Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

War Diary, Submarine Chaser Detachment Two

The Bombardment of Durazzo, Albania, October 2, 1918.1

Activities of Sub Chaser Force, Detachment Two Based on Corfu, Greece.

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September 29, 1918. Sub Chaser Force of Detachment Two based on Corfu, composed of Unit “B” (SC’s 215-128 and 129); Unit “D” (SC’s 225, 327 and 244); Unit “G” (95-179 and 338) and Unit “H” (SC’s 130-324 and 337); left Corfu for Brindisi, Italy to join in an Allied Naval expedition against Durazzo, Albania. The “Sub Chaser Force was under the Command of Captain Charles P. Nelson, U.S.N.

Sub Chaser arrived Brindisi September 30, 1918 at 12:55 P. M. On October 2, 1918 at 1:30 A.M. Units “B”, “D” less S.C. 244 which fouled her propeller and was unable to leave port, Unit “G” and Unit “H” left Brindisi for the bombardment of Durazzo. At 8:40 A.M. they arrived off Durazzo and stood by at a distance of about 6 miles to await the approach of the bombing groups of Italian Battleships and British Cruisers. At 9:07 A.M. the Italian main Force with screen was approaching and when at a distance of about 7 miles from the Chasers orders were given to the Units to proceed to their assigned stations.

The duty performed by Unit “B” (SC’s 215-128 amd 129) at the bombardment of Durazzo, Albania, October 2, 1918.

At 9:10 A.M. in accordance with orders set a course to the north-eastward to take assigned position on patrol station on a line running W.S.W. from Cape Pali, speed 14 knots. The course set soon allowed this Unit to draw to the northward of the Italian bombarding force, which was standing over to enter their sector. Soon afterward the Unit began to close the British Light Cruiser Force, which was then standing in an easterly direction to get into position to turn and stand down for the bombarding sector. The Chasers accordingly altered course to starboard, thinking the Cruiser would turn to starboard, in order to keep clear. The Unit ran in a parallel direction for a period of about 15 minutes , in a position in-shore about 800 yards. Several shots from the shore battery fell in the vicinity. The Unit was running full speed and “zigzagging”. As it was seen the Chasers could not clear the Light Cruisers the Unit went hard left. When the Unit gained a position astern to the left destroyer escort, the British Force altered course to port and stood down to enter bombarding sector. The Unit accordingly changed course to starboard and stood for their patrol station. Shortly after this S. C. 129, the rear ship in the column, sighted a moving feather abaft the port beam and stood over to attack. A signal was sent to S. C. 215, but not received. Immediately afterward S.C. 215 saw the S. S. 129 sheering off and therefore began changing course to port. At this time S. C. 215 sighted a moving feather a little forward to the port beam. While 215 and 128 were delivering their attack, a signal was received from 129 reporting that their engines were disabled and later another signal reporting submarine sighted. The 215 and 128 upon completing their attack, stood to the southward toward S. C. 129. Shortly afterward S. C. 128 reported sighting a submarine, so 215 and 128 altered course to westward to investigate. It was concluded that no submarine had been sighted by 128, so the Chasers stood again to the southward to close 129. Upon hailing 129, she reported that she had sunk a submarine.

U. S. Sub Chaser 215 (Submarine Attack).

October 2, 1918. S.C’s 215-128 and 129-Unit “B” were steaming in column in a general northeasterly direction to take station on assigned patrol line when at 10:28 A.M.S.C. 129 was seen to sheer off to port. S. C. 215 turned to port as it was directed that S. C. 129 had sighted a submarine and was attacking. At this moment S. C. 215 sighted a moving feather about 1 and one-half points forward of port beam, distant about 750 yds and heading to the north-eastward. At 10:30 A.M. S.C. 215 opened fire with her three-inch gun and port machine gun, changing course to port toward the submarine and hoisting signal to form for attack. The second three-inch shot was full on the starboard bow and was seen by the Commanding officer and Executive officer2 to drop two feet short of the then visible periscope, shattering it, as a column of air and water was seen to rise to a height of about 6 feet. The next two shots were aimed at the air and water column. This column resembled that given off from Italian submarine NAUTILUS when the latter was fouled and her periscope was broken off by the S. C. 128 at Gallipoli. Six three-inch shells were fired. S. C. 215 kept turning to port, and S. C. 128 which had been following, maneuvered to take position on starboard beam, distant 100 yards. About the time of the second shot it was seen that the submarine was turning sharply to starboard in a general southerly direction towards the British Light Cruisers which at the time were at a distance of about 2 miles headed to the southward to enter their bombarding sector, S. C. 215 and S. C. 128 chased the submarine and laid a pattern of depth charges in approximately 41º23’ N-19º14’ E. on about 40 fathoms of water. S. C. 215 dropped 6 depth charges from her stern and fired “Y”gun charges. S. C. 128 dropped 4 depth charges from her stern and fired “Y” gun charges. All charges were set for 50 feet and functioned properly. The first 4 charges let go from the S. C. 215 showed only the usual depth charge disturbance. In the explosion of the starboard “Y” gun charge, the Executive officer of 215 who was on top of the pilot house saw an object which resembled a plate, also some debris rise to the surface and then disappear. This object and debris were seen by several men on the deck. At the explosion of the 4th Depth Charge dropped from S. C. 128, the two Machinists’ Mates, who were dropping the charges, reported that they saw a piece of wreckage rise and then sink. Heavy dark oil in large globules were seen rising. After bombing S. C. 215 and S.C. 128 turned to head for S. C. 129 which latter vessel had previously reported a submarine and was at this time lying to with her engines disabled. At the moment it was felt that a successful attack had been delivered and it was considered more important to hunt other submarines to the southward than to search carefully the area just bombed. S. C. 215 and 128 immediately stood for 129 at full speed.

Source:- War Diary S. C. Detachment Two.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 416.

Footnote 1: For more on this operation, see: Subchaser Detachment 2 War Diary, 2 October 1918; Spafford to Sims, 4 October 1918; and Kelly to Opnav, 5 October 1918.

Footnote 2: Lt. (jg) (T) Wildon A. Ott and Ensign H. B. Thomas, R. F.

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