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Book One World War Three 1946

Book One World War Three 1946
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Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Tail of Sea Hound

The smudge on the horizon gradually got larger and larger. Luckily Seehund 243 did not have to move very far as it’s submerged speed was only 7 knots. The Liberty ship was going to reach ideal firing position any minute now.

The spot in the ocean were the intended target was about to meet its fate was very crowded with manmade objects. A number of wrecks laid near-by.

One was the eighth HMS Vanguard of the British Royal Navy and was an Audacious-class central-battery ironclad battleship, launched in 1870. It was a marvel of its age with both sail and steam power along with 9”guns.

On 27 August 1875 Captain Richard Dawkins, sailed out of Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) harbor commanding the HMS Vanguard. The Vanguard was in company with three other ironclads, Warrior, Hector and Iron Duke and was en route to Queenstown (Cobh), County Cork As they passed the Kish lightship, a heavy fog came down which restricted visibility to less than a ship's length.

Vanguard's sister ship — Iron Duke — was drifting off course and began returning to her proper station when a problem with her steam plant meant that her foghorn was inoperable. It could not be used to alert the other vessels of her position or course.

At about 12:50, a look-out on Vanguard spotted a sailing ship directly ahead. As Vanguard turned to avoid it, Iron Duke appeared out of the fog on her port side less than 40 yds away. Collision was unavoidable. Iron Duke's underwater ram tore open Vanguard's hull near her boilers.

Iron Duke freed herself after a few minutes, sustaining only minor damage. Vanguard, however, was sinking. The pumps were powered by the engines, which shut down ten minutes after the collision when the engine room flooded. The only loss of life was the Captains dog.

Within spitting distance (if you could spit underwater) lay U-Boat 1051 commanded by the late Heinrich von Holleben along with 38 of his fellow crewmen. U-1051 had already sunk the Galatea and the HMS Manners when itself was sunk on January 26th 1945. U-boats did not last long in the Irish Sea in 1945. There time was over and that’s one of the reasons the Seehund was invented.

After U-1051 torpedoed HMS Manners, she was located by HMS Bentinck and attacked with depth charges, soon thereafter joined by HMS Aylmer and HMS Calder. The boat was forced to surface, came under fire by the frigates and sank after being rammed by HMS Aylmer.

HMS Manners (A/Cdr. John Valentine Waterhouse, DSO, RN) was hit by one torpedo from U-1051. The frigate broke in two after the hit, the stern sank with the loss of four officers and 39 ratings, and while 15 others were injured. The forepart of the vessel was towed into Barrow in Furness and was declared a total loss.

The aft section came to rest almost on top of the HMS Vanguard.

The Liberty ship #1853 the Daniel Appleton now on loan to the British and named Samforth waddled it’s way until it was almost on top of the HMS Vanguard and about 100 feet from the stern of the HMS Vanguard when the torpedo hit mid-section. The noise was the typical explosion and then secondary explosions and then the metal on metal shrieking so often heard when a ship starts to break in two when the second torpedo stuck the bow and sealed the fate of the Samforth. There were no great explosions as she settled quickly by the bow.

Now this sinking would not be worth mentioning in the overall scheme of things. It was after all only one of dozens of ships sunk by the Soviet version of the Seehund and even though it was the first, it still was unremarkable except for its cargo. On board were almost a million VT fuses destined for use in the 3.7” British AA gun. Again not a remarkable loss considering that the US was turning out 100,000 of these fuses a month 8 months ago.

The problem was that fully 25% of the US electronics industry and 75% of the molded plastics industry was at one point producing these fuses. Now it was down to 10% with 90% of each going towards consumer products. This ship was carrying almost 60% of the available for export VT fuses in the world. The US had millions more for its own use but not for export and would not have appreciable amounts for another 6 months.

Did Seehund 243 have knowledge of this fact before it got into position to sink the Samforth? No it didn’t. The Samforth just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Oh and by the way. Remember the captain’s dog that was lost on the Vanguard in 1875? One of his ancestors was the cook’s dog named Sea Hound and a stowaway aboard the Samforth. He perished within spitting distance of his great, great, great, great (you get the idea) grandfather. Never to worry though Sea Hound had many a pup to keep the long line of sea dogs alive. Remember the dogs the Soviets put into space. Well once again that is a tale or a tail for another time.

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