Daily Event for August 29

August 29, 1915: HMS C-29 a C-class British submarine hit a mine and sank. The operation C-29 was involved in was unique to the U-boat war of the Great War. Decoy ships known as Q-ships were used as bait for German submarines. These ships were fishing boats, trawlers and merchantmen which had hidden guns installed. They would sail alone until confronted by a U-boat and then, like the German raiders, would drop their disguise and fire on the unsuspecting U-boat. At this time in the war the usual method U-boat commanders used was to surface and order the ship to stop, the ship was boarded, the crews were put in the lifeboats (many were provided with food, water, navigational equipment and directions to the nearest body of land) and the ship was sunk using the deck gun as torpedoes were much too valuable to waste on such easy prey. It was still "a gentleman's war."

The introduction of the Q-ship may have helped to change that. The Germans soon realized what the British were doing and this caused a change in tactics. Many U-boat commanders chose to attack ships without warning while submerged instead of the former stop and sink tactic. Some theorize this was in direct response to the Q-ships however, others believe that the Q-ships were not all that effective. Their record shows about 14 U-boats sunk. The number of sinkings prevented, because the U-boat commander did not approach a ship fearing an attack will never be known.

C-29 was being used in a slightly different roll. Towed submerged behind a trawler connected with a waterproof telephone cable, the trawler would sail around hoping to attract the attention of a U-boat. If one was located the captain of the trawler would contact the submarine by the telephone and the submarine would drop the cable and attack the boat. This tactic resulted in the loss of at least three U-boats.

On Aug. 29, 1915 while towing the C-29, the trawler Ariadne sailed into a minefield. The C-29 hit one of the mines and was lost with all hands. After the loss of the C-29 the trawler/submarine operations were discontinued.
© 2005 Michael W. Pocock

HMS C-38 (same class).