Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Firsts

At the outbreak of the First World War the Austro-Hungarians immediately attacked their neighbours. The attack went badly. There is a story that the Austro-Hungarians by accident ended up charging across one of the few artillery ranges the Serbians had. This meant the Serbian gunners had some very precise ranging information already known, and thus caused heavy casualties. However, the Austro-Hungarians also had some achievements in the early years of the First World War.

The first was against the Kingdom of Montenegro. Over their artillery positions, in the first days of the war the Austro-Hungarians flew Lohner L flying boats from Kumbor. These planes took pictures of the enemy gun positions below and was arguably the first use of aircraft in the First World War.
Lohner L in flight.
The other first again involved the Lohner L flying boat, flown from the same base. On the morning of 16th September 1915, a flying boat (number L132) was returning from a mission to Durrës. On the way back its observer was scanning the surrounding sea, when he spotted a submarine. Upon landing the information was passed to their commanders who checked to see if it was a friendly submarine. The results were soon back, it was a negative, the submarine was an enemy vessel. The submarine was the French Foucault (Q70).

Another Lohner L, number L135, was armed and dispatched to search for the submarine. About ten nautical miles south-west of Cape Oštro, the submarine was spotted. It seems likely that the aircraft was spotted, although several sources give differing accounts of the exact sequence of events. However, what the accounts do agree on was the submarine was only at around 10 meters depth when the L135 released its two 50kg bombs. These were dropped from an altitude of 200m. Each bomber had a delayed action fuse, which was set to 10 meters as well. Both bombs missed by some 7 meters. Another source has the ship diving after one bomb attack, and then later a second bombing run is carried out.
Either way, the Foucault was diving when the bomb exploded near her stern. The blast caused serve damage, and the submarine started shipping water. A fire is reported in some accounts, and water damage to the electrics in others, which in turn released poisonous fumes. In the choking atmosphere the submarine began to sink into the darkness. At 40m the Foucault passed her test depth, and kept going, the hull creaking and groaning in the fume ridden darkness with water sloshing around the feet of the crew. The 29 souls onboard faced one of several unpleasant deaths.
The Submarine Foucault.
Then, the lights flickered on and the pumps began to whir. By a miracle the engineers had managed to fix the circuits. The Foucault began to ascend and when it finally breached the surface around 30 minutes had gone past. L135 had been joined by L132, both planes were on the verge of abandoning the hunt. The crew began to abandon ship into the rough waters of the Adriatic. The last man off was the captain of the Foucault, who had plunged into the choking atmosphere and opened the seacock to scuttle his boat.

Here the two pilots of L135 and L132 showed their bravery. In the flimsy biplane flying boats they set down on the choppy seas. There was no way they would be able to load all the submarines crew and take off again. Instead they acted as floats, allowing the Frenchmen to cling onto the wings, floats and hull as best they could. After a short while later an Austro-Hungarian torpedo boat arrived to take the crew off. The two officers of the submarine were flown back to Kumbor aboard the flying boats. In this entire encounter not one person had been injured. This was the first recorded sinking of a submarine at sea by an aircraft.
Postcard of the saving of the crew.
The first recorded sinking of a submarine also went to the Austro-Hungarians, when on the night of 9th August 1915 21 aircraft attacked the port of Venice. One of the bombs hit the submarine HMS B10, which sunk. Later she was salvaged, and the Italians began to refit her. The British cautioned against this, however, the warnings were ignored. Then an Italian workman drilled into one of the HMS B10's fuel tanks, which caused an explosion and subsequent fireball. The fires it started could not be controlled, and so the dry-dock had to be flooded, utterly wrecking the HMS B10 again. At this point the Italians stripped the submarine of whatever they could and scrapped the rest.

Image credits:
www.flymag.cz and www.wrecksite.eu

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