Battle of the Isle of May (part II)


One of the battleships involved; HMS Courageous

(continued from yesterday) Tuesday 30th January comments: (Isle of May) Part Two:  On the evening of the 31st January 1918, just after 18:30, the secret navy exercise known as EC1 involving the 13th Submarine Division (known a K-boats) and a number of Destroyers, Battleships and Light Cruisers began.

The boats and submarines (all submarines sailed on the surface) departed Rosyth near Edinburgh under the cover of darkness and had plotted to head out of the Firth of Forth, passing close to the Isle of May before eventually heading north to meet up with the battle group from Scapa Flow. Earlier in the day, a German submarine had been spotted near the Isle of May so it was decided to take precaution and the entire fleet would show only dim stern lights (which could only be seen by the boat behind) and maintain radio silence.

Visibility was also deteriorating as a misty haar was developing which was reducing visibility rapidly. Regardless the boats continued on but moments later some of the forward flotilla spotted some distant lights heading towards them and with concerns for the fleet, evasive action was taken.

The flotilla altered course sharply to port (left) to avoid potential collision them but not all was well. In carrying out the quick manoeuvre one of the Submarines (K-14) helm jammed and she veered out of line. Both K14 and the boat behind her K12 instantly turned on their navigation lights and eventually K14’s helm was freed and she tried to return to her position in the line.

However the next submarine in line, K22 had lost sight of the rest of the flotilla in the mist and had slightly veered off line with the result that she hit K14. Both submarines stopped whilst the rest of the flotilla, unaware of what had happened continued out to sea. K22 radioed in code to the cruiser leading the flotilla to say that she could reach port but that K14 was crippled and sinking.

The Battle of the Isle of May was now underway….

Continued tomorrow

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