U - 19: How a Single Submarine Could Have Changed the Course of WWI
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It sped towards its target, around 2, yards away. On board Pathfinder , the crew did not suspect anything until it was too late.
The captain took immediate evasive action, throwing the wheel hard to port while reversing the starboard engine, trying to turn the ship away from the certain death which sped towards them. The cruiser did not have enough speed to execute her maneuver in time.
Shortly after it was spotted, the torpedo struck her just below the bridge, exactly where Kapitan-Leutnant Hersing had hoped. Almost immediately after the torpedo hit, another explosion rocked the ship, this time from the forward magazine. The cordite and artillery shells had exploded, destroying the forward half of the ship, and sending the bow plunging into the sea at an angle of almost 45 degrees.
The crew scrambled to get off, but to no avail for most. There was no time to lower her lifeboats. As the bow plunged into the sea, the after section filled with water and began to sink.
WWI: Technology and the weapons of war
Men jumped overboard, while others screamed in agony from burns and injury. The sea was awash with bodies, debris, soot, and blood. The sinking of the Pathfinder proved once and for all that submarines were a viable weapon of war. The British Admiralty at first did not believe that a surface ship of her size could be sunk by a submarine-launched torpedo, attributing her destruction to mines. It was the first submarine launched torpedo kill in history.
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