Battle for the “Prize”
In April 1916, Sub Lieutenant W.E. Sanders (a New Zealander serving with the RNR) joined HMS “Sapina” as Second in Command. When a year later Q ships were adopted as a means of combating the submarine menace Sanders volunteered for service and was given command of the Topsail Schooner “Prize” and promoted to Lieutenant-Commander.
On the evening of April 30th, 1917 the “Prize” was 120 miles south of Ireland when they spotted a U93 running awash. The submarine opened fire from 4000 yards sending her first shells well over the schooner. As a courtesy gesture, at this the schooner lowered her topsails and a well drilled “Panic Party” manned their boat and pushed off. Sanders and his gun crews laid hidden waiting for the submarine to come close, however the German commander was suspicious and kept firing as he closed in, reducing the “Prize” to a mass of wreckage.
Sanders and his men stuck to their posts as shell after shell battered the hull. During this time Sanders was perfectly cool and occasionally crept forward on his hands and knees to visit the forward gun crews and ascertain how they were withstanding the shell fire.
Finally convinced the schooner was in sinking condition the Germans ceased fire and steamed close to get the ships particulars. Sanders decided the moment he had waited forty minutes for had come and with a blast from his whistle the gunscreens clanged down, the white ensign fluttered up the mast and the “Prize” opened fire. The first salvo disabled the submarines forward gun. She turned and ran preparing to dive while three men manned the after gun only to be sent swimming by the “Prizes” shells. The submarine was last seen settling in the water stern first, her bow straight up in the air.
Severely damaged the “Prize” limped to port carrying with her the German U boat commander and others rescued from the water.
Sanders was awarded the V.C. on June 27. 1917 but never lived to receive it as the “Prize” was sunk with all hands on August 14, 1917 by a torpedo from a German U Boat.
For his services in this action, Sanders was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Order.