But Cromie is not in a good mood. His first day had not gone well. He had attacked the German steamer Luleå in the south Baltic. None of four torpedos worked, one changed course and missed E19 with only 15 meters, and he had to withdraw. But the next day exceeds all expectations. Lying south of Öland at 8.30 in the morning of 11th October Cromie sights S.S. Walter Leonard, a German freighter of 1261 tons with iron ore and pulp to Germany. This is still a "gentlemen's war" so, after identifying her as German, he politely asks the crew to man the lifeboats, asks a passing Swedish ship to pick them up and then he sinks Walter Leonard with explosives. The time is 11.15. Immediately after Walter Leonard's sinking a new ship is sighted, the S.S. Germania. She had noticed Walter Leonard going down and tries to flee but runs aground on the coast. The crew abandons her and E?19 goes up alongside her. For an hour they loot Germania and
after placing explosives in her goes out to sea again.
The time now 1 p.m. Immediately Cromie sights a new target, S.S. Gutrune.
She was an impressive ship of 3039 tons, a combined cargo and passenger
steamer, destined for Germany with ironore.E19 intercepts her and
once again the crew is asked to leave their ship. Once again they
are picked up by a passing Swedish ship. Gutrune is sunk by opening
the bottom valves. The time is 2 p.m.While checking the nationality
of another ship that turned out to be Swedish, E19 sights a fourth
German ship,S.S. Director Reppenhagen 1683 tons, with iron ore. The
by well known procedure of asking the crew to leave the ship and then
open the valves is repeated.
Time: 3 p.m.
The sun was getting low but just before dark Cromie sights his last victim, S.S. Nicomedia, a steamer of 4391 tons. The same procedure takes place but not until the boarding crew is invited for a glass of beer and a barrel of beer is sent to the rest of E19's crew ! But to no avail, Nicomedia suffers the same fate as all the others. The crew manages to reach shore in their lifeboats.
The beer story has a continuation. When diver Stefan Fransson found cases of the beer on Nicomedia, he found that it was still drinkable! The idea came up to extract the yeast organisms from that beer and brew the same beer again. It was a success and a special "Wreckbeer" can now be bought in Sweden !
So the English submarine E19 had managed to destroy five German ships in one day without anyone getting hurt! The sinkings made front pages in the local papers. But because they were all foreign ships in international waters, they were nev-
er put in any registers
in Sweden and not noticed by wreck searchers. The wrecks were forgotten
until 1982 when divers Torleif Nilsson and Sten Lindgren were tipped
by a fisherman about a big object on the seafloor south of Öland.
They found a wreck and a bell with the name Nicomedia. The name gave
up the story.
The research also gave the approximate positions of the other wrecks. With more help from fishermen they were able to locate all four wrecks, Director Reppenhagen and Walter Leonard were found the same day !
First class diving
The wrecks are
firstclass divesites and attracts divers from all over Sweden. The
diveboats leaves from Öland. A fine day in May or June with a
flat blue Baltic and visibility 20m the diving is number one.
Leaving Öland you reach the Nicomedia in an hour. She was built 1901, 4391 tons and 117m long. The deck is at 25 meters, the shallowest of the wrecks. The hull is completely intact. A visit to the engineroom is a must. It has a complete workshop with lots of tools and a nice engine telegraph on the wall. May it continue to rest in peace!
The most beautiful and romantic of the wrecks is Gutrune, 97m long. When visibility is 20m which it often is in May and June and sometimes even in July when the pictures you can see in the article was taken, it is heaven for the wreck photographer. It all depends on the time and extent of the plankton bloom which is dependant on the light and water temperature. The diving takes place at 30m so a nitrox mix is a big advantage. To swim in over the bow with its big anchors hanging in place, its intact teak deck and big winches is cool. The midships building is only a shell, but standing upright. The sunrays through it creates a beautiful lightshow.
On Director Reppenhagen, 80m long, diving depth 35m, the most remarkable sight is Captain Spiegels cabin where all the wood is in good shape
with intact panels and furniture. Until last year
there was even a nice intact porcelain stove. Sadly it has now fallen
Walter Leonard is more eroded than the other ones. But the stern is beautifully intact with the big spare steeringwheel nicely draped in algae. It is the only wheel still left of the four wrecks. Once again, may it continue to rest in peace.
The Öland massacre was the end of Cromies luck in the Baltic. E19 and the other British submarines continued to operate from Russian bases in the Baltic. But without any more big victories. The E?19 was sunk by the English outside Helsinki in April 1918 to avoid falling in German hands. Francis Cromie ended his days as marine attache in Petrograd. He was shot on 31st August 1918 when Bolsheviks attacked the English embassy.
Text and pictures Erik Bjurström