Face to Face with History

Last night I had a weird experience. I was suddenly face to face with my own History.

Recently I’ve been reading the book Three Before Breakfast, its about the first major naval success of submarine operations in WWI. The unterseeboot U-9, captained by Otto Weddigen, sunk three British Cressy Class Cruisers around the Broad Fourteens. One of those ships sunk, HMS Hogue, was home to my Great Grandfather. He was a stoker onboard. He died that day. My Grandfather was born later, so he never got to see his father. My genealogical interest in this event is obvious.

And being a gamer, it led me to search out games that explored this event.

Yesterday I found the submarine simulation game 1914 Shells of Fury.

One of the scenario’s there is based on the sinking of these ships. So there I am, in the commanding position of the U-9, actually in the shoes of Otto Weddigen, pointing my torpodo tubes at the ship that my Great Grandfather is furiously shovelling coal into!

In gamer mode, almost without thinking I set up the sub and fire off a single torp. I manage to hit one of the British ships, the Cressy I think. She’s sinking.

The other vessels alter their course to go and help her. And as I point my second torpedo tube at the Hogue, I am overcome with emotion.

This isn’t right. As much as I entertain myself by “being in the moment” of these historic events, I can’t shake the feeling that this isn’t how I’d want to play it out. Even though I rationalise it to myself, “its only a game”. Its only a computational representation of what happened. Its still feels like a powerful position to be in, pointing certain death at my direct descendant.

I can’t feed off the success of a mission like I normally would. It has a deeper significance to me than just winning the scenario. I simply can’t do it! I don’t want to do it!

As ridiculous as this sounds, I want to change history, so I surface the U-9, and sail her into gun range of the Hogue and the Aboukir.

They spot me, and open up. I am killed very quickly, and the U-9 sinks to the bottom.

As a member of my family line, I feel as if I’ve done the right thing. I take some pleasure from the loss of the scenario, simply because it would allow my Grandfather to see his father.

I shut the game down and come away from it. I feel a bit silly for attaching emotional relevance to a simulation game.

Gaming can be a powerful medium, especially if there is an emotional attachment to someone in the era presented. I honestly didn’t expect to react quite so much to the game. And when I did, it was quite a shock. Powerful stuff.

2 thoughts on “Face to Face with History

  1. Wow, man, this is really heavy. Thank you for sharing.

    And score one for your Great Grandfather, I’m sure he’d be proud. 🙂

  2. I have similar ancestral difficulties with Malaya/Singapore 1942 scenarios.
    My late father fought at the Gemas Ambush and was later invalided out to the hospital.
    When Singapore was surrendered there was a massacre at the hospital.
    He survived that and a further three and a half years of Japanese PoW camp but he was a severely damaged man for the rest of his life.

    He had also served in the British RN 1916-19 as a Boy Signaller on HMS Greyhound (TBD). Purely in coastal waters and didn’t see any action.

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Ian Bowes / spelk