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WWI Encounter in the Atlantic
Posted by: Jarhead ()
Date: January 10, 2018 07:49PM

Good Day All,

New to the site but looking forward to some interesting discussions. Perhaps there are some of you that may be able to steer me in the right direction.

My wife's great grandfather George Johns was a merchant sea captain from Nova Scotia. He went to sea in the late 1800's until about 1939. In 1940 he wrote his memories, five volumes in all. In one he tells a story of commanding a Sun Oil ship during WWI, while crossing the Atlantic delivering oil (fuel) to Great Britain he was accosted by a German U-Boot.

Now as I understood it, at the time U-Boot captains were professional military men with honor. I believe they would signal a merchant ship that they had X amount of minutes to abandoned ship before they would be sunk. The idea being the "kill" was the tonnage, not the civilian crew. If I'm wrong about this please chime in.

On this occasion the U-Boot captain sent a message requesting the ship's captain to row over to the U-Boot for a deal. Being suspicious of the U-Boot the Captain instead sent his first mate who was fluent in German. The first mate came back with the U-Boot captain's deal. Provide them with X amount of barrels of oil and they would be permitted to leave unharmed. Refuse and they would be sunk !

Captain Johns had a load on his mind. It weighted heavy. Give the Germans the oil they must have desperately needed and save his crew, his ship and his cargo or refuse and lose all to foil the German U-Boot. He knew giving the Germans the oil might allow them to go on and sink others and possibly kill many sailors. It was a tough choice that haunted him the rest of his life.

He later said he felt he was a traitor ( he was Canadian ) for what he did, gave them the oil. But we need to walk in his shoes before judging him.

I repeat his story here for several reasons. It's interesting (like many more exploits he reveals in his chapters) It speaks of the tough decisions a ship captain had to make and lastly I also seek help in finding what U-Boot it was that he met that day. Are there surviving German logs that might mention this event ? Did U-Boot captains report events by radio signals that might be recorded elsewhere ? What archives might hold the answers ? Any suggestions where I can start or helpful ( emphasis on helpful ) comments are appreciated

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Subject Written By Posted
WWI Encounter in the Atlantic Jarhead 01/10/2018 07:49PM
Re: WWI Encounter in the Atlantic matthias 01/10/2018 09:13PM


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