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Klaus Hansen

(1883-1915) – German U-boat commander

Klaus Hansen was commander of the German U-boat U41, which was sunk by HMS 'Baralong' illegally masquerading as a neutral merchant ship or decoy (Q-boat) off the Isles of Scilly. Thereafter Germany torpedoed merchant ships without warning. A deck gun believed to be from U41 is on display at Davidstow.

Credit: Davidstow Airfield & Cornwall at War Museum

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At the start of the First World War Germany followed the ‘Cruiser Rules’ as they attempted to blockade Britain with U-boats (Unterseeboot or submarines).  Neutral merchant ships were searched and, if they were carrying war materials, the crews were ordered into lifeboats and the ship was then sunk using the 88 mm deck gun that is now on display in this museum.  This allowed the Germans to keep their precious torpedoes for targets that could shoot back.  To counter this, Britain employed ‘Ghost Ships’, also known as Q boats.  These were merchant ships with concealed guns that were – controversially and illegally - flying a neutral flag.  When intercepted by a U-boat they would sink the U-boat without warning. 

This happened to the U41 off Lands End on the 24th September 1915 when the Q boat HMS Baralong, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Wilmot-Smith and flying the American flag, was intercepted by the U41 commanded by 32 year old Klaus Hansen.  Two German survivors reported back what happened.  This was not the first such case and it led to the Germans abandoning the ‘Cruiser Rules’ and engaging all targets with torpedoes without warning.

The 88 mm deck gun on display at Davidstow Airfield is almost certainly from the U41.  It was recovered in a fishing net by the trawler Philomena, operating out of Newlyn, in the area where the U41 went down, and is the same type of gun that she carried.  The gun was donated to the museum by Mr Stevenson of Newlyn.

Credit: Davidstow Airfield & Cornwall at War Museum