Margaret Storey | Donegal County Council
As part of the TIDE project, we are bringing back stories that lie beneath the waves to our shores!
HMS Audacious – ‘Worst kept Secret’
It was the first casualty of First World War, sunk by a mine laid by SS Berlin 4 days earlier. Unsuccessful attempts by HMS Liverpool, SS Olympic (Titantic’s Sister Ship) & the collier Thornhill were made to tow her back into Lough Swilly. Crew were evacuated onto HMS Liverpool & SS Olympic. However, after three large explosions onboard, the ship sank.
Admiral Sir John Jellicoe proposed sinking be kept a secret and the Board of Admiralty & the British Cabinet agreed. For the rest of the war, Audacious' name remained on all public lists of ship movements and activities. However, many Americans on board Olympic beyond British jurisdiction discussed the sinking (many photos were taken) and it was reported on American Media. It was known by Germany but not confirmed by the British.
After the war, the loss of the ship was accepted in Germany. Jellicoe's opposite number in Germany, Reinhard Scheer, wrote after the war: "In the case of the Audacious we approve of the English attitude of not revealing a weakness to the enemy, because accurate information about the other side's strength has a decisive effect on the decisions taken”.
The Secretary of the Admiralty made the following announcement: "H.M.S. Audacious sank after striking a mine off the North Irish coast on October 27, 1914. This was kept secret at the urgent request of the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, and the Press loyally refrained from giving it any publicity."