- Created: 28 July 2015
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HMS E13 had a relatively short career during World War I. On 14 August 1915, she was despatched from Harwich, accompanied by her sister vessel HMS E8. The two submarines had orders to sail to the Baltic Sea to interdict German shipping, particularly vessels carrying iron ore shipments from Sweden At around 01:00 on 18 August 1915, the submarine ran aground in shallow water near Saltholm island in the Øresund between Malmö and Copenhagen, because of a defective gyrocompass. At dawn she became clearly visible. At 05:00 the Royal Danish Navy torpedo boat Narhvalen appeared on the scene and hailed the E13's commander, Lt Cdr Geoffrey Layton, informing him that he had 24 hours to refloat his vessel and leave before he and his crew would be interned for violating Denmark's neutrality.
The E13's crew sought to lighten the submarine by pumping out tanks and discharging fuel, but she had grounded in only 10 feet (3.0 m) of water and would not move. Layton realised that he would not be able to refloat the E13 before the deadline passed and sent his first lieutenant ashore to arrange a tow or, if this was impracticable, to negotiate terms for internment. He was unable to contact the Admiralty for assistance, as the Germans were jamming radio frequencies.
At 10:28 the German torpedo boat G132 arrived but withdrew when the Danish torpedo boats Støren and Søulven approached. A third Danish torpedo boat, the Tumleren, arrived shortly afterwards.
Meanwhile, the commander of the G132, Oberleutnant zur See Paul Graf von Montgelas, had informed Rear Admiral Robert Mischke by radio about the E13's grounding. German naval operations against the Russian-held city of Riga were at a critical stage and Mischke felt that he could not afford to let the E13 pass into the Baltic, where it could threaten the German offensive in the Gulf of Riga. He ordered G132 and another torpedo boat to destroy the submarine. The two vessels returned to Saltholm and opened fire on the E13 with torpedoes, machine-guns and shell fire from a range of 300 yards. The submarine was hit repeatedly and set on fire. Seeing this, Lt Cdr Layton ordered the submarine to be abandoned, but the firing continued while his men were in the water. The engagement ended when the Danish torpedo boat Søulven placed herself between the submarine and the two German ships, which withdrew. Fourteen of the E13's crew were killed in the attack and one was missing, presumed killed.
The E13's fifteen surviving crew members were interned at the Copenhagen Navy Yard by the Danes for the rest of the war. Layton refused to give his parole and eventually escaped along with his first officer, returning to England to continue the war. He went on to have a distinguished career and commanded the British Eastern Fleet during the Second World War.
The Danish government fitted out the mail steamer Vidar as a temporary chapel to transport the bodies of the casualties back to Hull, accompanied by the Danish torpedo boats Springeren and Støren.Notwithstanding Denmark's neutrality, the dead British sailors were given full honours when their bodies were brought ashore.
The People of Hull came out in their thousands to honour the Funeral Courtege as seen in the photographs below as the bodies were transported to Paragon Interchange and onwards to their final buriel by their family's. Sailors unknown to the Port of Hull but treated like they were their own Sons who had passed on. A remarkable tribute to the People of this City and a little unknown story that caused outrage during 1915.