| The Live Bait Squadron. In the early weeks of the war, three elderly armoured cruisers - HMS Aboukir, HMS Hogue, HMS Cressy - were assigned to patrol an area off the Dutch coast . Because they were old, slow and generally under-gunned, these vessels were, with jocularity, described as the 'Live Bait Squadron', and some in the Admiralty expressed doubts over the wisdom of assigning such ships to this duty. These fears were proved valid on 22 September 1914 when the three 'Live Bait' ships were sunk by torpedoes fired by the German U-boat U-9. A total of 1,459 British sailors, many of them cadets or reservists, died in this action.|
At around 6 am on 22 September the three cruisers were steaming at 10 knots (19 km/h) in line ahead and they were spotted by the U-9, commanded by Lt. Otto Weddigen. Although they were not zigzagging, all of the ships had lookouts posted to search for periscopes and one gun on each side of each ship was manned. Weddigen ordered his submarine to submerge and closed the range to the unsuspecting British ships. At close range, he fired a single torpedo at the Aboukir. The torpedo broke the back of the Aboukir and she sank within 20 minutes with the loss of 527 men. The captains of the Cressy and Hogue thought the Aboukir had struck a floating mine and came forward to assist her. They stood by and began to pick up survivors. At this point, Weddigen fired two torpedoes into the Hogue, mortally wounding that ship. As the Hogue sank, the captain of the Cressy realised that the squadron was being attacked by a submarine, and tried to flee. However, Weddigen fired two more torpedoes into the Cressy, and sank her as well. The entire battle had lasted less than two hours, and cost the British three warships, 62 officers and 1,397 ratings. Coming on the heels of the loss of the light cruiser HMS Pathfinder earlier to another submarine attack, this incident established the U-boat as a major weapon in the conduct of naval warfare.
As Winston Churchill was first lord of the Admiralty at the time, these casualties became known as 'Winston's War Babies'. The loss of these vessels, and the sinking of HMS Pathfinder on 5 September, prompted Admiral Jellicoe to withdraw his most valuable ships to ports outwith the U-boats' range. Otto Weddigen returned to Germany as the first naval hero of the war and received the Iron Cross, first class. His crew each received the Iron Cross, second class. Weddigen was himself killed in March 1915 during a raid in the Pentland Firth when his submarine was rammed by HMS Dreadnought. 11 Freemasons died on HMS Aboukir; Brothers ASSITER, COURT, HESTER, HEWLETT, LEATHWOOD, PARSONS, PLUME, SARGENT, STEVENS, WELSH & YOUNG. None of their bodies were recovered and they are all remembered on the CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL. In this one action on 22nd September 1914, 32 freemasons lost their lives - one of the darkest days for the craft in the war. On this one day two lodges each lost 7 members: LORD CHARLES BERESFORD LODGE NO. 2404 and UNITED SERVICE LODGE No 1341, both based in the Province of East Kent