The SINKING of HERMES
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Hermes was confiscated by the British navy during World War I, on the 10th of February, 1917, in Glasgow.

At that time the acting Master of Hermes was its First Officer Johannes Theodor Tengström. The ship's Master, Captain Henrik Emil Skog was on leave because of illness.

On the 19th of April 1917 Hermes departed from Barry Dock, southwest of Newport, Wales with a heavy load of coal, destined for Arkhangelsk on the coast of the White Sea in Northern Russia.

On the same day the German submarine U-45 commanded by Kapitänleutnant Erich Sittenfeld left it's base in Emden at the North Sea, heading for the Arctic Sea on a mission to disturb the shipping traffic between Europe and Russia.

Before it's encounter with Hermes, U-45 attacked three other merchant ships sinking two of them. On the 28th of April she detonated the Russian steamer Olga, carrying coal from Britain to Russia, after taking ammunition from the victim's cargo as trophy.

U-45's log shows that the air temperature the next day was minus 8ºC and that the submarine had to dodge large ice fields. At the beginning of May U-45 sank the Russian steamer Truwor by a torpedo. This ship was also on the coal trade. The British steamer Palm Branch, which according to U-45's log was carrying ammunition, poisonous gas and explosives, escapes a torpedo and opens fire when the submarine surfaces. The submarine escaped the battle field when Palm Branch received assistance from some ships arriving on the scene from the Kola peninsula.

periscope

On the 11th of May 1917 the submarine spotted the Finnish steamer Hermes around 30 nautical miles NE of Vardö in the NE corner of Norway .

Where is that? [Click the periscope image or the MAP button]

Before its independence on December 6th, 1917, Finland was a Grand Duchy under the Russian tsar, who conquered that part of Sweden in 1809. Hermes was therefore flying the Russian flag. That didn't matter any because the German submarines also sank the merchant ships of neutral countries. Hermes would undoubtedly have been attacked regardless of what flag she was showing. Because of the difficult weather conditions, dense snowstorm and high waves, the torpedoes fired by U45 at Hermes missed it's goal.

The submarine thereafter rose to the surface and fired it's canon at the cargo ship. Hermes was, however, armed. The Brits had installed a canon and accommodated two gunners aboard. They returned the firing immediately. After a violent exchange of shots the steamer finally came to a halt and it's crew was put in the life boats.

Thereafter the U-45 using it's canon sank the steamer. Immediately when Hermes had gone under, the German submarine turned back to it's base.

There are no reports concerning the 32 crew members of Hermes and the two British gunners since that. They all met their destiny in the spray of the Arctic Sea! (Click painting for a larger image)

sinking

The sea wolf, however, was soon to share the destiny of it's prey. She was sunk by a torpedo from the British D-7 submarine, commanded by Lieutenant (N) Oswald E. Hallifax north of Ireland on the 12th of September 1917.

During it's service of less than two years the U-45 sank 24 merchant ships with a total cargo capacity of 45.622 tons. It was a cruel mission indeed.

Most of the information above has been obtained from more than one source (see below).

Document (opens in new window): View the Master Contract between Ångfartsaktiebolaget Finska Lloyd (represented by Ernst Krogius) and Henrik Skog.

Document (opens in new window): View a summary of the Claim for Loss filed with the British authorities by Finska A/B Lloyd.

Document (opens in new window): The drawings of Hermes (Fenchurch) - This is a PDF-document (1,12MB).

More: Meet Henrik Skog's family.


The text above is still identical to the text of the first version of the Hermes pages, published in 1997.
My original sources are
Henrik Skog's documents (in my posession)
Thure Malmberg's sjöfartsarkiv
Archives of FÅA - Finnish Steamship Co. Ltd
E. von Manten: Der Krieg zur See 1914 -18.
bottlemail

In 1997 I could not find any other information about either Hermes nor the U-45 on the Internet (or anywhere else). This has now changed somewhat; during the process of redesigning the Scorpiosail web site, in January 2009, I did some research on the Net again and, to my surprise, with positive results. However, there doesn't seem to be any essential new facts available. www.u-boat.net has an impressive database on the U-boats, their crew and their victims. Particularly interesting for me is the list of ships hit by the U-45. The numbers are a bit different from those of my original sources: 28 ships of 55.897 tons sunk and one (Palm Branch) of 3.891 tons damaged. There is no photograph of commander Sittenfeld, unfortunately. The painting above is not showing U-45 and Hermes, but a similar event. It is apparently from a postcard and was found on www.collectinghistory.net.

Any comments, corrections or new information would be appreciated.

 

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