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The men who were saved from the Llandovery Castle do not agree as regards the number of boats which got away safely. This is sufficiently explained by the circumstances, and particularly by the state of excitement, into which the majority of them were plunged, by the torpedoing and sinking of the ship. However, from the statement of the witness Chapman, in conjunction with other evidence, it may be concluded that of the boats on the starboard side, three (marked with odd numbers) were got away undamaged with two of the boats on the port side (marked with even numbers). Chapman, who was second officer on board the Llandovery Castle, has impressed the court as a quiet, clear-headed and reliable witness. The evidence has also on several occasions shown that he did not lose his head while the ship was sinking, but that he coolly took all the necessary measures. Confidence can, therefore, be placed unhesitatingly in his evidence. He saw five boats lowered from the starboard side, two of which, however, capsized, so that only three got away safely. This tallies with the statement of Murphy, 1st class seaman, that he saw that Nos. 1, 3 and 5 of the starboard boats (which he had helped to lower) got clear of the ship. Other witnesses also saw starboard boats safely lowered. Heather saw Nos. 5 and 7 (No 11, according to him, capsized). Abrahams saw Nos. 7 and 1, or 3, and Lyon saw No. 3. Two boats got away from the port side. In one of them, when it left the Llandovery Castle, was the captain of the ship, Sylvester, who has since died; 10 other persons were also in his boat. Later it picked up 12 persons, who were swimming about in the water. In addition, as will be further explained later, one man from another life-boat was handed over by the U-boat. This boat ultimately contained 24 men, and will henceforth be referred to as the captain's boat. It was the only one whose occupants were rescued; its occupants are the only survivors of the Llandovery Castle. According to the statements of the witnesses Chapman, Abrahams and Murphy, it bore the number 4, whereas witness Lyon thinks it was not No. 4. In addition to the captain's boat, another got clear from the port side, and it had in it the first officer and five or six seamen. According to the evidence of the fourth officer, the witness Barton, this was the port cutter.
It is quite possible that out of these five boats which left the steamer safely, one or two may have been drawn into the vortex made by the sinking ship. But the evidence has shown that at least three of these five boats survived the sinking of the ship. The witnesses Chapman and Barton saw them rowing about at a later period, as well as the captain's boat, the port cutter and boat No. 3. The port cutter was manned by the first officer and a few seamen.
That boat No. 3 got clear away is proved by the following facts:-During the examination of the captain's boat by the U-boat which will be described later, the latter handed over to the former a man belonging to the medical staff, who was not originally in the captain's boat. According to his statement, the boat on which he had been had also been stopped by the U-boat; he was taken off and detained in the U-boat. He gave the number of the boat in which he originally was as No. 3. This agrees with the statements made by witnesses, who say that No. 3 boat got safely clear of the ship. That the man did not come from the first officer's boat is shown by the fact that the latter, being a port-side boat, bore an even number. No medical corps men, only seamen, were seen in it.
Thus, after the sinking of the Llandovery Castle, there were still left three of her boats with people on board.
Some time after the torpedoing, the U-boat came to the surface and approached the lifeboats, in order to ascertain by examination whether the Llandovery Castle had airmen and munitions on board. The witness Popitz, who was steersman on board the U-boat, took part in the stopping of several lifeboats for that purpose. The occupants of the captain's boat gave a fuller description of this. It was called by the U-boat, while it was busy rescuing shipwrecked men, who were swimming about in the water. As it did not at once comply with the request to come alongside, a pistol shot was fired as a warning. The order was repeated and the occupants were told that, if the boat did not come alongside at once, it would be fired on with the big gun. The lifeboat then came alongside the U-boat. Capt. Sylvester had to go on board the U-boat. There he was reproached by the commander with having had eight American airmen on board. Sylvester denied this and declared that, in addition to the crew, only Canadian medical corps men were in the ship. To the question whether there was a Canadian officer in the lifeboat he answered “Yes.” Then the latter, the witness Lyon, doctor and major in the medical corps, were taken on board the Uboat. On being told that he was an American airman, Lyon answered, as was true, that he was a doctor. He also answered in the negative the further question whether the Llandovery Castle had munitions on board. Sylvester and Lyon were then released, and the latter was told by one of the U-boat officers that it would be better for them, the occupants of the lifeboat to clear off at once. Captain Sylvester said later that he also was told the same.
The U-boat then left the captain's boat, but, after moving about for a little time, returned and again hailed it. Although its occupants pointed out that they had already been examined, the captain's boat was again obliged to come alongside the U-boat. The witnesses, Chapman and Barton, the second and fourth officers of the Llandovery Castle, were taken on board the U-boat and were subjected to a thorough and close examination. The special charge brought against them was that there must have been munitions on board the ship, as the explosion when the ship went down had been a particularly violent one. They disputed this and pointed out that the violent noise was caused by the explosion of the boilers. They were again released. The U-boat went away and disappeared from sight for a time.
The U-boat soon returned, and made straight for the captain's boat. Its occupants feared lest they might be run down. The U-boat, however, passed by, made a big circle and again made straight for the lifeboat, but when quite close to it, it was steered slightly sideways, so that it passed by without touching the lifeboat. The occupants of the boat nevertheless thought that the U-boat wanted to ram it and thus destroy it. There is, however, no conclusive evidence of this, although the suspicion cannot be refuted entirely. The expert, Corvette Capt. Saalwächter, maintains that the direction which the U-boat took at the last moment when approaching the second time, rather points against an intention to ram. In this connection, however, the question does not need to be settled, as the two accused cannot be made answerable, even if the commander of the U-boat had intended at the time to sink the lifeboat. The evidence has not brought out any point in support of the assumption that at that particular time the accused participated in any way in the management of the boat.
After passing by the second time, the U-boat once more went away. The 'lifeboat, which had hoisted a sail in the meantime, endeavored to get away. But after a brief period, the occupants of the boat noticed firing from the U-boat. The first two shells passed over the lifeboat. Then firing took place in another direction; about 12 to 14 shots fell all told. The flash at the mouth of the gun and the flash of the exploding shells were noticed almost at the same time, so that, as the expert also assumes, the firing was at a very near target. After firing had ceased, the occupants of the lifeboat saw nothing more of the U-boat.
The captain's boat cruised about for some 36 hours altogether. On the 29th June, in the morning, it was found by the English destroyer Lysander. The crew were taken on board and the boat left to its fate. During the 29th June, the commander of the English Fleet caused a search to be made for the other lifeboats of the Llandovery Castle. The English sloop Snowdrop and four American destroyers systematically searched the area, where the boats from the sunken ship might be drifting about. The Snowdrop found an undamaged boat of the Llandovery Castle 9 miles from the spot on which the Lysander had found the captain's boat. The boat was empty, but had been occupied, as was shown by the position of the sail. According to observations made while passing by, this boat bore the number 6. Otherwise the search which was continued until the evening of the 1st July, in uniformly good weather, remained fruitless. No other boat from the Llandovery Castle and no more survivors were found.
The firing from the U-boat was not only noticed by the occupants of the captain's boat. It was also heard by the witnesses Popitz, Knoche, Ney, Tegtmeier and Käss, who were members of the crew of the U-boat. According to their statements a portion of the crew of the U-boat were on deck during the evolutions of the U-boat, during the holding up of the lifeboat and during the interrogation of the Englishmen. Witnesses Popitz and Knoche took part in the interrogation, and confirm that no proof was obtained of the misuse of the Llandovery Castle.
After the examination was completed the command "Ready for submerging" was given. Whether these actual words were used or whether the command was differently worded, such as “Below," the witnesses do not recollect. At all events, the whole of the crew went below deck, as is the case when the order to be ready for diving is given. There only remained on deck Commander Patzig, the accused, as his officers of the watch and, by special order, the first boatswain's mate, Meissner, who has since died. It is doubtful whether the latter first went below and was then called on deck again, or whether he remained on deck. At any rate, the witness Knoche, who had the same post as Meissner when the boat was under water, never saw him again in the control room of the boat. The statement of witness Ney, who is supposed to have heard from a third party on the following day that Meissner had been ordered on deck, because one of the officers had hurt his hand, is not sufficient for any definite conclusion to be drawn. Moreover, Ney knows nothing about Meissner, only having gone on deck after the firing had begun. Firing commenced some time after the crew had gone below. The witnesses heard distinctly that only the stern gun, a 8.8 c/m gun was in action. While firing, the U-boat moved about. It did not submerge even after the firing had ceased, but continued on the surface.
The prosecution assumes that the firing of the U-boat was directed against the lifeboats of the Llandovery Castle. The court has arrived at the same conclusion as the result of the evidence given at this time.
The suggestion that firing was directed against some enemy vessel which appeared suddenly on the surface during the night may be at once dismissed. It is true that, according to the report of the expert, Corvette Captain Saalwächter, it was advisable to have the boat ready for submersion, and accordingly to send the crew below deck, as after the torpedoing of the Llandovery Castle, it was necessary to reckon with enemy operations, which might have been the consequence of a wireless call from the sinking ship. He also states that it has often happened that a U-boat has fired a few shots at an enemy vessel coming in sight, so as to make it retire or at least to delay it. But what remains inexplicable is that, if there really was an enemy in the neighborhood, the U-boat was not submerged at once after firing, in order to evade the attack of such enemy in the surest way. There is absolutely no evidence that there were any special circumstances, which would render impossible or superfluous the readiest method of escape, which was submersion. As regards the firing, the fact that diving was not resorted to thus acquires a certain amount of importance, although the command “Ready for diving" is not always, or even generally, followed by submersion.
The further possibility must be considered that the commander of the Uboat may have been deceived by some object floating on the water, and that he may have mistaken it for an enemy vessel. Such deceptions do occur at night on the open sea. However, they would but seldom occur in the case of an experienced commander, such as Patzig is reported to be. And it is hardly likely that such a mistake would have induced him to fire. It seems impossible that the conduct of Patzig was founded on such an error, if we consider the circumstances, which point to deliberate firing on the lifeboats.
In this connection we must refer to the opinion of the actual witnesses, both English and German. With the exception of a few German witnesses, who adduce nothing to the contrary, but simply abstain from expressing any opinion at all, they all, from their own impressions, describe the firing as being directed against the lifeboats. In the case of the occupants of the captain's boat, the fact must not be overlooked that the impartiality of their opinion may have been affected by their excitement as the result of the sinking of their ship, and by the mistrust, which was prevalent on both sides during the war of the enemy and his method of carrying on war. But it is all the more significant that the witness Chapman, whose clear and impartial attitude has been specially mentioned above, did not at first assume that the two shots, which went far over the captain's boat, were directed against it, but that he finally became convinced that the firing from the U-boat was intended to destroy the lifeboat, because of what he subsequently observed.
The crew of the U-boat have the same conviction. During the following days they were extremely depressed. A subsequent collision with a mine, which placed the U-boat in the greatest danger, was regarded as a punishment for the events of the 27th of June. It is certainly to be taken into consideration that experienced crews, as is well known, easily believe mere rumors; but here also we have again two witnesses, who, by virtue of their position and their personal character, must be regarded as apart from the rest of the crew, and whose opinion is therefore of special value.
The witness Popitz, though a helmsman, was acting in the U-boat as third officer of the watch. In his previous examination he gave his evidence hesitatingly, and it was only after he had been sworn that he committed himself to an unreserved statement. In this trial he has given the impression of being a quiet and cautious man. He was on deck when the lifeboat was hailed, but went below before the order to prepare to dive was given, in order to work out the position where the torpedoing had taken place. After this, he lay down in his bunk, as he was no longer on watch. From then onwards he heard the shooting. He enquired the reason from a member of the crew, and received the reply that there was nothing the matter and that the crew were to remain below. On account of this the witness did not go on deck, although that was his post in the event of a fight. Under these circumstances he took it for granted at once, as there was no question of any other enemy, that the lifeboats were being fired at.
The witness Knoche was the chief engineer of U-86. He also was below when the firing took place, but he also assumed that it was connected with