Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Naval incident off Lowestoft 4 aug 1914


NickRing
 Share

Recommended Posts

My grandfather recounts in almost no detail at all an incident he witnessed while on a Church Lad's Brigade Camp at Corton near Lowestoft. He simply states that he witnessed a British Navy ship(his words) lifting and cutting the marine telephone cable to Germany and being fired upon by a German warship. He has the date for it as th 4th August 1914.

I have so far been unable to trace any other account of this action, but to be honest, I am not sure where I should look. I have no other information of the incident or the ships involved.

It's a minor incident in the scheme of things, but it appears to be the trigger for my Grandfather lying about his age and joining the Cavalry on 1st sept 1914.

I would welcome any information about this or help as to where I can find out more details.

Nick

Link to comment
Share on other sites

THe story of the early cable systems is partly told here:

http://atlantic-cable.com/stamps/Other/indexA.htm

and specifically mentions the German cables being cut within 24 hours of war being declared.

ttfn

Matt

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 5th August the cable ship TELECONIA commenced cutting the five German cables that ran down the English Channel. There were no German forces to interfere. None of these would have run anywhere near Lowestoft.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This sounds to me like a muddled version of The Harwich force putting to sea and sinking the German minelaying auxillary ship Konnigen luise on the 5th August 1914.

He wouldn't have seen the gunfire or sinking as it is 30 miles+ offshore out in the North sea, but he may have seen the ships either putting to sea, or returning, and reports and rumours (possibly in papers) could have added to the rest.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From The Times, Thursday, Oct 08, 1914:

Many thanks for replies. I think the incident must have involved one of the six cables between England and Germany that are mentioned in the Times column,(courtesy of Martin) although it doesn't specifically say they were cut, perhaps they spliced into them. My Grandfather made two attempts at a memoir and both mention the incident. I wonder whether the ship involved was one of the specialist cable laying ships mentioned in the web site http://atlantic-cable.com/stamps/Other/indexA.htm.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was recently talking to a researcher who has been looking into the cable cutting on both sides, but I'm not sure if he's published his work yet. He was saying that the Germans in particular devoted a lot of resources to it. I'll ask around.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Deleted my earlier post on this subject as realised that my memory had played me false. Here is part of an article I wrote some time ago that may be relevant.

More spectacular was the expansion of the international telegraph network, mainly through the laying of submarine cables (each cable comprising many individual wires). Every major power owned its own commercial network of cables, in time of war these came under either direct government control or close supervision. The technology had also advanced to the point where primitive forms of multiplexer and code compressors were in use to allow a single wire to handle multiple messages. Switching equipment, although fundamentally mechanical, had become complex and expensive. The destruction or damage of an international telegraph station or relay could cause considerable disruption and take a long time to replace (especially if complex equipment had to be transported to it by sea). Such stations thus became important strategic targets in time of war.

Britain with her wide spread empire and trading interests was particularly vulnerable to damage to the cable network, she was, however, well placed to protect her cables and wreak havoc on those of her enemies. Germany had a problem as, for geological reasons, most of her international cables left Europe via the English Channel. As we shall see later she made some alternative arrangements.

On August 4, 1914 Britain opened the telegraph war by cutting the German submarine cable that ran from Borkum in the North Sea to the Spanish island of Tenerife in the South Atlantic. There was a substantial German research station on the coast of Tenerife and there were fears (possibly incorrect) that this was being used as a cover for espionage and potentially for U boat support. As Tenerife lay close to the sea routes that British ships would take to Britain’s West African colonies and South Africa, Winston Churchill (then 1st Lord of the Admiralty) ordered the cutting of the communications link.

The next step was the remaining German cables running through the English Channel. Many of these were simply grappled, raised and cut but some (linking to neutral countries) were patched into the British cable network this providing the Allies with additional capacity (and in the short term probably intercepting incoming messages for Germany from the remote terminus of the cable). Much of Germany’s telegraph connection to the world beyond the Central Powers was destroyed.

Germany struck back, on 7th September 1914 the German cruiser SMS Nurnberg, accompanied by SMS Leipzig under cover of the French flag approached the tiny Pacific territory of Fanning Island. Fanning Island’s only importance was that a submarine cable from Canada came ashore to a cable station provided the switching capacity to route messages to and from two connecting cables, one to Australia and the other to New Zealand. A landing party from the Nurnberg wrecked the station and cut the cables (they also found time to raid the local post office and steal some stamps!).

In November 1914 the crew of the German commerce raider Emden were ordered to destroy the cable station on Direction Island in the Coccos. This station provided a link between Australia and South Africa. On the morning of the 9th the cable station staff saw a warship approaching. Having been warned about SMS Emden the station’s wireless operator sent out a message. "Strange warship approaching" and shortly afterwards "SOS! Emden here" before a German landing party took the station. These messages were picked up by a passing troop convoy and one of the cruisers escorting it peeled off making full speed towards Direction. The cruiser was the HMAS Sidney; within an hour and a half of battle being joined the burning Emden was beached on the nearby North Keeling Island. The landing party managed to cut one cable and wreck some instrumentation before fleeing (they made it back to Germany after 7 months via the Dutch East Indies and Turkey).

The threat of German raiding parties was not lost on other parts of the World. In Canada troops were despatched to guard telegraph stations on both Pacific and Atlantic coasts. In New Zealand the coastal forts, with their disappearing guns, were manned. However with the destruction of the German squadron at the battle of the Falkland Islands, the loss of the Emden and the fall of the port of Tsientao Germany had no naval force outside European waters that could threaten the international cable network.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

D

On August 4, 1914 Britain opened the telegraph war by cutting the German submarine cable that ran from Borkum in the North Sea to the Spanish island of Tenerife in the South Atlantic. There was a substantial German research station on the coast of Tenerife and there were fears (possibly incorrect) that this was being used as a cover for espionage and potentially for U boat support. As Tenerife lay close to the sea routes that British ships would take to Britain’s West African colonies and South Africa, Winston Churchill (then 1st Lord of the Admiralty) ordered the cutting of the communications link.

This was the 1911 Germany-South America Cable (Borkum-Tenerife-Monrovia-Pernambuco), which was diverted into Brest.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some very interesting leads thank you. As a result, I have found an interesting web site that may hold the answer to this incident, it's a Deutsche Telekom publication. http://www.telekom-training.de/internet/te.../Tub1998_12.pdf

Unfortunately, but unexpectedly, the web site is in German. But it appears to show on page 5, 4 cables originating at Emden in Germany. 2 do indeed pass through the tiny island of Borkum just of the coast from Greetsiel. A map shows 2 cables going to Lowestoft, one laid in 1866 and one in 1871. It must surely be these cables that are at the centre of this incident.

If anyone out there can read German, I would be very grateful if they could confirm my assumptions. I does seem to fit very nicely with my Grandfathers recollection. I wonder if it would have been mentioned in a local Lowestoft newspaper at the time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why would the British wish to interfere with a cable from Germany to Britain given that the end of it was already in their hands?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why would the British wish to interfere with a cable from Germany to Britain given that the end of it was already in their hands?

Could they really trust themselves, however?

tone

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why would the British wish to interfere with a cable from Germany to Britain given that the end of it was already in their hands?

Ionia makes a good point. Maybe what he thinks he saw is not what actually was going on. Could it have been the Borkum cable after all?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Given that Britain did not declare war before 11.00 that day to have a ship out cutting a cable and a German ship on the spot to defend it on the same day seems pretty fast going on both sides. AFAIK Churchill jumped the gun in that he authorised the cutting of the Teneriffe cable even before war was declared. I think most cables were not cut until 5th August or later.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...