The Sinking of the Llandovery Castle

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by liverpool annie, Dec 30, 2008.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    The sinking of the Llandovery Castle is considered one of the worst atrocities of the war. She was employed as a hospital ship and had her cross lights on when she was torpedoed without warning by a German submarine. Only 24 people survived out of the 258 people on board.

    The Union-Castle Hospital Ship Llandovery Castle, bound from Halifax, Nova Scotia, for Liverpool, was torpedoed on June 27th, 1918, 114 miles south-west of the Fastnet Rock. She had 258 people on board, including 94 Medical Officers and Nursing Sisters of the Canadian Medical Staff. It was 9.30pm, a fine but dark night. The ship was displaying the regulation Red Cross lights. The explosion extinguished all the lights and wrecked the Marconi, so no S.O.S. signal could be sent out. Captain Sylvester, who was on the Bridge, signalled to the Engine Room, but got no reply. The torpedo had struck the after end of the Engine Room, and had made it impossible to put the engines astern so as to stop the ship's way. At least two of the boats were broken and swamped along the ship's side, but sufficient to accommodate the survivors seem to have got away. When it was reported to the Captain that all others had left the ship he with the remaining ten men got into a boat and lowered themselves aft. They pulled away as hard as possible, but when they were only fifty feet from the ship her stern went under, her boilers blew, her bow stood up in the air, and she went down - about ten minutes after the torpedo had struck her.

    The Captain's boat was now pulling to and fro amongst the wreckage picking up survivors. Among these was the Purser, who had swam off to one of the boats containing several people. She had been injured in the launching, and while he was holding on to her side she sank rolling over on top of him; but he got clear and swam till he was sighted by the Captain's boat. The submarine now came up and ordered the boat to come alongside. The boat's occupants, before obeying the order, were endeavouring to reach and save some others who were struggling in the water. But the order was repeated in a peremptory fashion, two revolver shots were fired at the boat, and the Hun Officer shouted that he would 'fire the big gun' at her if there was not prompt obedience. So the boat was compelled to desist from the work of rescue and went alongside the submarine. The Captain was taken on board, and the Hun Commander said to him, 'You have eight American Flight Officers on board?' Captain Sylvester denied this and explained that he had only members of the Canadian Medical Staff with him. One of these, Captain Lyon, was in the boat, and he was dragged on board the submarine with such brutal roughness that his foot was broken. He was accused of being a Flight Officer and denied it. Captain Sylvester was then asked if he had wireless. He replied that he had been unable to do so. Then he and Captain Lyon were allowed to return to the boat, probably owing to the intervention of the German Second Officer, who seemed friendly. He assisted Captain Sylvester to get into the boat, and said to him, 'Get away quickly. It will be better for you.'

    The boat pulled away, and then the submarine acted in a strange manner. She dashed to and fro at full speed, probably among the other boats of survivors; but it was too dark to see from the Captain's boat what was happening. The submarine came alongside once more and this time the German's charges was that the Llandovery Castle had carried ammunition. This was denied. Then the submarine went away and resumed her strange manoeuvres. In the course of these she charged down on the boat at full speed, as if to run her down, and narrowly missed her. After this the submarine went away to the northward. Her Commander, by the way, had been heard to ask his Officers in which directions the other boats had gone, and they had replied to the North. When about a mile off the submarine stopped and fired a shell, which passed over the boat. Then she fired about twelve shells in other directions, presumably at the other boats.

    Not one of these other boats was heard of again. Out of the 258 souls who had been on the Llandovery Castle the 24 in the Captain's boat were the sole survivors. Destroyers were sent later to the scene of the disaster, but found no trace of these boats. The weather had remained quite fine, and the boats, if unmolested, would have reached the coast or would have been picked up on the way. The obvious presumption is that the Germans sank the boats and left their occupants to drown. The survivors in the Captain's boat were picked up by a Destroyer about thirty-five hours after the disaster, 41 miles from Fastnet.

    Duncan Haws states that even the Germans were shocked and after the war two of the U-86's Officers were jailed for four years by the German Supreme Court as War Criminals but both 'escaped' shortly afterwards.
  2. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member


    During her career she had 12 war patrols from 21 Feb, 1917 - 11 Nov, 1918 and was in the IV Flotilla. Her successes 33 ships sunk for a total of 125,580 tons (warships excluded). U-86 became infamous on 27 June, 1918, when it sank the Hospital ship Llandovery Castle in violation of international law and standing orders of the Imperial German Navy. The captain, Oblt.z.S. Helmut Patzig, then allegedly ordered his crew to machine gun survivors in the water and ram the lifeboats. Because of this, Patzig and his watch officers were tried for war crimes in a German court after the war and sentenced to four years imprisonment. On 1 July, 1918 she sank the US troopship USS Covington in the North Atlantic. The fate of the U-86 ended on 20 November, 1918 when she surrendered. She sank while being towed off the English East coast on the way to be broken up in 1921.
  3. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Oblt.z.S. Helmut Patzig

    About one hundred and sixteen miles south-west of Fastnet (Ireland) at around 9:30 pm on the 27th June 1918, Oblt.z.S. Helmut Patzig, against international law and standing orders of the Imperial German Navy, sank the hospital ship Llandovery Castle. The Llandovery Castle was commissioned as a hospital ship in 1916 for the transfer of sick and wounded Canadians from Europe to Nova Scotia. She was clearly identifiable since all lights were burning, with the large Red Cross signal prominently displayed amidships. On top of that, in an attempt to hide the evidence, Patzig ordered his U-boat to shoot the survivors. Only one lifeboat escaped saving 24 lives, including the Captain. In all there were 234 victims, all non-combatants, including 14 nursing sisters, medics and crew.

    Patzig seems to have been convinced that the Llandovery Castle was being used for transporting troops as well as munitions. After the torpedoing and sinking the ship, he repeatedly questioned the crew as to the cargo to try and justify his action. After the war, trials of suspected War Criminals began. Implicated in the Llandovery Castle incident were First-Lieutenant Helmut Patzig and the first and second officers of the watch Dithmar and Boldt. Patzig was a native of Dantzig. When war criminals were being sought, he had disappeared; but as his country had then been separated from Germany by the Treaty of Versailles he was no longer came under German jurisdiction even if he could have been found. The Germans arrested Dithmar and Boldt and put them on trial at Leipzig. The Court found Patzig guilty. Dithmar and Boldt were held to be accessories, and they were sentenced to four years imprisonment. Although both escaped relatively soon after. A fourth person, the first boatswain's mate, Meissner was also implicated, but died before the trial.

    ( Helmut Patzig was commander from 26 Jan, 1918 - 11 Nov, 1918 U-86 surrendered on 20 Nov, 1918. She was then temporarily commissioned into the Royal Navy for experimental work. She sank in the English Channel on the way to be broken up in 1921 )
  4. cally

    cally New Member

    Just to round off Annies excellent piece on Llandovery Castle a small picture of her.

    Attached Files:

  5. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    What a shame she had to go ! :(

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