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Cooee - Submarine off US coast

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October 17, 2016

This week in 1916 saw German submarine U53 enter Newport Harbour in Rhode Island.

Its commander Hans Rose first made and received courtesy calls to two American admirals.

The next morning U53 took up station just 3km from the Nantucket Lightship anchored off Massachusetts.

Ship after ship was stopped by a shot over its bows from the submarine’s deck gun.

Each was searched.

If war matériel was found, the ship’s crew was forced into lifeboats.

The ship was then torpedoed or blown up.

That day, U53 sank nine ships.

Then, having used up all its torpedoes, the submarine turned for home.

Although no-one had been killed, the American public was uneasy with a German submarine brazenly cruising US waters.

The British, however, were furious that most of the attacks had occurred when the submarine was surrounded by US destroyers.

The Americans pointed out that they were neutral and that the sinkings had been carried out in accordance with agreed Cruiser Rules.

Their destroyers were only present to rescue crew and passengers from sinking ships.

By war’s end, U53 had sunk or damaged 98 ships.

No attack was easier than those off the Nantucket Lightship.

This week, too, saw the beginning of yet another attack by the Italians on the Isonzo river.

This would be the eighth Battle of the Isonzo.

It was no more successful for the Italians than the earlier battles.

This week, the Greek army was disarmed and retreated into northern Greece with its king.

The Greek government accepted a Anglo-French demand that it surrender its fleet to be manned by French sailors.

Large, noisy rallies around Australia were held this week for and against the forthcoming plebiscite (referendum) regarding overseas military service.

However, it was compulsory for men to register in anticipation of a successful plebiscite.

Failure to register could result in six months’ imprisonment.

Twenty-seven thousand were prosecuted.

Although 190000 registered, registration was met with widespread resistance.

Forty-five per cent of those who registered sought exemption from very unsympathetic exemption courts.

Forty-thousand or almost half were refused exemption.

James Bamblett from Devenish was one who sought exemption.

He stated that he had a chaff cutter that only he, not his brother, could operate. If he went to the front, his mother and sisters would starve. His exemption was refused.

Herbert Guppy was another who sought exemption. He was a farmer. One brother could not manage horses and was dumb. That brother could only do light work. Another had already been killed at the front. His exemption was refused. He won exemption on appeal.

In the meeting of the shire council this week, the shire engineer submitted a report showing damage to roads during recent floods would cost $4600 to repair.

— John Barry, Anzac Commemorative Working Party. Coo-ee — Honouring our WWI Heroes

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