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Dunsley & Arabic

The Sinking of the SS Dunsley & HMS Arabic on 19-08-1915


Regarding Identity: My name is Rudolf Schneider. I was born on February 13th, 1882, at Zittau in Saxony. My religion is Lutheran. I have never been punished by process of law.

Regarding the Facts: Early on the morning of August 19th, 1915, I sighted an English steamer at dawn, about 40 nautical miles south of Kinsale. The steamer was in a position which would have enabled me to approach her only above water. I ordered the signal to be given : “Leave the ship at once,” fired a warning shot, and observed that the steamer thereupon turned about and made off. By firing about ten shots I then forced her to stop and ascertained that it was the English steamer Dunsley. I gave the crew time to leave the ship in their own boats and then took her under gunfire until she was leaking. The weather was so fair that the crew were able to take to their boats in absolute safety. The boats set sails and made for the shore.

While I was still lying by the Dunsley and waiting to see whether she would sink, I saw a steamer of some size at a considerable distance advancing towards me. I steamed away from the Dunsley towards the course of the sighted steamer at first, for about a quarter of an hour, above water, then in a submerged state, intending to obtain her course by bringing her masts to bear in a line. As she drew nearer I saw that she was painted grey; superstructures were not recognizable. The steamer flew no flag; signs of neutrality and names could not be made out. As the steamer approached the Dunsley she took her course directly towards this vessel; then suddenly altered her course again and came directly towards me. In my opinion it would have been impossible to have taken aboard the occupants of the Dunsley’s lifeboats in the short interval of time that elapsed between altering the course toward the Dunsley and again steering towards me. This turning of the steamer towards the Dunsley and then the sudden alteration of course towards me, without paying the least attention to the lifeboats, were the more extraordinary, inas- much as steamers which, according to the nature of the situation, must assume that submarines are in the neighborhood, are accustomed to remove themselves with all possible speed and on a course in accordance with this purpose from the assumed vicinity of the submarines. I have myself observed on numerous occasions this manoeuvre on the part of enemy vessels.

That the Dunsley had been attacked must have been observed from the second steamer, since the Dunsley’s bow was already lying deeply in the water. The steamer now came directly towards me, so that the position of my submarine would have made it possible for her to ram me. She could also have observed me, since I had not only traveled above water for a quarter of an hour upon first leaving the Dunsley, but had subsequently been repeatedly obliged to show my periscope. I was, therefore, firmly convinced that she intended to ram me. I was the more convinced of this, since only as recently as August 14th of this year I was attacked in the Irish Sea by a large steamer which, without the slightest provocation, opened gunfire upon me. In order to forestall my being rammed I therefore determined to attack the steamer below water. I made a turn towards the north and fired a bow torpedo at her at right angles to her course. Through the periscope I estimated the angle for a speed allowance of twelve nautical miles, since I held the speed of the steamer to be a middling one. The torpedo struck her starboard quarter; the vessel sank rapidly. After the torpedo had been discharged, a great number of boats were observed — some fifteen — nearly all of which were completely filled. The weather was so good that in my opinion the safety of the people in the boats was assured.

That it was the Arabic which was concerned in these events I learned only several days after my return, upon reading the newspaper reports, by which I saw that the Arabic had been sunk in the neighborhood of the Dunsley.

In Answer to Questions: A considerable time before the occurrence which has been described, I had received order to spare large passenger steamers. The order that no passenger steamer at all was to be attacked without warning is of more recent date. In accordance with this order I had already, prior to the sinking of the Arabic, permitted several large passenger steamers, which I might have attacked, to pass by unmolested. For example, during the course of a previous distant cruise near the entrance to the Bristol Channel, I had permitted a large passenger steamer which I recognized as such to escape without molestation, despite the excellent opportunity afforded for attacking it. I may cite another instance which occurred during that cruise on which I sank the Arabic.

On the 14th of August of this year, in the Irish Sea, I sighted a large steamer astern. She belonged apparently to the Royal Mail Packet Company, and offered me an excellent chance to place myself in her path and attack her. But I recognized her as a passenger steamer, allowed her to pass by, and then took up a course which led away from her. In connection with this I would mention the fact that this steamer began on her own part to open upon me with artillery as soon as I found myself in a position from which I could no longer attack her.