Paying the Prize for the German Submarine War: U-boats destroyed and the Admiralty Prize Fund, 1919–1932

By Innes McCartney, published February 2018


This paper examines how the Admiralty paid prize money to the Royal Navy for the destruction of U-boats in the First World War. The research shows that the method by which it did so was distinct from the standard prize process, primarily because of secrecy surrounding the anti-U-boat effort. Prize payments were only made by the Admiralty to the crew of naval vessels after the war had ended and this was based on reports compiled during wartime. The payments made closely match the detailed analysis into U-boat losses released internally by the Anti-Submarine Division (ASD) of the Naval Staff in January 1919. This listed 186 U-boats destroyed. The Admiralty considered 93 of these cases eligible for prize bounty. At least 41 additional cases were turned down. Where inconsistencies exist between the work of the Anti-Submarine Division and the prizes paid out, they are explained by the process of post-war reassessments of U-boats destroyed. In 1917 ASD was pioneering a new type of scientific undersea warfare and it is unfair to be too critical of its work when seen in this historical context. The final prize payments were made in 1932.

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Filed under: Interwar | Other (location)
Subjects include: Administration | Navies | Submarines

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