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Title: The Adventures of the U-202 - An Actual Narrative
Author: Spiegel, E.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                      THE ADVENTURES OF THE U-202

                          AN ACTUAL NARRATIVE

                                  BY
                             BARON SPIEGEL
                        VON UND ZU PECKELSHEIM
             (CAPTAIN-LIEUTENANT, COMMANDER OF THE U-202)


                               NEW YORK
                            THE CENTURY CO.
                                 1917


                          Copyright, 1917, by
                            THE CENTURY CO.

                          Copyright, 1917, by
                         JOHN N. WHEELER, INC.

                      _Published, February, 1917
                  by arrangement with New York World_



PREFACE


I was sitting on the conning tower smoking a cigarette. Then the splash
of a wave soaked it. I tried to draw another puff. It tasted loathsome
and frizzled. Then I became angry and threw it away.

I can see my reader’s surprised expression. You had expected to read a
serious U-boat story and now such a ridiculous beginning! But I know
what I am doing. If I had once thrown myself into the complicated U-boat
system and used a bunch of technical terms, this story would be shorter
and more quickly read through, but you would not have understood half of
it.

Seriousness will come, bitter and pitiable seriousness. In fact,
everything is serious which is connected with the life on board a
submarine and none of it is funny; although in fact it is the hundred
small inconveniences and peculiar conditions on a U-boat which make life
on it remarkably characteristic. And in order to bring to the public a
closer knowledge concerning the peculiar life on board a U-boat I am
writing this story. Good—therefore my log-book! Yes, why should I not
make use of it? To this I also wish to add that I not only used my own
log-book but also at many places had use of other U-boats’ logs in order
to present one or another episode which is worth the while relating.
Thus, for example, the story of the many fishing-smacks, which are
spoken of in the chapter called “Rich Spoils,” is borrowed, but the
happenings in the witch kettle, the adventure with the English bulldog,
and also most of the other chapters are my own feathers with which I
have adorned this little story. This is the only liberal right of an
author which I permit myself. The style of the story from a log-book is
simple and convenient, and one buys so willingly such stories. See there
two valid reasons for making use of it.

                                                            THE AUTHOR.



CONTENTS


   CHAPTER                                PAGE

     I OUR FIRST SUCCESS                    3

    II AN EVENTFUL NIGHT                   21

   III THE SINKING OF THE TRANSPORT        46

    IV RICH SPOILS                         68

     V THE WITCH-KETTLE                    91

    VI A DAY OF TERROR                    115

   VII A LIVELY CHASE                     140

  VIII THE BRITISH BULL-DOG               163

    IX HOMEWARD BOUND!                    189



THE ADVENTURES OF THE U-202



THE ADVENTURES OF THE U-202

I

OUR FIRST SUCCESS

     _At the hunting grounds North Sea, April 12, 19—. Course:
     northwest. Wind: southwest, strength 3-4. Sea: strength 3.
     View: good. Both machines in high speed._


We were very comfortable in the conning tower because the weather was
fine and the sun burned with its heat our field-gray skin jackets.

“Soon we will have summer,” I said to the officer on guard, Lieutenant
Petersen, who was sitting with me on the conning tower’s platform. I
felt entirely too hot in my thick underwear.

Petersen, who, like me, was sitting with his legs dangling in the open
hatch on whose edge we had placed ourselves, put his hand on the deck
and loosened the thick, camel’s wool scarf, twice wrapped around his
neck, as if suddenly he realized it was too hot for him, too.

“I think I’ll soon discharge this one from service,” said Petersen, and
pulled at the faithful winter friend as if he wished to strip it off.

“Don’t be too hasty, my dear lieutenant,” I replied laughing. “Just wait
until to-night, and then I am sure that you will repent and take your
faithful friend back into the service.”

“Are we going to keep above the water to-night, Herr Captain-Lieutenant,
or are we to submerge?” he asked me.

“It depends on what comes up,” I answered. “It rests as usual with the
weather.”

Thus we were talking and smoking on the conning tower while our eyes
scanned the horizon and kept a sharp lookout all around us.

On the little platform, which in a sharp angle triangle unites itself
from behind with the tower, the subordinate officer corporal was on
guard, and with a skin cloth was cleaning the lenses on his double
spy-glass, which were wet.

“Did you also get a dousing, Krappohl?” I asked. “Then you didn’t look
out, either. That rascal soaked my cigarette just as he did the lenses
on your spy-glass. That’s the dickens of a trick.”

With the word “rascal” I meant the splashing wave, which, while the sea
was in a perfect calm, without any reason climbed up to us on the
tower. If there had been a storm it would have been nothing to mention.
Then we often did not have a dry thread on our bodies. But such a
shameless scoundrel, which in the midst of the most beautiful weather
suddenly throws himself over a person, is something to make one angry.

We made good speed. The water, which was thrown aside by the bow, passed
by us in two wide white formed streaks. The motor rattled and rumbled,
and the ventilation machine in the so-called “Centrale” right under our
feet made a monotonous buzzing. Through the only opening where the air
could pass out, the open tower hatch, all kinds of odors flowed one
after another from the lower regions right by our noses. First we
smelled smear-oil. Then the fragrance of oranges (we had with us a
large shipment, which we had received as a gift of love), and now—ah!
Now it was coffee, a strong aromatic coffee odor.

Lieutenant Petersen moved back and forth unrestingly on the “swimwest,”
with which he had tried to make it a little more comfortable for himself
on the hard sitting place, bent deeper and deeper down into the hatch
inhaling with greed the odor from below, and said, as he in pleasant
anticipation began to rub his hands together:

“Now we’ll have coffee, Herr Captain-Lieutenant!”

I had just with a great deal of trouble pulled out a cigarette-case from
the inside pocket of my skin jacket and was groping in my other pockets
for matches, when a hand (the gloves number 9½) with outstretched
forefinger reached towards me from behind and the subordinate officer’s
excited voice announced:

“A cloud of smoke four points port.”

As quickly as lightning the spy-glass was placed to the eye. “Where? Oh,
yes, there. I can see it!”

“As yet, only smoke can be seen. Isn’t it so?”

In what a suspense we were now. Leaning forward, and with the glasses
pressed to the eye, we gazed on the little, distant, cloud of smoke. It
curled, then bent with the wind and slowly dissolved in a long, thin
veil-like streak. Nothing but smoke could be seen, a sign that the air
was clear, and one could see all the way to the extreme horizon.

What kind of a ship could it be, which the curved form of the earth
still concealed from our view? Was it a harmless freighter, a proud
passenger steamer, an auxiliary cruiser, or maybe an armored cruiser
jammed with cannon?

It was with a feeling, wavering between hope and fear, that these
thoughts occupied my mind—fear, not for the enemy, because we were
anxious to meet him—but fear that a disappointment would fall on us, if
the ship proved to be a neutral steamer when it came closer. Seven times
we had during three days experienced such disappointment, seven times we
had met neutral ships without contraband on board, and had been
compelled to let them continue on their way.

The distance between us and the steamer had not diminished, so that its
masts and a funnel arose above the horizon, two narrow, somewhat
slanting lines, between which there was a thicker dark spot. A common
freighter, therefore. This we saw at the first glance. I changed our
course northwardly in order to head off the course of the steamer which
was going in an easterly direction. With the highest speed the machine
could make we raced to meet them and the bridge and part of the hull
could already be seen.

“To the diving stations! Artillery alarm. Cannon service on deck! First
torpedo tube ready for fire!”

With loud voice I called down these commands into the boat.

There was a stir in the passages below like when a stone is thrown into
the midst of a swarm of bees. From below it arose, and the men who were
to serve at the cannons crowded on the narrow precipitous ladder, swung
themselves through the tower hatch and leaped on the deck. Now, first,
just once, a deep breath, so that the lungs can draw the refreshing sea
air, and then with their sleeves turned up and flashing eyes to the
guns.

“Can you see any neutral signs, Petersen?”

“No, Herr Captain-Lieutenant. The entire hull is black. It’s an
Englishman.”

“The flag of war to the mast! The usual signals ready!” I called down
into the tower.

Immediately our flag of war floated from the top of the mast behind the
tower. It told the men over there: “Here am I, a German submarine
U-boat. Now for it, you proud Britisher! Now it will be seen who rules
the sea.”

We had gradually drawn closer to a distance of about six thousand
meters. At last an enemy! After so many neutral steamers. At last an
enemy! An intense joy thrilled us, a joy which only can be compared with
the hunter’s when he sees at last the longed-for prey coming within
range, after long and fruitless efforts. We had traveled many hundred
sea miles. We had endured storm, cold, and at times had been drenched to
the skin, and there, only two points port, our first success was waving
towards us!

By this time we must have been discovered by the steamer. Now our flag
of war must have been recognized. A ghastly horror must have seized the
captain on the bridge: The U-boat terror! the U-boat pest!

But the captain on the steamer did not give in so easily. He tried to
save himself by flight. Suddenly we saw how the steamer belched forth
thicker and darker clouds of smoke and in a sharp curve turned port. Its
propeller water, which hitherto could hardly be seen, was whipped to a
white foam, and let us know the machines had been put into the highest
possible speed. But it was of no use. No matter how much the captain was
shouting and how much the machinist drove his sweating and naked fire
crew to even more than human endeavors, so that the coal flew about and
the boilers were red, everything was useless. We closed in on him with a
horrible certainty nearer and nearer.

For some time I had been standing high up on the tower with a spy-glass
before my eyes and did not lose one of the steamer’s motions. Now it
seemed to me the right moment had come to energetically command the
steamer to stop.

“A shot above the steamer! Fire!”

The granate landed two hundred meters in front of the steamer. We waited
a few minutes, but when the shot did not cause any change I gave the
right distance to the gunners and shouted the command to aim at the
steamer. The second shot hit and a thick, black and yellow cloud from
the explosion shot into the air. The third shot tore a piece off the
funnel, the fourth hit the bridge, and before the fifth had left the
mouth of the gun the signal flew up, “I have stopped.”

Ah! old friend, you had come to it, anyhow!

An old sea-rule says: “Carefulness is the best seamanship.” Regarding
all the tricks and subterfuges which the hostile merchant-marine has
used against us, I did not consider it advisable to advance nearer the
steamer at once. I therefore also stopped our machines and signaled:
“Leave the ship immediately!”

The signal was unnecessary. The English captain had himself given the
command to the crew to take to the boats after he, frothing with anger,
had comprehended the impossibility to flee. Snorting with wrath, he
shortly afterwards came alongside our boat, and handed me at my request
the ship’s papers and asked me to tow the three boats to the
neighborhood of the coast. I promised this and said some simple words
to him in regard to his bad luck and concerning the grim necessity of
the war—which he dismissed with an angry shrug of his shoulders. I
certainly could understand the man’s bad spirit.

I then went forward and torpedoed the steamer, which sank, stern
foremost, with a gurgling sound into the deep.

At the same time four thousand tons of rice were lost to the English
market.

We had met with success and this put us into the highest spirits. Come
whatever wants to come, our voyage had not been entirely useless.

When I stepped down into the boat for a moment and passed through the
narrow crew-room to my own little cabin, I saw to right and left joyful
faces, and all eyes were smiling towards me as if they wished to say:
“Congratulations!” The steamer’s sinking was the subject of discussion.
Those who had witnessed the incident had to describe all the
circumstances in smallest detail; where the torpedo had struck, how high
the water-pillar had risen, and what afterwards happened to the steamer,
how the people on the boat looked, and the like. Everything had to be
explained.

When I went back some one said: “To-morrow it will be in the papers.”
These words whirled around in my head for some time. Yes, to-morrow
there would be in all the German newspapers under the column: “Ships
sunk” or “Sacrifices to the U-boat war,” that once more we had
retaliated on our most hated enemy, that his inhuman attempt to starve
our people had been parried by a horrid and strong blow. And over there
upon his isle our relentless enemy would receive the same kind of a
newspaper notice. The only difference was that there it would cause fury
instead of joy, and the dried-up old English editor would stare
terrified on the telegram which he would hold in his hand, pull off his
few white threads of hair, and swear as only an Englishman can swear.

Even up to the dusk of the night, we towed the sunken freighter’s three
boats towards the coast. We then cut loose in order to get ready to
manœuver. When darkness set in, one had to be ready for surprises.
Besides, we were not very far from land and the weather was fair, so
that the boats could be in no danger. As a refreshment, I had three
bottles of wine brought over to the captain of the ill-fated ship, and
left him with best greetings to Mr. Churchill and his colleagues.

The last streak of day became paler and paler in the west. The
spook-like red cloud-riders stretched themselves more and more, became
indistinct, pulled themselves asunder, and at once were swept away. In
their place appeared the dark demon of the night, spread itself over
heaven, hid all the stars, and settled heavily over the sea.

This was just a night suitable for us. One could not see one’s hand
before the eye. The steel covers on the tower windows were tightly shut,
so that the least ray of light could not escape. Entirely invisible we
were gliding forward in the dark. Dumb and immovable, each one was
sitting at his post—the lieutenant, the subordinate officer, and the
commander—trying with our eyes to pierce through the darkness and
turning our heads continually from right to left and back again. The aim
of our voyage was still far off and the fine weather had to be used.

Weakly, as if from a far distance, the phonograph’s song reached us
lonely watchmen:

    “Reach me thy hand, thy dear hand;
      Live well, my treasure, live well!
    ’Cause we travel now to Eng-eland,
      Live well, my treasure, live well,
    ’Cause we travel now to Eng-eland.”



II

AN EVENTFUL NIGHT


What peculiar sensations filled me. We were at war—the most insane war
ever fought! And now I am a commander on a U-boat!

I said to myself:

“You submarine, you undersea boat, you faithful U-202, which has
obediently and faithfully carried me thousands of miles and will still
carry me many thousand miles! I am a commander of a submarine which
scatters death and destruction in the ranks of the enemy, which carries
death and hell fire in its bosom, and which rushes through the water
like a thoroughbred. What am I searching for in the cold, dark night?
Do I think about honor and success? Why does my eye stare so steadily
into the dark? Am I thinking about death and the innumerable mines which
are floating away off there in the dark, am I thinking about enemy
scouts which are seeking me?

“No! It is nerves and foolish sentiments born of foolish spirits. I am
not thinking about that. Leave me alone and don’t bother me. I am the
master. It is the duty of my nerves to obey. Can you hear the melodious
song from below, you weakling nerves? Are you so dull and faint hearted
that it does not echo within you? Do you not know the stimulating power
which the thin metal voice below can inspire within you?

“This song brings greetings to you from a distance of twelve hundred
miles and through twelve hundred miles it comes to you. Ahead we must
look; we must force our eyes to pierce the darkness on all sides.”

The spy-glass flew to the eye. There is a flash in the west. A light!

“Hey, there! Hey! There is something over there——”

“That is no ordinary light. What about it?”

Lieutenant Petersen was looking through his night glasses at the light.

“I believe he is signaling,” he said excitedly. “The light flashes
continually to and fro. I hope it is not a scout ship trying to speak
with some one.”

Hardly had the lieutenant uttered these words when we all three jumped
as if electrified, because certainly in our immediate neighborhood
flashed before us several quick lights giving signals, which
undoubtedly came from the ship second in line, which was signaling to
our first friend.

“Great God! An enemy ship! Not more than three hundred meters ahead!” I
exclaimed to myself.

“Hard a starboard! Both engines at highest speed ahead! To the diving
stations!”

In a subdued voice, I called my commands down the tower.

The phonograph in the crew-room stopped abruptly. A hasty, eager running
was discernible through the entire boat as each one hurried to his post.

The boat immediately obeyed the rudder and was flying to starboard.
Between the two hostile ships there was a continuous exchange of
signals.

“God be praised it is so dark!” I exclaimed with a deep breath as soon
as the first danger had passed.

“And to think that the fellow had to betray his presence by his
chattering signals just as we were about to run right into his arms,”
was the answer. “This time we can truly say that the good God, Himself,
had charge of the rudder.”

The engineer appeared on the stairway which leads from the “Centrale” up
to the conning tower.

“May I go to the engine-room, Herr Captain-Lieutenant?”

It was not permissible for him to leave his diving station, the
“Centrale,” which is situated in the center of the boat, without special
permission.

“Yes, Herr Engineer, go ahead down and fire up hard!” I replied.

The thumping of the heavy oil-motors became stronger, swelled higher
and higher, and, at last, became a long drawn out roar, and entirely
drowned the sound of the occasional jolts which always were distinctly
discernible when going at slower speed. One truly felt how the boat
exerted its strength to the utmost and did everything within its power.

We had put ourselves on another course which put the anxiously signaling
Britishers obliquely aport of our stern, and rushed with the highest
speed for about ten minutes until their lights became smaller and
weaker. We then turned point by point into our former course, and thus
slipped by in a large half circle around the hostile ships.

“Just as a cat around a bowl of hot oatmeal,” said Lieutenant Petersen.

“No, my dear friend,” I said laughingly, “it does not entirely
coincide. The cat always comes back, but the oatmeal is too hot for us
in this case. Or do you think that I intend to circle around those two
rascals for hours?”

“Preferably not, Herr Captain-Lieutenant. It could end badly!”

“Both engines in highest speed forward, let the crew leave the diving
stations, place the guards!” I ordered.

The danger had passed. Normal conditions at night could again be
resumed. But before the morning set in, we again experienced all kinds
of adventures. The night was as if bewitched. There was no sleep worth
mentioning. I had hardly, towards ten o’clock, reached my comfortable
little nest where the sailor Schultes, our own considerate “cup-bearer,”
had spread on my miniature writing-desk the most tempting delicacies of
preserves and fruit together with a bottle of claret, when a whistle
sounded in the speaking-tube on the wall right close to my head:

“Whee-e!” it shrieked, high, penetrating and alarming.

I jumped up, pulled out the stopper and put in the mouth-piece.

“Hello!”

“Two points from starboard a white light!”

I grabbed my cap and gloves and rushed sternward through the deck
officer’s room, petty officer’s room, and crew-room, each one narrower
than the other.

“Look out, the commander!” they shouted to one another, and pulled in
their legs so that I could get by.

“Ouch!” I bumped my head hard against the stand of an electric lamp. I
rubbed the sore spot as I hurried ahead, while I took an oath to myself
that the lamp should be moved at the first possible opportunity. I
hurried through the “Centrale,” up the narrow stairway. Then I reached
my place.

“Where?”

“There!” Lieutenant Gröning, who was on guard, pointed out. “About three
points starboard!”

“It is a steamer. One can already see the red side lantern. It is
crossing our course.”

I put my binoculars to the eye and looked for many seconds for the
light. The officer on guard was right. Besides the white lantern, one
could see a deep, red light. The ship therefore was traveling towards
the left and would cross our course.

A narrow strip of the moon had appeared from out of the sea and was
wrestling with the darkness of the night. The result was not much—the
strip of the moon was too small for that—still it was not so dark as
before.

“Don’t let it come too close to us!” I ordered. “And get clear in right
time. We must not under any circumstances be seen by it, because then
they would soon know in England from which direction to expect us. Now
nearly every steamer has a wireless.”

Gröning changed the course to port until he had the steamer completely
to the left.

“Too bad, we can’t take it with us,” he said.

“No, you know, for a night attack this is not the right place. Here so
many neutral steamers travel, and an error can easily be made.”

It was shortly after ten o’clock. At eleven-twenty, twelve forty,
one-ten, three-fifteen, and five o’clock I again heard the whistling
“Whee-e!” in the speaking-tube by my bunk. Each time I had to jump out
of some dream, realize within a fraction of a second that my presence
was desired up-stairs, grab my cap and gloves, and rush through the
boat’s long body up to the tower, not without several times bumping into
the aforementioned and often damned electric lamp.

After five o’clock in the morning I remained on deck, because dawn would
soon break with its treacherous light. The commander’s post is in the
tower at such a time because, just as easily as one perceives in the
pale gray light a ship, one is also visible from the steamer, which
could cause many unpleasant surprises if the two ships are not very
cordial towards each other—especially disagreeable to us because a
submarine is, as our name indicates, below the water, and the smallest
fragment of a shell can badly damage our heel of Achilles, the diving
machinery, so that we would be unable again to get into a position of
safety beneath the surface.

Shortly before six o’clock I had the entire crew at the diving stations.
Each took his place, ready at a given command to open or shut the valve,
crank, or bolt of which he had charge. Only the cook had no special duty
besides his own. He remained with the electric cooking apparatus
provided in the galley and had no other job besides taking care of our
bodily comfort. Now he was, in conformity with his duty, busy making
coffee as was proper at that time of day.

A fine, strong smell of coffee percolated through the whole ship, which
proved to be a great stimulant to our taut nerves and our empty
stomachs.

I have to deviate a little from the subject for the purpose of asking if
my readers understand me. Is it above all plain, explicit, and clear why
I give so much space to a discussion of the nerves when I speak about
us, U-boat men, and so often refer to them? The nerves are in time of
peace the Alpha and Omega for a U-boat officer. How much more so when we
are at war! The nerves to us mean power to act, decision, strength,
will, and perseverance. The nerves are valuable and to keep them in good
condition is of the greatest importance and an obligation and duty
during a voyage.

There we sit hour after hour in the conning tower. Beneath is the most
complicated mechanism the genius of man has ever created. And all around
there are the most craftily constructed instruments for the purpose of
destroying that which cost so much labor to create. Mines, nets,
explosives, shells, and sharp keels are our enemies, which, at any
moment, may send us high in the air or hundreds of meters into the
ocean. Everywhere perils lurk. The whole sea is a powder barrel.

For all this there is only one remedy—nerves!

To make the right decision at the right moment is the first and last of
U-boat science. One glance must be enough to determine the position. In
the same second a decision must be made, and the commands carried out. A
moment’s hesitation may be fatal.

I can give an example of this on the very morning I speak of.

It was three minutes after six o’clock, and within about half an hour
the sun would rise, but the sea and the sky still floated together in
the colorless drab of early dawn and permitted one only to imagine, not
see, that partition wall, the horizon.

Unceasingly our binoculars pierced the gray dusk of daybreak. Suddenly a
shiver went through my body when—only a second immovable and in intense
suspense—a dark shadow within range of the spy-glass made me jump. The
shadow grew and became larger, like a giant on the horizon—one mast;
one, two, three, four funnels—a destroyer.

A quick command—I leap down into the tower. The water rushes into the
diving tanks. The conning tower covers slam tight behind me—and the
agony which follows tries our patience, while we count seconds with
watches in hand until the tanks are filled, and the boat slips below the
sea.

Never in my life did a second seem so long to me. The destroyer, which
is not more than two thousand meters distant from us, has, of course,
seen us, and is speeding for us as fast as her forty thousand horse
power can drive her. From the guns mounted on her bow flash one shot
after another aimed to destroy us.

Good God! If he only does not hit! Just one little hit, and we are lost!
Already the water splashes on the outside of the conning tower up to the
glass windows through which I see the dark ghost, streaking straight
for us. It is terrifying to hear the shells bursting all around us in
the water. It sounds like a triphammer against a steel plate, and closer
and closer come the metallic crashes. The rascal is getting our range.

There—the fifth shot—the entire boat trembles—then the deceitful
daylight disappears from the conning tower window. The boat obeys the
diving rudder and submerges into the sea.

A reddish-yellow light shines all around us; the indicator of the
manometer, which measures our depth, points to eight meters, nine
meters, ten meters, twelve meters. Saved!

What a happy, unexplainable sensation to know that you are hiding deep
in the infinite ocean! The heart, which had stopped beating during
these long seconds because it had no time to beat, again begins its
pounding.

Our boat sinks deeper and deeper. It obeys, as does a faithful horse the
slightest pressure of a rider’s knees, which, in this case, are the
diving rudders placed in the bow and the stern. The manometer now shows
twenty-four meters, twenty-six meters. I had given orders we should go
down to thirty meters.

Above us we still hear the roaring and crackling in the water, as if it
were in an impotent rage. I turn and smile at the mate who is standing
with me in the conning tower—a happy, care-free smile. I point upwards
with my thumb.

“Do you hear it? Do you hear it?”

It is an unnecessary question, of course, because he hears it as plainly
as I do, and all the others aboard hear it, too. But the question can
still be explained because of the tremendous strain on our nerves which
has to express itself even in such a simple question.

Dear, true, splendid little boat, how one learns to love you during such
trying moments and would like to pet you like a living human being for
your understanding and obedience! We, here on board, all depend upon
you, just as we all depend upon one another. We are chained together. We
will face the dangers together and gain success.

You blond heroes who are standing down there in the bowels of the boat
without knowing what is happening up in the light, but still knowing
that the crucial moment has arrived—that life or death to every one
depends on one man’s will and one man’s decision; you who, with a calm
and strong feeling of duty, stick at your posts with all the strength of
your bodies and souls strained to the breaking point and still keep full
faith in him who is your leader, chief, and commander; you show the
highest degree of bravery and self-control, you who never have a chance
to see the enemy but still, with sustained calm, do your duty.

Not a word was uttered, not a sound disturbed that deadly stillness on
board. One almost forgot that the men were standing with strained nerves
at their posts in order to keep the wonderful mechanism running right.
One could hear the soft whirr of the dynamos and, more and more distant,
the crackling of the exploding shells. Suddenly even this stopped. The
Britisher must have noticed that the fish had slipped out of his hand.
Shortly thereafter we heard his propellers churning the water above us.
Soon this noise died away as it had come, growing fainter and fainter in
a kind of grinding whirr.

“Did you hear how he circled around over us?” I asked through the
speaking tube which led down into the “Centrale.”

“Certainly. That could clearly be distinguished,” was the short answer.

I was pondering over what to do next. At first we had no choice but to
dive at the first sight of the destroyer suddenly appearing with the
break of day.

In our capacity as an undersea boat, we were now in a position to fight
on equal terms, and I decided to risk a bout with him as soon as it
became light enough for me to see through the periscope. The
intervening time I made use of by having passed up to me in the tower
the long desired cup of morning coffee, in order to stop the tantalizing
agony which the smell of the coffee had caused my empty stomach.
Thereupon we slowly climbed upwards from our safe breakfast depth of
thirty meters. The higher we came—one can read on the manometer how we
are ascending meter by meter—the greater became the excitement and
tension. Without breathing we listened.

Slowly the boat rose. The top of the periscope would soon be thrust
above the surface. My hands clasped the handle with which the
well-oiled, and therefore easily movable, periscope can be turned around
as quickly as lightning, in order to take a sweep around the horizon. My
eye was pressed to the sight, and soon I perceived that the water was
getting clearer and clearer by degrees and more transparent. I could now
follow the ascent of the boat without consulting the manometer.

My heart was pounding with the huntsman’s fervor, in expectation of what
I was to see at my first quick glance around the horizon, because the
destroyer, which we sighted only a quarter of an hour before, could be
only a scouting ship. It might belong to a detachment of naval scouts to
protect a larger ship. In my thoughts I saw the whole eastern horizon
full of proud ships under England’s flag surrounded by smoke.

I did not see anything, no matter how carefully I scanned the horizon.
All I could see was the reddening morning blush spread over half of the
eastern sky, the last stars now paling and the rising sun showing its
first beams.

“For heaven’s sake, nobody is here,” I grumbled to myself.

“Oh, he’ll surely come back, Captain,” said my mate with true optimism.
“The prey was too hot for him to tackle and now he has started to fetch
a couple more to help him.”

“It would certainly be less desirable,” put in Lieutenant Gröning, who,
full of expectations, was standing halfway up the stairway leading from
the tower to the “Centrale” and had overheard our talk. “No, it would be
less desirable,” he repeated, “because then comes the entire swarm of
hostile U-boats with their nets cunningly lined with mines. No good will
ever come of that.”

“There you are right, Gröning,” I agreed. “With that sort of a
nuisance, equipped as they are with so many machines for our
destruction, it would be very disagreeable to make their acquaintance.
If they come, it is best to disappear. It is not worth the risk. We have
many more important duties ahead of us. It would be too bad to spoil a
good torpedo on such trash.”

At the same time, I decided to rise so as to get a better observation
through the periscope and once more look around the horizon. I suddenly
observed in the northeast a peculiar, dark cloud of smoke. I, therefore,
did not give any orders to arise, but told “Centrale” by a few short
commands through the speaking tube the new turn of affairs and, with
added speed, went to meet the smoke cloud.



III

THE SINKING OF THE TRANSPORT


Soon the outlines of a ship told us that ahead of us was a large
steamer, steaming westward at high speed. The disappointment which we
experienced at first was soon reversed when it was clearly shown that
the fortunes of war had again sent a ship across our course which
belonged to a hostile power.

No flag could be seen—nor was it run up. Otherwise we would have seen
it.

“This is a suspicious circumstance,” I reasoned with myself.

I called down to the “Centrale” all my observations through the
periscope at regular intervals, snapping them out in the same sharp,
brief style that the newsboys use in calling out the headlines to the
listening public. My words were passed in whispers from mouth to mouth
until all hands on board knew what was going on above the surface. Each
new announcement from the conning tower caused great excitement among
the crew, listening and holding their breath and, I believe, if you
could measure the tension on human nerves with a barometer, it would
have registered to the end of the tube, when, like hammer beats, these
words went down to the “Centrale”:

“The steamer’s armed! Take a look, mate.”

I stepped away from the sights of the periscope. “Can you see the gun
mounted forward of the bridge?”

“Yes, certainly,” he replied excitedly. “I can see it, and quite a large
piece it is, too.”

“Now take a look at her stern—right by the second mast—what do you
notice there?”

“Thousand devils! Another cannon—at least a ten-centimeter gun. It’s a
transport, sure.”

“Drop the periscope! Port ten!” I commanded.

“Torpedo tube ready!” reported the torpedo master through the tube from
the forward torpedo compartment.

By this time I had the periscope submerged so that we were completely
below the surface and out of sight, and it would be impossible to
discover us from the steamer, even after the most careful searching of
the horizon.

“Advance on the enemy!” was our determination.

Oh, what a glorious sensation is a U-boat attack! What a great
understanding and coöperation between a U-boat and its crew—between dead
matter and living beings! What a merging into a single being, of the
nerves and spirits of an entire crew!

“Just as if the whole boat is as one being,” was the thought that passed
through my mind when I, with periscope down, went at my antagonist, just
like a great crouching cat with her back bowed and her hair on end,
ready to spring. The eye is the periscope, the brain the conning tower,
the heart the “Centrale,” the legs the engines, and the teeth and claws
the torpedoes.

Noiselessly we slipped closer and closer in our exciting chase. The main
thing was that our periscope should not be observed, or the steamer
might change her course at the last moment and escape us. Very
cautiously, I stuck just the tip of the periscope above the surface at
intervals of a few minutes, took the position of the steamer in a second
and, like a flash, pulled it down again. That second was sufficient for
me to see what I wanted to see. The steamer was to starboard and was
heading at a good speed across our bows. To judge from the foaming waves
which were cut off from the bow, I calculated that her speed must be
about sixteen knots.

The hunter knows how important it is to have a knowledge of the speed at
which his prey is moving. He can calculate the speed a little closer
when it is a wounded hare than when it is one which in flight rushes
past at high speed.

It was only necessary for me, therefore, to calculate the speed of the
ship for which a sailor has an experienced eye. I then plotted the exact
angle we needed. I measured this by a scale which had been placed above
the sights of the periscope. Now I only had to let the steamer come
along until it had reached the zero point on the periscope and fire the
torpedo, which then must strike its mark.

You see, it is very plain; I estimate the speed of the boat, aim with
the periscope and fire at the right moment.

He who wishes to know about this or anything else in this connection
should join the navy, or if he is not able to do so, send us his son or
brother or nephew.

On the occasion in question everything went as calculated. The steamer
could not see our cautious and hardly-shown periscope and continued
unconcerned on its course. The diving rudder in the “Centrale” worked
well and greatly facilitated my unobserved approach. I could clearly
distinguish the various objects on board, and saw the giant steamer at a
very short distance—how the captain was walking back and forth on the
bridge with a short pipe in his mouth, how the crew was scrubbing the
forward deck. I saw with amazement—a shiver went through me—a long line
of compartments of wood spread over the entire deck, out of which were
sticking black and brown horse heads and necks.

Oh, great Scott! Horses! What a pity! Splendid animals!

“What has that to do with it?” I continually thought. War is war. And
every horse less on the western front is to lessen England’s defense. I
have to admit, however, that the thought which had to come was
disgusting, and I wish to make the story about it short.

Only a few degrees were lacking for the desired angle, and soon the
steamer would get into the correct focus. It was passing us at the right
distance, a few hundred meters.

“Torpedo ready!” I called down into the “Centrale.”

It was the longed-for command. Every one on board held his breath. Now
the steamer’s bow cut the line in the periscope—now the deck, the
bridge, the foremast—the funnel.

“Let go!”

A light trembling shook the boat—the torpedo was on its way. Woe, when
it was let loose!

There it was speeding, the murderous projectile, with an insane speed
straight at its prey. I could accurately follow its path by the light
wake it left in the water.

“Twenty seconds,” counted the mate whose duty it was, with watch in
hand, to calculate the exact time elapsed after the torpedo was fired
until it exploded.

“Twenty-two seconds!”

Now it must happen—the terrible thing!

I saw the ship’s people on the bridge had discovered the wake which the
torpedo was leaving, a slender stripe. How they pointed with their
fingers out across the sea in terror; how the captain, covering his
face with his hands, resigned himself to what must come. And next there
was a terrific shaking so that all aboard the steamer were tossed about
and then, like a volcano, arose, majestic but fearful in its beauty, a
two-hundred meter high and fifty-meter wide pillar of water toward the
sky.

“A full hit behind the second funnel!” I called down into the
“Centrale.” Then they cut loose down there for joy. They were carried
away by ecstasy which welled out of their hearts, a joyous storm that
ran through our entire boat and up to me.

And over there?

Landlubber, steel thy heart!

A terrible drama was being enacted on the hard-hit sinking ship. It
listed and sank towards us.

From the tower I could observe all the decks. From all the hatches human
beings forced their way out, fighting despairingly. Russian firemen,
officers, sailors, soldiers, hostlers, the kitchen crew, all were
running and calling for the boats. Panic stricken, they thronged about
one another down the stairways, fighting for the lifeboats, and among
all were the rearing, snorting and kicking horses. The boats on the
starboard deck could not be put into service, as they could not be swung
clear because of the list of the careening steamer. All, therefore,
thronged to the boats on the port side, which, in the haste and anguish,
were lowered, some half empty; others overcrowded. Those who were left
aboard were wringing their hands in despair. They ran from bow to stern
and back again from stern to bow in their terror, and then finally
threw themselves into the sea in order to attempt to swim to the boats.

Then another explosion resounded, after which a hissing white wave of
steam streamed out of all the ports. The hot steam set the horses crazy,
and they were beside themselves with terror—I could see a splendid,
dapple-gray horse with a long tail make a great leap over the ship’s
side and land in a lifeboat, already overcrowded—but after that I could
not endure the terrible spectacle any longer. Pulling down the
periscope, we submerged into the deep.

When, after some time, I came again to the surface there was nothing
more to be seen of the great, proud steamer. Among the wreckage and
corpses of the horses three boats were floating and occasionally fished
out a man still swimming in the sea. Now I came up on the surface in
order to assist the victims of the wrecked ship. When our boat’s mighty,
whale-like hull suddenly arose out of the water, right in their midst, a
panic seized them again and quickly they grasped their oars in order to
try to flee. Not until I waved from the tower to them with my
handkerchief and cap did they rest on their oars and come over to us.
The state in which some of them were was exceedingly pitiful. Several
wore only white cotton trousers and had handkerchiefs wrapped around
their necks. The fixed provisions which each boat was required to carry
were not sufficient when the boat’s crew was doubled and trebled.

While I was conferring with our mess officer as to what we could
possibly dispense with of our own provisions we noticed to the north
and west some clouds of smoke which, to judge from the signs, were
coming towards us quickly. Immediately a thought flashed through my
head:

“Now they are looking for you. Now comes the whole swarm.”

Already the typical masts of the British destroyers and trawlers arose
above the horizon. We, therefore, did not have a minute to lose in order
to escape these hostile and most dangerous enemies. I made my decision
quickly and called to the captain of the sunken steamer that he could
let one of the oncoming ships pick them up as I could not spare the
time, but had to go “northeast.” Then I submerged—right in front of the
boats full of survivors. They saw me head north and I steered in that
direction for a time. Then I pulled down the periscope and, without
being noticed, changed my course to the south.

When I, after a considerable time, again cautiously looked around, I
perceived to my amazement that an entire scout fleet in a wide circle
was heading towards us from the south also. From three sides the enemy
spurred his bloodhounds on us, and I thought to myself it would not take
long before, by extending their wings, they would encircle us
completely, and the great chase would begin. The thought was not
cheerful, particularly as the depths in this part of the ocean were not
sufficient so that we could, by submerging deeply, guard ourselves
against the dangers of grappling hooks, nets and mines.

“The wildcat has become a hare,” I thought to myself and, at the same
time, I decided what to do.

We had to do as the old hare. First, with eyes open, we would cautiously
jump forth, use all possible covers, and search for the spot where the
gunners were fewest, and then with eyes shut and at the highest possible
speed break through the widest gap.

Consequently, we began to travel toward the east where the “atmosphere
was still clear.” Occasionally I stuck up my periscope and perceived how
the surrounding circle was knit tighter and tighter. Now, after I had
made up my mind, I became completely calm and carefully considered all
the conditions for and against us. The swarm of destroyers moved toward
the center, as in a regular chase, as soon as the circle was complete.
Between every couple of hunters—I mean trawlers—there were nets
stretched across to catch a little submarine, and behind these were
dragged mines.

By extending one of the wings in the north, it made a gap toward the
east, and besides I saw that one of the torpedo boats between two groups
of the searching parties had left for the shipwrecked survivors. At this
point, consequently, was our best chance to escape. I laid my course
between the two searching parties, of course, with the periscope, during
the whole time, nearly invisible.

Slowly the ranks of the hunting hounds approached, smoking copiously and
snorting. Now the right moment had arrived to follow the other part of
the hare’s program. We shut our eyes—that is, I pulled the periscope
down completely—and proceeded with increased speed, submerging in the
sea as deeply as possible.

I can well imagine how the old hare felt when he ran blindly for his
life. Undoubtedly our feelings were somewhat the same. How easily could
not that little gap toward which we were making be closed by some small
auxiliary of the searchers.

And, if the grappling hooks from one of these got hold of us, there
would be little hope of escape, or of saving ourselves. Then they would
tear at us from all directions and give us the stab that would send us
deep down into the sea for good. No one on board suspected what danger
we went to meet. I had kept all my observations concerning the enemy’s
surrounding us to myself and had not mentioned it, so as not to excite
everybody’s mind. No one below could at any rate do anything to change
the conditions.

Then from the bow compartment came the report:

“The beating of propellers is discernible to port!”

Shortly thereafter I could hear them, even from the conning tower—a
soft, slow, swelling, and grinding sound. This was not the sound of the
propellers of a destroyer. Such would beat faster, clearer, and more
powerfully. This was the heavily-dragging trawlers’ slow beating
propellers.

Strainingly I listened to starboard—nothing could be heard. That was a
good sign, because I could hope that in reality I had reached the gap
and that the sounds of the propellers which we heard to port emanated
from the trawler on the left side of the gap. I was just about, from my
innermost heart, to let out a joyous “hurrah,” when, from the bow of the
boat, I heard a new sound which approached with a clear, sharp banging.
It was the torpedo-boat, the beast! Was the rascal going to come back at
the crucial moment?

It required only a few seconds for the torpedo-boat to pass over us, but
those seemed as hours. At every blinking of the eye I imagined I heard
something explode, turn against or drag alongside my boat. But fortune
was ours. The sharp, grinding sound of the swift torpedo-boat propellers
became fainter and fainter and, at last, ceased entirely. Unconsciously
I straightened up a little in the tower, whistled a few notes from
“Dockan,” and tapped, as if nothing had happened, with the knuckle of my
forefinger on the glass of the manometer. What did the manometer
register? Nothing whatsoever had happened. Everything was in the best
condition. The depth coincided. The diving rudder was lying normal.
Before me stood Tuczynski, my faithful helmsman and orderly, at former
times skipper on the _Weichsel_ and _Nogat_; behind me, the mate leaned
against the wall of the conning tower contentedly and yawned.

I suddenly felt an unresistible craving for a cigarette. The nerves
needed some stimulation. For about ten minutes I controlled myself. Then
I arose to a periscope distance from the surface and took a look around
to see how things were going. What I saw filled my heart with joy. The
whole swarm of British destroyers and trawlers had moved toward the
southwest and were eagerly searching in a long line. As we were
proceeding in an opposite direction we quickly left them. After about
five more minutes I would dare to come to the surface. To the north the
way was clear.

Soon I was sitting, in the best of spirits, up in the conning tower,
greedily inhaling with both lungs the fine, refreshing sea air and,
mixed with it, the long puffs of the cigarette.



IV

RICH SPOILS


Late in the afternoon of the same day we broke into a peacefully working
fishing flotilla just like a wolf into a flock of sheep. In order to be
sure no shepherd with his dog was guarding them we, keeping ourselves
submerged, carefully examined each ship. I could not see a gun or
anything suspicious anywhere.

All were peacefully occupied at their casting nets, fishing. There were
seven fishing steamers and nine sailing ships, which were scattered over
a distance of about three miles. The weather was glorious, even better
than the day before. The sun smiled from a steel blue sky and danced in
golden stripes on the bright, calm surface of the sea. A gentle
northerly swell rocked the fishing boats back and forth, so that the
gaffs and the frames on which the extra nets had been stretched to dry
were swinging and banging.

Countless numbers of sea gulls were flying about close to the flotilla.
With shrill cries and in thick flocks, they swooped down on the sterns
of some isolated boats, and hurled themselves, gliding on their wings,
into the refuse of the last catch which the fishermen were throwing
overboard.

The horizon stood out visibly from the sea all around and seemed to be a
great shining, glittering ring. Not a speck of cloud spotted its bright
edges. Nothing was visible except our fishermen.

Hurrah, this was just the weather for us! A rare and favorable
opportunity had presented itself here to play a trick on the English
fish market.

As a ghost, I suddenly arose behind one of the fishing steamers, pushed
the conning tower hatch up, and jumped up on the tower, holding the flag
of war in one hand and the megaphone in the other.

“Halloo-o-o!”

The fishermen stared at us open mouthed, rooted to the spot as if
paralyzed by fear of us.

“Halloo-o-o-o, Captain!” I shouted for the second time. “I want to talk
to you.”

After some time a figure emerged from the crowd, stepped up the
stairway, and shouted some words that were not very clear but which
sounded like:

“Here I am!”

I summoned my best English and told the red-nosed chap that I would have
to sink before sundown the whole fleet of fishing boats, and furthermore
I told him that I had selected him to take the crews of all the others
aboard his steamer. I added he must immediately cut his nets and follow
me at a distance of five hundred meters, and that I would promptly blow
him to pieces if he, of his own accord, attempted to diminish this
distance as I would then surely believe he intended to ram me.

The captain declared he was willing to obey my commands, cut the nets,
and followed me. I ordered full speed ahead and hoisted to the mast the
following signal:

“Leave the boat immediately!”

Then I rushed in among the excited swarm. With flashing eyes, the
sailors were standing by our guns and waiting, lovingly fondling the
shells, ready to begin firing.

First we went right through the crowd of fishing-boats and then along
the edges of the fleet, in order to prevent the escape of the steamers
furthest away. Nowhere did we take the time to stop to sink a ship, but
only drove the crews away from their boats. Then the prey could not get
away from us.

How promptly the fishermen alighted because of the fear of our shells!
They scrambled aboard the one steamer selected to save them in such a
rush it looked like a panicky flight. Soon cutters and rowboats were
swarming all around us and speedily the steamer selected to save the
crews was crowded.

But even during such an exciting occupation we did not neglect to keep a
sharp lookout, for under no circumstances were we to be taken by
surprise when at this work. But it was easy to look out over a great
distance. The horizon was free and clear.

As soon as the fishermen were safe aboard the steamer, we began the
sinking of the ships and went from ship to ship, stopped at a distance
of a hundred meters, and sent solid, well-aimed shots at their water
lines until they had had enough and began to sink. Many went down with
the first shot. Others were tougher and required four. For the gun crew
this was great sport. They took turns and each jealously counted the
number of shots required for his “fisherman.”

When the steamers were “fixed,” we went to the sailing boats, which, in
accordance with their inveterate custom, were lying huddled together.
The sailors generally needed only one shot—then they capsized and sank
into the sea with a death gurgle. It was a touching scene which, in
spite of our inner joy, was hard on our nerves, as every true sailor
regards the sailing-ship as a remnant of romance, dying out faster and
faster in these days.

This was truly the reason why now and at other times our hearts ached
for each sailing ship which we had to sink. The surface was covered with
hundreds of thousands of dead fish which were scattered over the sea. To
countless sea gulls it was a highly welcome call to dinner, which they
eagerly accepted, gorging themselves and filling themselves so that
their feathers stood straight out from their bodies.

We had already sent thirteen ships to the bottom, only two sailing-ships
remaining besides the rescue steamer. As the opportunity was a rare one,
I permitted the firemen and men from the engine room to come up on deck
so that they could see with their own eyes a ship go down. I enjoyed
hearing their funny remarks and to watch how, in their childish joy,
they enthusiastically greeted each new shot. I was glad to see the
bright color the fresh air and excitement brought to their pale faces.
Gröning stepped up to me and said thoughtfully:

“What will happen if the steamer goes to England and tells our
position? Following the events of yesterday afternoon, this morning and
now, the English can easily figure out our course.”

“By Jove, you are right there! I had not happened to think of that. It
is indeed true that one gets duller as the years go by. That must be
prevented under all circumstances, especially on account of to-morrow.
You know what then—don’t you?”

Gröning nodded.

“Yes, to-morrow we’ll have a trying day,” I continued, “and, if we are
going to succeed, we can’t make conditions any harder for ourselves.”

I was pondering the question of how we were going to avoid the danger of
being betrayed by the fishermen without endangering their lives, which I
did not want to do. I thought this over for a moment. Suddenly I struck
my forehead with my hand and laughed.

“So stupidly foolish! One is never able to think of the simplest way!” I
said. “We’ll simply shift the entire crowd to one of the sailing-ships.
With this light breeze, it will take them at least three days to reach
the coast and, after that, it does not matter. It will be a little
crowded for so many people, but that can’t be helped.”

“And the provisions?” Gröning asked. “What are they going to live on?”

“That’s simple,” I answered. “First of all they can take off all the
provisions from the steamer and, besides that, they have all the fish in
the sailing-ship.”

I sank the smaller of the two sailboats and then approached the steamer
which had taken aboard the crews from the other boats.

The captain of the steamer was bitterly disappointed, of course, when I
brought him word that all hands would have to go to the sailboat. He had
been so delighted to be the one chosen to keep his steamer. On the other
hand, to the captain of the sailing-ship, the message that he could go
back to his old, faithful smack came as a gift from heaven.

Yes, indeed, joy and sorrow lie close together and go hand in hand.

After a short half hour the shift was made, and the steamer also went
down into the deep—the fifteenth ship within two hours. First the
skipper carefully hauled up his nets and then with flapping sails slowly
swung around and laid his course toward the west.

During the night we dropped down to the bottom of the ocean at X——. We
wanted to get some rest for one night and gather strength for the next
day. It is comfortable to lie in the soft sands of the North Sea. It is
as if the whole boat went to bed. One thing necessary for this comfort
was a calm surface, because a heavy sea is felt at a great depth and
throws and bangs the boat back and forth on the bottom.

Slowly the boat slipped deeper and deeper. We had taken soundings before
submerging. The nearer we came to the bottom the slower the dynamo
motors worked, and I at last stopped them entirely when we were a few
meters from the bottom. As soon as we had stopped sinking, which could
be told by the fact the diving rudder was no longer working, a few
liters of water were pumped into a ballast tank made for just this
purpose. The boat became heavier and slowly sunk further.

“Now, we’ll soon strike,” I called down to the “Centrale” and looked at
the manometer.

Hardly had the words left my lips when we felt a very gentle shock—much
weaker than when a train stops—and knew we were at the bottom. Some more
water was pumped into the ballast tanks in order to make the boat
steadier and then each one at his post carefully examined scuttles and
hatchways so that not a drop of water could leak through to us. From bow
to stern it was reported:

“All is tight!”

Thereafter orders were given for the necessary guards, and then I let
the crew leave their posts:

“All hands to be free to-night!”

Until to-morrow on the bottom of the ocean! No other restfulness can be
compared with it. Rest after so much excitement which has stirred the
emotions of us all; after such a day’s work, is it possible that any one
can appreciate how we enjoyed ourselves?

We did not care that we were not in port and that a mountain of ocean
was over our heads. We felt as secure as if we had been at the safest
spot in the world. From their posts the crew went past us, with pale,
oily, and dirty faces, but with their eyes looking at me as they went
by, proud, happy, radiant, so that my heart rejoiced.

There was some excitement among the crew. Every one washed, talked and
laughed so that it was evident how happy and care-free they felt.

“Well, with what will you treat us to-day?” I asked the cook who, with
great self-confidence—because he was an expert in his line—was standing
before his little galley and stirring a steaming pot. “That smells
wonderfully appetizing.”

“Ox goulash and salt potatoes,” answered the cook and with more
eagerness stirred his pot. “It soon will be ready. It’ll not take more
than five minutes.”

“Then I must hurry up,” I replied, and went to my small cabin, where I
had not put foot since five o’clock in the morning.

I put my cap, long scarf and oil-skin jacket on a hook, stretched myself
in weary delight and washed myself energetically. This is a rare
pleasure on a trip like ours. From the nearby room the happy talk of the
officers reached my ears. I then heard a rattle of plates and forks, a
cork popped from a bottle, and Gröning opened the little door that
separates my cabin from the room of the other officers.

“Herr Captain, dinner is ready,” he said.

Soon we were sitting, four men in all, at a little, nicely decorated
table, cutting into the steaming platter and drinking out of small
seidels a magnificent sparkling wine. The past day’s events had to be
moistened a little with the best we had. This was our custom when the
fortunes of war smiled graciously on us.

The electrical heating apparatus furnishes all the heat needed, but it
still has the disadvantage that in the still, unchanged air, the heat
arises so that the temperature at the floor is several degrees colder
than at the ceiling. Even in our heavy sea-boots, we felt it a little,
although, as a whole, we were warm and contented. The phonograph played
continuously. The petty officers had taken charge of it and played one
native song after another. What a thrill ran through me! At once there
was silence. All talk stopped. German songs of the Fatherland were sung
deep down at the bottom of the ocean right on England’s coast. Inspired
by the music, our hearts were filled with enthusiasm and a silent
promise was made to give everything for the Fatherland—to become a
scourge to the enemy and damage him with all our might.

Thereafter, the dance music, operettas, vaudeville songs, and ragtime
were played. These stirred up a buoyant spirit. Especially there was
much joy among the firemen and sailors in the crew’s quarters. Funny
songs could be heard from that direction. Dirty playing cards were dug
out and soon there was a real German skat game in full swing.

During this time we, in the officers’ mess, raised our glasses and drank
toasts to one another and to the beautiful U-boat: “Rich spoils! A happy
journey home! Long live the U-boat!” That is the U-boat toast.

The boat was lying very still. It didn’t seem to stir.

“What an original idea for an artist!” said our engineer, who was
poetically inclined, as he leaned back in his chair staring thoughtfully
at the ceiling. “One can imagine a cross section of the boat showing our
room at the North Sea’s yellowish sand bottom, to which all kinds of
crawling and swimming animals give life. In here four feasting, happy
officers around a little table on which a warm electric light is shining
with the wine bottle in the center and with the glasses raised to a
solemn toast. Above—water, water, water—water to the height of a church
steeple and, over it all, the glittering heavens full of stars and a
small silver-white piece of the moon. If I were a painter I should
immediately start with this motive for a picture.”

“And give me the picture, I hope,” I laughed. “And, after all, not such
a bad idea about that picture—one should in reality propose such a
motive to an artist.”

“Maybe it would be possible to put in a couple of mermaids who look in
through the conning tower window inquisitively and knock with their
fingers on the glass,” said Petersen, our youngest lieutenant, with a
smile. “That would undoubtedly make the picture still more attractive.”

Gröning, who during the entire time had listened with a quiet smile to
the conversation, took out his empty cigar holder, on which he always
chewed when we were under water because, as a heavy smoker, he missed
tobacco, as none of us was allowed to smoke inside the boat. Slowly he
said with a touch of irony, in a deep, sympathetic voice:

“Here, my dear Petersen, you are an unreasonable rascal. If there are no
women in the game, then there is no pleasure for you. Doesn’t the fellow
actually talk about mermaids when he tells us every fourth week he is
going to become engaged. ‘This time it’s absolutely certain! This time
I surely will do it, as I will never find such a girl again.’ This and
more I hear every month. What was the last one’s name that you intended
to make happy—your March girl? Wait, I have it—the February girl—ha, ha,
ha—has the captain heard the story of the February girl?”

He turned to me laughing.

“Will you shut up, Gröning!” Petersen burst forth and blushed up to his
ears. “I’ll tell you that if you tell tales out of school—and besides——”

“Well, Petersen,” I encouraged, “what ‘besides’?”

“Besides, all that is not true,” he continued and blushed still more
when he noticed that he had betrayed himself. “_You_ should certainly
keep quiet,” he went on suddenly, beaming with an idea, and began to
attack in order to lead the conversation away from himself. “He who
lives in glass houses should be more careful.”

“I—I—I—how so—that’s the limit!” Gröning angrily rejoined, as he
considered it an honor to be known among his friends as a woman hater.
“I—in a glass house? It’s a mean accusation, or have you been drinking
too much wine, my dear boy?”

“Bah! only a glass,” answered the younger officer, defending himself.
“It is ridiculous to claim anything like that.”

“Well, well, be friends now, sirs,” I said soothingly. “Don’t let’s
quarrel down here at the bottom of the sea. I hereby decide that our
younger officer is absolutely sober, but that, even so, he will not be
allowed to let his April girl with her fishtail come in here, as a
punishment, because he has jilted his February girl.”

With this decision both these fighting roosters (really the best friends
in the world) had to be pleased, and the eternal discussion of Eve and
her daughters, which had nearly made the ocean bottom shake under our
feet, was ended.

Shortly after this we went to bed in our narrow bunks—for the first time
undressed on the voyage—and soon enjoyed a sleep free from dreams.



V

THE WITCH-KETTLE


In the morning no rooster crowed to wake me. But, instead, there stood
my faithful orderly, the Pole, Tuczynski, before my bed, and loudly
announced:

“Herr Captain Lieutenant, it’s five-thirty!”

I woke up in bewilderment. My head was still dull after a sound sleep.

“What’s up?”

“It’s five-thirty,” repeated the orderly. “The water for washing and the
clothes are ready.”

Ah! Like a flash the reality was before me. We were lying on the bottom
of the sea—were going to arise within an hour—and then we were going
to——

I leaped out of bed. The thought of “then we were going to” fully awoke
me. “Yes, we are going to go at it; everything depends upon to-day,” I
thought, and put my feet into my slippers.

Hardly had I scrambled to my feet when I had to grasp the closet to
support myself.

“What’s up now?” I asked, turning to my good Pole, who was spitting on
my left boot in order to preserve the shine. “We are rolling. What’s
happened?”

“Must be a little sea above,” he replied with a grin.

“I can understand that myself, you smarty, but when did it start? Run
along quickly and find out when the rolling was first noticed!”

Tuczynski hurried to the “Centrale” and returned immediately with his
answer:

“About two o’clock, says Lieutenant Petersen.”

“Well, then we must have a considerable storm above, if the wind has
been blowing for four hours. Get out my oil-skin coat quickly! It will
be needed to-day,” I ordered, and hurriedly dressed myself as
water-tight as possible.

The change of weather did not suit my purpose, for, although to judge
from the motion of the boat the storm was not as yet so bad, the
strength of the wind was probably six, and it was gradually becoming
worse. At this time of the year storms could be terrible.

“Devil take the luck—and this very day, too!” I swore through my six-day
old beard-stub.

After breakfast I called the entire crew together. “Boys,” I said, “you
know that we have many things unaccomplished. As yet we are only at the
beginning of our task. Yesterday and the day before we were very
successful, and now we have had a restful night. Being well rested, we
are now cheerfully and confidently ready for another day’s work. To-day
we are going to go through the so-called ‘Witch-Kettle.’ You all know
what I mean, and you know also that this is not child’s play. The enemy
there is keeping sharp lookout, but we will keep a better lookout.
Others have gotten through before us. Consequently, we will also get
through, if each one of you sticks to his post and does his duty as well
as you all have done hitherto. This I expect from every man. And now—to
the diving stations!”

I went up to the tower. Shortly after the engineer reported from the
“Centrale”:

“All hands are at the diving station!”

Consequently we were ready for our task. The day began—the most
remarkable day of my life.

“Arise!”

The pump began to buzz. We now had to empty the ballast-tanks of the
water which had been taken in to make the boat heavier, in order that,
instead of being held down, we should begin to pull ourselves loose, and
drift slowly upwards. Usually that manœuver was accomplished with the
best of success, but not so to-day. The boat wabbled and “stuck,” as we
used to say. It called to my mind the question which is often asked by
laymen: “Are you never in fear of not being able to get up to the
surface again?” We, of course, had no fear, but I knocked impatiently on
the manometer to see if the register would not at last begin to move.

“Nine hundred liters above the normal,” Krüger reported from the
“Centrale.”

It meant that we had pumped out of the boat nine hundred liters more
than the normal quantity necessary to make the boat rise.

“It seems as if we were fastened in a vise,” I joked, “but in accordance
with the map there ought to be a sand bottom here.”

“Now it loosens!” the engineer called out.

Yes, the boat pulled loose all right—the hand on the manometer was
rising—but it shot upwards on one side only. The stern arose but the
nose remained fastened in the mud.

“How confoundedly nasty,” I heard Gröning, who took care of the diving
rudder, growl.

Now the entire ballast shifted. We had to make the boat heavier in the
stern, had to shift the ballast of the heretofore well-balanced boat and
pump ballast water out of the bow to pour water into the stern tanks, in
order to make the bow lighter and the stern heavier. After a few liters
of water had exchanged places the boat changed her mind and again placed
herself in a horizontal position. Then she arose quickly and
satisfactorily, but showed a tendency to list toward the stern, until
we, by a new shift of the ballast, had re-established the old conditions
of equilibrium.

After the boat had pulled loose with apparent reluctance from her bed on
the bottom, she could not get up fast enough to stick her nose into the
fresh air. Having the ballast diminished by nine hundred liters, she
leaped upwards rapidly, but this did not suit my purpose, as I preferred
first to put up the periscope and find out whether the atmosphere was
free from British germs. As I felt I was entirely responsible for my
boat’s health, I entertained one fear, based on experience, that germs
in the form of destroyers and trawlers, appearing suddenly, might
endanger it. I made the boat obey my will, let the nine hundred liters
be pumped into her again, and thus checked her quick ascent.

At the same time I had the dynamo motors started, so that we would have
steerageway for the diving rudder, and commanded that the U-boat should
stop at the depth of twenty meters. Thereafter, I soon came to the
periscope depth and took a look around to see if I could discover any
ships. There was nothing in sight, but woe—a heavy storm!

“Well, it can’t be helped,” I said softly to myself.

I made another careful search of the horizon and then arose entirely to
the surface. What a delightful sensation to be standing on the tower
with my hands to my sides and greedily sucking my lungs full of the
fresh sea air! The air at the bottom had not been so bad. On the
contrary, the engineers had kept it in first-class condition during the
night, but more delightful was the wonderful ocean air.

Now the ventilator burst open and refreshed those inside with fresh air
throughout the ship.

“Now, Mate,” I ordered, “let me take a look at the map once more. That’s
right. Put it right up here on the tower—no harm done if it gets wet.
Now let’s have a compass and a lead pencil—thanks. Watch carefully and
follow my calculations to see I make no mistake. From here to the first
mine field it is twenty-two miles; from there to the second mine field
about fourteen miles—which makes thirty-six miles altogether. We must
reach the first field just before the ebb tide, as the mines are only
visible just before or right after the ebb tide. We get the ebb about
ten o’clock, and it is now half past six. We can, therefore, go along
easily at half speed and will have enough time to recharge the
batteries. Is that right?”

“Yes, that’s right,” replied the mate, and quickly folded up the map,
which he had shown anxiety in guarding, time and time again, against the
waves washing over the ship, “if we only don’t have to dive again.”

“I don’t believe we will,” I said with confidence. “Here near the mine
fields I think there are few ships sailing. So far as that goes, we are
really safer here. The scouting will be on the other side of the
fields.”

Exactly one hour before the ebb tide we reached those sections where
the enemy, according to the reports from other U-boats, believed that
they had effectively blocked the passage with a mine field that
stretched for several miles. I say “believed,” because the mines, as
before stated, were showing above the surface during the ebb tide and
one could easily steer through the lanes between them. The blocking of
this important passage was therefore for the enemy an assuring but
somewhat expensive illusion. It was not quite so easy as I had expected
from the stories and reports of my fellow submarine commanders to slip
between the mines.

“Well, sirs, here it goes!” I said to both officers, who, like me, had
crawled into their thick oil-skins and had exchanged their caps,
embroidered with gold oak leaves, for the practical southwester. “Now,
we’ll see who spots the first mine.”

In a drizzle of foam and spray we were standing side by side and gazed
at the sea several hundred meters ahead of us. The ocean had within the
last few hours become still heavier and stormier, and the wind came from
the southwest and consequently straight toward us so that there was
danger of discovering the mines too late, as they would be concealed
from our sight with every roll of the sea.

Suddenly we all three looked at one another and then quickly at the sea
again. There they were! Heavens, what a bunch! In all directions as far
as the eye could see were the devilish dark globes, washed with the
breakers’ snow-white foam. We were so overwhelmed by the sight of all
these mines that we started to swear and kept it up for some time
without any interruption.

“It’s outrageous! It’s unheard of! It’s terrible! Such a mass! And such
a people call themselves Christian seafarers—a bunch of murderers,
that’s what they are, who can put out such dirty traps!”

With reduced speed we went toward the “caviar sandwich,” as Petersen
called the dark spotted surface before us. Now it was “up to” us
skilfully to steer the boat between the irregularly spread mines and see
carefully to it that we did not get into a blind alley. If only our boat
did not hit one of those devilish things! It would be the end of us! But
surely if we kept calm, we should get through all right. Certainly we
would. We had a warhelmsman who was a wonder in his line, boatswain’s
mate Lohmann. He could thank his skill as a helmsman for his long career
in the navy. If he was up to some deviltry—which, it is said, rather
often happened in former days—it was always mentioned as an extenuating
circumstance—“but he’s such an able helmsman.”

Lohmann, when he put his mind to it, could certainly steer. He could hit
a floating cork with the prow. He was standing with feet apart in the
tower and grinning so that his mouth reached from ear to ear. He always
grinned when he stood at the wheel. But now that he had become the most
important person on board, he was radiating joy and pride to such an
extent that his little square figure took on a superior pose of careless
daring. With his right hand he spun the wheel playfully, just as if he
were experimenting. He had shoved the other deep down into the large
pocket of his seaman’s trousers clear up to his elbow.

Then we were pounding into the mine field. Lohmann squinted together his
small gray eyes to a couple of narrow slits, spat first in his right
hand, and then in a long semi-circle towards the first mine which we
were just passing on the port side. He, thereupon, hitched his slipping
trousers, lit his nose-warmer—a pipe broken off close to the bowl—spat
once more into his right hand, and began a series of artistic curvings
and twistings to weave his way through the narrow lanes. And he was as
calm and confident as if he had done nothing all his life except steer
U-boats through mine fields. I could leave him in charge of it.

After ten minutes we had passed the mine field. We estimated we had
sifted through about eight hundred mines.

At high speed we then steered toward the second batch of mines.

Then came a series of reverses which made this the most eventful day so
far experienced by any U-boat crew in the war.

It was ten forty-two by the clock.

Beyond the second mine field an English destroyer was patrolling. We had
to dive quickly and go through the mines under the water, a detested and
very dangerous proceeding!

The destroyer had not seen us. The sea became more violent; the
barometer fell rapidly; the heaven was filled with black rain clouds.
The clearness of the atmosphere disappeared, and the ocean was restless
and covered with white foam. The sea washed over the periscope again
and again with white-combed, rushing mountains of water, so that for
several long seconds I could see nothing. Suddenly we were in the midst
of the mines. I could make out those that were close by, because the
water had risen so that only the tops of the black balls, which here and
there bobbed up for a second, could be seen.

To turn away from the mines at the right moment was almost impossible.
We were running straight for a mine—the next second it was on top of us
and passed only a few meters from the periscope. At the same time, on
the other side, three mines clustered together in a group were floating
past us. It was a hellish journey, and the destroyer was all the time
waiting for us on the other side of the mine field, and compelled us to
continue below the surface. He had no consideration for our
difficulties.

Oh, how he would enjoy it if we suddenly went up in the air, surrounded
by a cloud of smoke and fire! Good God! Now we are about to give him
this joy. I had already shut my eyes and thought we were doomed—because
one of the mines had just struck hard with a metallic clang against the
periscope, a sound which I will never forget until I am in a better
world! But the mine, which I saw just before the wave washed over the
periscope, had been carried away behind us and had better sense than to
blow us up; it only twisted on its axis and didn’t do us any harm. Maybe
it was old and damaged.

I could not stand it any longer. I felt like a man trying to commit
suicide when he misses his aim.

“Quickly dive to twenty-five meters!” I called down to the “Centrale.”

Rather dash blindly through this hell than always see your last minute
right before your eyes, and still be unable to do anything. But if,
while submerged, a cable should fasten itself around the U-boat? The
chance of getting through was better down there, I figured.

“Start the phonograph,” I commanded, “and put on something cheerful, if
you please!”

In spite of the new, beautiful “Field Gray Uniforms,” the song which
soon resounded through the boat, I heard twice a hellish grinding and
scraping above the conning tower—mine cables which we had fouled. At
last, after many long minutes, we were through the mine field. We arose
and I put up the periscope and looked around. God be praised! The
atmosphere, or rather the water, was clearer. The destroyer was several
hundred meters behind us, and we had come through the horrible place
without a scratch.

Aha! There was the first buoy—the first placed on the narrow sand bar.
Now it was careful steering for the ship. We took soundings and
proceeded cautiously. If only the current had not been so strong! It
constantly swung us out of our course. I had to steer against the
current continually.

“Mate, how far are we now from land?”

The sailor quickly brought up the chart and measured the distance with a
scale.

“Two and a half sea miles.”

“Oh, the devil! And, as yet, we cannot see anything of it. The air has
been thickening. That’s all we need to make things worse for us!”

The cruiser on guard now came rushing past us on the port side. It was
not far from us when I pulled down the periscope for a time.

Who can describe my fright when I put up the periscope again in a few
minutes and could not see anything because of the fog that had settled
down on the sea! A dark rainwall also moved along the surface. And this
was just where it was absolutely necessary for me to see. I must see
where the channel began to be very narrow! Only one narrow passage about
two hundred meters wide, there was, within which we absolutely must
proceed. Every turn away from this—either to the right or left—would
immediately run us into the sandbank. And now there was no sign of the
buoy which marked the channel. In addition to this we faced a current we
had not counted on.

I searched and searched for the buoy. The sweat stood out on my
forehead, and the excitement made me so warm that the sights on the
periscope time and time again clouded up on account of the heat from my
body. The mate must continually wipe the wet glass with a piece of
chamois.

“Now we should be off the buoy, Mate, but I don’t see it! Good God, what
are we going to do! It will be fatal—it is impossible to navigate
without picking it up. And besides, the destroyer which is lurking
behind that confounded rainwall and which at any minute can come up
alongside us!”

The buoy did not appear.

Then the weather began to clear up. The rain thinned and the fog lifted
a little.

First we saw land. Thereafter we saw the destroyer at quite a distance
on the port side, laying a course towards us, and then—then——

All good spirits have mercy on us!

The buoy—our buoy—was to the wrong side.

And we? Great God in Heaven—we were going on the wrong course! We were
running right for the sandbank. We must already be right on top of them.
Disastrously for us, it has cleared too late.

“Hard a-starboard! Reverse both engines full speed!” There was nothing
more to do. Then came the disaster! A jar and a whirring—U-boat 202 had
gone aground.



VI

A DAY OF TERROR


What we went through was horrible. The breakers dashed high over the
sandbar. They hurled themselves on us to destroy our boat, played ball
with us, lifted us high into the air and dropped us again on the bar
with such fury that the whole boat shivered and trembled.

We had lost control of the boat completely. The roaring breakers made so
much noise we could hear them through the thick metal wall. Every new,
onrushing wave tossed us higher and higher on the reef. Exposure was our
greatest danger. Already the top of the conning tower and the prow
projected above the surface—but a moment more and the entire boat would
be plainly visible. Then we would surely be lost. As a helpless wreck,
we would become a target for the destroyer.

Pale and calm, every man stuck to his post and clung to the nearest
support, so as not to fall at the rolling and jolting of the boat. With
awe, I looked alternately at the manometer and the feverish sea which I
could see all around me through the conning tower windows. Oh, if it had
been only the sea we must fear! But through the scum and froth, more
merciless than the wild, onrushing breakers, the black destroyer,
smoking copiously, steamed straight toward us, like a bull with lowered
horns.

“We had better keep below the water at any price, even if we are smashed
to pieces against the sandbank and the boat breaks up, rather than to
be blown to pieces by the shells of the English,” was the thought that
flashed through my brain.

“Fill the ballast tanks,” I called down to the “Centrale.” “Fill all the
tanks full, Herr Engineer. Do you hear? We must not under any
circumstances rise any higher!”

“All ballast tanks filling!” it was reported from below.

Oh, how quiet it was below! Not a word was uttered. No anxious
conjectures, no surmises, and no questions.

A deep, irresistible grief clutched my heart. My poor little boat! My
poor crew! There every man unflinchingly and unhesitatingly did his
duty, and devotedly put his faith in me. They were all heroes, so young
and still so brave and able. And I, the commander, had brought them
into the very mouth of death, and to me, the only one who could see our
desperate situation, it seemed as if the scale of death slowly weighed
against us, because the destroyer, with horrible certainty, was
approaching. His sharp prow pointed directly towards us. Soon he would
discover the projecting parts of our tower and prow, which the breakers
treacherously washed over, and then we would be lost. Soon a hail of
shells would sweep over us, and the greedy, foaming sea would roaringly
hurl itself through the open holes in our sides.

The filling of the ballast tanks had the desired effect. The boat lay
down heavily on the reef and spurred the wild waves to greater efforts,
and, though we did not rise any farther, the jolting increased in
violence because of its added weight. It was a wonder that the boat did
not go to pieces like an egg shell, and we all looked at one another in
surprise when, after a terrific jolt, nothing more occurred than the
bursting of a few electric bulbs. “First-class material,” I thought to
myself.

The mate who, over my shoulder, was keeping watch on the destroyer
through the window on the port side, suddenly said, in his hearty, Saxon
dialect:

“Well, well! Where does he intend to look for us now, I wonder? At any
rate, he doesn’t think that we are stuck here among the breakers.”

“Mate, you old optimist. Those words I’ll never forget. Great God! If
you are right! Then certainly——”

“He is already turning,” the little chap cut me short, and jammed his
nose against the window-glass, so as to be able to see better.

I grabbed him by the neck and pulled him away, as my blood rushed to my
head.

“What? What is it you are saying? Is he turning—good God in heaven—yes,
it’s true—he really _is_ turning, all the time turning—now his broadside
swings round towards us, now his stern—he has turned—he is departing. He
has not seen us, he has not seen us!”

I remember that once, when I was a little boy, I got a roe-deer as a
present.

I loved it a great deal and we were inseparable. It had to sleep on a
rug by my bed. One beautiful summer’s day we were playing in the sun on
a large lawn before the house when suddenly a large, unknown hound came
rushing towards my little pet and blood-thirstily chased it around the
lawn. The nasty dog was about to run it down when my pet, with a shrill
shriek, appealed for help. I was standing paralyzed in terror and could
not get a word through my lips, when unexpectedly the owner called the
dog back with a whistle. Then I threw myself, with great exultation,
down alongside my pet, pressed it to my heart, kissed its black snoot,
and cried and laughed with joy.

Those were my feelings now, when, with my own eyes, I saw the
impossible—that the destroyer, without suspecting our presence, had
steered away from us. Was it possible that he did not see us, when,
according to my estimation, he was only about eight hundred meters away?
Could the mate be right, and the foolish destroyer have only searched
the passage in accordance with his schedule? “But,” I thought, with a
shiver, “how easily would not perchance a glance in our direction have
betrayed us?”

Radiant with joy, I told the crew in the “Centrale” what a happy turn
the affairs had taken at the last moment. A burden must have fallen from
the hearts of my splendid, brave boys.

I then revealed my plans to the engineer:

“We are going to lie here until the destroyer reaches the other end of
his patrol, which is about three to four sea miles from here. Then, at
once, quickly empty all the tanks so that the boat cuts loose from the
reef. At top speed, we will make for deep water and then dive again to a
safe position below the surface.”

Again a light rain-cloud floated slowly towards us and favored our
plans. Soon the destroyer could be seen only as a fading figure in the
mist. Now we could risk to arise and get away from our other danger—the
fiercely rolling breakers.

The valves were quickly opened. At once the boat came up. The terrific
jolting ceased. The hand of the manometer moved upwards, and, after a
few seconds, the boat’s broad, dripping back broke through the surface.

There is the buoy! Now full speed ahead! We’ll be soon there—now but a
few hundred meters more and then the game is ours—a game on which life
and death depended; a game which would have turned our hair white if we
had not been so young, and if we had not, through horrible dangers,
been united by true and faithful bonds.

As soon as we had placed ourselves on the right side of the longed-for
buoy we again hurled ourselves deep down into the cool sea as happily as
a fish which for a long time had been on dry land, and suddenly gets
into its own element again.

The first and most dangerous part of our journey through the
“Witch-Kettle” was over, although not without its horrible experiences.
The narrow inlet was passed and also the several sea miles, wide and
free from reefs and other navigation difficulties. Thus we merrily
glided about in the deep and, in good spirits, hammered and listened and
felt our splendid, hard-tried, heavily-tested boat all over back and
forth, to see if it had pulled through without a leak from the pit of
the rolling breakers; and we soon all forgot. As long as the nerves were
at a continuous tension we had no time to think about past events. And
though we had happily passed through and over mines and reefs, still the
day was far from ended, and our main task was still before us.

This day continually brought us new and unexpected surprises, so that,
at last, we had a gruesome feeling that everything had united itself for
our destruction. First there were the trawlers; then the motor boats,
which in pairs, with a steel net between them, searched through the
channel where they suspected that U-boats were lurking. Every time we
stuck up our periscope cautiously in order to look around a bit, it
never failed that we had one of those searching parties right in front
of us, so that we must submerge in a hurry to a greater depth in order
not to be caught by the dangerous nets. And if for a short time there
was an opportunity to scan the horizon undisturbed, then the atmosphere
was thick, and we were unable to locate the shores, which we knew were
close at hand, so that at last we hardly knew where we were, as the
currents in these parts could not be estimated. Since the famous buoy we
had not seen any mark which would in any degree assist us to locate
ourselves.

We kept to our course up the center of the channel and trusted that our
lucky star would lead us straight. Every half hour we came up from the
safety of the deep and tried to take our bearings and then submerged
again, disappointed. The crew, of course, must remain at the diving
stations uninterruptedly.

About two o’clock the cook came around with pea-soup and pork in small
tin cups. He also stretched up his arms to us in the conning tower with
a steaming plate in his hands. I put the plate on my knees and dipped
out its contents, thinking “The wild beasts are fed.” The moisture,
which forms in large drops on the ceiling during long trips under the
water, fell down on my head and into my plate and left small splotches
of oil in the pea-soup as a sign they were real drops of U-boat sweat.

We again arose to the periscope level at four o’clock. At a distance of
five hundred meters, a scouting fleet was moving about. At the same time
on our starboard bow a French torpedo boat with four funnels was
cruising around.

I had a desire to fire a shot at this enemy, but the fact that such a
shot would send the whole lurking fleet at us restrained me.

I have to admit that it was hard to hold back from taking the chance,
and it was with a heavy heart that I gave orders to dive again. But
this, however, saved us. If we had traveled at the periscope level for
only a few minutes more, I would not be sitting here to-day, smoking my
cigar and writing down the story of our adventures.

We were submerging, and the manometer showed seventeen meters. Then,
suddenly, it was as if some one had hit each one of us at the same
minute with a hammer. We all were unconscious for a second and found
ourselves on the floor or thrown prone in some corner with our heads,
shoulders, and other parts of our bodies in great pain. The whole boat
shook and trembled. Were we still alive or what had happened? Why was it
so dark all around us? The electric lights had gone out.

“Look to the fuse!”

“It’s gone!”

“Put in the reserve fuse!”

Suddenly we had our lights again. All this happened within a few seconds
and more quickly than I can tell it.

What had happened? Was it true we were lost? Would the water rush into
the ship and pull us to the bottom? It must be a mine—a violent mine
detonation had shaken us close by the boat. And the U-202? What were the
consequences of this to the U-boat?

The reports came from all quarters:

“The bow compartment is tight!”

“The stern compartments tight!”

“The engine room all safe!”

Then the boat unexpectedly began to list. The bow sunk, and the stern
arose. The ship careened violently, although the diving rudder was set
hard against this.

“Herr Captain,” Gröning, who was in charge of the diving rudder,
shouted, “something has happened. The boat does not obey the rudder. We
must have gotten hooked into some trap—a line or maybe a net. It’s hell.
That’s all that’s needed. We are jammed into some net, and all around us
the mines are lining it. It’s enough to set you crazy.”

“Listen,” I called down. “We must go through it. Put the diving rudder
down hard! Both engines full speed ahead! On no condition must we rise!
We must stay down at all costs. All around above us are mines!”

The engines were going at top speed. The boat shot upwards and then bent
down, ripped into the net, jerked, pulled and tore and tore until the
steel net gave way from the force of the attack.

“Hurrah! We are through it! The boat obeys her diving rudder!” Gröning
called out from below. “The U-202 goes on her way!”

“Down, keep her down all the time. Dive to a depth of fifty meters,” I
commanded. “This is a horrible place—a real hell!”

I bent forward and put my head into my hands. It was rocking as if being
hit by a trip hammer. My forehead ached as if pricked with needles and
my ears buzzed so that I had to press my fingers into them.

“It’s a horrible place,” I repeated to myself. “And what luck we had,
what a peculiar chance and wonderful escape that we got out at all!”

It took some time for my aching head to remember chronologically what
had happened. Yes, it certainly was lucky that we, at the right moment,
had submerged deep. We had been at a depth of about seventeen meters
when our prow collided with the net, and the detonation followed. The
more I thought of it, the plainer everything became to me.

As we had run against the net, it had stretched and that had set off the
mine. The mines are set in the nets at the height at which the U-boats
generally travel, which is the periscope level. If we had tried to
attack the torpedo boat or, for any other reason, had remained for a few
minutes more at the periscope level, we would have run into the net at a
point where our enemies had hoped we would—namely, so that the mine
would have exploded right under us. Now the mine, on the contrary,
exploded above us, and its entire strength went in the direction where
the natural resistance was smallest—which was upwards. Without causing
us any greater damage than a fright and a few possible scars on the thin
metal parts, which might have scratched the paint, we had escaped.

Undoubtedly the Frenchman was filled with exultation over our
destruction when, waiting at his post by the net, he heard and saw the
explosion, and probably reported by wireless to the entire world:

“Enemy U-boat caught and destroyed in a net by a mine explosion.”

And little I begrudge him that joy if he, as a return favor in the
future, will leave us alone, because we had gotten pretty nearly all we
wanted, as it was.

The day’s experiences were far from ended. First Engineer Krüger
appeared on the stairway to the conning tower with a troubled look.

“Herr Captain,” he reported, “we must have gotten something in the
propeller. Our electric power is being consumed twice as fast as it
should. I suppose that pieces of the metal net have entangled themselves
in the blades. The laboring of the engines is terrific and the charge
in the batteries is being rapidly reduced, and they are becoming
exhausted.”

Were we now going to have this difficulty, too! We had already consumed
a large quantity of the current, because we had been compelled to dive
at our highest speed and this uses up the batteries fast.

“How far can we go on it now, Herr Krüger?”

The engineer calculated in his notebook, shrugged his shoulders
thoughtfully, and said:

“If we do not consume it any faster, it should last us for a couple of
hours yet. It would be better, however, to decrease our speed a little.”

I pondered this situation for a time. In about an hour the tide would
turn and the current would be against us. We would not be able to make
much speed then, but, on the other hand, it would be dark, and we would
probably dare to rise to the surface. The enemy undoubtedly believed we
had perished and would have decreased his vigilance.

“All right,” replied the engineer. “We’ll stop one motor. There is no
danger we will run aground. It is too deep here for that.”

Consequently, we stopped one motor, and continued ahead at a reduced
speed. At exactly five o’clock we came up again to look around. Hard by
in our wake was the French torpedo boat steaming at a distance of about
two hundred meters.

“Well, what is it now?” I said to the mate, and bit nervously on my
lower lip. “It looks as if that rascal was after us.”

“It must be a coincidence,” answered the unperturbed optimist.

We submerged once more, but came up again after another half hour.

The torpedo boat still came after us, steaming along in our wake at a
distance of two hundred meters.

“If this is a coincidence, Mate, then it is a very, very peculiar one,”
I said to him.

When it was six o’clock we again took a look around. The Frenchman was
still after us at the same distance.

“The devil! This is no coincidence! I’ll be hanged if this is a
coincidence. This is intentional. We are certainly pursued!”

There must be something the matter with us. The enemy must be able to
follow us—there must be some sign that enables him to follow us even
when submerged to a great depth. What could it be?

I was pondering this impossible problem. The only thing I could think of
was that when the mine exploded, it had caused a leakage in one of our
oil tanks and that the escaping oil left a plain trail that betrayed our
presence. It was impossible at any rate on account of our slow speed
under the water, against the current, that by a coincidence and without
knowing about it, the Frenchman kept coming after us at the same precise
distance. I had to find out about it. We submerged once more, changed
our course, and proceeded at full speed. If the Frenchman had really
been able to see anything of us, then he would also follow us now when
we changed our course and were going four times as fast.

At half past six I looked astern through the periscope and again saw,
just as at five, half past five, and six, the Frenchman who, at the same
speed on a changed course, continued to follow us.



VII

A LIVELY CHASE


The fact that the French destroyer continually followed us at the same
distance made me certain. There was no doubt about it. We had been
discovered and were pursued. Soon the Frenchman would call for aid and
would have all the bloodhounds of the sea on our scent and following us.
By this time our storage batteries had begun to be exhausted, and the
water was a hundred meters deep so that it was impossible for us to lie
on the bottom.

“Nice prospects,” I thought to myself. To the mate and crew in the
“Centrale,” I called loudly so that all could hear me:

“Well, now we have gotten rid of him at last. Didn’t I say it was only a
coincidence?”

I wanted to relieve the tension on the nerves of the men, because I knew
how they had gone on for days at a high pitch of excitement.

In my plans, I had counted on the darkness, which must come soon. We
would be very economical of the power, so that it would take us to the
point which I had selected after carefully studying the chart. We kept
to the same course for half an hour. Then, when the darkness must have
settled down, I turned off at an angle of ninety degrees, and headed
straight for the coast, where I knew the depth would permit us to rest
on the bottom, to wait until the enemy had given up his manhunt. This
would be towards morning, I thought, especially if the storm coming up
from the southwest should increase in violence so that the searching of
the water with nets would become very difficult.

The point that I had selected for our resting place was far from
comfortable. And it was marked on the chart, not with the reassuring
“Sd.” which indicated a sand bottom, but with the dreaded “St.” which
meant the bottom was stony. But we had no choice. And when the devil is
in a pinch, he will eat flies, although he is accustomed to better food.
We did not rise again, since we knew it was dark over the sea, but
continued at a considerable depth without incident and slowly approached
our goal.

About midnight, according to my calculations, we would be able to touch
the bottom. And the storage batteries had to last up to that time.
Krüger figured and figured and came to the conclusion that they would
hardly last long enough.

Until ten o’clock we had heard our friend’s propellers over us several
times. Thereafter all became quiet on the surface, and, relieved, I drew
a deep breath. They had lost the scent. It became bearable again in the
U-boat. I sat on the stairway leading to the “Centrale” and was eating
sandwiches and drinking hot tea with the other officers and the rest of
the crew. It was almost twelve o’clock and still we had not touched
bottom. What would happen if the computation of our location was wrong?
This could easily have occurred, because of the strong current and our
slow speed.

Half-past twelve! Still no bottom! Engineer Krüger was nervously
stamping his feet and turned out one electric light after another in
order to save power. For the same reason, the electric heating apparatus
had been cut off for a long time, and we were very cold.

At five minutes to one we felt a slight scraping. The motors were
stopped and then we reversed them in order to decrease our speed. A
slight jolt! We filled the ballast tanks and were lying on the bottom
where we could wait for morning at our ease. Who thought that? He who
imagined that we would have any rest was disappointed. We were lying on
a rock, and the tide turned about two o’clock, and the southwest wind
swept the sea fiercely.

At the beginning, it seemed as if we would be all right, down there on
the “St.” bottom, but we soon discovered differently—when the rolling
began. There was no chance of gentle resting, as on the soft sand of the
North Sea, but, instead, we banged and racked from one rock to another,
so it was a wonder the boat could stand it at all.

Sometimes it sounded as if large stones were rolling on deck and, again,
our boat would fall three or four meters deeper with a jolt, so that the
manometer was never at rest, and we had to stand this continued rising
and falling between twenty-two and thirty-eight meters.

At last, towards four o’clock, we gave it up. At some of the joints in
the ship, there were small leakages, and none of us had any thought of
sleeping. We, therefore, went up to the surface.

I opened the conning tower hatch and let the fresh air rush against me.
I had a queer sensation. It seemed to me as if we had been buried in the
deep for an eternity and had had a long, bad dream.

But we had no time to dream. The storm had not calmed, but continued in
its fury, and it was not long before we in the tower were soaking wet.
However, to our satisfaction, the water was much warmer than in the
North Sea. We noticed that the last hours had brought us much closer to
our object.

It was the Gulf Stream that was flowing by us and which, in this
section, is really warm, running between two shores close together.

The night was coal black. At a great distance astern, two light-houses
flashed, one white and the other red. It was easy for us to know our
position. No enemy was in sight, so he must have abandoned his search as
useless. Can any one understand with what relief we realized this fact?
Confidently we began to look ahead to success now that, at last, the
dangers of the mine fields, which had been greater than we had expected,
were behind us.

The exhausted batteries were quickly re-charged, in order to be ready
for other emergencies, and then, with our Diesel engines running, we
went out into the open ocean, away from the unfriendly shores, to get
some fresh air and to rest our nerves.

When the day began to break, we were twenty sea miles out and had
already re-charged the batteries with so much power that, if necessary,
we could proceed for several hours under water. In the dusk of the dawn,
we had a new surprise.

Gröning, who, by chance, had looked toward the bow where the outlines of
our boat were becoming visible, suddenly against all rules, grabbed my
arm. With mouth open, eyes staring, and an arm outstretched, he pointed
toward the bow.

“What is that?”

I ran up, bent forward, and followed with my eyes in the direction in
which he was pointing.

“What is that?” I asked him.

I hurried toward the bow, so as to be able to see better. The boat’s
whole deck, from the conning tower to the prow, looked as if it had been
divided into regular squares, between which dark, indistinguishable
objects were moving in snakelike lines. Near me there was such a square.
I stooped down and picked up a steel cord about as thick as my finger. A
net, I thought, certainly a net.

“We have the remnants of the net all over us,” I shouted through the
noise of the storm to Gröning. “Get the nippers, hammer, and chisel
ready. As soon as it is light enough, we must go to work to cut it
free.”

And the thick, dark snake—what was that? It came up to starboard,
slipped across the deck, and disappeared to port into the darkness. It
did not take us long to find out what kind of a snake it was, and I
comprehended everything fully. That persistent, mysterious pursuit by
the Frenchman was at once plain. Now I understood clearly what had
happened on the surface after the explosion of the mine. My heart froze
when I thought how readily the enemy had been able to follow our course.

We could easily trace the snake with all its curves, as it became
lighter, because it was a long cork hawser, made for the purpose of
sustaining the net. This was of light cork of about the thickness of a
forearm and was light brown in color.

About two hundred meters of this easily perceptible hawser were floating
on the water, and gave us a tail with many curves in it. This tail,
which we had been dragging after us, gave us the solution of the
puzzling pursuit.

When we had torn the net, with our engines at their highest speed, a
large piece of it to which the hawser was fastened had clung to our
U-boat and, after we had submerged, the hawser was still floating on the
surface and continued to drag along behind us, still floating when we
had submerged to a great depth. The Frenchman, who had discovered us on
account of the explosion, had observed this, and, in spite of all our
twistings and turnings, could follow us easily.

It was a master work of our able sea crew to cut clear that heavy steel
net. The sea became still higher and washed furiously over the deck,
angered by the resistance of our little nutshell. The men were standing
up to their stomachs in the white, foaming waves, and had to use all
their strength to stand against their force. Full of anxiety, I sat in
the conning tower with a life-saving buoy ready and followed closely
with worried eyes every move of my men during their dangerous work.

All went well, and, after a half hour’s hard work, we were rid of the
troublesome net. The nippers, hammer, and chisel and six drenched
sailors disappeared down the conning tower. Each of the six held in his
numbed, wet fist a rusty piece of the net as a souvenir of the
fourteenth day of April.

The sun arose as if nothing had happened. From the eastern horizon it
shone over the French coast as if to say:

“I am neutral! I am neutral!”

When it got up higher in the heavens and sent its greeting to England,
it shivered and hid behind a thick cloud.

What was the matter with it? What was it that destroyed the joy of the
greeting of the young morning? What was it yonder that wounded its
neutral heart?

A steamer approached. Thick, black clouds of smoke poured out along her
wake and hung heavily over the sea. She had two high, thin mastheads,
two funnels, slanting slightly toward the stern, and a light-colored
hull with a high bridge. “A funny ship,” we decided and submerged.

When we saw her clearly through the periscope after a while, we found
out the discouraging fact that she was a hospital ship. The snow-white
color, the wide green bands from the bow to the stern, and the large Red
Cross on the hull and the mast tops easily identified her as such.

I was just about to turn away, as an attack upon a sacred Red Cross ship
could not be thought of, when my eyes as if by magic became glued to
something I could not make my brain believe, something unheard of. I
called Gröning to the periscope, so that he could be sure I made no
mistake. No, I was right, and, to my amazement, I saw an insolence which
was new to this world. No wonder that the sun had hidden its face in
order not to see this scorn and mockery of humanity. No neutral sun
could shine on anything like that. Only the moon could stand such
lights, although they must disgust even the moon, used to dark deeds.

The ship, which was safe under the holy flag of humanity and mercy, was
loaded from bow to stern with artillery supplies, and amongst the guns
and ammunition there was crowded an army of soldiers and horses. Under
the protection of the colors of the flags, which they were so
atrociously misusing, they were proceeding in the daylight on the way to
the front.

“Such a crowd!” exclaimed Gröning, and stepped back from the periscope.

“And such a shame that we can’t touch it,” said I, furious, and stamped
on the iron floor so that it resounded. “I would like to have gotten
hold of it. Such nasty people, such hypocrites! But it can’t be helped.
The boat is too fast and too far away for us to head it off.”

Of course, we tried and went after it at top speed for some time. But
the distance became greater instead of lessening, and, with our
batteries exhausted, we had to abandon the chase. Then we turned,
furious and swearing, and came to the surface again after a little
time.

It was a very unpleasant feeling, after a short chase, to have to lie
with exhausted batteries, and limp ahead like a lame horse. Consequently
we did not attempt any new enterprise, but remained on the open water
for several hours charging our storage batteries. Just as we were about
through with this work, there came along an insolent trawler which
started to chase us. None of us had any desire to submerge again,
because the sun was shining so beautifully, and it became warmer with
each minute we headed south.

As the propeller, now free from the nets with which we were fouled,
could give us our best speed, we immediately began the race and hastened
laughingly and in good spirits ahead. Our boat cut through the waves
with such speed as it showed when it first came from its wharf. The
foam made a silver-white mane for us. What did we care if we got wet? We
went at top speed, and, smiling, looked at the smoking and puffing
steamer behind us.

“He’ll never catch us,” I said to Krüger, who had come up to the conning
tower to ask if we were going fast enough, or if he should try to get
more speed out of our engines. “Just keep her turning at the same rate,
Herr Engineer. That’s sufficient. It looks now as if we were gaining,” I
told him.

Our pursuer seemed to realize he could not overtake us and tried to
anger us in other ways. Suddenly a gun flashed and a cloud of brown
smoke surrounded the small steamer for a second. Shortly after that a
small shell splashed into the water about a thousand meters from us and
a water spout not higher than a small tree arose from the sea.

We laughed aloud.

“Such a rotten marksman! He wants to irritate us with a shotgun. That’s
ridiculous.”

“That’s an insolence without an equal,” argued Lieutenant Petersen
angrily, who felt that he had been insulted in his capacity of the
artillery officer aboard. “We should not submit to this outrage. May I
answer him, Herr Captain?” he asked me with eyes flashing.

“Yes, you may try as far as I am concerned, Petersen, but only three
shots. You can’t hit him at this distance, anyway, and our shells are
valuable.”

Grinning with joy, Petersen hurried to the guns, leveled, aimed and
fired, himself, while the water washed around him up to his waist.

“Too short to the right!” I shouted to him, after I observed the high
water spout through my double marine glasses.

The next shot fell close to the steamer. It became too hot for our
pursuer. He turned quickly and went back in the same direction from
which he had come. But the hunting fever had gotten into our blood. We
also turned and pursued the fleeing pursuer. Show us what you can do
now, engines!

Shot after shot flashed, roaring from our cannon. The distance was
almost too great for our range. We had to set the gun at the highest
possible angle in order to have any chance of hitting him. The first
shots all fell short, or to the side, but at the eighth we made a hit.
A roaring hurrah greeted the dark-brown explosion which marked the
arrival of the shell on the trawler.

In vain, the trawler sent one shot after another at us. They never came
near us. On our side, however, one hit followed another, and we could
see that the hostile ship was listing heavily to port, and we hoped to
be able to give him his death blow, when the outlines of three of his
colleagues were sighted behind and to the right and left of him,
approaching at great speed. Our only chance was to turn again in order
to avoid being surrounded, since too many dogs can kill the hare.

Early in the evening we submerged to keep ourselves at a safe depth. We
were very tired, because we had had thirty-eight hours of work and
realized, now that all the excitement was over, how the nerves began to
relax. To begin with, the nerve strain showed itself by the fact we
could hardly go to sleep, tired as we were. And when we did doze off at
last, we had many disturbing dreams. I, myself, lay awake for hours and
heard through the open doors, in the deadly quiet of the U-boat, how the
men tossed about in their bunks during their sleep, talking and
muttering. It was as if we were in a parrot’s cage instead of a
submarine. Also I lived over again during the night most of the events
of the past hours. The only difference was, peculiarly enough, that I
was never the fish, but always the fisherman above the surface who
constantly tried to catch my own U-boat with a destroyer.

When I woke I could hardly untangle the real situation, because I saw
the French Captain-Lieutenant’s black-bearded face before me, when, with
great joy in his small dark eyes, he said:

“Diable, il faut attraper la canaille!”



VIII

THE BRITISH BULL-DOG


In the morning a clear, blue sky and a calm sea greeted us. The wind had
abated during the night and had changed so that it came from the
direction of land, and, therefore, could not disturb the sea to any
great extent. In the best of spirits, well satisfied and refreshed by
our breakfast, we were sitting on the conning tower, and enjoying the
mild air of spring and puffing one cigarette after another. During the
night we had reached the position where, for the present, we intended to
make our attacks on the merchant transportation which was very
flourishing in that region. We crossed the steamship lanes in all
directions with guns loaded and with a sharp lookout so as not to lose
any opportunity to damage the enemy’s commerce.

Shortly before dinner the first merchant ship arose on the south
horizon. It was a sailer, a large, full-rigged schooner, which, hard by
the wind, headed towards the French coast. With majestic calm, lightly
leaning to the wind, the splendid ship approached. The snow-white sails
glittered in the sun in the far distance. The light, slender hull plowed
sharply through the sea.

With a delighted “Hello,” we hurled ourselves on our prey. Above our
heads fluttered pennants and signal-flags which signified:

“Leave the ship immediately!”

Sharply and distinctly in the bright sun the command traveled from our
boat to the large, heavily-loaded ship, and the colors of the German
flag-of-war, which floated from the mast behind the tower, left no doubt
of the grim sincerity of the command.

Did they not have a signal-book over there, or did they not want to
understand us? Ah! A flag went up on the main-mast. The wind unfolded it
and, proudly and distinctly, France’s tricolor could be seen. The flag
stopped at half-mast—a distress-signal! The flag on half-mast was the
pursued sailer’s call for help. They understood our command and were now
looking for assistance before obeying us. Wait, my little friend, we’ll
soon get that out of you.

“Hoist the signals: ‘Stop immediately or I’ll shoot!’”

The signal flew up. Now, look here, Frenchy, this is no joke; soon the
little, gray animal, which is circling around you, will bite.

“We will give, them three minutes to consider the matter, then we’ll
shoot down the masts,” I said to Lieutenant Petersen, who was standing
by the guns, and, in his excitement, was stepping from one foot to
another.

With watch in hand, I counted three full minutes. The sailer did not
take any notice of us, just as if our existence had nothing to do with
him.

“Such impudence,” I murmured, as I put down my watch. Soon thereafter
resounded through the entire boat:

“Fire!”

“Rrrrrms!” the guns thundered with a deafening roar, and the shell
whistled through the schooner’s high rigging, in which it tore a large
hole, struck the mainyard of the forward mast, exploded, and snapped off
the heavy mast, so that, with its sails, it fell like a broken wing on
the deck of the ship.

The results were immediately apparent. The red and white pennant, which
in the international language means: “I understand!” flew to the
masthead. The sailors, who had gathered in groups, looked at us in
alarm. They were scattered by the commands of the captain and hurried in
all directions to their posts. Giving orders in the singing accents of
the French language, the sails were soon lowered and the ship slowed up.
The boats were swung out and made ready, and men, with life-saving
buoys, were running all over in great excitement.

We closed in on the ship to windward, and I called to the captain to
make haste—that I would give him just ten minutes more to get away
before torpedoing his ship.

In the bow compartment, where the torpedo tubes are built into the
U-boat and the torpedoes themselves are stored, there was feverish
activity from the minute we saw the hostile ship and the alarm was
sounded. It is cramped in the forward part of a U-boat, very cramped,
and it is necessary to have a special crew of very skilled men to be
able to accomplish their purpose in this network of tubes, valves, and
pumps. The officers’ mess, which is just back of the torpedo
compartment, is quite roomy and comfortable. It was now changed in a
moment to an uninhabitable place. Ready hands pulled down the
oil-stained curtains in front of the bunks and folded up the narrow
table and the four chairs without backs. These were all placed in a
corner hurriedly, and the luxuries were all gone, making room to handle
the torpedoes.

Schweckerle, in command of the torpedo tubes, was like a father in the
way he watched over his torpedoes. He loved them as if they were
children and continually oiled and greased them and examined them
carefully. They said of him that he mourned when he had to separate
himself from one of them. And I, myself, saw that when a torpedo, for
some reason or other slightly turned, did not strike its target, he went
around broken-hearted for many days and could not eat.

This faithful fellow was now busily occupied taking care of his children
and had selected “Flink” and “Reissteufel” (these were his names for the
two torpedoes now ready for the tubes) when the command was given:

“First torpedo tube ready!”

This meant “Reissteufel” was to go.

Schweckerle was in his element and, when he gave his commands, the
sailors ran as if the devil was at their heels.

“You here! You there! You take that! You take the other! Forward! Hurry!
Take hold! Get the oil can! That’s good! That’s enough! Now put it
in—push it forward! Now hold back! Slowly—slowly—stop!”

One last word of encouragement to the torpedo disappearing into the
tube! At last the parting glance, and Schweckerle slammed the tube
shut, and “Reissteufel” was ready to go on his way.

At once this was reported to me in the conning tower, but only a few of
the allotted ten minutes had passed and we had plenty of time. We took a
closer look at the sailing ship before we sent her to the bottom for
good. She was a large modern ship, constructed entirely of steel, and
had the latest equipment over all, even in the rigging. She could carry
a cargo of from three to four thousand tons and, without doubt, had come
from a long distance, because sailing ships of this size do not travel
along the coast. What kind of a cargo did she carry?

The French crew stepped into her boats and left their ship. The last
boat was capsized, when it was launched, and all in it fell into the
sea. Another one of the boats came quickly to the rescue and picked up
the swimming and struggling sailors. When all had been saved, I turned
our prow toward the sailing ship, which was now lying absolutely still,
and fired our first torpedo.

Poor Schweckerle! There it goes, but it heads straight, Schweckerle,
true as an arrow. Bravo, Schweckerle! The French in the lifeboats, who
had approached us where they believed themselves safest, yelled in
terror when the detonation followed and the water spout was thrown high
above the mastheads.

“Oh, mon Dieu! Mon Dieu! Notre pauvre vaisseau!”

“Poor devils,” I thought. “I understand how you feel over your
beautiful, fine ship, but why didn’t you stay at home? Why do you go to
sea when you know what threatens? Why do you or your governments force
us to destroy your ships wherever we can find them? Do you think we are
going to wait until our own women and children starve and let you keep
your bread baskets full before we defend ourselves? You have started it.
You are responsible for the consequences. If you would discontinue your
inhuman way of carrying on the war, then we would let your sailing ships
and steamers pass unmolested, when they do not carry contraband. You
have wanted war to the knife. Good, we have accepted your challenge.”

The sailing ship sank rapidly by the stern, turning over on her side
until the yard arms touched the water and the red bottom could be seen.
And, at last, when the pressure burst the forward cargo hatch, there was
a shower of corn, and the proud ship, with a dying gurgle, disappeared
into the deep.

The captain came aboard us. He never lost for a minute his personality
as a polite Frenchman with elegant manners. He swung himself into the
conning tower, smiled with the pleasantry of a boulevardier, and, with a
gracious bow, handed his ship’s papers to “mon capitaine.” In the most
polite and courteous German, I offered him a cigarette, for which he
thanked me with a smile, as if we had been the best of friends for
years. We questioned him. From where was he coming and where bound? He
answered frankly and showed us without requesting it what a valuable
catch we had made. It impressed him greatly how we were traveling about
in our little shell, and there was no doubt he had an inclination to go
along with us on our sea-robbing voyage, if he could have done it.

When I asked him why he had not obeyed our signals to stop, he acted as
innocent as a new-born baby, and assured us that he never saw our
signals. Indeed, he went so far as to say he had not even observed our
U-boat until we fired our gun. When I pointed out to him that he had
hoisted the signal of distress long before that and that this made his
story hardly believable, he dropped the subject with great skill and
gave the conversation a new turn. It was impossible to catch this smooth
Frenchman, and when I had him cornered so that another man would not
have known what to say, he slipped through the conversation like an eel
with his great politeness.

I was struck with surprise to see his men so well dressed, washed, and
shaved. I, a “barbarian,” did not want to be behind the Frenchman in
point of manners, so I complimented him on his crew’s splendid
appearance. Then he began to lament.

“Oh, my poor boys,” he complained. “They have not looked so well
throughout our voyage, but only to-day they have been scrubbing
themselves, because they hoped to be able to get ashore to-night. See
this, mon capitaine,” he continued and opened his log—“on January 23rd
we cleared from Saigon and have sailed nearly around the world, and now,
only a few hours before reaching our port, we are met with such a
disaster. What a tragedy! What a tragedy!”

I consoled him the best I could and promised to assist them so that
they could land at the same time they had hoped. Then I, as he was
about to leave the U-boat, offered him another cigarette, shook his hand
amicably, and sent him off the ship.

We had agreed that I would tow his boats toward the coast until some new
spoils hove into sight. Then they would have to do the best they could
for themselves.

Soon after two o’clock, this occurred when the mastheads with the tips
of white sails arose over the horizon.

We cast off from the boats, wished the Frenchman a safe journey, and
turned toward our new prey, while Schweckerle made “Flink” ready.

As we came nearer, we discovered something that made us jump. We had
been certain that the ship which was approaching was a large
three-master, rigged somewhat like the one that we had just sunk, but
what now astonished us and aroused our suspicion was that we distinctly
saw, at times, dark clouds of smoke that seemed to be closely associated
with the sailing ship which floated between and behind her sails.

“Anything that you cannot explain is always suspicious.”

In accordance with this well tested rule for U-boats, we cautiously kept
off a little, so as to let the mysterious ship pass us at some distance.
We had heard too much of U-boat sinking to rush at anything blindly.
What would happen if, behind the mask of the big sailing ship, a ready
and fast torpedo boat was sneaking which, quick as lightning, would
swoop down on us? First we must find out with what we had to deal.

We could soon make out what it was. At a distance of about two hundred
meters in front of the sailer, there was a strong tug pulling the
full-rigged ship with a thick hawser, so that it could make better time.
There was nothing suspicious in this in these parts of the sea. It often
happened that sailing ships were towed in over the final fifty miles of
their voyage to reach port before evening, and thus gain an entire day.
The large tugboats went far out to sea and tendered their high-priced
services.

“Ah,” we thought, “there is no danger here! But on the contrary, it
looks like a grand chance to sink a ship, and, at the same time, send
its crew ashore safely”—the thought we always had in mind when it did
not interfere with our duty.

I rubbed my hands in satisfaction. We would give the crew of the
sailing ship a chance to get aboard the tugboat and so send them home.
Maybe they might also meet the shipwrecked crew of the French sailing
ship and take them aboard.

At top speed we headed for the tugboat. First we circled round our prey
to be sure that we would not be surprised by a masked gun and especially
examined the tugboat, because he traveled back and forth daily through
the danger zone, and would be more apt to be armed than would the
sailing ship coming from a long voyage.

There was nothing suspicious to be seen—therefore we advanced. We
approached the stern of the tugboat, slowed down, and, within calling
distance, kept pace with him. Gröning, Petersen, Lohmann, and a sailor
were with me in the conning tower. The tugboat flew the British flag. I
shouted with the full power of my lungs:

“Take aboard the crew! Take aboard the crew!”

I waved with my left hand toward the sailing ship, in order to make my
meaning clear. The commander of the “little bulldog,” as Petersen called
the tugboat, took his short clay pipe out of his mouth, spat far out
from the bridge where he was standing in a careless attitude, but
otherwise took no notice of us except that he may have thrown a shrewd,
cunning glance our way. I thought he was hard of hearing and drew a
little closer and yelled again:

“Take the crew off!”

The wind had increased during the last few hours and the sea began to
run higher and was washing over our deck. It was impossible for us to
use our guns—the crew would have been swept away without any chance of
being saved—and we were, for that reason, unable to emphasize our
commands in a desirable manner, but we knew what to do when the
commander on the “bulldog” did not display any inclination to comply
with our ten-times repeated order. I had a revolver handed to me from
below and let a bullet whistle close to the head of the stubborn rascal.
The Englishman seemed to understand this language better. He abandoned
his careless slouch, blew the tug’s siren, and yelled loud, sharp
commands to the crew. Then he turned for the first time towards me, put
his hand to his cap with a short salute, and next lifted his right hand
vertically in the air, which, according to the international language of
sailors, meant:

“I understand and will obey.”

The crew on the “bulldog,” which in reality bore the name _Ormea_, had,
however, cast off the hawser and were now standing idly all around the
deck with their hands in their pockets and looked at us curiously. The
captain went to the engine telegraph and signaled “Half speed ahead.”

“Ha,” we thought, “now he’ll turn and lay himself alongside the sailing
ship.”

What happened next took only a minute.

When the _Ormea_ had gathered speed, it certainly turned—but not to
port, which would have been the nearest way, but towards us. At the same
time the skipper signaled to his engine room:

“Full speed ahead!”

The sturdily built, speedy tug rushed at us, pushing aside the waves
with her prow.

We had, of course, been keenly observing every move made on the tugboat,
but suspected nothing until that moment when he headed straight for us.

“The man is crazy!” I yelled. “He intends to ram us. Full speed with
both engines. Hard a-starboard!”

But it looked as if we had grasped the situation too late. The tug had
gotten a start on us in speed and came at us, smoking copiously, like a
mad bulldog. The distance between us, which to begin with had been two
hundred meters, decreased with great rapidity. Now the prow was hardly
fifty meters from us. Our hair stood on end.

“Bring up pistols and guns,” I called down.

These weapons, which were hanging always loaded, were quickly handed up
to us, and we opened a quick fire on our onrushing enemy. Already I saw
the captain’s sly, water-blue eyes scornfully glittering and read the
spiteful joy in his grinning face. He had good reason to feel happy. He
would reach us, he must reach us, because he had greater speed than we
had, and his position was more advantageous. Nearer and nearer came the
moment when would stick his blunt, steel prow into our side, and the
nearer he approached, the harder our hearts beat.

Twenty meters—fifteen meters! Was there no escape—no hope of rescue?

Yes! Gröning, the calm and thoughtful Gröning, became our savior. He was
on one knee by me on the conning tower platform and sent one shot after
another at the oncoming target. Suddenly he caught the idea which saved
us.

“The helmsman!” he yelled. “All men aim at the helmsman!”

In the pilot house with glass windows, stood the mate of the _Ormea_ by
his wheel with a sinister grin searching for the point where the blow
would be most deadly. We saw him distinctly as he stood there.

Action followed immediately on Gröning’s saving thought. We stopped the
wild shooting against the dangerous prow, and all of us aimed at the
helmsman and fired. Hardly had the first volley been discharged when we
heard a shriek, and the Englishman threw his arms high and fell forward
over his wheel. As he fell, he gripped the spoke of the wheel and spun
it around. This saved us from our greatest danger. The prow which was
to have crushed us was only about three meters distant when the tug was
thrown hard aport, so that it hit only the air.

To show how close the tug was to us, as it swung, its stern struck our
diving tank and left a scar as a remembrance. As the beast of prey after
missing does not attempt another leap, so the tugboat put on full speed
in an effort to escape. The whistling of our bullets and the loss of his
mate had apparently made a coward out of a little tugboat captain, but
we gave him credit for having been resourceful, after we had recovered
from the excitement of the moment and recalled all the circumstances.

I quietly pressed Gröning’s hand and smilingly touched the spot on his
breast, there just below his brave, fearless heart, a spot which, in
accordance with the command of his Majesty, the Kaiser, should be
reserved for the reward due such a hero. To-day that place is decorated
with the black, silver framed Iron Cross.



IX

HOMEWARD BOUND!


Why should I continue relating events which were coupled with less
danger and were less remarkable than those we had already experienced
and which I have already carefully described? The climax of the journey
was reached at the encounter with the _Ormea_, and, after the climax is
reached, one should be brief. For those interested, I can assure them
that we did not let the schooner escape which had tried to save herself
by flight, but hurried quickly after her, and, as soon as the crew had
disembarked, torpedoed her. However, we regretted that the captain of
the tug that tried to ram us escaped through her superior speed.

We were fortunate enough to make another catch on this same day, just as
darkness was setting in, a steamer loaded with meat, inward bound from
Sydney. We continued for several days through this fruitful field of
operation in every direction and had both good and bad luck. Schweckerle
had to bite into a bitter apple several times, as one after another of
his children faithlessly abandoned him. But he had the joy of knowing
that none of them went contrary to his good bringing-up and the care it
had received.

Many successes we put down in our log and sometimes exciting episodes
and narrow escapes, when our enemy’s destroyers and patrol ships came
across our path of daily toil, so that we should not be too
presumptuous and careless.

Then at last came the day when we decided to start our homeward journey.
The torpedoes and shells were exhausted. Of oil, fresh water, and
provisions we had such a scanty supply left that it was necessary for us
to return. It was impossible to tell what kind of weather we would have
on our return trip, and, if it did not storm, there might be strong head
winds to hold us back.

I decided to take a new route for our journey home. The Witch-Kettle
with its horrors was still fresh in our minds and we preferred to take a
roundabout way, rather than to run risks which could be easily avoided
after a successfully completed task. In this period of thirteen days our
nerves had been affected and there was little power of resistance left
in them. It would not be advisable to put them to another severe test.

So it came to pass on the fifteenth day after the start of the voyage,
that a great storm hit us and for several days kept us hard at work. We
found ourselves far up in the North Atlantic where the warm spring for a
long time still wears its winter’s furs, and the sun never rises high.
The icy, north wind, which blows three-quarters of the year, would in
any event devour all his warmth.

Repentantly, we had again picked up our thick camel’s wool garments
which we had laid off in the southern waters. The further we went north,
the heavier the clothes that we donned.

In addition to the cold there came a storm, the like of which I had
never seen during my entire service on the sea, and to describing which
I will devote a few lines, because a storm on a U-boat is altogether
different from a storm at sea in any other vessel.

The barometer had been uncertain for two days. Its hasty rising and
falling in accordance with the changes of the atmosphere made us suspect
we would soon get rough weather. It was the night between April
twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth. We traveled submerged to a considerable
depth, and I was lying in my bunk asleep, partly undressed. At about two
o’clock I was awakened and received the report:

“Lieutenant Petersen asks that the Captain-Lieutenant kindly come to the
‘Centrale,’ as it is impossible for him to steer the boat any longer
alone.”

I threw on my jacket and hurried for the stern. On my way, on account
of the heavy rolling of the boat, I realized what was the trouble. There
must be a terrific storm above accompanied by a sea which only the
Atlantic could stir up.

Lieutenant Petersen confirmed my opinion of the conditions which had
developed during the night and added that he had never had so much
trouble with the diving rudder before in his life. This meant a great
deal, for Petersen was with me when our U-boat had been equipped for
service for the first time, and had already gone through all kinds of
weather. In spite of all the watchfulness that he and the well-trained
crew used, the diving rudder’s pressure was not powerful enough to
resist the enormous strength of the waves. The boat was tossed up and
down as if she had no rudder whatever. Only after we had submerged
twice as deep as we had been were we able to steady the boat to any
degree. We could still feel the force of the sea and knew the storm must
be terrific.

When, at daybreak, we arose to the surface there was no chance to open
the hatches. The opal green mountains of waves came rolling and foaming
at us. They smothered the boat with the great masses of water, washed
completely over the deck and even up over the tower. If any one had
dared to open the hatch and go out on the conning tower, he would
certainly have been lost. I was standing at the periscope and observed
the wrath of the elements. It seemed as if we were in a land of
mountains which the U-boat had to climb, only to be suddenly hurled down
again. I could see only so far as the next ridge, which always seemed
to be even higher than the last, and if there had been any chance of
seeing more, it would have been impossible in the flying foam and spray.
The rain whipped the water violently and darkened the sky so that it was
like dusk. The boat worked itself laboriously through the heavy sea. The
joints cracked and trembled when the boat slid down from the peak of a
wave to be buried in the deep trough.

We had to cling to some oil-soaked object in order not to be tossed
about. Through the strain put on the body by the terrible rolling of the
boat, by the damp, vaporous air, and by lack of sleep and food, we
finally became exhausted, but at this time we had no desire to eat. The
storm continued for three days and nights without abating. Then the sky
cleared, the wind dropped, and the sea became calmer. At noon of the
third day the sun broke through the clouds for the first time. Shortly
before this, we had dared open the conning tower hatch and greeted the
rays of the sun, although we had to pay for this pleasure with a cold
bath.

We had been drifting about for three days without knowing our location.
No wonder we greeted our guide with great joy, and quickly produced the
sextant to find out where we were. Our calculations showed that, during
the entire time, we had been circling around in one spot and had not
gotten one mile nearer our port. But what did that matter? The storm was
abating, the sea was calming down, and our splendid, faithful boat had
stood the test once more, and, in spite of all storms, had survived.

We reached the North Sea the next afternoon and could change our course
to the south with happy hearts. Every meter, every mile, every hour
brought us nearer home. No one who has not, himself, experienced this
home-coming can understand the joy that fills a U-boat sailor’s heart
when, after a successful voyage, he sees the coast of his fatherland; or
when he turns the leaves of his log and, astonished, reads the scrawled
lines which tell fairy tales of the dangers and joys and asks himself:

“Have you really gone through all that?”

Who can understand the joy of a commander’s heart when, sitting by his
narrow writing table, he is carefully working out his report to his
superiors? “Have sunk X steamers—X sailing ships.”

All around me were the happy faces of the crew. All were satisfied,
every danger past and forgotten, thanks to the strength of youth and
their stout hearts.


_April 30—Nine-thirty A. M._

The lead was thrown. Now the water became shallow, for we are going into
the bay—the German bay.

“It’s twenty-four meters deep,” reported Lohmann, who in his feverish
desire to get ashore had been up on the conning tower since four
o’clock, although he should really have been off watch at eight. He
wanted to be the first one to sight land, because he is proud of his
fine eyesight and was as happy as a child when he discovered something
before his commander did.

“The lead shows twenty-four!”

“See if it agrees with the chart,” I called to the mate who sat in the
conning tower with the chart on his knee.

“It agrees exactly,” the mate called back, after he had compared the
measurement by the lead with the depth that was marked on the chart
where we estimated we were.

“How far is it to land?”

“Eight and a half miles.”

In five more minutes, the German islands of the North Sea arose before
our eyes. Now we were unable to restrain ourselves further. We tore off
our caps and waved them exultantly, greeting our home soil with a
roaring hurrah. Our cheer penetrated into the boat, from stern to prow,
and even set Schweckerle’s heart on fire, where he was sitting alone
and idle amongst the torpedo cradles.

Shortly thereafter we glided into the mouth of the river with the
pennant bearing our name proudly fluttering from the masthead. This told
all the ships that met us:

“Here comes U-boat 202!”

All knew by our announcement that we were returning from a long voyage
and we were greeted with an enthusiastic and noisy reception. Officers
and men thronged the decks, and in our inmost hearts we appreciated the
great cheer:

“Three cheers for his Majesty’s U-202! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!”

Thus the proud German high seas fleet received our little roughly-used
boat.

At three o’clock on the afternoon of April 30 U-202 dropped her anchor
in the U-boat harbor.





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