap, which was lashed securely with a half inch hemp line.

     On November 17, 1917 at 2045 Lieutenant A. S. Carpenter,4 the C.O. of the Fanning, read I Corinthians 15 and offered a prayer. The body was placed on a twelve-inch board with the foot end of the body to the outboard end. G. R. Welds, Coopersmith; Joe More, Boilermaker; Beaty, Chief Yeoman; and W. A. Wiggins, Blacksmith, raised the inboard end of the board. The body slipped from the board, feet first, into the cold Atlantic Ocean.

     Now I have seen both sides of the game called war. The Fanning this day found the enemy in ambush and conquered him. This night as I write this log I am thinking of Chief Engineer Franz Glender’s wife and maybe his children, somewhere in Germany. . . .

Source Note: Angus W. Wiggins, My Romance with the Navy, (Daytona Beach, FL: Hall Publishing Company, 1975), 109-11.

Footnote 1: For some of Wiggins’ photographs, see, Ibid., 84-85.

Footnote 2: According to the official report of the engagement, the Germans scuttled the sub before being taken aboard the Fanning. See: Carpender to Sims, 18 November 1917.

Footnote 3: The official report includes the names of the sailors who jumped in. Carpender spells the deceased German’s name “Glinder.” Ibid.

Footnote 4: Lt. Arthur S. Carpender.