HMS SAXIFRAGE was a flower class sloop of the Achussa type. She was launched on January 29th 1918 at Lobnitz in Renfrew, the ship builders which in Feb 1917 was instructed to build her. she weighed 1,290 tons, 262.6inch in length and had the twin expansion steam engines on a single shaft. Armed with two 4inch guns, and two 12 pounders, An 2 1/2 inch mortar & one lewis quick firing machine gun, plus what ever small weapons the Navy could acquire at the time,
carrying depth charges and dressed as an merchant ship to disguise herself from the Germans, she soon started her extensive historical life in the middle of world war one. For most of her service, she sailed around Buncrana/Rathmullen at the North west of ireland,And spent most of 1918 picking up convoys in the Atlantic, and helping assist when needed. when SAXIFRAGE returned to Liverpool for for supplies, she then headed back as an Escort to the Atlantic where she was attacked by U-Boats but not badly damaged.
Using almost 35 tons of coal at sea a day, Saxifrage could sail 16 knots, which as a ship her weight and size back in WW1, was quie fast. She zig zagged to avoid Enemy U-Boat attacks in the Atlantic, whilst her crew dropped depth charges and manned her 12 Pounder.
March 25th 1918, In Grennock, SAXIFRAGE started her life, she did sea trails from 11am when the ship was commissioned. The sea trails carried on for 24 hours with various trails ranging from weapons, to crew training in emergency procedures.
April 6th 1918, SAXIFRAGE once again had gunnery targets, this time in Buncrana and around the open seas. The trials were going well until at 4:54am on the morning of April 7th, her port side dinghy snapped.
From April 7th 1918 SAXIFRAGE was indeed at war, like her sisters and fellow ships.
Because SAXIFRAGE had a coal powered engine, and sometimes used upto 35 tons of coal a day, Each time she returned to port the crew had to clean the floors as them and the floor, had 3 inches of coal dust on them!!
April 17th 1918, at 1am, SAXIFRAGE encountered an U-BOAT attack. The crew saw the periscope on the surface and quickly sped up, the U-BOAT opening fire on her as she sailed full steam ahead, zig zagging to try and shake off the U-Boat.
As SAXIFRAGE was ahead of the convoys she had to make sure the U-BOATS wouldnt touch any of the naval ships she was protecting. it worked and she looked after her convoys well without taking any major damage herself.
On April 22nd 1918 at 2:05am SAXIFRAGEs engines stopped, no mater what the crew did the engnes wouldnt work. They found out later that morning that the bearings had melted with the extra strain that had been put onto them.
Later that day she was helped to Albert Dock in Liverpool, fixed and later that evening was back escorting a large convoy to sea.
SS Standard Arrow parted company at 3am, but then guns blazing and smoke filled the air.
The crew on the morning of April 28th, under a clear calm moonlit sky, The passenger liner ORONSA and Freight ship DAMEO had both been sunk by U-Boat U91.
AS SS MASSILA helped pick the survivors of both sunken ships up, SAXIFRAGE carried on ahead monitoring for the U-Boats return.
Every day Saxifrage and her crew went to sea on Convoy, they were met by ever growing U-Boats in larger numbers, August 1918 she had her first proper enemy attack.
3rd August 1918, at 5:55pm, A U-Boat sighted Saxifrage and the chase of survival begun. Zig zagging was not shaking this one off, and no matter what the crew did, nothing was losing this U-Boat whom was firing at Saxifrage.
at 5:58pm she dropped her first depth charge, at 6:07pm she dropped another deoth charge and opened fire with her guns, Guns blazing she zig zagged her way across the open sea, trying to lose the U-Boat which was catching her up. at 6:03pm she dropped a depth charge but this time it made contact, a tell tale sign of water rising and a small explosion , the U-Boat had been sunk.
A depth charge is an anti-submarine warfare weapon. It is intended to destroy a submarine by being dropped into the water nearby and detonating, subjecting the target to a powerful and destructive hydraulic shock . The depth charge was limited to about 160 feet max. But would confuse the U-Boat commander as he would not know if he was under attack as they only went off on contact.