This week was the annual Veterans Day remembrance in the United States and around the world. Of course, this year was the Centennial of the original celebration of Armistice Day when the land armies in Europe stopped fighting on 11-11 -1918 at 11:00 AM.
The Navy’s involved did not have the same cease fire. In a few days, I will write more about the surrender of the High Fleet which was nearly nine days later.
What is it like to live on a submarine?
Many of my submarine family celebrated this year with memories of their own times. It was great seeing the stories and pictures of their own and their families individual experiences. One of the cool things that popped up was an old list of things that might help you to understand what it was like to live on a nuclear submarine. I will include that as part of another post.
As I was reading the article below about the U 111, it occurred to me how much things have not changed much in 100 years. Well, to be honest, maybe they have a bit since the newer boats are rumored to have real showers and much better accommodations. And the crew get to entertain themselves with much fancier gear than even my generation could have imagined. But at the end of the day, one thing remains the same: you spend more than your share of time in an enclosed series of metal compartments under the ocean.
So with no further delay, here is one reporter’s impression of a “state of the art” German Undersea Boat in 1919.
The Bridgeport times and evening farmer. (Bridgeport, Conn.) 1918-1924, May 05, 1919, Image 9
LIVING IN A SUBMARINE OF HUN MAKE NOT ALL FUN
“If you would like to have a new experience suppose you do this:
Take a series of hat boxes and knock the bottom out and take the covers off. . Then Join them together until you have, say, a dozen in line. Smear the Interior with grease as thick as possible. Cover the walls with gages, pumps, little wheels and fill the centre spaces with machinery. In any odd corners place a few bunks.
Then crawl in, eat in one of the little compartments, and sleep in another and all the while have someone violently rock the Joined boxes.
If you do this you will have a fair Idea of the life led by the American crews which recently brought to America for the benefit of the Victory Liberty Loan Campaign five ex-German submarines, during the days of their passage across the ocean.
One of them will be exhibited in Bridgeport on May 10.
The lives of the officers and men aboard the vessels of the regular navy are so many days spent in paradise compared with the days of the crews aboard the five ex-Hun pirates. The men of the regular navy can have baths whenever they want then. Aboard the submarine there is no such thing as a bath, Huns not usually caring much for bathing, as is the custom among savage tribes.
So when the U 148 and the U 88 got to Sandy Hook the other day ahead of the U 97 and the UC 117 officers made haste to land and go to Fort Hancock where with one accord they demanded the bathtubs of the fort’s garrison.
“And I can tell you that that bath was the best of my life,” said Lieutenant-Commander Edward O’Keefe of U 148 in describing the voyage.
The U Boats numbered five when they set out with the submarine tender Bushnell from Harwich, England, the U 111 being the fifth. Each had a crew of approximately 27 men and three officers, all Lieutenant Commanders.
The largest of the U Boats Is the 117. She is 216 feet long with a beam of 22 feet and draws twelve feet and eight inches. She has a deep Interest for America, as she is believed to be the U Boat which made a raid off the American coast, attacking with true Hun chivalry a barge with woman and children aboard off the New England coast. She is a combined mine layer and cruiser having apparatus for laying mines and for discharging torpedoes.
The others are 190 feet long with a beam of 18 feet 10 inches and draw 11 feet and 4 inches of water when they are navigating on the surface.
The little fleet was manned for the trip across by men detailed from other ships and not of necessity familiar with submarines. Hence it was decided to make the voyage on the surface. The fleet set out, five U Boats and the submarine tender Bushnell from Harwich, England, on April 8. They kept together and reached the Azores on April 10. They remained together until within three days of New York when the U 97 cracked a piston and had no power as only one engine was running.’ .The sea was high and rough but the UC 97 signaled to the Bushnell that she would make repairs. She did so and no sooner were they completed and the boat able to proceed under her own power than a storm developed. The crews had to fight the seas night and day and it took the most careful navigation and handling of the boats to carry them through. Their low lying decks were constantly under water and only the conning tower high above the decks was dry. There were only two days of the latter part of the voyage that the crews could be on deck.
The U 111 and the U 117 reached port ahead of the others, having been separated during the storm. The U 148 and 88 followed, lying at Sandy Hook while the U C 97 with the Bushnell passed into the port of New York and eventually found their way to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The U 111 left for New England ahead of the arrival of the others and so four U boats were there together when the U 88 and 148 reached the Navy Yard.
In England, at the present time is the U 140 which has been assigned to the United States. She has no engines aboard and will not come to this country for some time. The other five were sent here at the request of Secretary Glass for the purpose of the Victory Loan Campaign. They will, however, be exhibited in American ports long after the Victory Loan Campaign closes.
New York will be especially interested in the U 148 as she is to be exhibited on this part of the seaboard and along the Hudson River. The U 88 goes to the Gulf of Mexico, up the Mississippi and finally to the Pacific Coast for exhibition purposes while the U 117 will visit southern ports, stopping at Philadelphia on the way. The U C 97 will appear on the Great Lakes and visit all of the principal ports, spending considerable time in Chicago.
Reporters who visited the former Hun pirates at the Brooklyn Navy Yard the other day did not envy the crews their voyage. There is a typical submarine smell. It is a mingling of odors. Entrance to the craft is through hatches of iron which are securely fastened in place when the boat submerges. So the smell is retained. It is made up of oil smells, the smells from the batteries the machinery, the electrical apparatus, and the food which the crew get in a more or less canned shape. Practically the only cooking aboard a submarine is the heating of coffee. The typical submarine smell is a cross somewhere between the smell of a new Manhattan subway and that of a jail. Perhaps It partakes a little of the character of each. In any event it is not pleasant.
Students in efficiency and concentration would do well to visit a submarine. All of the operation is assembled in one of the little compartments in the centre of the craft In a room immediately under the conning tower with an opening in the floor of the conning tower connecting. All of the ship is in a series of compartments with steel doors which may be securely fastened in case of accident or leakage in any one compartment. So the ship is divided naturally Into stove pipe sections.
In the room from which the operations are directed are assembled a multitude of valves. Through, a use of these water Is admitted Into the tanks on the sides of the vessel, so that by using the sinking rudder the craft can be run beneath the surface of the sea. Most of the submarines have a reserve buoyancy that is if their engines were stopped they would come to the surface of their own volition, being in reality driven beneath the surface. Some of them, however, have extra tanks which when filled with water destroy that reserve buoyancy and the submarine -sinks like a stone. When the desired depth is reached air is forced into tanks in the (proportion desired to maintain her at any designated depth. Within the operating compartment are many guages. On their dials can be read the revolutions of the engines, the depth of the craft and the direction in which she is travelling. The steering is done here and the periscopes are also located here.
When they are on the surface the submarines are driven by oil engines of the Diesel type but when’ they are submerged they are driven by electric motors which are fed from storage batteries.
Usually in wartime a submarine runs at an average depth of 30 feet with her listening apparatus active.
When she heard the sound of some approaching craft she rises only far enough to project her periscope when she takes a look and then either rises to discharge her torpedo or discharges it without rising to the surface.
The visits of the captured Hun pirates, harmless and toy like now, will do much to call to the attention of the people the daring of our men who fought these underseas dastards and the right they have to ask that we finally settle the bills of the war and help the country to a peace basis.”
Make sure you visit the original stories about the U 111 here: