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SS Peerless in the Great War - The Wartime Memories Project -

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SS Peerless



14th September 1917 SS Peerless sinking  

SS Peerless

On the 14th September 1917 the SS Peerless was sunk when torpedoed by U 52 60 miles south west of Bishop Rock or 40 miles per Captain’s report. (49.11N, 07.16W) in passage from Lisbon to Manchester, carrying iron ore and cork. The SS Peerless was a Steamer of 3,112 tons, built in 1898, by Richardson, Duck & Co., Stockton.She was owned by Hall Bros. SS. Co., Ltd. (Hall Bros.), Newcastle

Report of Captain Arthur Newman, Master of the ship : (some words have been hardly deciphered) To the D. N. I. Admiralty S.W. Dear Sir, Re s/s Peerless The vessel was torpedoed and sunk at 1.30am Sept 4th 1919(1917) approximately 40 miles SxW of Bishop light – my instructions were to pass S of Bishop & N of loof to U52, Commander Walter or Walther. The torpedo struck at stoke hold. Killing the 5 firemen on watch and the 2 starboard boats were wrecked by the explosion and the vessel sank in 4-5 mins. Myself and 2 gunners were taken on board after repeated threats to fire in the boat if I did not give myself up. We three were accommodated on the floor of the after torpedo room and had our food after the greasers who also occupied that room. She carried 13 torpedoes and 1 gun and was fitted with 2 tubes at each end. She seemed to be cruising across the mouth of the Channel and as far south as Belle Isle but she had been further South prior to my going on board as from questions asked me, they had been on the watch for the 2 troop transports from Lisbon. She was not fitted that I could see for mine laying. There were 7 torpedoes remaining after I got on board and these were all used with the exception of 1 which seemed entirely made of brass and I was told it was pre war and they were rather doubtful about it. I cannot give you any particulars about other ships sunk as no other prisoners were taken after me, but I should say no more than 3 although they claimed one for each torpedo but on only 3 occasions I heard the explosions of the torpedoes. The line was I should judge between Lands End and Ushant where they attacked a convoy firing the forward torpedoes and then passing beneath the convoy, but let go on one of the aft ones. The first one certainly got its mark but by the time the second one went there were too may depth charges exploding around us to be certain. She returned to her base via west coast of Ireland attacked and I believe sank a vessel there and then attacked a convoy bound to Norway and I believe sunk one ship there, but as before could not be certain on account of the depth charges. On five occasions after manoeuvring for position to torpedo ships the U 52 went away and I was told that they had been hospital ships and this commander would not sink them. We were on top of the water most of the time I was on board. As soon as smoke was seen we went below. The submarine continued on the surface until they raised the upper works of the ship and then submerged, followed the zig zag until they had got it worked out for themselves and in the case of a slow ship they ran on ahead and waited for the ship coming. Coming down the North Sea the submarine herself zig zaged and I was told that they did this on the belief England had several stationery submarines in various places in the North Sea. On two or three occasions the telefunkan was working presumably with other submarines and on the 16th were calling up Nordeutch for escort through the minefields, but we were kept below and I did not see any. We were submerged all night of the 16th and anchored early morning of the 17th in the mouth of the Emms, from there were taken to Helogland and the following day the Wilhelmshafen. One of my gunners H Payne and myself had only trousers and shirt on when taken and applied for clothing and boots on the submarine and Helogland and Wilhelmshafen but on each occasion was told they had nothing to give prisoners. It was not until we arrived at Brandenburg camp that we were given wooden clogs and some filthy gear which had evidently belonged to dead soldiers. In conversation with the crew of the 52, most whom could speak English, I learnt that she had made cruises in the Mediterranean and to Las Palmas. Amongst other ships sunk were the English cruiser Northampton and submarine of the Empire the French battleship Souffren the English SS Glencly and the SS Wentworth. The latter was sunk before me and the captain and 2 gummers were on the submarine with me in the fore compartment. Yours truly Arthur F Newman Master ex SS Peerless

John Doran


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