Post WWI letter re U Boat Commander visit to England

This letter was written by Herbert Glasspool after the First World War. Herbert (Bertie) Henry Glasspool (R.N.V.R) was born 31 May 1890. Early in the First World War he signed up with the Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry and was invalided out on account of an injury received in 1916. Back home in England he was “white feathered” and in response to this, joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserves. From 1917 to 1919 he commanded the Q Ship H.M.S. Partridge II.

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The draft of a letter written for an English paper or magazine in response to a Liverpool member of the public decrying the visit of a U boat commander to England. 

 

The text reads as follows.

 

Let us forget

By an Ex Naval Lieutenant

It is difficult to reconcile the emotions of a Mother, whose two sons were victims of the U boat campaign, with the cordial welcome and hospitality extended to one of our late enemies the U Boat Commander.

The infamous warfare waged against those who, in many instances, were helpless non-combatants, incensed all – who knew the truth – with a just feeling of scorn for the German Submarine Service as a whole, and particularly for those individuals who, in their harsh callousness, carried on an even more fiendish crusade against impotent victims.

No one of us who remembers the incident (atrocity would be a more suitable word) of the sinking of the “Royal Prince” in the Mediterranean in the early months of 1918 by a German Submarine can forget the brutal and callous conduct of the Commander who, after the crew had taken to the open boats: forced them to line up on his vessel, and, at the point of a his revolver, compelled them to scuttle their own boats.
Then submerging his vessel, he left his helpless victims to drown.

In these days of peace, when the din of warfare is happily passing further into the background of our memories, the story still does not fail to revive the old feeling of bitterness.

Yet, these – shall we say, in justice to our late enemy – isolated instances, should not allow us to condemn every individual unit of the U. Boat service, for, as many of us have reason to know, there were, among them, some of the bravest and cleanest fighting men, - the pick of the German Navy – doing their duty as they interpreted it, according t their code of warfare, - compelled to wage a ruthless ruthless (sic) conflict – under orders from those who remained in the smug security of their official sanctums.

It happened to be my lot to meet a “U” Boat Commander whilst on active service in the Near East. He – as our prisoner -, - I – as the Officer in charge of the guard over him.

Our vessel encountered the “U.C –“ twenty miles or so, from the Sicilian Coast, and we “engaged”, disabling the enemy vessel, in a few minutes, a shot from our 4” gun blowing away part of the Conning Tower.

In less than twenty minutes the “U” boat disappeared in a cloud of smoke, leaving five men struggling in the water.
They were afterwards picked up by one of our Ships boats, and brought aboard our vessel, obviously grateful to be alive. The Commander was among those rescued.

He received courteous treatment at the hands of our Commanding Officer, and was quickly provided with dry clothing from the Ships Store, as were the remaining four survivors of his crew.

His several requests were granted, such as communicating to his relatives as to his safety immediately upon our arrival in port, and other matters were attended to, to ensure his comfort. In due course he was handed over to the Authorities at Malta for conveyance to England, where I believe he spent the remainder of the War period in the comparative seclusion of Donnington (sic) Hall.


He at least, expressed his gratitude to our Ships Officer and men, for the chivalrous treatment he had received. Yet according to his diary – taken from him when captured – he had been responsible for sinking many thousands of tons of Merchant Shipping in the Mediterranean before his defeat and subsequent rescue by our hands.

If we put forward the hand of welcome to any representatives of the service responsible for the ruthless campaign, surely, we are recognising the main that the service and not the individual is necessarily to blame.

Are we not rather, giving just credit to one whose fine feelings were ever uppermost in his mind, despite the noxious duties, and who, is ready to avail himself of the chance to meet his old enemy, on a friendly and brotherly mission of peace.

Surely, those who were individually and directly responsible for the ruthlessness – referred to, so often, - cannot avoid the tortures of abject remorse, upon each Anniversary of Armistice Day yea! Even more frequently perhaps, than we can even conceive, - shall we then still think it necessary to exact further retribution?

Let us instead, make every endeavour to cast the memories from us – bury the past – and say to ourselves and them,

“Away with War and all that it means, for all time, and strive to maintain a bond of Brotherhood among nations, to expunge the very roots of the poisonous canker from our hearts”

While our hearts go out in compassion to such as your Liverpool Correspondent, we can only pray that such martyrs as she, may yet rise to the great achievement, and say with us

“To err is human, to forgive – divine”

H.H.G.

 

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