from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A decoy ship, especially an armed ship disguised as a merchant ship to entice submarines to surface so that they may be attacked with gunfire.


Q, naval classification.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)


  • His father, Mogaba, was an infamous pirate widely feared for his brutality and cunning and supposedly was slain by the crew of a Chelaxian Q-ship.

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  • Fit and finish is good throughout the car but not as good as on, say, a Maxima or Infiniti Q-ship.

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  • The Q-ship gun crews, stretched out on deck beside their guns, had to endure this bombardment without moving.

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  • To deceive the captain of a surfaced U-boat staring intently through his binoculars across the water, or surveying his prey through his periscope, the Q-ship crew had to become actors.

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  • Nevertheless, the Q-ship concept itself survived and flourished.

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  • On the morning of August 8, 1917, his 3,000-ton Q-ship Dunraven, disguised as an armed merchant vessel, was quietly plowing the Bay of Biscay, offering herself to submarine attack.

    Castles of Steel

  • Once the secret was out, German newspapers described Q-ship warfare as “barbarous” and “contrary to the rules of civilized warfare.”

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  • Sometimes when a torpedo struck, Q-ship men would be killed, but the ship itself was unlikely to sink quickly.

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  • Once U-boat captains became aware that they might be dealing with a Q-ship, the procedure changed.

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  • Nevertheless, the appalled American mule drivers, who had watched from their lifeboats, eventually reached home and told the American press that the Germans had been murdered and that the false American colors, supposed to have been set aside before the Q-ship went into action, had never been replaced.

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