HMS Cymric – An Unlucky Ship in War and Peace

October 15, 2012 — Leave a comment
HMS Cymric

Oil Painting by Kenneth King
National Maritime Museum of Ireland

Late in 2011, divers from Dark Star dive team discovered the wreck of the British submarine J6 off the Northumberland coast. While the discovery of a submarine may have surprised the team, what is even more surprising, and tragic, are the circumstances by which the J6 was sunk.

On October 15, 1918 the HMS Cymric was on patrol off the Northumberland coast in Northeastern England. The HMS Cymric was originally an Irish schooner launched in 1893. She was later converted by the Royal Navy for use as a Q-ship. Q-ships were modern-day Trojan Horses – camouflaged to look like innocent merchant ships in order to lure unsuspecting German u-boats and merchant raiders to attack. When attacked, the Q-ship crew would reveal a bristling array of hidden armaments and the hunter would become the hunted. Q-Ships claimed fourteen German u-boats destroyed and 60 damaged during World War I through the use of these tactics.

While on patrol, the Cymric’s crew spotted what appeared to be a German submarine with the markings U6 on its conning tower. The Cymric opened fire and sank the submarine. Unfortunately, the markings were in fact J6 and 15 Royal Navy sailors lost their lives to friendly fire. The Cymric’s captain was cleared after a court of inquiry and the matter remained classified until 1969. The Cymric returned to commercial service after the war, but her bad luck continued as she struck a tram with her bowsprit in 1927 in Dublin harbor and then disappeared with all hands while sailing from Scotland to Portugal in 1944. Dark Star divers plan to return to the wreck this year to lay a memorial plaque in honor of the lives lost aboard J6.

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