THE LiTTLE PiGS That Went to War

By Stover, Rusti | Sea Classics, August 2011 | Go to article overview

THE LiTTLE PiGS That Went to War

Stover, Rusti, Sea Classics

Hard riding, wet, and cramped, the "L" boats of World War One were afar cry from today's spacious nuclear submarines. A veteran of the early submarine service recalls what it was Uh aboard a "Pig Boat" more than 90-years ago

On 6 December 1917, 4000-tons of TNT exploded in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This was the result of a grain boat colliding with a munitions ship in the harbor. Two thousand died and 20,000 were injured. Until the atom bombs of World War Two settled on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this horrendous explosion was called "The worst in world history."

A number of years ago, Drew Collett recalled the news of the Halifax horror with thanks for his narrow escape. Twoor three-days before this occurrence, the little fleet of World War One submarines on which he was a radioman was docked in Halifax Harbor. He had mailed a postcard from Halifax to his mother, who thought he was the the cataclysm.

About 49-hrs or so before the explosion, the fleet was ordered to sail for Bantry Bay, Ireland, and their involvement with the Great War.

Spared from the fires of Hell at the start of his journey, Drew wondered what trials awaited him and his crewmates.

The fleet of Tig Boats," so called because their sanitary facilities consisted of galvanized bucket toilets and cramped accommodations, had not long to wait. Originally slated to cross the Atlantic tethered to their mother ship, the USS Bushneil, they soon found their passage in this manner barred by an Atlantic storm. The wraps were cast off and the little submarines were told to go it alone. Twenty-six-days later, after subsisting on crackers and ketchup in the final days of their journey, the weary men and flotilla of subs reached the Azores.

When the L-boats limped into these Portuguese-held islands about two-thirds of the way to their destination, they were a welcome sight; German U-boats had been lobbing shells over the seawall and into the town, and any help was appreciated.

After weeks of repairs and replenishment in the island port of Ponta Delgada the L-Il and her six sister subs once again took to the seas. Their next stop was Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland, in Cork Harbor, County Cork. Again the ships needed repairs and supplies, and finally made the last leg of their journey, about 100-mi up the west coast to Berehaven in Bantry Bay. The L-boats became a permanent war installation here, used for antisubmarine patrols.

They soon became confused with British submarines, which had also been classified as "L-boats," so the letter "A" (for American) was added to the designation, and our ships became the AL-boats. Drew was assigned to the AL·!! for his tour of duty.

The patrol assignments took the subs out from the harbor on eight-day shifts where they would listen, submerged, during the day and watch for enemy subs from the surface at night. They had to surface at night to recharge their underwater batteries with the 650-hp Nelseco diesel engines, which also aired out the stuffy quarters.

Sometimes during the day, if there were no enemy vessels in the area, they would go topsides to get some fresh air circulating. Drew remembered one harrowing experience that mades him chuckle.

"During the day, we didn't want to come to the surface, we would be vulnerable. The air got so bad, and we couldn't do anything about it submerged, so we had to surface. Part of my duty was to use the listening device to detect moving propellers in the water. Our radio didn't work while we were submerged, so I listened with T-Tubes/ which were sort of like large stethoscopes. This particular time, it was all very quiet; this meant there weren't any ships in the area. I said 'all clear' and the captain said to take her up for air.

"Well, we came up right alongside a destroyer just sitting there in the water. It was one of ours, fortunately, but they didn't know we were an American submarine. In those days, whenever you saw a submarine, you assumed it was a U-boat, there were so many, and only seven of us. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

THE LiTTLE PiGS That Went to War


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.