Daily Event for June 20, 2012

Launched on June 6, 1916 at Irvine's in West Hartlepool the sloop HMS Salvia did not look much like a traditional sloop of war. With only one 4" gun mounted on the stern she had the look of a typical merchantman of her time. She could make over 17 knots, a little faster than the typical merchant ship, but she needed the extra speed since she was in fact a Q-Ship. Her real armament hidden behind false walls awaiting to be deployed against an unsuspecting U-Boat. She was completed in Oct. 1916 and in within a few days she was in action on the high seas.

On Oct. 20, 1916 she was west of Ireland when SMS U-70 approached from astern. The submarine opened the action sending several shells toward the steamer. Being a little out of range, Salvia's commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Wybrants Olphert, D.S.O., D.S.C., R.N.R., slowed down to allow his attacker to close the range. When the shells from the submarine hit the ship it was decided to make an attempt to ram the boat or at least get into a position to drop depth charges, but at that moment the steering gear malfunctioned and the attack failed. The submarine hauled off and the damaged ship made for port.

Exactly eight months later on June 20, 1917 Salvia again was engaged by a German submarine, this time an unannounced torpedo slammed into her stern, the explosion set off a depth charge, which cast the 4" gun off the ship into the sea and knocking the engines out instantly. The "panic party" was sent away as was the normal procedure, but this time the panic was as real as it gets. The submarine, SMS U-94 and Kapitänleutnant Alfred Saalwächter, surfaced and began shelling the ship. Saalwächter remained directly astern of Salvia making the hidden guns useless. His shells were accurate and soon he had set the bridge ablaze. At this point the remaining crew were forced to abandon, upon seeing this Saalwächter ceased fire. He must have been rather proud of himself to have stayed in a position that did not allow the British to bring their guns to bear, perhaps he was suspicious of the steamer and after seeing the second wave of men leaving the ship his suspicions had been confirmed.

One of the lifeboats seemed to be going back to the ship which brought an immediate response from the German gunners and the shells began to fall again. No further attempt was made to reboard the ship and Saalwächter came alongside the survivors to interrogate them. Olphert was taken prisoner, Salvia sank and U-94 made off leaving the survivors to fend for themselves. Two hours later HMS Aubrietia Q-13 hove into sight and picked up the survivors. It took a couple of hours to locate everyone because some had drifted off in the rough seas, but they were all found. Sadly the initial explosions had taken the lives of five of the crew. Olphert was released after the war and was awarded a Bar to his D.S.O., he passed away in New Zealand in 1938 at age 58.

U-94 survived the war and was surrendered and scrapped. Alfred Saalwächter continued to serve in the German navy and reached the rank of Admiral in Hitler's Kriegsmarine. He served in various capacities throughout the war including as one time head of Group West. He was detained by the Soviets in 1945 and died in their custody, exactly when and how is unknown.
© 2012 Michael W. Pocock

Roll of Honour
In memory of those who lost their lives in HMS Salvia Q-15
"As long as we embrace them in our memory, their spirit will always be with us"

Downing, Frederick B.
Leading Signalman
Lowry, William
Able Seaman
Middleton, Bertie G.
Able Seaman
Potter, Frederick
Able Seaman
West, Joseph D.
Ordinary Seaman

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June 25, 2013

My grandfather Ernest Teatheredge was an 18 year old Ordinary Seaman aboard Q15 when she was sunk. He spent some hours in the water hanging on to a life raft before being picked up. Granddad joined the Navy as a boy at HMS Ganges in 1915. He survived the First World War and left the Navy in 1929 settling in Harwich, my home town.  On 3/9/1939, age 40, he rejoined as an AB and worked on Boom Defence Vessels based at: HMS Rooke, Stag, Nile, Moreta. He survived the Second World War and left the Navy in 1945. He passed in 1973. I have all his service records and hope to research his complete war record and ships. I have been to the Maritime Museum at Greenwich in order to look into the sinking of Q15. I was hoping to come across a photo of the Salvia but have been unable to find one. Thanks for your article it is interesting and moving to find the names of Granddad's shipmates who perished.

Bill Teatheredge

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