Schooner Glynn
by Robert Donnelly

The story of the schooner Glynn of Brunswick, Georgia is one of which Americans and especially the good citizens of Brunswick, can be extremely proud.

The Glynn, a wooden sailing schooner, was built by Captain J. H. Leo’s Brunswick Shipbuilding Company in late 1916. By the time she made her maiden voyage, she was owned by Mr. James S. Brailey, a Vice President of the Yaryan Rosin and Turpentine Company of Brunswick.

Because of the unlimited submarine warfare declared by Germany in February, 1917, Mr. Brailey requested that the U.S. Navy fit the Glynn with some guns with which she could defend herself if attacked by a submarine. Despite the U.S. not declaring war against Germany until 6 April, the Navy was willing to provide guns, making the Glynn one of the first American merchantmen so equipped. The Navy assigned six sailors and a warrant officer to work the two six pound cannon provided. The guns were located amidships and disguised to enable the surprise of an attacker. Surprise was important because submarines carried cannon with longer range than a six pounder and, if they were aware of the Glynn’s armament, would not have come close enough for Glynn’s guns to have been effective.

The Brunswick News reported (3 April 1917) the Glynn sailed from Brunswick on 1 April 1917 with a “...cargo of rosin, turpentine and other naval stores...”, bound for Genoa, Italy with a stop in Gibraltar. After a rather rough 47 day trip across the Atlantic, which necessitated some repairs at Gibraltar, the Glynn entered the Mediterranean on the morning of 7 June, 1917.

Chief Gunner Bernard Patrick Donnelly, the warrant officer in charge of the gun crews, reported to the Secretary of the Navy that “The Schooner Glynn in Lat.36 , 44' N., .Long. 00 , 22' W. at 6:45 P.M. , June 14, 1917, sighted submarine approaching from southwesterly direction at high speed. At 6:55 P.M. submarine opened fire at about 4500 yards distance, closing rapidly to what I estimated to be 3,000 to 3,500 yards. The submarine fired five shots before getting our range. The sixth exploded about 50 feet off our starboard beam, fragments going through the foresail, fore-topsail and jib. The seventh exploded about 100 feet off our port quarter.” A later report stated that some 42 holes had been made in the sails, rigging and hull.

To continue with Donnelly’s report, “ We then engaged, having held fire until the enemy came to its closest range. Our first shot...fell short and to the right. Brought range up to...3500 yards... The shots then fell close aboard the submarine, which immediately began diving to evade fire. Last shots I believed took effect, but the enemy was evading fire by diving rapidly. Action over at 7:15 P.M.”

Donnelly later reported that the Glynn stood by until morning with no further sign of the submarine. In a report dated 8 August, he stated that while ships in the area where the battle was fought had been sunk almost daily before 14 June, none were sunk thereafter, confirming, seemingly, that the Glynn sank the submarine she had battled. Donnelly was later awarded the Navy Cross for his actions.

The Glynn was sold to a French company after her successful arrival in Genoa. Thus she made only one voyage as an American ship. The Glynn may be the only wooden sailing ship ever to battle and sink a submarine, a fact of which the people of Brunswick should be justly proud. I am proud of both the Glynn and Mr. Donnelly and his gun crews. I know the story because Chief Gunner Donnelly happens to have been my Grandfather.

 

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