The U-boat Wars


 (Left) A young German U-boat officer views                                             Image (Above Right) Peter Fleming Collection

 his prey through a periscope.                                       

 Image Credit: (authors collection)

In 1915, Germany made the decision to begin attacking British shipping in what is referred to as the first major offensive of World War One. (Involving the first U-boats) They began publishing warnings stating that all waters around the British Isles were considered a war zone and that any and all ships would be attacked without warning.

Three major incidents resulted from this offensive. The first, occurring in May of 1915, was U-120's attack on the Cunard liner Lusitania, which resulted in the deaths of 1,201 passengers including 128 Americans, prompting US involvement in the war. The second attack on a liner occurred when U-24 attacked the White Star Liner Arabic (see below) killing 44 of 234 on board. The third U-boat attack was on the liner Hesperian killing 76.


(Left) A U-boat comes along side an unarmed merchant cruiser. Note the U-boat's forward deck gun swung over at the merchant cruiser.

U-boat attacks on allied shipping in WWI became so frequent that the numbers averaged close to 400 a month.






               World War I

White Star Liner Germanic - Attacked mistakenly by British submarine E-14 (WWI)


WSL's Germanic (top) accidentally torpedoed by the British Submarine HM E-14  (above) on 5/13/15; no fatalities. Germanic survived attack.

White Star Liner Laurentic I - Attacked and sunk by U(B)-80 (WWI)
Laurentic (I) was delivering cargo to Nova Scotia for Canadian and American governments as payment for munitions. 45 minutes after leaving port she was struck by two mines laid by the German U-boat, U-80 and sunk taking the lives of the crew and a large amount of good bullion. (See White Star Line Treasure Ships?) According to a viewer that submitted this photo, the 2nd U-boat to the left in the picture is U-80, his grandfather's command, tied up Wilhelmshaven.

White Star Liner Arabic - Attacked and sunk by U-24 (WWI)





WSL's Arabic (2nd) (top) was torpedoed and sunk by U-24 (above) close to the coast of Ireland on 8/20/15. 44 killed, 390 rescued

White Star Liner Cymric - Attacked and sunk by U-20 (WWI)


WSL's Cymric (top) was torpedoed 3 times and sunk by U-20 (above, the same sub that attacked and sank Lusitania one year before) on 5/8/16 killing 5.

White Star Liner Delphic - Attacked and sunk by UC-72.  (WWI)


                                                                                                                                      Image credit: Type UCI u-boat                  

During the Boer War Delphic carried troops and horses from England to South Africa. On August 1917, she was torpedoed 135 miles off Bishop Rock by UC-72,

and went down with the loss of five lives. UC-72 was a coastal minelayer sub but carried torpedoes.

White Star Liner Afric - Attacked and sunk by UC-66.  (WWI)

                                    SS Afric                                                                                                                               UC-66

In May 1917, Afric was torpedoed near the English Channel by the German coastal minelayer sub, UC-66; killing 22 crew members. The U-boat allowed the remainder of the crew to abandon the Afric before firing a second torpedo into her and sinking her. One month later UC-66 was depth charged and destroyed by the British trawler Sea King, setting off her own mines and killing all 23 crew members.

White Star Liner Justica - Attacked and sunk by U-46 and U-124 in the same battle.  (WWI)


While being escorted by 3 British Destroyers, Justica (working as a troop transport) was torpedoed six times until she sank on July 19-20, 1918. Torpedoed twice initially by UB46 (coastal U-boat) she remained afloat. Later in the same day, she was torpedoed two more times by UB46 and again managed to stay afloat. The next morning while in tow by HMS Sonia, Justica was torpedoed two more times by UB124 when she finally keeled over and sank. UB124 was destroyed in this battle by the escorting destroyers and UB46 was damaged but managed to escape. (Later depth charged and destroyed in another attack)

16 crew members were killed in the first torpedo attack.

Note: U-boat pictured (above right) is actually UB88. Similar to UB46 and UB124

White Star Liner Persic - Attacked by U-87 (WWI)


WSL's Persic (top left) was attacked and torpedoed by U-87 (top right) off of the Scilly Islands 9/18 but was able to limp off and out run the sub. Persic was eventually towed in and repaired resuming her service.

White Star Liner Celtic - Attacked by U-88 and UB77 (WWI)

                                                                                                                                Image credit: Type UB u-boat -

October 1917, Celtic ran up on a mine laid by the U-88 near Cobh, Ireland, resulting in 17 deaths. She was repaired and put back into military service. In June 1918, the following year, again in the Irish Sea, she was torpedoed by the UB-77 killing 7. Celtic was able to escape the sub and limp in to port under her own steam. She was repaired and once again put back into service serving through the remainder of the war without incident.

                    World War II

White Star Liner Medic - Attacked and sunk by U-608 (WWII)


WSL's Medic (top) was torpedoed (WWII) on 9/18/42 in the North Atlantic by U-608 (above diagram of a VII C, U-boat, 608's type) 12 killed.

White Star Liner Athenic - Attacked and sunk by U-69, later raised (WWII)

                                                                                                                 Image Credit (U-boat above): Artist John Pettitt

Athenic was torpedoed twice and sunk by U-69, a Type VIIC U-boat. She was raised and returned to her owners after the war (in 1945) and resumed service until 1962. 4 killed

White Star Liner Ceramic - Attacked and sunk by U-515 (WWII) Click here for detailed account


WSL's Ceramic Wartime History

- May 1916 - Ceramic is attacked by unidentified  U-boat in the Mediterranean, narrowly missed by 2 torpedoes - out ran U-boat.

- June 1917 - Ceramic is attacked by unidentified U-boat in the English channel narrowly missed by 1 torpedo - out distanced attacking U-boat

- July  1917 - Ceramic is chased for 40 minutes by unidentified surfaced U-boat firing its deck guns - Ceramic out-ran the U-boat.

- Dec. 1942 - Ceramic Is attacked by WWII German sub U-515 (above right) and torpedoed 3 times. 656 fatalities, 1 survivor captured by U-boat for interrogation.

White Star Line Vessel Zealandic - Sunk by U-106 (WWII)


                                                                                                                    Image credit of Type IXB U-boat

WSL's Zealandic (top left) was attacked and sunk by U-106 (top right) off of the coast of Spain on July 17, 1942. All 73 of Zealandic's passengers and crew were killed. U-106 was destroyed by British aircraft 4 months later.

White Star Line Vessel Runic (2nd) - Attacked and sunk by U-138 (WWII)

                                                                            Type IID boat pictured above same as U-138. Photo property of Mr. Hermut Herglotz

Runic was attacked and torpedoed by U-138 and sunk off of the Irish coast in 1940 killing 2. U-138 was later depth charged and destroyed (same year) by British destroyers  HMS Faulknor, HMS Fearless, HMS Forester, HMS Foresight and HMS Foxhound

White Star Liner Laurentic (2nd) - Attacked and sunk by U-99 (WWII)


November, 1940, one of the most dramatic battles of the U-boat war begins. U-99 (above right) attacked the auxiliary cruiser HMS Laurentic (above left) with a torpedo at 10:50 PM. A half hour later, U-99 fires a second torpedo, but both miss. At 11:40 PM Laurentic fires back with her guns. After four hours of battle, U-99 repositions herself, fires 2 more torpedoes and the HMS Laurentic is finally sent to the bottom taking with her the lives of 49. U-99 sank more ships than any other U-boat in Germany's WWI & WWII history. (39 ships sunk, 5 damaged) In March of 1941, U-99 was depth charged and sunk by the British destroyer HMS Walker southeast of Iceland.

Other war-related sinkings of (or by) White Star Line Vessels

White Star Vessel Bardic (2nd) - Attacked and sunk by Scharnhorst (WWII)

9/3/41 WSL Bardic (then named Marathon) sunk by the German battleship Scharnhorst (right) off of the Cape Verde Islands while in convoy.

U-103 - Sunk by White Star Liner Olympic (WWI)


                                                                                                                               Olympic "dazzle painted" to confuse submarines with speed and direction

May 12,1918, while on its twenty-second voyage as a troop carrier, Olympic, was attacked by U-103 in the English Channel. Two torpedoes were fired at the ship's port-side bow. Unarmed but much quicker, the Olympic was able to escape the torpedoes. The liner steamed out of harm's way, turned around, rammed U103 and quickly sank her.  Several of U-103's crew were able to escape and were later picked up by an American destroyer. Olympic was the only merchant ship that sink an enemy vessel during World War I.

White Star Liner converted to Hospital Ship HMHS Britannic sunk by a mine laid by a coastal U-boat

                                          HMHS Britannic                                                                                                       U-73, believed to have laid the mine that sank Britannic

Working as a hospital ship, Britannic departed Southampton on November 12, 1916. The next day she arrived at Naples for coaling and was to depart the next day but a storm delayed the departure. On November 15 she was steaming through the Kea Channel in the Aegean near Greece. Shortly after eight in the morning, Britannic struck a floating mine believed to have been laid just the day before by the a German mine-laying submarine (coastal-boat) U-73.

She began sinking at the bow, (as Titanic did) but with a sharp list to port. Her captain, William Bartlett tried unsuccessfully to beach her on Kea Island, but that resulted in water coming in much quicker. In fifty five minutes the vessel sank. The explosion apparently occurred at the watertight bulkhead between holds 2 and 3, and the bulkhead separating holds 2 and 1 were also damaged. At the same time, boiler rooms 5 and 6 began taking water. 30 aboard were killed, and most of them because two lifeboats were pulled into the props that were still turning.

White Star Line Vessel Georgic (I) - Attacked and sunk by German Raider Moewe. (WWI)

1916, while enroute to Brest, France, from Philadelphia, PA, Georgic was approached by the German Raider Moewe. Georgic was transporting 1200 horses, barrels of oil, and wheat. When signaled to stop by the Moewe, the Georgic ignored the hail and kept going. Moewe fired a shell from one of her guns striking Georgic on the aft deck and killing one crewmember.

The crew was captured and put on board Moewe as POW's. Georgic's crew did their best to try to talk their captors into taking the Georgic into occupied France as a prize to save the horses, but the Moewe decided instead to shell and sink the Georgic on the spot. It's been speculated that Moewe most likely didn't want to sail Georgic out of  fear of running into a British warship on the way back, or she may have wanted to continue on her patrol to sink other vessels

U-118 Beached in France April 1919    

(Above right) German late-model coastal boat UB-133, and an early model UB-24 (1915)



A second U-118 from WWII (left) leaking oil and under attack by an avenger (below) from the USS Bogue (CVE-9) U-118 was sunk shortly after this photo was taken June 12, 1943. Photo credit:





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