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World War 1 at Sea - Naval Battles in outline

 

 

HMS ACHILLES and HMS DUNDEE v SMS LEOPARD ACTION - 16 March 1917

 

HMS Achilles, armoured cruiser (CyberHeritage/Terry Phillips, click to enlarge)

 

 

 

Contents

 

Action in Outline
London Gazette Naval Despatch
Royal Navy Casualties - Killed and Died
Royal Navy Gallantry Awards

 

Royal Navy Single Ship Action - Achilles and Dundee v LEOPARD 1917

 


 

see also

log books of HMS Achilles, 1916-18, including Action

 

North Sea - click to enlarge

 
         

 
 

ACTION IN OUTLINE

 

Friday 16 March 1917

German commerce raider Leopard, 4,652grt, ex-British SS Yarrowdale captured 11/12/16 by raider Mwe, now 5-5.9in/4-3.45in/2tt, sailed from Germany. She was sunk in the North Sea near the Faeroes by armoured cruiser Achilles and armed boarding steamer Dundee. She went down with all hands including Dundee's boarding party of one officer and five men.


 
 

LONDON GAZETTE NAVAL DESPATCH

With thanks to the London Gazette

 

 

31301 - 15 APRIL 1919

 

ACTION OF H.M. SHIPS ACHILLES AND DUNDEE

NAVAL DESPATCH dated 21st March 1917

 

Admiralty, 18th April, 1919.

 

The following, despatches describe the sinking of an enemy raider by H.M. Ships "Achilles" and "Dundee" in March, 1917.( This raider was, it is now known, commissioned as the German auxiliary cruiser "Leopard," being in fact no other than the British steamer "Yarrowdale," captured by the raider "Moewe" in December, 1916, and fitted out in Germany for service as a raider:

 

From Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, to Admiralty.

 

"Queen Elizabeth," 21st March, 1917.

 

Sir,

I have the honour to transmit, herewith, for the information of their Lordships, reports from the Commanding Officers of "Achilles" and "Dundee," on the action between those ships and an enemy raider on 16th March, 1917, in latitude '64 54' N., longitude 0 22' E., resulting in the sinking of the raider with all hands.

 

The raider appears to have had a heavy torpedo armament, and evidently hoped, by manoeuvring during chase and boarding, to torpedo both "Achilles" and "Dundee." This was prevented by the skilful handling of both ships. The Commanding Officer of "Dundee" displayed excellent judgment in manoeuvring his ship in such a way that he was able to pour in a hot fire for five or six minutes at a range of 1,000 yards before the raider could bring a gun to bear.

 

After weighing the evidence, I am satisfied that no submarine was present. The object reported by "Achilles" as a mine, and by "Dundee" as a submarine, was probably a cask, possibly containing oil, leakage of which would have given the appearance of the wake noted by "Dundee."

 

I very much regret the loss of Lieutenant Frederick H. Lawson, R.N.R., and his gallant boat's crew of volunteers, who undoubtedly perished with the raider. The boarding parties from the patrol squadrons have, throughout the war, displayed the greatest skill and fearlessness in carrying out their hazardous work in all weathers.

 

That the raider was intercepted and brought to action is the result of much patient work under trying conditions. Much credit is due to Rear-Admiral Sydney R. Fremantle, M.V.O., for his conduct of the Second Cruiser Squadron patrol.

 

I submit, for the favourable notice of their Lordships, the ability and sound judgment displayed by Captain Francis M. Leake, R.N., of "Achilles," and Commander Selwyn M. Day, R.D., R.N.R., of "Dundee," in rounding up and destroying the vessel which was capable of doing such damage to our commerce.

 

The Rear-Admiral Commanding, Second Cruiser Squadron, is being furnished with a copy of this letter, and will submit, in due course, a list of recommendations of other Officers and Men whose services he considers special noteworthy.

 

I am, Sir, Your obedient servant,

David Beatty, Admiral.

 

The Secretary of the Admiralty

______

 

H.M.S. " Achilles," 17th March, 1917.

 

Sir,-I have the honour to report that on the 16th March, when patrolling in accordance with orders from the Rear-Admiral Commanding Second Cruiser Squadron, in latitude 64.42 north, longitude 0.56 west, at 11.45 a.m., a steamer was sighted steering 66, bearing N. 84 E, distance about nine miles. Weather at the time being: Wind south-easterly, force 4 to 5, snow and rain squalls, sea moderate. "Achilles" was steering N. 15 W., and altered course N. 84 E., to close steamer, and directed "Dundee" to conform. Speed of advance 15 knots.

 

At 1.00 p.m., finding a very small gain, "Achilles" increased speed to 18 knots, and at 1.45 p.m. course was altered to S. 87 E., to avoid following directly astern.

 

At 2.00 p.m. steamer was overhauled and directed to stop, which signal she obeyed. She was then directed to steer W. by S., and at 2.35 p.m. was again stopped for "Dundee" to examine her. "Achilles" manoeuvring at a distance of two and a half to three miles.

 

At 3.45 p.m. "Dundee" and raider commenced an action simultaneously. "Achilles" at once joined in, at a range of 5,300 yards, raider firing at her, but with more intensity at "Dundee," whose safety was due to the prompt manner in which Commander Selwyn Mitchell Day, R.N.R., answered the raider's first hostile act, and the initial success she gained in getting raking hits; hers was the dangerous position, and she extracted herself with the utmost credit.

 

On opening fire the raider at once enveloped herself in smoke of a light colour. At 3.55 p.m. she fired a torpedo at "Achilles," which broke surface off the port quarter. A submarine was reported at the same time in this direction, and speed was increased from 16 to 20 knots. Hats were now being obtained, and the raider was on fire forward. About this time she was hit in the bow (on the gripe) by a torpedo from "Achilles."

 

About 4.00 p.m. fire was checked, the raider being well on fire, with occasional explosions forward. Soon after this, "Dundee" took station astern of "Achilles," and was then ordered to steer west. At 4.23 p.m. she reported a submarine between herself and the raider. Consequently, fire was again opened on the raider and continued until, at 4.33 p.m., she listed to port and sank, more or less horizontally, a mass of flames, and red hot forward, leaving no visible survivors.

 

The position of this action was latitude 64.54 north, longitude 0.22 east. The weather during the time was: Wind south-easterly, force three to four, with continuous rain and moderate sea.

 

The loss of the "Dundee" boarding party is greatly regretted. The actual movements of this boat could not be seen from "Achilles," but she was apparently alongside the raider when the action commenced. An overturned boat was sighted from "Achilles." Excepting this, at no time was anything resembling a boat seen.

 

List of "Dundee" boarding party attached.

 

I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient Servant,

F. M. Leake, Captain.

______

 

H.M.S. "DUNDEE" BOARDING PARTY.

 

Lawson, Frederick Herman, Lieutenant, R.N.R.

Anderson, Henry, Seaman, R.N.R., 2845 A.

Anderson, Henry James, Seaman, R.N.R., 4911 B.

Anderson, Magnus John, Seaman, R.N.R., 3936 B.

Anderson, Robert John, .Seaman, R.N.R., 3717 C.

Birchall, Alfred, Able Seaman, R.N.V.R., Mersey, 1/150.

______

 

H.M.S. "Dundee," 11th March, 1917.

 

Sir,

Re Action with German twin-screw Armed Merchantman, approximately 7,000 tons - Seven or eight guns - Complement unknown - Flying Norwegian colours - With "Rena," Norge, painted on each side - in 64.50 N., 0.32 E., on Friday, March 16th, 1917.

 

I have the honour to report that whilst patrolling with H.M.S. "Achilles" on Friday, March 16th, p.m., I proceeded to the examination of the above steamer bound East (Mag.), which had been overhauled and stopped by "Achilles" for that purpose.

 

At 2.42 p.m. "Dundee" lowered a boat with Lieut. F. H. Lawson, R.N.R., and five R.N.R. Seamen forming the boarding and boat party. The boat was towed towards the intercepted vessel, at that time about two miles distant and steaming slowly towards us.

 

The following signals were then exchanged:

 

 

"Dundee."

"Rena."

 

2.40.

"What ship is that?"

No reply.

2.45.

"Stop instantly."

Answered by A.P.

2.50.

"Pay attention to my signals."

No reply.

 

Blank round fired.

 

2.59.

"What is your cargo?"

"General."

3.10.

"Where are you from?"

"Mobile."

3.30.

"When did you leave?"

No reply.

 

Her size, manoeuvres, and the information in confidential books supplied convinced me eventually she was a raider, and it was obvious he was trying to defeat my object of maintaining a position (for attack) close up to the weather quarter and heading across ihis stern, and he constantly moved the propellers, slewing to port or starboard. Keeping station thus we awaited some sign from the boarding Officer or the boat, which was, of course, on the lee side, and could not be seen by us.

 

At 3.40 I heard the noise of the large Norwegian flag painted on her port quarter fall outboard, being hinged on the lower side, and I gave the orders "Fire" and "Half speed ahead" to keep station, the raider now slewing rapidly to port with slight, if any, headway. Two torpedoes followed from her in quick succession, passing from 20 to 50 feet astern. The Norwegian flag remained hoisted on the ensign staff throughout and no other flag was seen. Our guns were already firing, and every shot was a hit. The first (from our aft 4") raked her port battery deck, causing an explosion and volumes of smoke. The fore gun fired through the deck into her engine-room, and volumes of steam spread with intense smoke and flames, caused by further hits, so as to completely hide the ship from us from bridge to stern. The 3-pdr. gun fired at her bridge.

 

Forty-four 4", and twenty-five 3-pdr. rounds were fired at about 1,000 yards' range before the raider fired her first gun. "Dundee" was then in the smoke (wind south-easterly, force 4 to 5) to leeward, and both ships practically obscured from each other in consequence.

 

Observing "Achilles" on almost opposite bearing, I turned, and went full speed and down the lane of smoke so as to clear the range for the cruiser. On turning, one torpedo was fired at us, and also three salvoes, two short and one over of three or four guns by her port broadside. Then followed some very wild single shots, including shrapnel, fragments of the latter only hitting ship. The aft gun was bearing the whole time, and made consistently excellent hitting on any visible part of the enemy. Ignited oil was observed streaming from her port beam.

 

At 4.10, when out of torpedo range, we again engaged enemy in company with "Achilles" already firing, and ceased fire at 4.15, having no more ammunition. The raider was a mass of flame, and obviously a doomed ship, although she continued to fight with apparently but one gun. Enemy sank whilst under fire of "Achilles," 4.35p.m.

 

We saw a submarine about half a mile from the raider, of which fact I immediately advised "Achilles."

 

I desire to submit the names of the following Gunlayers:

 

W. Lee, P.O.1, R.F.R., Off. number, Po. 129854;

J. M. Cullen, A.B., R.N.V.R., Off. number, Mersey 35, 1/30;

J. L. Arthurson, Ldg. Sea., R.N.R., Off. number, B.3673;

J. G. Anderson, Sea., R.N.R., Off. number, C. 2485;

 

for favourable consideration, because with no Officers of Quarters available (two were absent on duty), they calmly and skilfully controlled the guns' crews and their own firing, doing their own spotting and judging point of aim to the most vital places about the raider's decks and hull, so that the enemy, who was approximately three times our size, complement and armament, was made by their marksmanship incapable of inflicting the smallest damage to us within the same period. In fact, the enemy ship at this time was stopped, disabled, and in time would have been entirely consumed by the fire then raging.

 

With the utmost regret I have to report that Lieut. Lawson, R.N.R., and the boat's crew who volunteered to accept the extreme risk entailed by a boarding operation under such conditions, are missing, having undoubtedly been forced into the raider and lost with her. The boat was observed empty at the commencement of the action as we followed round the stern of the enemy. Other than the boarding party, we suffered no casualties nor any damage to the ship.

 

I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient servant,

Selwyn M. Day, Commander, R.N.R.

 

The Rear-Admiral Commanding Second Cruiser Squadron, H.M.S. "Minotaur."

Copy to Commanding Officer, H.M.S. "Achilles."  

 

 
 

ROYAL NAVY CASUALTIES - Killed and Died

With thanks to Don Kindell

 

possibly the correct SS Dundee, 2709 grt, built 1911,
but a number of vessels with the same name existed
around this period (Photo Ships)

 

Dundee, armed boarding steamer, members of boarding party on disguised German auxiliary cruiser Leopard, sunk near Faroes

 ANDERSON, Henry, Seaman, RNR, A 2845

 ANDERSON, Henry J, Seaman, RNR, B 4911

 ANDERSON, Magnus J, Seaman, RNR, B 3936

 ANDERSON, Robert J, Seaman, RNR, C 3717

 BIRCHALL, Alfred, Able Seaman, RNVR, Mersey 1/150

 LAWSON, Frederick H, Act/Ty/Lieutenant, RNR

 

 
 

ROYAL NAVY GALLANTRY AWARDS

With thanks to the London Gazette

 

 

30147 - 22 JUNE 1917

To be Companions of the Distinguished Service Order.

Capt. Francis Martin Leake, R.N.

Cdr. (now Capt.) Selwyn Mitchell Day, R.D., R.N.R.

 

To receive the Distinguished Service Medal.

Ldg. Sea. John Lawrence Arthurson, R.N.R., O.N. 3673B.

P.O., 1st Cl., William Lee, O.N. 129854 (E.F.E. Po./A2962).

 

The following Officers and men have been mentioned in Despatches:

Act. Lieut. Frederick Herman Lawson, R.N.R.

Sea. John George Anderson, R.N.R., O.N. 2485 C.

A.B. John McColm Cullen, R.N.V.R., O.N. 1/30 (Mersey).

 
 

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