The Gothland experienced constant fog for five days before striking Gunners Rock and grounding on Flemming Ledge off the Islands in heavy seas. The mail steamer, the Lyonnesse, which was reported to have towed the St Agnes and St Mary’s lifeboats to the Gothland. One of the Gothland’s lifeboats fell into the sea and was destroyed, but St Mary’s Lifeboat was able to rescue the occupants. All passengers and crew were taken aboard the Lyonnesse and taken to St Mary’s. Forty crew stayed on board during the rescue to attempt repairs. She was refloated four days later.




Gulflight, an American tank steamer, was torpedoed 20 miles west of the Islands by a German submarine, U-30. Watch aboard the Gulflight spotted a submarine surface for three minutes, then disappeared for twenty minutes before the Gulflight was torpedoed. Patrol boats were escorting the Gulflight and all but two hands, who had abandoned ship and drowned, evacuated into lifeboats and were taken aboard the patrol boats. Gulflight’s Captain Gunther died aboard a patrol boat. They landed at Scilly at 1030 the next day. The captain and the survivors were taken to Penzance by the local steamer, the Lyonnesse.


She was the first US ship to be attacked by German submarines in WWI. She beached on the Islands and was later towed away to be repaired.



A Middlesborough steamer Edale was torpedoed 45 miles north-west of Scilly. After abandoning the ship into their two lifeboats, a submarine surfaced. The submarine crew motioned to the crew of the Edale to vacate the area then proceeded to shell the sinking steamer. The lifeboats sailed for Scilly and were picked up 15 miles from the Islands by a patrol boat at 1830, twelve hours after being torpedoed.



Casualties of the U-39

Caucasian of London

The U-39 showed its presence to the Caucasian and by showing the German flag and signalling to abandon ship. Captain Roberts of the Caucasian attempted to outrun the submarine but was unable to before the submarine could start to fire, at which point the crew of the Caucasian abandoned into their lifeboats. The submarine continued to fire at the steamer until it sank at 0900.

Chief Officer WL Coulthorpt of the Caucasian was quoted in The Times explaining that the crew of the submarine beckoned the crew of the Caucasian, who attended. The officers of the submarine asked the details of the steamer they had just sunk. “[…]they were very gentlemanly in their conduct towards us. […] The captain [Roberts] had a pet Pomeranian dog, Betty, and by some means it fell overboard. The German officers were most anxious to rescue the little animal, and begged the Captain Robert to allow them to save it, but the British skipper would not agree. He threw off his coat, sprang overboard, same a dozen yards, and rescued his pet, the men in the lifeboat eventually saving both their skipper and the dog.” According to Larn (1993, p. 137) the commander of the submarine had intended to machine gun the crew for attempting to flee, but had changed their minds after seeing the rescue of the dog.

Inglemoor of London

The Inglemoor attended the sinking Caucasian only to be fired at by the resurfaced submarine. The crew of the Inglemoor took to their lifeboats and a towed lighter before the submarine torpedoed the second steamer.

Both crews were taken to Penzance.


USS Jacob Jones

USS Jacob Jones was the first American destroyer to be lost during the First World War, when she was torpedoed off the Isles of Scilly by U-53.


Built by New York Shipbuilding Corp., she was launched in New York on 3 August 1914. She was ready for service by 10 February, 1917.

USS Jacob Jones was working as a rescue ship between July and October picking up 44 British survivors of ‘Valetta’, sunk by U-Boat; 25 people from the ‘Dapfila’, sunk by torpedo; and 305 people from the British cruiser Orama. She was then used as an escort ship between Ireland and France.

On her return from France, bound for Queenstown, Ireland, whilst sailing close to the Islands, her watch sighted a torpedo wake. U-53’s torpedo hit Jacob Jones starboard fuel oil tank at 1621 hours. Despite best efforts from the crew, as her stern sank, her depth charges went off. Eight minutes later the order to abondon was made by Commander Bagley.

She sank with 64 men still onboard. 38 men used rafts to get to shore. Two men were taken prisoner by U-53 by Kaptain Hans Rose.

In a kind gesture, Kaptain Rose radioed the American base at Queenstown so that a rescue ship could be sent to pick up the survivors. British sloop-of-war Camellia, British liner Catalina and HMS Insolent picked up the survivors by the following morning.