The UB-47 was one of six small U-boats that were built in Germany, broken down into sections, sent south by railway and re-assembled at the Austro-Hungarian naval base at Pola. This 300-ton (submerged), 120-foot craft was armed with two torpedo-tubes and a single 88mm deck gun. (It should be borne in mind that in WW1 a high percentage of shipping was sunk by gunfire, since radio was not widely available to make distress calls, and convoy systems were only introduced late in the conflict so that victims were all too often on their own.) Making her first war patrol in the Mediterranean in July 1916, the UB-47 was to sink twenty ships over the next year, including some very large ones. Thereafter she was transferred to the Austro-Hungarian Navy and made three further scores before the war’s end. On the basis of value of enemy shipping sunk per ton of her displacement, she must count as one of the most successful warships in history. She survived to be scrapped in 1920.
Under her commander, Wolfgang Steinbauer, UB-47 was to start her tally with the sinking on August 17th of an Italian liner acting as a troopship, the 9000-ton Stampalia, off Cape Matapan on the Greek mainland’s southern tip (an area of sea that was to host much action in both World Wars). The Stampalia was mercifully not carrying troops at the time and there were no casualties. Many successes followed – including three sinkings of freighters on a single day in August 1916.