North Sea and Dover Straits, click to enlarge
DESPATCHES FROM THE
VICE-ADMIRAL, DOVER PATROL, ON ZEEBRUGGE AND
OSTEND OPERATIONS, 22ND-23RD APRIL, 1918, AND
OSTEND OPERATIONS, 10TH MAY, 1918.
VICE-ADMIRAL, DOVER PATROL, ON OPERATIONS,
22ND-23RD APRIL, 1918.
Dover, *9th May, 1918. (No. 1806/001.)
amendments to this despatch of 9th May, 1918,
have been made by the Vice-Admiral, Dover
Patrol, in the light of information received
between that date and 22nd January, 1919.)
Be pleased to submit
for the information of the Lords Commissioners of
the Admiralty the following Report on the
Operations on the Belgian Coast on the night of
the 22nd-23rd April, 1918.
I. - GENERAL
2. To make the
report clear, the different sections of the
operations have been separated as much as
possible. Fuller details than appear in this
despatch will be found in the complete set of
orders and reports forwarded herewith. (NOTE. -
These orders and reports are not published with
3. The main objects
of the enterprise were (1) to block the Bruges
ship-canal at its entrance into the harbour at
Zeebrugge; (2) to block the entrance to Ostend
harbour from the sea; and (3) to inflict as much
damage as possible upon the ports of. Zeebrugge
4. Zeebrugge harbour
is connected by a ship-canal with the inland docks
at Bruges, which communicate again by means of a
system of smaller canals with Ostend harbour. The
whole forms a triangle with two sea entrances. The
eastern side, which is 8 miles long, is the
ship-canal from Zeebrugge to Bruges; the southern
side, which is 11 miles long, consists of smaller
canals from Bruges to Ostend; the base, facing
north-west, is the 12 miles of heavily fortified
coast line between Ostend and Zeebrugge. This
fortified line is prolonged 8 1/2 miles to the
westward, extending to the right flank of the
German Army, facing Nieuport, and 7 miles to the
eastward as far as the Dutch frontier. The
defences include a number of batteries mounting
over 225 guns, 136 of which are from 6-in. to
15-in. calibre, the latter ranging up to 42,000
5. This formidable
system has been installed since the German
occupation in 1914, and Bruges has recently
provided a base for at least 35 enemy torpedo
craft and about 30 submarines. By reason of its
position and comparative security it has
constituted a continual and ever-increasing menace
to the sea communications of our Army and the
seaborne trade and food supplies of the United
6. When the
operations of the 22nd-23rd April were undertaken
it was believed that, although the blocking of the
Zeebrugge entrance to the Bruges ship-canal was
the most important of all objects, it would be
necessary also to block the entrance to the Ostend
harbour in order to seal up the Bruges ship-canal
and docks; for unless this were done the lighter
craft would still be able to pass to and fro more
or less freely through the smaller canals.
7. The attack upon
the Zeebrugge Mole, as well as the bombardment of
Zeebrugge by monitors and from the air, were
designed to distract the attention of the enemy
from the main operations. Without this diversion
the attempt of the blocking ships to pass round
the end of the Mole, to enter the harbour, and to
reach the ship-canal entrance at the inner end
must almost certainly have been discovered, with
the result that the vessels would have been sunk
by the shore batteries long before they reached
8. An important,
though subordinate, object of the attack upon the
Zeebrugge Mole was to inflict as much damage as
was possible in the time upon the harbour works
and defences. In order to prevent enemy
reinforcements being brought from shore, while
this work was in progress arrangements were made
for blowing up the viaduct which connected the
Mole with the land.
9. Similarly the
bombardment of the Ostend defences by our shore
batteries in Flanders, by the monitors and also
from the air was designed to cover the attempt to
block the entrance to that harbour.
10. It was
anticipated that, in addition to the fire from the
land batteries and harbour works, the attacking
forces would have to face a counterattack from the
powerful destroyer flotilla which was known to be
inside. One destroyer emerged from Zeebrugge
harbour, and is reported to have been struck by a
torpedo fired from C.M.B. No. 5. Other torpedo
craft, which apparently had not steam up, remained
alongside the Mole, and their crews assisted in
its defence. The greater part of the flotilla had
for some reason been previously withdrawn to the
11. As will be seen
from the subsequent narrative, our operations were
completely successful in attaining their first and
most important object. The entrance to the Bruges
ship-canal was blocked. The second object - the
blocking of the entrance to Ostend harbour - was
not achieved, for reasons which will be explained
subsequently. The attack on the Zeebrugge Mole was
completely successful as a diversion to enable the
blocking ships to enter the harbour, to proceed to
their allotted stations, and, with the exception
of the "Thetis," to be sunk in accordance with the
plan. The blowing up of the viaduct was carried
out without any hitch, and produced the desired
results. Owing, however, to various reasons which
will be more particularly dealt with later, the
less important objective, the destruction of the
defences on the Mole, was not so thorough as had
12. The main results
achieved have, however, proved greater than I
expected when the fleet returned to port on the
morning of the 23rd. April. Aerial observation and
photographs show clearly that even the lighter
craft in the Bruges ship-canal and docks have so
far been unable to find an exit through the
smaller waterways to Ostend harbour. At least 23
torpedo craft have remained sealed up at Bruges
ever since the operations on St. George's Day, and
so far as can be seen not less than 12 submarines
would likewise appear to be still imprisoned. As
yet no effective steps seem to have been taken to
clear the Zeebrugge entrance to the Bruges
ship-canal, where the silt is shown to be
collecting; and although doubtless in time the
enemy will succeed in opening a way out, it seems
likely that this important section of his raiding
and commerce-destroying forces must inevitably be
seriously hampered for a considerable period. In
addition to suffering this substantial injury, the
enemy has been obliged to bring down
reinforcements from the Bight of Heligoland to
Zeebrugge and Ostend.
13. The preparations
and training for the attack extended over a long
period, during the latter portion of which (i.e.,
from the 22nd March) the Dover Patrol was
subjected to an exceptional strain owing, to the
unprecedented transport of reinforcements to
Success would have been impossible without the
eager and generous co-operation of the Grand
Fleet, the neighbouring commands and dockyards,
and the Harwich Force.
concentration of the attacking fleet had to take
place about 63 miles distant from Zeebrugge and
Ostend. As the length of time needed for reaching
these objectives after the forces had been
assembled was seven hours, it was inevitable that
there should be a period of not less than four
hours of daylight during which enemy observation
by air and submarine might discover our movements.
In order to guard against this, which would have
meant the certain failure of the expedition, it
was necessary for the patrols and air forces to
show the utmost degree of vigilance and energy.
There is every reason for believing that, as a
result of their efforts, the enemy remained up to
the last entirely unaware of our intentions.
16. In order not
only that the attack might have a reasonable
prospect of success, but that it might not end in
disaster, various conditions were essential -
(a) a certain state of the tide; (b)
calm weather; (c) a more or less
favourable direction of the wind; and (d) absence
of fog, with, if possible, a moderate amount of
haze. The first of these conditions (the state of
the tide) fixed the dates between which it was
practicable to make the attempt. The others it was
not possible to reckon with in advance, owing to
the uncertainty of the weather, more especially at
that time of year, and also to the fact that all
these conditions might be different on the
Flanders coast from what they were off the
Goodwins, or that they might change for the worse
between the starting of the expedition from the
point of concentration and its arrival at its
destination seven hours later.
It was anticipated that minefields, which would
endanger the heavier draught vessels, might be
encountered in the enemy's waters, but this risk
had to be faced, and special arrangements were
made to save the crews and storming-parties in the
event of vessels being sunk.
18. On two occasions
previous to the 22nd April the concentration took
place, but, owing to unfavourable weather
conditions setting in, had to be dispersed. This
fact, although it caused disappointment among the
officers and men, and also contained a danger that
the enemy might become aware of our designs, had a
considerable practical value as a rehearsal of the
preliminary stages of the undertaking. On this
point I may say here that, although on this
occasion the wind changed and served us badly at a
moment when we were finally committed to the
attack, better conditions had, not - since the
preparations were completed - occurred before, nor
have they recurred up to this date.
19. The main force
started from the point of concentration at 4.53
o'clock on the afternoon of Monday, the 22nd
20. The bombardment
of Zeebrugge by monitors began at 11.20 p.m.,
simultaneously with that of the Ostend defences by
monitors, and by our shore batteries in Flanders.
These bombardments had been carried out on several
nights prior to the 22nd April to give the enemy
no reason to anticipate further action on our part
on this particular occasion.
21. The vessels
charged with making a smoke screen began
operations simultaneously off Zeebrugge and Ostend
at 11.40 p.m.
22. According to
time-table, the hour at which the "Vindictive" (below,
as a cruiser - Photo Ships) (Captain
Alfred F. B. Carpenter) should have been laid
alongside the Zeebrugge Mole was midnight. She
reached her station one minute after midnight,
closely followed by the "Daffodil" (Lieutenant
Harold Campbell) and "Iris II" (Commander
Valentine Gibbs). A few minutes later the landing
of the storming and demolition parties began. By
1.10 a.m. the "Vindictive" had taken off the
survivors, who had meanwhile done their work upon
the Mole, and by 1.15 a.m. she and her consorts
were clear of the Mole.
At 12.15 a.m. Submarine C3 (Lieutenant Richard D.
Sandford) had succeeded in ramming herself between
the iron piers of the viaduct, and was thereupon
abandoned by her crew after theyhad lit
the fuses. Five minutes later the cargo of
explosives blew up, completely destroying
communication between the Mole and the shore.
24. The "Thetis"
(Commander Ralph S. Sneyd, D.S.O.), the first of
the blocking ships, passed the end of the Mole,
according to arrangement, twenty-five minutes
after midnight. Making her way to the entrance of
the ship-canal, she carried away the obstructing
nets, and being then in a sinking condition from
gunfire, with both her propellers fouled, was sunk
by her crew close to the entrance of the canal.
The "Intrepid" (Lieutenant Stuart S.
Bonham-Carter), the second of the blocking ships,
following a few minutes later, was sunk in the
ship-canal itself; and the "Iphigenia,"
(Lieutenant Edward W. Billyard-Leake), the last of
the three blocking ships, following close astern
of the "Intrepid," was sunk with the most complete
success across the narrowest part of the
ship-canal at 12.45 a.m.
25. It was expected
that the blocking ships "Brilliant" (Commander
Alfred E. Godsal) and "Sirius"
(Lieutenant-Commander Henry N. M. Hardy, D.S.O.)
would have found the entrance to Ostend harbour by
midnight. For the reason, however, which is
explained in the next paragraph, they missed their
objective, ran ashore, and had both to be sunk
about 12.30 a.m.
26. The success of
the Ostend enterprise was affected to some extent
by two adverse factors: (1) at 12.15 a.m. the wind
(N.N.E.), which so far had been favourable for
purposes of the smoke screen, shifted into an
unfavourable quarter (S.S.W.), thereby exposing
the attacking forces to the fire of the enemy; (2)
the buoy which marks the Channel to Ostend harbour
had been moved very shortly before, unknown to us,
to a position some 2,400 yards further east, so
that when. "Brilliant" and "Sirius" found, it and
put their helms to starboard they ran ashore.
27. The manner in
which the survivors of the crews of the five
blocking ships and of Submarine C3 were rescued
and brought away by volunteer crews in motor
launches and a picket boat was beyond praise. The
various incidents are described in subsequent
28. In the course of
the attack on St. George's Day our casualties to
officers and men were as follows: Killed, 176;
wounded, 412; missing, 49; of the latter 35 are
believed to have been killed. Although these
casualties are light compared to those that the
Army constantly suffers in similar enterprises, we
have to mourn the loss of comrades selected from
practically every unit of His Majesty's sea
forces. Our losses in ships were as follows:
H.M.S. "North Star" and motor launches Nos. 424
and 110, sunk. No other vessel was rendered unfit
for further service.
29. I have already
submitted to the Lords (Commissioners of the
Admiralty the list of naval officers whom 1
considered deserving of promotion, either
immediately or as soon as they have the prescribed
service. I propose to forward as soon as possible
a supplementary despatch bringing to their
Lordships' notice the names of other officers and
men who distinguished themselves, for they are
naturally numerous. They came from many ships, and
were scattered immediately the operations were
over, so that it is difficult to obtain the
details relating to them.
30. I cannot close
this brief summary without reference to those
gallant souls who did not live to see the success
of their endeavours. It seems almost invidious to
mention names when every officer and man who took
part was animated by one spirit, ardently
welcoming the opportunity of achieving a feat of
arms against odds in order that honour and merit
might be added to that which our Service has
gained in the past. Amongst those who lost their
lives were many who shared with me the secrets of
the plan, and of those I cannot refrain from
recalling Lieutenant-Colonel Elliot, Captain
Halahan, Commander Valentine Gibbs, Majors Cordner
and Eagles, Lieutenant-Commanders Harrison and
Bradford, Lieutenants Hawkings and Chamberlain,
and Wing-Commander Brock, who all worked for many
weeks in the training of the personnel and the
preparation of material. Their keen enthusiasm,
and absolute confidence that the enterprise would
be carried to a successful issue were invaluable
to me. During the anxious days of waiting in
crowded ships in a secluded anchorage, and in
spite of two disappointments, the patience and
faith that our chance would came, which were
displayed by all, owed much to the fine example of
II.- COMPOSITION OF
31. In order that
all parts of the Naval Service might share in the
expedition, representative bodies of men were
drawn from the Grand Fleet, the three Home Depots,
the Royal Marine Artillery and Light Infantry. The
ships and torpedo craft were furnished by the
Dover Patrol, which was reinforced by vessels from
the Harwich Force and the French Navy. The Royal
Australian Navy and the Admiralty Experimental
Stations at Stratford and Dover were also
represented. The details thus contributed, which
finally composed the whole striking force, were as
shown in the following table:
those belonging to ships in preceding
III.- TRAINING OF
PERSONNEL, PREPARATION OF MATERIAL.
32. A force thus
composed and its weapons obviously needed
collective training and special preparation to
adapt them to their purpose.
33. With these
objects, the Blocking Ships and the Storming
Forces were assembled towards the end of February
and from the 4th April onwards in the West Swin
Anchorage, where training specially adapted to the
plan of operations was given, and where the
organisation of the expedition was carried on. The
material as it was prepared was used to make the
training practical, and was itself tested thereby.
Moreover, valuable practice was afforded by
endeavours to carry out the project on two
occasions on which the conditions of wind and
weather compelled its postponement, and much was
learnt from these temporary failures. The
"Hindustan" (below - Maritime Quest), at
first at Chatham and later at the Swin, was the
parent ship and training depot, and it is due to
Captain A. P. Davidson, D.S.O., who also did good
work in fitting out the various ships, that the
accommodation of the assembling crews and their
maintenance during the weeks of preparation and
postponement was so ably organised as to reduce
the discomforts inseparable from the situation to
a minimum. After the second attempt, when it
became apparent that there would, be a long delay,
the "Dominion" joined the "Hindustan," and the
pressure on the available accommodation was
relieved by the transfer of about 350 seamen and
marines to her.
34. Two special
craft, the Liverpool ferry steamers "Iris"
(renamed "Iris II.") and "Daffodil," were selected
after a long search at many ports by Captain
Herbert C. J. Grant (Retired) and a representative
of the Director of Dockyards, on account of their
power, large carrying capacity (1,500), and
shallow draft, with a view in the first place to
their pushing the "Vindictive" alongside the Mole
(for which they were in the result most useful);
to the possibility, should the "Vindictive" be
sunk, of their bringing away all her crew and the
landing parties; and to their ability to manoeuvre
in shallow waters or clear of minefields or
torpedoes. They proved to be admirably chosen, and
rendered good service.
35. The blocking
ships and "Vindictive" were specially prepared for
their work in Chatham Dockyard, the "Iris II" and
"Daffodil" at Portsmouth. I received the most
zealous and able help from all officers and
Departments concerned, who did their utmost to
expedite the work in every way.
36. I was able to
devote more personal attention and time to working
out the plan of operations and the preparation of
personnel and material than would otherwise have
been possible, because Rear-Admiral Cecil F.
Dampier, Admiral Superintendent and second in
command of the Dover Flotilla, Commodore the Hon.
Algernon Boyle, C.B., M.V.O., Chief of Staff, and
Captain Wilfred Tomkinson, commanding the Sixth
(Dover) Flotilla of Destroyers, practically
relieved me of all the routine work of the Dover
base and patrol. I am greatly indebted to Admiral
Dampier for his loyal co-operation in connection
with the operations. In order to bring together
the number of destroyers requisite for the
operation, while maintaining the work of the
patrol, it was necessary to have the entire
available force in running order. This called for
high organisation on Captain Tomkinson's part, and
was made especially difficult because the period
of preparation coincided with that in which very
heavy demands were suddenly made on the escort
flotilla by the pressing needs of the army in
France. The fact that the many additional services
which the Dover Patrol was called on to carry out
in addition to its routine, were performed without
deranging its working, reflects the greatest
credit on Commodore Boyle, whose exceptional
powers of organisation have been invaluable to me.
37. Reference to
Wing-Commander F. A. Brock's services during the
operation will be made in connection with the
attack on the Mole, but I cannot leave this part
of the subject without recording my indebtedness
to him for the indispensable share he had in the
operation. When, as Vice-Admiral of the Dover
Patrol, I first began to prepare for this
operation, it became apparent that without an
effective system of smokescreening such an attack
could hardly hope to succeed. The system of making
smoke previously employed in the Dover Patrol was
unsuitable for a night operation, as its
production generated a fierce flame, and no other
means of making an effective smoke screen was
available. Wing-Commander Brock and sixty ratings
were lent to my command, a factory was established
in the dockyard, and he worked with great energy
to obtain materials, designing and organising the
means and the plans, and eventually developing the
resources with which we finally set out. These
were of great value even in the adverse
circumstances which befell us, and I greatly
deplore the loss of a man so well qualified to
carry experiments in this matter further. When on
the Mole he was very keen to acquire knowledge of
the range-finding apparatus which might be of use
to the country, and his efforts to do this were
made without any regard to his personal safety,
and I fear cost this very brave and ingenious
officer his life.
38. The fitting out
of the motor launches and coastal motor boats with
smoke apparatus, designed by Wing-Commander Brock,
was carried out at Dover, under short notice and
with untiring energy by my Flag Captain, Ralph
Collins, ably assisted by Commander Hamilton Benn,
Engineer Lieutenant-Commander M. G. A. Edwards,
Lieutenant F. C. Archer, and Mr. G. D. Smart, of
H.M. Dockyard, Dover.
Walter C. Northcott, R.N.R., the Naval Supply
Officer at Dover, was at all times most zealous
and untiring in dealing with the vast quantities
of stores and munitions which had to be checked
and distributed, often at very short notice.
40. The first
officer who became available for a command in the
blockships was Lieutenant Ivan B. Franks
("Dolphin"). Although suffering from the severe
effects of an accident on service, his confident
enthusiasm fired all who came into touch with him.
He was put in charge of the early preparations of
all the blockships and commanded the "Iphigenia"
in the two abandoned attempts, but to his great
disappointment he was taken ill with appendicitis
two days before the actual attack, and had to be
sent to hospital to undergo an operation. I do not
wish the good work he did, and the good example he
set, to go unrecorded.
41. The flag
officers of other commands who were in a position
to assist me did so most generously. The
Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet sent me a
selected body of officers and men truly
representative of his command, for I understand
that the whole of his command would have been
equally glad to come. From the neighbouring
commands at Portsmouth and the Nore, the
Adjutant-General, Royal Marines, and the Depot at
Chatham, I received support and assistance, not
only in ships and men, but in every possible way.
The Rear-Admiral Commanding the Harwich Force
spared me a flotilla leader and six destroyers,
besides protecting the northern flank of the area
in which I was operating.
McEwan and his staff at (Chatham supervised the
training of the officers and men from the Grand
Fleet as if for the Royal Naval Division, France.
Their assistance was invaluable, and I much
appreciate their whole-hearted co-operation.
42. I am much
indebted to Brigadier-General Charles L. Lambe,
C.M.G., D.S.O., commanding the 7th Brigade of the
Royal Air Force, and Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick
C. Halahan, M.V.O., D.S.O., in command of the Air
Forces under my command, for the cooperation of
the 61st and 65th Wings, under Lieutenant-Colonels
P. F. M. Fellowes, D.S.O., and James T. Cull,
D.S.O., respectively, throughout the preparation
and execution of the operations. The 65th Wing was
lent for the purpose by the Field-Marshal
Commander-in-Chief British Armies in France. For
several weeks the 61st Wing was engaged in
frequent reconnaissances, and took a large number
of photographs in different conditions of tide,
from which photographs plans and models were
constructed. On the first occasion of attempting
the operation, the 65th Wing was already committed
to their attack when I was compelled by shift of
wind to withdraw the sea attack. The air attack
was delivered with the greatest gallantry at a low
altitude, and against a tremendous anti-aircraft
defence. To the intense disappointment of the 65th
Wing, mist and rain made it impossible to
co-operate by repeating the aerial bombardment on
the night of the 22nd-23rd April, but the 61st
Wing and aircraft from the Guston aerodrome at
Dover escorted the main force across the North
IV.- PREPARATION AND
DEFENCE OF ROUTE.
43. The preparation
of the routes from the starting points of attack,
by the removal of obstructions and the placing of
navigational marks and those for the long-range
bombardments was carried out by Captain Henry P.
Douglas, borne for surveying duties on my staff,
and Lieutenant-Commander Francis E. B. Haselfoot,
his assistant. The completely successful manner in
which this very important work was done, in
circumstances of interference from the enemy and
the elements, does great credit to these officers,
both of whom I recommend to the favourable notice
of the Lords Commissioners.
44. To afford
protection at a certain point in the route, and to
maintain the aids to navigation during the
approach, and retirement of the expedition, a
force consisting of the flotilla-leader "Scott "
and the destroyers "Ulleswater," "Teazer," and
"Stork," lent from the Harwich Force, and the
light cruiser "Attentive," flying the broad
pendant of Commodore the Hon. Algernon D. E. H.
Boyle, my Chief of Staff, was stationed there. The
duties of this force were not interrupted by the
enemy, but it was instrumental in controlling and
directing the movements of detached craft in both
directions, and relieved me of all anxiety on that
V.- THE PASSAGE OF
At the moment of starting, the forces were
In the Swin.
the attack on the Zeebrugge Mole: "Vindictive,"
"Iris II.," and "Daffodil."
block the Bruges Canal: "Thetis," "Intrepid," and
block the entrance to Ostend: "Sirius" and
(flag of Vice-Admiral).
Unit L, "Phoebe" and
Unit M, "Trident"
Unit F, "Whirlwind"
Unit R, "Velox,"
"Morris," "Moorsom," and "Melpomene."
Unit X, "Tempest"
To damage Zeebrugge
viaduct: Submarines C.1 and C.3.
A special picket
boat to rescue crews of C.1 and C.3.
"Lingfield" to take off surplus steaming parties
of blockships, which had 100 miles to steam.
To bombard vicinity
of Zeebrugge: Monitors "Erebus" and "Terror."
To attend on
monitors, &c.: "Termagant," "Truculent," and
Outer Patrol off
Zeebrugge: "Attentive," "Scott," "Ulleswater,"
"Teazer," and "Stork."
bombarding Ostend: "Marshal Soult,". "Lord Clive,"
"Prince Eugene," "General Craufurd," M.24, M.26
For operating off
Ostend: "Swift," "Faulknor," "Matchless,"
"Mastiff," and "Afridi."
destroyers "Mentor," "Lightfoot," "Zubian,"
and French "Lestin," "Roux," and "Bouclier," to
accompany the monitors.
motor launches, numbers 11, 16, 17, 22, 23, 30,
60, 105, 254, 274, 276, 279, 283, 429, 512, 532,
551, 556, engaged in smoke-screening duty inshore
and rescue work, and six for attending on big
Four French T.B's
and four French Motor Launches, numbers 1, 2, 33,
and 34, attending on "M.24," "M.26" and "M.21".
Coastal motor boats
(40 feet), numbers 2, 4, 10, and 12; (55 feet) 19
aids having been established on the route, the
forces from the Swin and Dover were directed to
join my flag off the Goodwin Sands and proceed in
company to a rendezvous, and thereafter as
requisite to their respective stations; those from
Dunkirk were given their orders by the Commodore.
47. An operation
time-table was issued to govern the movements of
all the forces, wireless signals were prohibited,
visual signals of every sort were reduced to a
minimum, and manoeuvring pre-arranged as far as
foresight could provide. With few and slight
delays the programme for the passage was carried
out as laid down, the special aids to navigation
being found of great assistance.
48. The Harwich
Force, under Rear-Admiral Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt,
K.C.B., D.S.O., was posted to cover the operation
and prevent interference from the northward, which
relieved me of all concern on that score.
49. On leaving the
Goodwins, the Main Force was disposed in three
columns. The centre column was led by
"Vindictive," with "Iris II." and "Daffodil" in
tow, followed by the five blocking ships and the
paddle minesweeper "Lingfield," escorting five
motor launches for taking off the surplus steaming
parties of the blocking ships. The starboard
column was led by the "Warwick," flying my flag,
followed by the "Phoebe" and "North Star," which
three ships were to cover the "Vindictive" from
torpedo attack while the storming operations were
in progress; "Trident" and "Mansfield," towing
submarines C.3 and C.1; and "Tempest," to escort
the two Ostend blockships. The port column was led
by "Whirlwind," followed by "Myngs" and "Moorsom,"
which ships were to patrol to the northward of
Zeebrugge; and the "Tetrarch," also to escort the
Ostend blockships. Every craft was towing one or
more coastal motor boats, and between the columns
were motor launches.
50. The greater part
of the passage had to be carried out in broad
daylight, with the consequent likelihood of
discovery by enemy aircraft or submarine. This
risk was largely countered by the escort of all
the scouting aircraft under my command. On arrival
at a certain position (C), it being then apparent
that the conditions were favourable, and that
there was every prospect of carrying through the
enterprise up to programme time, a short
pre-arranged wireless signal was made to the
detached forces that the programme would be
51. On arrival at a
position 1 1/2 miles short of (G), at which
Commodore Boyle's force was stationed, the whole
force stopped for fifteen minutes to enable the
surplus steaming parties of the blockships to be
disembarked and the coastal motor boats slipped.
These and the motor launches then proceeded in
execution of previous orders. On resuming the
course the "Warwick " and "Whirlwind," followed by
the destroyers, drew ahead on either bow to clear
the passage of enemy outpost vessels.
52. When the
"Vindictive" arrived at a position where it was
necessary for her to alter course for the Mole,
the "Warwick," "Phoebe" and "North Star" swung to
starboard and cruised in the vicinity of the Mole
until after the final withdrawal of all the
attacking forces. During this movement and
throughout the subsequent operations "Warwick" was
manoeuvred to place smoke screens wherever they
seemed to be most required, and when the wind
shifted from north-east to south-west, her
services in this respect were particularly
The monitors "Erebus" (Captain Charles S. Wills,
C.M.G., D.S.O.) and "Terror" (Captain Charles W.
Bruton), with the destroyers "Termagant,"
"Truculent" and "Manly," were stationed at a
position suitable for the long-range bombardment
of Zeebrugge in co-operation with the attack.
Owing to poor visibility and an extraordinary set
of the tide the opening of bombardment was delayed
slightly behind programme time; otherwise the
operations of this force were carried out
according to plan. During the operation enemy
shell fell in the vicinity of "Erebus" and
"Terror" but neither was hit. On completion of the
bombardment the vessels of this force took up
patrolling positions to cover the retirement from
Zeebrugge. Aerial photographs show the good effect
of this bombardment.
54. Ostend. -
Similarly, the monitors "Marshal Soult" (Captain
George R. B. Blount, D.S.O., "General Craufurd "
(Commander Edward Altham), "Prince Eugene"
(Captain Ernest Wigram, D.S.O.), and "Lord Clive"
(Commander Reginald J. N. Watson, D.S.O.), and the
small monitors M.21 (Commander Oliver M. F.
Stokes), M.24 (Acting Commander Claude P. C. de
Crespigny), and M.26 (Lieutenant-Commander Arthur
C. Fawssett) were stationed by Commodore Hubert
Lynes, C.M.G., in suitable positions to bombard
specified batteries. These craft were attended by
the British destroyers "Mentor,"
"Lightfoot," and "Zubian," and the French
"Lestin," "Boux," and "Bouclier." The Commodore
reports that the bombardment was undoubtedly
useful in keeping down the fire of the shore
batteries. These returned the monitors' fire about
five minutes after the latter opened, the ships
being hit by fragments of shell, but no material
damage being done.
55. Siege Guns.-
Co-operation by R.M.A. siege guns (Colonel Pryce
Peacock, R.M.A.) on given enemy targets was
arranged by the Commodore Dunkirk to which the
enemy replied without causing any casualties or
any damage of importance.
VII.- ATTACK ON
The attack on the Mole was primarily intended to
distract the enemy's attention from the ships
engaged in blocking the Bruges Canal, its
immediate objectives were, firstly, the capture of
the 4.1 inch battery at the sea end of the Mole
(NOTE.- After the evacuation of Zeebrugge by the
enemy it was found that these guns were of 5.9
inch calibre, and subsequent to these operations
the battery was moved from the end of the Mole on
to the parapet), which was a serious menace to the
passage of the blockships, and, secondly, the
doing of as much damage to the material on the
Mole as time permitted, for it was not the
intention to remain on the Mole after the primary
object of the expedition had been accomplished.
The attack was to consist of two parts; (a) the
landing of storming and demolition parties, and (b)
the destruction of the iron viaduct between the
shore and the stone Mole.
57. The units
detailed for the attack were:
H.M. Ship "Vindictive," Acting Captain Alfred F.
B. Carpenter (late "Emperor of India"); the
special steamers "Iris II," Commander Valentine
Gibbs ("Tiger"), and "Daffodil," Lieutenant Harold
G. Campbell ("Emperor of India"); the latter
detailed to push the "Vindictive" alongside the
Mole and keep her there as long as might be
Submarines C.3 and C.1, commanded by Lieutenants
Richard D. Sandford and Aubrey C. Newbold
respectively, attended by a picket boat under
Lieutenant-Commander Francis H. Sandford, D.S.O.
58. Besides the
above, a flotilla of twenty four motor launches
and eight coastal motor boats were told off for
rescue work and to make smoke screens or lay smoke
floats, and nine more coastal motor boats to
attack the Mole and enemy vessels inside it,
At 11.40 p.m. the
coastal motor boats detailed to lay the first
smoke screen ran in to a very close range and
proceeded to lay smoke floats and by other methods
produce the necessary "fog." These craft came
under heavy fire, and only their small size and
great speed saved them from destruction.
(below, after the raid - Navy Photos). - At
11.30 p.m. the Blankenberghe light buoy was abeam,
and the enemy had presumably heard or seen the
approaching forces, as many star shells were
fired, lighting up the vicinity, but no enemy
patrol craft were sighted. At this time the wind,
which had been from the north-east, and therefore
favourable to the success of the smoke screens,
died away, and at a later period came from a
southerly direction. Many of the smoke floats laid
just off the Mole extension were sunk by enemy
fire, and this in conjunction with the changes in
the wind lessened the effectiveness of the smoke
60. At 11.56 the
ship having just passed through a smoke screen,
the Mole extension was seen in the semi-darkness
about 300 yards off on the port bow. Speed was
increased to full, and course altered so that
allowing for cross tide the ship would make good a
closing course of 45 degrees to the Mole. The
"Vindictive" purposely withheld her fire to avoid
being discovered, but almost at the moment of her
emerging from the smoke the enemy opened fire. So
promptly, under the orders of Commander Edward O.
B. S. Osborne, was this replied to by the port
6-inch battery, the upper-deck pom-poms, and the
gun in the fore-top, that the firing on both sides
appeared to be almost simultaneous. Captain
Carpenter was conning the ship from the port
forward flame-thrower hut. Lieutenant-Commander
Robert R. Rosoman, with directions as to the
handling of the ship should the captain be
disabled, was in the conning tower from which the
ship was being steered.
At one minute after midnight on the 23rd April,
St. George's Day - the programme time being
midnight - the " Vindictive" was put alongside the
Mole, taking gently on the special fenders of the
port bow, and the starboard anchor was let go. At
this time the noise was terrific. During the
previous few minutes the ship had been hit by a
large number of shell and many casualties caused.
Lieutenant-Colonel Bertram H. Elliot, D.S.O., and
Major Alexander A. Cordner, the two senior
officers of the Royal Marine storming parties(right, badge of Royal Marine Light Infantry -
and Captain Henry C. Halahan, D.S.O., commanding
the naval storming parties, all ready to lead the
men on to the Mole, had been killed; Commander
Patrick H. Edwards, R.N.V.R., and many other
officers and men killed or wounded.
62. As there was
some doubt as to the starboard anchor having gone
clear, the port anchor was dropped close to the
foot of the Mole and the cable bowsed-to with less
than a shackle out. A three-knot tide was running
past the Mole; and the scend alongside the Mole
created by the slight swell caused much movement
on the ship. There was an interval of three or
four minutes before "Daffodil" (below, in
civilian use - Photo Ships) could arrive
and commence to push "Vindictive" bodily
alongside. During this interval the ship could not
be got close enough for the special mole-anchors
to hook, and it was a very trying period. Many of
the brows had been broken by shell fire, and a
heavy roll had broken up the foremost mole-anchor
as it was being placed. The two foremost brows,
however, reached the wall and the naval storming
parties, led in the most gallant manner by
Lieutenant-Commander Bryan F. Adams ("Princess
Royal") ran out along them closely followed by the
Royal Marines, gallantly led by Captain and
Adjutant A. R. Chater. Owing to the rolling of the
ship a most disconcerting motion was imparted to
the brows, the outer ends of which were "sawing"
considerably on the Mole parapet. Officers and men
were carrying Lewis guns, bombs, ammunition, etc.,
and were under heavy machine-gun fire at close
range, add to this a drop of 30 feet between the
ship and the Mole and some idea of the conditions
which had to be faced may be realised. Yet the
storming of the Mole by these two brows, and later
by two others which were got into position, was
carried out without the smallest delay, and
without any apparent consideration of
self-preservation. Some of the first men on the
Mole did splendid work with the object of hauling
one of the large mole-anchors across the parapet.
Lieutenant-Commander Rosoman assisted in this on
board, encouraging and directing the men with
great coolness and ability.
three minutes after "Vindictive," closely followed
by "Iris II". Both suffered less in the approach,
"Vindictive" occupying practically all the enemy's
attention. As already stated "Daffodil's" primary
duty was to push "Vindictive" bodily on to the
Mole, to enable her to be secured, after which
"Daffodil" was to come alongside and land her
parties over that ship. In the end her men had to
disembark from her bows on to "Vindictive," as it
was found essential to continue to push
"Vindictive" on to the Mole throughout the action.
This duty was magnificently carried out by her
Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Harold G. Campbell
("Emperor of India"), who, during the greater part
of the time, was suffering from a wound in the
head which for the time deprived him of the sight
of one eye. Without the assistance of "Daffodil "
very few of the storming parties from "Vindictive
" could have been landed or re-embarked; and the
greatest credit is due to Mr. Campbell for the
skilful manner in which he handled his ship.
63. The landing from
"Iris II." was even more trying. The scend
alongside made her bump heavily, and rendered the
use of the scaling ladders very difficult, many
being broken up. Lieutenant Claude E. V. Hawkings
("Erin") ascended the first ladder, secured the
mole anchor, and was then shot and fell on to the
Mole. Lieutenant-Commander George N. Bradford
("Orion") got to the top of a derrick with a mole
anchor on it, leaped on to the Mole, secured the
anchor and was shot, falling into the water
between "Iris II." and the Mole. Gallant attempts
to recover his body were made, Petty Officer M. D.
Hallihan being killed while so employed. The
gallantry and devotion to duty of these two
officers was of the highest order. In the end, so
impossible was it to get the mole anchors to hold,
that the cable was slipped and "Iris II." went
alongside "Vindictive" to enable "D" Company and
her Royal Marines to land across her, but only a
few men had got to the "Vindictive " when the
withdrawal signal was sounded.
64. On board the
"Vindictive" the fore most 7.5-inch Howitzer's
Marine crew were all killed or wounded in the very
early part of the action. A naval crew from a
6-inch gun took their place, and were almost
entirely wiped out. At this period the ship was
being hit every few seconds, chiefly in the upper
works, from which the splinters caused many
casualties. It was difficult to locate the guns
which were doing the most damage, but Lieutenant
Charles N. B. Rigby, R.M.A., with his Royal
Marines in the foretop, kept up a continuous fire
with pompoms and Lewis guns, changing rapidly from
one target to another. Two heavy shells made
direct hits on the foretop, killing Lieutenant
Rigby and killing or disabling all in the top,
except Sergeant N. A. Finch, who, though severely
wounded, continued firing till the top was wrecked
by another heavy shell. Captain Carpenter reports
that before going into the foretop Lieutenant
Rigby had displayed fine courage and ability, and
that the success of the storming of the Mole was
largely due to the good work of this officer and
the men under his orders.
65. Acting Captain
Reginald Dallas Brooks, R.M.A., was in command of
the R.M.A. gun detachments in "Vindictive." He not
only set his men generally a splendid example of
devotion to duty, but commanded the crew of the
11-inch Howitzer in its exposed position in a very
66. Half an hour
after the storming of the Mole had been commenced,
the Captain visited the decks below and found
Staff-Surgeon James McCutcheon and the staff under
him working with great energy and care. A constant
stream of casualties were being brought down every
hatch, yet there appeared to be no delay in
dealing with each case.
67. The Mole.- The
attack on the Mole was designed to be carried out
by a storming force to prepare the way for, and
afterwards to cover and protect, the operations of
a second force which was to carry out the actual
demolition, damage, &c. Both these forces
comprised Royal Naval ranks and ratings under the
command of Captain Henry C. Halahan, D.S.O., and
Royal Marines under the command of
Lieutenant-Colonel Bertram N. Elliot, D.S.O.
68. The storming
force was composed of Naval Companies - A.
(Lieutenant-Commander Bryan F. Adams, "Princess
Royal"), B. (Lieutenant Arthur G. B. T.
Chamberlain, "Neptune"), and D.
(Lieutenant-Commander G. N. Bradford, "Orion"),
all under the command of Lieutenant-Commander
Arthur L. Harrison ("Lion"), and the 4th
Battalion, Royal Marines, organised as follows:
Company: Major Charles E. C. Eagles, D.S.O.
Company: Captain Edward Bamford, D.S.O.
Company: Major Bernard G. Weller, D.S.O.
Machine Gun Company:
Captain Charles B. Conybeare.
On the death of
Lieutenant-Colonel Elliot D.S.O., and Major
Alexander A. Cordner (Second in Command), Major
Weller assumed command of the battalion. Captain
A. R. Chater was battalion adjutant.
This force was
embarked mainly in "Vindictive," but partly in
69. The demolition
force was composed of C. Naval Company, under the
command of Lieutenant Cecil C. Dickinson
("Resolution"), and was divided into three
parties, Nos. 1 and 3, under Sub-Lieutenant Felix
E. Chevallier ("Iron Duke"), being conveyed in the
"Daffodil," and No. 2, under Lieutenant Dickinson,
in the "Vindictive."
70. The objectives
of the storming forces had been communicated to
the officers, and specific duties allotted to the
different units, who had been exercised on a
replica of the Mole, described to the men as "a
position in France."
71. This specialised
preparation was necessary, but it handicapped the
leaders of the storming parties, for, owing to the
difficulty in recognising objects on the Mole, the
"Vindictive" overran her station and was berthed
some 300 yards further to the westward (or shore
end of the Mole) than was intended (see plan). It
was realised beforehand that "Vindictive" might
not exactly hit off her position, but the fact
that the landing was carried out in an unexpected
place, combined with the heavy losses already
sustained by "Vindictive," seriously disorganised
the attacking force. The intention was to land the
storming parties right on top of the 4.1 inch guns
(see footnote to para. 56) in position on the
seaward end of the Mole, the silencing of which
was of the first importance, as they menaced the
approach of the blockships. The leading blockship
was timed to pass the lighthouse twenty-five
minutes after "Vindictive" came alongside. This
period of time proved insufficient to organise and
carry through an attack against the enemy on the
seaward end of the Mole, who were able to bring
heavy machine-gun fire to bear on the attacking
forces. As a result the blockships came under an
unexpected fire from the light guns on the Mole
extension (NOTE: After the evacuation it was found
that three of the guns on the Mole extension were
of 4.1 inch calibre), though the 4.1 inch battery
on the Mole head remained silent (see paragraphs
73 and 94).
Lieutenant-Commander Adams, followed by the
survivors of "A" and "B" Companies, were the first
to land, no enemy being then seen on the Mole.
These two companies had suffered severely before
landing, especially "B," both of whose officers
were casualties. They found themselves on a
pathway on the Mole parapet about 8 feet wide,
with a wall 4 feet high on the seaward side, and
an iron railing on the Mole side. From this
pathway there was a drop of 15 feet on to the Mole
proper. This raised portion of the Mole will in
future be referred to as the parapet. Followed by
his men, Mr. Adams went along the parapet to the
left (towards the lighthouse extension), where he
found a look-out station or control, with a
range-finder behind and above it. A bomb was put
into this station, which was found clear of men.
Wing Commander Frank A. Brock here joined the
party, and went inside to investigate. He was not
seen again by Mr. Adams, but from other accounts
it is believed he was seen alive later.
73. Near this
look-out station an iron ladder led down to the
Mole, and three of Mr. Adams' party descended it
and prevented a few of the enemy from reaching the
harbour side of the Mole. Two destroyers alongside
the Mole showed no activity up to this time, nor
did Mr. Adams see the three-gun battery at the
Mole end fire at any time whilst he was on the
parapet, but a machine gun about 100 yards to the
westward of these guns was firing on his party. It
appeared at this time that the enemy were firing
at the "Vindictive" from the shore end of the
Mole, but no gun flashes were seen, as everything
was so well illuminated by enemy star shell and
the rockets fired by "Vindictive." After capturing
the look-out station Mr. Adams advanced to the
eastward about 40 yards, where he left his party
in position and himself returned to collect more
74. Returning, to
the look-out station, Mr. Adams found only some
wounded, but later collected two Lewis gunners and
a small party under Petty Officer George E.
Antell, O.N. 232634 ("Lion"). These he sent to the
eastward and the Petty Officer inboard, as he had
been wounded in the hand and arm before landing,
and although in great pain had carried on most
75. The situation
now was that Mr. Adams' few men and the two Lewis
gunners were beyond the look-out station protected
from the machine-gun fire from the direction of
the Mole Head, but exposed to that from the
destroyers alongside the Mole, and the men were
being hit apparently by machine guns and pom-poms.
Lieutenant-Commander Harrison arrived at this
time; this gallant officer was severely wounded in
the head on board "Vindictive" before coming
alongside, but directly he recovered consciousness
he joined his section on the Mole; on receiving
Mr. Adams' report he directed him to try and get
more men. Major Weller, Commanding the Royal
Marines, on receiving Mr. Adams' report,
despatched Lieutenant G. Underhill with
reinforcements to assist Mr. Harrison. Whilst this
party was being collected, Mr. Adams returned to
the look-out station, where he was informed that
Mr. Harrison had led a rush along the parapet and
that he and several of his men had been killed by
machine-gun fire. Able Seaman McKenzie, one of B
Company's machine gunners with Mr. Harrison, did
good execution with his gun, though wounded in
several places, and Able Seaman Eaves was killed
in attempting to bring in Mr. Harrison's body.
(NOTE: Able Seaman Eaves, it appears, was not
killed, but was very severely wounded and taken
76. About this time
the recall was sounded, and Mr. Adams therefore
withdrew his men from the parapet and Mole,
collected the wounded, and sent them to the
"Vindictive." He himself went along the parapet in
search of Mr. Harrison, but not finding him,
returned to assist in the re-embarkation. As
originally planned, Mr. Harrison's bluejacket
storming parties were to deal with the battery on
the Mole head and Mole extension only, but for the
reasons given, in paragraph 71 they started 400
yards further from their objectives than was
intended with the intervening ground fully exposed
to machine-gun fire. Mr. Adams and his men, and
later Mr. Harrison, pressed their attack most
gallantly, and, though denied a full measure of
success, it appears probable their fire prevented
the 4.1 inch battery at the Mole head coming into
action, as these guns did not open fire at the
blockships (see paragraph 94).
Storming Party.- The Royal Marines of this
expedition were drawn from the four divisional
headquarters and the Grand Fleet. The battalion
was to provide the officers and men of the
storming force: the crews of four Stokes guns, one
11-inch howitzer, five pom-poms, and some Lewis
guns of the "Vindictive's" armament, and a few men
to work with the Naval demolition party. It was
carried to Zeebrugge in the "Vindictive," except A
Company, two Vickers guns of the machine-gun
section, and two Stokes guns, which went in "Iris
II." All had taken part in the special training
and practices already referred to, the howitzer
crews having been put through a course at
78. The first
objective of the Royal Marine Battalion was a
fortified zone situated about 150 yards from the
seaward end of the Mole proper; its capture was of
the first importance, as an enemy holding it could
bring a heavy fire to bear on the parties landing
from "Vindictive." This objective being gained,
the Royal Marines were to continue down the Mole
and hold a position so as to cover the operations
of the demolition parties from an attack by enemy
troops advancing from the landward end of the
Mole. The destruction of the Viaduct by Submarine
"C.3" was intended to assist in this, by
preventing reinforcements reaching the Mole from
the shore. Owing to "Vindictive" coming alongside
to landward of this zone, the Royal Marines were
faced with the double duty of preventing an enemy
attack from the shore end and of themselves
attacking the fortified zone. The casualties
already sustained and the fact that "Iris II."
Royal Iris - Photo Ships/M Cooper) could
not remain alongside to land her company of Royal
Marines (see paragraph 63) left insufficient men
in the early stages of the landing to carry out
both operations. The situation was a difficult
one, for to attack the fortified zone first might
have enabled the enemy to advance up the Mole and
seize positions abreast "Vindictive" with the most
serious consequences to the whole landing force,
whereas by not attacking the fortified zone the
guns at the Mole head could not be prevented from
firing at the blockships. As will be seen in
subsequent paragraphs, the Royal Marines first
secured the landward side, after which an assault
was organised against the fortified zone, but the
unavoidable delay prevented this attack from being
carried through before the blockships had passed
in and the recall sounded. Major Weller's action
was correct; lack of men prevented him reinforcing
the bluejacket storming parties under Mr. Harrison
and Mr. Adams, who had in consequence to attempt
an assault on a very strong position with the
depleted A and B Companies, and without the
assistance of D Company, which could not be landed
in time from "Iris II." (see paragraph 63). How
heroically they failed has been related in
paragraphs 72 to 75.
79. No. 5 Platoon
(Lieutenant T. F. V. Cooke) was the first to land,
and proceeded to the right (west) along the
parapet. They silenced a party of snipers who were
firing from near No. 2 Shed into the men landing.
Captain and Adjt. A. R. Chater initiated this,
which Major Weller considers greatly assisted the
disembarkation. Captain Bamford now joined, and
with Lieutenant Cooke and this platoon reached a
position some 200 yards from the "Vindictive";
their action greatly assisted the advance along
the Mole;, they themselves being exposed to a
galling fire. Lieutenant Cooke, who set a fine
example, was twice wounded, and was rendered
unconscious; he was most gallantly carried back to
the "Vindictive" by Private John D. L. Press,
R.M.L.I., who was himself wounded.
80. No. 9 Platoon
and the remnants of No. 10, under Lieutenant C. D.
R. Lamplough, were the next to land. They
descended from the parapet to the Mole (a drop of
15 feet) by means of ropes, and proceeded to
establish a strong point at the shoreward end of
No. 3 Shed, to prevent possible attack from that
direction. This unit later attacked a destroyer
alongside the Mole, inflicting damage on the craft
81. Units were now
rapidly landing, and No. 7 Platoon (Lieutenant H.
A. P. de Berry) succeeded in placing their heavy
scaling ladders in position, and then formed up to
support Nos. 9 and 10 Platoons. The successful
placing of the scaling ladders was largely due to
Sergeant-Major C. J. Thatcher. Major Weller then
received information that the naval storming party
needed reinforcements. He therefore despatched No.
12 Platoon and the remnants of No. 11, under
Lieutenant G. Underhill, to their assistance.
These platoons advanced to the left (east) along
the parapet, and reached the look-out station,
where they were checked by machine-gun fire; Mr.
Adams and his men were some 40 to 50 yards ahead
of them, and both parties could make no headway
along the exposed parapet. Meanwhile No. 5
Platoon, which had been recalled from its advanced
position, with Nos. 7 and 8 Platoons, all under
Captain Bamford, were forming up on the Mole for
an assault on the fortified zone and the 4.1 inch
battery at the Mole head. This attack was
launched, but before it could be developed the
general recall was sounded. The units fell back in
good order, bringing their wounded with them. The
passing of the men from the Mole on to the parapet
by means of the scaling ladders was rendered
hazardous by the enemy opening fire at that
portion of the Mole, several ladders being
destroyed; the men were sent across in small
batches from the comparative shelter afforded by
No. 3 Shed, such rushes taking place as far as
possible in the intervals between the enemy's
bursts of fire.
Demolition or G Company.- This company was
under the orders of Lieutenant Cecil C. Dickinson
("Resolution"), and was divided into three
parties, Nos. 1 and 3 consisting of Sub-Lieutenant
Felix E. Chevallier ("Iron Duke") and twenty-nine
ratings in the "Daffodil," and No. 2 of Lieutenant
Dickinson and twenty-one ratings in the
"Vindictive." Twenty-two rank and file, R.M.L.I.,
were attached for the transport of the explosive
Dickinson and No. 2 party landed after the Naval
Storming Parties and assembled on the pathway of
the parapet, which became somewhat crowded before
the scaling ladders could be got into position to
enable the men to descend on to the Mole, No. 2
party then proceeded to No. 3 Shed. The heavy fire
from the destroyers alongside the Mole prevented
any advance towards the shore, and the demolition
of this shed was therefore impracticable; charges
were, however, placed and everything prepared in
case an opportunity for its destruction occurred.
An attempt was made to place a charge alongside
the destroyers, but was repulsed by their fire.
Some bombs were therefore thrown on board. The
enemy's shell fire at this portion of the Mole
became very heavy, and the recall being sounded
the party re-embarked under the conditions related
in para. 81.
84. The demolition
party was on the Mole about 55 minutes, and it was
solely on account of the proximity of our own
storming parties that no destruction took place.
This party, ably led by Lieutenant Dickinson,
behaved in a most cool and undisturbed manner both
during the approach (when they suffered severely)
and on the Mole. After returning on board the
extra explosives, etc., were jettisoned, as they
were then only a danger to the ship. The
preparation of the demolition scheme and
organisation of the company for carrying it out
was very efficiently planned by
Lieutenant-Commander Francis H. Sandford, D.S.O.,
borne for special service on my Staff.
Party.- The account of the attack on the
Mole would not be complete without reference to
the contribution in officers and men made by a
detachment from the Admiralty Experimental Station
at Stratford, and the work done by them. This
detachment was commanded by Lieutenant Graham S.
Hewett, R.N.V.R., with Lieutenant A. L. Eastlake,
R.E., second-in-command. It contributed
thirty-four men, all volunteers, for the working
of the fixed and portable flame-throwers,
phosphorus grenades, etc., either on board
"Vindictive," "Iris II.," and "Daffodil," or with
the various naval and marine parties landed on the
Mole. The fixed flame-throwers in "Vindictive"
were put out of action by enemy shell fire. The
portable ones accompanied the seaman and marine
landing parties, the personnel of the experimental
party sharing the difficulties and dangers of the
assault. Lieutenant Hewett specially mentions
Air-Mechanics W. H. Gough and W. G. Ryan for good
service during the attack on the Mole.
of Viaduct. The object of this part of
the attack on the Mole was to prevent
reinforcements from the land passing on to the
Mole during the operations. It was proposed to do
this by exploding one or two old submarines in
contact with the iron piers and cross-ties of the
viaduct. It was calculated that a C class
submarine at a speed of 6 knots would penetrate
the light bracing of the piers up to her conning
87. To enable the
submarine! to be abandoned and continue her course
automatically, C.1 and C.3 were fitted with
gyro-control. A picket boat was provided for the
escape of the crew, and each submarine had two
motor skiffs, they also carried a light scaling
ladder each, so that in case all other means of
rescue failed, they might climb on to the Viaduct
and escape along it from the effects of the
explosion. Exploding charges, primers, battery and
switch gear were devised and fitted These three
craft were towed by T.B.D.s "Trident" (right,
in Dover Harbour - Jon Richards) and
"Mansfield" to certain positions, whence they
proceeded under their own power.
88. Submarine C.3
(Lieutenant Richard D. Sandford) proceeded on the
courses laid down, and duly sighted the viaduct
right ahead, distance about a mile and a half.
Shortly after this, by the light of star shell,
fire was opened on C.3, apparently from 4-inch
guns, but was not long maintained. When the
viaduct was about half a mile off, a flare on the
far side silhouetted the Mole and viaduct, which
appeared about two points on the port bow. Two
searchlights were then switched on to C.3, and off
again, possibly in order that the submarine might
run into the viaduct and be caught. By this time
the viaduct was clearly visible. One hundred yards
away, course was altered to ensure striking the
viaduct exactly at right-angles. C.3 struck
exactly between two rows of piers at a speed of
nine and a half knots, riding up on to the
horizontal girders of the viaduct, and raising the
hull bodily about two feet; she penetrated up to
the conning tower.
89. The crew having
mustered on deck before the collision, lowered and
manned the skiff. The fuses were then ignited, and
the submarine abandoned, the skiff's course being
set to the westward against the current. Her
propeller having been damaged, oars had to be
used. Immediately the skiff left the submarine,
the two searchlights were switched on, and fire
was opened with machine guns, rifles, and
pom-poms, the viaduct being lined with riflemen
firing under the wind screen, and the houses on
the inner end of the Mole opening on her with
pom-poms. The boat was holed many times, but was
kept afloat by special pumps which had been
fitted. Mr. Sandford (twice) and two of the crew
were wounded at this time. As only slow progress
could be made against the current, the charge
exploded when the skiff was but two or three
hundred yards from the viaduct. The explosion
appeared to have great effect, much debris falling
into the water around. Both searchlights
immediately went out, and firing became spasmodic.
The picket boat was then sighted, and the skiff's
crew taken on board, the wounded being finally
transferred to the T.B.D. "Phoebe." Mr. Sandford
describes the behaviour of all his crew as
splendid, and worthy of the high traditions of the
submarine service. He selects his next in command,
Lieutenant John H. Price, D.S.C., R.N.R., for
mention, and states that his assistance was
invaluable, and his conduct in a position of
extreme danger exemplary. To this modest praise of
the exploit, I would add that the
and men, who eagerly undertook such hazards, are
deserving of their Lordships' highest recognition.
They were all well aware that if their means of
rescue failed them, as through untoward
circumstances it nearly did, and they had been in
the water at the moment of the explosion, they
must almost inevitably have been stunned and
drowned, or killed outright, by the force of such
an explosion. Yet they disdained to use the
gyro-steering which would have enabled them to
abandon the submarine at a safe distance, and
preferred .to make sure, as far as was humanly
possible, of the accomplishment of their duty.
90. Submarine C.1
(Lieutenant Aubrey C. Newbold), owing to delay
caused by the parting of the tow, did not arrive
in the vicinity of the viaduct till the retirement
had commenced. He had previously seen a big flash,
but had not heard any sound, and was therefore in
doubt as to what the force in general had done,
but realised that his boat might be required for
another occasion. He therefore retired, though he
and his crew immediately volunteered for similar
service. They were naturally disappointed, but in
my opinion Lieutenant Newbold was perfectly right,
and their Lordships will not lose sight of the
fact that they, equally with the officers and men
of C.3 (below, left hand boat - Maritime
Quest), eagerly embarked on the enterprise
in full realisation of what the consequences might
91. The picket boat
employed for rescuing the crew of C.3 was
commanded by Lieutenant- Commander Francis H.
Sandford, D.S.O., who had organised the method of
attack on the viaduct. The picket boat displayed
bad qualities when towed above a certain speed in
the prevailing conditions of wind and sea. She was
steered only with great difficulty, and was twice
on her beam ends, being saved from total capsize
by the tow parting. She then proceeded under her
own steam, and endeavoured to reach the viaduct
before the explosion. Her speed was not as much as
was expected; still she arrived in time to pick up
the motor-skiff very shortly after the explosion,
and transferred the officers and men to the
"Phoebe." This boat subsequently returned to Dover
under her own steam, as her fore compartment being
holed and full of water made towing inadvisable.
From first to last she had made a voyage of 170
miles to and from the Belgian coast in unpleasant
conditions, and effected the rescue in the face of
almost insurmountable difficulties, due to enemy
'action, weather, and tide. I have already
recommended Lieutenant-Commander Francis Sandford
for promotion on this and previous grounds. His
boat's crew were all volunteers, and I am
including them in my general list of
recommendations to their Lordships' notice.
Intrepid, Iphigenia and Thetis scuttled as
blockships (Photo Ships).
following photographs show the blockships in
their original cruiser role
92. The blocking of
the Bruges Canal and the entrance to Ostend
Harbour was the principal part of the whole
objective, the damage to the Zeebrugge Mole being
subsidiary thereto. To the "Intrepid,"
"Iphigenia," and "Thetis" was assigned the duty in
the Bruges Canal; "Brilliant" and "Sirius" being
detailed for Ostend.
The orders to the blockships were to proceed into
the canal. If her two consorts were seen to be
following, the leading vessel ("Thetis") was to
ram the lock gates; the second and third
("Intrepid" and "Iphigenia") were to be run ashore
near the entrance at the southern end of the
piers, this being the narrowest part of the
channel and the position best calculated to block
the channel by silt. This opinion as to the best
position was based on local knowledge, and the
decision to attempt the project in this way was
come to after much consideration, and bearing in
mind the fact that if the leading vessel should
fail to block the lock gates, and should sink in
the channel short of the gates, she would have
been no obstruction; whereas two ships well
athwart the channel at the entrance would be
certain to set up silt and cause great
inconvenience to the enemy.
94. The proceedings
of these ships were as follows:
"Thetis"(above - Photo Ships)(Commander
Ralph S. Sneyd, D.S.O.). - Sighted the Zeebrugge
Mole ahead, and signalled the fact to the ships
astern. She was greatly assisted by rockets fired
from "Vindictive," which showed up the Mole
extension and the lighthouse, and also by Captain
Ralph Collins in a motor launch, who hailed the
"Thetis" and gave her the bearing of the
lighthouse. After rounding the latter the
barge-boom came into view, and "Thetis" was
steered for the barge furthest from the Mole,
opening fire at the lighthouse, and then at the
barge, which is reported from subsequent
observation to have been sunk. The ship was under
a fairly heavy fire from the light guns on the
Mole extension, but her captain did not see any
firing from the 4.1-inch battery at the Mole head.
As the ship approached what appeared to be an
opening between the barges and the net obstruction
extending to the southeastward from them she
commenced to swing to port. She was given full
port helm, but ran into the nets between the two
end buoys, and continuing to forge ahead, took the
nets with her. The piers of the canal entrance
were in sight when both engines were reported to
have brought up. "Thetis" had thus cleared the net
obstruction away enough to enable the ships
following to pass to starboard of her, and she
signalled to them to do so. Being then about 300
yards from the eastern pier-head, and having
drifted slightly to port (shoreward), she appears
to have grounded. She had a list to starboard, and
was settling down, having been frequently holed
along the starboard side by gunfire. She continued
to be hit from the Mole, from craft alongside it,
and from guns on shore east of the canal. One or
two machine guns were also firing at the ship, her
6-inoh forecastle gun engaging these guns until
her own smoke made it impossible to see.
Communication with the engine-room having broken
down, a messenger was sent, and Engineer
Lieutenant-Commander Ronald C. Boddie ("Hercules")
succeeded in starting the starboard engine, which
moved the ship ahead; and being still aground aft,
her head swung to starboard into the dredged
channel. As she appeared to be sinking, the
commander cleared the boiler rooms, sent the
boat-keepers to their boats, ordered the smoke to
be turned on and the ship to be abandoned. Owing
to the death of the petty officer in charge of
them, the forward firing keys were not in
position; smoke and shell fumes prevented their
being found, so that the charges were fired by the
after keys; they detonated well, and the ship then
quickly sank. The ship's company manned the one
remaining cutter and pulled to M.L. 526
(Lieutenant A. Littleton, R.N.V.R.), which was
lying near. Although crowded and holed in two or
three places, the cutter was got away without
confusion, due to the exertions of Lieutenant
George A. Belben ("Penelope"), Commander Sneyd and
Lieutenant Francis J. Lambert ("Sir John Moore")
being at this time disabled by gas.
95. "Intrepid" (above
- Photo Ships) (Lieutenant Stuart S.
Bonham-Carter, "Emperor of India"). - This ship
had been unable to get rid of her spare watch of
stokers, owing at first to the delay in her motor
launch getting alongside, and apparently to the
disinclination of the surplus crew to miss the
coming fight. She therefore proceeded to the canal
with 87 officers and men on board instead of 54.
On approaching the Mole she came under heavy
shrapnel fire. She rounded the lighthouse and,
directed by "Thetis," aground on her port hand,
steered for the canal, very few enemy guns firing
at her, as they were concentrated on the Mole -
doubtless at "Vindictive" - and on "Thetis." On
reaching his position in the canal, Lieutenant
Bonham-Carter went full speed ahead with the
starboard engine and full speed astern with the
port helm hard a starboard. He then waited for the
crew to get into the boats, but finding the ship
was making stern way he had to blow the sinking
charges before the steaming party could get out of
the engine-room. Engineer Sub-Lieutenant Edgar V.
Meikle, with his men, got into a cutter, of which
he took charge, proceeding out past the "Thetis"
till picked up by motor launch. Another cutter was
picked up by the T.B.D. "Whirlwind," and the skiff
by M.L. 282. With the two officers and four petty
officers, Lieutenant Bonham-Carter launched a
Carley raft and went down the canal until picked
up by motor launch 282. This motor launch came
right into the canal under the stern of the
"Iphigenia" - the next blocking ship - under a
heavy fire. She was commanded by Lieutenant Percy
T. Dean, R.N.V.R., whose conduct Lieutenant
Bonham-Carter describes as "simply magnificent." I
have had the pleasure of recommending this officer
to their Lordships for promotion, and I consider
his gallant conduct is well worthy of the Victoria
Cross. With the exception of Stoker Petty Officer
Harold L. Palliser (O.N. 226201), who was killed
while in the motor launch by a machine gun, the
whole crew got away. Lieutenant Bonham-Carter
reports the exceptionally fine behaviour of the
whole of his crew - deck and engine-room alike -
and specially mentions Lieutenant Alan Cory-Wright
("Ramillies"), Sub-Lieutenant Dudley A. Babb
("Sarpedon"), and Engineer Sub-Lieutenant Meikle.
In another letter I have recommended Lieutenant
Bonham-Carter and the two last-named officers for
promotion. I may say here that I regarded the
chances of escape from any of the blocking ships
as very slender, and this was well known to those
who so readily volunteered for this hazardous
service and to the volunteer crews of the motor
launches who ran equal risks in their work of
96. "Iphiqenia"(above - CyberHeritage) (Lieutenant Edward
W. Billyard-Leake, "Fearless"). - This ship, like
the preceding one, did not discharge all her
engine-room ratings, because some managed to avoid
it in order to take part in the fight, and they
therefore joined up with the rest of the crew. The
"Iphigenia" was the third and last of the
Zeebrugge blockers to undertake her duty, and it
is no disparagement to the predecessors, who made
her task the easier by their example, to say that
she was, as I believe, completely successful. On
approaching the Mole she came under shrapnel fire,
and was lighted up by two searchlights on the
western (or land) end of the Mole, and by flares,
these latter being rendered useless to the enemy
by the smoke-screen, and facilitating navigation
for the attacker. On rounding the lighthouse the
"Iphigenia" went full speed, a star shell showing
up the "Intrepid" headed for the canal and the
"Thetis" aground. As she approached "Thetis" that
ship showed a green light on her starboard side
which enabled Lieutenant Billyard-Leake to find
the canal entrance. The ship was now hit twice on
the starboard side, one shell cutting the siren
steam-pipe and enveloping the fore part of the
ship in steam.
97. As "Iphigenia"
approached the canal entrance it became obscured
by smoke, and her captain found that she was
heading for the western pier. Going full speed
astern he brought his ship in between a dredger
and a barge, severing them. He then went ahead
with his starboard engine and drove the barge into
the canal. When clear of the barge he went ahead
with both engines. Seeing that the "Intrepid" had
grounded on the western bank of the canal, with a
gap between her and the eastern bank, he steered
to close the gap, and collided with the port bow
of "Intrepid." He then rang the alarm-gong to
signify the imminent blowing of the sinking
charges, but finding that he was not completely
blocking the channel he telegraphed to the
engine-room to go astern, which was done. As soon
as his ship was clear he sent Lieutenant Philip E.
Vaux ("Marvel"), the First Lieutenant, to the
engine-room with an order to go ahead, which was
promptly obeyed. 'The entire entrance was then
covered in smoke. As soon as he considered the
ship had headway, he put the port engine astern,
the starboard ahead, and his helm
hard-a-starboard, and grounded on the eastern
bank. He then abandoned ship and fired his
charges, which all exploded. The company left the
ship in one cutter, as the other one was badly
damaged. While in the cutter the crew came under
more shrapnel and machine-gun fire, which caused
some casualties. When trying to pull clear of the
ship, M.L. 282 (Lieutenant Percy T. Dean,
R.N.V.R., whose conduct in rescuing the officers
and men from the "Intrepid" has already been
described) was sighted across the "Iphigenia's"
bows, and the cutter pulled to her. The majority
of the crew got into the motor launch, which then
went astern. The cutter also pulled round the
stern of the ship and the launch took the rest on
board, except three, one of whom was killed. The
cutter was made fast to 'the stem of the motor
launch, which went out of the harbour stern first
at full speed. Lieutenant Billyard-Leake reports
that this motor launch was entirely responsible
for saving the survivors from the "Iphigenia."
Heavy machine-gun fire was concentrated on her
while on passage out, at which time Sub-Lieutenant
Maurice C. H. Lloyd, D.S.C. ("Dominion"), was
mortally, and Lieutenant James C. Keith Wright,
R.N.V.R., of M.L. 416, dangerously wounded, and
two of the motor launch's crew of four killed. I
trust that the Lords Commissioners, who have so
many claims to judge, will consider that this
recital of the part played by the "Iphigenia" well
justifies any mention of Lieutenant Billyard-Leake
and of Mate (E) Sydney Greville West ("Benbow"),
who throughout the preparations and operation
worked his department in an admirable manner.
Sirius (Photo Ships)
and "Sinus." - I regret that the effort to
block Ostend did not succeed. The "Brilliant"
(Commander Alfred E. Godsal, "Centurion"), with
"Sirius" (Lieutenant-Commander Henry N. M. Hardy,
D.S.O., "Patrol"), in her wake, was approaching
the charted position of the Stroom Bank Buoy, but
did not sight it as expected. Deducing from the
positions of other navigation marks already passed
that tihe ships were to the northward of their
supposed position, they continued on their
original course for an extra, two minutes,
sighting the buoy to the north-eastward. They
steered to pass to the northward of the buoy, at
which time they first came under fire from the
enemy's batteries, and then shaped a course for
the deduced position of Ostend. No marks were
visible owing to smoke, which made it necessary
for "Sirius" to keep very close station on
"Brilliant." When the Ostend Piers should have
been seen by "Brilliant," breakers were observed
on the starboard bow, and though the helm was
starboarded, the ship grounded. "Sirius,"
observing this, immediately put her helm hard over
and her engines full speed astern, but the ship
being already badly damaged by gunfire and
sinking, did not answer the helm, and collided
with the port quarter of the "Brilliant." In the
end, both ships being practically fast ashore,
"Brilliant," with her port engine immovable, and
"Sirius," in sinking condition, were blown up
where they stranded, as observation has since
shown, about 2,400 yards east of the canal
entrance. Lieutenant A. C. Crutchley
("Centurion"), Sub-Lieutenant Angus H. Maclachlan
("Temeraire"), and Engineer Lieutenant Wilfred
Long ("Dublin"), all serving in the "Brilliant,"
were reported by their captain as having set a
fine example to their men. Commander Godsal also
mentions Petty Officer Joseph J. Reed (O.N.
C230360), who behaved with conspicuous coolness.
99. The rescue of
the crews by motor launches which had been
standing by under heavy fire of every calibre, was
carried out in the gallant manner which
distinguished the work of the crews, of the motor
launches and coastal motor boats throughout the
action. Commander Ion Hamilton Beam, R.N.V.R.,
attempted to go alongside in Motor Launch No. 532,
but owing to thick smoke she was damaged by
collision with the ship. Lieutenant Roland Bourke,
R.N.V.R., in M.L. 276, repeatedly went alongside
"Brilliant" in the difficult circumstances of her
starboard engines still going astern, while M.L.
283, under the command of Lieutenant Keith R.
Hoare, D.S.C., R.N.V.R., embarked practically all
the men from the "Sirius," and sixteen from the
"Brilliant's " whaler, sunk by gunfire.
100. After leaving
the "Sirius," Lieutenant-Commander Hardy found
that Engineer Lieutenant William R. Maclaren
("Iron Duke") and some men were missing. He
therefore hailed C.M.B. 10 (Sub-Lieutenant Peter
B. Clarke, R.N.R.), and with Lieutenant Edward L.
Berthon, D.S.C. ("Viceroy"), went alongside the
ship under a heavy accurate fire from 4.1-inch and
machine guns to search for them, but found no sign
of life in either ship. The officer and men were
subsequently picked up by the "Attentive " in a
boat, in which they had pulled thirteen miles out
to sea after the sinking of their ship.
101. Their Lordships
will share with me and the commanding officers of
these ships the disappointment due to the defeat
of our plans, as we may believe, by the legitimate
ruse of the enemy in shifting the buoy. As the
Commodore at Dunkirk remarks in the despatch to
which their Lordships will refer for details on
this point, the location of buoys by aircraft is a
high art, and can only be done with accuracy in
relation to closely surrounding land or shoal
features, but aerial photographs have since
established the fact that had the buoy been in its
original position the vessels would have made the
102. Both Commander
Godsal and Mr. Hardy immediately and repeatedly
asked me for other ships, to be allowed to try
again. They report that all their officers, and
Petty Officer Joseph Reed have volunteered to make
another attempt, sanguine that with the experience
gained it would succeed.
IX.- THE RETIREMENT.
103. The viaduct
explosion having duly taken place, and the
blocking ships having been seen proceeding
shorewards, the main object of storming the Mole
had been accomplished; and the only reason for
prolonging the operation till the programme time
for retirement was that of continuing the work of
demolition. On the other hand, the only guns in
"Vindictive" bearing on the Mole had been put out
of action; the upper works of the ship and men in
exposed positions were presenting an easy target
to the shore guns, while, in view of the failure
of the Mole anchors, the storming parties would be
unable to embark if the "Daffodil" should be
disabled. Captain Carpenter, regarding the
"Daffodil's" escape up to this time as being
almost a miracle, therefore decided to give the
order for the retirement, and in this I consider
he acted with good judgment; in fact, I had given
orders for the "Warwick" to close the "Vindictive"
so that I might inform Captain Carpenter that I
had seen the blockships proceeding in, ascertain
the conditions on the Mole, and decide on further
action, when I saw that she was hauling off.
searchlights, by which twenty minutes' warning was
to be given, having been destroyed,' as well as
the "Vindictive's" syren (sic), by which
the executive signal was to be made, the
"Daffodil" made the latter signal at fifty minutes
past midnight, and the retirement commenced. About
fifteen minutes later it was reported to the
Captain that officers and men had ceased coming on
board, a large number having already embarked by
the same means as they had originally used for
storming the Mole. To make doubly sure, Captain
Carpenter waited till ten minutes past one, and
after repeated assurances from officers and his
own observation that no more were returning, he
ordered "Daffodil" to tow "Vindictive's" bow away
from the Mole, the port cable was slipped, and
towing commenced. The hawser parted almost at
once, but the ship's head was clear enough to
allow her to proceed at full speed with helm
hard-a-port under cover of her own smoke screen. A
large bumpkin made of her own mainmast, rigged out
over the "Vindictive's" port quarter, and taking
against the wail, protected the port screw, which
nevertheless hung up two or three times, being
probably fouled by the debris of the brows. The
"Vindictive" reached Dover soon after 8 a.m., on
105. Some of the
proceedings of "Iris II" have been reported in
connection with the storming of the Mole, and the
rest may be told here. Shortly after leaving the
Mole she came under a very heavy fire from the
Mole and shore batteries, being hit ten times by
small shell and twice by large ones. The first
large shell came through the port control position
and carried away the port side of the bridge,
causing a very serious fire amongst the ammunition
and bombs under the bridge. It mortally wounded
Commander Valentine Gibbs and Major Charles E. C.
Eagles, D.S.O. R.M., and seriously wounded
Lieutenant George Spencer, D.S.C., R.N.R.
Lieutenant Oscar Henderson ("P.19") took a
volunteer fire party with a hose on to the upper
deck to quench the fire, but seeing the condition
of the bridge he ran up on to it and found
Commander Gibbs, as he then thought, dead, and
Lieutenant Spencer seriously wounded, but still
conning the ship. He took command and steadied the
ship on her course, the coxswain, Petty Officer
David P. Smith, sticking to his post with great
gallantry, steering with one hand while holding an
electric torch to the compass with the other; it
is due to Lieutenant Spencer that the ship was
turned away from the land. "Iris II" was again hit
by three shells simultaneously, and as the men
were packed very closely on the main deck the
casualties were very heavy. When the ship was
steadied on her course the fire was put out, Able
Seaman F. E. M. Lake ("Monarch") being the first
man to attack it, which he did with sand,
afterwards helping Mr. Henderson to throw bombs
overboard, regardless of his own life. A motor
launch, No. 558, commanded by Lieutenant-
Commander Lionel S. Chappell, D.S.C., R.N.V.R.,
and with Captain Ralph Collins on board, gallantly
came into the heavy fire from the enemy's guns,
and throwing a smoke screen around "Iris II"
enabled her to get clear, the ship being very
badly damaged; she reached Dover at 2.45 p.m.,
some five hours after the death of her captain,
who remained confident and cheerful until his very
heroic spirit passed.
106. Although the
Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty have most
promptly recognised and rewarded the services of
Acting Captain Carpenter by promoting him to the
Post List, I should not like to end this part of
my despatch without putting on record the praise
which is due to him. An excellent staff officer,
he rendered me invaluable assistance in the
drawing up of the final operation orders, the
preparations for which involved strenuous work by
many officers and a vast amount of necessary
detail. My account of the proceedings of the
"Vindictive" outlines his personal share in the
attack, but as showing the force which his example
had on those under his command, I hear on all
sides that the Captain's calm composure when
navigating mined waters and bringing his ship
alongside the Mole in darkness, and his great
bravery when the ship came under heavy fire did
much to encourage similar behaviour on the part of
the crew, and thereby contributed greatly to the
success of the operation.
107. In arranging
the sections of this despatch, I have grouped
proceedings of units taking part in the operations
off Ostend in their appropriate places, but I
submit herewith the report by Commodore Hubert
Lynes, C.M.G., Senior Naval Officer at Dunkirk, to
whom I am indebted for whole-hearted cooperation
and loyal assistance at all times. I share his
regret as to the alteration by the enemy of the
position of the Stroom Bank Buoy not having been
discovered, but I feel that the consequence must
be accepted as one of the misfortunes of war.
108. The Lords
Commissioners will notice that three French
destroyers co-operated at Ostend with our big
monitors, and four French torpedo boats and four
French motor launches with our small monitors. I
should like to be allowed to express my
gratification at this co-operation, and my thanks
for the valuable assistance these vessels gave are
due to Vice-Admiral Pierre Alexis, M. A. Ronarc'h,
K.C.B., C.M.G., Commandant Superieur de la Marine
dans la zone des Armées du Nord, Dunkerque, and to
Capitaine de Vaisseau Breart de Boisanger, D.S.O.
109. Commodore Lynes
has recommended for special recognition several
officers and men, and the rest their Lordships
will have an opportunity of considering in the
list which I am forwarding as soon as it can be
XI.- TORPEDO BOAT
110. I desire to
relate the proceedings of some of the vessels of
the 6th Destroyer Flotilla under the command of
Captain Wilfred Tomkinson, and the "Warwick"
flying my flag, which came under my own
observation, or are of special interest or merit.
111. The "Trident" (below
- Jon Richards) and "Mansfield" after
parting company from their submarines, covered the
western flotilla of smoke-screening small craft.
The "Whirlwind," "Myngs," "Velox," "Morris,"
"Moorsom," and "Melpomene" covered the eastern
smoke flotilla. The "Warwick," "Phoebe," and
"North Star" cruised off the Mole to protect the
assaulting craft from torpedo attack. These duties
took the destroyers close in shore, and they were
frequently under a heavy fire from guns of all
calibres at short range. When the assaulting craft
were leaving the Mole, the "Warwick" followed them
for a few minutes, and then returned to assist the
withdrawal of the small craft, picking up four
motor launches, including No. 282, commanded by
Lieutenant P. T. Dean, R.N.V.R. This launch had on
board one hundred and one people from "Iphigenia"
and "Intrepid," some of whom had been killed in
the launch, and others who were wounded. As the
motor launch was dangerously overloaded and full
of wounded, I ordered them to be transferred to
the "Warwick," which took more than half an hour
to do. I was much struck with the gallant bearing
of Lieutenant Dean and the survivors of his crew.
They were all volunteers, and nearly all had been
wounded and several killed.
112. While the
"Warwick" was engaged as stated in the preceding
paragraph, the "North Star," having lost her
bearings in the smoke, emerged from the smoke
screen to the southeastward of the lighthouse.
Seeing some vessels alongside the Mole, she fired
all her torpedoes at them and withdrew, but coming
under very heavy fire at point-blank range she was
immediately disabled, and soon in a sinking
condition. The "Phoebe," commanded by
Lieutenant-Commander Hubert E. Gore-Langton, was
handled with conspicuous gallantry while under
this heavy fire. She repeatedly circled round the
"North Star," making smoke screens and attempting
under their cover to tow her out of action. She
was twice successful in getting her in tow, the
hawser being shot away once and parted once.
"Phoebe" then went alongside "North Star," and
endeavoured to tow in that way. "North Star,"
however, was in a sinking condition, and being
continually hit. In these circumstances, Mr.
Gore-Langton ordered the abandonment of the "North
Star," standing by her, and taking off all of her
company who were left alive.
113. I regret that
the "North Star" was lost, but the conduct of
Lieutenant-Commander Kenneth C. Helyar and his
company was all that could be desired, the "North
Star" not being abandoned until all possibility of
salving her was gone. The Lieutenant-Commander of
"Phoebe" states that Mr. Helyar by his coolness
and calm devotion to duty set a splendid example
to all, though his ship was totally disabled and
constantly being hit. He would not leave his
bridge until ordered twice to abandon his ship
when she was obviously sinking under him, and
could not be saved. He also did his utmost to
assist the "Phoebe" in every way to take him in
114. "Tempest" (below
- Navy Photos/Paul Simpson) and "Tetrarch,"
of the Harwich force, accompanied the Ostend
blockships from the Goodwins until they reached
the inshore smoke screen off Ostend, after which
they co-operated with the Dunkirk destroyers
"Faulknor," flying the broad pendant of Commodore
Lynes, "Lightfoot," "Mastiff," "Afridi," "Swift,"
and "Matchless" in supporting the small craft
inshore, within close range of the enemy's heavy
115. I wish to
record my entire satisfaction with the good work
done by the torpedo-boat destroyer force
throughout the operations. The part taken by the
"Phoebe" in protecting and endeavouring to tow out
of action the "North Star," and in the final
rescue of her people, is a conspicuous example of
the fine qualities of this branch of the service,
and is highly creditable to Mr. Gore-Langton, his
officers, and crew. I have already recommended
that officer for promotion, as I consider that his
personal and professional conduct on this occasion
marks him as likely to be valuable in the higher
ranks of His Majesty's service.
XII. - SMOKE
SCREENS, MOTOR LAUNCHES, AND COASTAL MOTOR BOATS.
116. The orders for
smoke-screening the approach and operations of the
forces attacking Zeebrugge and Ostend, and the
reports from the numerous motor launches and
coastal motor boats employed on that duty, are
necessarily too detailed to be recapitulated in a
despatch of this general nature. Apart from the
smoke apparatus supplied to the larger craft for
self-protection, the duty of making smoke screens
and laying smoke floats was imposed on a large
fleet of motor launches and coastal motor boats.
Without the services of these little vessels for
this duty, for rescue work and for inshore work
generally, an attack of this nature could hardly
have been considered.
Screens. - While the wind favoured the
screens were efficacious. Captain Ralph Collins,
who commanded the motor launches, reports that in
some units in which the smoke screens were
maintained, and in which most of the boats were
under fire, there were no boats hit; whereas, in
one instance, which came under my own observation,
the absence of a screen led to preventably heavy
punishment. As to the smoke floats, the enemy sunk
many of them directly they were laid, especially
if, as happened in many cases, they emitted flame.
Those which remained were effective.
Launches. - These craft were under the
command of Captain Ralph Collins at Zeebrugge and
Commander Hamilton Benn at Ostend. As to the
handling of these craft, great credit is due to
the leaders of sections for the way in which they
led their boats up to the objectives. When the
wind shifted, the commanding officers proceeded
closer inshore to give as much protection to the
attacking ships as possible. One unit, under
Lieutenant Gordon S. Maxwell, R.N.V.R., went close
inshore, and by dropping three floats without
baffles succeeded in inducing the enemy to
concentrate his fire on these floats.
Lieutenant-Commander Dawbarn Young, R.N.V.R., was
in command of M.L. 110 (below). He had
volunteered to precede the blockships and light
the entrance of the harbour and canal with calcium
buoys. Whilst approaching the entrance M.L. 110
was struck by three shells, which killed and
wounded half the crew and wrecked the engines.
Lieutenant-Commander Young, hit in three places,
was mortally wounded, but stuck to his post and
gave orders to abandon ship, until he collapsed.
This very gallant officer died before reaching
Dover. Ever the first to volunteer for any
dangerous work, the Dover Patrol has sustained a
great loss by his death.
119. Of the
meritorious work reported from the motor launches,
I have already selected the instances of
Lieutenant P. T. Dean, R.N.V.R., in No. 282, and
Lieutenant H. A. Littleton, R.N.V.R., in No. 526,
who brought off the crews of the sunken blocking
ships. There is no doubt that these boats were
handled in a magnificent manner, and that the
highest praise is due to their officers and men.
From Ostend reports of the motor launch flotilla
are of the same high character. Commander Ion
Hamilton Benn reports that M.L. 283 (Lieutenant
Keith R. Hoare, R.N.V.R.) took on board the entire
crew of "Sirius" and some of "Brilliant's" people,
and was seriously overloaded, but was able to
reach harbour safely. He cannot speak too highly
of the conduct of Lieutenant Hoare and Lieutenant
Rowland Bourke, R.N.V.R. (M.L. 276), who both
showed remarkable coolness and good judgment
throughout the operation. He also mentions
Lieutenants, R.N.V.R., Sidney D. Gowing (M.L.
551), Rawsthorne Proctor (M.L. 556), and Malcolm
S. Kirkwood (M.L. 11).
Motor Boats. - I have been greatly impressed
with the administrative capacity of Lieutenant
Arthur E. P. Welman, D.S.C., R.N., the young
officer in charge of the coastal motor boats of
the Dover Patrol. In the Zeebrugge operation he
had seventeen of these vessels under his orders.
Besides their screening duties, several of them
undertook attacks an enemy vessels and against the
Mole, the seaplane shed, &c., with success,
Lieutenant Welman always being in the most exposed
position. Sub-Lieutenant Cedric R. L. Outhwaite,
R.N.V.R., in C.M.B. 5, reports that he attacked an
enemy destroyer which was under way, and observed
his torpedo hit below her forward searchlight, the
light shortly afterwards going out, and her fire
diminishing. Sub-Lieutenant L. R. Blake, R.N.R.,
in C.M.B.7, reports hitting a destroyer alongside
the Mole with a torpedo which struck below the
fore bridge. No. 32A fired a torpedo at the
steamship "Brussels." An explosion followed, but
the result was hidden by smoke.
121. The zest of
most of the young officers in the coastal motor
boats, like that of those in the motor launches,
compels one's admiration. I can select only one of
many instances which show the eagerness of the
officers to take part in a fight from which
circumstances tried to exclude them. Lieutenant
Edward E. Hill in C.M.B.35A had the misfortune to
foul his propellers on the evening of the 22nd
April when already 18 miles on his outward voyage.
He got a tow from a drifter, and arrived at Dover
at 8 p.m. His boat was immediately hoisted and the
propellers cleared, but as there was other damage
he was not afloat again till 9.40 p.m. He then
made his way to the Belgian coast, and was off
Zeebrugge - about 70 miles - by 11.50 p.m., taking
up his smoke-float patrol at once, and continuing
it for an hour, in the course of which he came
under rather heavy fire from a battery at
Blankenberghe. The chapter of accidents amongst
such small craft is naturally a long one, but the
resource developed in overcoming them is more than
compensation. The daring way in which the crews of
these boats approach the shore, drawing the beams
of the searchlights and the fire of the guns, then
escaping in their own smoke is splendid.
Lieutenant Francis C. Harrison, who commanded the
Ostend section of C.M.B.'s, mentions the names of
Sub-Lieutenant Peter B. Clarke, R.N.R., Midshipman
N. S. Herbert, R.N.R., and Chief Motor Mechanic G.
H. Hebblethwaite (C.M.B. 10) for the dangerous
work which that boat undertook in searching for
the engineer of the "Sirius," who was thought to
be on board that ship after she had been sunk, in
the course of which the boat came under very
heavy-fire; and Sub-Lieutenant Frank A. W. Ramsay
(C.M.B. 19) for his coolness and quickness in
laying the inshore calcium buoys under heavy
machine-gun fire. Lieutenant Welman also mentions
the names of several officers and men in coastal
motor boats; these will be forwarded for Admiralty
XIII.- DOVER TRAWLER
122. Captain William
V. Howard, D.S.O., of the Trawler Patrol (below,
Dover Patrol trawler in Dover Harbour - Jon
accompanied the expedition in the paddle
minesweeper "Lingfield," and did valuable work in
keeping touch with the force, giving assistance by
towing, and otherwise helping small craft in
trouble while on the passage to and from
Zeebrugge, also in receiving the surplus crews
from blockships, and escorting motor launches.
This veteran officer has been on patrol work off
the southeast coast of England during the whole of
the war. His energy and example are great
incentives to the officers and men of the Trawler
Patrol which he commands.
123. In conclusion I
desire to make a special reference to the
praiseworthy manner in which the medical officers
and their staff, and volunteer helpers, devoted
their skill and sympathy to those who were wounded
in these operations. Fighting at such close
quarters, the casualties were bound to be
numerous, and the wounds likely to be severe.
Staff Surgeon James McCutcheon, M.B., was the
senior medical officer of the force. In an able
report that officer outlines the work of his
staff, and the circumstances in which it was done,
and I trust that the Lords Commissioners will
agree with me in thinking that no branch of the
naval service surpassed in zeal and ability the
efforts of the medical branch to prove itself
worthy of its profession, and of the occasion. I
have selected with difficulty from a number of
very deserving officers the names of three to be
representative recipients of such promotion as
their Lordships may be able to award for these
operations to the medical branch of the Royal
have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient
OSTEND. REPORT FROM COMMODORE, DUNKIRK.
Commodore, Dunkirk, April 30, 1918.
have the honour to forward the following report on
Operation Z.- O., carried out on the night of the
1. A brief
preliminary report was 'phoned to Vice-Admiral,
Dover Patrol, on the 23rd April, since which
photographs and air reconnaissances have
established the facts (as reported) that -
and "Brilliant" are not inside Ostend Harbour, but
lie stranded about 2,400 yards to eastward of
Stroom Bank Buoy is not in its charted position,
but is a little to eastward of the prolongation of
eastern pier, approximately lat. 51 15 50 N.,
long. 2 53 20 E. 2.
2 (b) accounts for
(a); supposing, as is almost certain, that the
buoy was in this position on the night of
3. The location of
buoys by aircraft is, of course, a very high art,
and can only be done with any degree of accuracy
with relation to closely surrounded land (or
shoal) features. Captain R. Graham, D.S.O.,
D.S.C., R.A.F., and Captain L. H. Slater, D.S.C.,
R.A.F., obtained the present position of Stroom
Bank Buoy by coming down to 100 feet and fixing
the buoy with reference, for direction, to the
line of eastern pier.
4. The organisation
detailed in my 0/53, of the 21st April, was
carried out for Ostend operation, which I
conducted with the assistance of Commander J. L.
C. Clark, D.S.O. R.N., from on board "Faulknor" (below,
her famous Dover Patrol sister-ship HMS Broke -
Jon Richards), leader of the Off-Shore
5. The operation was
carried out according to programme. There were no
hitches, the times were kept precisely, and I have
complimented the senior officers of units, and
all, on the care with, which they both studied and
carried out my necessarily rather voluminous
6. (a.) The wind, on
starting out, was light north-westerly, and
continued thus until about 10 minutes before
"Sirius" and "Brilliant" arrived at Stroom Bank
Buoy, when it most unluckily shifted round to the
south-westward, causing all the smoke to go wrong
at the critical, moment.
(b.) The M.L.'s
and C.M.B's strove with resolution and good
judgment to compete with this reverse, but all
their efforts were overpowered by the enemy's
smoke screen blown to seaward, while they
themselves became subjected to a heavy, but
happily ill-directed, gunfire.
7. The blockships
made the Stroom Bank Buoy (which was alight and
marked the whole time), but after that the adverse
smoke prevented them seeing anything by which they
might have retrieved the error of the buoy's
8. (a.) Since the
Captains of the blockships, Commander A. E.
Godsal, R.N., and Lieutenant- Commander H. N. M.
Hardy, D.S.O., R.N., will have made their full
reports to you, I say little more, since, after
what has been said, it is needless to remark that
the failure to find the entrance was no fault of
theirs; on the contrary, the newly discovered
position of the buoy only too plainly shows that
their course, after rounding the buoy, ought to
have brought them right in.
(b.) I may add that
on my return to harbour about six hours later, the
bitter disappointment of these two gallant
officers showed itself chiefly in begging for
another blockship apiece to have another' ry.
9. The low clouds
and drizzle put all aircraft participation out of
10. The monitor and
siege gun bombardments were undoubtedly useful as
a blind, and to keep the fire of the shore
batteries down. The shore batteries commenced to
return the monitors' fire about 5 minutes after
the latter opened. A number of shell fragments
were picked up on board the monitors, but there
were no hits. Photographs show a number of hits
around the German batteries, but none on the guns.
11. (a.) This time
the enemy took longer to be alarmed than on the
night of 11th/12th. He seemed to take but a
desultory interest until the monitors opened fire,
i.e., 1/4 hour after the C.M.B.'s arrived at the
Stroom Bank Buoy, and, as on the previous
occasion, he cannot have had a single patrol out.
(b.) Very few shells
fell near us in the offshore destroyers. Enemy's
fire was evidently either directed against the
inshore boats, at the monitors, or barrage fire
into the smoke areas.
(c.) His star shell,
as before, averaged about 7,000 yards from the
shore; when we closed to that range they dropped
alongside of (one on) the division.
intervals the enemy's star shell showed up to us
the M.L.'s busily engaged with their smoke
screens, and at 11.50 also the blockships with
their escort to the E.N.E. steering for the Stroom
Bank Buoy. It was at this moment that we noticed
the shift of wind to south-westward.
(e.) About 10
minutes later the blockships disappeared abreast
the buoy into the smoke, and we saw no more of
them, but picked up "Tempest" and "Tetrarch."
(f.) C.M.B.'s 12 and
19 report a "M.L. blew up" about 00.15, E.S.E., 2
miles from Stroom Bank Buoy; this apparently
refers to the blockships being hit by shell.
00.25 bursts of firing became more frequent, and
more searchlights switched on than before,
evidently the result of the blockships' emergence
from smoke and stranding.
(h.) After this
there was little more than desultory firing,
probably at monitors, with the exception of two
3-minute bursts of barrage fire at 00.42-00.52.
continued searching actively until about 01.30
when their numbers reduced to three or four.
01.00 the "retirement" red rocket signals and
syren "K's" were made by destroyers; this produced
a few big shrapnel in our neighbourhood.
few C.M.B.'s and M.L.'s were seen coming away off
and on up to 2 a.m., when we withdrew to fix
position by R, R.M.C. Buoy, picking up No. 7
C.M.B., disabled, on the way. ("Tetrarch" towed
(k.) Having fixed by
Position R, we continued to cruise between B and
Stroom Bank Buoy until daylight, and the shore
became visible, when, nothing floating being in
sight, all forces were withdrawn; B.C. Patrol
being sent out later, and picking up the last
straggler, viz., C.M.B. 17, who had run out of
petrol near 3 B.C. Buoy.
03.20, when near Stroom Bank Buoy, we saw two
searchlights, judged about 500 yards apart,
concentrated on something burning in the water
between them. At 03.30 this fire culminated in an
explosion, and darkness ensued, the two
searchlights switched out a few minutes later.
enemy craft were seen by anyone except that C.M.B.
12 feels sure that she was chased by a destroyer
with searchlights, but I cannot think a craft
coming out of Ostend could have been seen by no
one else or escaped us, for, apart from the
star-shell illumination, the diffused moonlight
gave quite one mile visibility.
12. On return to
harbour about 07.30, I found that:
the crews of the blockships had been saved, the
majority by M.L.'s 276, 283 (below,
sister-boat ML.81 - Andy Hunter), and
brought to Dunkirk; the few others who had
evacuated in a pulling boat were picked up by the
This salvage work of M.L.'s 276 and 283 was
carried out under heavy, but fortunately not
accurate, fire with a courage and coolness that
alone could have achieved its wonderful result,
for not a man was wounded, and the heavily laden
boats returned to harbour safely.
All the M.L.'s had returned intact with very
slight casualties, and one damaged bow.
C.M.B.'s, too, both for Zeebrugge and Ostend, had
all returned safely, either to Dunkirk or Dover,
with the exception of two or three which were
retrieved later. Their personnel casualties were
two dangerously wounded and four wounded,
considering the work done, a marvellous result,
and one which reflects the greatest credit on the
(a.) The luck of the
wind changing, combined with the shifting of' the
Stroom Bank Buoy, accounts for the failure to
block Ostend Harbour. There is no discredit to
anyone; indeed, none could have carried out their
duties more admirably than did the Ostend forces
on this occasion.
(b.) I anticipate
success in the new endeavour, the undertaking of
which has only been waiting favourable weather
conditions during the last few days.
(c.) The lion's
share of the work was, of course, done by the
C.M.B.'s, M.L.'s, and blockships.
Sir Roger Keyes, K.C.B., C.M.G., M.V.O., D.S.O.,
MAY 10, 1918.
Fleet House, Dover,
Be pleased to lay
before the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty
the following report on the renewed attempt made
in the early morning of the 10th May, 1918, to
block the entrance of the Ostend-Bruges Canal by
sinking the "Vindictive" therein.
2. When I learnt on
the 23rd April that the attempt to block Ostend
had not succeeded, I represented to their
Lordships the desirability of repeating the
operation at once. The "Vindictive," the only
vessel available at the moment, being placed at my
disposal, every effort was made to repair the
damage she had suffered and fit her out before the
expiration of the period in which the tide and
darkness suited, i.e., about four days. This was
accomplished at Dover, thanks to the strenuous
efforts of Rear-Admiral C. F. Dampier, the
Superintendent of the Dockyard, and his small
staff; the services of Engineer Commander Henry F.
Bell, R.N., and Mr. A. J. Luke being particularly
Two hundred tons of
cement were put into the "Vindictive's" after
magazines and upper bunkers on both sides, which
was all her draught would permit her to carry, in
view of the depth of water in the approaches to
William Hickey, K.C.B., Commanding Dover Garrison,
most helpfully provided men for filling bags with
cement and putting them on board.
3. As already
reported in my last despatch, Commander Alfred E.
Godsal, R.N., and Lieutenant-Commander Henry N. M.
Hardy, D.S.O., R.N., of the "Brilliant" and
"Sirius" respectively, had begged to be allowed to
make another attempt, and had reported that all
their officers and Petty-Officer Joseph J. Reed of
the "Brilliant," had volunteered for this service.
As Commander Godsal had led the previous attack,
he was given command of the "Vindictive," and
Lieutenant Victor A. C. Crutchley, R.N.,
Sub-Lieutenant Angus H. Maclachlan, R.N., and
Petty Officer Joseph J. Reed, all of the
"Brilliant," accompanied him. Engineer Commander
William A. Bury, R.N., however, claimed his right
to remain in the "Vindictive." This very gallant
officer, who greatly distinguished himself on the
23rd April, represented that his knowledge of the
engines and boilers of his ship should be
utilised. He further begged that Engine Room
Artificers Hubert Cavanagh, Norman Carroll, Alan
Thomas, and Herbert Alfred Harris, who also
volunteered, might be allowed to remain with him.
I acceded to his request.
Lieutenant Sir John
Alleyne, D.S.C., R.N., of H.M.S. "Lord Clive," who
had been most useful in fitting up the
navigational arrangements which were destroyed on
the 23rd April, asked to be allowed to navigate
the vessel during the operation. I approved of
this request, feeling that this officer's
experience and intimate knowledge of the shoals
and currents on the Belgian coast would be of
great value to the Commander of the "Vindictive."
The crew were selected from a very large number of
volunteers from vessels of the Dover Patrol.
4. The "Vindictive"
was in all respects ready by the desired date, but
the weather was unfavourable, and the operation
had to be postponed until the necessary condition
of tide and darkness recurred. This delay made it
possible to prepare a second ship, the old cruiser
"Sappho," which was taken from Southampton to
Chatham and fitted out by Chatham Dockyard with
the greatest celerity and thoroughness.
Lieutenant-Commander Hardy took command of her,
and he was accompanied by all the officers of the
"Sirius," Lieutenant Edward L. Berthon, D.S.C.,
R.N., Sub- Lieutenant Alfred V. Knight, R.N.R.,
and Engineer-Lieutenant William R. McLaren, R.N.
Her crew were selected from a very large number of
volunteers in the Royal Naval Barracks at Chatham.
observation on the 9th May showed that many
torpedo and submarine craft were still shut up in
Bruges, and proved that the effectiveness of the
blocking of the Zeebrugge branch of the canal was
maintained up to that date. Although the craft so
shut up in Bruges have been unable to use the
small waterways to Ostend, the latter port was
still being used by enemy torpedo craft and
information, confirmed by aerial observation, also
disclosed the fact that to counterbalance the
forced inactivity of the craft in Bruges, and
probably to resist any repetition of the April
attack, a considerable number of German destroyers
had joined those units of the Flanders force which
were outside the canal on the night of the
22nd-23rd of that month.
8. Commodore Hubert
Lynes, C.M.G., at Dunkirk, having so ably carried
out the direction of the former attempt as part of
the Zeebrugge and Ostend scheme, I entrusted the
conduct of the operations on this occasion to him,
placing under his orders all the monitors,
destroyers, motor launches, and coastal motor
boats required, in addition to the blocking ships
"Vindictive" (below, in Dover Harbour, after
the first Zeebrugge Raid and before the second
one on Ostend - Jon Richards) and "Sappho."
On the evening of the 9th May, the weather
conditions being most promising, the "Vindictive"
and "Sappho" sailed in company to join Commodore
Lynes at Dunkirk. His report, which is attached,
furnishes the details of the operation.
9. In order to
prevent interference from Zeebrugge by the
newly-arrived enemy destroyer force mentioned in
paragraph 7 H.M.S. "Warwick," flying my flag, and
a division of destroyers consisting of H.M. Ships
"Whirlwind," "Velox," and "Trident," under Captain
Wilfred Tomkinson, R.N., cruised midway between
Ostend and Zeebrugge.
10. Meanwhile the
operation proceeded in accordance with the plan,
except for the unfortunate breakdown of the
"Sappho," due to a boiler accident, which reduced
her speed to such an extent that she was unable to
reach her destination in time to take part. This
halved the chances of success, and was a great
With regard to the
proceedings of " Vindictive," I cannot do better
than quote from the report of Lieutenant Victor
Crutchley, on whom the command devolved when
Commander Godsal was killed and Lieutenant Sir
John Alleyne seriously wounded:
"On arrival at
position P, course was altered for the Stroom Bank
Buoy. The boat marking the buoy was seen and left
close on the port hand; the buoy was not seen.
Speed was reduced to twelve knots on passing the
"At this time the
smoke screen was excellent. There was a lane
between the eastern and western sections, and the
only fire experienced was shrapnel, which I
considered was fired at a venture, and did no
harm. We ran on for thirteen minutes from the
Stroom Bank Buoy, and then, as the entrance was
not sighted, altered course to the westward
parallel to the shore, and reduced to 60
revolutions (nine knots). As we still failed to
see the entrance we altered course 16 points to
starboard, and returned along the shore to the
eastward. We again failed to find the entrance,
and so altered course 16 points to starboard. All
this time, owing to fog and smoke, the visibility
was not more than 1½ cables. This time the
entrance was sighted about one cable on the port
beam, and at the same time the ship came under a
very heavy fire from shore batteries of all
"On sighting the
entrance, in accordance with previous orders, I
passed the order 'preparatory abandon ship' to the
engine-room. As soon as the entrance was sighted
the ship was handled from the conning tower.
Commander Godsal immediately turned up for the
entrance and ordered smoke to be lighted. At about
this time communication with the after control
failed. Just after the entrance was passed,
Commander Godsal went outside the conning tower
and gave the order hard-a-starboard from outside.
this a heavy shell burst either on the conning
tower or very close to it; Lieutenant Alleyne was
knocked out, and Commander Godsal was not seen
again, and all the occupants of the conning tower
were badly shaken. I then ordered the port
telegraph to full speed astern, to try to swing
the ship across the channel. She grounded forward
on the eastern pier when at an angle of about
three points to the pier. As the ship stopped
swinging, and at the time I considered that no
more could be done, I ordered the ship to be
engine-room had been abandoned, Engineer
Lieutenant-Commander Bury blew the ship up, by
firing the main charges and after auxiliary
charges, and I endeavoured to fire the forward
auxiliary charges. There was a considerable shock
when the first set of charges were fired. I am not
positive that the forward auxiliary charges fired,
as I could not distinguish the shock from other
"When I got on board
M.L. 254 I found that the First Lieutenant had
been killed by a shell bursting, also one
deckhand. The captain, Lieutenant Geoffrey H.
Drummond, R.N.V.R., and the coxswain, had been
wounded. We went out of the harbour stern first
followed the whole way by machine-gun fire. On
finally going ahead the forecastle flooded, and
the boat was very much down by the bows. The pump
and buckets were got under way and all spare hands
placed right aft. However, the water was gaining,
and 'S.O.S.' was made by flashing lamp continually
to seaward. The courses steered from Ostend were
north for 15 minutes, and then west by north until
picked up by "Warwick."
"I cannot speak too
highly of the bravery of the M.L.'s coming
alongside inside Ostend; they were under a
continuous and heavy fire. M.L. 254 rescued two
officers and thirty-seven men.
"The question of
recommendations is a very difficult one. Every
man, without exception, behaved splendidly."
11. It had been
Commander Godsal's intention to ram the western
pier with the object of swinging the ship across
the channel under port helm, a manoeuvre that
would have been greatly assisted by the tide,
which was setting strongly through the piers to
the eastward. It would appear that when the
"Vindictive" eventually found the entrance she was
too close to the eastern pier to use port helm
without risk of grounding broadside on. This would
account for Commander Godsal's order "hard a
starboard" a few seconds before he was killed. The
"Vindictive" was thus committed to starboard helm
when the command devolved on Lieutenant Crutchley,
who very promptly put the port telegraph to full
speed astern. Unfortunately the port propeller,
which was very severely damaged against Zeebrugge
Mole, was of little value. Due to this, and also
to the fact that the tide was setting strongly
against her starboard side, the ship's stern did
not swing across the channel as desired, with the
result that she grounded at an angle of about 25
degrees to the eastern pier, leaving a
considerable channel between her stern and the
12. At 2.45 a.m.,
fifteen minutes after the programme time for the
withdrawal of the motor craft, the "Warwick" and
her consorts proceeded slowly to the westward
parallel to the coast.
13. At 3.15 a.m. a
signal of distress was observed from the direction
of Ostend. I directed the division to close, and
found M.L. 254 (Lieutenant Geoffrey H. Drummond,
R.N.V.R.) badly damaged and in a sinking
condition, with two officers and thirty-seven men
of the "Vindictive's" crew on board. Lieutenant
Drummond was very severely wounded, his second in
command, Lieutenant Gordon F. Ross, R.N.V.R., and
other men killed, and most of her small crew and
many of the "Vindictive's," including her gallant
Engineer Commander, were wounded. They were
transferred to the "Warwick," and this took half
an hour to do, on account of the serious condition
of some of the wounded.
14. Dawn was now
breaking, and H.M.S. "Warwick" and her consorts
were within close range of the enemy's batteries.
M.L. 254 (below, sister-boat ML.558 in Dover
Harbour - Jon Richards) was too badly
damaged forward to allow of her being towed, and
was rapidly settling down. I ordered her to be
destroyed, and, as soon as this had been carried
out, withdrew the division at 25 knots.
15. By this time the
tide had fallen so low that it was inexpedient to
return by the route inside of the shoals by which
the approach had been made, and a course was
steered for a gap in the net defence by the
deep-draught route from Ostend to seaward.
It would seem that
the enemy had mined this route in anticipation of
an attack. At 4.0 a.m. H.M.S. "Warwick" struck a
mine, which broke her back just before the
superstructure of the after superimposed 4-inch
gun, and destroyed the after part of the ship. She
took a heavy list and appeared to be settling by
the stern. H.M.S. "Velox" was ordered alongside
H.M.S. "Warwick," and the wounded, of whom there
were a large number on board, were transferred to
the former. H.M.S. "Whirlwind" then took H.M.S.
"Warwick" in tow, and the latter being unable to
steer, H.M.S. "Velox" was kept alongside while
navigating the channels through the shoals to the
I arrived at Dover
in H.M.S. "Warwick" at 4.30 p.m.
16. I have again to
refer to the fine work done by the motor launches
and coastal motor boats, as reported in paragraph
29 of the Commodore's letter. Their conduct in the
late operation confirms the opinion I expressed of
them in my despatch on the previous operations.
17. The co-operation
of the Air Force, under Brigadier-General Charles
L. Lambe, C.M.G., D.S.O., R.A.F., was of great
value during the operation. In spite of the fog
the 214th Squadron (Squadron-Commander Herbert G.
Brackley, D.S.O., D.S.C.) continued to attack in
accordance with the programme until after the
completion of the operation.
18. I greatly regret
the loss of so fine an officer as Commander
Godsal. His zeal to retrieve the failure of the
"Brilliant" on the 23rd April impelled him to
disregard all protection in order to secure
success on this occasion.
19. As on the
22nd/23rd April, I am much indebted to
Vice-Admiral Pierre Alexis M. A. Ronarc'h,
Commandant Superieur de la Marine dans la zone des
Armées du Nord, Dunkerque, who placed at my
disposal all the available vessels under his
command, and assisted me in every possible way.
The French torpedo craft and M.Ls. performed
valuable service in connection with the monitor
20. I commend
Commodore Hubert Lynes to their Lordships'
The officers and men
mentioned by him are being included in my list of
recommendations, which will be forwarded as soon
KEYES, Vice-Admiral, Dover Patrol.
Vice-Admiral, Dover, letter No. 2305/003, dated
15th June, 1918. (No. 053.).
Commodore, Dunkirk, 10th May, 1918.
I have the honour to
forward the following report on the operations for
blocking Ostend Harbour, carried out on the night
of the 9th-10th May, 1918.
2. It will be
remembered that on the night of the 22nd-23rd
April, when the forces under your command so
successfully achieved the blocking of the
Zeebrugge-Bruges Canal, the Western Squadron,
under my Command, was unsuccessful in its attack;
simultaneously delivered, and with the same object
3. The failure on
that occasion was due, firstly, to the adverse
shift of wind that blew all our smoke screens
across the harbour entrance at the critical
moment, and secondly, to the displacement -
whether by design or chance on the enemy's part -
of the Ostend Buoy, whose normal position had
formed a convenient departure point for the
4. Our lack of
success was the fortune of: war, not the fault of
anyone concerned; indeed, no one could have
carried out their duties more admirably than did
the Ostend forces that night, and I am deeply
grateful that, in recognition of this fact, you
were so considerate as to place the organisation
and leadership of another attack in my hands.
5. In the first
operation, the blockships had advanced under cover
of a smoke screen, guided by the lights and
signals made by the small craft (C.M.B.'s and
M.L.'s) working close inshore. I decided to adopt
in general a similar plan for the new attack, but
previous experience, and the necessity for
assuming that the enemy would make counter
preparations against an exactly similar attack,
called for modification in detail.
6. In preparing for
the new attack, particular attention was paid to
perfecting the navigational arrangements; numerous
small, but important, improvements were introduced
into the smoke gear, and the alternatives for
guiding the blockships into the entrance were made
so numerous as to reduce chance of failure, in
that respect, to the smallest possible dimensions.
7. The quicker the
delivery of the new attack, the greater the
element of surprise, and, consequently, of
success. Realising this, special efforts were made
both at Dover and1 Dunkirk, so that within a few
days of the first attack, "Vindictive" had been
prepared for her new role of blockship, all the
small craft had been completed with their
smoke-lights and other fittings, and reorganised
according to the new plan of attack, which had
been promulgated to all concerned.
plans of attack, "Y.O." and "V.S.," were submitted
to you in my operation orders 0/54 and 0/58
8. For this rapid
and satisfactory work of preparation at Dover, I
beg particularly to offer my grateful thanks to
Commodore the Hon. A. D. E. H. Boyle, C.B.,
M.V.O., Chief of the Staff, who left no stone
unturned to have all my numerous requests carried
out; for that at Dunkirk, I am chiefly indebted to
the energy of Commander J. L. C. Clarke, D.S.O.,
R.N., my Second-in-Command; to
Lieutenant-Commander F. H. Sandford, D.S.O., R.N.,
the staff officer you were good enough to lend me,
who was mainly responsible for the smoke screen
organisation; and to Lieutenant H. F. Witherby,
R.N.V.R., my staff intelligence officer, whose
knowledge of the enemy's coast and close
association with air reconnaissance work of the
61st (Naval) Wing were invaluable
9. The elements
were, however, against us - for despite all these
preparations, strong northerly winds, with rough
seas, precluded all possibility of the enterprise
up to a period when the conjunction of darkness
and tide, in its turn, demanded postponement until
the second week of the present month.
10. This enforced
period of inaction was occupied in perfecting and
testing the arrangements, and, above all, in the
preparation of a second blockship, which on your
representation, was ordered to be prepared and
fitted out by His Majesty's Dockyard, Chatham.
11. The conjunction
of darkness and tides made the night of the
9th-10th May the first favourable night of the new
period. By good fortune the weather conditions on
the 9th gave every indication of promise, and
accordingly on the afternoon of the 9th the
operations were put in progress, firstly by the
passage of "Sappho" to Dover, and later by the
passage of both blockships, with their supporting
and escorting forces, from Dover to Dunkirk. It
was at first doubtful whether "Sappho" could be
completed in time, but Chatham Dockyard made great
efforts, and "Sappho" arrived at Dover with
several hours in hand.
12. For days
preceding the operation, rain, cloud, and mist had
prevented more than the scantiest air
reconnaissances, but towards sunset on the 9th,
i.e., when the blockships were already steaming
eastwards, an air reconnaissance announced that
all the buoys off Ostend had apparently been
removed. At considerable risk of having to land
after dark, Squadron-Commander Ronald Graham,
D.S.O., D.S.C., himself at once went out, returned
safely, and confirmed the report. This new move on
the enemy's part had to be countered; we
accordingly arranged to lay a special
(calcic-phosphide) light-buoy of our own, which
subsequently made a satisfactory departure point
for the blockship and smoke screens.
13. The weather
conditions as night advanced continued excellent,
wind N. by W., sky clear, atmosphere good, both
for air work and navigation, sea smooth, enough
for the small craft to operate, barometer steady,
and conditions likely to remain stable.
14. "Vindictive" and
"Sappho" arrived in Dunkirk Roads in good time,
disembarked their surplus crews, and then
proceeded with their escorts at the appointed time
in the programme. "Sappho," however, had scarcely
left the anchorage than a man-hole joint in the
side of her boiler blew out, reducing her speed to
about six knots, and therefore putting her
participation that night out of the question.
15. This very
serious reduction of blocking material required
consideration whether or no it was advisable to
proceed with the operation.
I decided to
continue with "Vindictive," and signalled to
Commander Godsal that I had every confidence he
would do his best without "Sappho." I also
informed you by W/T of my decision.
16. This done,
I proceeded on board "Faulknor" (Commander Henry
G. L. Oliphant, M.V.O., D.S.O.), leader of the
off-shore supports, to overtake the other forces,
who, in accordance with orders, were already well
on their way to their various stations. Commander
Clarke and Lieutenant-Commander Sandford
accompanied me in "Faulknor" to carry out staff
work, and were of great assistance to me in
conducting the operations.
17. After the sudden
removal of the buoys, and in the knowledge that
nine enemy destroyers had been seen in the offing
late that evening, I had fully expected enemy
interference with our plan before reaching the
place off Ostend where we should lay our buoy and
spread the small craft. But no, nothing occurred.
The enemy star shells and " flaming onions" fired
intermittently from the coast during the approach
were evidently only part of his new searching
routine. Once again his preparations against
surprise included no patrol craft in the offing.
By 1.30 a.m. all
preliminary dispositions had been completed, and
the (advanced) inshore forces, i.e., the C.M.B.
and M.L. divisions, sent in to carry out their
18. One new feature
of the present plan was that there should be no
preliminary bombardments or air raid; we were to
make no attacks until our sea force were
discovered by the enemy.
19. At 1.35 a.m.
there was still no firing from the shore, but a
searchlight lit up, and commenced to search. The
C.M.B.'s had arrived, and were running their smoke
screens. The noise of their engines, and those of
the M.L.'s approaching on their heels, was, of
course, carried ashore by the breeze.
At 1.43 a.m. I gave
the pre-arranged signal! to "open fire," which was
immediately responded to by the monitors, siege
guns, and the air squadrons. Bombs and shells,
whose bursts could be seen over the top of our
smoke screen, were undoubtedly giving the enemy a
warm time, and constituting a protection to the
small craft inshore.
20. Shortly before
this, I had noticed with some anxiety the
gathering of light-drifting "clouds" - but
good-sized gaps, through which stars shone, could
be seen at 1.45 a.m., when the sky became
completely overcast, and five minutes later we
were enveloped in a thick sea fog which, for the
next all-important hour, reduced our means of
keeping in touch with events to sound alone.
21. I felt that we
could hope for no more air or monitor
bombardments, and that thus deprived of their
valuable support, the small craft in-shore would
suffer in proportion, but fortunately this was not
the case. The fog proves to have been merely a
local patch, not extending to the monitors to the
westward, and was also sufficiently low-lying to
enable the airmen to continue their attacks
between it and the true cloud system at some
10,000 feet altitude.
To realise these
conditions, and the darkness due to absence of
moon, and to know that the Royal Air Force carried
out its whole programme is, in itself, a very high
tribute to the efficiency of the air squadrons,
who, under the orders of Brigadier-General Charles
L. Lambe, C.M.G., D.S.O., took part in the
operations. All our aeroplanes eventually returned
to their aerodromes; some landed well to the
westward naturally under difficulties, one crashed
so badly that the pilots were both severely
The monitors, too,
did good and useful work - particularly "Prince
Eugene" (below, Dover Patrol sister ship of
the same Lord Clive-class - Jon Richards).
Captain Ernest Wigram, D.S.O., led his division
well inside range limits, in order that guns of
the secondary armament might play a part as well
as the big guns. This they did with good effect,
and it is really rather wonderful that his
division escaped without injury, for his front
rank position put him inside the enemy's
long-ranged star shells, and brought his division
under a heavy fire from the shore batteries.
The R.M.A. siege
guns, under Colonel Pryce Peacock, also maintained
a valuable fire on the enemy's heavy coast
batteries throughout the operation.
22. To return to
Ostend. 2 a.m., i.e., "Vindictive's" programme
time to arrive at the piers, was signalled by a
heavy cannonade of quick-firers and machine-gun
fire near the entrance. The enemy had now almost
certainly realised the nature of the attack, and
since the smoke screens and fog prevented him
aiming at definite objectives, except when the
small craft ran close alongside to fire torpedoes
at, or engage, the pier-heads with their machine
guns, he concentrated his effort in a continuous
barrage fire across the entrance from the whole of
the exceedingly formidable array of batteries in
the neighbourhood of Ostend.
23. For the next
twenty minutes, the critical period during which
"Vindictive" must succeed or fail, the offshore
destroyer forces were ordered to fire star shell
over the entrance, and shell at the enemy's
batteries - the former to light up the pier-heads
for "Vindictive," and the latter to divert the
enemy's attention further seaward. This firing was
useful; the inshore forces were encouraged by
having audible proof of our support close behind
them, and the enemy diverted a small proportion of
his fire. Very few shells came near us, however,
either at this time or later; there were no
casualties either to material or personnel among
the off-shore forces. I attribute this mainly to
the fog and smoke screens.
"Vindictive," after passing our calcic-phosphide
buoy, had arrived "on time" at where she expected
to find the entrance. The fog, and apparently also
some of the smoke borne on an easterly draught of
air (the result of wind impinging on the tall
houses on the sea front), had reduced the seashore
visibility to two or three hundred yards at the
most, and nothing could be seen.
accordingly reduced speed, turned about, and
searched to the westward. Still finding nothing,
she again turned about, steered slowly eastward,
and gave the "last resort" signal to her C.M.B.
escort. This signal was obeyed by lighting a
million candlepower flare close inshore to the
westward of the entrance. In most circumstances,
the illumination of the whole sea front by this
intensely brilliant flare would probably have
brought very heavy casualties to the inshore craft
and "Vindictive" herself, through placing them
under accurate gunfire, but on this occasion the
fog, hitherto our enemy, now proved our friend,
for while the flare showed "Vindictive" the piers,
the small craft still remained ill-defined or
invisible, except at closest range.
25. "Vindictive" now
became clearly visible to the enemy's batteries,
who concentrated all efforts on her, but she had
only two hundred yards to go, and Commander Godsal
immediately turned up for the entrance.
between the conning tower and the after control
soon failed, and, the entrance being passed,
Commander Godsal went outside the conning tower
and gave the necessary orders for placing the ship
in her blocking position.
At this moment a
very heavy shell burst, either on the conning
tower or close to it. This must have killed
Commander Godsal, for he was seen no more; and
later, after the ship had been sunk in the
channel, careful search failed to reveal his body.
This very gallant
officer must have known before being killed that
his efforts were crowned with success. Lieutenant
Sir John Alleyne was knocked out, severely wounded
in the stomach, and all the occupants of the
conning tower were badly shaken by this shell.
Lieutenant Victor Crutchley then took command, and
endeavoured to place the ship across the channel.
The sinking charges were fired by Engineer
Lieutenant-Commander William A. Bury, and
preparations made to abandon ship.
26. All this time
"Vindictive" was continuously fired at, both by
heavy and machine guns, and repeatedly hit; the
after control had been completely demolished,
killing Sub-Lieutenant Angus Maclachlan and all
with him, and the whole upper deck was a mass of
debris. Notwithstanding this, perfect order was
maintained, and a careful search for wounded was
made before embarking in the two M.L.'s (Nos. 254
and 276), who had run in through the fire zone to
effect the rescue.
27. Motor Launch 254
(Lieutenant Geoffrey H. Drummond, R.N.V.R.),
coming alongside "Vindictive's" inshore side,
embarked Lieutenant Crutchley, Engineer
Lieutenant-Commander Bury, and thirty-seven men.
With his First Lieutenant (Lieutenant Gordon Ross,
R.N.V.R.) .and Deckhand J. Thomas killed, his
coxswain wounded, and himself wounded in three
places, Lieutenant Drummond backed his now heavily
laden motor launch out of the harbour, still under
a tremendous fire, cleared the entrance, and made
straight to seaward.
Arriving outside the
fire zone, Lieutenant Drummond found his launch
gradually filling forward from her injuries.
Standing on at slow speed through the fog, and
contriving somehow or other to pass close to the
offshore, destroyers without either getting in
touch, M.L. 254 was most fortunately picked up in
a sinking condition about forty minutes after
leaving Ostend by your flagship "Warwick."
Rescuers and rescued were quickly taken on board,
and M.L. 254 then sank.
28. M.L. 276
(Lieutenant Rowland Bourke, R.N.V.R.), having
followed "Vindictive" into Ostend (engaging both
piers with his machine guns en route), went
alongside "Vindictive" after M.L. 254, with her
first-rescued party, had shoved off.
After much search
and shouting, and still under a very heavy fire,
Lieutenant Bourke and Sub-Lieutenant Petrie
managed to find and embark the last three of
"Vindictive's" survivors (Lieutenant Alleyne and
two ratings), all badly wounded, in the water
clinging to a capsized skiff. This fine rescue
effected, M.L. 276, hit in fifty-five places and
with three of her crew killed or wounded, cleared
the harbour, and was able to continue steering to
the westward until picked up and taken in tow by
"Prince Eugene." '
29. The small
inshore craft - C.M.B.'s, under Lieutenant Arthur
E. P. Welman, D.S.C., R.N., and Lieutenant Francis
C.Harrison, D.S.O., R.N., and the M.L.'s under
Commander Ion Hamilton Benn, D.S.O., R.N.V.R., as
before, carried out all their duties splendidly;
to them must be given the chief honours of having
guided "Vindictive" in.
Daring exploits of
these small craft (all 55ft Coastal Motor
Boats, such as such
25BD, below - PhotoShips),
all contributory to the general success, are
numerous; they are recounted by the senior
officers of divisions in their detailed reports,
but I would specially mention the following:
C.M.B. No. 25 (Note:
25BD) (Lieutenant Russell H. McBean, R.N.)
escorted "Vindictive" with smoke screen close up
to the entrance, where she assisted her with
guiding lights, then torpedoed the piers, and
finally engaged the machine guns there with his
own machine guns with apparently good effect,
during which Lieutenant McBean was wounded and
Acting-Chief Motor Mechanic G. E. Keel killed.
Having seen "Vindictive" inside the piers, and her
work being completed, Sub-Lieutenant George R.
Shaw, R.N.R. (second-in-command), brought her
safely back to harbour, Motor Mechanic A. J.
Davies filling Chief Motor Mechanic Keel's place,
and keeping the engines running most efficiently.
C.M.B. No. 24
(Lieutenant Archibald Dayrell-Reed, D.S.O.,
R.N.R.) and C.M.B. No. 30 (Lieutenant Albert L.
Poland, R.N.), both carried out successful torpedo
attacks on the pier ends, afterwards laying and
maintaining good smoke screens close inshore
throughout the remainder of the operation.
C.M.B. No. 26
(Lieutenant Cuthbert F. B. Bowlby, R.N.) escorted
"Vindictive" close up to the entrance, then ran
ahead, and, finding-one of the piers, fired his
torpedo at it. 'The water being shallow, and range
short, the explosion shook the boat so severely as
to damage her engines and open her seams. She
commenced to sink, but by has presence of mind,
and the cool perseverance of Chief Motor Mechanic
G. W. McCracken, Lieutenant Bowlby got the leak
stopped, engines going again, and brought his boat
out of the fire zone, where Commander Bertram H.
Ramsay, leader of one of the offshore divisions,
took her in tow.
C.M.B. No. 22
(Lieutenant William H. Bremner, R.N., with
Lieutenant Arthur E. P Welman, D.S.C., Senior
Officer of C.M.B.'s, aboard), when carrying out
her smoke screening of the shore batteries,
encountered close inshore an enemy torpedo boat,
who switched on her searchlight and opened fire.
C.M.B. No. 22 had no better weapon than her Lewis
guns, but with these she attacked and peppered the
torpedo boat to such good effect as to drive her
away from the harbour entrance, and prevent her
interfering with the blocking operation.
C.M.B. No. 23
(Lieutenant the Hon. Cecil E. R. 'Spencer)
escorted "Vindictive" close inshore, and kept
touch with her until "Vindictive" gave the "last
resort" signal, on which C.M.B. No. 23 laid, and
lit, the million candle-power flare, by whose
light "Vindictive" eventually found her way in.
30. To recount the
foregoing exploits of the small craft is in no way
to detract from the praise due to all,
particularly to the senior officers of units, for
the care and precision with which they carried out
my necessarily rather elaborate orders.
31. The general
retirement was well executed, and without further
casualties or incident, the supporting forces
remaining out until daylight to pick up any
disabled small craft who might still be out. There
were none, however; those who were unable to
return by their own power had already been towed
32. No interference
by enemy craft was experienced throughout the
operation, but from subsequent reports of some of
the inshore craft it appears that several German
torpedo boats were lying close under the shore
batteries the whole time, and made no move to come
33. Our casualties
were remarkably light - 2 officers and 6 men
killed, 5 officers and 25 men wounded, 2 officers
and 9 men missing, believed killed. Our only loss
in material is M.L. 254. A number of the small
craft were considerably damaged by gunfire, but
all these are, or will be shortly, ready for
action again. The light casualty list must be
attributed to the efficient smoke screens, and
probably also to the fog.
34. Of the "Sappho,"
I can but record the bitter disappointment of all
aboard her at the accident that prevented her
following "Vindictive." One and all, they begged
to be given another chance, and when the day comes
for their request to be granted, I am sure they
will not be found wanting.
Vice-Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, K.C.B., C.V.O.,
SINKING OF GERMAN
RAIDER LEOPARD - ACTION OF H.M. SHIPS ACHILLES
despatches describe the sinking of an enemy raider
by H.M. Ships "Achilles" and "Dundee" in March,
1917.( This raider was, it is now known,
commissioned as the German auxiliary cruiser
"Leopard," being in fact no other than the British
steamer "Yarrowdale," captured by the raider
"Moewe" in December, 1916, and fitted out in
Germany for service as a raider:
Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, to Admiralty.
Elizabeth," 21st March, 1917.
I have the honour to
transmit, herewith, for the information of their
Lordships, reports from the Commanding Officers of
"Achilles" (below - CyberHeritage/Terry
"Dundee," on the action between those ships and an
enemy raider on 16th March, 1917, in latitude 64°
54' N., longitude 0° 22' E., resulting in the
sinking of the raider with all hands.
The raider appears
to have had a heavy torpedo armament, and
evidently hoped, by manoeuvring during chase and
boarding, to torpedo both "Achilles" and "Dundee."
This was prevented by the skilful handling of both
ships. The Commanding Officer of "Dundee"
displayed excellent judgment in manoeuvring his
ship in such a way that he was able to pour in a
hot fire for five or six minutes at a range of
1,000 yards before the raider could bring a gun to
After weighing the
evidence, I am satisfied that no submarine was
present. The object reported by "Achilles" as a
mine, and by "Dundee" as a submarine, was probably
a cask, possibly containing oil, leakage of which
would have given the appearance of the wake noted
I very much regret
the loss of Lieutenant Frederick H. Lawson,
R.N.R., and his gallant boat's crew of volunteers,
who undoubtedly perished with the raider. The
boarding parties from the patrol squadrons have,
throughout the war, displayed the greatest skill
and fearlessness in carrying out their hazardous
work in all weathers.
That the raider was
intercepted and brought to action is the result of
much patient work under trying conditions. Much
credit is due to Rear-Admiral Sydney R. Fremantle,
M.V.O., for his conduct of the Second Cruiser
I submit, for the
favourable notice of their Lordships, the ability
and sound judgment displayed by Captain Francis M.
Leake, R.N., of "Achilles," and Commander Selwyn
M. Day, R.D., R.N.R., of "Dundee," in rounding up
and destroying the vessel which was capable of
doing such damage to our commerce.
Commanding, Second Cruiser Squadron, is being
furnished with a copy of this letter, and will
submit, in due course, a list of recommendations
of other Officers and Men whose services he
considers special noteworthy.
am, Sir, Your obedient servant,
Secretary of the Admiralty
Achilles," 17th March, 1917.
Sir, I have the
honour to report that on the 16th March, when
patrolling in accordance with orders from the
Rear-Admiral Commanding Second Cruiser Squadron,
in latitude 64.42 north, longitude 0.56 west, at
11.45 a.m., a steamer was sighted steering 66°,
bearing N. 84 E, distance about nine miles.
Weather at the time being: Wind south-easterly,
force 4 to 5, snow and rain squalls, sea moderate.
"Achilles" was steering N. 15 W., and altered
course N. 84 E., to close steamer, and directed
"Dundee" to conform. Speed of advance 15 knots.
At 1.00 p.m.,
finding a very small gain, "Achilles" increased
speed to 18 knots, and at 1.45 p.m. course was
altered to S. 87 E., to avoid following directly
At 2.00 p.m. steamer
was overhauled and directed to stop, which signal
she obeyed. She was then directed to steer W. by
S., and at 2.35 p.m. was again stopped for
"Dundee" to examine her. "Achilles" manoeuvring at
a distance of two and a half to three miles.
At 3.45 p.m.
"Dundee" and raider commenced an action
simultaneously. "Achilles" at once joined in, at a
range of 5,300 yards, raider firing at her, but
with more intensity at "Dundee," whose safety was
due to the prompt manner in which Commander Selwyn
Mitchell Day, R.N.R., answered the raider's first
hostile act, and the initial success she gained in
getting raking hits; hers was the dangerous
position, and she extracted herself with the
On opening fire the
raider at once enveloped herself in smoke of a
light colour. At 3.55 p.m. she fired a torpedo at
"Achilles," which broke surface off the port
quarter. A submarine was reported at the same time
in this direction, and speed was increased from 16
to 20 knots. Hats were now being obtained, and the
raider was on fire forward. About this time she
was hit in the bow (on the gripe) by a torpedo
About 4.00 p.m. fire
was checked, the raider being well on fire, with
occasional explosions forward. Soon after this,
"Dundee" took station astern of "Achilles," and
was then ordered to steer west. At 4.23 p.m. she
reported a submarine between herself and the
raider. Consequently, fire was again opened on the
raider and continued until, at 4.33 p.m., she
listed to port and sank, more or less
horizontally, a mass of flames, and red hot
forward, leaving no visible survivors.
The position of this
action was latitude 64.54 north, longitude 0.22
east. The weather during the time was: Wind
south-easterly, force three to four, with
continuous rain and moderate sea.
The loss of the
"Dundee" boarding party is greatly regretted. The
actual movements of this boat could not be seen
from "Achilles," but she was apparently alongside
the raider when the action commenced. An
overturned boat was sighted from "Achilles."
Excepting this, at no time was anything resembling
a boat seen.
of "Dundee" boarding party attached.
have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient
M. Leake, Captain.
Frederick Herman, Lieutenant, R.N.R.
Henry, Seaman, R.N.R., 2845 A.
Henry James, Seaman, R.N.R., 4911 B.
Magnus John, Seaman, R.N.R., 3936 B.
Robert John, .Seaman, R.N.R., 3717 C.
Alfred, Able Seaman, R.N.V.R., Mersey, 1/150.
11th March, 1917.
the correct SS Dundee, 2709 grt, built 1911,
a number of vessels with the same name
around this period (Photo Ships)
German twin-screw Armed Merchantman, approximately
7,000 tons - Seven or eight guns - Complement
unknown - Flying Norwegian colours - With "Rena,"
Norge, painted on each side - in 64.50 N., 0.32
E., on Friday, March 16th, 1917.
I have the honour to
report that whilst patrolling with H.M.S.
"Achilles" on Friday, March 16th, p.m., I
proceeded to the examination of the above steamer
bound East (Mag.), which had been overhauled and
stopped by "Achilles" for that purpose.
At 2.42 p.m.
"Dundee" lowered a boat with Lieut. F. H. Lawson,
R.N.R., and five R.N.R. Seamen forming the
boarding and boat party. The boat was towed
towards the intercepted vessel, at that time about
two miles distant and steaming slowly towards us.
following signals were then exchanged:
attention to my signals."
manoeuvres, and the information in confidential
books supplied convinced me eventually she was a
raider, and it was obvious he was trying to defeat
my object of maintaining a position (for attack)
close up to the weather quarter and heading across
ihis stern, and he constantly moved the
propellers, slewing to port or starboard. Keeping
station thus we awaited some sign from the
boarding Officer or the boat, which was, of
course, on the lee side, and could not be seen by
At 3.40 I heard the
noise of the large Norwegian flag painted on her
port quarter fall outboard, being hinged on the
lower side, and I gave the orders "Fire" and "Half
speed ahead" to keep station, the raider now
slewing rapidly to port with slight, if any,
headway. Two torpedoes followed from her in quick
succession, passing from 20 to 50 feet astern. The
Norwegian flag remained hoisted on the ensign
staff throughout and no other flag was seen. Our
guns were already firing, and every shot was a
hit. The first (from our aft 4") raked her port
battery deck, causing an explosion and volumes of
smoke. The fore gun fired through the deck into
her engine-room, and volumes of steam spread with
intense smoke and flames, caused by further hits,
so as to completely hide the ship from us from
bridge to stern. The 3-pdr. gun fired at her
Forty-four 4", and
twenty-five 3-pdr. rounds were fired at about
1,000 yards' range before the raider fired her
first gun. "Dundee" was then in the smoke (wind
south-easterly, force 4 to 5) to leeward, and both
ships practically obscured from each other in
on almost opposite bearing, I turned, and went
full speed and down the lane of smoke so as to
clear the range for the cruiser. On turning, one
torpedo was fired at us, and also three salvoes,
two short and one over of three or four guns by
her port broadside. Then followed some very wild
single shots, including shrapnel, fragments of the
latter only hitting ship. The aft gun was bearing
the whole time, and made consistently excellent
hitting on any visible part of the enemy. Ignited
oil was observed streaming from her port beam.
At 4.10, when out of
torpedo range, we again engaged enemy in company
with "Achilles" already firing, and ceased fire at
4.15, having no more ammunition. The raider was a
mass of flame, and obviously a doomed ship,
although she continued to fight with apparently
but one gun. Enemy sank whilst under fire of
saw a submarine about half a mile from the raider,
of which fact I immediately advised "Achilles."
I desire to submit
the names of the following Gunlayers:
W. Lee, P.O.1,
R.F.R., Off. number, Po. 129854;
J. M. Cullen, A.B.,
R.N.V.R., Off. number, Mersey 35, 1/30;
J. L. Arthurson,
Ldg. Sea., R.N.R., Off. number, B.3673;
J. G. Anderson,
Sea., R.N.R., Off. number, C. 2485;
consideration, because with no Officers of
Quarters available (two were absent on duty), they
calmly and skilfully controlled the guns' crews
and their own firing, doing their own spotting and
judging point of aim to the most vital places
about the raider's decks and hull, so that the
enemy, who was approximately three times our size,
complement and armament, was made by their
marksmanship incapable of inflicting the smallest
damage to us within the same period. In fact, the
enemy ship at this time was stopped, disabled, and
in time would have been entirely consumed by the
fire then raging.
With the utmost
regret I have to report that Lieut. Lawson,
R.N.R., and the boat's crew who volunteered to
accept the extreme risk entailed by a boarding
operation under such conditions, are missing,
having undoubtedly been forced into the raider and
lost with her. The boat was observed empty at the
commencement of the action as we followed round
the stern of the enemy. Other than the boarding
party, we suffered no casualties nor any damage to
have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient
M. Day, Commander, R.N.R.
Rear-Admiral Commanding Second Cruiser Squadron,
to Commanding Officer, H.M.S.
NAVAL ATTACK ON
THE DARDANELLES, 19th FEBRUARY to 16th
and area - click to enlarge
VICE-ADMIRAL S. H. CARDEN, MARCH 17, 1915.
I have the honour to
submit, for the consideration of their Lordships,
the narrative of events during the operations of
the Allied British and French Squadrons against
the defences of the Dardanelles, from the 19th
February to 16th March, 1915.
There was a marked
difference in the tactics of the enemy manning the
forts at the entrance when attacked on this
occasion to that which they followed on the 3rd
November, 1914; on that day when a short
bombardment was carried out by "Indefatigable,"
"Indomitable," "Suffren," and "Verite," by a run
past in close order, range 13,000 yards, they
replied to our fire almost at once, and maintained
from forts Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 6, till our squadron
completed their run. The only projectiles,
however, which fell close were those from the
9.4inch guns in forts Nos. 1 and 4. Good practice
was made by the Allied Squadron on forts Nos. 3
and 6, in the former of which there was a large
magazine explosion. Information was received later
that the casualties to personnel were high amongst
the enemy, some accounts putting it at 600.
That it was
considerable is, I think, shown by the fact that
on the 19th February, when the present operations
began, and a deliberate bombardment by our ships
took place, no Turkish fort attempted to reply
until late in the afternoon, when the old
battleships were sent close in. They apparently
kept their men in shelters until the desired
prevented a renewal until the 26th February, and
then there was this difference. Fort No.1 opened
fire on "Agamemnon" at 10,000 yards as soon as
that ship was in position, and hit her several
times. This fort maintained its fire with great
perseverance against "Queen Elizabeth,"
"Agamemnon," and "Gaulois," until the former ship
by hitting with two consecutive 15-inch
projectiles dismounted one gun and put the other
out of action, and effectually silenced the fort;
the surviving personnel quickly made their way
down to the neighbouring village.
On the same day the
accurate fire of "Irresistible" on fort No. 4
prevented its two 9.4-inch guns taking any part in
the proceedings. When the ships closed in forts
No. 3 and 6 fired a few ineffective rounds.
Although a heavy and
prolonged fire at short range was poured into
these forts, 70 per cent of the heavy guns were
found to be in a serviceable condition when the
demolition parties landed.
The destruction of
the guns in fort No. 3 by "Irresistible," and in
Nos. 4 and 6 by "Vengeance" (below - Photo
Ships), was most smartly and effectively
carried out on the 26th February and the 1st March
by demolition parties from those ships, which were
ably supported by their detachments of Royal
In this service the
following officers are specially and strongly
Major G. M. Heriot,
D.S.O , R.M.L.I., "Vengeance."
(T.) E. G. Robinson, "Vengeance."
(T.) F. H. Sandford, "Irresistible."
two latter officers are further very strongly
recommended for their conduct in the sweeping
I was present in
"Inflexible" close off Kum Kale on the 4th March,
and witnessed the landing operations which were
under the immediate direction of Rear-Admiral de
Robeck and Brigadier-General Trotman, both of whom
were on board "Irresistible" in the entrance of
the Straits. I consider the operations were
correctly conducted, and that everything possible
under the circumstances was done.
The skilful manner
in which "Wolverine" (Commander O. J. Prentis) and
"Scorpion" (Lieutenant-Commander A. B.
Cunningham), ran close inshore after dark, and
sent whalers ashore to bring off the remaining
officers and men is highly commended.
I desire specially
to endorse recommendations made by the
Rear-Admiral and Brigadier-General on the conduct
of Lieutenant-Colonel G. E. Matthews, R.M.L.I.,
and also of Major A. E. Bewes, R.M.L.I.
Four Maxim guns,
which had been left on Kum Kale Pier, were
recovered by volunteers from "Agamemnon" (below
- Maritime Quest) - a smart and plucky piece
operations by night between the 12th and 15th
March were conducted with great gallantry under
heavy fire, and though not completely successful I
consider the officers and men are deserving of
great praise for their efforts.
It is regretted that
a complete list of those who volunteered for this
dangerous duty was lost in "Ocean," but a further
list is being prepared and will be submitted as
soon as possible.
The attempt made on
the night 13th-14th March was most determined, and
I desire to bring particularly to the notice of
their Lordships the following names:
Commander W. Mellor,
in charge of minesweepers.
J. B. Waterlow, "Blenheim."
J. R. Middleton, "Albion."
E. G. Robinson, "Vengeance."
G B. Palmes, "Egmont."
Lieutenant F. H.
Lieutenant B. T.
Cox, R.N.R., "Prince George."
G. Young, "Cornwallis."
Midshipman J. C. W.
Price, "Ocean." Captain of trawler 318.
The six officers
first-mentioned carried out these duties on
several nights, and I desire to submit that they
may be awarded the highest decoration suitable for
their rank and seniority, and that Commander
Mellor and Lieutenant-Commander Waterlow be
In connection with
the operation of the night 13th-14th March I
desire also to bring to their Lordships' notice
the name of Commander G. J. Todd, "Amethyst" (below
- Photo Ships).
"Amethyst" was hit
several times by large projectiles, and had her
steering gear and engine-room telegraphs put out
of action. Arrangements were quickly made to man
the hand-steering wheel, and improvise engine-room
communications. Both during and after the action
Commander Todd was very ably assisted by
Lieutenant James C. J. Soutter, Senior Lieutenant
of "Amethyst," who was indefatigable in his
rendered by the Destroyer Flotilla during all this
period have fully maintained the high traditions
of that branch of the service, their boldness in
action and untiring devotion to duty are worthy of
the highest praise.
I beg to call
special attention to the excellent work done by
the French squadron on every occasion that they
have been called upon, and also to the cordial
good feeling which prevails in the Allied Fleet,
due so much to the personality of that dashing and
courteous officer, Contre-Admiral E. P. A.
I consider it a
special duty to call attention to the excellent
work done by Malta Dockyard, under Vice-Admiral A.
H. Limpus, C.B., in supplying every need of the
large force off the Dardanelles in addition to the
main French Fleet. Commanding officers speak most
highly of the great assistance rendered to them on
all occasions at Malta, and the rapidity with
which work is done, which shows that the principle
that the dockyard exists for the benefit of ships
is fully understood and acted upon.
The conduct and
ability of the commanding officers has been of a
The behaviour of
officers and men on all occasions has been most
admirable, and in every way as could be expected.
In closing the
report on this stage of the operations I wish
especially to bring to the notice of their
Lordships the splendid work done by Rear-Admiral
J. M. de Robeck, and the great assistance I have
received from him, together with the valuable
services of Commodore R. J. B. Keyes, C.B.,
M.V.O., Flag Commander Hon. A. R. M. Ramsay and
Captain W. W. Godfrey, R.M.L.I., War Staff.
H. CARDEN, Vice-Admiral,
Secretary the Admiralty
NARRATIVE OF EVENTS,
DARDANELLES, FEBRUARY 19 TO MARCH 16, 1915.
attack on the defences of the Dardanelles
commenced on the 19th February, 1915.
on the 17th, 18th, and A.M. 19th confirmed
information in our possession with regard to forts
Nos. l, 3, 4, and 6, except that an additional gun
was shown in eastern bastion of fort No. 6.
reported that some minor earthworks and trenches
appeared to have been extensively prepared for the
defence of possible landing places.
The following ships
took part in the operations of the 19th February:
SUFFREN (flag of
INFLEXIBLE (flag of'
The "Gaulois" acted
in support of "Suffren," while "Amethyst"
Seven British mine
sweepers were employed with "Albion."
The "Vengeance "
(flag of Rear-Admiral de Robeck) was ordered to
take station as convenient to observe the fire of
4.30 P.M. "Queen
Elizabeth" arrived with "Agamemnon," the latter
taking part at the end of the day.
"Cornwallis" fired first shot on fort No. 4.
10. "Triumph" opened
fire on fort No. 1.
opened on fort No. 6.
10.38. Ships were
ordered to anchor with a view to improving the
11. The "Vengeance"
and "Cornwallis" were ordered to exchange
positions, "Cornwallis," owing to a defective
capstan, being unable to anchor in deep water.
was ordered to spot for "Triumph" and for
"Inflexible" if required.
opened on fort No. 1, which was hard to
distinguish, but practice appeared good.
"Vengeance" opened fire on fort No. 4 - practice
was very good - her third shot appeared to hit
close to northern embrasure.
0.30. "Triumph" was
ordered to cease fire, as she was unable to hit
fort No. 1.
"Suffren," at this
time, was making excellent practice against fort
No. 6, firing by indirect laying, with "Bouvet" (below
- Photo Ships) spotting.
0.52. "Triumph," was
ordered to open fire with light guns on men
showing signs of activity in a field-work 2 miles
north of Cape Tekeh.
0.55. A seaplane was
ordered up to spot for "Vengeance," but, owing to
wireless troubles in seaplane, no results were
opened fire on fort No. 3, making good practice.
1.56. It was now
considered that the effect produced by the
bombardment at long range was great enough to
allow of ships approaching nearer to the forts,
and signal was made accordingly.
2.12. "Suffren" and
"Triumph" were ordered to commence their
operations, the "Triumph" being ordered to engage
the position of the new battery of Cape Tekeh
was ordered.to close fort No. 1 "on present line
of bearing," and open fire when certain of
4.10. There, being
still no reply from the forts, "Vengeance" and
"Cornwallis" were ordered to close and destroy
Forts Nos. 3 and 6
were heavily bombarded by "Vengeance" and
"Cornwallis," assisted by "Sufrren." "Vengeance"
engaged fort No. 4 with her secondary armament,
while "Cornwallis" did the same to fort No. 1.
4.40. "Sufrren" was
directed to close the forts.
4.45. At the same
time "Cease fire, examine forts," was signalled to
"Vengeance." Fort No. 1 opened fire on "Vengeance"
and "Cornwallis," and shortly after fort No. 4
also opened fire.
"Cornwallis," assisted by "Bouvet," engaged and
silenced fort No. 1. Fort No. 4 being left unfired
at, both inshore ships were unaware that she had
opened fire on fort No. 4, with the immediate
effect of causing her fire to suffer in accuracy.
"Gaulois" also opened fire on this fort.
ordered to support "Vengeance."
5.09. The "General
recall" was made - "Vengeance" requested
permission to continue the action; this was not
approved as the light looking towards the land was
becoming bad, while ships showed up well against
5.30. Cease firing
was ordered and the squadron withdrew.
7. "Albion" reported
"No mines or guns encountered - area has been
The result of the
day's action showed apparently, that the effect of
long range bombardment by direct fire on modern
earthwork forts is slight; forts Nos. 1 and 4
appeared to be hit, on many occasions, by 12-inch
common shell well placed, but when the ships
closed in all four guns in these, forts opened
From February 20
From the 20th to
24th February, inclusive, the weather was too
rough to continue operations, and no
reconnaissance by seaplanes was possible.
The weather being
favourable, operations were resumed. No seaplanes
took part - the sea being too rough for them to
rise off the water.
The following ships
took part: INFLEXIBLE, VENGEANCE, AGAMEMNON,
QUEEN ELIZABETH, ALBION, CORNWALLIS, IRRESISTIBLE,
TRIUMPH, SUFFREN, GAULOIS, BOUVET, CHARLEMAGNE,
and DUBLIN, with eight destroyers and two
Ships were in
position to commence the long-range bombardment by
10 a.m.- the destroyers forming, a screen to
seaward of the battleships
"Agamemnon" reported range obtained of fort No. 1.
Elizabeth" opened fire on fort No. 3.
10.16. Fort No. 1
opened fire on "Agamemnon," range 10,000 yards.
opened fire on fort No. 6.
opened fire on fort No.1.
"Irresistible" opened fire on fort No. 4.
10.33. Fort No. 1
seemed to be getting the range of "Agamemnon," who
was ordered to weigh and proceed further out -
"Queen Elizabeth" being ordered to fire on fort
Between 10.34 and
10.43. "Agememnon" was hit seven times, but as the
shells did not detonate it was not realised she
had been struck; directly "Agamemnon" had good
weigh on fort No.1 lost the range.
10.44. Fort No. 1
opened an accurate fire on "Gaulois," who
immediately replied to it from all her guns, this
probably accounted for the fact that she was able
to weigh and proceed further out without the fort
scoring a single hit.
Elizabeth" opened fire on fort No. 1, and "Dublin"
(below - Photo Ships) was observed firing
at a gun near Yeni Shehr.
"Irresistible" reported she obtained range of fort
No. 4, she was ordered to continue slow firing.
She opened a very deliberate, accurate fire on the
fort, which kept silent practically all day.
11.30. "Gaulois" was
making excellent practice on fort 6.
11.47. Fort No. 1
was still firing at "Agamemnon" and "Gaulois," but
shots were going short - its extreme range
appeared to be about 11,000 yards.
Elizabeth," whose shooting had been extremely
accurate, appeared to drop a shell right into fort
No. 1, and at 0.02 p.m. she reported eastern gun
"Irresistible" reported she thought her tenth
round had damaged northern gun of fort No. 4.
"Cornwallis" were ordered to prepare for run 1,
which was commenced at 12.45 p.m., with all
covering ships firing deliberately on their
Elizabeth" reported she had hit the western gun of
fort No. 1. "Agamemnon" also claimed to have hit
this gun at 12.55 p.m. "Agamemnon" at this time
was firing on fort No. 1. "Inflexible" engaging
fort No. 3.
and "Cornwallis" opened fire, concentrating
chiefly on forts 1 and 4. Forts 3 and 6 both
opened fire, but their practice was poor, and few
rounds were fired. Forts 1 and 4 did not fire
during the run.
By 1.22 "Vengeance"
and "Cornwallis" had completed run 1, and all
ships checked fire.
"Vengeance," reported "No. 1 battery west gun
pointing in the air, right gun not visible,
battery not manned. No. 3 fired at
"Vengeance" apparently using black powder -
three guns are visible on south-west face. No. 4,
both guns laid horizontal, battery not manned, one
round was fired from western gun . ."
"Suffren," was directed to commence run 2, and
given the following directions: "Battery No. 1 out
ot action, battery No. 4 was not manned,
concentrate your fire on 3, 4, and 6, especially
Run 2 was carried
out most deliberately, "Suffren" being about 3,000
yards ahead of "Charlemagne" - both ships made
excellent practice - the only round fired at them
was from fort No. 6.
run was completed at 3 p.m.
Covering ships fired
very few rounds during this run; it was evident
that forts were silenced.
3.5. Mine sweepers
were ordered to close the entrance, and carry out
sweeping operations laid down.
"Triumph" were ordered to prepare to close forts
to 2,000 yards of southern and northern shore
respectively, keeping way on and carrying out
destruction of guns still intact.
"Vengeance" being directed to follow them to
While "Albion" and
"Triumph" were attempting to destroy the guns of
forts 1 and 6, at close range, fort No. 4
apparently fired one round from her northernmost
gun. The fort was immediately engaged by "Albion"
and "Irresistible." Forts 1 and 6 also appeared to
fire one round each. These were the last rounds
fired at the ships.
Concealed guns of
apparently 6" calibre fired from positions 1 mile
north-east of Cape Tekeh, and from behind northern
end of Yeni Shehr village. These guns did no
damage, though "Gaulois" was struck three times on
"Albion," when off
Kum Kale, reported two explosions, probably light
ground mines; these occurred about 100 yards ahead
of the ship, and did no damage.
By 4 p.m. the forts
were reduced, and the mine sweepers were ordered
to enter and commence sweeping.
"Albion," and "Triumph," with six destroyers,
covered these operations.
The remainder of the
fleet returning to Tenedos during the night of the
25th/26th, mine sweepers swept the entrance; they
found no mines. The enemy were reported as burning
the villages at entrance.
and "Majestic" entered straits between 8 a.m. and
9 a.m., and shelled forts 3 and 6 from inside
entrance, also firing station below De Totts'
by sweepers, proceeded to a position 12,000 yards
from fort 8, from which position fire was opened
on that fort. "Majestic" supported "Albion," these
two ships being under fire from field guns and
howitzers from Asiatic shore, ships remained under
weigh; enemy scored one hit on "Majestic."
"Jed" and "Chelmer"
reconnoitred northern and southern shores during
forenoon as far up as the line White Cliffs -
Suandere, both ships being engaged with the
enemy's light batteries; they sunk some large
range buoys, and located several batteries.
outside straits, was engaged bombarding position
on Asiatic shore near Achilles Tomb.
At 2.30 p.m., the
enemy apparently having abandoned Kum Kale and
Seddul Bahr, the opportunity was seized to land
demolition parties on both sides - from
"Vengeance" at Kum Kale, and "Irresistible" at
Seddul Balir. Parties being covered by the guns of
"Vengeance," "Irresistible," "Cornwallis,"
"Dublin," and "Racoon," forts 3, 4, and 6 were
entered and demolitions carried out, and two new
4" guns concealed near Achilles Tomb were
destroyed, but owing to lateness of the landing it
was impossible to verify results. Both parties
encountered slight opposition, the enemy being in
some force in Seddul Bahr prevented fort 1 being
On night of the
26th/27th mine sweepers entered straits to
continue sweeping in lower area, being covered by
"Colne," "Jed," and "Kennet," who engaged enemy's
batteries and sunk more range buoys.
out reconnaissances inside Straits in order to
locate batteries, &c. Amongst other details
they reported battery 8 now contains eight guns.
Many positions for guns have been prepared on both
north-easterly gale, much rain with low
visibility. Operations inside the Straits much
impeded, small progress made.
gale. Operations confined to watching the Straits.
moderated, operations inside Straits were resumed.
battleships entered Straits to engage howitzers
and field batteries: "Vengeance," "Ocean,"
"Albion," "Triumph," "Irresistible," and
"Majestic" (below - Pat Gariepy).
Fort 8 and battery
at White Cliffs were engaged by "Albion" and
"Triumph," "Ocean " and "Majestic " meanwhile
engaging guns near Aren Kioi village and on
European shore. These proved extremely hard to
locate, and when seen great difficulty was
experienced in obtaining points of aim, the guns
being well concealed.
The action was
discontinued at 5 p.m. "Ocean," "Albion," and
"Triumph" were each hit on several occasions by
projectiles of 6-inch calibre and below -
any serious damage.
from "Irresistible" landed at Seddul Bahr and
completed demolition of fort 6.
The party was
attacked during the operation. The fire from
covering ships and destroyers in Morto Bay,
however, was sufficient to disperse enemy.
During the night of
1st-2nd March minesweepers entered and swept to
within 3,000 yards of Kephez Point. They were
covered by destroyers. When abreast of Suandere
River batteries opened fire and sweepers retired,
destroyers covering withdrawal.
vessels were hit.
"Swiftsure," and "Cornwallis" entered the Straits
and engaged forts Nos. 8 and 7, also field guns.
Garrison of fort No.
8 were forced to withdraw, but material damage to
fort could not be determined.
concealed field guns opened a heavy fire, which
could not be silenced. All ships were hit on
several occasions, suffering some material damage.
An observation mine
exploded ineffectively ahead of "Canopus."
On the 1st-2nd March
the French squadron reconnoitred the Gulf of
Xeros, bombarding the forts and earthworks of the
Bulair lines and the bridge over Kavak. French
minesweepers swept along the coast. They
discovered no mines.
in the Gulf of Xeros were also reported on.
mine-sweepers continued the attack on the Kephez
minefield, but made no progress in the face of
in the morning unfavourable - foggy.
In the afternoon
"Albion," "Prince George," "Triumph" continued the
attack on forts 7 and 8 and field batteries. These
latter were not so active as on former days.
continued at night, covered by destroyers. Slight
progress was made.
out useful reconnaissance, without, however, being
able to locate batteries firing at the ships.
It being uncertain
whether forts Nos. 1 and 4 were absolutely
destroyed, demolition parties were ordered to land
and complete the destruction, being covered by a
landing party of the Royal Marine Brigade, one
company of 250 men each side.
This landing had
been postponed for several days, on account of the
reconnoitred the vicinity of forts and villages
near them in the morning, and reported no movement
At 10 a.m. parties
landed at Seddul Bahr and Kum Kale.
Both parties met
with opposition. At Seddul Bahr no progress could
be made, and the party withdrew at 3 p.m.
At Kum Kale an
attempt was made to reach fort No. 4, but without
success, the enemy being in some force in
well-concealed trenches. Great difficulty was
experienced in withdrawing the advanced party, the
enemy gaining possession of a cemetery near
Mendere Bridge, commanding the ground over which
the party had to fall back, and which could not be
shelled by the ships, as our troops were between
the cemetery and the ships.
to locate the enemy's trenches without success,
descending to 2,000 feet in their efforts to
distinguish the positions: one seaplane was hit
twenty-eight times and another eight times.
It was not till the
destroyers were sent close in to shell the
trenches that the retirement could be carried out.
"Scorpion" (below - Photo Ships) and
"Wolverine" ran in and landed parties, under fire,
to search the beach from Kum Kale to the cliffs
below fort No. 4. The former brought off two
officers and five men, who had been unable to
reach the boats.
The attack on the
forts at the Narrows commenced by indirect
bombardment by "Queen Elizabeth."
Three seaplanes were
sent up to spot for fall of shot. One met with an
accident, and the second was forced to return on
account of her pilot being wounded by a rifle
bullet; in consequence, they were not of
assistance in the firing.
was under fire from field guns, being struck on
many occasions, without, however, suffering any
great material damage.
Indirect attack by
"Queen Elizabeth" continued.
the Straits, spotted for "Queen Elizabeth,"
"Albion," "Majestic," "Prince George," and
"Suffren" engaged forts No. 7, 8, and 13, with
what result could not be discovered.
At night "Amethyst,"
with destroyers and mine-sweepers in company,
proceeded inside Dardanelles to attack the Kephez
minefield. Some progress was made, but, as on
former occasions, gunfire drove the mine-sweepers
out of the mined area.
Between the 3rd and
6th March "Sapphire" was engaged in the
neighbourhood of Mitylene in destroying telegraph
consisting of "Suffren," "Gaulois," "Charlemagne,"
and "Bouvet" entered the Straits and engaged forts
Nos. 7 and 8.
Later " Agamemnon"
and "Lord Nelson" attacked the forts at the
Narrows by direct fire from ranges between 14,000
and 12,000 yards. After a severe engagement,
during which both ships were hit by heavy
projectiles, forts Nos. 13 and 19 were silenced.
During this attack the French battleships kept
down the fire from howitzers and field guns.
"Dublin" at Bulair
was engaged with a shore battery.
During the night of
the 7th-8th March destroyers attacked the
searchlights at Kephez, but without result, the
lights being extinguished temporarily, but
entered the Straits to continue the attack on the
Narrows by direct fire. Conditions became
unfavourable for spotting, and little was
Weather was too
misty for seaplanes to do any spotting.
Attack on minefield
was continued at night with mine-sweepers and
picket boats. Batteries opened fire.
George," and "Irresistible" entered the Straits
and made a thorough search for boats, &c., and
shelled look-out stations. The weather was misty
throughout the day.
At night picket
boats covered by destroyers attacked the Kephez
minefield with explosive creeps.
"Dublin," and "Ark Royal" off Bulair. The former
bombarded the enemy's positions when guns had been
located. The seaplanes were unable to fly owing to
the rough weather.
"Ocean" and "Albion"
bombarded light gun battery in Morto Bay, also
villages and positions near entrance.
seven sweepers, attended by picket boats fitted
with explosive creeps (sic), supported by
destroyers, "Amethyst" and "Canopus," entered the
Straits. The latter opened fire on the batteries
and searchlights protecting the minefield off
Kephez Point, but was unable to extinguish the
lights. The vessels were subjected to a heavy fire
from guns of and below 6-inch calibre.
Sweepers and picket
boats succeeded in getting above the minefield
with the object of sweeping down with the current.
Picket boats destroyed several cables, but only
one pair of sweepers got out their sweep and
little was effected. Two trawlers were hit by
6-inch projectiles. Trawler No. 339 was sunk by a
out reconnaissance for the ships operating off
Ships inside the
Straits engaged in watching both shores.
the Narrows delayed by failure to clear the
Attack on the
minefield at night failed owing to the sweepers
refusing to face the heavy fire opened by
batteries on them and the covering destroyers.
at a standstill. Weather misty.
French mine sweepers
attacked the minefield at night with no success,
being driven off by heavy fire.
reconnaissance reported a line of mines near the
surface extending from Suandere Bay in an E.S.E.
direction. These were examined by a sweeper and
picket boats which attacked the line with creeps
and explosive sweeps. The line subsequently turned
out to be an obstruction consisting of empty
observation mines moored by chain cables and
connected by a wire hawser. The latter apparently
had a hemp netting suspended from it. It was
evidently an anti-submarine obstruction.
A determined attack
on the minefield was made on the night of the 13th
March, volunteer officers and men being in each
The plan of attack
was similar to that on the 10th, it being very
essential for the sweepers to get above the
minefield before getting out their sweeps as they
can make no progress against the current.
destroyers covered the operations, which commenced
with a bombardment of the lights and batteries by
"Cornwallis" (below, in 1908
The defence of the
minefield was well organised, and sweepers and
picket boats had to pass through an area lit by
six powerful searchlights, under fire from fort
No. 13 and batteries Nos. 7 and 8, besides
numerous light guns estimated at twenty to thirty
on either shore.
The passage was
accomplished, but on reaching the turning point
only one pair of trawlers was able to get out the
sweep owing to damage to winches and gear, and
loss of personnel.
Picket boats did
excellent service in blowing up cables with
"Amethyst" drew the
fire of the batteries at a critical period, and
March 14, 15 and
engaged in clearing up area inside the Straits in
which ships would have to manoeuvre in their
combined attacks against the forts at the Narrows
and the minefields at Kephez.
VICE-ADMIRAL DE ROBECK, MARCH 26, 1915.
Elizabeth," March 26, 1915.
I have the honour to
enclose a detailed narrative of the operations in
the Dardanelles on the 18th March, 1915.
With regard to the
general results of this attack, although the
principal forts remained silent for considerable
intervals, only a portion of their armaments can
be considered disabled. The tactics employed by
the enemy when the bombardment by the fleet
becomes heavy are to desert their guns and retire
to bomb-proof shelters. When they consider a
favourable opportunity offers they re-man the guns
and open fire again.
But taking into
consideration the accuracy of fire of the ships
and the number of explosions which occurred in the
forts, both materiel and personnel must have
suffered considerably. Throughout the greater part
of the day the fleet appeared to have a marked
advantage, as regards gunfire, so much so that the
mine sweepers were called in at 2 P.M., Soon after
they were inside it was, however, evident from the
amount of fire from howitzers and field guns that
they would not be able to proceed into the
minefield at Kephez Point, and beyond sweeping in
the area where "Bouvet" sank the sweepers effected
Up to the time
"Bouvet" was mined everything had proceeded
satisfactorily, the ships receiving little damage
by the enemy's gunfire, although the annoyance
from concealed batteries on both sides of the
Straits was very great. It was evident that some
of these batteries were directing their fire on
the control positions of the ships. In this way
the "Inflexible" lost two very fine officers who
were in her fore control, viz., Commander Rudolf
H. C. Verner and Lieutenant Arthur W. Blaker.
During, the period
the second division battleships "Ocean,"
"Irresistible," "Albion," and "Vengeance" were
bombarding the situation again looked
reported shortly after 4 P.M. that she had struck
a mine, and she was ordered out of the
Dardanelles. I submit that it reflects great
credit on Captain Phillimore and his ship's
company that "Inflexible" was able to reach shoal
water off Tenedos.
It was only after
"Wear" had returned from "Irresistible" (below
- Pat Gariepy) at 4.50 P.M. that it was
realised that the latter had also struck a mine.
As soon as I was informed of this I ordered
"Ocean" to take her in tow. This was, however,
impossible, as will be seen from the reports of
"Ocean" and "Irresistible," It was also apparent
that the area in which the ships were operating
was too dangerous, and I therefore determined to
withdraw the "B" (advance) line and break off the
engagement. Whilst these orders were being carried
out "Ocean" was also struck by a torpedo or mine.
Eventually the ships
withdrew at dark, tho destroyers having taken off
the ships' companies of both "Ocean" and
The conduct of all
ranks was reported to be excellent and up to the
best traditions of our Service. The saving of
valuable lives by WEAR, COLNE, CHELMER, JED, and
KENNET, was a brilliant and gallant performance on
I would submit the
Christopher P. Metcalfe, H.M.S. "Wear,"
Claude Seymour, H.M.S. "Colne,"
Commander Hugh T. England, H.M.S. "Chelmer,"
Commander George F. A. Mulock, H.M.S. "Jed," and
Charles E. S. Parrant, H.M.S. "Kennet,"
for their Lordships'
favourable consideration; and if I single out one
for specially meritorious service, it is Captain
Christopher P. Metcalfe, H.M.S. "Wear," of whose
conduct I cannot speak too highly.
I would also bring
to their Lordships' notice the excellent conduct
of the officers in charge of picket boats.
officers, who were under fire all day, performed
most valuable service.
I received every
assistance from my staff.
The advice and
initiative of my Chief of Staff, Commodore Roger
J. B. Keyes, was of the greatest value. He left in
"Wear," shortly before 5.30 P.M., to see whether
it was possible to save "Ocean" or "Irresistible"
but their condition made it impracticable.
Though the squadron
had to retire without accomplishing its task, it
was by no means a defeated force, and the
withdrawal was only necessitated owing to the mine
menace, all ranks being anxious to renew the
As a result of this
bombardment it is considered imperative for
success that the area in which ships are
manoeuvring shall be kept clear of mines, also
that the mine sweepers be manned by naval ratings,
who will be prepared to work under heavy fire. In
some cases their crews appear to have no objection
to being blown up by mines, though they do not
seem to like to work under gun-fire, which is a
new element in their calling.
A reorganisation of
the mine sweepers' personnel is completed, and
they are now manned for the most part by naval
ranks and ratings.
M. DE ROBECK, Vice-Admiral.
Secretary of the Admiralty,
REPORT OF OPERATIONS
CARRIED OUT BY THE ALLIED BRITISH AND FRENCH
FLEETS OFF THE DARDANELLES ON MARCH 17 AND 18,
(All times are
local, i.e., two hours fast on G.M.T.)
The attempts to
clear the minefield at Kephez Point during the
dark hours having failed, it became necessary to
carry this out by daylight.
The plan of
operations was fully explained to captains of
ships on the 16th, and issued to them on the 17th
against Kephez minefield were suspended during the
nights of the 15th-16th, 16th-17th, and 17th-18th,
trawlers during this time being employed in
thoroughly sweeping the area in which the ships
would have to manoeuvre.
It was considered
impracticable for ships to be at anchor inside the
Dardanelles, owing to the heavy howitzer fire
which can be brought to bear on them; subject to
the necessity of occasionally moving, so as to
throw off the enemy's fire, ships remained
stationary on the 18th, in order that the gun-fire
of the fleet might be as accurate as possible.
The morning of the
18th was fine, though it was at first doubtful
whether the direction of the wind - which was from
the south - would allow the operations to take
place under favourable conditions for spotting;
there was also a slight haze over the land; this,
however, cleared, and the wind having fallen the
signal was made at 8.26 a.m. that operation would
be proceeded with, commencing at 10.30 a.m.
Naval Attack on the Narrows
lost in italic CAPITALS sunk, and italic
lower case damaged. Note; sources vary on
the precise order of the ships. All images
Photo Ships unless otherwise identified)
A, 1st Division - Queen
Lord Nelson, Inflexible to
go in first to bombard and dominate
the Narrows forts.
Queen Elizabeth, Queen
Agamemnon, Lord Nelson-class
Lord Nelson, Lord Nelson-class (Maritime
Inflexible, Invincible-class battlecruiser
B, 3rd Division - French
ships Gaulois, Charlemagne,
BOUVET, Suffren to
pass through Line A and engage the
forts more closely; cover by Prince
George on the European side and
Triumph on the Asiatic
Prince George, Majestic-class (Pat
Division ships Vengeance, IRRESISTIBLE,
Albion, OCEAN to relieve the
Majestic & Swiftsure to take
over from Prince George &
Irresistible, Formidable-class (Maritime
Quest/Robert W Green)
cover - Canopus and Cornwallis
reserved for that night
At 8.15 a.m. the
Commander of the British mine sweepers reported
area between 8,000 and 10,000 yards range was
traversed by sweepers on the night of the
17th-18th without result.
8.45. - Senior
Officer of mine sweepers reported that they had
swept as far as White Cliffs, "eleven cutters
showed signs of working - no mines have been
caught in the sweep."
8.50. - Signal was
made to French Admiral that Vice-Admiral did not
wish him to approach nearer than 500 yards to the
position of the reported mines situated at S.E. of
9.7. - It was
reported that "Mosquito" had sunk three electric
mines, none of which exploded; these were
evidently empty minecases which were used to form
a boom defence below Suandere Bay, and which had
been broken up by our explosive creeps.
9.10. - Destroyers,
fitted with light sweep, were ordered to sweep in
ahead of the fleet.
10.30. - Ships
reported - "Ready for action" - and Lane "A"
proceeded in the following order:
PRINCE GEORGE (on
sweeps preceded Line "A" into the Dardanelles.
Each battleship had one picket-boat in attendance
on her to deal with floating mines, and "Wear" was
also in attendance on "Queen Elizabeth."
(below - Photo Ships) was ordered to patrol
the north coast of Gallipoli to fire on any
batteries she could locate, and which were firing
on the fleet inside the Straits.
demonstrated against Bashika Bay and watched Yeni
11. - Ships were
engaging field-guns and howitzers firing from the
11.15. - Four
steamers were observed in the middle of the stream
off Chanak; these made off up the Straits about
fifteen minutes later.
11.25. - "Queen
Elizabeth" opened fire on fort No. 19;
"Agamemnon," "Lord Nelson," and "Inflexible"
opening fire shortly afterwards in the order
named. All line "A" were firing by 11.36 a.m.
11.40. - "Triumph"
was firing at fort No. 8 at a range of 10,400
Line "A" was now
being subjected to a heavy fire from howitzers and
field-guns. One battery of the former, using four
guns of about 6-inch calibre, which fell well
together, was particularly annoying. The forts
also opened fire, but the range, about 14,400
yards, was evidently too great for them, and they
fired only a few shots, none of which took effect.
11.50. - A big
explosion was seen in fort No. 20, on which "Queen
Elizabeth" was now firing. "Agamemnon" .and "Lord
Nelson" were apparently making good practice
against forts Nos. 13 and 17.
About this time the
fire from the heavy howitzers was less intense,
but there were still a large number of smaller
guns firing on ships of line "A," all of whom were
struck several times at this period.
p.m. - "Suffren," "Bouvet," "Gaulois,"
"Charlemagne" (below - Photo Ships) (who
formed the first line "B"), were ordered to pass
through line "A" and engage the forts at closer
wind at this time was blowing almost straight from
the ships to Chanak, making spotting difficult
"Suffren" led the
French Squadron through line "A" well ahead of
"Bouvet," and by 0.32 p.m. she came under fire
from, and engaged, the forts. Fort No. 13 was
firing four guns, and forts Nos. 19, 7A, 9, and 8
all opened fire, and possibly 16 as well.
The action now
became general, both lines "A" and "B" engaging
the forts, and, at the same time, the lighter
Fort No. 7A was very
persistent, and seemed hard to hit.
0.47. - "Agamemnon"
was being made the target for most of the lighter
guns. She turned 32 points, and the batteries lost
also under heavy fire, and a picket boat alongside
her was sunk.
- Some large projectiles were falling into the
water about 500 yards short of the line "B."
Forts Nos. 13, 19,
7A, and 8 were all firing: their practice was
good, chiefly directed against line "B," "Prince
George," and "Triumph."
"Inflexible's" fore bridge observed to be on fire,
About this time a
heavy explosion occurred in fort No. 13.
1.15. - Line "B"
under a heavy fire, "Suffren" apparently hit
several times, Fort No. 8 had now ceased firing.
1.25. - There was a
slight lull in the firing, "Lord Nelson," however,
being straddled by a 6-inch battery.
"Charlemagne" were making good practice on forts
Nos. 13 and 16.
quitted line to extinguish fire and clear control
top, which had been wrecked by a shell, and all
personnel, therein disabled.
1.38. - Seaplane
reported Fort No. 16 firing; 19 hit; 17 hit but
firing; new battery at Kephez Point not manned;
battery south of Suandere River firing.
1.43. - There was
little firing; mine sweepers were ordered to
close. The French Squadron were ordered out of the
Straits, also "Prince George" and "Triumph," the
ships relieving them being formed up just inside
1.54. - "Suffren"
leading line "B" out of Straits, with "Bouvet"
immediately astern. A large explosion occurred on
the starboard side of the latter, abaft the
afterbridge, accompanied by dense masses of
reddish-black smoke. "Bouvet" capsized to
starboard and sank within two minutes of the first
From the "Queen
Elizabeth" it appeared that the explosion was not
due to a mine, but possibly to a large projectile;
it was also considered that a magazine explosion
had occurred, as she was previously observed to be
on fire aft, and she sank so rapidly; there
appears little doubt that her magazine blew up,
but whether it was exploded by a mine, gunfire, or
by an internal fire, is not clear.
British boats were
quickly on the scene, but the whole episode
occupied so short a time that few of the crew
could have reached the upper deck; only sixty-six
were picked up.
"Suffren" stood by
till all the survivors were picked up, the
remainder of her line proceeding out of harbour.
The enemy fired a
few shells at the boats picking up survivors,
without, however, obtaining any hits.
2.15. - "Queen
Elizabeth" and "Lord Nelson" were practically the
only ships firing, the forts being silent. About
this time the enemy again opened fire with their
6-inch howitzer battery.
2.31. - Seaplane
over forts at 1 p.m. reported troops at Kephez
Point. Forts Nos. 13, 16, 17, and 19 all manned
and firing; Saunders also firing.
2.32. - New line "B"
passed through line "A" to engage forts at closer
range. This line consisted of "Vengeance,"
"Irresistible," "Albion," and "Ocean," with
"Swiftsure" and "Majestic" in support.
2.52. - Line "B" was
engaged with forts, of which only No. 19 was
firing at all rapidly.
3.7. - Large
explosion behind Fort No. 13; from the volume of
smoke it appeared that an oil tank had been set on
3.14. - A heavy
explosion was observed alongside "Irresistible,"
evidently a big shell. All forts were now firing
rapidly, but inaccurately.
No. 19 apparently concentrating on "Irresistible,"
"Queen Elizabeth" in consequence opened salvo
firing on it.
"Irresistible" was observed to have slight list.
4.11. - "Inflexible"
reported "struck a mine"; she proceeded out of the
"Irresistible" apparently unable to move, and with
a noticeable list. "Wear" was ordered to close her
and ascertain what was the matter, signalling
communication having broken down.
ordered to proceed out of the Straits, if able to
do so, and "Ocean" (right - Photo Ships)
to prepare to take "Irresistible" in tow.
"Wear" was seen to
go alongside "Irresistible," and subsequently
returned to "Queen Elizabeth " at 4.50 p.m. with
28 officers and 582 crew of "Irresistible " on
board her. It was then ascertained for the first
time that "Irresistible" had struck a mine, both
engine rooms being immediately flooded.
As the ship was
helpless, her commanding officer decided to remove
a portion of the crew, retaining the executive
officer and 10 volunteers to work wires, &c.,
should it be found possible to take her in tow.
The operation of
removing the crew was carried out in a perfectly
orderly manner, the ship being under fire the
whole time from forts Nos. 7 and 8 and batteries
near Aren Kioi.
4.50. - When it was
learnt that "Irresistible" had also struck a mine,
orders were given for line "B" to withdraw.
5.10. - "Wear"
having disembarked crew of "Irresistible," was
ordered to close "Ocean" and "Irresistible" and
direct the former to withdraw if she was unable to
take the latter in tow.
5.50. - Survivors on
board "Irresistible" were removed to "Ocean," the
captains of both ships being of opinion that it
was impracticable to take "Irresistible " in tow,
she being bows on to the Asiatic shore, listing
badly, at right angles to the course for going
out, and there appearing to be insufficient room
to manoeuvre between her and the shore.
It was therefore
determined to leave her till dark, when an attempt
would be made to tow her out with destroyers and
mine sweepers, arrangements being meanwhile taken
to torpedo and sink her in deep water should there
be any chance of her grounding; this was always a
possibility, as she was in the dead water off
White Cliffs with a light breeze blowing up the
having been abandoned, it was decided, in view of
the unexpected mine menace, to abandon the
mine-sweeping of the Kephez minefield, it being
inadvisable to Ieave heavy ships inside the
Straits to cover the minesweepers.
6.5. - "Ocean,"
while withdrawing, struck a mine and took a quick
list to starboard of about 15 degrees.
At the same time a
shell, striking the starboard side aft, jambed the
helm nearly hard a-port.
The list becoming
gradually greater, her commanding officer
determined to disembark the crew; this was done in
the destroyers "Colne," "Jed," and "Chelmer,"
under a heavy cross fire from forts Nos. 7 and 8
and batteries at Aren Kioi. "Chelmer" was twice
struck while alongside "Ocean."
"Racoon," "Mosquito," and " Kennet" also stood by
When all were
reported clear of the ship, the captain embarked
in "Jed" and lay off till dark; he then returned
to her to make absolutely certain no one was left
on board and that nothing could be done to save
His opinion being
that nothing could be done, the ship was finally
abandoned in the centre of the Straits at about
The captains of
"Ocean" and "Irresistible," after reporting to the
Vice-Admiral Commanding, returned to the
Dardanelles to join the destroyers, which, with
six mine sweepers, had been ordered to enter the
Straits after dark to endeavour to tow
"Irresistible" into the current and prevent
"Ocean" drifting out of it. No trace of either
ship could be found; this was confirmed by "Jed"
at 11 p.m. after an exhaustive search. "Canopus"
at daylight also reconnoitred, and found no trace
of either. There is no doubt 'both ships sank in
anchored at Tenedos for the night, "Canopus" and
"Cornwallis" being on patrol with destroyers at
the entrance of the Straits.
The damaged ships
were dealt with as follows:
anchored north of Tenedos.
grounded on north of Drepano Island - damage due
On the morning of
the 19th instant, Contre Amiral Guepratte informed
me that the "Suffren" was leaking forward; it had
been necessary to flood the fore magazine on
account of fire, and a heavy shell had started a
"Suffren," and "Gaulois" will therefore require to
go to Malta for repairs.
M. DE ROBECK, Vice-Admiral.
OPERATIONS, MARCH 17 AND 18, 1915.
(All times are
"Grasshopper," "Racoon" and "Mosquito" covered the
operations of the mine sweepers on the night of
the 17th-18th March, being engaged during this
service with shore batteries on both sides of the
At 6 a.m. on the
18th March, "Mosquito" saw and sunk three
carbonite mines floating near Morto Bay - none
10 a.m. - "Colne"
and "Chelmer" sweeping ahead of line "A." During
this time "Colne's" whaler was struck by a 4-inch
"Wear" was in
attendance on "Queen Elizabeth" throughout the
day, being in consequence frequently under fire.
When "Bouvet" sank, "Wear" closed and lowered
whaler to pick up survivors, being under fire at
the time. "Basilisk," "Grasshopper," "Racoon,"
"Mosquito," "Ribble," "Kennet," "Colne," and
"Chelmer" also closed, but were too late to pick
up any survivors.
Destroyers closed "Gaulois," who was in distress
outside the Straits, "Colne," "Chelmer,"
"Mosquito," and "Kennet" transferring some of her
crew to "Suffren," "Dartmouth" and " Lord Nelson."
4.10. - When
"Irresistible" was observed to be in distress,
"Wear" was ordered to close her. "Wear" went
alongside and took off practically the whole crew
under heavy, fire, transferring them at 4.50 p.m.
to "Queen Elizabeth."
She then returned
and, after sounding round the "Irresistible,"
remained in the vicinity of the damaged ships
until nightfall, when she rejoined "Queen
Elizabeth" to report.
"Racoon," "Mosquito," "Kennet," and "Jed" stood by
"Irresistible," having come in from entrance of
6.5. - When "Ocean"
struck a mine, "Racoon," "Mosquito," "Colne,"
"Chelmer," "Jed," "Kennet," and "Wear" stood by
under heavy cross fire, "Colne," "Chelmer," "Jed,"
and "Kennet" going alongside to remove the crew.
7.15. - "Colne"
found no signs of "Ocean"; enemy still firing on
8.30 to 11.30 p.m. -
"Jed" carried out a thorough search, but could
find no trace of "Ocean" or "Irresistible."
Damage sustained by
alongside "Ocean," struck and holed by centre
stokehold, which was flooded. She went alongside
"Lord Nelson," where her own mat and that
belonging to "Lord Nelson" were placed over the
hole. She shortly afterwards proceeded to Tenedos,
escorted by "Colne" (below - Photo Ships).
standing by "Irresistible," was damaged by
concussion of large shell under starboard quarter
and some shrapnel bullets.
M. DE ROBECK, Vice-Admiral.
OPERATIONS, MARCH 17 AND 18, 1915.
Night of March
17 and 18.
British and French
mine sweepers continued sweeping area below the
line Suandere River-Kephez Light.
reported: "No mines found."
ordered to enter and commence sweeping at 2 p.m.
Of these two pairs got sweeps out, when abreast of
White Cliffs, about 3.30 p.m.; they were under
No progress was made
beyond this point, as it was not considered
advisable to leave heavy ships inside the Straits
to cover their operations, "Inflexible " having
already struck a mine.
M. DE ROBECK, Vice-Admiral.
DEFENCE OF THE REALM
Risks Of Mines Order.
exercise of the powers conferred upon .them by the
Defence of the Realm Regulations and all other
powers thereunto enabling them, the Lords
Commissioners of the Admiralty hereby make the
following Order with a view to protecting British
Merchant Vessels when navigating within certain
Areas from the risk of damage by Mine:
Part I.- Use of Mine
vessels equipped with the "Otter" protection gear
are to stream their "Otters" on all occasions in
the following waters:
East of 30°
and Cattegat (sic): Throughout.
(i) Aegean Sea:
North and East of a line Thaso-Lemnos-Tenedos,
extended both ends to meet the nearest point on
the main land.
East of a line Marmarice-Cyprus-Beirut.
North of the
parallel of latitude of Santa Maria di Leuca.
Straits of Bonifacio and Straits of Messina.
Otters are to be streamed if uncertain of
position, i.e., in doubt as to being in approved
tracks, channels and fairways, as follows:
an area bounded on West by meridian of Cape
an area bounded on North by 61° N. parallel.
In an area bounded
on East by 10° East meridian.
In an area bounded
on South by line Dungeness-Boulogne.
Channel: Within 10 miles of the North and
West coasts of France.
Mediterranean: East of 2° East and West of 21°
East in waters of less than 180 fathoms.
In all other waters Otters are not required to be
used provided that the approved tracks, channels
and fairways are adhered to.
Senior Naval Officers at Ports from which ships
are sailing may modify or add to these Orders' as
To secure the efficient working of the Otter gear
it must be properly adjusted, actually, running,
and adequately manned.
Master or other person, in command or charge of
any British vessel who neglects to see that the
apparatus is so adjusted, running, manned and
worked as required by paragraphs 1 and 2 hereof,
subject to the exceptions authorised or ordered
under paragraph 4 hereof, shall be guilty of an
offence against the Defence of the Realm
is to be made in the ship's log regarding the
streaming and taking inboard of Otters.
Masters of vessels carrying deck cargo are to
ensure that sufficient space to enable Otters to
be handled efficiently is always left when
The Admiralty Order dated 17th
and published in the London Gazette of the
21st June, 1918,
is hereby cancelled:
Special Masthead Look-Outs.
The special Masthead Look-Outs ordered to be
carried and employed in ships of 2,500 gross
tonnage and upwards, under-Admiralty Order of the
16th November, 1917, are still to be employed in
the areas mentioned in paragraph 1 hereof, and, in
addition, in the English Channel to the Eastward
of the Meridian of Greenwich and in the entire
area of the North Sea to the Southward of latitude
62° North and East of the Meridian of Cape Wrath.
The special Masthead Look-Outs are to be paid only
while the ship in which they are borne is
navigating in these areas, and vessels which trade
entirely outside these areas should cease to carry
and pay these Look-Outs.
Special care is to be taken in navigating in the
waters defined in paragraph 2, clauses (b) and (c)
hereof, but special Look-Outs are not required to
be carried in vessels navigating through these
waters unless part of their voyage is within the
areas covered in paragraph, 1 hereof.
This Order is to apply to all ships to which
Admiralty Order of the 16th November, 1917, in
regard to Masthead Look-Outs applied, whether
fitted with Otters or not.
The Admiralty Order dated the 16th November, 1917,
and published in the London Gazette of, the
20th November, 1917,
is hereby cancelled.
under our hands this 9th day of May, 1919.
L. Duff., J. A. Fergusson. Admiralty, S.W. 1.
- 7 OCTOBER 1919
dated 5 July 1919
despatch has been received from the Rear-Admiral,
Black Sea, on the action in the Caspian Sea off
Fort Alexandrovsk, on the 21st May, 1919:
5th July, 1919.
I have the honour to
submit the following despatch on the action off
Fort Alexandrovsk on the 21st May, 1919, with an
account of the circumstances leading up to it and
all subsequent operations:
At the beginning of
May reports were being received from various
sources that the Bolsheviks had occupied, or
intended to occupy, Fort Alexandrovsk. From
reports of refugees, prisoners, etc., it was also
apparent that the Naval Authorities at Astrakhan
were desirous of carrying out an attack on
Petrovsk or Baku with the object, of obtaining
oil, of which they were in urgent need.
2. Commodore Norris
determined, therefore, to visit. Fort Alexandrovsk
and to carry out a reconnaissance by means of the
coastal motor boats and by the seaplanes of "A.
Yusanoff," supported by the ships of the Caspian
Squadron. In accordance with this plan, "Kruger,"
"Asia," "Emile Nobel," "Sergei" and "A. Yusanoff,
left Chechen on 14th May and steered for a
rendezvous off Kulaly Island. Early in the morning
of the 15th the wind got up from the south-east,
and it was impossible to get out C.M.B.'s or
seaplanes, and the Squadron therefore altered
course direct for Fort Alexandrovsk. Soon after
daylight a number of fishing boats and a steamer
hull down were sighted on the starboard bow, and
later on a convoy of three steamers towing two
barges in sight, escorted by one T.B.D. The convoy
made off in the direction of Fort Alexandrovsk and
the destroyer kept on the port bow of the squadron
out of range. "Emile Nobel" fired a few long range
shots at the convoy, and at 07.15 the barges, were
slipped. The chase was continued until early noon,
when the enemy disappeared into the mist which was
lying off shore, and Commodore Norris, being
unable to determine his position, drew off. During
the afternoon the barges were sunk and their crews
3. The examination
of the prisoners revealed the fact that FortAlexandrovsk was occupied by a considerable number of Bolsheviks, and that the main
part of their fleet was there. Also that the
concentration was preparatory to an attack on
Petrovsk, with the object of obtaining oil.
4. On 17th May the
wind had gone round to west, so that no lee was
obtainable on the eastern shore of the Caspian.
Consequently (after an unsuccessful attempt to get
the seaplanes away) the seaplane carrier had to
return to Petrovsk, escorted by "Emile Nobel," who
was running short of fuel. By this, time Commodore
Norris had news of reinforcements in. the shape of
"Venture," and he cruised off the eastern shores
of the Caspian to the southward to await her
5. In addition to
"Venture" he was joined by "WindsorCastle" and "Emile Nobel," and on the morning of
21st May was cruising in position lat. 44.57 N.,
long. 50.02 E. Course S.E., speed 5 knots.
Detached squadron, consisting of the C.M.B.
carriers and seaplane carrier, had parted company
on 20th May, with orders to rendezvous off Fort
6. At 09.27, in lat.
44.43 N., long. 50.03 E., course was altered to S.
66 E. Two small craft were sighted north of the
7. Shortly before
11.00 one T.B.D., two small craft and A.M.C.
"Caspie" were sighted under the land west of the
harbour steering northward. At 11.00 the destroyer
opened fire, but the shot fell a long way short.
The enemy craft returned to harbour. It was
thought possible to cut them off, and the course
was altered accordingly and speed increased to 9
8. At 12.03 ranging
shots were fired by both sides, and ten minutes
later "Venture" was straddled. The general signal
to "Open Fire" was made at 12.13.
9. "Emile Nobel's"
third salvo hit a large armed barge, which caught
fire amidships, and whose crew were taken off by
small craft. From 12.30 to 13.00 all ships were in
action with "Caspie," a destroyer of the "Finn"
class, and various armed barges. "Caspie" was hit
by "Emile Nobel," and the destroyer was probably
hit by "Venture," as she was seen to be in
difficulties, and appeared to run ashore among the
10. By this time the
enemy's fire was both accurate and heavy. "Asia"
was repeatedly straddled, and at 12.57 a shell hit
"Emile Nobel" in engine room, killing five and
seriously wounding seven, and causing considerable
damage to the engines. "Emile Nobel" hauled out of
line, but eventually followed the squadron into
the harbour and continued to engage the enemy.
11. At 13.03 course
was altered down harbour in single line in the
following order: "Kruger," "Venture," "Asia,"
"WindsorCastle," "Emile Nobel." The enemy had retired to the southern end of the
harbour and taken shelter behind barges and small
craft, so that only the flashes of his guns could
be seen, and it was difficult to get good points
of aim. At this time a shore battery situated on
the cliffs opened fire on the squadron, and was
engaged by "Kruger," "Venture," and "Asia." A few
minutes later "Kruger" was hit aft, but, beyond
cutting away the telegraphs, little damage was
12. All the enemy
ships were now packed together at the south end of
the harbour, and it was estimated that five or six
separate ships were firing at the British
Squadron; these included "Caspie" and the "Finn"
class T.B.D. "Caspie," who had been hit
repeatedly, was on fire, but was continuing to
fire with one gun. A very large fire was started
ashore at the south end of the harbour, and many
of the ships and small craft were observed to be
on fire. This rendered all control very difficult,
as there was so much smoke and so many splashes
from the various ships. At times the enemy were
seen landing from their ships and running up the
13. About 13.30, in
view of the difficulty in manoeuvring and "Emile
Nobel's" condition, Commodore Norris decided to
haul off. The shore battery had been silenced and
did not fire at the .Squadron on its way out. When
well clear of the harbour speed was eased to 5
knots, but at 14.30 "Emile Nobel" reported she
could steam 8 knots, and speed was accordingly
14. While still in
sight of Fort Alexandrovsk the smoke on shore was
seen to be increasing; one very large explosion
was observed at 1.5.00 and two others at 15.15 and
15.43, besides several smaller ones. It was known
that "Caspie" and one steamer were on fire during
the action, and it was presumed that the enemy was
destroying his stores and fuel.
15. At 17.00 the
Squadron stopped and surgeons were sent to "Emile
Nobel." Squadron then proceeded N.N.W. in the
direction of Astrakhan, as Commodore Norris
intended, if possible, to remain on the enemy's
line of retreat.
16. At 20.10 "Emile
Nobel" was forced to stop, and the Squadron so
remained till . At midnight course was shaped S. 37 W., speed 4 knots, but during the
night "Emile Nobel" worked up to 7 knots.
17. In the early
morning two more heavy explosions were observed in
the direction of FortAlexandrovsk.
18. At 10.00, on
22nd May, the men who had been killed in "Emile
Nobel" were buried at sea, after which "Emile
Nobel" and "Windsor Castle" were detached to
19. In the meantime
the detached squadron of C.M.B. and seaplane
carriers had arrived at rendezvous, and a seaplane
had been sent up to bomb Alexandrovsk.
Unfortunately, he had to return owing to engine
trouble, and was out of action for 12 hours. He
again went up at 15.35, and returned two hours
later. Bombs were dropped, but no direct hits were
obtained. He reported that a large oil steamer was
burning as a result of the bombardment of the
In the evening some fishing boats were observed
from "Sergie" and searched by a C.M.B., and
their cargoes thrown overboard.
21. At 05.25 the
seaplane again started for FortAlexandrovsk,
and dropped bombs on the shipping in the harbour
and small craft machine-gunned. During the 22nd
May five raids were carried out by this one
seaplane with the following results:
First Raid -
Shipping and Eastern Pier bombed and
machine-gunned. No direct hits, but probably some
damage done as bombs fell close.
Second Raid -
Shipping bombed. Direct hits obtained on large
destroyer of "Finn" class, which sank. One hit on
armed merchant cruiser. Ships and piers
Third Raid - Barges
at eastern and western piers bombed. No direct
hits, but bombs fell very close, and damage was
Fourth Raid -
Shipping bombed. No direct hits. T.B.D. bombed in
second raid now completely sunk.
A sixth raid was
attempted, but machines failed to rise.
Photographs were taken on second and fifth raids.
22. On the evening
of 22nd and on the morning of 23rd a deserted
appearance of ships and town was noticed, no one
being seen in streets nor
on decks of ships. No armed forces or encampments
were seen in vicinity. On the first day heavy A.A.
fire was experienced, but on the evening of 22nd
and morning of 23rd there was none.
23. Commodore Norris
had every hope of carrying out a final attack with
C.M.Bs. on the morning of 22nd May, but was unable
to get into W./T.
communication with the carriers. In view of the
fact that the remainder of the enemy did not leave
until night of 22nd May this lost opportunity is
very much to be regretted.
24. On 23rd May,
after a night of thick fog, "Kruger" and "Venture"
were attacked by two enemy destroyers, who had the
range and speed of them, so that they were forced
to withdraw. The carriers were informed of the
presence of the enemy by W./T., and a seaplane was
again got out to attack the enemy. Unfortunately
the seaplane was unable to locate the enemy
destroyers, and finally carried out another raid
on Fort Alexandrovsk. It is probable that the
enemy sighted the carriers, as they suddenly
turned towards "Kruger," and then made off to the
northward. The seaplane ran into a fog on her way
back from Fort Alexandrovsk and fell in the water.
The officers were not picked up until 32 hours
later (see par. 25 below).
25. On 24th May
Commodore Norris in "Kruger," who was short of
fuel, with "Sergie" and "Edinburgh Castle," parted
company, and proceeded to Petrovek, leaving
Captain Washington in charge of the squadron,
which now consisted of "Windsor Castle," "Asia,"
"Venture," "Bibi-Abat" and "A. Yusanoff," with
orders to cruise to the northward and search for
the missing seaplane, to ascertain that Chechan
was safe, and, when the carriers returned, to make
an extended reconnaissance of Port Alexandrovsk.
The seaplane was picked up on the evening of 24th
May, after which the squadron cruised between Port
Alexandrovsk and Chechen until the carriers
On 28th May Captain Washington, with "Windsor
Castle," "Venture," "Slava," "Bibi-Abat,"
"Sergie," "Edinburgh Castle," and "A. Yusanoff,"
made a close reconnaissance of Fort Alexandrovsk.
The 1st and 2nd Divisions (1st Division "Windsor
Castle" and "Venture," 2nd Division " Slava " and
"Bibi-Abat") took up positions for covering the
approach of the C.M.Bs. who were got out and
proceeded up harbour under the command of
Commander Eric G. Robinson, V.C. (right -
Digger). On their way up harbour they
torpedoed a large barge, and on arrival up harbour
a white flag was hoisted ashore and a deputation
came off. The deputation consisted of the Chief
Engineer of the "Leila" and some of her crew, and
some Persians and agents of the K-M Company.
From these men full
details of the Bolshevik occupation were obtained,
and also information concerning the capture of the
"Leila" and the death of General Almaroff. The
attached lists show the details of the ships which
were sunk and which escaped.
27. From the reports
of Commodore Norris, Captain Washington and other
officers in command of vessels, and also from the
Royal Air Force reports, the conduct of the
officers and men appears to have been in
accordance with the traditions of the service. I
would specially draw attention to the following:
Commodore David T.
Norris, C.B., in command of the Caspian Flotilla.
Quite apart from the successful conduct of this
action, Commodore Norris deserves the highest
praise for the unfailing tenacity with which he
has overcome many and great difficulties and
eventually succeeded in getting his Squadron in
such a. state of efficiency as to make this
successful action possible. He has been
handicapped all through the winter by want of
efficient officers, by frequent and serious
strikes in the various works at Baku, by delay in
the arrival of material and also personnel, by the
serious accident he met with in the autumn of 1918
and from which he is by no means recovered, his
arm causing him continual discomfort. The way in
which he has risen superior to all these and many
other difficulties is beyond all praise. He had to
take serious risks in attacking an enemy which was
known to be efficiently manned and to possess
ships with superior gun-power, including several
destroyers. He has taken these risks, and has
succeeded, by the latest reports, in driving the
superior enemy from the Caspian.
Act. Captain Basil
G. Washington, C.M.G. He commanded the "Windsor
Castle" with great ability, and was the only
British officer on board during the action. He did
admirable work whilst temporarily in charge of the
Caspian during Commodore Norris's illness from 9th
October, 1918, to 5th February, 1919.
Commander Kenneth A.
F. Guy. Handled the "Emile Nobel" with great
ability under difficult circumstances.
Richard Harrison, R.N.R., of H.M.S. "Venture."
G. B. Wilson, commanding the "Asia."
Both handled their
Lieutenant Robert M.
Taylor, D.S.C., of the "Emile Nobel." By his
admirable control of fire was responsible for much
damage to the enemy.
Thomas Gardner. The manner in which this officer
kept his engines running after considerable heavy
losses in personnel and severe damage to the
complicated machinery reflects the greatest credit
on his ability and resource.
reports that Commander Edward L. Grieve's services
on his Staff were of greatest assistance to him.
This officer's services in the Caspian have been
R.N.V.R., of "Emile Nobel." Was of great service
in attending the wounded.
Petty Officer John
William Thompson, O.N. 239958. G.L. II., "Windsor
Castle." This petty officer was of greatest
assistance during the action to Captain
Washington, who had no British officer with him.
J. E. Pether, Ch.
E.R.A., O.N. 270497, "Emile Nobel." Was of
greatest assistance in refitting repairs and in
keeping the engines running after they were
The conduct of the
following ratings is specially mentioned:
Hall, Henry Amos,
Lce.- Sgt., Ply./ 15471, "Emile Nobel."
and also the Russian
Rating Nikolai Samliteoff, who I consider it is
very desirable should be included in any awards
that may be given.
28. I have the
honour to call particular attention to the
services rendered by the following officers of the
Royal Air Force who between them carried out 5
raids in one seaplane on the same day with
excellent results, and attempted a sixth, and also
the services of Lieutenant Chilton, R.N.R.,
commanding "A. Yousanoff," for his able handling
of the ship and organisation which allowed this to
Lieutenant Howard Grant Thompson.
John Archer Sadler.
Lieutenant Robert George Kear Morrison.
Frank Russell Bicknell.
Lieutenant Frank Leslie Kingham.
Lieutenant Henry Godwin Pratt.
M. SEYMOUR, Rear-Admiral.
Vessels Sunk in
Name of Ship and
No. 2" (properly an oil barge). Two 6 in. guns
(reported). Hit by shell when outside the Harbour.
Twelve men killed. Abandoned on fire. Hit again.
Later towed inside and afterwards sunk.
(motor boat). One gun.
Run ashore by crew and abandoned. Useless now.
"Reval." S/M Depot
Ship. Fitted with machine gun. Set on fire by us,
and abandoned. Blew up. Reported all the crew
escaped. Two mines or torpedoes on board. It is
stated that this ship had all the Bolshevik money
and valuables in gold on board.
or "Kuman."Store ship
carrying ammunition. Unarmed. Burnt and. sunk. Not
clear if by us or by their own action.
"Galema" (?). Small
tug. No gun. Burnt and sunk.
in., 2/3 in., two tubes, two pom poms. Damaged in
action, and either sunk by Bolsheviks or by
seaplane bomb on 22/5. The latter most likely from
Very strong. Fresh water and Mazout (now mixed).
Torpedoed 28th May.
Baltic M/S or M/L. Two 4 in., and probably being
used as ordinary fleet unit. Sunk, probably as
result of gunfire.
Barge. No details.
Barge (Wooden). Large and laden.
Torpedoed 28th May.
Escaped from, Alexandrovsk after the Action.
"Caspie."Damaged in boilers ? by bombs. Reported could only steam 5 knots.
or "Meshty."Mine carrier.
Ninety-nine mines on board.
"Communist."Tug. ? 2/4
Tug. 2/2½in. Hit but got away.
submarines. One had
fouled propeller and had to be towed.
This is exclusive of
the various groups of enemy destroyers and armed
merchant vessels that were in action with our
- 6 APRIL 1920
and part of Gulf
click map to enlarge
at Devonport, 9th
I have the honour to forward herewith this my report on my year's
Service in Command of His Majesty's Naval Forces
in the Baltic, where I relieved Rear-Admiral Sir
Edwyn S. Alexander-Sinclair, K.C.B., M.V.O., on the
6th January, 1919.
2. When I arrived the German situation was as follows: German
Troops were nominally in occupation of Latvia,
with Headquarters at Libau.
The Bolsheviks were in Riga,
and gradually advancing South and West.
The German Troops were of low morale, and in a poor state of
discipline - and wherever the Bolsheviks advanced
the Germans fell back, in many cases handing over
arms and munitions to the Bolsheviks on their
3. The Bolsheviks had by the middle of February advanced so far
as Windau, and were also within forty miles from
Libau from the Westward.
4. I therefore in "Caledon" (below - CyberHeritage/Terry
Phillips)(Commander Henry S. M.
Harrison-Wallace, R.N.) shelled them out of
Windau; and made what preparations I could to
evacuate the refugees from Libau, as I did not
consider an indiscriminate shelling of the town in
the event of its occupation by the Bolsheviks
would be advisable if no troops were available to
land for its reoccupation.
5. Shortly after this (at the end of February), large German
reinforcements began to arrive by sea, and
General-Major Graf Von. der Goltz assumed command.
at Libau, and very soon afterwards stabilised the
situation, and drove the Bolsheviks well East
again - and this, so far, was satisfactory.
6. In the meantime the Letts - under the direction of M. Ulmanis,
the Acting President -were making every endeavour
to raise and equip a sufficient military force -
aided by a limited quantity of small arms, machine
guns and ammunition supplied by His Majesty's
Government - to enable them to undertake the
defence of their own country against the
Bolsheviks when the time should come for the
Germans to withdraw.
It soon became evident, however, that it was not the Germans'
intention to permit any Lettish Force being
raised, and constant cases of friction, oppression
and disarmament of Lettish Troops began to occur.
7. The climax was reached on the 16th April, when at the Naval
Harbour - where the Headquarters of the Lettish
Troops were - German troops raided these
Headquarters, arrested and disarmed all the
Officers, and looted money and documents, killing
and wounding several Lettish soldiers.
Simultaneously with this, in the town of Libau itself,
Baltic-German troops arrested those members of the
Lettish Government who were unable to escape them,
whilst the rest took refuge on board His Majesty's
ships, and M. Ulmanis, the Acting President, with
the British Mission, which consequently was
surrounded by Baltic-German sentries.
8. That night two young Baltic-German Officers came off to my
ship and announced that they were the Heads of the
Committee of Safety until the formation of a new
Government, and asked me if I could guarantee them
the support of His Majesty's Government in this
I pointed out to them that until I had some satisfactory
explanation for the events of the day I could
listen to and recognise no such proposals. I then
sent them on shore again and heard nothing more of
9. On my requiring an explanation from Von der Goltz for these
happenings, he denied all responsibility or
knowledge for them, saying that his troops were
out of hand, and that the Baltic-Germans were not
under his orders.
10. In consequence of this I called a meeting of the Allied
representatives, and with them demanded the
following from Von der Goltz:
First.- That the unit which raided the Lettish Headquarters
should be at once removed from the Libau district.
Second.- That the Commanding Officer of the offending
Baltic-German Unit be relieved of his command.
We also gave him the time and date by .which we required the
fulfilment of these demands.
11. Both were complied with within the time, but Von der Goltz
stated that as he considered the Lettish
Government to be Bolshevik and a danger to the
district he was administering by order of the
Allies, he could not agree to their release from
arrest, or the continuance of their functions.
12. This state of affairs was reported to Paris accordingly, and
a very few days afterwards, owing to the melting
of the ice, and signs of activity by the Bolshevik
Fleet, I had myself to proceed to the Gulf of
Finland, and Commodore Arthur A. M. Duff, C.B.,
arrived on the 29th May and took charge of affairs
in the Western Baltic; and thereafter, by his
quick and accurate grasp of the whole German
situation there, freed me from a very considerable
portion of my preoccupations.
It is hard for me to do justice on paper to the adequacy and
effectiveness of his administration until he left
again on the 28th September.
I have now transferred to him the duties of Senior Naval Officer
in the Baltic.
13. On. arrival in the Gulf of Finland and reviewing the
situation, my hope and intention was - as soon as
ice conditions allowed it - to move as far East as
possible in order to support the left flank of the
Esthonian Front, and to protect it from any
attempt at being turned from the sea.
14. After getting into touch with the Esthonian Naval and
Military Authorities, I went over to Helsingfors
to call on the Regent (General G. Mannerheim), and
also to congratulate the Finns on the recognition
of their independence, which had been announced
the previous day. Circumstances then obliged me to
return to Libau for a day on the 12th May.
15. I had previously - on the 7th May - shifted my flag from "Caledon"
On returning from Libau to Reval on the 13th May "Curacoa" struck
a mine, which disabled her from further service
and occasioned eleven casualties amongst her
16. I therefore shifted to "Cleopatra" (below - Photo Ships),
and left Reval the next morning for the Eastward,
and, from the 14th May onwards I lay - first in
Narva Bay for a few days reconnoitring as far as
Kaporia whilst the Esthonians were landing and
operating between there and Louga - and then, as
they established themselves further East, I moved
forward to Seskar, from which place, with the very
good visibility prevailing day after day, I was
able from the mast head to keep an effective watch
on Petrograd Bay.
17. The situation then was somewhat of an anxiety to me, as the
strength of the Bolshevik. Naval Forces was known
to include Armoured Ships - the Esthonians were
lying in Kaporia with unarmed Transport (including
the Nekmangrund Light Vessel, so hard up were they
for ships), an old, slow ex-Russian Gunboat
"Bobr," and one ex-Russian Destroyer, dependent on
me for fuel, of which I had then, only a limited
supply - and my own Force consisted only of
"Cleopatra" and four Destroyers, the Seventh
Submarine Flotilla. arriving shortly afterwards at
18. From then onwards I maintained a watch on the Bay, whilst the
Esthonians were constantly in contact with the
Bolshevik Troops, bombarding and pushing forward
here and there, and landing more men, whilst
relieving those who needed refit, always under the
direction of Admiral John Pitka, who, before the
War, was a Shipowner of Reval and Director of a
Salvage Company, but who assumed command of the
Esthonian Naval Forces last winter, and has always
shown a most correct instinct for war, both on
land and sea. He has since been decorated by His
19. On the 17th May a great deal of smoke was observed over
Kronstadt; and on the 18th five Bolshevik craft,
led by a large Destroyer of the "Avtroil" type
came as far West as Dolgoi Nos, five miles clear
of the Petrograd Minefields, and then while still
close under the land turned back. So in
"Cleopatra" (Captain Charles James Colebrooke
Little, C.B.), with "Shakespeare" (Commander - now
Captain - Frederick Edward Ketelbey Strong,
D.S.O.), "Scout" (Lieutenant-Commander Edmund F.
Fitzgerald), and "Walker" (Lieutenant-Commander
Ambrose T. N. Abbay), I went ahead full speed from
Seskar on an Easterly course, closing the range
rapidly from 20,000 to 16,000 yards when fire was
opened, the Bolshevik Destroyer, flying a very
large red flag, firing the first shot. I stood on
until within half a mile of the mined area, and
came under the fire of the Grey Horse Battery, but
by this time the range was opening and spotting
very difficult, owing to the vessels being close
under the land all the time.
20. The speed of the enemy appeared to be reduced to about ten
knots, one good hit on the Destroyer at any rate
was observed, but under the circumstances I did
not consider it advisable to run in over the
minefields and under the guns of the shore
batteries in order to obtain a decision, and so
these craft made good their escape.
21. To the Eastward, but not taking part in the action, was a
three-funnelled Cruiser, the "Oleg," and to the
Eastward of her again was smoke - and it was
reported that the Bolshevik Dreadnought Battleship
was also out.
22. On the 24th May General Sir Hubert Gough arrived in "Galatea"
on a special Mission
and the Baltic
and I accompanied him over to Helsingfors to
assist at his ceremonial landing, and to salute
him there, and went with him to interview the
Finnish authorities, thereafter leaving again for
the Eastward, leaving "Galatea" at Helsingfors.
23. On the 31st May, whilst still lying off Seskar in
"Cleopatra" with "Dragon" (Captain Francis Arthur
Marten, C.M.G., C.V.O.), "Galatea " (Captain
Charles Morton Forbes, D.S.O.), "Wallace" (Captain
George William McOran Campbell), "Voyager"
(Lieutenant-Commander Charles Gage Stuart,
D.S.C.), "Vanessa" (Lieutenant-Commander Edward
Osborne Broadley, D.S.O.), "Wryneck" (Commander
Ralph Vincent Eyre, R.N.), "Versatile" (Commander
Gerald Charles Wynter, O.B.E.), "Vivacious"
(Commander Claude L. Bate, R.N.), and with
"Walker" and two Submarines on patrol, a Bolshevik
Destroyer was sighted coming West with a
Dreadnought Battleship, and two other small craft
behind the minefields. The Destroyer was engaged
and chased Eastwards, the Battleship opening a
heavy and well-controlled fire at the same time.
24. On the first report I weighed and steamed East, a Bolshevik
aeroplane appearing overhead and dropping bombs
among my force as it advanced, but it flew off
Eastwards on being fired at.
25. The Destroyer fell back on the battleship, which manoeuvred
behind the minefields and kept up a heavy and
well-disciplined fire on "Walker" (below -
Photo Ships) as she fell back to meet me;
Fort Krasnaya Gorka, having a kite balloon up and
26. I stood up and down the edge of the minefield, but the
Bolshevik Force showed no intention of coming on,
and retired Eastwards after a few salvoes had been
27. "Walker" was hit twice, but no appreciable damage was done, and there
was one slight casualty only.
28. It now became apparent to me that with the small forces at my
disposal it would be necessary, in order to keep
an effective watch on Bolshevik Naval movements,
and in particular to, if possible, ensure that no
mines were laid to the Westward of the existing
fields across the entrance to Petrograd Bay, that
I should have a Base nearer to Kronstadt than
29. I therefore moved to Biorko, and required certain assistance
from the Finns in the way of patrols and
accommodation on shore for aircraft, which
assistance was at once agreed to by them.
30. It was evident by then that the Bolshevik Active Squadron
2 Battleships. (1 Dreadnought "Petropavlovsk"),
1 Cruiser, and
6 Large Destroyers.
31. Up to about the end of June there were constant attempts by
Enemy Light Craft to break out on the Northern
side at night, and both to sweep and lay mines -
and a good deal of shooting, though little
hitting, went on between the Patrols - also, there
is no doubt more mines were laid by the Bolsheviks
to the Southward of Stirs Point, and to the
Eastward of the existing Mine Barrier.
32. On the 13th June very heavy firing broke out between Fort
Krasnaya Gorka and the forts and ships at
Kronstadt - Fort Krasnaya Gorka having suddenly
turned over to the "Whites," who, however, were
not strong enough to hold it - the forces
immediately available being only a hundred or so
of badly-armed and much-exhausted Ingermanlanders,
who, owing to the fire from the Bolshevik Heavy
Ships, were unable to occupy the Fort long enough
either to effectively man the guns, or destroy
them - and so, after changing hands twice,
Krasnaya Gorka remained in Bolshevik hands.
33. These Ingermanlanders were fighting under the direction of
the Esthonian Command, and were armed and equipped
by them, chiefly from supplies captured from
Bolsheviks, and had done very well ever since
these operations started, and were fighting with
the more enthusiasm as it was their own country
they were freeing.
Apparently, however, their successes aroused the suspicion and
jealousy of the Russians of the Northern Corps,
who, equipped and supported in every way by the
Esthonians, had by then begun to become a
considerable fighting force, and were holding the
line on the right of the Esthonian-Ingermanland
Force - whose left flank rested on the sea, and
had pushed forward as far as Krasnaya Gorka..
34. In order to deal with any attempt by heavy ships to break out
- as well as to maintain an effective patrol on
the entrance to Petrograd Bay, I considered it
advisable to lay mines so as to restrict .the
movements of the enemy, and this was done by
"Princess Margaret" (Captain Harry H. Smyth,
C.M.G., D.S.O.) and the 20th Destroyer Flotilla
(Captain (D) Berwick Curtis, C.B., D.S.O.).
35. On 17th June our lookouts reported a Cruiser ("Oleg") and two
Destroyers at anchor West of Kronstadt, and
also a Submarine moving Westward.
36. A few minutes after midnight a sudden burst of firing was
heard by our outpost Destroyers, which, as
suddenly ceased, and next day Lieutenant Augustine
W. S. Agar, R.N., informed me that he had
torpedoed the Cruiser "Oleg" at anchor, the
torpedo hitting her about the foremost funnel, and
came under heavy fire from the Destroyers on
37. On the 6th July "Vindictive" (below - Photo Ships) on
passage from England
to join me in the Gulf
ran aground outside Reval on the Middle Ground
Shoal, and remained there for eight days.
It was a time of some anxiety to me, as she was going fifteen
knots at the time of striking, and had slid up
half her length, and was in two feet six inches to
three feet less water there than her draught, and
in a tideless sea.
"Delhi" and "Cleopatra" made several ineffectual attempts to tow
her off before, after lightening her by
2,212 tons, and experiencing a rise of water of
about four to six inches due to a Westerly wind,
"Cleopatra" at last pulled her clear after eight
days of effort and, as we discovered shortly
afterwards, all the towing operations were carried
out in the middle of a minefield.
38. Early in July strong attacks were made by the Bolsheviks on
the Russian front on the southern shore,
necessitating frequent bombardments by Light
Cruisers and Destroyers of the Bolshevik
positions. Bolshevik aircraft were also active;
Fort Krasnaya Gorka also occasionally firing at
our patrols in KaporiaBay.
39. Later in the mouth our Flying Operations started, consisting
at first of reconnaissance and photographic
flights, and then on the morning of the 30th July
a bombing operation against the ships in
Kronstadt, the main objective being a Destroyer
Depot Ship with five or six Destroyers lying
alongside her. The whole was under the command of
Squadron Leader David G. Donald, A.F.C., R.A.F.
Sixteen bombs in all were dropped, and one hit, at
any rate, was registered on the Depot Ship, which
disappeared from her accustomed position in the
harbour, and was not seen again. All machines
returned safely after passing through a heavy
anti-aircraft fire from the ships and batteries
40. Thereafter continued a close watch on Petrograd Bay, with
frequent bombardments by us of Bolshevik positions
on the Southern Shore, and occasional shellings by
Fort Krasnaya Gorka and other guns, varied by
attacks by enemy submarines on our vessels, and
intermittent activity by Bolshevik Destroyers and
Minesweepers, with occasional appearances outside
the harbour by larger craft.
41. On the morning of 18th August, with the object of removing,
as far as possible, the threat which existed to my
ships and also to the Left Flank of the Russian
advance to Petrograd
by the presence of the Bolshevik Active Squadron,
an attack on the ships in Kronstadt by Coastal
Motor Boats and Aircraft was made.
42. The position of the ships in the harbour had been ascertained
by aerial photographs. Frequent bombing raids on
the harbour had also been made at varying times in
the weeks beforehand.
43. The attack was planned so that all available aircraft
co-operated under Squadron Leader D. G. Donald,
A.F.C., R.A.F., and that they should arrive and
bomb the harbour so as to drown the noise of the
approach of the Coastal Motor Boats.
44. The time-table was most accurately carried out, with, the
result that the first three Coastal Motor Boats,
under Commander Claude C. Dobson, D.S.O., passed
the line of Forts and entered the harbour with
scarcely a shot being fired.
45. Each boat had a definite objective - six in all. Of these six
enterprises four were achieved, the results being
gained not only by dauntless disciplined bravery
at the moment of attack, but by strict attention
to, and rehearsal of, every detail beforehand by
every member of the personnel, both of the boats
and also of the Air Force.
46. Of the latter there is this to say, that though all their
arrangements for bombing were makeshift, and the
aerodrome from which the land machines had to rise
in the dark, was a month before a wilderness of
trees and rocks, and in size is quite inadequate,
not one of the machines (sea and land) failed to
keep to its time-table, or to lend the utmost and
most effective support during, and after, the
attack to the Coastal Motor Boats.
47. After this nothing bigger than a Destroyer ever moved again,
but a certain amount of mine-laying and sweeping
was observed near the approaches to the harbour.
48. During September our ships constantly bombarded Bolshevik
positions on the Southern Shore in KaporiaBay,
in support of the Esthonian Left Flank, whilst the
aircraft were employed in bombing Kronstadt and
attacking their small craft whenever seen.
49. Early in October the long talked of advance against Petrograd
by General Yudenitch began - but as his left flank
was not made secure by making the capture of Forts
Krasnaya Gorka and Saraia Lochad his first
objective - as was repeatedly urged - the attempt
50. The Esthonians, so long as their advance was such that the
guns of the light cruisers and destroyers of the
Biorko Force could support them, went forward -
but thereafter they met with strong and effective
resistance and much barbed wire, and were held up
within four miles of the land approaches to Fort
Krasnaya Gorka and suffered very heavy losses
-equal to nearly one-third of their forces, which
did not at the beginning exceed two thousand men.
51. It was after this check that "Erebus" (Captain John A.
Moreton, D.S.O.) arrived (24th October), which
encouraged Admiral Pitka, who was in command of
the Esthonian Forces, to try again; but by then
the Russians had begun to fall back, thereby
uncovering the Esthonian right flank and causing
them further distress, and dispersion of their few
The Russians and Esthonians then fell back with considerable
rapidity as far west as the line Narva-Peipus
Lake, and I devoted myself to endeavouring to
ensure that, from the sea, no further attempt was
made to further harass these very war-weary and
52. Unfortunately the "Erebus" (Captain John A. Moreton, D.S.O.)
arrived only after the attempt was doomed to
failure, and by that time also the weather had
broken, making it very unsuitable for flying in
order to direct the firing of "Erebus"; also our
machines and many of the pilots were, from hard
service through the summer, rather past their
best. The type of machine, too (Short Seaplane),
was unable to get sufficient height to avoid the
very severe and accurate anti-aircraft fire from
these two forts.
53. All that could be done by our ships (light cruisers and
destroyers) besides "Erebus," in the way of
shelling positions and covering the advance, was
done, and always within the range of Fort
Krasnaya's Gorka's twelve-inch guns, and under the
observation of its kite balloon; these guns,
however, though, throughout the year they have
constantly shelled us, have never succeeded
further than to land a few splinters on board.
54. On the 30th October arrived, out from England
General Sir Richard Haking and a small staff of
officers, who, after investigating and acquiring
what appeared to me to be a very complete grasp of
the whole Baltic situation and its needs, returned
after two weeks.
55. Towards the beginning of October and concurrently with the
attempt on Petrograd
by the Russian North-West Army, the German-
Russian threat against Riga became acute, and a bombardment of the town commenced.
"Abdiel" (Captain Berwick Curtis, C.B., D.S.O.) and "Vanoc"
(Commander Edward O. Tudor, R.N.) were there at
the time, also a French destroyer ("L'Aisne"),
"Dragon" (Captain Francis A. Marten, C.M.G.,
C.V.O.) was on her way out from England
and I therefore diverted her there.
56. Owing to the situation in the Gulf of Finland and the
necessity of supporting the advance of the
Esthonians on the left flank of the Russian Army,
I was unable to leave those waters myself, and so
requested Commodore Brisson, the French Senior
Naval Officer, who had by then proceeded to Riga,
to take charge of the operations there, and to
open fire on all positions within range on the the
left bank of the Dvina River, at the expiration of
the time given in my ultimatum to Prince Avaloff
Bermont, who was ostensibly in command of the
troops occupying those positions, and attacking
57. This Commodore Brisson most faithfully and effectively did at
noon on the 15th October, apparently much to the
surprise of Bermont, who had, in reply to my
ultimatum, stated that he was friendly to the
Allies and was only resisting Bolshevism, and
disowned all connection with the Germans, and
whose forces, were in position and with little
shelter, in some places less than one thousand
yards from ours, and the French ships, Bermont
having evidently assumed that his statements and
arguments were sufficient to hoodwink me and delay
our offensive action.
58. This enabled the Lettish troops to cross the river in
strength and with great enthusiasm after
twenty-six days' fighting, to sweep away all these
Russo-German forces from within striking distance
and out of Mitau - which had been the German
main base and headquarters throughout the year -
Tukkum and the Windau district.
59. On about the 30th October the threat to Libau by German
troops became serious, and I sent directions to
Captain Lawrence L. Dundas, C.M.G., the senior
naval officer there, to, with the help of the
British Military Mission, get into co-operation
with the Lettish Defence Forces, establish
communications and observation posts and plot
targets, and sent "Dauntless" (Captain Cecil
Horace Pilcher) down from Biorko to reinforce, and
shortly afterwards "Erebus" (below - Navy
Photos) also, as by this time General
Yudenitch was falling back from before Petrograd,
and therefore the need for bombarding Fort
Krasnaya Gorka had ceased.
60. On the 14th October a very heavy attack on Libau commenced
and the Germans succeeded in occupying the outer
fixed defences of the town, but after eight hours
hard fighting by the Lettish troops and incessant
bombardment by the British ships they were thrown,
back again with very heavy losses.
61. The ammunition question at the end of this day was of some
anxiety to me, two vessels having fired the whole
of their outfits and others being very short.
An ammunition ship was on her way down from Riga
at the moment - "Galatea," homeward bound with
General Sir R. Haking on board, and also two
destroyers were in the vicinity, so all were
ordered in to replenish the Libau force with their
No further attack of any weight however was made, and the crisis
62. With regard to these two attacks on Riga and Libau, it is
unquestionable that the German intention was to
frustrate by every means in their power any
successful attack on Petrograd and Kronstadt, and
to gain this footing for the winter in the Baltic
Provinces with a view to overwhelming them, and
then to drive on to Petrograd.
63. I had constant rumours that the Dreadnought Battleship
"Sevastopol" had been prepared for, and was in
every way fit for service - also, there was
ever-recurring Submarine activity - and by my
reckoning there were still two large Destroyers
available as well, though two had been destroyed
by our mines during the operations in support of
Yudenitch whilst attempting to come out and attack
our patrols at night.
64. The work of the Destroyers was, as ever, tireless, dauntless,
and never ending, and with never the relaxation of
lying in a defended port with fires out and full
rations, and all their work in cramped
navigational waters, necessitating the almost
constant presence on deck of the Captain, and, in
the case of the Petrograd Bay "Biorko" Patrol,
always within the range, and often under the fire,
of the twelve-inch guns from Fort Krasnaya Gorka.
65. This patrolling of Petrograd Bay, though generally in smooth
water, was arduous and anxious always, because
there was no room to manoeuvre East or West -
there were mines in each direction - much foul
ground, unindicated by the charts, and the
charting of the Southern Shore disagreed by a mile
of longitude with that of the Northern - also for
that small space, (six by twenty miles), bounded
on the West by Seskar, and on the East by the
minefields, three charts had to be in use.
66. In the whole of that area no shoals (and there are many),
were marked by anything better than a spar buoy.
When the winter came on, with incessant snow and fog throughout
the long sixteen-hour nights, I scarcely hoped
that the Destroyers could succeed in maintaining
their stations without frequent and serious
groundings or collisions, and the fact that they
did is sufficient witness of the spirit that was
in these two Flotillas - the First, Captain George
W. McO. Campbell, and the Second, Captain Colin K.
MacLean, C. B., D.S.O., reinforced by some of the
Third Flotilla also, under the command of
Commander Aubrey T. Tillard, in "Mackay."
The energy, care and forethought which these two officers
constantly displayed in order to maintain the
efficiency of their Flotillas, I must always bear
in most grateful admiration and remembrance.
The boats were always in "watch and watch" - i.e., as often at
sea as in harbour, and very frequently under
67. At the beginning of the campaign the enemy's active Naval
Force appeared to be:
2 Battleships ("Petropavloysk" and "Andrei Pervozvanni") were
torpedoed and disabled, in KronstadtHarbour,
and have not moved since - except "Andrei
Pervozvanni" into dock.
1 Cruiser ("Oleg") was torpedoed and sunk at her moorings off
3 Destroyers ("Novik" class), "Azard," "Gavril" and "Constantin"
were sunk,two of them by our mines, the
other either by mine or torpedo.
1 Patrol Vessel (armed), "Kitoboi," which surrendered on the
night of 14th-15th June,
and, I think,
2 Submarines, one by depth charge and the other by mine.
1 Oiler was bombed and badly damaged.
A number of Motor Launches were set on fire and destroyed, and
1 Submarine Depot Ship ("Pamiet Azov") was torpedoed and sunk,
all in KronstadtHarbour.
An Oil Fuel Store and a very large quantity of, wood and coal
fuel was also burnt.
69. Against this our losses have been:
1 Submarine ("L.55") (above, sister-boat L.52 - Navy Photos)
mined and sunk.
1 Destroyer ("Verulam") mined and sunk.
1 Destroyer ("Vittoria")
torpedoed and sunk by enemy submarine.
2 Mine-sweeping Sloops ("Gentian" and "Myrtle")mined and
3 Coastal Motor Boats sunk during the attack on Kronstadt.
2 Coastal Motor Boats blown up; unserviceable.
2 Coastal Motor Boats and 2 Motor Launches sunk through stress of
weather whilst in tow.
1 Store Carrier ("Volturnas") mined and sunk.
1 Light Cruiser ("Curacoa") mined and salved
1 Paddle Minesweeper ("Banbury") mined and salved.
1 Motor Launch (M.L.156) mined and salved.
1 Admiralty Oiler ("War Expert") mined and salved.
1 Mine-layer ("Princess Margaret") damaged by mine.
70.- The losses of personnel have been:
Wounded and Missing
Grand total 171
71. My aim was throughout the year to prevent any Bolshevik
warships breaking out into the Gulf of Finland -
and the ice has now relieved me of this
responsibility - and also to frustrate by every
means the most evident design of the Germans to
overrun and dominate the Baltic Provinces and then
to advance on Petrograd, and their repulse from
both Riga and Libau in October and November by the
Lettish troops under cover of the bombardment of
our ships has, I think, put an end to this also,
and all German troops were back into Prussia by
have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient
COWAN, Rear-Admiral Commanding First Light
- 18 MAY 1920
click map to enlarge
With the cessation of hostilities against the Bolsheviks in North
Russia, consequent upon the final withdrawal of
all British and Allied forces from Archangel and
Murmansk on 27th September and 12th October, 1919,
respectively, I have the honour to submit the
following despatch relating to the Naval side of
the operations during the period of my command as
Senior Naval Officer, White Sea, from November,
1918, to October, 1919.
2. A short resume of the Naval events in North
during the months preceding my arrival is,
however, necessary in order to explain the
situation as it developed during the time I was in
command: All British men-of-war, except the
icebreaker "Alexander," were withdrawn from Archangel
before the winter of 1917/18. In April of 1918
H.M.S. "Attentive" (below - Photo Ships)
(Captain (actg.) E. Altham, R.N.) was selected, on
account of suitability of size and draught, to go
as the ship of the Senior British Naval Officer at
that port, when ice conditions should permit.
On leaving England Captain Altham had been given instructions
that he was not to take warlike action to prevent
munitions and stores being railed away from the
port, but was invested with wide discretionary
powers. At the beginning of June, 1918, when the
"Attentive" arrived at Murmansk,
the political situation was already beginning to
change. Whereas the local Government had hitherto,
been in agreement with both that at Archangel and
the Central Government at Moscow as regards their
attitude to the Allies, with the declaration of
peace between Russia and Germany, the Central
Government under pressure from Germany became
hostile to the continued Allied occupation of
Murmansk, and resented any proposal to send Allied
forces to Archangel.
It was essential that we should remain in occupation of Murmansk
and the Kola Inlet to prevent their use as a
probable hostile submarine base. The same remark
applied to the PechengaGulf,
and to Archangel
when the White
opened. Further, it was to the interest of the
local population of these place that we should
remain, as they were largely dependent on the
Allies for food supplies. The Murmansk Government
therefore decided to throw in their lot with the
Allies and reject the authority of the Central
In order to secure the port
it was necessary to hold the railway to the
southward, and as soon as ice permitted the
"Attentive" passed into the White
and co-operated with the Russian-Allied forces on
its western shores during the month of July until
they were firmly established as far down the line
as Soroka. The damage done to the railway line to
the south of Soroka by the retreating Red troops
had already caused much distress, and prevented
refugees returning to their homes and fishermen
from travelling North for the season's fishing.
Under the direction of the Captain of
"Attentive," shipping in the White
was commandeered and diverted as necessary to
assist in reaching their destinations the large
number of people who would otherwise have been
homeless and destitute. Soroka, which was in the
hands of the Bolsheviks until the arrival of
"Attentive," was secured by a Naval detachment
from that ship on 7th July. A junction was
subsequently effected with the Military forces at
It will also be recalled that in view of the attitude of the
local Government at Archangel
it was decided to postpone sending a ship until
additional troops were available to occupy the
town. By the end of July these troops had arrived,
and "Attentive" and H.M. Seaplane Carrier
"Nairana" (Commander C. F. R. Cowan, R.N.) were
recalled to Murmansk from the White
to prepare for the expedition to Archangel.
The "Nairana" had joined "Attentive" soon after
the latter ship's arrival at Soroka, and the
seaplanes had already performed most useful
service in that vicinity.
The situation in Archangel
developed unexpectedly, and necessitated the early
despatch of the "Attentive" and "Nairana,"
together with the French cruiser "Amiral Aube," to
secure the approaches to the port and support an
anti-Bolshevik rising. The "Amiral Aube" having
been delayed on passage, the attack on the fort of
and reduction of the defences there was
accomplished by the guns of "Attentive" and bombs
from "Nairana's" seaplanes. French troops embarked
in these two ships were subsequently landed for
the occupation of the island, and on the 2nd August, 1918, the ships entered Archangel
without further resistance. The following day the
troopships arrived and the Allied occupation was
It was this which initiated our obligations on the Archangel
front, and in order to secure further the
approaches to the port, operations, details of
which are described in the report of the Senior
Naval Officer (Captain E. Altham, R.N.) had to be
undertaken up the Dwina River. H.M. ships
"Attentive," "Glory IV." (ex-Russian cruiser
"Askold") and the French cruiser "Amiral Aube,"
were at Archangel.
H.M. Monitor "M.23" (Lieutenant-Commander St. A.
O. St. John, R.N.) was detached for service in the
to assist in the occupation of Onega, and with
"Nairana" co-operated with the forces on the west
coast of the White
in the vicinities of Kem and Soroka.
Before the closing of the White
for the winter of 1918/19 the "Attentive" and
"Nairana" were withdrawn and sent home. Monitors
"M.23" and "M.25" (Lieutenant-Commander S. W. B.
Green, D.S.O., R.N.) were laid up at Archangel
for the winter. My predecessor (Rear-Admiral T. W.
Kemp, C.B., C.M.G., C.I.E.), having represented
the necessity for a stronger river flotilla in the
spring of the following year, the large river
gunboats "Glowworm," "Cockchafer," "Cicala," and
"Cricket," which were then in home waters, were
despatched in time to arrive at Archangel before
that port closed. They were laid up for the
winter, and their crews, together with those of
the two monitors, were accommodated in barracks
During the winter months a small Russian-Allied force was raised
under the command of Lieutenant-Commander H. E.
Rendall, D.S.O., R.N., and subsequently provided a
useful personnel for manning flotilla auxiliaries.
H.M.S. "Cochrane" (below - CyberHeritage/Terry Phillips)
had arrived at Murmansk
Whilst at Murmansk
50 Royal Marines were landed to assist in
defending the place. On 2nd May she proceeded to
Pechenga, and there landed a Naval Brigade of 100
seamen and 50 Royal Marines, to prevent its
occupation by White Finns, who were being
supported by Germany.
On 11th and 12th May actions took place between "Cochrane's"
Brigade and a force of "White" Finns, which latter
were finally beaten off and retired across the
frontier. More seamen were subsequently landed,
together with Royal Marine reinforcements from
"Glory," altogether a total force of about 350 men
This force was finally relieved by the Military on 29th
"Cochrane" left Pechenga for Murmansk
to turn over to "Glory IV." on 1st November, and
left Murmansk for England
on 3rd November.
3. My instructions were to assist the Military with all available
resources at my disposal. On my arrival at Murmansk
the following were the Naval forces under my
Monitors: "M.23," "M.25."
River Gunboats: "Cricket," "Cicala," "Glowworm," and
"Cockchafer." (Laid up and frozen in for the
French Cruiser "Gueydon" (Capitaine de Vaisseau J. E. Hallier,
C.M.G.), which was relieved in July by French
Cruiser "Conde" (Capitaine de Vaisseau J. R.
Lequerre), the latter remaining till final
A t Murmansk.
H.M.S. "Glory" (Captain G. Hopwood, C.B.E., R.N., who was
invalided and relieved by Captain J. F. Warton,
C.M.G., C.B.E., R.N., in April, 1919).
"Glory IV.," late Russian Cruiser "Askold" (Captain (actg.) A. W.
Lowis, R.N.), returned to England
in April, 1919.
"Sviatogor" and "Alexander," Ice-breakers; and various Drifters
These vessels were reinforced during summer of 1919 by H.M.S.
"Cyclops," Repair Ship (Captain A. C. Bruce,
D.S.O., R.N.); H.M.S. "Fox," (Captain E. Altham,
R.N.) (S.N.O., River Expeditionaiy Force);
Hospital Ship "Garth Castle"; H.M.S. "Nairana,"
Seaplane Carrier (Commander H. R. G. Moore,
O.B.E., R.N.); H.M.S. "Pegasus," Seaplane Carrier
(Commander O. M. F. Stokes, D.S.O., R.N.); River
Gunboats "Moth" and "Mantis"; Monitors, "Humber,"
"M.24," "M.26," "M.27," "M.31," "M.33"; "Erebus"
(Captain J. A. Moreton, D.S.O., R.N.); and in
addition numerous and miscellaneous Auxiliaries
and Hospital Carriers.
4. During the winter months no Naval operations were possible
except the arduous and difficult work of keeping
up communications between Murmansk
by passing various troops and Storeships under
escort of the Ice-breaker's through the ice, and
also in preparing the Monitors and Gunboats for
the summer campaign.
5. The U.S.
Navy was represented by Rear-Admiral Newton A. McCully, U.S.N., who
lived ashore at Murmansk till March, 1919, when he transferred his flag and was
accommodated on board U.S. Yacht "Yankton."
In June, 1919, U.S. Cruiser "Des
(Captain Zachariah H. Maddison, U.S.N.), U.S.
and 3 Eagle boats arrived, Rear-Admiral McCully
returned to England
U.S. Cruiser "Des
remained at Archangel
until all the U.S.
troops had left in September.
6. With the clearing of the ice at the end of April, 1919, Naval
operations on the River Dwina were commenced.
Captain Altham, who had been appointed by the
Admiralty as S.N.O., River Expedition, narrates
their exploits in the attached report.
7. During the summer months of 1919 the water in the River Dwina
ran very low. Water transport, which was the only
means of carrying troops and stores, &c., for
the expedition, therefore became most difficult,
and strained to the utmost the capabilities and
resources of the Naval Transport Service, which
was working under Commodore R,. Hyde, C.B.E.,
M.V.O., R.N. Every sort of local craft that was of
light draught was commandeered for use either as a
troop, store, or hospital carrier. The transport
difficulties inseparable from such operations were
most successfully undertaken by Commodore Hyde and
8. The medical arrangements for the transport afloat of the sick
and wounded, both naval and military, British or
otherwise, were carried out entirely by the Navy
under the very able organisation of Surgeon
Commander D. W. Hewitt, C.M.G., M.B.. F.R.C.S.,
R.N., with much success and the greatest credit to
all under his orders.
9. In July it was decided to withdraw all Allied troops from North
before the arrival of the winter.
During the summer monitors and gunboats were operating in the White Sea
in conjunction with the military, for which
purpose the "Nairana" was based on Kern and the
"Pegasus" at Archangel.
On 25th July "M.26" (Lieutenant-Commander A. O. Fawssett, R.N.)
rescued the small British garrison at Onega, which
was in the hands of Russian troops who had
mutinied and joined the Bolsheviks.
On 1st August "M.26" (below - Photo Ships), "M.24," H.M.
Auxiliary "Walton Belle" and a small Russian
steamer carrying a mixed force of Russians,
supported by British Gunners, entered the OnegaRiver
to retake Onega, but after a hot engagement failed
to do so.
Onega was shelled by "Erebus" (Captain J. A. Moreton, D.S.O.,
R.N.), assisted by "Nairana" with her seaplanes on
28th August, and the town was re-occupied by the
10. The final evacuation of Archangel
took place on 27th September, when some 8,000
British troops were embarked without a hitch.
''Erebus," "Nairana" and "M. 23" operated from Kem and in the Gulf
during the time troops were being evacuated from
The final evacuation of troops from North
took place from Murmansk
on 12th October, when I left for England
in the "Glory."
11. The Naval transport arrangements generally, under the
abnormal conditions obtaining in North Russian
Waters and on the Dwina River, and the
organisation for evacuation reflect the greatest
credit on Commodore Hyde and all concerned under
12. H.M.S. "Glory" was the depot ship at Murmansk
during 1917-18-19, and her presence there was
essential both as an armed support for the
military and for the safety of the town. The
repair work, administration. &c., of all the
many small craft, both those permanently attached
to her and those visiting the port, was undertaken
by "Glory," and her officers and men deserve high
commendation for their valuable work, which was
carried out continuously throughout the hardships
and discomforts of a rigorous Arctic winter.
H.M.S. "Cyclops," acting as repair ship at Archangel
during the summer of 1919, rendered invaluable
service by the efficiency with which her staff
performed the repairs, &c., required by the
vessels employed on the expedition.
13. I wish to place on record the very cordial relations which
always existed between the Naval and Military
Services, without which good feeling all these
varied operations could not have been successfully
14. I wish to make mention of the; following Officers:
Commodore R,. Hyde, O.B.E., M.V.O., P.N.T.O. at Archangel.
Captain A. C. Bruce, D.S.O., R.N., H.M.S. "Cyclops," repair ship,
who acted as S.N.O. at Archangel
during my absence from that port.
Capt. J. F. Warton, C.M.G., H.M.S. "Glory," my Chief of Staff.
Captain E, Altham, R.N., S.N.O., River Expedition..
Engineer Captain R. W. Skelton, D.S.O., R.N., on my staff. Acting
Surgeon Commander D. W. Hewitt, C.M.G., M.B., F.R.C.S., R.N.,
S.M.O, in charge of medical arrangements on. DwinaRiver.
Tempy. Hon. T. Major W. C. T. Hammond, R.M. In charge of Naval
A list of the Officers and men whose services were considered
specially deserving of recognition has already
been submitted to Their Lordships.
I also desire to endorse Captain Altham's commendations of
the work of the various officers and personnel
mentioned by him in the accompanying report, with
which I concur.
15. My thanks are due to the following Officers of our Naval
Rear-Admiral N. A. McCully, U.S.N.;
Captain Z. H. Maddison, U.S.N.,
Capitaine de Vaisseau J E. Hallier, C.M.G., French Cruiser
Capitaine de Vaisseau Lequerré, French Cruiser "Conde,"
whose cordial co-operation and assistance were at all times of
have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient
F. E. Green, Rear-Admiral. Late Senior-Naval
Sir John F. E. Green, K.C.M.G., C.B.
I have the honour to submit the following report on the
Operations of the Naval flotilla employed in the
Archangel River Expedition:
It will be recalled that on 1st
H.M.S. "Attentive," then under my command,
assisted by the seaplanes of H.M.S. "Nairana" (below
- Photo Ships) attacked the forts on ModyuskiIsland
which formed the chief defences of Archangel.
These were silenced by bombardment and bombing after a short but
hot engagement, in which the ''Attentive"
sustained damage by shell-fire.
was subsequently occupied without opposition.
2. In the subsequent pursuit of the enemy up the DwinaRiver
it at once became evident that armed ships would
be essential to cooperate with the Russian-Allied
forces ashore and counteract the fire of the
enemy's ships. A river flotilla was evolved mainly
out of local paddle steamers, which were armed and
equipped with an expedition and ingenuity which
reflected much credit on the technical Officers of
3. Later in the month the flotilla was strengthened by the
addition of the small monitor "M.25"
(Lieutenant-Commander S. W. B. Green, D.S.O.,
R.N.). The fighting developed, and by desire of
the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Allied
Forces, I went up-river and took command of the
force which originated our naval obligations on
4. The flotilla successfully countered the attacks of the enemy
ships, sinking two of them. With our support the
shore forces were established some 200 miles up
river. The lateness of the year then necessitated
the withdrawal of the ships before the ice set in.
5. In October, 1918, the "Attentive" returned to England, H.M.
Gunboats "Glowworm," "Cockchafer," "Cicala" and
"Cricket" were sent out, and together with H.M.
Monitors "M.23" and "M.25 " wintered at Archangel
in readiness for the opening up of the river in
6. In February, 1919, it was decided that the situation on the Archangel
front necessitated the provision of a strong Naval
flotilla, more particularly in view of the part
the Navy might be called upon to play in an
7. The ships composing this force were:
"M.24," "M.26," "M.27," "M.31" and "M.33."
Gunboats "Moth" and "Mantis."
4 Tunnel Minesweepers.
6 Coastal Motor-boats.
River Depot Ship - H.M.S. "Hyderabad.''
(b)Flying force attached to above.
8 Seaplanes (number subsequently increased).
1 Kite balloon.
Ships at base. (Archangel.)
H.M.S. "Fox" as flotilla depot ship.
H.M.S. "Pegasus" - (Seaplane Carrier.
H.M.S. "Cyclops" - Repair Ship.
The flotilla was organised solely for active operations, the
whole of the transport work being undertaken by
the Naval Transport Service.
8. Having been appointed in command of the flotilla, I reached Archangel
in H.M.S. "Fox" on 16th May.
The majority of the ships of the up-river force arrived during
the month of June.
The monitors and gunboats which had wintered at Archangel
had already proceeded upriver, and were under
command of Commander (Act.) 18. W. B. Green,
D.S.O., R.N., until my arrival.
"M.23" (Lieut.- Commander St. A. O. St. John, R.N.) left Archangel
on the 3rd May, and, forcing her way through thick
ice in the lower reaches of the river, reached
Pless on 5th May.
2. The first Naval offensive of the year was opened on 6th May by
"M.23" in co-operation with a scouting party, when
Tulgas was bombarded "Cricket"
Comdr. F. A. Worsley, D.S.O., R.D., R.N.R), and
"Cockchafer" (Lieut.- Comdr. C. Hester, R.D.,
R.N.R.) arrived off Pless on the afternoon of 6th
May, and the following day the "Glowworm"
(Commander (act.) C. Ackland, R.N., Retd.) and
"Cicala" (below, on the Dvina River - Yeoman
of Signals George Smith) (Lieut. E.. T.
Grayston, R.N.R.) entered the VagaRiver
and bombarded Nijni Kitsa.
3. The prompt arrival of our ships at the front when the ice
broke, and the good seamanship displayed in
getting them up-river, prevented what might have
proved a critical period when the enemy's ships
could have come down and bombarded our positions
without having their fire returned by heavy
long-range guns which only the ships could bring
4. The Allied forces at this time held Kourgamen and Shushuga,
the enemy Topsa and Tulgas, on the right and left
banks of the river respectively.
5. On 18th May the flotilla co-operated in an attack on the
enemy's positions at Tulgas. The attack was
completely successful, and resulted in the enemy
being driven out with the loss of 30 prisoners and
12 machine-guns. Our forces sustained no
Heavy fire from the enemy gunboats was countered by our ships.
One of the enemy ships was observed to be hit, but was not sink.
From now onwards the enemy flotilla frequently employed
"tip-and-run" tactics, coming down river, firing a
few shots and retreating directly fire was
On 27th May a lowest depth of 12 feet of water was found on
Chamova Bar. On 31st May it was reported to have
fallen to 10 feet.
6. I arrived up-river on 3rd June in the local paddle steamer "Borodino,"
which henceforth became Naval Headquarters and
accommodated the flotilla staff.
7. The relief of the troops who had been out during the winter
was in progress at this time.
8. Intention to Advance.- The success of Koltchak, and
our obligations to leave the North Russian troops
in a sound position when we withdrew before the
winter, decided the policy of an endeavour to
enable the Russians to reach Kotlas and join hands
with Koltchak, who was at that time reported to be
at, or near, Perm.
9. Effect on Naval Plans.- This decision materially
affected the Naval considerations, as the flotilla
had not been intended for an advance far up-river;
some of the ships were of too deep draught and the
river was already low and falling. Further, the
gunboats had suffered from contact with the ice
and constantly firing their guns at extreme
elevation, and required refitting.
10. Guns mounted on shallow-draught barges would have been
invaluable, but the base was unable to undertake
the work. The heavy-draught monitors had therefore
to be retained, at much risk, to ease the strain
on the gunboats, which alone might be able to
11. By the middle of June the flotilla was complete with the
exception of "Moth" and "Mantis," which had not
then arrived from England, and 2M.24 " and "M.26,"
which were detached for service in the White Sea.
II.- Capture of
Topsa and Troitsa.
On 19th June a more extensive operation was undertaken with the
object of capturing the high ground between Topsa
and Troitsa, and the flotilla co-operated with
Graham's Brigade, bombarding heavily prior to the
attack and countering the fire of the enemy ships.
2. H.M.S. "Cockchafer" (Lieut.- Comdr. Q. B. Preston-Thomas,
R.N.) did particularly good work in getting up the
narrow Kourgamen channel to within a mile of Topsa
when that place was taken, and materially assisted
in repulsing a counter-attack which threatened the
success of our undertakings.
3. H.M.S. "Glowworm" (Commander (actg.) S. W. B. Green, D.S.O.,
R.N.) was actively engaged with the enemy flotilla
in the main channel.
4. H.M. Monitors "Humber" (below
- Photo Ships) (Lieut.- Comdr. A. Johnstone,
R.N.), "M.27" (Lieut.- Comdr. G. H. I. Parker,
R.N.), and "M.33" (Lieut.- Comdr. K. Michell,
D.S.C., R.N.) also assisted in this operation,
which marked the first stage of the advance, and
materially improved our positions.
In the course of this fighting a barge on which the enemy had
mounted two heavy long-range guns was holed by our
fire and abandoned.
5. Mine-sweeping.- This brought the ships to the edge of
the enemy minefield, and for the next week
mine-sweeping had to be carried out under most
difficult conditions. The river water was so thick
that it was impossible to see to any appreciable
depth, even from a seaplane. Instead of being able
to sweep in comparative safety on the rise of the
tide, as at sea, the river was of course tideless
6. It was necessary to explore channels with small steamboats,
clear mines where discovered, buoy a passage, and
then send up the heavier-draught tunnel
mine-sweepers to sweep up the heavier and
deeper-moored mines. The whole of the work had to
be carried out within range of the enemy flotilla,
and the minesweeping craft were daily exposed to
heavy fire from his guns, and at times even came
under direct machine-gun and rifle fire.
7. The exploratory sweeping in steamboats was most gallantly
performed by parties of British seamen and the
Russian boats' crews under the orders of
Lieutenant R. H. Fitzherbert-Brockholes, R.N., and
Lieutenant C. E. McLaughlin, R.N. The tunnel
minesweepers were under the command of Lieutenant
A. K. McC. Halliley, R.N.
8. I cannot speak too highly of the gallantry and devotion to
duty displayed by the minesweeping party in their
tireless endeavours to clear the river for the
safe navigation of the flotilla and water
Their efforts were crowned with success after a week's most
arduous work, and over 40 mines had been cleared
from the river. This had not been achieved,
however, without the loss of the mine-sweeper
"Sword Dance," which was mined and sunk on 24th
June. Subsequently a second mine-sweeper, the
"Fandango," also struck a mine and was lost.
9. Flotilla passed through mine-field to Troitsa.- On
27th June I went on board H.M.S. "Cricket"
(Lieutenant I. W. G. White, R.N.), and that ship
passed safely through the swept channel, and
running the gauntlet of a heavy barrage of enemy
fire arrived off Troitsa. Here the high cliffs
gave some measure of protection, and a gunboat,
once established, could drive the enemy's ships
back and secure the anchorage for the flotilla.
10. The remainder of the ships and transport moved up the
following day, and from then .onwards this became
our advanced base and Brigade headquarters.
11. Situation on 7th July.
On the right bank
held Topsa, Troitsa and advanced positions
north-west of SelmengaRiver,
the enemy having strong blockhouses on the
opposite bank, with artillery in support.
On the left bank we occupied
Yakolevskoe and advanced positions on the NyumaRiver,
the enemy holding Seltso.
The enemy flotilla
based on Puchega, with advanced gunboats between
that place and Lipovets.
Three new lines of deep-sea mines were reported
12. Mutiny of Russian Troops.- On 7th July a mutiny broke
out amongst the Russian troops of Dyer's
Battalion, and the 4th North Russian Rifles also
became affected. Fifty seamen under Commander F.
G. Bramble, R.N., and a small Royal Marine
Detachment under Lieutenant C. M. Sergeant, R.M.,
were landed at the request of the General Officer
Commanding to assist in securing our position
until the arrival of more British troops.
The enemy, who was evidently fully conversant with the situation,
seized the opportunity to attack.
On the night of 7th/8th July the situation was critical, as
British reinforcements had not arrived, and the
enemy's gunboats were pressing hard in support of
an advance along the right bank.
13. The Seaplanes' good work.- Very valuable assistance
was rendered by the seaplanes bombing and
machine-gunning, but by the forenoon of the 8th
July they had "run out" and had to be given a
brief rest and overhaul.
14. The Flotilla.- The situation about this time was that
the enemy ashore was reported within 1,200 yards
of the flotilla anchorage, with the Russians
slowly retiring. The auxiliary craft were
therefore moved back, and H.M. Monitor "Humber,"
which had been covering Topsa during the mutiny,
came upriver and I embarked in that ship.
A telephone cable was run to the shore to keep in close touch
with the General Officer Commanding
(Brigadier-General L. W. de V. Sadleir-Jackson,
C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O.), who had by now taken over
"M.33" was hit by a heavy shell, fortunately without casualties,
and continued in action. "M.27" did useful service
with her triple 4-inch mounting.
The "Cicala," which had been heavily engaged as advanced gunboat,
developed defects due to the continual firing at
high elevation, and was relieved by "Cricket." The
latter ship came under heavy machine-gun fire from
the woods in the vicinity of Selmenga, but replied
to it with her own machine-guns, and continued to
engage the enemy ships until hit on the waterline
with a heavy shell and obliged to come down-river
and secure alongside the repair barges, as there
appeared to be risk of the ship sinking.
The gap had to be filled promptly to prevent the enemy profiting
by his success. The "Humber"
slipped her cable and telephone and proceeded
up-river at full speed. The fire of her twin
6-inch turret was so effective that, with the
further assistance of seaplane bombing, the enemy
flotilla's fire was silenced and it withdrew.
That evening a counter-attack was organised to be carried out by
our Russian troops, and four heavy bombardments
were carried out by the monitors; but very little
progress was made.
As there were still no signs of the British reinforcements the
naval paddle steamers and "Borodino"
(below, Petty Officer's mess onboard at the
time - Yeoman of Signals George Smith) were
despatched to assist in bringing them up, and on
the morning of the 9th July they arrived and the
position was stabilised.
15. Floating mines and net defences.- The enemy now
endeavoured to damage the flotilla by floating
mines down on to it.
One of these mines was sighted very early on the morning of the
2nd July approaching the hospital barge.
Lieutenant R. H. Fitzherbert-Brockholes, R.N.,
jumped out of his bunk and into a skiff which
happened to be alongside and reached the mine
before it could do any damage. He was in the act
of securing it, when it exploded, instantly
killing him and the three men forming the crew of
The death of this very gallant young officer was a great loss to
All ships promptly set to work, and in a few days a complete net
defence had been laid out above the flotilla
16. Fall of the river.- The movements of the ships, and
the water transport in particular, were seriously
handicapped for the ensuing seven weeks by the
abnormally low state of the river. Bars at several
places limited the load draught to 3 feet 6 inches
for some time, and this greatly increased the
difficulties of supply.
III.- Change in
On the 18th July a mutiny of the 5th North Russian Rifles at
Chinova spread on to Onega, and by the 22nd July
that place had been lost. This caused considerable
anxiety to the Military Command on account of the
threat to our line of communications on the
railway front, and orders were received to prepare
for immediate withdrawal on the Dwina front and to
mine the river.
However, the position was stabilised, and such premature
2. A marked change had now taken place in the whole
situation.- Koltchak, who had completely
failed, was retiring.
Our advance on Kotlas would therefore be purposeless.
3. The evacuation of our forces was governed by various factors,
including the provision of shipping to enable
persons whose lives might be endangered by our
withdrawal to be given the opportunity of leaving
the country first, and the collection up-river of
the necessary water transport. This latter
undertaking was affected to a great extent by the
state of the river, as was also the withdrawal of
the flotilla. A number of the ships of the
flotilla were of such deep draught that at one
time they could not have crossed the bars, and
would have had to be destroyed.
4. The main considerations preparatory to withdrawal became
(a) To strike a blow at the enemy to obtain freedom of movement.
(b) To mine the river to obstruct his advance after our
(c) To pass as many ships of the flotilla as possible down the
river when the depth of water permitted.
IV.- Battle of
10th August, and Subsequent Events.
An extensive plan of attack was prepared and carried into effect
on 10th August.
2. The troops detailed having completed their enveloping
movements and arrived in position for assault, the
flotilla, in conjunction with the shore artillery,
opened a heavy bombardment on Terekovskaya,
Leushinskaya, Gorodok and Seltso.
3. H.M. Monitors "Humber,"
"M.31" (Lieut.- Comdr. F. L. Back, R.N.) and
"M.33" were engaged. Seaplanes assisted in bombing
and spotting. The kite balloon, working from its
barge, was moved up close to the ships to assist
in spotting and reconnaissance.
4. After a forty minutes' bombardment fire ceased, and the shore
attacks were launched.
5. On the right bank the attack on Gorodok succeeded at once. A
further bombardment on Borok was called for and
carried out by "Cicala" (Lieut.- Comdr. J. H. L.
Yorke, R.N.) and "Humber,"
when that place fell.
(Below, ships of the Dvina River Flotilla -
Yeoman of Signals George Smith).
6. On the left bank the attack on Seltso failed at first, and a
new attack had to be organised. "Humber,"
"M.27" and "M.33 " bombarded in conjunction with
the shore artillery, and Seltso was taken that
7. During these operations the Navy also assisted the Army
Thirty-five seamen under Lieutenant M.S. Spalding, R.N., and
thirty-nine Royal Marines under Lieutenant C. M.
Sergeant, R.N., were landed to reinforce at the
Twenty seamen under Lieutenant R. P. Martin, R.N., manned two
60-pounders, one of which had been rescued from
the bottom of the river by a naval salvage and
diving party. The 60-pounders were actively
engaged during the bombardments; the Royal Marines
subsequently assisted to garrison Seltso, and the
seamen detachments were at Takolevskoe.
8. The successful operations on 10th August, and during the next
few days, secured the banks of the river up to
Borok on the right bank and Puchega on the left
bank. In addition to the large number of prisoners
taken, the enemy's flotilla sustained severe
damage, including one gunboat sunk.
9. Further minesweeping operations.- An extensive enemy
minefield was discovered off Seltso and a passage
cleared for the transport of Army supplies up to
While sweeping this passage one of the steamboats was mined and
Lieutenant (actg.) C. E. McLaughlin, R.N., was
killed. This officer had been employed in the
advanced minesweeping steamboats on every
occasion, and had rendered very gallant service.
In view of the fact that no further advance was intended,
minesweeping was stopped, as the risk outweighed
the convenience of water transport.