HMS Cressy (1899)

HMS Cressy was a Cressy-class
Cressy class cruiser
The Cressy class cruiser was a class of six armoured cruisers launched between December 1899 and May 1901, for the Royal Navy.-Service:...

 armoured cruiser in the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

. Cressy was sunk by the German U-boat U-9 in September 1914.

Service history

Shortly after the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Aboukir and her sister ships Bacchante, Euryalus, Hogue and Cressy were assigned to the 7th Cruiser Squadron
7th Cruiser Squadron (United Kingdom)
The 7th Cruiser Squadron was a blockading force of the Royal Navy during the First World War used to close the English Channel to German traffic. It was employed patrolling an area of the North Sea known as the "Broad Fourteens" in support of vessels guarding the northern entrance to the Channel...

, patrolling the Broad Fourteens
Broad Fourteens
thumb|200px|right|The Broad Fourteens on a map by Delisle The Broad Fourteens is an area of the southern North Sea that is fairly consistently fourteen fathoms deep...

 of the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

, in support of a force of destroyers and submarines based at Harwich which blocked the Eastern end of the English Channel from German warships attempting to attack the supply route between England and France.

Leading up to the battle

The Bacchante class had been placed in Reserve Fleet. No money was to be spent repairing them, but they were to be used until they were completely worn out. In 1914, the best speed they could manage was 15 knots. Each ship had over 700 officers and men from the Royal Navy reserves, many being middle aged family men from local towns and villages. Each ship also carried 9 cadets from the Royal Navy College at Dartmouth, most under 15.

The original plan was to support Tyrwhitt's destroyers, but frequent bad weather caused the plan to change and the cruisers became the front line as they could handle the rough seas. After weeks of daily patrols, their old engines could no longer even maintain 15 knots and speed dropped to 12 knots, and often as low as 9. And because they never sighted periscopes, they no longer zigzagged.

On September 17, in rough seas, the destroyers were sent back to Harwich. On the 20th, the patrol was reduced to 3 when Rear Admiral Christian returned to port with HMS Euryalus to coal. Unable to transfer his flag, command dropped to Captain Drummond of the Aboukir. They continued to patrol as the weather improved until sunrise on the 22d.

The last day

At 6:20 AM on September 22, HMS Aboukir was torpedoed by U-9 and sank in 35 minutes. Thinking she had struck a mine, and sinking fast, the order was given to abandon ship. Hogue and Cressy approached to pick up survivors, throwing anything that would float into the water for the survivors to cling to. At 6:55, Hogue was struck by 2 torpedoes. U-9 dived and remained submerged. At 7:20, Cressy sighted a torpedo track, and the order was given "full speed ahead both", too late. Cressy was hit forward on the starboard side, and lurched high enough out of the water that a second torpedo passed under her stern. At 7:30, a third torpedo hit Cressy on the port beam, rupturing tanks in the boiler room and scalding the men. Cressy rolled to her starboard side, paused, then went bottom up with her starboard propeller out of the water. She remained in this position for 20 minutes, then sank at 7:55.

Unfortunately for Cressy, her boats had been sent to pick up survivors from the other 2 ships, and returned already loaded with men. As many as 5 men clung to a single life vest, and a dozen men to a single plank. Dutch fishing trawlers were in the area, but remained at a distance until 8:30 when the steamship Flora from Rotterdam arrived and rescued 286 men. The survivors were almost all naked, and so exhausted they had to be hauled aboard with tackle. The steamer Titan rescued another 147 men, and later 8 of Tyrwhitt's destroyers arrived. All told, 837 men were rescued, but 1,397 men were lost.


As a result of the losses, the admiralty ordered all capital ships to remove themselves from danger in the future, and leave rescue attempts to smaller ships. Zigzagging at 13 knots was made mandatory for all large warships in submarine waters. On October 15th, the protected cruiser Hawke was lost to the same submarine, U-9, off Aberdeen, when she was steaming at 13 knots and not zigzagging. Only then did the admiralty finally remove the old armoured cruisers from patrol duties. Lord Charles Bereford never again referred to submarines as "playthings" or "toys".


Cressy was sunk during the Action of 22 September 1914
Action of 22 September 1914
The Action of 22 September 1914 was a naval engagement that took place during the First World War, in which three Royal Navy cruisers were sunk by one German submarine while on patrol. Approximately 1450 sailors were killed, and there was a public outcry at the losses...

At 7.20 am, less than an hour after the action commenced,
Cressy was sunk by two torpedoes from the German U-boat U-9 while attempting to rescue survivors from her sister ships Aboukir
HMS Aboukir (1900)
HMS Aboukir was a Cressy-class armoured cruiser. She was built by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, Govan, Scotland in 1902.-First World War:...

 and Hogue
HMS Hogue (1900)
HMS Hogue was a Cressy-class armoured cruiser in the Royal Navy. Hogue was sunk by the German U-boat U-9 on 22 September 1914.-Service history:...

. She sank less than half an hour later, at 7.55 am.

In 1954 the British government sold the salvage rights to the ship and salvage is ongoing.

External links

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