Back on 19 April German seaplanes had attempted a surprise torpedo attack on the North Goodwin Drifter Division and Ramsgate harbour but failed to sink any ships. However the impact of the attack on the Admiralty was to raise fears of a series of more serious attacks. Those fears appeared realised today when a second more successful attack was carried out.
The SS Gena, a collier was sailing in the war channel north-east of Southwold when she was attacked by two Hansa Brandenberg GW seaplanes from II Torpedostaffel Zeebrugge.
One of the seaplanes successfully dropped a torpedo which struck the Gena. However, one of the downsides of these large seaplanes is the slow speeds (the GW can only do 65 miles per hour) and the fact that they have to fly close to the sea (within 25 feet) to drop the torpedo. This makes them much easier to attack.
Sure enough, the Gena got off two rounds from her gun before sinking and with her second shot hit one of the seaplanes (703). The plane crashed into the sea and the crew Leutnant Richard Freude and Flugmaat Karl Berghoff were taken prisoner by the escorting patrol vessels which also recued the Gina’s crew.
This was the first British vessel sunk by an airborne torpedo in British waters.
This caused some disquiet amongst amongst naval officers and unofficially many adopted a “shoot first ask later” approach to aeroplanes.