Shipwrecks: Past & Present

Shipwrecks of May 23

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Shipwrecks of May 23

On this day in 1943 the German sub U-752 became the first sub sunk by a new weapon called a Rocket Spear, which was launched from a British Swordfish aircraft. The 1858 wreck of the packet ship Knickerbocker on the N.E. point of Abaco would make an interesting dive. I would love to see what’s left of it. Today’s question is what happened to UB-3 in 1915? Was she reassembled incorrectly and where is she?

Today’s Shipwrecks™

May 23

compiled and edited by Dr. E. Lee Spence

1816: The snow Dash, 257 tons, Captain J. Falle, of London, bound from Porto Rico to Barbados, with 120 head of oxen, was totally lost on May 23, 1816, on Anegada Reef. Her crew, twenty of the oxen, and some of her rigging was saved.

The Dash was built at Baltimore in 1808, and was owned by Attwood. She was a sharp model vessel, with a single deck, deep waist, and drew 14′ of water when loaded. She had a pine bottom, sheathed with copper. Her armament consisted of two 9-pounders of the “common construction” and twelve 9-pounder carronades.

1819: An American brig, bound from New Orleans to Bordeaux, was seen on May 23, 1819, off the north end of Key Largo, Florida, in tow of some wreckers.

1844: The hermaphrodite brig Jefferson, of Warren, Maine, Captain Mills, went ashore on the South Breakers near the entrance to Bull’s Bay, South Carolina, on May 23, 1844. She had been bound from New York, via Beaufort, North Carolina, with a load of stone for Fort Sumter, when she was lost. Her crew stripped her of her sails and rigging before abandoning her. They were carried to Charleston by the pilot boat Caroline.

The Jefferson was built at Warren, Maine, in 1838. She had a square stern; one deck; two masts; no galleries; and a billet head. She measured 81’6″ in length; 24′ in breadth; 9’11” in depth; and 185 66/95 tons.

1858: The packet ship Knickerbocker, bound from Liverpool to New Orleans, with 111 passengers and cargo was wrecked May 23, 1858 “on the N.E. point of Abaco,” during a strong wind and was expected “to be a total loss.” Three passengers attempting to board a sloop from the ship were drowned. The Knickerbocker’s passengers were carried from Nassau to New Orleans by the schooner Buena Vista. The wreck of the Knickerbocker caught fire on June 3 and was totally destroyed. The cargo was said to have been saved in a damaged condition.

Note: Packet ships typically carried mail, which often contained money. There was no mention of the mail being lost or saved. Nor is there any mention of what happened to the passengers’ baggage.

1871: The British brig Joanie Clark, Captain Colton, bound from St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, for Havana, with a cargo of lumber, “was totally lost on Abaco” the night of May 23, 1871. The master arrived at Nassau and reported that most of the lumber had been landed on the beach. She was 145 tons register, and was built at New Brunswick.

1915: The German Type UB I submarine UB-3 disappeared on her first patrol in May 1915. She was the first of her class to be lost. A postwar German study concluded that UB-3 was likely the victim of an unexplained technical problem in the absence of any minefields or enemy action.

UB-3  was about 92 feet in length and 140 tons. She carried two torpedoes for her two bow torpedo tubes and was also armed with a deck-mounted machine gun. She was launched at Kiel in March 1915.

UB-3 was broken into sections and shipped by rail to Pola, Croatia, in April where she was reassembled. She officially joined the German flotilla at Pola on May 1, and departed on her first patrol for temporary duty in Turkey on May 23, and was never seen again.

1943: When 32 days into her 9th patrol, the German submarine U-752, commanded by Karl-Ernst Schroeter, was attacked in the mid-Atlantic on May 23, 1943, by a Swordfish aircraft flying off the British escort carrier HMS Archer. A Rocket Spear, a new weapon with a solid cast iron head, went entirely through both sides of the sub’s pressure hull, and the U-752 went down with her commander and 28 crew members, including. There were seventeen survivors. This was the Rocket Spear’s first success.

Rocket spear being loaded on a Typhoon

Rocket Spear being loaded on a Typhoon

Swordfish armed with a torpedo.

Swordfish armed with a torpedo

U-752 was a Type VIIC U-boat. She served with Germany’s 3rd U-boat Flotilla from May 24, 1941 to May 23, 1943. U-752 completed 9 wartime patrols and sank 8 ships totaling 33,492 gross tons.

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NOTE: This is by no means meant to be a complete list of the vessels lost on May 23, as there have been thousands of ships lost for every day of the year. All of the above entries have been edited (shortened) and come from various editions of Spence’s List™. The original lists usually give additional data and sources. Those lists are being updated and are or will be made available for a fee elsewhere on this site.

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© 2013 by Dr. E. Lee Spence for composition, content and compilation.

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