WHH Short Fiction: “In the Danger Zone”

Review: “In the Danger Zone”, William Hope Hodgson, 1919.

NSB 3
Cover by Jason Van Hollander

Another World War One story from Hodgson and also published in Canada in Khaki though posthumously in June 1919.

This story is narrated by the Captain of the S.S. Futerpe and takes place on January 31st, 1918.

Near Liverpool, the ship spots three periscopes from a German submarine about six or seven miles away. The captain wonders why the sub is submerged and why it hasn’t immediately attacked them. Then the captain realizes the sub wants to sink not only his ship but a nearby ocean liner. He figures the submarine will eventually surface to sink the two ships with its cannon since that’s cheaper than torpedoes.

In the crew is a member of the Naval Reserve, and in the cargo hold is a ship’s gun. It’s brought on to the deck, and the captain also has a message, broadcast in the clear, asking for protection from the German sub. He feigns he thinks it’s a British sub and that he’s anxious about a cargo of gold bullion he’s carrying.

He also has the sides of the vessel covertly reinforced.

His plan works to draw the submarine close so it can board the ship and get the gold. A short range artillery duel ensues between ship and sub. It’s all quite exciting with the captain talking about killing the Germans as necessary but horrible.

Hodgson’s description of the German submarine is odd. There was at least one German submarine with three periscopes, but I can’t find reference to any with two conning towers.

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