War’s Biggest Trick: “The Suicide Fleet”

The Trojan horse had its 20th century equivalent in the “His Majesty’s Ship No. 1-14” fleet of fake battleships commissioned by the British Navy during World War I.

A Royal Naval Reserve Officer described the ostensibly powerful vehicles:

The ships seemed in trim for any daring venture that the sea in wartime could afford, and I wondered if the tale that they were dummies were not a farce for the consumption of spies. Never have I seen warships with appearance more genuine. Huge gray monsters they were, with double turrets fore and aft, from which great guns protruded; wicker masts with crow’s nests and gaunt naval bridges towered above decks stripped for action and anti-aircraft guns and range-finders pointed in every direction. All of them had steam up as if ready to dash to sea and engage a prowling enemy at any moment. Not in my twenty years at sea, in which time I have seen the navies of all the powers, have I gazed upon a more formidable squadron, if the eye alone were judge.

But on board the joke was evident at a glance. The fighting turrets were little wooden barns, with bare rafters inside. The great guns were logs, graduated from a sawmill, tapered and bored in exact imitation of naval cannon. Not a single real gun aboard! We could not have sunk a rowboat!

There were 14 such ships in all, and they worked: the Germany military bragged about torpedoing one of them, not realizing how little damage they had actually inflicted on their oppoentns.

War’s Biggest Trick: “The Suicide Fleet” — British Squadron of Fourteen Wooden Ships, with Wooden Guns, Deceived Germans for Months and Decoyed Them Into the Dogger Bank Disaster (PDF)

From Sunday, January 13, 1918

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Written by Jesse

January 16th, 2018 at 3:04 pm

Posted in War

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