Monday, January 30, 2012

The Battle of May Island, Jan 31st, Scotland 1918.

The Isle of May; Firth of Forth Estuary. Tranquil. A bird and seal sanctuary.

But on the evening of 31st January, 1918, it was the site of one of the biggest Royal Naval disasters in Scottish history.

On this dark and foggy night, two fleets of ships and submarines set out from Rosyth naval base, bound for Scapa Flow, and exercise "Operation EC1". A mission so secret, even the normal Royal Navy minesweepers had no idea it was happening.

To avoid German u-boats, they travelled dark, just one light on.

The line of ships and submarines on the surface stretched thirty miles.

But as they passed the Isle of May, submarine K-14 veered to miss a minesweeper, and was hit by K-22, and sank. Then the Battlecruiser, HMS Inflexible, hit K-22, taking her bows clean off. HMS Fearless led the next flotilla, and hit submarine K-17, which also sank immediately. Fifty-six men made it to the surface, waiting to be rescued. Battlecruiser HMAS Australia narrowly missed K-12, then K-6, swerving to avoid, hit K-4, cutting her in half, sinking with all hands, only after being hit by K-7 on the way down.

Then, as if there hadn't been enough bloodshed, a whole fleet sailed through the area, battleships and destroyers, churning the surviving men of K-17 to pieces.

270 brave sailors died that night. 2 submarines sank, four severely damaged.

On their way to an exercise.

This whole macabre disaster was kept secret till the 1990's.

It reads like a scene from the Whacky Races, but what a tragedy.

For a complete list of the K-class (Kalamity) submarines, and their mishaps, take a look at this blog...

Thank you all for your interest.

1 comment:

  1. I'd never heard of this either.At first i thought it was the lead into one of your stories ,but clearly not. What a disaster


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