Two successful U-Boat Commanders of WW1, Kapittanleutnants Otto Hersing and Lothar von Arnauld de la Periera

(Work in progress)

In WW1, the submarine as a lethal weapon of war was in its infancy, however, two German Naval Officers, Kappitanleutnants, Otto Hersing, and Lothar von Arnauld de la Periera in command of SM U-21 and SM U-35 respectively, soon seized the initiative to make their presence felt, so much so, that the British placed a 100,000 Pound bounty upon Otto's head.

U-21, Otto Hersing's command in WW1

U-21, Otto Hersing's command in WW1.

Otto Hersing and his Command, SM U-21.
Early in WW1, Kptlt. Otto Hersing in his SM U-21, ordered the firing of the very first torpedo to be sent on its way in a time of war. Off the Firth of Forth, on Scotland's east coast, ( which he had recently penetrated ) he found the 3,000 ton, British Light Cruiser HMS Pathfinder. His torpedo ran true, and the cruiser sank in minutes, taking 259 out of 296 of the crew with her.

HMS Pathfinder,

HMS Pathfinder, torpedoed off the east coast of Scotland by
German SM U-21, on the 5th. of September 1914.

Pathfinder was only the second warship to be sunk by a submarine, the first, USS Housantonic, despatched by H L Hunley on the 17th. of February 1864.

USS Housatonic

USS Housatonic, the first warship to sunk by a submarine,
H L Hunley, on the 17th. of February 1864

1915 and beyond.
In 1915, we find U-21, arriving in the Dardenelles area, sent to assist in the defense of Turkey, in her struggle against the Allies. On the 25th. of May, Hersing sank the British battleship HMS Triumph, and but two days later had further spectacular success, when he despatched her sister battleship HMS Majestic, the third British warship to carry that name, to the bottom.

HMS Triumph

British Battleship HMS Triumph sunk by German SM U-21
in the Dardnelles, 25th. of May 1915.

He now sailed his boat into Constantinople on the 5t. of June, to be rewarded with the top award of the Pour le Merite, unlike some of his contempories, Otto lived to enjoy his Medal. The crew of U-21 were all decorated with the Iron Cross First Class. In 1915 in Germany, a Medal was manufactured by R Ball, to mark Otto Hersing's success in U-21.

Medal commemorating Lieutenant Otto Hersing and the submarine 'U21'. Obverse: Bust of Lieutenant Hersing in uniform (front) within a laurel wreath. In field: (right) 'U21'; (left) the Order 'Pour le merite' suspended from a laurel branch which forms a border on left and right. Exergue: 'HERSING.' Reverse: Starboard broadside view of a sinking battleship torpedoed amidships, another in the distance, the shore beyond; head of a trident below. Inscription: 'PATHFINDER STR v GIBRALTAR TRIVMPH.' Below: 'MAJESTIC'

second British Battleship, HMS Majestic

The second British Battleship, HMS Majestic,
sunk over two days in the Dardenelles by Otto Hersing in SM U-21.

Further success.
In July 1915, the French Transport, the 5,600 ton, Cartage was sunk. Otto now seemed to rest on his laurels, and it took him until the 8th. of February 1916 before he was able to find and sink the French armoured cruiser Amiral Charner, only one member of her crew was to survive out of 335 on board.

By April of 1916, Otto Hersing had taken his submarine out of the Dardenelles arena into the Mediterranean, and about 60 miles east of Malta he sank the British Merchantman City of Benares.

U-21 now negotiated the Straits of Gibraltar safely to go home to Germany, and later undertook patrols around Britain, Hersing came close to being sunk in August 1917, whilst attacking a convoy, but Otto was a true survivor and saw out the war.

His U-Boat on its way to surrender, was being towed by a British ship, but her Commanding Officer, defiant to the end, opened up her seacocks to scuttle her on the 22nd. of February 1919, her resting place: 54 degrees 19 minutes North, 3 degrees 42 minutes West.

National Underwater and Marine Agency.
An expedition organised by NUMA over May/June 1984 located both the wreck of HMS Pathfinder and U-21

Kptlt Lothar von Arnauld dela Periera takes command of SM U-35.
At the end of 1915, Kptlt Lothar von Arnauld de la Periera assumed command of SM U-35. Over his career in this submarine he only ever fired four torpedoes, one of which missed its target. He favoured using his 88mm deck gun as the mode for sinking his victims, at which he was very successful, in all he accounted for 194 ships whose tonnage added up to 454,000 tons, a record which still stands in 2005.

Kptlt.Lothar von Arnauld de la Periera

Kptlt.Lothar von Arnauld de la Periera. U-Boat Commander in WW1,
In all, sank 194 ships, nearly all by gunfire.

Over a five week stint in April/May in 1916, 23 ships went to the bottom, and they equalled 68,000 tons, but this master U-Boat Captain bettered that feat in four weeks in July/August of that year, when he sank 54 ships to come to 91,150 tons. He remained in this one U-Boat until 1918, over 15 patrols.

He was quite a modest seaman, and describing one of these patrols stated: "My record cruise was quite tame and dull. We stopped the vessels, the crews boarded the lifeboats. We inspected the ship's documents, told the crew how they could reach the next port and then sank the stopped prize."

This Naval Officer served in theTurkish Navy in the thirties, rejoined the German Navy when WW2 came in 1939. He died in an aircraft accident close to Paris in 1941.

German U-Boats in WW1, at Cattaro

German U-Boats in WW1, at Cattaro, now called Kotor.

These two German U-boat commanders established the potential of this new weapon of warfare. They both grabbed their chance on the world stage to prove their dominance over their enemy. Otto Hersing forcing the British Navy to retreat from the Dardenelles by sinking two Capital Ships, and the aristrocratic, Lother von Arnauld de la Periera in sending 194 ships to the bottom in 1916 to total 454,000 tons set up a record that has remarkably remained to this day, 89 years on.

In the atomic age of the Submarine, we pay a tribute to two intrepid German U-Boat Captains from WW1.

U-Boats of the Kaiser

Book Cover "U-Boats of the Kaiser."


This site was created as a resource for educational use and the promotion of historical awareness. All rights of publicity of the individuals named herein are expressly reserved, and, should be respected consistent with the reverence in which this memorial site was established.

Copyright© 1984/2014 Mackenzie J. Gregory All rights reserved