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World War 1 at Sea - Naval Battles in outline



DOVER, German destroyer attack on the Straits of Dover - 21 Apr 1917



HMS Broke, destroyer leader (Photo Ships, click to enlarge)






Battle in outline
Royal Navy Casualties - Killed, Died and Wounded
Royal Navy Honours and Gallantry Awards



Relevant chapter from "History of the Great War - Naval Operations"


Volume 4 by Newbolt


Chapter IX, (go to Part 7.) Further Attacks on the Dover Straits


including plan, right



Royal Navy Battle Honour -  DOVER, 21 Apr 1917




  The British and German Dispositions in the Dover Straits, April 20-21, 1917






night of 20/21 April 1917

Destroyer Raid on Dover Straits

Yet another raid by German Zeebrugge-based destroyers but this time only on the Dover barrage - 5th Half Flotilla (HF) to attack the English side, bombarding Dover if possible, "Z" or Zeebrugge HF the French side with Calais as their possible additional target. On the British side four destroyers led by Nugent patrolled between No.7A Buoy and Calais, while flotilla leaders Broke and Swift kept between the South Goodwins LV and No.5A Buoy. Other Dover Patrol ships were stationed near the Downs and in Dover as usual. First contact was at 2310 when the ZHF shelled Calais, after which no more was heard of them. Next was just before 2330 SE of Dover when patrol trawler Sabreur sighted 5th HF:

Sabreur, Admiralty trawler, 188/1916, Grimsby-reg, hired 9/16, Skipper Robert Scott. Engaged by the enemy destroyers, shell burst in front of wheelhouse, other hits included one in the engine room, lights extinguished and action avoided as Sabreur was only armed with 1-6pdr; trimmer wounded from engine-room hit (Rn/D/ap)

5th HF then opened a wild fire on Dover and the Kent countryside at 2330 before heading back for the barrage. Just short of it and with time in hand they turned for the southern entrance of the Downs to attack any shipping, but in doing so headed straight for Swift (senior officer) and Broke, which at 0045 were 3 miles E of the S Goodwins LV. Both leaders spotted ships on the port bow, came under fire and made out the funnel flare of five or six destroyers on the opposite course:

Swift, flotilla leader, 2,390t, 4-4in/2-18in tt (Cn/dd - 1-6in on forecastle in place of 2-4in in 1916; D - in 1918), Cdr Ambrose Peck. Turned to ram but missed, passed through the German line and hit several times, hit back in return and fired a torpedo which hit G.85. Swift left with wireless out of action and 4ft of water in the stoker's messdeck, but turned and followed the Germans east, had to give up and made her way home; 1 crew killed, 4 wounded (Rn/Cn/D/dd)

Broke, flotilla leader, Faulknor-class, 2,000t, 6-4in/1-1˝pdr/2mg/4-21in tt, Cdr Edward Evans. Also turned to ram and fired a torpedo which seemed to hit the intended victim (alternatively this was Swift's hit on G.85), steadied, then put helm hard over to hit a destroyer further down the line - G.42 rammed amidships at 27kts. Locked together, Broke's sailors had to repel German boarders in hand-to-hand fighting and while Broke poured fire into G.42 from point blank range, the last two German destroyers poured fire into her as they steered past. Getting clear, she limped eastwards after Swift, but with boiler-rooms badly damaged, steam dropping, half of bridge on fire and decks swept with shellfire. Decided to turn back for the torpedoed G.85, stopped and in flames, and the rammed G.42, which both opened fire. Broke replied and silenced them, but then her engines gave up and she drifted towards the burning G.85. Destroyers Mentor, Lydiard, Lucifer had by now left Dover, reached Broke about 0115 and pulled her clear, taken in tow for Dover; 40 crew killed and wounded (dd - 21 killed, 36 wounded) (Rn/Cn/D/dd)

The action took place around 51.09N, 01.37E where the two German ships went down, Swift and Broke were in dockyard hands for several weeks and there were no more destroyer raids on the Dover Straits for ten months. Cdr Evans was feted in the British press as "Evans of the Broke".




 With thanks to Don Kindell



Saturday, 21 April 1917



night of 20th/21st


Broke, flotilla leader, damaged

 BAGNALL, Joe W, Able Seaman, J 17789 (Po)

 BAILEY, Frederick R, Stoker 1c (RFR B 5324), SS 105171 (Po)

 BANNISTER, Thomas B, Leading Stoker, K 13243 (Po)

 BELLAMY, Epton, Stoker 2c, K 27872 (Po)

 BRIAN, Daniel, Leading Stoker, K 6849 (Po)

 CARDER, Frederick, Stoker 1c, K 34863 (Po)

 DART, Charles E, Leading Stoker, K 14332 (Dev)

 FIELD, Samuel, Stoker 1c (RFR B 3546), SS 101225 (Po)

 FOXHALL, William, Stoker 2c, K 34879 (Po)

 HOSIER, Harry, Ordinary Seaman, J 55065 (Po)

 IVENS, Geofory G, Leading Seaman, 236507 (Po)

 LOCKETT, Walter H, Signalman, RNVR, Mersey Z 1323

 NORFORD, Robert H, Stoker 2c, K 38021 (Ch)

 ORCHARD, Henry G, Stoker Petty Officer, 299634 (Po)

 RAFFERTY, James J, Stoker 1c, K 10591 (Po)

 SAMWAYS, Christopher F, Able Seaman, J 24972 (Po)

 THOMPSON, George W, Stoker 1c, SS 112635 (Po)

 THORPE, William, Stoker 1c, K 34885 (Po)

 TOWERS, Robert V, Ordinary Seaman, J 35442 (Po)

 TUBB, George, Able Seaman, J 17147 (Po)

 WEBB, Alfred, Stoker 1c (RFR B 9363), SS 106631 (Ch)


Swift, destroyer, damaged

 DONNELLY, Robert, Stoker, RNR, S 9022




With thanks to the London Gazette


30061 - 8 MAY 1917



NAVAL DESPATCH dated 10 May 1917



Dover Straits (with later defences, click to enlarge)


Admiralty, S.W. 10th May, 1917.


Honours for Service in the Action Between H.M. Ships "Swift" and "Broke" and German Destroyers on the night of the 20th to 21st April, 1917.


The KING (is) pleased to give orders for the appointment of the undermentioned Officers to be Companions of the Distinguished Service Order, in recognition of their services in command of H.M.S. "Swift" and H.M.S. "Broke" respectively, on the night of the 20th to 21st April, 1917, when they successfully engaged a flotilla of five or six German destroyers, of which two were sunk:

Cdr. (now Capt.) Ambrose Maynard Peck, R.N.

Cdr. (now Capt.) Edward Ratcliffe Garth Russell Evans, C.B., R.N.



The KING has further been graciously pleased to give orders for the award of the Distinguished Service Cross to the undermentioned Officers for their services during this action:

Lieut. Geoffrey Victor Hickman, R.N. Navigator and second in command of H.M.S. "Broke." He assisted with great coolness in handling the ship in action. His proper appreciation of the situation when one enemy destroyer was torpedoed, which his commanding officer had made ready to ram, enabled course to be altered in time to ram the next astern.


Lieut. Robert Douglas King-Harman, R.N. Navigating Officer of H.M.S. "Swift." He was of the utmost assistance to his commanding officer throughout.


Lieut. Maximilian Garden Despard, R.N. First and Gunnery Lieut of H.M.S. "Broke." He controlled gun fire and gave the orders which resulted in an enemy destroyer being torpedoed.


Lieut. Henry Antony Simpson, R.N. Executive Officer and Gunnery Lieut, of H.M.S. "Swift." He displayed great coolness and method in the control of fire which he had very ably organised and zealously drilled, and greatly assisted his commanding officer throughout the action.


Surg. Prob. Christopher Thomas Helsham, R.N.V.R. ("Broke").

Surg. Prob. John Sinclair Westwater, R.N.V.R. ("Swift").

Worked with great energy and ability in attending to the wounded.


Gnr. (T.) Henry Turner, R.N. ("Swift.") Obtained a hit with a torpedo on one of the enemy destroyers.


Gnr. (T.) Frederick Grinney, R.N. ("Broke.") Gave orders for the firing of the torpedo which struck one of the enemy destroyers.


Mid. Donald Allen Gyles, R.N.R. ("Broke.") He took charge on the forecastle, and, although wounded in the eye, organised a gun's crew from the survivors of the crews which had suffered heavy casualties and kept the guns on the forecastle going. He repelled the German sailors who swarmed on board from the destroyer which was rammed, and remained at his post until after the action was finished.



The following awards have also been approved:


To receive the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal. A.B. William George Rawles, O.N., 20176V (Po.). Although he had four bad wounds in his legs, in addition to other injuries, he continued to steer H.M.S. "Broke" in action until the enemy destroyer had been rammed.

To receive the Distinguished Service Medal.

O.S. Herbert Thomas Huntley Fowle, O.N., S.S. 7516 (Po.).

Sto. Charles Williams, R.N.R. (New Zealand), O.N. 2/358.

Sto., 1st Cl., John Clasper, O.N., S.S. 103869 (R.F.R., Po./B. 4652).

Ch. Sto. William Shearn O.N., 279752 (Po.).

P.O. Tel. Harry Sedgley, O.N., 239909 (Dev.).

P.O. William Edward Strevens, O.N., 232542 (Po.).

P.O. George Henry Proud, O.N., 218906 (Po.).

P.O. Albert Last, O.N., 208689 (Po.).

A.B. Sidney Clarke, O.N., J. 5244 (Po.).

A.B. Charles Reginald Norton, O.N., J. 18427 (Po.).

A.B. Ernest Ramsden Ingleson, O.N., J. 5723 (Po.).

A.B. Walter Frederick Mair, O.N., J. 55500 (Po.).

C.P.O. John Crother Ashton, O.N., 157639 (Po.).

P.O. Sidney Albert Simmonds, O.N., 180242 (Po.).

P.O. Charles Henry Daish, O.N., 182240 (Po.).

Ch. E.R.A. William Culverwell, O.N., 268992 (Ch.).

P.O. Frederick Percy Mursell, O.N., 162299 (Po.).

Ch. Sto. Henry Simmons, O.N., 276070 (Ch.).

Sto. P.O. William Edward Heaseman, O.N., 361422 (Po.).

Yeo. Sig. Albert Ebenezer James, O.N., 210513 (Po.).

Sto. P.O. James Bryant, O.N., 310822 (Po.).

Sto. Edward Gilfillan, R.N.R., O.N., 9099, S.

Sto. Sidney Frederick Brooks, O.N., S.S. 111490 (Po.).


The following Officers and Men have been mentioned in despatches:

Engr. Lieut.-Cdr. (now Engr. Cdr.) James Hughes, R.N.

Engr. Lieut.-Cdr. (now Engr. Cdr.) Thomas George Coomber, R.N.

Lieut.-Cdr. Arthur Jermyn Landon, R.N.

Sub-Lieut. Whitworth Brady Nicholson, R.N.

Act. Sub.-Lieut. Lionel Hill Peppé, R.N.

Wt. Mech. James Coughlan, R.N.

Act. Art.-Engr. Charlie Rodgers Barter, R.N.

Mid. Maurice Theobald Maud, R.N.R.

P.O. Charles Christmas Brown, O.N., 155936 (Po.).

Ldg. Sig. William Page, O.N., 227145 (Po.).

Ldg. Sto. Frank William King, O.N. 306009 (Po.).

Ldg. Sto. Eli Daniels, O.N., 294996 (Po.).

E.R.A., 2nd Cl., Walter Blanchard Wellman, O.N., M. 1218 (Po.).

A.B. William George Cleeter, O.N., J. 21405 (Po.).

O.S. Sidney John Thomas Taylor, O.N., S.S. 7576 (Po.). Sto.,

2nd Cl., Frederick Arthur Hickman, O.N., K. 33575 (Po.).

Sto., 1st Cl., George Henry Doe, O.N., K. 7694 (Po.).

A.B. John Henton, O.N., J. 17762 (Po.).

Sto., 1st Cl., Albert Edward Glover, O.N., 232320 (Po.).

A.B. Henry Alfred Hitchin, O.N., 228372 (Po.).

Ldg. Sig. Charles Claude Higgins, O.N., J. 10417 (Po.).

S.B.A. James Gradwell, O.N.,M. 16759 (Po.).

Sto., 1st Cl., Ernest Muff, O.N., K. 32517 (Po.).

Sig. Sidney Charles Helps, R.N.V.R., O.N., Z/9587 (Tyneside).

Ch. E.R.A. Ralph Victor Nelson, O.N., 272497 (Po.).

E.R.A. Henry Albert Riley, O.N., M. 4676 (Po.).

Sto. P.O. Matthew Lawson, O.N., 303088 (R.F.R., Ch/B.5783).

Ldg. Stoker Frederick Thomas Yapp, O.N., K. 1672 (Po.).

Sto., 1st Cl., John Kempton Falconer, O.N., K. 32518 (Po.).

Sto., 1st Cl., Charles Herbert Harvey, O.N.. S.S. 115725 (Po.).

Sto. P.O. Thomas Davies, O.N., 289400 (Po.).

Ldg. Sto. Charles Edward Walls, O.N., K. 969 (Po.).

Sto. Albert Boyland, R.N.R., O.N., S. 4945

Sto., 1st Cl., Charles Edward Miller, O.N., 280751 (R.F.R. Po./B. 2355).



The following promotions have been made for service in this action:


Commanders to be Captains.

Cdr. Ambrose Maynard Peck.

Cdr. Edward Ratcliffe Garth Russell Evans, C.B.

Engr. Lieut.-Commanders to be Commanders.

Engr. Lieut.-Cdr. James Hughes.

Engr. Lieut.-Cdr. Thomas George Coomber. 

All to date April 21st, 1917.


The following officers have been noted for early promotion:

Sub-Lieut. Whitworth Brady Nicholson, R.N.

Act. Sub-Lieut. Lionel Hill Peppé, R.N.

Wt. Mech. James Coughlan, R.N.

Mid. Maurice Theobald Maud, R.N.R.



30091 - 25 MAY 1917


Admiralty, 23rd May, 1917.


The undermentioned Petty Officer has been awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Service Medal for service in the action between H.M. Ships "Swift" and "Broke" and German Destroyers, on the night of the 20th to 21st Apr. 1917:

Yeo. Sigs. William Smith, O.N. 213714 (Po.). (The award of the Distinguished Service Medal was announced in the London Gazette dated 12th January, 1916.)


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