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More important Canadian antique memorabilia the Museum has preserved.

German Submarine U-9 Sinks Aboukir, Cressy, Hogue - Sep. 22, 1914

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flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure A fabulous discovery of an ultra-rare memorabilia plate, that went below the radar of the ebay seller who owned it in Belgium, and all the high-brow ebayers who surfed the posting. No one even put in a bid, and the rare plate went unsold...

Till our sleuthing curator found it, in the rubbish heap of history, - the expired files on ebay - which he prowls at night looking for badly labelled items from sellers who don't know their history. These are very often women, who prefer the "pretty" collectibles to the militaria looking stuff, which they give a throw-away price and name, which means, of course, that the pros can't find it, when they go hunting with their bookmarks... (Some of the very finest - and cheapest - items in our collection have come because we are aware of this fact.)

Our curator's eagle eye had detected the prow of a pre-World War I German battleship probably of the Nassau class.

More spectacularly he was able to make out a faint U-9 on the side of the conning tower of the submarine.

It is none other than the famous German U-Boat U-9 with which Otto Weddigen sank Aboukir, Cressy, and Hogue in one attack in September 1914.

But was the plate old, or a modern repro?

Checking the rear of the plate proved to be the clincher. It showed clear signs of age, proving it was not a modern repro.

It's stamped Villeroy & Boch, a famed German ceramic maker that started business in France in 1748, as Boch, moved to Luxembourg later, and to Mettlach Germany, in 1801. They've been Villeroy & Boch since 1836.

Mettlach is often found on the back of its stamp. Except on this plate, which had a longer hard-to-make-out place name.


U-9 Patriotic Plate - Villeroy & Boch 1914
Orig. plate - Size - 30 cm
Found - Brussels, BEL

Further research showed that the Villeroy factory had been located in Wallerfangen in the Saar since 1789.

And in fact it's now possible to see that the stamp bears that name in the crescent where Mettlach is usually found.

But the Wallerfangen factory was closed, because of the depression, in 1931...

So the plate clearly dates from before that time, making it virtually certain it dates from the patriotic output during World War I.

A rare plate in fabulous condition that memorializes a time when men of all nations, forget themselves and elevate warfare and killing to the top rank of human pursuits.

Below the expired header from the ebay plate which our crafty curator found and acquired for $38. It's worth hundreds...

Once again it proved to be a woman who did not know her WWI, battleship, or submarine history, even though it all is concerned with a recent time when millions fought and died in her very own back yard...

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Quite possibly the most rare plate from World War I is this large and fabulous German commemorative of one of the most stupendous feats of arms ever carried out by a submariner in war.

On September 1914, U-9, under Captain-Lieutenant Otto Weddigen, successfully stalked three large British cruisers in the North Sea, some 22 miles off the coast of the Netherlands, and within an hour sank HMS Aboukir, HMS Cressy and HMS Hogue.

1459 British sailors lost their lives; some 850 were rescued.

That was a substantially bigger loss in lives than the 1198 that went down in the Lusitania torpedoing only three months later.

The event transfixed the public - with utter doom in the British Empire, with great jubilation in Germany - over a feat of arms that few could deny was a work of art by a master submariner.


Plate, German U-9 - September, 1914
Orig. plate - Size - 26 cm
Found - Epping, NH

The plate is highly unusual being of a highly glossy type of finish.

It also weighs double what is typical of a 26 cm plate, having the density more like that found in a ceramic trivet.

The mark, crossed swords, slightly curved, was used by Meissen, near Dresden, from 1818 to 1924. The pommels or dots at the end indicate this mark comes later in the period.

So it dates the plate to the First World War. The heavy wear on the base, as well as a significant, and very old, chip, which we have fixed, confirms this is, indeed, an original, and not a repro from a later period. It was bought in the euphoria surrounding the public adulation that followed Otto Weddigen's fantastic exploit in 1914.

Otto Weddigen and his wife in happier times, probably before the war bedecked him with medals.

Otto established a permanent place for himself in naval history when he took U-9, one of Germany's first submarines, to sea in September 1914.

Early on the morning of Sept. 22, 1914, Otto Weddigen spotted a British patrol of several cruisers steaming into view.

At periscope depth, he quickly decided to target the centre ship, HMS Aboukir. He fired one torpedo, dove, and waited... The explosions carried through the water told the crew on the sub, what none could see. They had hit and grievously wounded the Aboukir.

Her captain thought his ship had hit a mine and signaled HMS Cressy and HMS Hogue to come and rescue his men.

Aboukir sank in half an hour, leaving many men struggling in the water as the other two ships tried to render assistance.

The rescue effort brought the ships in closer to U-9.

Weddigen maneuvered around the sinking Aboukir and hit Hogue with two torpedoes amidships from only 300 yards away. The submarine bobbed wildly because it suddenly lost the weight of two torpedoes, with the crew running back and forth, inside, trying to balance their careening ship. During the maneuvering U-9 actually scraped the hull of the fatally wounded Hogue.

Hogue sank in ten minutes leaving more men in the water.

Weddigen now went after Cressy and hit her with two torpedoes at an extreme distance. It was his third torpedo which mortally wounded her.

Weddigen, out of torpedoes, went home to a hero's welcome. Wrote Otto, "My wife, dry eyed when I went away, met me with tears."

Above U-9's crew with Otto in the front middle.

Another postcard was issued showing U-9 and Otto inset.






A variety of medals were struck to commemorate the event.

The one left shows U-9 barreling through the middle of three ships her German naval ensign flying proudly, as if to rebut the reports that circulated widely at the time, among British propagandists, that Weddigen had been using a Dutch flag as a ruse to get close to the cruisers before launching his deadly attack.

Below Aboukir sinks as Hogue and Cressy steam in to await their turn.

Bottom a memorial medal of the two submarines Weddigen commanded before he met his doom.


























A German propaganda card celebrating giving John Bull a shot of schnapps from a U-9 carafe, having administered "A Fair Whack" as the heading says.

John Bull struggles to take it all in as he drops Aboukir, Hogue, and Cressy from his grasp. And more, under his arm are in danger of falling...

One such was the old British cruiser HMS Hawke. Showing there is no rest for heroes, Otto was already at work again. Off Aberdeen, Scotland, on October 15, Otto spotted and torpedoed the old ship. The hit was followed by a huge explosion and she sank within five minutes. Of the 544 men aboard only 60 managed to get into a lifeboat and were saved.

The accompanying cruiser did not hang around to pick up survivors, strict orders from the Admiralty, in the wake of the Aboukir, Cressy, Hogue disaster of a few weeks earlier.

Aboukir right, Hogue and Cressy were sister ships of the Bacchante class of cruisers.

Aboukir was the first ship to be hit, with the torpedo striking this, the port side.

This would have been exactly Weddigen's view through his periscope as the unsuspecting ship steamed towards him.

The explosion broke her back and she sank taking with her 527 of her crew, many trapped below.

Hundreds more were thrashing about in the water climbing out on any debris they could find for support.

Hogue is approaching and has launched boats to pick up survivors as Aboukir is in her death throes.

Two who died on Aboukir were:

Arthur Philip Smith, a stoker.

William Henry Fairweather, who was reputed to be the best swimmer in the fleet. Alas he is not one of the hundreds scrambling about her hull.

He is trapped below in the engine room.

His memorial at Dover reads:

Two days ago, so sad to recall,
It is a day of remembrance to all,
So sudden on us our sorrow fell,
To part with one we loved so well.
Asleep in the deep.

From Mother, Brother, and Sisters.

Another one who drowned was Harry Terry, of Dover, who'd only been married for three years and left a child as well as a grieving widow, Blanche Terry.

Harry had joined the navy when he was 15 and made it a life career. He was in his late thirties when he died.

it is the common folks, like these, who are the inevitable victims, when the ruling elites send them off to fight wars to suit the corporate elites pursuing their international business and political interests. While the lower orders drown by the hundreds leaving behind families totally destroyed, the rich smoke their cigars, sip their champagne, embrace their mistresses, as they pick their next victim and plot their next move to expand their corporate bottom line.

The Hogue is coming up exactly as pictured above.

Everyone was madly grabbing anything wooden from below decks, and above, to throw into the water, to give the struggling Aboukir men something to keep them afloat.

So the water was covered with all manner of floating debris and hundreds of yelling men.

Suddenly Hogue was hit, probably near a magazine as a heavy explosion took place and she sank very rapidly.



The Cressy right rushed over to help rescue men from the two sinkings.

This was U-9's view of the Cressy's starboard side, when she fired two torpedoes, one of which hit just before the after bridge.

Fifteen minutes later Weddigen fired his last torpedo which hit further forward on the same side. The Cressy turned turtle, and in 20 minutes she was gone.

And the sea was a struggling mass of humanity.

The map shows the theatre of operations, some 22 miles off the coast of the Netherlands (yellow dot.)

The torpedo tracks are shown from U-9's path to where they hit the ships.

The British Board of Inquiry found most of the leading officers guilty of all kinds of infractions that contributed to the debacle.

They had not been zigzagging as required, and steaming at only 10 knots, instead of 13.

They were negligent and censured for numerous command and communications infractions.

They had also stopped to pick up survivors so becoming easy targets.

The wrecks lie some 22 miles off Schevingen, Holland in 28 m of water. British and Dutch divers have visited the wrecks which are fairly close together. Cressy and Hogue are only 200 m apart with Aboukir being another 800 m away. They rest in soft mud and stand up only some 5 to 10 m above the seabed.

Some salvage has been done on them, though these are giant war graves.

Otto Weddigen's account from the book he wrote just after the event happened.

"I am 32 years old and have been in the navy for years.  For the last five years I have been attached to the submarine flotilla, and have been most interested in that branch of the navy.  At the outbreak of the war our undersea boats were rendezvoused at a series of harbours on our coast of the North Sea.

Each of us felt and hoped that the Fatherland might be benefited by such individual efforts of ours as were possible at a time when our bigger sisters of the fleet were prohibited from activity.  So we awaited commands from the Admiralty, ready for any undertaking that promised to do for the imperial navy what our brothers of the army were so gloriously accomplishing.

I was married at the home of my brother in Wilhelmshaven to my boyhood sweetheart, Miss Prete of Hamburg, on August 16th.  Before that I had been steadily on duty with my boat, and I had to leave again the next day after my marriage.  But both my bride and I wanted the ceremony to take place at the appointed time, and it did, although within twenty-four hours thereafter I had to go away on a venture that gave a good chance of making my new wife a widow.

But she was as firm as I was that my first duty was to answer the call of our country, and she waved me away from the dock with good-luck wishes.

I set out from a North Sea port on one of the arms of the Kiel Canal and set my course in a south-westerly direction.  Thus I was soon cruising off the coast of Holland.  I had been lying in wait there only a few days before the morning of September 22nd arrived, the day on which I fell in with my quarry.

When I started from home the fact was kept quiet and a heavy sea helped to keep the secret, but when the action began the sun was bright and the water smooth - not the most favourable conditions for submarine work.

I had sighted several ships during my passage, but they were not what I was seeking.  English torpedo boats came within my reach, but I felt there was bigger game further on, so on I went.  I travelled on the surface except when we sighted vessels, and then I submerged, not even showing my periscope, except when it was necessary to take bearings.  It was ten minutes after 6 on the morning of last Tuesday when I caught sight of one of the big cruisers of the enemy.

I was then eighteen sea miles northwest of the Hook of Holland.  I had then travelled considerably more than 200 miles from my base.  My boat was one of an old type, but she had been built on honour, and she was behaving beautifully.

I had been going ahead partly submerged, with about five feet of my periscope showing.  Almost immediately I caught sight of the first cruiser and two others.  I submerged completely and laid my course so as to bring up in the centre of the trio, which held a sort of triangular formation.  I could see their grey-black sides riding high over the water.

When I first sighted them they were near enough for torpedo work, but I wanted to make my aim sure, so I went down and in on them.  I had taken the position of the three ships before submerging, and I succeeded in getting another flash through my periscope before I began action.  I soon reached what I regarded as a good shooting point.

Then I loosed one of my torpedoes at the middle ship.  I was then about twelve feet under water, and got the shot off in good shape, my men handling the boat as if she had been a skiff.  I climbed to the surface to get a sight through my tube of the effect, and discovered that the shot had gone straight and true, striking the ship, which I later learned was the Aboukir, under one of her magazines, which in exploding helped the torpedo's work of destruction.

There were a fountain of water, a burst of smoke, a flash of fire, and part of the cruiser rose in the air.  Then I heard a roar and felt reverberations sent through the water by the detonation.  She had been broken apart, and sank in a few minutes.  The Aboukir had been stricken in a vital spot and by an unseen force; that made the blow all the greater.

Her crew were brave, and even with death staring them in the face kept to their posts, ready to handle their useless guns, for I submerged at once.  But I had stayed on top long enough to see the other cruisers, which I learned were the Cressy and the Hogue, turn and steam full speed to their dying sister, whose plight they could not understand, unless it had been due to an accident.

The ships came on a mission of inquiry and rescue, for many of the Aboukir's crew were now in the water, the order having been given, "Each man for himself."

But soon the other two English cruisers learned what had brought about the destruction so suddenly.

As I reached my torpedo depth I sent a second charge at the nearest of the oncoming vessels, which was the Hogue.  The English were playing my game, for I had scarcely to move out of my position, which was a great aid, since it helped to keep me from detection.

On board my little boat the spirit of the German Navy was to be seen in its best form.  With enthusiasm every man held himself in check and gave attention to the work in hand.

The attack on the Hogue went true.  But this time I did not have the advantageous aid of having the torpedo detonate under the magazine, so for twenty minutes the Hogue lay wounded and helpless on the surface before she heaved, half turned over and sank.

But this time, the third cruiser knew of course that the enemy was upon her and she sought as best she could to defend herself.  She loosed her torpedo defence batteries on boats, starboard and port, and stood her ground as if more anxious to help the many sailors who were in the water than to save herself.

In common with the method of defending herself against a submarine attack, she steamed in a zigzag course, and this made it necessary for me to hold my torpedoes until I could lay a true course for them, which also made it necessary for me to get nearer to the Cressy.

I had come to the surface for a view and saw how wildly the fire was being sent from the ship.  Small wonder that was when they did not know where to shoot, although one shot went unpleasantly near us.

When I got within suitable range I sent away my third attack.  This time I sent a second torpedo after the first to make the strike doubly certain.  My crew were aiming like sharpshooters and both torpedoes went to their bulls-eye.

My luck was with me again, for the enemy was made useless and at once began sinking by her head.  Then she careened far over, but all the while her men stayed at the guns looking for their invisible foe.  They were brave and true to their country's sea traditions.  Then she eventually suffered a boiler explosion and completely turned turtle.

With her keel uppermost she floated until the air got out from under her and then she sank with a loud sound, as if from a creature in pain.

The whole affair had taken less than one hour from the time of shooting off the first torpedo until the Cressy went to the bottom.  Not one of the three had been able to use any of its big guns.

I knew the wireless of the three cruisers had been calling for aid.  I was still quite able to defend myself, but I knew that news of the disaster would call many English submarines and torpedo boat destroyers, so, having done my appointed work, I set my course for home.

My surmise was right, for before I got very far some British cruisers and destroyers were on the spot, and the destroyers took up the chase.  I kept under water most of the way, but managed to get off a wireless to the German fleet that I was heading homeward and being pursued.

I hoped to entice the enemy, by allowing them now and then a glimpse of me, into the zone in which they might be exposed to capture or destruction by German warships, but, although their destroyers saw me plainly at dusk on the 22nd and made a final effort to stop me, they abandoned the attempt, as it was taking them too far from safety and needlessly exposing them to attack from our fleet and submarines.

How much they feared our submarines and how wide was the agitation caused by good little U-9 is shown by the English reports that a whole flotilla of German submarines had attacked the cruisers and that this flotilla had approached under cover of the flag of Holland.

These reports were absolutely untrue.  U-9 was the only submarine on deck, and she flew the flag she still flies - the German naval ensign - which I hope to keep forever as a glorious memento and as an inspiration for devotion to the Fatherland.

I reached the home port on the afternoon of the 23rd, and on the 24th went to Wilhelmshaven, to find that news of my effort had become public. 

My wife, dry eyed when I went away, met me with tears.  Then I learned that my little vessel and her brave crew had won the plaudit of the Kaiser, who conferred upon each of my co-workers the Iron Cross of the second class and upon me the Iron Cross of the first and second classes."

Otto's account shows clearly how traumatizing the tragedy was in the British Empire, and how great the public euphoria in Germany must have been for a 32 year old naval officer and patriot.

Below the mad scramble as Aboukir rolls over...

The Paths of Glory...

Otto was given the prize for a hero, a new submarine, U-29 below. He quickly went out and sank four more ships.

But the end came for Germany's most famous sailor, six months later, on March 18, 1915. (yellow dot map above)

Weddigen in U-29 had stumbled on the British Grand Fleet on maneuvers in the Pentland Firth, off the northern tip of Scotland. Otto was cruising at periscope depth and must have been somewhat careless in not doing a 360 with his viewer.

His periscope was spotted by the mother of all modern battleships HMS Dreadnaught right who rammed the sub, slicing it in half. There were no survivors

Otto went to join so many others he had sent to the bottom.

Once more, Miss Prete, his wife and childhood sweetheart, drenched her handkerchief with tears...

But shed no tear for Otto. As an educated man, Otto had choices. He made his, badly...

Right the last thing Otto saw through his scope, the onrushing bow of HMS Dreadnaught at ramming speed.

Dreadnaught was the inspiration for modern battleships, when launched in 1906. Instead of the traditional mix of guns, it went for a full complement of big calibres, mounting 10 x 12 inch guns. With its steam turbines it was also the fastest battleship of the day. By 1914 it was already outdated technology.

Dreadnaught never took part in any naval battle since Britain was at peace during its heyday. It's sole success in war - sending to the bottom the man who had sunk three British cruisers and stunned the world with his exploit.

It could be seen as an angry kick at the terrible new engine of war which was to transform warfare in two world wars, and help end the era of the battleship which was completely vulnerable from below.

And at the end of the war the experiments with aircraft flying off ships ushered in the era of the aircraft carrier which rang the death knell for the battleship in World War II.

And U-9? She survived the war, became World War I booty for the British. Instead of being preserved as Britain's most famous adversary, U-9 was broken up at the wreckers. Poor revenge on a dreadfully successful engine of war.

Below HMS Dreadnaught on maneuvers just as the scene must have looked when Otto looked out of his periscope for the last time...

Go to HMS Prince of Wales

flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure A fabulous, and extremely rare, souvenir plate from the early days of World War I submarine warfare, which was given out by a local store in Wisconsin, USA.

USS E-2 (SS-25) was an E-class submarine of the United States Navy. Originally named Sturgeon, the boat was launched on 15 June 1911 by the Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts; renamed E-2 on 17 November 1911; and commissioned on 14 February 1912, Ensign C. N. Hinkamp in command.

Serving in the Atlantic Submarine Flotilla, E-2 sailed out of Newport, Rhode Island for developmental exercises and training.

From 5 January-21 April 1914, she cruised to Guantanamo Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. She returned to Naval Station Newport on 27 July, for training operations for the remainder of the summer and from February-May 1915 off Florida.

Entering New York Navy Yard on 19 June for overhaul, E-2 was victim of a violent explosion and fire on 15 January 1916 when hydrogen gas ignited during conditions of severe battery testing; tests made under the direction of the Edison Storage Battery Company.

Four men were killed and seven injured. On 13 March, E-2 was placed out of commission for use as a laboratory, for exhaustive tests of the Edison storage battery.

Recommissioned on 25 March 1918, E-2 served in training and experimental work at New London until 16 May.

Two days later she arrived at Norfolk to operate against enemy submarines off Cape Hatteras. From 21 May-27 August, she made four war patrols, sighting a large enemy submarine for which she made extended submerged search on her last patrol.

Souvenir Plate, US Submarine E-2 - c 1912
Orig. plate - Size - 23 cm
Found - Glasgow, UK
E-2 was commended by the Chief of Naval Operations for two of these anti-submarine patrols, which were exceptionally long for a submarine of her size. Returning to New London on 31 August 1918, E-2 made two more patrols before the end of the war, then returned to training student officers and qualifying men for duty in submarines.

She sailed from New London to Norfolk on 19 April 1920, arriving two days later. There she was placed in commission in ordinary on 18 July 1921. On 17 September, she sailed for Philadelphia Navy Yard where she was decommissioned on 20 October and sold on 19 April 1922.

The extremely small size of the sub is amazing. Imagine the cramped and confining spaces down below...

Below the very place this plate was carried out from: Jacob Verhulst's general store in Milladore, Wisconsin.