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Lieutenant Douglas Ramsden Attwood, DSC, Royal Navy Reserve

by Barrie Downer

Douglas Attwood was born in Ulverston in Lancashire (now in Cumbria) on 18th Jan 1892. He was the son of Alfred Attwood (a Mechanical Engineer with Rio Tinto - and the Vice Consul at Huelva, Mexico) and his wife Annie Ramsden Attwood – nee Marley).

They had married at the Holy Trinity Church at Darlington on 10th Sep 1879. Douglas was the second youngest of their seven children. There were six boys Alfred Lionel - born on 8th Aug 1880, Geoffrey Ramsden - born on 5th Jan 1884, Claude - born in November 1885, Myles - born 27th Aug 1887, Douglas Ramsden - born on 18th Jan 1892 and George Ethelbert Carden - born on 28th Jun 1896. There was one daughter Alice – born on 14th Aug 1889).

In 1901 Douglas's mother and six of the children were living at 2, Poole Corner, Wimborne, Dorset.

By 1909 Mrs Attwood had moved to Morden Lodge at Wimborne and, in 1912 the family was at Wellington Road, Parkstone, Poole, Dorset. His father – Alfred Attwood died on 11th Jun 1913.

Douglas Attwood was a TS Worcester Cadet and, on leaving Worcester after two years and two terms, he joined the Merchant Marine on 16th Aug 1909 serving firstly in the SS Inveravon owned by Montgomery and Company of London. This Ship sailed between New South Wales and Oregon. He then, in 1913 became 3rd Mate with the Grace Line of San Francisco in their vessel Colusa. At this time his address was given as 260, California Street, San Francisco. Douglas

Attwood was appointed as a Probationary Midshipman, RNR (Permanent Commission) on 4th Aug 1909. He was confirmed as Midshipman, RNR on 27th Dec 1912 and was promoted Acting Sub Lieutenant, RNR on 4th Aug 1914.

He joined the Royal Navy on 24th Aug 1914 and was appointed to HMS Vulcan (the Depot Ship of the Seventh Submarine Flotilla) at Leith 'for Submarines' on 24th Aug 1914.

On 21st Jan 1915 he was appointed to HMS Vulcan 'for Submarine C23 as Third Hand'. Submarine C23 was commanded by Lieutenant Harrington D Edwards.

During 1915 some German U-Boat commanders had taken to surfacing their U-Boats in the middle of British fishing fleets in the North Sea and sinking as many trawlers and drifters as possible. In an attempt to counters these attacks some Royal Navy Submarine Officers from the Seventh Submarine Flotilla at Dundee devised a variation of the 'Q' ship tactic. This tactic was approved by the Flotilla Commanding Officer - Captain Vernon H S Haggard. This required a 'C' Class Submarine to be towed (whilst dived) by a Navy manned trawler - which would mingle with a fishing fleet and wait for a German U-Boat to appear. The Navy manned trawler (skippered by a Submarine Commanding Officer) would be indistinguishable from the fishing trawlers as it would have a tow deployed. To ensure that both Submarine and trawler could work as a team there was a telephone link between the two. If, and when the German U-Boat showed up the towed Submarine would be informed of the fact by the telephone link. The towing cable would be slipped at the Submarine end and a torpedo attack would be attempted on the enemy. This decoy trawler method of attack was used on several occasions and was successful twice.

There was almost a third success for this method of operation when Submarine C23 (Lieutenant Commander Harrington D Edwards and Douglas Attwood) was working in company with the trawler Ratapiko. There was trouble with the voice link but the Commanding Officer of Submarine C23 correctly appreciated the situation. Successfully slipping the tow from the Submarine end he shaped up for an attack. Unfortunately the German U-Boat Commander also realised that something was going on and, having had his suspicions aroused, decided that discretion was the better part of valour and made a successful withdrawal.

In November 1915, Douglas Attwood was appointed to 'Submarine C19 as First Lieutenant'. Submarine C19 was commanded by Lieutenant Hugh R Marrack, Royal Navy). Douglas Attwood had been confirmed as Sub Lieutenant, RNR and had been further promoted to Acting Lieutenant, RNR on 23rd Aug 1915.

His next appointment was to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS Titania (11th Submarine Flotilla) at Blyth 'for Submarine J5 as Navigating Officer (standing by whilst completing)' as reported on the Nominal List dated 1st Apr 1916. Submarine J5 'Commissioned' at Devonport on 6th May 1916. It is reported that on her first War Patrol Submarine J5 had depth keeping difficulties and hit the bottom at 140 feet in the North Sea. On return to harbour the Submarine had to be docked for repairs - leaving dock on 31st Jul 1916. It is reported that Submarine J5 then was involved in a collision with the Destroyer HMS Vixen and had to be docked for further repairs to the Stem and the Bow Torpedo Shutters.

On 1st Dec 1916 Douglas Attwood was appointed to HMS Dolphin 'for Submarine E51 - on Commissioning'. The appointment was changed to HMS Maidstone 'for Submarine E51 as First Lieutenant' on 21st Jan 1917. Submarine E51 was commanded by Lieutenant Hugh R Marrack - previously of Submarine C19.

On 17th Jul 1917 he was appointed to HMS Alecto 'for Submarine duties - Spare Crew'. Douglas Attwood was awarded the DSC (London Gazette dated 22nd Feb 1918) for his part in the action resulting in the sinking of U-Boat UC65 by Submarine C15 (Lieutenant Edgar H Dolphin) on 3rd Nov 1917. This had happened when Douglas Attwood had been 'loaned' to Submarine C15 as the 'Temporary First Lieutenant'.

The Nominal List of 1st October 1917 reports his first Command to be to HMS Thames 'for Submarine F2 in Command' to date 30th Sep 1917. He took over Command of Submarine F2 from Lieutenant Anthony Cunard.

His second Command appointment was to HMS Titania 'for Submarine G5 in Command' to date 18th Jun 1918. He completed what was to be his last War Patrol on 4th Nov 1918.

Douglas Attwood died of pneumonia in the 1st North General Hospital on 24th Nov 1918. Twenty six year old Douglas Attwood was buried in the Darlington West Cemetery, Durham in Grave No. C.3N.122 on 28th Nov 1918.

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