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Newport – Otto Weddigen

This month (November) we had a fascinating talk by Gareth Thomas bout a war hero – but this time one from the German forces. It reminded us that in any war there are heroes on both sides. Ordinary men who are prepared to give their all-including their lives- for their countries.

Otto Weddigen, unlike most officers in the German military, was not from an aristocratic background. He rose from a humble background, joined the German Navy and worked his way up through the ranks solely on merit.
When the U-boat (submarine) service was formed he immediately joined and served on the first five such vessels (U1 to U5) until he was given his own command with U9.

His reputation was made when in September 1914 he sunk three British ships (Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy) all within an hour.

He continued to plague British shipping but now showed some consideration. For non-armed civilian vessels he allowed the crews to enter their lifeboats and get clear before sinking their ships. Thus he earned the nickname of ‘the polite pirate’.

However in March 1915 as he was passing the Pentland Firth, Northern Scotland on his way home he encountered the main British fleet and tried to engage them. This was too big a task for his U-boat and it was sunk with the loss of all hands when his flimsy U-boat was deliberately rammed by HMS Dreadnought.

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