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The Voyage of the Aud
1916

The Aud, was the 1062ton220 x 32 x 12 ft, former SS Castro of the Wilson Line of Hull, England. This ship was captured by the German Navy in the Kiel Canal,at the beginning of World War One in August 1914.  In 1916, it was decided that this vessel would be used to transport arms for the 1916 Irish Rising

Masquerading as the Aud, an existing Norwegian vessel of similar appearance, she set sail from the Baltic port of Lubeck on April 9th 1916, under theCommand of Karl Spindler,and his crew of twenty two men, all of whom were volunteers.The Aud, laden with an estimated 20,000 rifles, 1000,000 rounds of ammunition, 10 machine guns, and explosives, evaded patrols of both the British 10th Cruiser Squadron, and local Auxillary patrols.


After surviving violent storms off Rockall, the Aud arrived in Tralee Bay on April 20th. There they were due to meet with Roger Casement and others, with Casement having been landed nearby by U-19. Due to a combination of factors, the transfer of arms did not take place.


The route of the Aud

At this point Roger Casement and his companions who had been landed by the submarine U-19 in Kerry had been captured .
The car-load of Volunteers who were supposed to meet Spindler had crashed near Kenmare so there was no hope of an organised transfer of arms.

With Spindler and his crew on a ship with no radio or other means of communicating their plight The poorly organised gun-running plan was nearing an end.

After a number of incidents including a farcical searching of the ship for contraband by the armed trawler HMT Setter II, the Aud, attempting to escape the area, was trapped by a blockade of British ships.

She was finally intercepted by the sloops HMS Zinnia and HMS Bluebell. Captain Spindler allowed himself to be escorted towards Cork Harbour, in the company of Acacia class sloop Bluebell .

The voyage of the Aud was compromised from the very beginning, with German codes having been broken, and agents reporting the movements of submarines and shipping from both the Baltic and occupied ports.

The British Naval Intelligence Division (NID) knew that there was an arms ship on the way, but did not know precisely when. Therefore from mid-March 1916, extra patrols were in place all around the West and South Coasts of Ireland to intercept any suspicious vessels for searching.

At the approaches to Cork Harbour, the crew of the Bluebell noticed that the Aud had stopped. The Bluebell then went back about a cables length, and saw a small cloud of white smoke issuing from the after hold.


At the same time two German Naval Ensigns were flown from the mast and two boats were launched, one from either side. The Bluebell went round across the bows, and the occupants of the two boats, coming towards her, hoisted a flag of truce, and put up their hands.


They were taken prisoners on the Bluebell and the Aud sank almost immediately afterwards.


Captain Spindler had scuttled the Aud, using pre-set charges of explosives in the aft hold.


Thus ended the career of the only German naval surface ship to enter Irish waters during World War One. Following this, the wreck was depth charged and wire swept a number of times.


There would have been a number of reasons for this; to make sure that the weapons were scattered and made unrecoverable by the rebel forces, to prevent submarines using the wreck as cover, and to prevent the wreck snagging and damaging post war fishing trawls.



Stockless anchor from Aud on display in Cobh.

The rifles, and the majority of the ammunition originated in Russia. They were captured as a result of the rout of Russian forces at the battle of Tannenburg in 1914.

These rifles were the Mosin-Nagant Model 1891  'any German captured rifles in the year 1916 or prior would be 1891s and 1891/10s.'( Correspondence from D.Jones Feb 05).

For information on the armaments on board the Aud, click Here.


The wreck of the Aud was first dived by sports scuba divers in the 1970s’, and has been a popular dive spot since. The wreck was surveyed in 1997. It was thought that a preservation order would be put on the wreck following the survey, but this did not happen


In 2012 two anchors were removed from the wreck. One of these is now on display at the heritage centre at Cobh railway station. There is also a range of Aud artifacts on show in Cobh Museum. For other Aud -related displays click here


The wreck of the Aud is now over 100 years old and is a protected wreck, under Irish legislation. Diving on this ship is only permitted under licence. Details of this legislation can be found at:


https://www.archaeology.ie/underwater-archaeology


Sketch map of the Aud based on the 1997 survey.

Captured ensign from the Aud, on view in
the Imperial War Museum London

Captain Karl Spindler, Commander of the Aud.

Some underwater shots of the wreck of the Aud, (taken from the 1997 video survey of the wreck).

Captain Karl Spindler's own account of the voyage of the Aud, first published in 1921, is available to download free of charge from Archive.org. the link is https://archive.org/details/gunrunningforcas00spinuoft