On 19 August 1915, HMS E13 (Lt Cdr Geoffrey Layton) was attempting to make the passage through the Skagerrak and the Kattegat into the Baltic Sea to join other British submarines operating with the Russian Navy.

She experienced a gyro compass failure and ran aground on the neutral Danish Island of Saltholm. Given the fragile state of their operations against Russian forces at Riga, the German High Command was anxious to prevent any further British forces entering the Baltic and gave orders to the Commander of the German destroyer G132, Oberleutnant zur See Paul Graf von Montgelas, to destroy E13, despite being in neutral waters. The boat was shelled into a wreck by G132 and another torpedo boat. The Danish warship HDMS Soulven placed herself between G132 and E13 and attempted to rescue survivors, one of whom, Petty Officer Lincoln, was saved from drowning by the actions of Petty Officer Arthur Olsen of the Royal Danish Navy; Olsen was subsequently awarded the Albert Medal by the British government.

Fifteen of the of the crew were killed in the attack and the officers and remaining fourteen swam to safety but were then interned by the Danes. Eyewitness accounts, including that of PO Lincoln, state that the Germans were shooting at survivors in the water, although a letter from the British consul, Mr Erskine, to the Ambassador following his inspection of the bodies found no signs of gunshot wounds. His letter also commended the Danish authorities for the dignity and efficiency with which the handling of the dead was conducted.

The two officers later escaped and returned to the UK. The remaining crew members were released from internment after the Armistice in 1918.

Left: E13 Aground at Saltholm


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  1. The appalling actions of the CO of the German destroyer G132 which sunk E13, Oberleutnant zur See Paul Graf von Montgelas, horrified the German High Command. Von Montgelas was court martialled and demoted.