The First World War could be thought of as the first modern war, with many new methods of warfare being employed. Often the governments involved had to react to the changing situations. We've already had one brief look at submarine warfare, today I want to sort of revisit that topic. Only from the point of view of the merchantmen.
As the Thordis drifted to a stop the periscope got closer. The wake indicating the Submarine's direction was heading on a course, that would intersect with the Thordis. The periscope drifted silently past the Thordis' bows. At its closest the submarine was only about 30 yards away on the port side. The range began to lengthen as the crew watched apprehensively. After some moments the periscope suddenly changed course. Swinging about to head back towards the Thordis. From the point blank range of 700 yards a torpedo was launched. The crew saw the line of bubbles from the steam driven torpedo, drawing a straight line towards them. In desperation Mr Bell put the engines to full speed in a futile attempt to dodge the Torpedo. If it hit, the 270Lb warhead would obliterate the Thordis and pitch them all into the cold sea.
Seconds from impact the heavy swell lifted the stern of the Thordis and the German torpedo streaked under her hull. Now starting to pick up speed Mr Bell went on the offensive. He aimed his bows right down the throat of the German submarine. Engines thrashing at full power the Thordis hit the Submarine, with a rending screech of metal the sub ground down the keel. A hole had been torn in the Thordis' bow, just above the water line by the impact. Looking behind him Mr Bell saw a pool of Oil spread across the surface of the sea.
However, despite the British claims, the German submarine, SM U-6, wasn't sunk. She'd suffered damage, including losing her periscopes so she aborted her patrol and returned to port with the news. The German authorities were outraged at the idea of Merchants attempting to ram their submarines, and claimed the attempts were outside of international law.
A few weeks later on the 28th Mr Fryatt was captaining the SS Brussels, when a U-boat surfaced to his front. Mr Fryatt immediately aimed his ship at the U-boat, which crash dived and avoided the attack. The Brussels escaped unharmed as well. For that encounter Mr Fryatt was awarded another gold watch.
It is rumoured the Germans hatched a plan to capture Mr Fryatt, to discourage the practice of ramming. On the night of 25 June, 1916 the Brussels set course for England carrying cargo and passengers. There are stories about a passenger signalling land and replying signals. What is certain is five German destroyers intercepted the Brussels almost immediately capturing and escorting the Ship to a German port. From there Fryatt was imprisoned and then tried in a Court martial, for sinking the submarine on March 28th the previous year. One of the pieces of evidence where Fryatt's gold watches. Mr Fryatt was found guilty and executed by firing squad. Oddly the notice of his execution lists his crimes as "[...]attempted on March 28th, 1915, to destroy a German submarine[...]".