Home > Norman Neasom Exhibition > Wars and Conflicts > 41 Q-Ships

41 Q-Ships by Wars and Conflicts

41 Q-Ships by Wars and Conflicts


Drawing - Signed dated 1941 and inscribed

Image Area: 15ins x 19ins

The Q-ship or Q-boat was a weapon used against German U-boats during World War 1

In the First Battle of the Atlantic by 1915, Britain was in desperate need for a counter measure against the U-boats that were strangling her sea-lanes. Convoys, which had proven effective in earlier times, were rejected by the resource-strapped Admiralty and the independent captains. Depth charges were very primitive, and the only method of sinking a submarine was by gunfire or by ramming. The problem was to lure the U-boat to the surface.

The solution to this problem was the creation of the Q-ship, one of the most closely-guarded secrets of the war. Known to the Germans as a U-Boot-Falle ("U-boat trap"), it was an old-looking tramp steamer loaded with wooden caskets, wood, or cork, and armed with hidden guns and torpedoes. Its buoyant cargo made it almost unsinkable, so after firing a few torpedoes, a U-boat would surface to use its deck gun at close range. The Q-ship would then hoist the White Ensign and overwhelm the U-boat with its heavy guns.

The first victory of a Q-ship occurred on July 24, 1915, when U-36 was sunk by HMS Prince Charles, commanded by Lieutenant Mark Wardlaw RN. In August of that year, an even smaller converted fishing trawler named His Majesty's Armed Smack Inverlyon successfully destroyed UB-4 near Great Yarmouth. The Inverlyon was an unpowered sailing craft fitted with a 47mm cannon.

On August 19, 1915, Lieutenant Godfrey Herbert RN of the HMS Baralong sank UB-27 and killed all of the German survivors in the infamous "Baralong Incident".

Despite some spectacular actions and a great deal of romanticization, Q-ships were not particularly successful. In the course of 150 engagements they were only able to kill 14 U-boats and damage another 60, at a cost of 27 Q-ships lost out of 200. Q-ships were responsible for about 10% of all U-boats sunk, ranking them far below naval mines in overall effectiveness.

German submarine U9.  She had an active career, sinking HMS Hawke and serving in the Baltic, being the only one of her class to survive the war.

Norman's drawing is very detailed and dramatic even down to the Navy rating manning the gun on the deck once the submarine had surfaced. Norman's wartime drawings were all exceptional quality as this work and others in the War section shows

Enquire - send an email to us