Naval History Homepage and Site Search



World War 1 at Sea


NAVAL OPERATIONS, Volume 1, to the Battle of the Falklands, December 1914 (Part 1 of 2)

by Sir Julian S Corbett

Links to main World War 1 pages:
- Military & Naval Chronology
- Naval Operations -
Merchant Navy
- Navy and Army Despatches
- Honours and Gallantry Awards
- Royal & Dominion Navy Casualties
- Warships & Auxiliaries of the RN
- Guide to Warship Locations
- Campaigns, Battles & Actions

HMS Dreadnought, the first all big-gun "Dreadnought" battleship (Maritime Quest, click to enlarge)

on to Naval Operations, Vol 1, Part 2 of 2
or return to World War 1, 1914-1918


To enjoy reading the text and following  the maps at the same time, try opening the same page in two separate browser windows



A Modern Introduction


Up-to-date, well-researched naval histories have an important part to play in understanding past events, but I would like to suggest they are equalled by contemporary accounts written not long after the stories they describe, and often by those who took part.


Such near-contemporary accounts include the five volumes of NAVAL OPERATIONS, the first three by Sir Julian S Corbett and the last two by Henry Newbolt. They remain in print, but are still not widely known, and being out-of-copyright, can be found on the internet.


They are indispensable to any researcher or scholar of World War 1 who wants to start to understand the vastness of the war at sea and the role of the Royal Navy and its Allies.


The naval war, 1914-18 is almost considered peripheral to the war as a whole, especially compared with the Western Front, yet in my opinion, World War 1 was just as much a maritime struggle as that of World War 2. If it had been lost to either the German High Seas Fleet or the later U-boat campaign, Allied victory would have been very much in doubt. Hence the value of these volumes.


Later editions of these volumes were updated and corrected. These changes have not been taken into account: hence the need to move onto later histories. Also any transcription and proofing errors are mine, including the lack of accents on mainly French and German names, for which my apologies.


Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net











Vol. I
















(Second edition published in 1938)







I. Preparation For War and the Period of Strained Relations

II. Opening Movements Home Waters and Trade Routes

III. Opening Movements The Mediterranean

IV. Passage of the Expeditionary Force

V. The Eastern Mediterranean - August 10-31

VI. Naval Reactions of the Retreat from Mons - Menace to the Dover Defile and the Occupation of Ostend

VII. The Action off Heligoland, August 28

VIII. The Evacuation of Ostend and Change of the Army Base to St. Nazaire

IX. Plans for Oversea Attack and Raid of the Kaiser Wilhelm Der Grosse

X. The Eastern Fleet from the Opening of the War to the Intervention of Japan

XI. The North Sea August 16 to September 17

XII. The Race for the Sea The Dunkirk Expedition and Loss of the Cressy, Hogue and Aboukir

XIII. Antwerp and the Race for the Sea

XIV. Spread of the German Submarine Attack and the Canadian Convoy

XV. Operations on the Belgian Coast First Operations Phase


(Part 2 of 2)


XVI. Operations on the Belgian Coast Second Phase: The First Battle of Ypres

XVII. Dispatch of Submarines to the Baltic and the Loss of the Audacious

XVIII. The Gorleston Raid and Conclusion of the Belgian Coast Operations

XIX. Reactions of Admiral Von Spee's Movements on the Atlantic Cruiser System

XX. Opening of the Cameroons Expedition August 15 To October 15

XXI. Operations of the German and Allied Squadrons in the East from the Japanese Declaration of War to the Middle of September

XXII. The Eastern Fleet First Exploits of The Emden

XXIII. Admiral Von Spee Crosses The Pacific

XXIV. Reappearance of the Karlsruhe, Emden and Koenigsberg

XXV. The Battle of Coronel, November 1

XXVI. Cruiser Redistribution after Coronel and the Turkish Intervention Fate of the Koenigsberg, Emden and Karlsruhe Fall of Tsingtau

XXVII. Securing the Command in Egypt and the East The Persian Gulf Operations and Progress of The Cameroons Expedition

XXVIII. Operations Leading Up To The Battle of The Falklands

XXIX. The Battle of The Falklands, December 8


Appendix A German High Seas Fleet

Appendix B The Grand Fleet

Appendix C The Mediterranean Fleet

Appendix D (1) Loss of The " Cressys ", (2) Coronel


Index (not included you can use Search)






Escape of Karlsruhe and Dresden page 50

Shift of Base to Saint Nazaire - 126

(Part 2 of 2)

Duala and the Cameroons Estuary - 276

German New Guinea, with Inset of Rabaul - 286

Cocos Islands; Action Between Sydney and Emden, November 9 - 384

Operations near Basra - 388

Operations near Kurnah - 392

Lower Mesopotamia to the Head of the Persian Gulf - 394

The Battle of The Falklands

Position at 12.51 P.M. - 419

Position at 1.30 P.M. - 420

Positions in Main Action 4.17 P.M. To 4.24 P.M. - 423

Positions in Main Action 4.44 P.M. To 5.01 P.M. - 424
Action between Kent and Nuernberg, 5.35 P.M. to 6.36 P.M. - 430



(not included)


1. Home Waters

2. Commerce Protection System in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans

3. Escape of Goeben and Breslau ; First Phase, August 3-5

4. Escape of Goeben and Breslau; Second Phase, August 6-10

5. Heligoland, August 28; General Chart

6. Heligoland, August 28; Principal Phases of the Action

7. Indian and West Pacific Oceans, October to November, with Allied Dispositions and Australasian Convoy

8. Belgian Coast, with inset of Antwerp

9. Cruise of The Berlin

10. Cruise of The Berlin, with Loss of Audacious

11. The Gorleston Raid, November 3

12. Operations against Karlsruhe, August to October

13. Operations against Emden, August To November

14. Movements of the German Pacific Squadron, August to October

15. Coronel, November 1

16. The Cameroons

17. The Falkland Islands, December 8; Main Action

18. The Falkland Islands, December 8; Chase of the Light Cruisers





On June 28, 1916, the Prime Minister (Mr. Asquith) announced in Parliament that " In view of the demand which is likely to arise and the desirability of providing the public with an authentic account, it has been decided to prepare for publication, as soon as possible after the close of the war, an official History dealing with its various aspects." The present volume is the first instalment of the promised work. Although full use has been made of enemy and Allied sources of information so far as they were accessible, the work is based throughout on our own official documents, not only naval, but also military and political. In this sense, but in this sense only, the work is to be regarded as official; for the form and character of the narrative as well as for opinions expressed the author is alone responsible.


The period dealt with in the volume includes the preparations for war during the years immediately preceding the outbreak of hostilities and the progress of the naval operations down to the time when the Battle of the Falklands gave us a working command of the ocean trade routes.


The aim has been to give in narrative form and free from technicalities an intelligible view not only of the operations themselves but of their mutual connection and meaning, the policy which dictated them, their relation to military and diplomatic action, and the difficulties and cross-currents which in some cases delayed their success and robbed them of the expected results. Endeavour has thus been made to present the various naval movements, actions and individual exploits in their just relations to the course of the war as a whole.


Owing to the complexity of the operations and vast arena they filled in the earlier stages of the war, the period covered by the volume is comparatively short. After the first year, however, this difficulty tends to diminish as the arena became more restricted and the leading lines less complicated. It is hoped, therefore, that the whole work may be completed in four or possibly five volumes.


It should be understood that the work is one of collaboration with the Staff of the Historical Section, without whose assistance it would have been impossible to extract a connected narrative from the mass of material that has been continually accumulating.


Even so, it has been found necessary to confine the narrative to the actual operations and relegate the important subject of their effect on sea-borne trade to a separate section of the work, which is being prepared by Mr. C. Ernest Fayle.


Similarly, in order to deal with the work of the Mercantile Marine more fully and more intimately than is possible in the general account of the operations, a third section of the work, " The Merchant Navy," has been entrusted to Mr. Archibald Hurd.


In the preparation of the maps and charts to illustrate the operations special provision was made by the Hydro-grapher of the Navy for giving the indispensable co-operation of his Department. Courses and bearings mentioned in the text are true unless otherwise stated.


Authorities. The material on which the narrative is based is mainly:

1. Reports, papers and records of the Committee of Imperial Defence.


2. The " In " and " Out " series of Admiralty telegrams.

3. Letters of Proceedings, Reports and Despatches of Admirals and Senior Naval officers. These have been carefully checked, especially for actions, by Deck Logs, Signal and Wireless Logs and Engine-Room Registers, and wherever possible by reference to the officers concerned.


4. Admiralty correspondence with other Departments of State, especially the Foreign office, War office, Colonial office and India office.


5. Depositions of prisoners, captured documents and other intelligence reports.


6. War office records of analogous nature so far as they relate to combined operations or affect the distribution and action of the Fleet.

As the official naval documents are not at present accessible to students, no particular references to them are given in the footnotes. All, however, that are of historical interest are being collected and arranged by the Historical Section for future reference in a special series of volumes covering the whole period of the war. Where, on the other hand, unofficial sources have been used, references will be found. These consist mainly of published accounts of British, Allied and enemy origin, dealing with particular episodes.

J. S. C.







In the long series of wars during which the British naval tradition had grown up, there was none that presented the same problems as those with which we were confronted in July 1914. Quite apart from changes in material changes which in certain vital elements were still in a state of restless development the fundamental factor was one of which there had been little or no experience. The bulk of our knowledge had been gained against enemies that lay to the southward. Never since the Dutch wars of the seventeenth century had we had to deal with a first class naval power which was based to the northward of the Dover defile, and it was on the inviolability of that defile and its long, difficult, and well-flanked approach from the south and west that the traditional distribution of our main fleet rested.


Now all that was gone. For the easily defended English Channel, in which the old enemy had no naval base of any importance, there was the expanse of the North Sea, with its broad and stormy outlet between Scotland and Norway, and the new enemy was so placed as to have entries to it at two widely separate points, which are linked together by a perfectly protected inland waterway. Finally, instead of our southern seaboard, rich in well-disposed naval ports, we had, facing the enemy, a long stretch of coast dotted with vulnerable commercial ports but without a single Fleet base of the first order, except Chatham, which, owing to navigational difficulties, was incapable of being adapted to modern war conditions.


To the right solution of this problem naval attention had long been devoted, but there were other problems which also differed from the old ones, and some of them particularly those which arose out of the military developments of the war were not foreseen with any clearness. It was known that the Navy might be called upon in the early days to transport our Expeditionary Force to the Continent; but how great that force was to grow and what a burden would be the work of its nourishment was beyond any man's ken. Again, assistance from the Dominions oversea was to be expected, but the outburst of imperial spirit that astonished the world was far from being fully gauged. Still less was it foreseen that India would take her place in the main theatre in line with the rest. In no one's mind was there a picture of convoy after convoy pressing to Europe at the very outset from all the ends of the earth, and in their eagerness to swell the efforts of the homeland cutting through our hard-strained system of commerce protection beyond all anticipation.


In the appreciations which preceded the war all this was dark, but the fundamental new problem had been fully realised and provided for by unceasing study. Still the solution was only beginning to take shape when war suddenly came upon us, and there are few achievements in our history finer than the way in which all departments made shift with the unfinished work, and in the stress of the struggle brought it quickly to completion.


The dominant problem had been to fix the disposition of the main fleet. The reversal of the old geographical conditions, which was the outstanding difficulty of a war with Germany, overrode all the considerations which had determined the key position of the fleet in former wars, and a new one had to be found from which it could best discharge its primary functions. What those functions had always been must be clearly apprehended, for of recent years, by a strange misreading of history, an idea had grown up that its primary function is to seek out and destroy the enemy's main fleet. This view, being literary rather than historical, was nowhere adopted with more unction than in Germany, where there was no naval tradition to test its accuracy. So securely was it held by our enemy that it seems to have coloured their naval policy with a sanguine expectation that we should at once seek out their fleet where it most wished to be found; and when they saw their hope unrealised they consoled themselves probably quite sincerely with taunts that the British Navy had lost its old spirit, and was no longer to be feared.


How the false conception which the Germans adopted arose is difficult to explain, unless it be that so often the most attractive personalities amongst our admirals had performed their most brilliant exploits when in command of secondary fleets, and that these exploits form the most stirring pages in the story. But the truth is that with rare and special exceptions, as when the enemy's chief naval force was not based in the Home Area, our main or Grand Fleet always operated from its Home Station. Its paramount duty was to secure the command of Home Waters for the safety of our




coasts and trade. There was no question of seeking out the enemy, for normally his fleet lay behind his base defences where it was inaccessible. All our own fleet could do was to take the most suitable position for confining him to port or bringing him to action if he put to sea. There was always the hope that the pressure so exercised would sooner or later force him to offer battle. But until an opportunity for decisive action arose, it was by patient and alert vigil it sought to attain its ultimate object that is, primarily to cover the squadrons and flotillas which formed our floating defence against invasion, and secondarily to cover those which operated in the home terminals of our trade routes for the protection of our own commerce and the disturbance of that of the enemy, so far as geographical conditions permitted of both duties being performed simultaneously. For defence against invasion the system was obviously the only one possible; for control of trade it had been found efficacious, and never more so than proved to be the case in the war of 1914. For since all the new enemy's home terminals lay within our own home waters, we could close them by the same disposition with which we ensured free access to our own. The result was an immediate paralysis of German oceanic trade, and it was due not to the operations of our distant cruisers but to the fact that access to the German home ports was barred by the Grand Fleet and the Home cruisers that it protected.


With these considerations in mind the right position for the Grand Fleet was not far to seek. It was found in Scottish waters, where it could control the approach to the North Sea just as the old Western Squadron controlled the Channel and its approaches. But the fact had to be faced that the new position was weak in the special elements in which the old one was so strong. In Portsmouth, Plymouth and Falmouth the old Western Squadron had excellent bases, both primary and subsidiary, but for the new position everything had to be created afresh, and here it was that, in spite of all the thought that had been given to the subject, so much remained to do.


It was not for want of study or foresight that we were found unprepared. It was due mainly to the never ceasing change in the power, range and character of naval material which left no stable factors on which a solid scheme could built up. So rapid were the developments that, as experience had shown but too often, extensive naval works tended to be out of date before they could be completed. Nothing but the most careful consideration was likely to save the country from costly disappointment, and for this purpose committee after committee had been sitting up to the eve of the war.


After considerable hesitation it had been decided in 1903 to establish a first class base at Rosyth, but this was not expected to be completed at the earliest till the end of 1915. of second class bases, like Pembroke and Queenstown, there were none in the North Sea, though so far as docking and repairs were concerned the Tyne gave similar facilities. In the third category classed as " war anchorages," such as Berehaven, Portland and Dover, there was only one on the East Coast. This was Harwich. There were, however, several defended commercial ports such as the Humber, the Tees, Hartlepool, the Tyne, the Tay and Aberdeen, which would serve the same purpose, but all of them were cramped river ports, which had nothing like the ample space of those of the south-western area, nor, owing to tidal conditions, had they the same freedom of access at all times; and finally, over and above these drawbacks, no one of them was far enough north to satisfy the fundamental strategical need.


Furthermore, the use which had been made of the Elliot Islands and other similar localities in the Russo-Japanese War had impressed naval opinion with the great advantages of unfrequented natural harbours, not only as "war anchorages" but as " advanced bases of a temporary and auxiliary character." There were two ideal spots, the one Cromarty Firth, the other Scapa Flow in the Orkneys, and the need of such places was emphasised by an enforced recognition of the inadequacy of the designed base at Rosyth. In 1908 it became apparent that, owing to the increasing power of torpedoes, its outer anchorage was exposed to destroyer attack, and its defences had to be reconsidered. Even so it would not serve, for it was soon realised that the determined rivalry of Germany was swelling fleets to a size that could not have been contemplated when the new base was first designed, and it could no longer contain a fleet such as we needed. By 1910, therefore, Cromarty began to be regarded as indispensable for an advanced temporary fleet base, and Scapa Flow as one for minor forces.


At first it had been contemplated that both places should be treated in the Japanese manner, which was for the Fleet to establish them when they were required. But by 1912, when the new Board of Admiralty came into office, naval developments had reached a pitch that gave both Cromarty and Scapa Flow so much importance that both were seen to require fixed defences.




With this began a new series of difficulties due to other developments in naval material. Our system of defending ports was that the Army was responsible for creating and garrisoning the land defences on the basis of " a scale of attack" which was fixed by the Navy that is, the Navy laid down for the guidance of the Army in organising the defence the nature and power of the attack which the importance of the particular port was likely to attract. But here, owing to the rapid progress of naval construction and armaments, and changes in the ports themselves, was a shifting foundation on which it was almost impossible to build. For instance in the Humber, which offered the best-placed and most convenient war-anchorage between Rosyth and Harwich, large oil fuel stores and new docks in the lower reaches at Killingholm and Immingham had been established since the defences were erected, and they were now of little use. They had to be re-designed on the usual basis for defended ports a combined attack by armoured cruisers and a small landing force. But by the time the War office had worked out a new scheme and prepared the estimates they were no longer adequate. Dreadnoughts had rendered the older battleships unfit for the line of battle, and the enemy might well elect to risk these obsolescent units in coastal attack. Thus the scale of attack had to be revised and the work of designing the defences begun all over again on a new and higher scale.


These considerations applied to all defended ports and anchorages; but the continual sapping of the foundations did not end here. Apart from ships of force becoming available for coastal attack and the ever-increasing range and power of torpedoes, submarines began to obtrude themselves. This fresh menace specially concerned the new temporary war anchorages. When their defence had first been proposed the Admiralty had regarded them as beyond submarine range, but by the end of 1913 the sea-going power of submarines had so greatly increased that they could no longer be eliminated. Though Cromarty could easily be made impregnable to the new form of attack the estimates for doing as much for Scapa, owing to its numerous entrances, were round to be so great as to raise a doubt whether the work was worth the cost.


These were only some of the thorns that beset the question. There were others and particularly those which grew from the inevitable differences between the Naval and the Military views of what was adequate defence such, for instance, as radical divergencies as to the danger of military attack. This, however, was overcome in the case of Cromarty by handing it over entirely to the Navy. from the first this had been desired by the Admiralty, since one of the advantages of the advanced naval base was the elasticity with which it could be adjusted to the immediate needs of the naval situation, an elasticity which must necessarily be reduced unless the Admiralty had a perfectly free hand. The result was that by the end of July 1914 the whole of the fixed defences were complete and armed. In the Humber, on the other hand, the new heavy armament had not been begun, and the status of Scapa was still undecided. The last proposal of the Admiralty was that if its complete protection was found too costly it should be constituted an oil fuel base, and be given light defences sufficient to repel such a scale of attack as it was likely to induce. But this had not been settled, and when war broke out Scapa, except for the local territorial artillery, was without defence of any kind.


Still, by this time, although Rosyth was specified as the principal base and headquarters for the Grand Fleet, Scapa had come to be regarded as the best initial station. In one respect the position was very inferior to the old one. In another respect it was more favourable. For although in the old French wars, so far as the Atlantic was concerned, the Grand Fleet operating from the Channel could watch and blockade the main naval port of the chief enemy and control the rest of his western ports by detached squadrons in the Bay of Biscay, he had another seaboard in the Mediterranean, and this entailed a secondary fleet of considerable force operating within the Straits of Gibraltar or at its entrance. The case of a war with Germany presented no such complication. Seeing that her whole Battle Fleet was concentrated in the North Sea, the conditions permitted us a complete counter concentration in the new position, except for such force as was needed to secure the Straits of Dover, and this was mainly a question of torpedo craft and their supporting cruisers and minor battleships.


But it was not a war merely between ourselves and Germany that had to be considered. The premonitory symptoms indicated that when the war came we should find ourselves in line with France and Russia against Germany and Austria and possibly Italy. Here, then, was a condition which brought the Mediterranean into play as of old, and at the same time it placed upon our Home Fleets responsibilities which were entirely without precedent, and emphasised with added stress the need of concentration in the newly selected position.




The reason for this lay in the uncertainty which surrounded the probable attitude of Italy. Though it was almost impossible to conceive a situation in which she would be found fighting Great Britain by the side of her natural enemy Austria, the French had no such comfort. They at least had to face the prospect of having to deal with the combined Austrian and Italian Fleets, and the result was a growing desire to concentrate their whole battle fleet in the Mediterranean, and to trust to the British Fleet for protection against the German Fleet in the Atlantic. So vital for the French was the command of the Mediterranean that any reasonable risk, it was felt, must be taken to secure it. Not only was it needed for the sake of the North African Colonies, which Germany was so obviously coveting, but it was of the essence of the French war plan that the Algerian Army Corps should be transported to France in the first days of the war. Nor did the risk seem great. Theoretically the French Atlantic coasts would lie open to invasion, but the advocates of the proposed combination held that if by its adoption the British Fleet was freed from all preoccupation with the Mediterranean, it would be able to concentrate in the North Sea and Channel such a force as would paralyse the German High Seas Fleet altogether. The doctrine of the Ecole Superieure de la Marine was that with an Anglo-French flotilla barring the way to the Channel and the British Fleet barring the north-about Passage, the Germans would be caught in a mouse-trap and there would be no fighting in the Atlantic.


Though the British Admiralty took a less confident view, the French idea fell in with their own tendency towards extreme concentration, and they were inclined to adopt it even to its logical conclusion, which would divide the command of European waters between the two Navies, leaving the Mediterranean entirely to the French and the Atlantic entirely to the British. But in both countries the proposal met with marked disfavour mainly on moral and sentimental grounds. In France they spoke of " those waters laden with memories where lay the wrecks of Tourville's and Duquesne's ships and the bones of the Vengeur's crew," and deplored that the tombs of the dead who fought at sea and bred the race of French seamen were to be defended by British guns. In Great Britain the instinct that our position in the world was in some way bound up with the strength we could display in the Mediterranean was even stronger. It had become a canon of British policy consecrated by repeated experience that our Mediterranean Fleet was the measure of our influence in continental affairs, and the feeling had only increased since the road to India lay that way, and Egypt and Cyprus had become limbs of the Empire.


The result was characteristic of both countries. In France the logical view prevailed over the sentimental. In the autumn of 1912 that is, on the eve of the first Balkan War it was announced that their 3rd Battle Squadron, which was still based at Brest, was to join the 1st and 2nd which were already in the Mediterranean, and by the spring of 1913, in order to provide the concentrated Fleet with officers, the whole of their Atlantic defence flotillas were demobilised and the defence of the ports handed over to the Army. All that remained at the northern bases was their 2nd Cruiser Squadron, composed of six " Gloires," an old type of armoured cruiser, and the flotillas which were to co-operate with the British in the combined defence of the Channel.


On our side, on the contrary, it was the naval tradition that prevailed, and a Mediterranean Squadron was formed as powerful as was consistent with the minimum required for the northern concentration. It consisted of four battle cruisers, four of our best heavy cruisers and four light cruisers, but even this force was regarded only as provisional till the development of our building programme permitted more to be done. As it stood it had certain technical advantages in that the battle cruisers furnished an element in which the French Fleet was wanting. But as the Fleets of the Triple Alliance Powers increased it would not suffice, and the intention was by the end of 1915 to replace the battle cruisers by a full battle squadron (First Lord's speech. Navy Estimates, March 17, 1913.). In this way the extreme French views were met by a compromise. While they were left free to make a complete concentration of their battle fleet within the Straits, we did not commit the Mediterranean to their sole charge. Further than this, there was an informal understanding, without which the French might well have hesitated still longer in taking the final step. Although in accordance with our time-honoured policy we studiously refrained from developing the Entente into an Alliance, though we refused to bind ourselves to declare war with Germany if she attacked France, yet the Staffs of the two countries were permitted to discuss conditionally plans of joint action, and on November 22, 1912, Sir Edward Grey defined our mutual obligations at sea in a letter to the French Ambassador. The letter recorded an agreement that while the new distribution of the French and British Fleets respectively was not based on an engagement to co-operate in war, yet " if either Government had grave




reason to expect an unprovoked attack or something that threatened the general peace, it should immediately discuss with the other whether both Governments should act together, and if so what measures they would be prepared to take in common." (Sir Edward Grey's speech in the House of Commons, August 3, 1913.)


Guarded as was the formula agreed on, yet, taking note as it did of the distribution of the two Fleets, it did imply a definite sphere of naval action for each Power for the common purpose should the specified condition arise. Thus it was our Home Fleets, over and above their normal duties, became charged with others which were without precedent, and in these added duties the tendency to extreme concentration found its final justification. There were critics to whom it appeared excessive and a departure from British practice, but seen as a measure complementary to the French concentration in the Mediterranean designed to develop the utmost naval energy of the Entente, it was for the responsible authorities essential to our war plan.


With Russia no arrangement had been made, and indeed none at the time was possible, for the reconstruction of her Fleet, which had been taken in hand after the war with Japan, had not yet proceeded far enough to make it an effective factor in the situation. Her Black Sea Fleet for the purpose was off the board, and in the Baltic she had only four battleships in commission, two approximately of " Lord Nelson" type and two older. (Imperator Pavel I and Andrei Pervozvanni (four 12", fourteen 8"), Tzesarevich and Slava (four 12", twelve 6")). She had also there four of her new fleet of eight " Dreadnoughts " which had been launched in 1911, but only two of them were approaching completion. Besides these she had the Ryurik, in which the Commander-in-Chief, Admiral von Essen, flew his flag, and four cruisers. (Ryurik (four 10", eight 8", twenty 4.7"), Gromoboi (four 8", twenty-two 6" ), Bayan, Pallada and Admiral Makarov (two 8", eight 6")).


In spite of the reputation this brilliant officer had won in the Japanese War for bold and enterprising leadership, a force relatively so weak could only be regarded by the Military Authority, under whose supreme direction it was, as part of the defence of the capital. Their policy was one of concentration in the Gulf of Finland. Libau, a practically ice-free port, which in 1893 had been commenced as the chief naval station, had been abandoned as being too near the German frontier and its defences dismantled. The only naval ports that remained were Helsingfors and Revel inside the Gulf. Except, therefore, for such influence as the Russian Fleet could exert by forcing the Germans to watch it with a superior force, it could have no effect upon our own disposition.


The arrangement with the French, on the contrary, necessarily affected the limits within which our distribution could be made. However advisable the division of labour, it was undeniable that it presented drawbacks, and in certain important aspects the drawbacks were more obvious than the merits. Chief among them was that the system entailed the practical abandonment of the Atlantic trade routes, and the disappearance of our cruisers from the localities where they had been accustomed to show the flag in time of peace. The inevitable consequence would be that on a sudden outbreak of war the great trade routes would be very slenderly protected, and this was the more serious since Germany not only had cruisers abroad but was credited with an intention to arm a large number of fast and powerful liners as commerce destroyers wherever they might happen to be at the outbreak of war.


The reason for this weakness was that, for our system to work, the main concentration must not only be overwhelming but instantaneous. The Grand Fleet which was to take the northern position must always be in instant readiness for war. The advantage of time and place demanded no less, and in this case the demand was specially urgent on account of precisely those defects in the intended position of the Grand Fleet which were still unremedied. The northern islands still lay dangerously open to attack by the enemy. By a blow before declaration the Germans might establish themselves there, and our whole system would then be in danger of collapsing. It was essential, therefore, that the Grand Fleet must be ready at the first tremor of strained relations to get into position and prevent any such attempt except at the cost of a fleet action, which of all things was what we most ardently desired.


But if we were to make sure of the key position it was impossible to keep cruisers in full commission all over the world except by greatly increased estimates which the country was in no mood to sanction. Active service officers and ratings were insufficient, and the choice consequently lay between risking the main position and risking some initial loss on the trade routes in the first weeks of the war. Given the conditions, the choice could not be in doubt for a moment, and just as the French had to demobilise their west coast defence flotillas to provide for the Mediterranean Fleet, so had we to demobilise our commerce protection cruisers to provide for the instant readiness of the Grand Fleet. In one particular, however, a modification of the policy had been found necessary. Owing to the disturbed state of Mexico and other circumstances, there had been a call for the restoration of the West Atlantic Station, that is, the area of the old West Indies and North American Squadrons, and to satisfy the demand one of the First Fleet Cruiser Squadrons had been detached there permanently.




To meet the needs of the situation the organisation in Home Waters was based on three fleets, in progressive states of readiness for war. In the First were a fleet flagship and four battle squadrons, the 1st, 2nd and 4th consisting of " Dreadnoughts," and the 3rd of eight " King Edwards," the last development of the " Majestic " type. In July 1914 the " Dreadnought" battleships in commission numbered twenty against the German thirteen, and ship for ship the German, though better protected, were inferior in gun power to our own, while against the Agamemnon and the eight " King Edwards" they had five " Deutschlands" and five " Braunschweigs" of inferior armament.



British (20)

2 Iron Dukes

10 13.5"

12 6"

4 King George V

10 13.5"

16 4"

4 Orions

10 13.5"

16 4"

2 Colossus

10 12"

16 4"

1 Neptune

10 12"

16 4"

3 St. Vincents

10 12"

18 4"

3 Bellerophons

10 12"

16 4"

1 Dreadnought

10 12"

24 12 pdrs


German (13)

5 Kaisers

10 12"

14 5.9"

4 Ostfrieslands

12 12"

14 5.9"

4 Nassaus

12 11"

12 5.9"





British (9)


4 12"

10 9.2"

8 King Edwards

4 12"

4 9.2"


German (10)

5 Deutschlands

 4 11"

14 6.7"

5 Braunschweigs

 4 11"

14 6.7"

(The Agamemnon was attached temporarily to the 4th Battle Squadron. In addition to the above we had approaching completion two more " Iron Dukes " and two of the new " Queen Elizabeth " class, with eight 15", and the Germans had three large "Dreadnoughts" of improved type, of which the Koenig the nameship of the class, was more advanced than our own.)

The First Fleet had also a squadron of four battle cruisers, all except one being of the latest type, with eight 13.5" guns, against which the Germans could show on the North Sea three of an earlier type armed with 11" guns. In cruisers our First Fleet entirely overweighted the High Seas Fleet. (For details and organisation of the High Seas Fleet see Appendix A.) Besides the cruisers attached to the battle squadrons, it had four squadrons, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th (of which, however, the 4th was actually in the West Indies), and a light cruiser squadron. It had also attached to it the first four flotillas of destroyers, each comprising a cruiser leader and twenty units. (The actual number of the Grand Fleet destroyers was 76, of which 33 had a speed of no more than 27 knots. Against these Germany had in Home Waters 96 of 30 knots or over and 48 others of from 30 to 26 knots fit for coastal work). This was in effect the " Grand Fleet," which was intended to be in position to occupy the North Sea at the outbreak of war, and it was always kept in full commission ready for immediate action.


The Second Fleet consisted of the Lord Nelson (four 12", ten 9.2") as Fleet flagship with the 5th and 6th Battle Squadrons, that is, five "Duncans," eight "Formidables," and the Vengeance, each armed with four 12" and twelve 6", to which the Germans could oppose only five "Wittelsbachs" and five "Kaiser Friedrichs," armed with four 9.4" and fourteen to eighteen 5.9". These obsolescent German ships also formed a second fleet, designed, with the older armoured and protected cruisers, to operate in the Baltic and keep the Russian Fleet in check.


Assigned to our own Second Fleet were two cruiser squadrons, the 5th and 6th, but this was for administrative purposes only. They formed no part of its war organisation, but, as will appear directly, were allotted other duties of immediate importance. In the same way there was nominally attached to it the bulk of the Home Defence Patrol Flotillas. They comprised seven flotilla cruisers, four patrol flotillas and seven flotillas of submarines. Except for the submarines this fleet was not on a war footing, but was manned by what were called "Active Service Crews," consisting of all the specialist officers and about three-fifths of the full complement of men. They could, however, be ready in a few hours, for " Balance Crews," consisting mainly of men going through courses of training, were kept together in various naval barracks ready to embark at the shortest notice. As the main function of the battle squadrons was to form the Channel Fleet in immediate proximity to its home ports, no higher degree of readiness was necessary.




The remainder of the battleships and cruisers still on the active list formed the Third Fleet, which was in effect a "Reserve." It comprised the 7th and 8th Battle Squadrons that is, five "Canopus" and nine "Majestics," with five squadrons of cruisers. (Against these still efficient battleships with four 12" guns and twelve 6", the Germans could only show two "Brandenburgs" with six 11" and eight "Hagens" with three 9.4".) They were not in commission, but were distributed in groups in various home ports, and were manned by no more than "care and maintenance" parties, for full crews they had to rely on the various Reserves, and therefore could only be brought forward for service some time after mobilisation. The battleships were all on the brink of obsolescence, and as none of them had any definite place as active ships in the initial distribution, the system served well enough. They were regarded as available for subsidiary services, and shortly before the war four of the "Majestics" had been allotted as guardships for the Humber till its new defences could be completed.


With the cruisers, however, the case was different. Besides securing the position in Home Waters, the Home Fleets were responsible for commerce protection over all the trade routes in the Atlantic, and it was from the Third Fleet cruisers that the system had to be completed. During peace we had nothing in the Atlantic except one ship on the South American station, and the 4th Cruiser Squadron which, as we have seen, was engaged at the moment entirely in the West Indian area for the protection of British interests in Mexico. By the organisation, it will be remembered, it belonged to the First Fleet, and though the intention was that from time to time it should join the Commander-in-Chief's flag for manoeuvres, it was in practice permanently detached in the West Atlantic. The next squadrons to be ready would be the two attached to the Second Fleet. of these the 6th, which consisted of four "Drakes," though intended to support the flotillas in the south part of the North Sea, had to be diverted to take the place of the 4th Squadron in the Grand Fleet. The 5th, which on the eve of the war consisted of the Carnarvon and three "Monmouths," was assigned to the most important and exposed area in the Atlantic trade routes that is, to the Mid-Atlantic area between the West Coast of Africa and Brazil, in which lay the converging points of the great southern trade. All the nearer stations had to be filled from the Third Fleet Squadrons, some of which were actually required to complete the disposition in Home Waters. The 10th, for instance, was to act in close connection with the Grand Fleet and to form what was known as the Northern Patrol that is, the Patrol specially charged with exercising control of the trade route to Germany north-about. The 11th Squadron was to operate to the West of Ireland to cover the home terminals of the great Western trade routes, and the 12th to combine with the French cruisers in the approaches to the Channel, in accordance with the provisional arrangement which had been settled between the two Admiralty Staffs in October 1913. The 7th Squadron also acted in Home Waters, the greater part of it being employed in place of the " Drakes " with the flotillas which guarded the southern part of the North Sea. The remaining squadron that is, the 9th (for the 8th had no ships assigned to it) was to complete the protection of the great Southern and Mediterranean routes, its station being off the mouth of the Straits and covering the area Cape Finisterre-Azores-Madeira immediately north of the 5th Squadron in the Mid-Atlantic area. The general idea was to push out these ships as fast as they were mobilised, but as they were on the Third Fleet basis some delay was inevitable. So far as possible it was minimised by the fact that the nearest stations were assigned to them. Still the risk remained, and had to be accepted as the price paid for the immediate readiness of the First and Second Fleets.


Beyond the Mediterranean and Red Sea, for which, as we have seen, a special fleet was provided, our interests were guarded by four squadrons. The most important of them was that on the China station, with one battleship, two cruisers, two light cruisers, eight destroyers, four torpedo boats, three submarines and a flotilla of sixteen sloops and gunboats, ten of which were river gunboats.


Next came the squadron provided by the Australian Commonwealth, with one battle cruiser, four light cruisers, three destroyers and two submarines. Associated with it was the New Zealand station with three old " P" class light cruisers and a sloop. Finally, there was the East Indies Squadron, with one battleship, two light cruisers and four sloops.


Each squadron was an independent command, but an organisation had been worked out under which they could be formed into one force, known as the Eastern Fleet, under the command of the Commander-in-Chief of the China station. When so formed it would consist of two battleships, one battle cruiser, two cruisers, eleven light cruisers, eleven sea-going sloops and gunboats, eleven destroyers and five submarines. More loosely connected with this Fleet was the Cape station, which, with only three light cruisers, occupied South African waters between the Mid-Atlantic station and the East Indies station.




The only other foreign stations were the West Coast of Africa - with a single gunboat, the South-east Coast of America with one light cruiser, and the West Coast of North America with two sloops, both of which were on the west coast of Mexico watching British interests, like the 4th Cruiser Squadron on the Atlantic side.


In this way the vast extent of the Seven Seas was occupied in the traditional manner, not by patrolling the trade routes, but by guarding in such force as our resources permitted the main focal areas where they converged, and where the enemy's commerce destroyers were most likely to be attracted and had the only chance of making a serious impression upon the huge volume of our trade. At some of these points, and particularly those which had recently attained importance, such as the Fernando Noronha or Pernambuco area off the north-east shoulder of Brazil, our hold, as will appear later, was weak. To some extent, also, the system was distorted by the desire to watch ports which were frequented by enemy's ships capable of being converted into commerce raiders. In other words, the principle of watching focal points was at times crossed and confused by the principle of watching bases. But on the whole the system worked well, and when we consider the prodigious nature of the task, the unprecedented volume of trade, the tangled web which its crossing routes wove round the earth, and then how slender was our cruiser force beside the immensity of the oceans, and how in every corner of them the enemy was lurking, all defects are lost in the brilliance and magnitude of the success. We have now, after our manner, ceased to wonder at it, but the fact remains that, for all we may point to occasions and places where more might have been done, the success of the defence over the attack went beyond everything the most sanguine and foresighted among us had dared to hope, and beyond anything we had achieved before.


Nor did the task of the Navy end here. Over and above the burden that lay on our sea-going ships there remained the task of protecting our own shores from attack by lightly escorted raiding forces. To this function were assigned all the destroyer flotillas except the first four which were attached to the Grand Fleet, and the 5th which was in the Mediterranean. They were organised in "Patrol" and "Local Defence" Flotillas. The Patrol Flotillas, which were the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th, with their attached light cruisers, were under a special officer designated " Admiral of Patrols" (a post then held by Rear-Admiral G. A. Ballard). The Local Defence Flotillas, which consisted of the older destroyers and torpedo boats, were attached to the naval ports which their function was to protect. Since in Naval opinion no raid was likely to be attempted except across the North Sea, the Patrol Flotillas were distributed along the East Coast. To the 6th Flotilla, known as the Dover Patrol, was assigned the defence of the Straits: the 7th was based on the Humber, the 8th on the Tyne and the 9th on the Forth.


 Base - Flotilla

Light Cruisers.


Torpedo Boats

Dover Patrol 6th



Humber 7th




Tyne 8th




Forth 9th




Beyond the Forth Area the Scottish Coast was sufficiently safeguarded by the Grand Fleet bases at Cromarty and at Scapa, to which a special Defence Flotilla of two destroyer divisions was assigned. The East Anglian Coast between the Dover and Humber Patrols was equally well provided for by the active force based at Harwich. Here was Commodore Tyrwhitt (Commodore T) with the 1st and 3rd Destroyer Flotillas and their attached light cruisers, and here, too, was the 8th or "Oversea" Flotilla of submarines ("D" and "E" class) under Commodore Keyes (Commodore S). (The post of " Commodore S " was originally instituted as an administrative appointment at the Admiralty, but under Commodore Keyes it tended to become an active command.) In view of the possibility of the enemy making an attack before declaration of war, the first function of this force was to provide during the period of strained relations a Destroyer Patrol for the defence of the Thames Estuary, but as soon as the Nore Defence Flotilla was ready to take over this duty the Harwich Flotillas would assume their real place in the war plan, which was to act offensively against the enemy's destroyers and minelayers operating in the southern part of the North Sea. Here, therefore, a Patrol Flotilla was unnecessary.


Under Commodore Keyes were also the five older flotillas of submarines ("B" and "C" class), which were distributed amongst the Patrol Flotillas and formed part of the patrol organisation under Admiral Ballard. The oldest boats of all (three flotillas, mainly "A" class) were attached to the Local Defence Flotillas. (The total number of submarines completed was 74, which, excluding 3 in China, 3 at Malta and 3 at Gibraltar, left 65 in the nine Home Flotillas.)


Such in broad outline was the force and organisation on which we had to rely to solve the problems which confronted us when the storm broke. But it takes no count of the vast auxiliary fleet that rapidly came into existence during the war to second the efforts and fill the interstices of the established Navy.



To a small extent assistance from the Mercantile Marine had been counted on, but it proved to be no more than a germ of the vast organisation which was quickly developed. A few liners had been retained as auxiliary cruisers, and in 1911 a commencement had been made in organising an auxiliary minesweeping service of hired trawlers to be manned by a special section of the Royal Naval Reserve. It was recruited from the ordinary fishing crews, and placed under an officer designated Captain-in-Charge of Minesweepers. The organisation was on a basis of seven areas with nine "Trawler Stations" under the Admiral of Patrols. (Cromarty, the Forth, the Humber, Harwich, the Nore, Dover, Ports-m degreesuth, Portland and Devonport.) Such good progress was made that during the crisis of 1913, Captain Bonham, who was then Captain-in-Charge, was able to report that in the event of war eighty-two trawlers would be immediately available.


In the year before the war steps were also being taken to form a Motor-boat Reserve, but all these things were only a beginning. After the outbreak of war the system developed so rapidly that soon the auxiliary vessels far outnumbered those on the Navy List. The armed merchant cruisers rapidly multiplied; trawlers, drifters and yachts were taken up in scores for minesweeping and anti-submarine patrols, and steam-craft of all kinds for the Examination Service which controlled the flow of trade in our Home Waters. There had been nothing like it since the distant days when the Mercantile Marine was counted as part of the Navy of England nothing to equal it even in the heyday of privateering or in the days of our floating defence against Napoleon's Invasion Flotilla.


Faced with a struggle, the gravity of which was quickly recognised, the country not only fell back to the mediaeval spirit in which its sea power had been born, but infused into it a new and wholly modern energy and method. The whole seafaring population, in so far as it was not needed for other work vital to the national life, gathered to the struggle before it was six months old. As on the Continent it was seen to be a contest not of armies but of armed nations, so by the end of 1914, and without any previous preparation, our nation was in arms upon the sea. Such a reawakening of the old maritime spirit which had lain dormant for so many ages must always remain as one of the most absorbing features of the war, and the strangeness of the revival is the more impressive when we remember that it was mainly the mine and the submarine, the very last words of the Naval art, that threw us back to the methods of the Middle Ages.








(see Map 1 in case)


Amongst the many false impressions that prevailed, when after the lapse of a century we found ourselves involved in a great war, not the least erroneous is the belief that we were not prepared for it. Whether the scale on which we prepared was as large as the signs of the times called for, whether we did right to cling to our long-tried system of a small Army and a large Navy, are questions that will long be debated; but, given the scale which we deliberately chose to adopt, there is no doubt that the machinery for setting our forces in action had reached an ordered completeness in detail that has no parallel in our history.


It must be said, however and nothing is more eloquent of the widespread belief that the world had grown too wise for Napoleonic convulsions ever to recur that the work was not completed till the eleventh hour. Much had been done by various Departments particularly since the South African War and the rapid expansion of the German Navy. For some years past the Admiralty had been keeping a "War List," in which was laid down in detail the action which was to be taken by the Navy and the Admiralty Departments during what was known as the Precautionary Period and on Declaration of War, and to secure co-ordination with the other Departments immediately concerned. They were regularly informed of all intended action which would affect them. Still the arrangements were to a large extent independent, and it was not till the end of 1910 that an effort was made to reach a complete co-ordination. Mr. Haldane was then completing his reorganisation of the Army for the work it was likely to have to perform in a great European war, and at his instigation Mr. Asquith, in January 1911, set up at the Committee of Imperial Defence a strong standing Sub-Committee for " the co-ordination of Departmental Action on the outbreak of war." It was composed of highly-placed representatives from the nine Departments concerned: two from the Admiralty, three from the War




office, and one each from the Foreign office, Home office, Colonial office, India office, Board of Trade, Board of Customs and Excise, and Post office, with Sir Arthur Nicolson, Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, as Chairman, and Rear-Admiral Sir Charles Ottley, Secretary to the Committee of Imperial Defence, as Secretary.

(The Admiralty members were the Director of Naval Intelligence and the Secretary, those of the War office the Directors of Operations and of Military Training and the Assistant Secretary. Most of the other Departments were represented by their permanent heads. On Admiral Ottley's retirement in 1912, his successor, Captain M. P. A. Hankey, R.M.A., became Secretary. The Clerk to the Privy Council and a representative from the Treasury were afterwards added, and when the Naval War Staff was set up, its Chief also became a member.)

Its labours resulted in the production of a " War Book," in which was tabulated what every department had to do, and how and when it was to do it. Each Department had its own chapter, arranged on an identical plan in sections, each of which dealt with a successive phase of the preparation. First came departmental arrangements in peace time to secure instantaneous and accurate working of the machinery. Then followed the Precautionary Stage which was initiated by the Foreign office informing the Cabinet that relations with a certain Power or Powers were strained. To save time, however, as soon as the Foreign office had decided to take this step they were privately to communicate the decision to the Admiralty, War office, and Post office.


The next step was the issue of a " Warning Telegram," which formally set on foot the period of " Strained Relations." from being a vague historical expression it had been given a technical, administrative, political and strategical meaning which connoted certain definite defensive actions being taken, such as Mobilisation of Naval Centres and Signal Stations, Protection of Vulnerable Points, Harbour Traffic, certain preliminary stages of Navy and Army Mobilisation, Censorship, Control of Aliens, Treatment of Enemy Merchantmen in Port, Trading with the Enemy, and many other similar measures down to such internal arrangements as the suspension of certain Acts, if found necessary. The four Sections that followed dealt with the Mobilisation of the Navy and Army, Intelligence, Control of Wireless and Cable Censorship, all of which steps could be taken separately or together as required. Finally came the decision to declare war, and the steps that automatically followed. (Major A Grant Duff, Assistant Secretary, was mainly responsible for the design of the "War Book," and later the work was carried on by Major J A Longridge, Indian Army, both afterwards killed in action.)


Each departmental chapter was arranged so as to show at a glance not only what the particular Department had to do at each stage, but also the correlative or consequential action of the other Departments, and the precise method by which every message or letter required for operating the system was to be transmitted. In order to secure the utmost degree of decentralisation and provide for executive action being taken automatically on receipt of the "Warning" and "War" Telegrams, these general instructions were worked out in supplementary War Books kept by each Department to meet its own needs and organisation. During the three and a half years the Sub-Committee was at work these details, by constant revision, and particularly by the experience gained during the Agadir crisis at the end of 1911, were carried to a high degree of precision.


Special arrangements were made so that in every office responsible officials should be ready at all hours to take immediate action. The requisite telegrams - amounting to thousands were carefully arranged in order of priority for dispatch in order to prevent congestion on the day of action; every possible letter and document was kept ready in an addressed envelope; special envelopes were designed so that they could be at once recognised as taking priority of everything. All necessary papers, orders in council and proclamations were printed or set up in type, and so far was the system carried that the King never moved without having with him those which required his immediate signature.


The fundamental lines of the system were not settled without doubt and difficulty, for the whole structure had to rest on that unstable ground where the opposing tendencies of the diplomatic and the fighting services never reach equilibrium. The period of "Strained Relations" is the "No Man's Land,'' where political action and war overlap. The tendency of all Foreign offices is inevitably to postpone till the last moment a declaration that they cannot guarantee the attainment of their object by political means; the desire of the fighting services is to set their machinery in motion at the earliest possible moment. A compromise is inevitable. Even in Germany, where the military side was all powerful, it had to submit at the last moment to political exigencies. The lines within which the compromise is determined are fixed by the period of Strained Relations, the time at which it is declared, and the action that is permissible when it is instituted. Any sign that the machinery is in motion tends to prejudice a political solution at its acutest and most delicate stage. No less hazardous for a solution by arms may be




even a few hours' delay in starting the machinery. To minimise the difficulty, the possibility of establishing a precautionary period was considered, during which measures not likely to disturb public opinion might be permitted, but it was found that nothing of value could be done secretly enough not to arouse excitement - except in the Navy. Owing to the stealth of naval movements and the fact that the principal part of the Fleet was always on a war footing, certain preliminary steps could be taken without danger. It was understood, therefore, that the Admiralty would be free to take such precautionary steps as long tradition had sanctioned, and on this basis the Admiralty War Book was framed.


For the " Warning Telegram" which set up the Precautionary Period there were two alternative code words. The first put in action defensive measures of a purely naval character, such as guarding against surprise torpedo attacks before declaration. It authorised the mobilisation of flotillas, mine-sweepers, cable guard gunboats, examination service at naval ports, and the like. It also set on foot preparations to mobilise, while a separate word called out the "Immediate Reserves," a step which could be taken without touching civil life. The second word authorised all preparatory measures down to the retention of time-expired men, but not putting in force the Mobilisation Instructions or calling up the Civil Naval Reserves - that is, Royal Naval Reserves and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserves, Trawler Reserves and Pensioners. Finally, there was a word, for use in extreme emergency, which covered everything, including not only full mobilisation but all action indicated by the "War Telegram." The Navy was thus ready at any moment to adapt its action to all conditions, from a comparatively extended Precautionary Period to a "Bolt from the Blue."


The whole system was complete and brought up to date by June 1914, with the exception of the work of certain subordinate Committees which had been appointed to work out special war arrangements that crossed the normal flow of civil activity. The chief of these were four in number: one charged with providing for the Control of Railways, which eventually took the form of a Communications Board, consisting of representatives of the Admiralty, War office, Home office, Board of Trade and the Executive Committee of Railway Managers. Another was dealing with the Control of the Press. The two others were specially concerned with the sea. One was the Diversion of Shipping Committee, whose function was to provide against the




possible inaccessibility of our North Sea ports by arranging to handle the trade elsewhere. The other was the Maintenance of Trade Committee, which was working out a system of State Insurance against war risks at sea. It had long been recognised that a serious obstacle to maintaining our seaborne trade in war-time would arise from the dislocation of the Marine Insurance market, and in order to find a remedy a thorough investigation of the whole question had been going on for some time. Three months before the outbreak of war the Committee had produced a complete scheme, but the expediency of its adoption was considered too controversial for immediate action, and it was held up for further consideration. The work of the other Committees was also well advanced, but none of them had actually reported.


So far as the Navy was concerned, everything was in order. The Home Fleets were even in a state of readiness beyond what the War Book provided. In March 1914 it had been announced in Parliament that instead of the usual summer manoeuvres a test mobilisation would be held. It was to begin about the middle of July, and after carrying out exercises at sea the various fleets and flotillas would disperse on the 23rd. It was in no sense a surprise test, nor was it a real war mobilisation, for the Reserves were invited to attend not called out and officers were appointed as convenient, and not to their true war stations. The composition of the cruiser squadrons also differed in some cases from that of the War Organisation.


Operation orders were issued on July 10 for the ships to assemble at Portland under the command of Admiral Sir George A. Callaghan, who was completing his third year as Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleets. All told, counting fleet auxiliaries, not less than 460 pennants were in orders for his flag. They included the whole of the Home Fleets, except the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, which, owing to the unhappy state of affairs in Ulster, was tied to police duty in the Irish Sea. The response of the Reserves proved all that could be desired, and by July 16 the whole of the vast Fleet was assembled in a state of mobilisation.


Outwardly the European situation seemed calmer than it had been for two years past. The murder of the Archduke Ferdinand and his wife at Serajevo at the end of June had produced no ostensible complications: the German Emperor had gone for his usual summer cruise in Norwegian waters, and on July 13 the French President had started for the Baltic to visit the Tsar with the France and Jean Bart, two of the new Dreadnoughts which had just been completed




at Brest. Accordingly, at the conclusion of the exercises on the 23rd, Admiral Callaghan informed the Admiralty that he was beginning to disperse the Fleet, and was himself returning to Portland for a Conference of Flag officers which was to mark the conclusion of the mobilisation. Then in a flash everything was changed.


Whether by coincidence or design it was on this memorable day July 23rd that Austria presented her harsh and peremptory ultimatum to Serbia, and the long-dreaded hour seemed at hand. Early on the 24th its text was communicated to our Foreign office. It was found to contain a time-limit of forty-eight hours, and to be so provocative in its terms that the Admiralty immediately countermanded the Flag officers' Conference. Still no steps were taken to stop the dispersal and demobilisation of the Fleet, and, in acknowledging the order, Admiral Callaghan reminded the Board that if nothing was done the dispersal would be complete by Monday the 27th. By that day, since the First Fleet would be entirely broken up, he himself would be at Berehaven with the 2nd Battle Squadron, the 3rd would be at Lamlash, and all the rest at their home or other ports giving manoeuvre leave, while the Second and Third Fleets would have returned to a peace footing.


Still the Government felt bound to avoid the semblance of menacing action. The forty-eight hours were being employed by the Entente Powers in a strenuous effort to persuade Austria to extend the time, and then to induce her to accept as a basis of negotiation the almost abject reply which, on Russia's advice, Serbia had returned to the ultimatum. All was useless against Germany's sinister influence. On the 25th, when the forty-eight hours expired, the Austrian Minister left Belgrade, and the advantage we had gained by the test mobilisation was fast slipping away. But the diplomatic situation was more delicate than ever. Though neither Russia nor Austria appeared to be irreconcilable, popular feeling in both countries ran so high as to be almost uncontrollable. Austria could not give way, and Russia had to intimate that she could not stand by and see Serbia attacked. The only chance our Foreign office could see of avoiding a general conflagration was to bring together the two Powers immediately interested, and meanwhile to keep everything as quiet as possible. The Admiralty, therefore, had to rest content with filling up the war flag appointments, and nothing further was done.


Next day, however (the 26th), the outlook was much more menacing. It was now known for certain that the Serbian reply had been rejected. At Vienna war was regarded as imminent, the Emperor William was suddenly returning to Berlin, in Germany the measures for the Precautionary Period were being put in force, and news was received that the previous day the High Seas Fleet had had orders to concentrate on the Norwegian coast.


Inaction was no longer possible, and at 4.0 in the afternoon a telegram went out to the Commander-in-Chief that no ships of the First Fleet, or any of its attached flotilla, were to leave Portland till further orders, and that the ships of the Second Fleet were to remain at their home ports in proximity to their balance crews. For Admiral Callaghan the order came at the eleventh hour. The battle squadrons were to disperse the following morning, many minor units had already left, the Bellerophon, of the 4th Battle Squadron, was on her way to Gibraltar to refit, and six of his cruisers, most of the destroyers and all his minesweepers were at the home ports, with half their crews away on leave. Still, he was able to stop the dispersal before it had gone too far, and on the 27th steps were taken to restore the condition of the Fleet, so far as the now highly-critical state of Europe warranted.


The negotiations for a settlement had been broken off abruptly by Austria's withdrawing her Minister from Belgrade. An effort to induce Germany to intervene had failed, but there were fresh indications that direct negotiations between Russia and Austria were not impossible. At Petrograd it was thought that the chief hindrance was an impression which prevailed in Berlin and Vienna that in no circumstances would Great Britain intervene. Sir Edward Grey was able to reply that this impression ought to be removed by the orders given to the First Fleet not to disperse for manoeuvre leave. (To Sir George Buchanan, Petrograd, July 27.)


At home all necessary steps were being taken to make the measure a reality. Men on leave were not recalled, but the balance crews were to remain in the ships they had joined for the test mobilisation, the training schools were not to reopen, and no leave was to be given to the second detachments. Subject to this, and so far as resources allowed, the Second Fleet, thirty-six coastal destroyers and some others were ordered to complete to full crews, and all officers temporarily appointed for the test mobilisation were to rejoin the ships in which they had been serving. Both the Second and Third Fleets were to complete with coal, stores and ammunition, but all was to be done as quietly as possible. Quietly, too, the Admiralty proceeded to take other precautionary actions which had




been left open to it.


To provide for the safety of the Humber, four "Majestics," Mars, Hannibal, Magnificent, Victorious, which were not in the Fleet organisation, were directed to proceed there as soon as they could complete to active crews, the intention then being to form them into a separate squadron under the Admiral of Patrols. This officer was to be responsible for the Scottish coasts, including the Forth and Shetlands, but not Cromarty and the Orkneys. The Forward, which was on police duty in the Irish Sea, was ordered to proceed to Lerwick to take charge of the four destroyers, which were to form the Shetland Patrol. The eight destroyers of the special patrol for the northern anchorages were also to get into position, but they were not able to leave the Nore till the 31st.


In the course of the day, moreover, a telegram went out to all Foreign Stations warning them that the European political situation rendered war not impossible, and that they were to be ready, as unobtrusively as possible, to shadow ships of the Central Powers, but that they were not to regard this message as the "Warning Telegram." For the Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean was added an order to concentrate his fleet at once at Malta.


Next day, July 28, a further degradation of situation took place. Though conversations between Russia and Austria had begun, and France and Italy had accepted the British proposal for a Conference of Ambassadors in London to discuss its settlement, Germany had refused. It is true she at the same time expressed a desire to co-operate in preventing war, but the insincerity of her attitude was reflected by a telegram from our Ambassador in Vienna, saying that the Foreign Minister had categorically refused to delay operations against Serbia, or to negotiate at all on the basis of the Serbian reply to the Austrian ultimatum. The news was followed quickly by a telegram from Belgrade to say that Austria had declared war.


The gravity of the situation could no longer be disguised. Still, hope of a peaceful solution was not yet entirely lost, and the Foreign office did not give the word for inaugurating the Precautionary Period. The War office, however, proceeded rapidly to complete its preparations, and the Admiralty took yet more drastic steps. The flotilla precautions against surprise were further developed, and all the patrol and local defence flotillas first for service were ordered to complete to full crews, so far as might be without recalling men from leave or disturbing the general mobilisation arrangements. Finally, at 5.0 in the evening, when the worst was known,




an order went out for the First Fleet to proceed next morning to its preliminary war station at Scapa. Under the war plan it was to proceed west-about, except in case of a sudden crisis In that event it might expect an order to face the risk of going east-about up the North Sea, particularly if the conditions promised a chance of bringing on a fleet action. Seeing that our last news of the High Seas Fleet was that it was concentrated off the coast of Norway, that chance was clearly in view, and the order was for the east route. To minimise the risk of torpedo attack the fleet was to steer out into mid-channel, and then carry on eastwards so as to pass the Dover Strait by night without lights. Seeing what our engagements were to France, no less could be done. At the same time Vice-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney, who had taken to the Nore the ships belonging to that port for manoeuvre leave, was ordered to assemble the 5th and 7th Battle Squadrons and the 5th Cruiser Squadron at Portland.


At 7.0 a.m. on the 29th the First Fleet put to sea. It was high time, for during the day things took a still uglier turn. The Austrians began to bombard Belgrade, Russia was mobilising her southern forces, and Germany was threatening complete mobilisation unless all preparations for war were discontinued in Russia. As it was a demand that could not be complied with, nothing but a miracle could now avert war, and this was the moment when the machinery of the War Book was definitely set in motion. It was not done by the issue of the prescribed intimation from the Foreign office. Although the idea of mediation by the four Powers had practically been negatived by Germany, a more conciliatory attitude at Vienna gave some hope that a European conflict might yet be avoided by direct conversations between Russia and Austria. But to the Admiralty that hope appeared too slight to justify further inaction.


Accordingly, when the Cabinet met that morning the First Lord pressed strongly for the initiation of the Precautionary Period. His view was accepted, and during the afternoon the "Warning Telegram" went out both from the War office and the Admiralty. The form used by the Admiralty was the second, which authorised everything short of full mobilisation. Certain steps, however, which could not be kept secret were negatived. The Examination Service was to be prepared but not put in force, and the diversion of steamship sailings was not to take place. But by the evening the war cloud was so dark that the Admiralty ordered all officers and men on leave to be recalled by telegraph.




Concealment of our precautionary measures was no longer possible, even had the Government desired it. But, in fact, that afternoon Sir E. Grey had definitely warned the German Ambassador that he must not be misled into thinking we should necessarily stand aside if France became involved. This frank hint, backed as it was by our naval preparations, had a startling result, for it was a few hours later that the German Chancellor made his notorious proposal to our Ambassador for inducing us to leave France to the mercy of her old enemy. What it meant, as Sir Edward Grey instructed our Ambassador, was that on condition that no soil of France were annexed we were to stand by while her colonies were torn from her and she was crushed down to the status of a helpless satellite of Germany. To preserve our neutrality by such a bargain would be a disgrace from which the good name of the country would never recover. So the reply went forward next day. Still all hope was not lost. Negotiations between Russia and Austria were on foot; they were not without promise and were progressing in a reasonable spirit when, on July 31, Germany suddenly broke everything down with an ultimatum to Petrograd demanding demobilisation in twelve hours.


War was now very near, but we were ready. The machinery of the War Book was working smoothly, and everything was slipping into its place without further orders. During the two days of suspense all units of the First and Second Fleets had reached, or were on their way to, their war stations. Admiral Callaghan, when the First Fleet was ordered north, had been summoned to the Admiralty for a final conference on war plans, and the fleet proceeded under Vice-Admiral Sir George Warrender. While steaming up Channel he had exchanged salutes with the Jean Bart and France returning from the Baltic, and after passing the Straits of Dover the course was set up the middle of the North Sea, direct for the Skagerrak, till shortly before noon they were abreast of Terschelling.


Here a German cruiser was sighted hull down. She probably was able to report the movement, but perhaps wrongly, for when they dropped her the course was altered direct for Scapa, the Iron Duke parting company to pick up the Commander-in-Chief in the Forth. Nothing else was seen of the enemy. The High Seas Fleet was, in fact, all in port. On or about July 27 it had been hurriedly recalled. The North Sea ships were back at Wilhelmshaven by the evening of the 28th, those from the Baltic were early next day at Kiel, and the last destroyers from Norway were coming into Wilhelmshaven as our Fleet passed wide of it.


On July 31 Admiral Callaghan rejoined the Iron Duke at Queensferry, and proceeded to Scapa. To strengthen the staff of the Fleet, Vice-Admiral Sir John R. Jellicoe had been appointed Second in Command. For Chief of the Staff he was given Rear-Admiral Charles E. Madden, who had been commanding the 2nd Cruiser Squadron and was now succeeded by Rear-Admiral The Hon. S. A. Gough-Calthorpe, while Admiral Jellicoe's place as Second Sea Lord was filled by Vice-Admiral Sir Frederick T. Hamilton.


It says much for the skill and completeness with which our preparation for war had been elaborated during the past ten years that the general situation was so far secured without any recourse to a complete mobilisation by the time the critical day arrived. By August 1 the tension had so much increased for the worse that it was scarcely possible we could avoid being involved in the coming struggle. During the previous day Sir Edward Goschen had seen the German Chancellor, and communicated to him Sir Edward Grey's stern reply to his attempt to purchase our betrayal of France. The Chancellor could scarcely listen. They had just heard, he said, that the whole Russian Army was being mobilised. They must therefore at once declare "Kriegsgefahr," which corresponded to our "Warning Telegram," and mobilisation would follow almost immediately.


Upon this news it was found necessary the same evening to ask from both France and Germany an assurance that in the event of war Belgian neutrality would be respected. As the telegrams were going out (7.0 p.m.) Sir Francis Bertie at Paris heard from the Foreign Minister that Germany had presented her ultimatum at Petrograd demanding the arrest of mobilisation within twelve hours, and that in default of submission a complete mobilisation of the German Army would take place, on both the Russian and the French frontiers. The replies about Belgium did not come to hand till the early hours of August 1. from France came a full and frank assurance; from Germany practically a refusal to reply. Thereupon the German Ambassador in London was given formal notice that if Belgian territory was violated, we might be forced to take action. As the day advanced things grew rapidly worse. Early in the afternoon the Admiralty received news direct from our Ambassador in Berlin that British ships were being detained in Germany, and that they were forbidden to leave Hamburg on account of "important naval manoeuvres" which were to take place the following day. (Sir Edward Goschen to Admiralty, August 1, received 1.45 p.m.)


Within half an hour of the receipt of this news the Admiralty had decided to proceed with mobilisation, and at




2.15 p.m. the word went out to act on the Mobilisation Instructions, followed by the word for taking up supply and hospital ships, colliers, and oilers. All the recently appointed Third Fleet flag officers were ordered to join and hoist their flags at once, and Port Admirals were directed to report if the Third Fleet ships were ready to receive their crews. This was followed by the word for controlling wireless in merchant ships, and it only remained to take the final step of calling out the Reserves. Before this was done, however, the Admiralty felt an even more warlike precaution must be taken. The dominating apprehension was that the Germans meant to deliver a blow at sea before declaration as the Japanese were assumed to have done at Port Arthur and it was highly probable that it would take the form of offensive mining.


The Chief of the Staff, therefore, submitted that the time had come for our patrol and local defence flotillas to be out at night, and this step was at once approved. Orders went out accordingly, but with the proviso that the submarine flotillas were not to be employed in patrol duty during the precautionary period. It was not till some hours after these movements were sanctioned that the Admiralty set on foot the last stage of mobilisation which would render the Third Fleet active. Late that night news came in that Germany had declared war on Russia, and as soon as it was known at the Admiralty, it was felt that the final step could no longer be delayed. At 1.25 a.m., therefore (August 2), without further consultation they gave the word to mobilise the Naval Reserves, and their action was formally sanctioned by the Cabinet later in the day.


Thus it will be seen that, contrary to an impression that became current owing to a misapprehension on the part of a Foreign Representative, there was no prolongation of the test mobilisation. (French Yellow Book, No. 66, August 27.) Not only had it lapsed, but manoeuvre leave had been given in the Second Fleet and in part of the First. The actual mobilisation was an independent act ordered by the Admiralty after a definite war movement had been ordered. It was not completed till 4 a.m. on August 3, and was not even ordered till the First and Second Fleets were so far assembled at their war stations as to render a serious surprise impossible. Admiral Burney was at Portland, Vice-Admiral The Hon. Sir A. E. Bethell had hoisted his flag in command of the Third Fleet battleships, and all the remaining flag officers appointed on July 25 had taken up their commands. It was also decided, in order to complete our cruiser system, to take up nine liners as armed merchant cruisers.

(Aquitania, Caronia, Macedonia, Marmora, and Armadale Castle, all in port; Oceanic, Lusitania, and Mauretania due at Liverpool August 7th, 10th, and 17th respectively, and Osiris in the Mediterranean. Lusitania and Mauretania eventually were released, the cost of fuelling being judged out of proportion to their usefulness. Aquitania had a collision early in August and was returned to her owners, but on August 6 eight more were listed for service: Carmania, Kinfauns Castle, Alsatian, Otranto, Mantua, Victorian, and two ships of the Indian Marine, Dufferin and Hardinge.)

We were thus prepared for any eventuality, and it was none too soon. For France the situation was critical. At any moment a German force might appear on her western coasts, and the desperate resolve was taken to order Admiral Rouyer, who was in command of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, "to proceed forthwith to the Straits of Dover and dispute the passage of the enemy." (La Bruyere: Deux Annees de Guerre Navale, p. 21.) All he could hope to do was, with the help of the French Channel destroyers and submarines, to inflict severe loss on the Germans before his own squadron was destroyed. But the anxiety did not last long. Clearly the conditions had now arisen under which, by the terms of the understanding of 1912, mutual discussions between France and England were called for. The French Ambassador had been instructed to move accordingly, and on approaching Sir Edward Grey he was assured during the afternoon of August 2 that the British Fleet was mobilised, and that the Cabinet next morning would be asked to agree to certain measures for preventing an attack on France by sea.


About the same time it was known that the German mobilisation by sea and land, which had been in secret progress for nearly a week, was in full swing. Before the Cabinet met they knew that German troops had seized the railways in Luxemburg, and Sir E. Grey was authorised to give the following undertaking to the Ambassador: "If the German Fleet comes into the Channel or through the North Sea to undertake hostile operations against French coasts or shipping, the British Fleet will give all the protection in its power." The Ambassador, however, was made clearly to understand that the assurance was given in order to enable France to settle the disposition of her Mediterranean Fleet, and that it did not bind us to go to war unless the German Fleet took the action indicated. It was further explained that in view of our enormous responsibilities all over the world and the primary exigencies of Home Defence, there could be no question at present of a promise to send our Expeditionary Force, or any part of it, to France. (Sir Edward Grey to Sir F. Bertie (Paris) August 2. Dispatched 4.50 p.m. M. Paul Cambon to M. Viviani, August 1, and same to same, August 2. Orders accordingly were sent to the Fleet the same evening.)




The only step taken in regard to the land forces was an order issued this day (August 2) for mobilising half the Territorial Garrison Artillery for the protection of the Orkney Islands, where Admiral Callaghan was already extemporising batteries for the defence of Scapa Flow. This measure became urgent, owing to a report that three transports had passed the Great Belt on August 1. The Shetlands had nothing but the Forward and the four destroyers of the 8th Flotilla, which formed its special patrol. They were now at their base in Dales Voe, but a prompt reinforcement was necessary. The Commander-in-Chief, therefore, dispatched Rear-Admiral Pakenham with five cruisers, Antrim, Argyll, Devonshire, Cochrane, and Achilles, at full speed, and ordered his battle cruisers, under Vice-Admiral Beatty, to Fair Island in support. These ships were in position on August 3, and on the same afternoon Admiral Rouyer, with the French 2nd Cruiser Squadron, took up his position to guard the Straits of Dover.


To the Admiralty it now seemed imperative to set up without further delay the dispositions which had been provisionally arranged in October, 1913, for the combined defence of the Channel. At 5 p.m. an urgent request was sent to the Prime Minister and Sir E. Grey, pressing for authority to do so, with an intimation that unless forbidden they would act at once. Approval came promptly and orders immediately went out for the Dover Patrol and the Cross Channel Patrol, which was to act with the French, to take up their war stations next morning, but neither was to attack unless attacked. Admiral Wemyss's Squadron, with which, according to the plan of operations, Admiral Rouyer's was to combine, was not yet ready for sea. (Twelth Cruiser Squadron, known as Cruiser Force G., Charybdis (flag), Eclipse, Diana, Talbot.)


 The Challenger, however, was in the Bristol Channel to guard against minelayers, and Commodore Tyrwhitt was standing by to carry out an extensive destroyer sweep which he had already designed with the same object in the Southern Area of the North Sea, so as to intercept anything that tried to operate in it from the Heligoland Bight, and Admiral Campbell was under orders to support it with part of his squadron of cruisers. (Bacchante, Aboukir, Euryalus, of the 7th Cruiser Squadron (Cruiser Force C).)


So far, then, as naval readiness could secure the country against invasion, there was now no reason why part at least of the Expeditionary Force should not leave. The Germans seemed to be more concerned with meeting a descent than making one. Our intelligence was that their destroyers and submarines were spread fifty miles north and south of the Elbe, and that the shores of Borkum and the approaches to their North Sea ports had been mined and the lightships removed, while the High Seas Fleet had not stirred since it hurried back to its bases. That night, however, there was information that the Germans meant to get a number of commerce destroyers to sea before the outbreak of war, and at 4.0 in the morning of August 4 the Grand Fleet received orders to carry out a movement in force to intercept them.


But it was not made under Admiral Callaghan. His term of command had already been extended a year, and in spite of the fine work he had done in bringing the Fleet to the high state of efficiency it was showing work which the Admiralty recognised in a special letter of acknowledgment it was thought better to commit the arduous work ahead to a younger officer. Accordingly he was ordered to strike his flag, and Sir John Jellicoe succeeded him, with the acting rank of Admiral. He took with him to the Iron Duke Admiral Madden as Chief of the Staff, and at his special request the continuity of the old regime was maintained by his being permitted to keep Commodore Everett as Captain of the Fleet. If it was not Admiral Callaghan's fortune to wield the weapon he had brought to so fine an edge, he could at least lay it down knowing it was ready and in place to meet with a heavy reckoning anything the enemy could attempt.


At 6 a.m., some two hours before the Grand Fleet could execute the order to put to sea, news came in that the Germans intended to cross the Belgian frontier at 4.0 that afternoon. At 9.30 the Foreign office sent off an emphatic protest requesting an immediate reply. Meanwhile, in accordance with the concerted procedure, contained in the War Book, to meet this contingency, steps had been taken by the Board of Customs and Excise and the Admiralty to detain German ships in our ports in retaliation for what they had already done at Hamburg, and in particular two mail boats which had just put into Falmouth, one with a very large amount of gold for the Bank of England.


At noon came the German reply. It merely gave an assurance that no part of Belgian territory would be annexed, but that they could not leave the Belgian line of attack open to the French. That was the end. Two hours later the Fleet was informed that an ultimatum had been sent to Berlin which would expire at midnight, and that at that hour the " War Telegram" would go out.

(The telegram said midnight, G.M.T., but what was intended was midnight, Central European Time, that is, 11 p.m. G.M.T., at which time the " War Telegram " was actually sent out from the Admiralty.)



When the ultimatum was sent Admiral Jellicoe was already at sea commencing the precautionary movement which he had been directed to make. The general idea which had been laid down by the Admiralty was that he could take his four battle squadrons, with their attached cruisers and the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, to within 100 miles of the Norwegian coast, leaving the battle cruisers and Admiral Pakenham's squadron to watch the Shetlands. The 2nd Cruiser Squadron and six other ships of different squadrons, which with the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, were at Rosyth, were to meet him at a mid-sea rendezvous, and then make a sweep south and west, and at 8.30 a.m. on August 4 he had sailed to carry out the movement.


In the Mediterranean the Precautionary Period found us less well placed. There, indeed, the moment Germany had chosen to precipitate hostilities was peculiarly favourable to the enemy that is, assuming the enemy would be the Triple Alliance, and all Admiralty appreciations had to take into account the possibility of Italy being drawn into the struggle against France. In the Adriatic Austria had three Dreadnoughts and three other battleships which were said to be concentrated at Cattaro. In the Adriatic, too, was the German battle cruiser Goeben, which during the recent Balkan troubles had been dominating Turkish sentiment at Constantinople, and had just completed a thorough dockyard refit at Pola. Italy, besides more or less obsolescent types, had in commission three Dreadnoughts at Taranto, and four other good battleships at Gaeta, near Naples.


Against this force France, in spite of her policy of concentration, could only show one Dreadnought, six "Dantons" good ships, approximately of the "Lord Nelson" type and five others. of her other three Dreadnoughts, two had been away in the Baltic with the President, and one was just being completed at Brest.


As for our own Fleet, which was under the command of Admiral Sir Berkeley Milne, only three ships of the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron were on the station; the 1st Cruiser Squadron under Rear-Admiral Troubridge was complete, and so was the Light Cruiser Squadron, but the ships were much scattered. (See Appendix C.) The flagship Inflexible, with the Indefatigable, Warrior, Black Prince, the four light cruisers and fourteen destroyers, were at Alexandria, about to proceed to Malta. The Indomitable and Duke of Edinburgh were at the Malta for their annual refit; while Admiral Troubridge in Defence, with the destroyer Grampus, was in the Adriatic off Durazzo, in company with the French cruiser Edgar Quinet and the German light cruiser Breslau, taking part in an international demonstration in support of the Conference which was sitting at Scutari for the settlement of Albania.


When on July 27 the preliminary warning went out to all stations, a special clause was added for the Mediterranean directing Admiral Milne to return to Malta as arranged, and to remain there with his ships filled up with coal and stores. He was also to warn Admiral Troubridge to be ready to join him at any moment. He left accordingly next morning, and was well on his way to Malta when, in the evening of the 29th, he received the "Warning Telegram." Next day he was informed of the general situation and what he was to do in the case of war. Italy would probably be neutral, but he was not to get seriously engaged with the Austrian Fleet till her attitude was declared. His first task, he was told, should be to assist the French in transporting their African Army, and this he could do by taking up a covering position and endeavouring to bring to action any fast German ship, particularly the Goeben, which might try to interfere with the operation.


He was further told not to be brought to action in this stage against superior forces unless it was in a general engagement in which the French were taking part. In thus assuming the duty of assisting the French to protect their transports we went beyond our undertaking; yet, seeing how weak our Ally was at the moment in the Mediterranean, and how anxious we were to do all in our power for her at sea, the order was natural enough, but, as will be seen later, it had very regrettable consequences.


In order to carry out his instructions, Admiral Milne had reached Malta in the forenoon of July 30. On the previous day, when the "Warning Telegram" was issued, the Admiralty, with the concurrence of the Foreign office, had recalled Admiral Troubridge from Durazzo. Admiral Milne thus had his fleet well concentrated, and decided to keep it so till he had leave to consult the French Admiral. Considering it unsafe to spread his cruisers for the protection of the trade routes, he contented himself with detaching a single light cruiser, the Chatham (Captain Drury-Lowe), to watch the south entrance of the Strait of Messina. of this he informed the Admiralty next day (July 31). With this exception, by the following afternoon the whole Fleet was concentrated at Malta, filling up with coal and stores. The same morning Rear-Admiral Souchon, commanding the German Mediterranean Division, put into Brindisi with the Goeben and Breslau, and unknown to the British Admiral, began to coal there from four colliers that were awaiting his arrival.




By the time Admiral Milne had concentrated his fleet , received an order to detach one ship of the 1st Cruiser Squadron to Marseilles to embark Lord Kitchener, the Sirdar, nd some other officers, who were hurrying back to Egypt. Accordingly, the Black Prince left on August 1, but was recalled next day by wireless when it had been decided that Lord Kitchener should join the Cabinet as Secretary for War. The Admiral was also charged with the withdrawal of the British troops which had been guarding the Conference at Scutari, and for this purpose he chartered the P. & O. mail steamer, Osiris. Then in the afternoon came further orders which overrode the disposition he had decided on. Informing him that Italy would probably remain neutral, the new instructions directed that he was to remain at Malta himself, but to detach two battle cruisers to shadow the Goeben, and he was also to watch the approaches to the Adriatic with his cruisers and destroyers. The whereabouts of the Goeben and Breslau was uncertain. They were reported to be at Taranto or Messina, but the last trustworthy intelligence was of their coaling at Brindisi. Admiral Troubridge was therefore ordered to the southern approaches of the Adriatic with his own squadron (Defence, Warrior, Duke of Edinburgh), reinforced by the Indomitable and Indefatigable, and accompanied by the Gloucester and eight destroyers, the Chatham being directed to join him after searching the Strait of Messina and the south coast of Italy.


This was the position when, on August 2, our undertaking in regard to the Atlantic was given, and that evening authority was sent him to get into communication with the French Admiral. Admiral Milne, unable to get any response to his wireless calls all next day, sent away the Dublin in the evening with a letter to Bizerta in quest of his colleague. The fact was there had been a delay in getting the fleet to sea. By the time-table of the war plan it should have been covering the Algerian coasts by August 1, but so anxious, is said, were the French to avoid every chance of precipitating a conflict, that sailing orders were delayed till the last possible moment. Ashore, for the same reason, they had suffered no movement of troops within a certain distance of the German frontier. Whatever the real cause, it was not till daybreak on August 3 that Admiral de Lapeyrere put to sea with orders "to watch the German cruiser Goeben and protect the transport of the French African troops." (Sir F. Bertie to Foreign office, Paris, August 3, 6.50 p.m.) Thus both Admirals had the same principal object, but no co-ordination of their efforts had yet been possible, nor could anything further be arranged when, in the evening of the 4th, Admiral Milne received word through Malta that the British Government had presented an ultimatum to Germany which would expire at midnight.


In Berlin it had been decided at once to send no reply, and Sir Edward Goschen was taking his leave of the Chancellor. from Dr. von Bethmann Hollweg's agitation and voluble reproaches it was apparent enough how great was the shock of the German miscalculation. Face to face with the intangible, the almost mysterious power of the sea (for at that time it was not our army that counted), his fears found expression in inconsequent recrimination. In spite of the three clear warnings which he had ignored, he denounced our loyalty to the Belgian treaties as "unthinkable." For him it was a stab in the back upon a kindred nation and all for a word "neutrality" all for "a scrap of paper."


Brought up in the narrow school of German history, he knew not that that scrap of paper was the last consecration of a political tradition, centuries old, under which the sea power that he now saw cutting across the laborious German plans had gained the subtle influence he feared. It was always here in the Netherlands the borderland between Teutons and Latins that we had sought to use that influence so that neither race should dominate the other. To this cardinal fact in British history German eyes had been closed by the self-centred teaching of recent years, and the shock of the awakening was in proportion to the depth of the self-deception. That our honour in observing a solemn international compact was as deeply engaged as our national instinct was nothing: "At what price," he cried, "will that compact be kept? Has the British Government thought of that?" We had paid the price many times before and knew it well, as he should have been aware. In the Chancellor's strange appeal we can hear other words that more truly expressed his thought. "What will our blind miscalculation cost Germany ? How can we measure the power we have raised up against us? " The power of armies they could calculate to a nicety of the power of the sea they had no experience. All that was plain was that Great Britain was as ready as ever to play the old game, and had set the board with all the old skill.









When Admiral Jellicoe took over the command of the Grand Fleet it consisted of twenty Dreadnoughts, eight "King Edwards," four battle cruisers, two squadrons of cruisers and one of light cruisers, though a few units had not yet joined. (For organisation and details see Appendix B.) Like his colleague in the Mediterranean, he received notice of the ultimatum at sea. The signal was taken in about 5 p.m. on August 4, and having been informed that the movements laid down for covering the passage of the Expeditionary Force would not be required for the present, he carried on with his sweep in the North Sea. It was quickly evident the Germans were already trying to locate him, for a trawler was encountered with carrier pigeons. She was detained, and all other trawlers met with were searched. Several more were found next day, also with carrier pigeons. Some, after the removal of their crews, were sunk, and some sent in to Scapa or Cromarty. No commerce destroyers were seen, but, as afterwards appeared, one escaped him, and by hugging the coast of Norway got clear away into the Atlantic round the north of Iceland. She was the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse of the Norddeutscher Lloyd Company.


Her escape was due to the northern area being still short of its proper complement of cruisers, and particularly to the absence of the Northern Patrol. The 10th Cruiser Squadron which was to form it, being on a Third Fleet basis, had not been able to move till the mobilisation of the reserves was complete, and was only just leaving the Channel; while the 6th Cruiser Squadron (Drake, King Alfred, Good Hope, Leviathan), which was intended to fill the place of the 4th Squadron as an integral part of the Grand Fleet cruiser torce, had had to be diverted, as will appear directly, to other duties. The battleship force, however, was being reinforced. It had long been the intention, under certain conditions, that the "Duncans" of the 6th Battle Squadron should form part of the Grand Fleet. When the war telegram was sent out Admiral Jellicoe was asked if he wished to have them, and on his replying in the affirmative the Russell, Albemarle and Exmouth, which were all that were ready, were ordered to join him at once west-about.


Aug. 5, 1914



By noon on August 5 he reported his sweep complete, and he was then directed to keep his fleet to the northward so as to hold the entrance to the North Sea, unless there were tactical reasons against his doing so. Accordingly, as there were reports of a German submarine base being established in the Norwegian Fjords, and also of a number of merchant ships arming at the Lofoten Islands, he directed the 2nd and Light Cruiser Squadrons to make a sweep up the Norwegian coast, and continued his battle squadron at sea in support.


In the lower part of the North Sea a complementary sweep had been carried out by what was soon to be known as the Southern Force. At present it was organically part of the Grand Fleet, and was nominally under Admiral Jellicoe's orders. Based at Harwich, it consisted of the 1st and 3rd Destroyer Flotillas under Commodore Tyrwhitt and the "oversea" submarines under Commodore Keyes, and they had for their support some of the 7th Cruiser Squadron old armoured ships of the "Bacchante " type under Rear-Admiral Campbell. The sweep on this occasion had been planned by Commodore Tyrwhitt, and, as he expected, it led quickly to an encounter. Leaving Harwich at dawn on August 5, with the Bacchante, Aboukir and Euryalus in support, he himself in the Amethyst, with two submarines, proceeded to look into Heligoland Bight, which he found protected by a cordon of trawlers fitted with wireless.


While the 1st Destroyer Flotilla swept up the Dutch coast, Captain C. H. Fox in the Amphion followed with the 3rd Flotilla. He had not gone far before he encountered the first sign of the ruthlessness with which Germany was to conduct the war. A stray trawler informed him there was a suspicious vessel in the vicinity " throwing things overboard twenty miles north-east of the Outer Gabbard." While the flotilla spread in search, two destroyers, Lance and Landrail, were sent ahead to investigate the spot. About 11 a.m. they sighted the minelayer Koenigin Luise, which had left Borkum the previous night. (The movements of the Koenigin Luise are detailed in a letter of one of her crew found in a bottle on the scene of action.) A hot chase ensued in which the Amphion joined; by noon they had sunk her by gun-fire, and so we drew first blood.


Aug. 6, 1914



The crew of the sunken ship were taken on board the Amphion and the sweep was continued without further incident, till the return. Then there was another tale to tell. In the early hours of the morning the Amphion had changed her course so as to avoid the minefield the enemy had been laying. But at 6.30 a.m. (August 6), just when she believed she was clear, a violent explosion shattered her. "Abandon ship" was promptly ordered, but almost immediately she struck another mine and went down so quickly that it was impossible to save all the crew. One officer and 150 men perished, as well as most of the prisoners from the Koenigin Luise.


Such was the immediate success of the policy of mining in international waters which Germany had chosen to adopt. The indications were that the minefield had been laid between 3 degrees E. long, and the Suffolk coast that is, right in the fairway regardless of neutrals and of all the time-honoured customs of the sea. It was the first opening of our eyes to the kind of enemy we had to deal with, and yet so inhuman did the practice appear in the eyes of our seamen that as yet there was no thought of retaliation in kind. The flotillas were promptly ordered back to Harwich, and the cruisers to the Downs, while immediate steps were taken to clear the suspected area. The Admiralty also thought it expedient to order the Admiral of Patrols to patrol the coast day and night to prevent further minelaying operations. They thus began under pressure of the enemy's insidious form of attack to break into the sound system of coast defence which the War Plans had provided. That system was based on concentration of flotillas at well chosen points, a system which could not be adhered to if continuous coastwise patrols were to be maintained.


The incident, moreover, could only add to the Commander-in-Chief's anxiety for his base, especially as by the second day of the war it was fairly clear the enemy had located him. Not only had more trawlers with pigeons been overhauled, but several ships were reporting periscopes, and though no attack was made there was every reason to believe the fleet was being shadowed by the enemy's submarines. If they proceeded further the consequences might obviously be very serious.


Since the order to hold the north-about route had compelled him to recall the battle cruisers and the 3rd Cruiser Squadron to his flag, the Orkneys and Shetlands had been left uncovered, and he pressed the Admiralty to send him the 6th Cruiser Squadron and the Invincible, which he had been led to expect. But the exigencies of commerce protection stood in the way. A dominating factor in pre-war


Aug. 4-7, 1914



studies had always been the fear of a food panic in the first weeks, and in many parts of the country it was showing signs of development. At almost any cost, therefore, it was essential if only for the moral effects to prevent captures on the food routes, and so serious was the tension that rumours of enemy ships being upon them were perhaps too easily credited. The result was that the 6th Squadron was scattered in all directions.


The Drake had gone out to meet the Carmania from New York and bring her in. The Leviathan, which had been ordered to take station 500 miles west of the Fastnet, was suddenly ordered to the Azores on rumours of enemy cruisers and colliers being there. The Good Hope, on the point of sailing for Scapa, was hurried away to the south of Newfoundland on a liner's report that German merchant cruisers were working on the trade route there. The King Alfred was not ready for sea, and as for the Invincible she was to go to Queenstown to stand by for chasing any of the enemy's battle cruisers that might break out into the Atlantic. In the end the Drake was the only ship that could be sent, and she went up as soon as she returned.


Meanwhile, however, on August 6 Admiral de Chair, Commanding the 10th Cruiser Squadron, appeared with his six "Edgars," and after sweeping round the Orkneys proceeded to establish the Northern Patrol in the latitude of the Shetlands. Admiral Jellicoe thus had the rest of his cruisers free; and for the protection of his undefended anchorage, as the eight destroyers he had were insufficient for the duties of harbour defence and sweeping the approaches, four more were sent him from the Tyne Patrol Flotilla. This, then, was his position when, early on August 7, he put into Scapa to coal, and his first movement, the precursor of so many that were to prove equally disappointing, came to an end.


So far, except for the loss of the Amphion, all had gone well. No attack upon our commerce had taken place, and not a single loss had been reported on any of the routes, and the prearranged system for their protection was fast taking shape. During the afternoon of August 4 Admiral Wemyss had got his squadron to sea from Plymouth, and in the following forenoon Admiral Rouyer, who had been recalled from the Straits of Dover, joined him, and so completed the combined Western Patrol. (Admiral Rouyer had with him Marseillaise (flag), Gloire (flag of Rear-Admiral Le Cannellier), Admiral Aube, Jeanne d'Arc, Dupetit Thouars, Gueydon, Desaix, Kleber (all armoured cruisers), and the light cruiser Lavoisier).


 In the mid-Atlantic areas, through which passed the great routes from the Mediterranean, the Cape and South America, the dispositions were not made


Aug. 1-4, 1914



without difficulty and much anxiety. To the southern or Cape Verde-Canaries station was assigned the 5th Cruiser Squadron under Rear-Admiral Stoddart; while the northern Finisterre station was to be occupied by Rear-Admiral de Robeck with the 9th Cruiser Squadron. (Fifth Cruiser Squadron: Carnarvon (flag), Cornwall, Cumberland, Monmouth. Ninth Cruiser Squadron: Europa (flag), Amphitrite, Argonaut, Vindictive, Highflyer, Challenger. See Map 2 in case.)


But as this squadron was on a "Third Fleet" basis it was necessary for Admiral Stoddart to occupy both areas till it could be mobilised. He also had instructions to detach one of his fastest cruisers to join the Glasgow on the South American station, since she was the only ship we had on that part of the route. His general instructions, in order to expedite the occupation of his station, were that he should consider the protection of our own trade as taking precedence of attacking that of the enemy, and he was therefore to regard " interference with unarmed merchant ships not carrying contraband as of minor importance." If any such vessels were seized he was to send them in with a prize crew, or " in extreme cases " they might be sunk.


It was on July 31, two days after the "Warning Telegram," when it was known that Germany had refused to give an undertaking to respect Belgian neutrality, that he got away alone in the Carnarvon. He was to go to Gibraltar and await orders, but now that war seemed inevitable his instructions were changed. The German light cruiser Strassburg was known to be in his area, and had last been reported in the Azores. He was therefore directed to proceed along the trade route towards Madeira to get into communication with four important ships which were on their way home from the Cape and South America. Going down Channel, however, he met the Strassburg hurrying home in response to the general recall which the Germans had issued a few days before. The two ships passed each other without saluting and carried on.


During the next two days the Cumberland and Cornwall followed him down, and by August 3 he had communicated with the vessels he had been sent to warn. Orders then reached him to carry on down the trade route, as two German cruisers had been reported at Las Palmas in the Canaries. The report was but one of the rumours which some of our own and our Allies' consuls kept sending in with too little verification, and which did much to hamper our commerce protection arrangements in the early days of the war. The wonder is that they did not cause more mischief than they did. In this case a serious deflection resulted. The report made the French keenly anxious for the safety of their transport


Aug. 4-9, 1914



line from Casablanca, where they were about to move some of their Morocco troops to France, and they begged our assistance in protecting it. The area should have been guarded by their Mediterranean Fleet, but these ships were fully occupied with covering the main line of passage from Algeria, and since we regarded it as a paramount obligation of our Navy to safeguard the French military concentration, the Cornwall, instead of joining Admiral Stoddart, had to be detached for the duty.


The call was a severe one. The Monmouth was still in dockyard hands, and none of Admiral de Robeck' s ships had yet reached their station. The Spanish and Portuguese ports were full of German ships - some sixty of them all using their wireless actively, and any of them, as we believed, might be arming as commerce destroyers. In particular, there were two Norddeutscher Lloyd steamers, the Prinz Heinrich at Lisbon and the Goeben at Vigo, both apparently on the point of coming out to operate, and Admiral de Robeck's squadron could not be in place for some days.


He himself in the Vindictive had left Plymouth on August 4, with the Highflyer, but on his way down he had stopped the Tubantia, an afterwards famous Dutch liner, with German gold and reservists on board, and the Highflyer had to be sent back with her. Thus, owing to our devotion to French interests, which were paramount at the time, we had at the critical moment not a single ship on the Peninsula coasts. But, so far from Germany using the opportunity as she might have done, Admiral de Robeck was doing all the attacking. A hundred and twenty miles north of Cape Ortegal he captured the Norddeutscher Lloyd Schlesien and sent her in to Plymouth with a prize crew. On August 7 he was off Vigo, where he induced the port authorities to remove the wireless installation from the S.S. Goeben and the German cable ship Stephan, which was suspected of being after our cables. The Highflyer, when she rejoined, was sent to Lisbon, and on August 9 she was able to report that the Prinz Heinrich would not be allowed to leave if she had arms on board, and that the Portuguese authorities had dismantled the wireless of twenty-six other German vessels that were in the inner harbour.


The impotence of the Germans while their chance lasted is remarkable, and is perhaps only to be explained by their being wholly unprepared for finding us an active enemy. Their inability to recover from the surprise was no doubt due in some measure to the promptitude with which we had dealt with their cables. It was a subject to which special attention had been given in preparing the War Book.


Aug. 5-13, 1914



The lines of the most immediate importance were the five German cables which from Emden passed through the Channel to Vigo, Tenerife and the Azores, and as early as the summer of 1912 arrangements had been made for their being cut by the Post office, with Naval assistance, as soon as the Admiralty gave the word. When the Warning Telegram went out the Admiralty settled with the War office what enemy cables should be cut, and the issue of the request to the Post office on a Priority Form was one of the steps which followed automatically upon the "War Telegram." At Dover everything stood ready to act; the order came down from the Admiralty in due course, and on August 5, when the Germans could think of nothing more effective than their mining venture with the Koenigin Luise, all five cables were cut.


The difficulties in the way of the enemy organising an attack on our commerce where it was most vulnerable were thus very great, and by the end of the first week of the war their opportunity in this area had passed away. Two more ships, the Argonaut and Sutlej, had joined Admiral de Robeck; by August 13 he had a firm grip on his station from Finisterre to Gibraltar, and French and British trade, which hitherto had been held up in Spanish and Portuguese ports, began to move again in freedom and security. Even across the Bay, where there was a gap between his squadron and that of Admiral Wemyss at the mouth of the Channel, there was little or no danger, for one of Admiral de Robeck's ships was almost continually upon the route on her way to or from his main coaling base at Plymouth.


Only the southern section about Madeira was beyond his reach as yet, and this had to be left to Admiral Stoddart. But for this he could now spare the Cornwall, for on August 7 he was informed that the French were sending three cruisers, Bruix, Latouche-Treville and Amiral Charner, to guard the Casablanca transport line, and two light cruisers, Cosmao and Cassard, as a permanent patrol for the Morocco coast under the orders of the British Admiral. On August 8 he himself, with the Carnarvon and Cumberland, had reached Las Palmas, having found, after searching the Salvage and Canary islands, that all the wild reports of German cruisers and German bases were false. Not a single British ship ship had been molested, while German trade was at an absolute standstill. By August 13 the Monmouth had arrived, and so he was able to dispatch her, as being the fastest ship of his squadron, to the vital Pernambuco area, while he himself completed the occupation of his station by carrying on down to Cape Verde. For it was here at St. Vincent Island that, according to his instructions, his " principal position " was to be, with Sierra Leone for his coaling base.


July, 1914



On the other side of the Atlantic the difficulties of the opening were no less great and the results less fortunate. Though by organisation it was one station known as the " West Atlantic," strategically it comprised two areas, the West Indies and North America, and while all the cruisers that we or the enemy had were in the southern section, the gravest anxieties of the Government lay in the northern one. As we have seen, we had in the West Indies, under Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock, the 4th Cruiser Squadron, consisting of four 23-knot "county" cruisers and one 25-knot light cruiser. (Fourth Cruiser Squadron: Suffolk (flag), Lancaster, Essex, Berwick, all of 9,800 tons with fourteen 6" guns, and Bristol of 4,800 tons, with two 6" and ten 4" guns.)


 The French maintained there one old light cruiser, Descartes, but in view of the Mexican troubles they had recently sent a larger and more modern ship, the Conde.




Trial Speed.


Conde (1904)



2 7.6"; 8 6.5"; 6 3.9".

Descartes (1896)



4 6.5"; 10 3.9".


Germany, as it happened, also had two. Her interests on the Mexican coast were being watched by the Dresden. She was under the orders of Rear-Admiral Paul von Hintze, the German Envoy to Mexico, with whom Admiral Cradock had been acting in cordial co-operation. When, indeed, on July 17 it was decided that the Dresden should remove the family of the ex-President to Jamaica, he offered to place his cruisers at Admiral von Hintze's disposal for the protection of German interests, and for "the marked generosity which dictated this noble act," he received a glowing letter of thanks from the German Admiral emphasising the excellent relations and good comradeship which happily existed between the two navies. In his letter Admiral von Hintze spoke of the Dresden's temporary absence on a special mission, but in fact she was on the point of being relieved by the Karlsruhe.




Designed Speed:


Dresden (1908)



10 4.1"

Karlsruhe (1914)



12 4.1"


The two ships were to meet at Kingston, Jamaica, to exchange captains, but as there were reports of trouble at Haiti the Karlsruhe was ordered to Port-au-Prince. On the way she passed the Berwick coming back from there, and the two captains exchanged friendly compliments. The Dresden, after dropping the family of the Mexican ex-President at Kingston, went on to Port-au-Prince,


July 25-30, 1914



and there on July 25 Captain Kohler of the Dresden took over the Karlsruhe. Next day he sailed for Havana, while two days later the Dresden proceeded to St. Thomas to coal. This Danish island was practically the German base on the station, and since it was the West Indian headquarters of the Hamburg-Amerika Line, it was well adapted for the purpose. It is further to be noted that the island is a focal point for the trade from South-east America to New York and the American cotton ports. It had, therefore, a special importance in the eyes of our Admiral on the station.


But it was for the northern section of the station that the Admiralty was most gravely concerned; for although there were no enemy cruisers there, the United States ports, and especially New York, were full of great liners capable of being converted into the most formidable commerce destroyers, and the route they frequented was our all-important line of food supply from Canada and North America. This, moreover, was the route which lay most exposed to hostile cruisers breaking out of the North Sea, and consequently in pre-war studies it had received special attention. For its protection, as we have seen, the Admiralty had drawn on the 6th Cruiser Squadron, which was one of those belonging to the Grand Fleet. But this was only a temporary measure till Admiral Cradock's squadron could be permanently increased. Meanwhile he had to do the best he could with the slender force at his disposal.


When, on July 27, the preliminary warning reached him at Vera Cruz, neither of the German cruisers was on the coast. His intelligence was that the Dresden had arrived at Port-au-Prince in Haiti on the 25th, and that the Karlsruhe had left that port next day for an unknown destination. He therefore ordered the Berwick (Captain Clinton Baker) to proceed to Jamaica as a good central position for shadowing her. The Essex was sent to join the Lancaster, which was docking at Bermuda, and together they were to look after the North American routes. He himself in the Suffolk remained at Vera Cruz, with the Bristol, to wait for the "Warning Telegram," when he intended to proceed to Haiti in order to shadow the Dresden, and to send the Bristol down to Pernambuco to work with the Glasgow.


However, as Admiral Stoddart was sending a cruiser there, he was relieved of this part of his duty, and on the 30th was told he might keep all his force for the rest of his station. The two French cruisers were not available. Together with the Friant at St. John's, they had been called home, and he himself had passed them the order.


July 28-Aug. 3, 1914



On the 29th it was known that the Karlsruhe had put into Havana, and thither the Berwick hurried at full speed, but only to find her gone again, no one knew where. (See Map, p. 50) She had, in fact, arrived on the 28th, intending to coal and carry on to Mexico; but hearing that Austria had declared war on Serbia, Captain Kohler decided to wait a day. Next day news came in that relations were seriously strained between the Central and Entente Powers. As he believed the French and British ships to be concentrated at Vera Cruz, he thought it best to give up the idea of going there, and to await events in the vicinity of Havana. In the morning of the 30th he put to sea, and being in wireless touch with the shore station, he next morning received his Warning Telegram. He knew the Bristol had been detached, and now fully expected the Berwick would also be on his track. So when on August 1 he heard she was at Havana, and at the same time got the order to mobilise, he had no doubt of what was coming.


Meanwhile the Berwick, finding him gone, had coaled and made off to the Florida Channel as the most likely place to fall in with him. Though the Karlsruhe remained somewhere out of sight near Havana, Captain Clinton Baker's move was well judged. By August 3 Captain Kohler knew that war had broken out with Russia and France. He was then near the spot where, in 1870, the comic opera duel between the Meteor and Bouvet had come to an ignominious end by both ships drifting helpless into territorial waters and being towed into Havana; but in the lapse of years the incident had been nurtured into a legend of victory in the German Navy, and the coincidence was taken as a happy omen.


Being convinced that war with Britain would follow in a few hours, he decided to move nearer the great American trade route, where he intended to strike his first blows. Accordingly, after steaming a false course to the westward, he doubled back east for Plana Cays, near Crooked Island in the Bahamas, in order to lie concealed there away from all steamer tracks and await developments. (The main authorities for the Karlsruhe's movements are (1) Aust.: Die Kriegsfahrten S.M.S. Karlsruhe, and (2) S.M.S. Karlsruhe, by her First officer (Studt.). While hiding at Plana Cays the Karlsruhe received the Wireless Press telegram twice a day from Sayville (New York), and also the War Telegram from the Admiralstab at Berlin.)


As for the Dresden, all that was known was that she had left Port-au-Prince on the 28th, and in the next few days, as war became more and more inevitable, anxiety for the North Atlantic trade rapidly increased. Out of the large number of German liners in New York and the adjacent ports, no


Aug. 3-6, 1914



less than fourteen were on our list as being fitted for conversion into commerce destroyers, and furthermore, our wireless station in Newfoundland and other centres reported both the Dresden and Karlsruhe in those waters. The Essex had been able to leave Bermuda for the north at midnight on August 2-3, but the Lancaster was still there in dockyard hands, and Admiral Cradock, who had reached Jamaica, was directed by the Admiralty to send up another cruiser for Newfoundland waters. The Bristol had joined him, and as she was no longer required for the Pernambuco area, he ordered her northward. All this time the Berwick, working up the Florida Channel, was getting indications that the Karlsruhe was near her. She herself kept quiet till, in the early hours of August 4, she was directed to jam the Karlsruhe's signals.


This she did, and, on information received from one of the United Fruit Company's steamers, began to search the anchorages near the Great Isaac Light; that is, at the point where the N.W. Providence Channel enters the Florida Strait. During the afternoon the Admiral received from the Admiralty an appreciation that the danger point of his station appeared to be in the vicinity of New York, and that our trade had been advised not to sail till some of his cruisers arrived. As the Essex was the only ship near the spot, he himself at once left Jamaica in the Suffolk for the north.


This, then, was the position when, at 7.30 p.m. (local time) on August 4, he received the war telegram. The German Government may have sent out theirs some hours earlier, for the Karlsruhe got it in the afternoon, and was able to open her sealed orders. She was still lying concealed at Plana Cays, some 400 miles south-east of where the Berwick was looking for her, and at once left her hiding place on a northerly course. About the same time Admiral Cradock heard definitely from the Admiralty that the Dresden was off New York, though, in fact, she was off the Amazon, running away south to join Admiral von Spee in the Pacific.


More trustworthy news he got from the Berwick, who on the evening of the 5th, having passed through the Providence Channel to search Cat Island, could hear the Karlsruhe calling up a ship which she took to be the Friedrich der Grosse, one of the German liners in New York; but in fact she was the Kronprinz Wilhelm, with whom Captain Kohler was arranging rendezvous in order to arm her as a consort. Feeling he could now leave the Karlsruhe to the Berwick, the Admiral held on to the northward for Bermuda. Next morning, the 6th, he was abreast of Watling Island and in wireless touch


Aug. 6, 1914



with the Bristol, which was nearly 400 miles ahead of him, making for Newfoundland. The Karlsruhe could still be heard. The rendezvous she had fixed for the Kronprinz Wilhelm was, in fact, right on the track the Admiral was following, and at 11 a.m., 120 miles north-east of Watling Island, he saw her, apparently coaling, not from the Friedrich der Grosse but from the Kronprinz Wilhelm, the last German liner to get away from New York before war was declared.


The process of arming her with two 3-4" guns was just finished, and although she had only had time to take in one-third of her ammunition, the two ships separated, the Kronprinz going off north-north-eastwards and the Karlsruhe north. To her the Admiral gave chase, calling to the Bristol to intercept her, and also giving the news to the Berwick. That ship, however, was then searching the vicinity of Windward Passage on her way back to Jamaica to coal, but the Bristol at once turned south at full speed and continued to steer for the Karlsruhe as the Admiral indicated her position. For him it was soon apparent the chase must be a long one. The Karlsruhe had a knot or so the advantage of the Suffolk, but the Admiral could still hope he might get his chance when the Bristol headed her off, and to improve the position he signalled the Berwick to proceed to a rendezvous sixty miles north-east of Mariguana Island in case the chase should double back and try to get away by the Caicos Passage.


By nightfall, though there was plenty of moonlight, the Karlsruhe had gained so much as to get out of sight, but it was only to fall foul of the Bristol. At 8.15 p.m. Captain Fanshawe, as he ran south, could make out the German cruiser right under the moon three and a half points on his port bow. She was steering north, only six miles away, but being as yet unable to see the Bristol she held on. Hopes naturally beat high for Captain Fanshawe it was a splendid position, and to make the best of it he turned seven points to port so as to bring his starboard battery to bear and to cut across the enemy's course.


The range was falling rapidly, and when it was down to 7,000 yards the Bristol opened fire. The Karlsruhe then woke up, immediately replied and turned sharply to the eastward, bringing the Bristol abaft her beam. For a time they held on thus on parallel courses in the moonlight. As the superior speed of the Karlsruhe began to tell, the range was opening out again till she had gained enough and could turn to port to cross the Bristol's bows. To counter the manoeuvre the Bristol had to alter to north-east by east, and in a few minutes


Aug. 6-7, 1914



more the Karlsruhe seized her chance to turn away to south-east and made off, hidden in her cloud of smoke. Thus, as with the Suffolk, she was able to set the Bristol a stern chase. Had the British ship been able to develop her proper speed it would have been by no means hopeless. Nominally the Karlsruhe had less than a knot's advantage, but in spite of all she could do the Bristol's speed kept falling. It was down at last to eighteen knots instead of twenty-four, and by 10.30 p.m the Karlsruhe had run out of sight but not out of danger.


When three hours earlier Admiral Cradock lost sight of her he had turned to the eastward to cut her off if the Bristol drove her south, and he was now only about twenty miles to the westward of the chase. Hearing from the Bristol what the enemy's course was, he turned to about S.S.E., while the Karlsruhe, finding she had too little coal left to reach St. Thomas only, indeed, just enough to take her direct to Puerto Rico at economical speed dropped to twelve knots and made for that port as being the nearest one at which she could safely re-fuel. The course of the two ships diverged slightly at first, but shortly after 3.0 a.m. Admiral Cradock inclined to the south-eastward, and at daylight altered to the eastward straight across the course the Karlsruhe was taking. At this time Captain Kohler could hear the wireless of the British cruisers obviously converging upon him, but his lack of coal allowed of no divergence of his course, and those on board fully expected the end would come with full daylight. In fact, when Admiral Cradock turned to cross her course he was only twenty miles to the westward, with the chase on his port bow. Shortly after 8.0 a.m. he must have passed astern of her, only just out of sight. With the luck a few minutes more on his side he must have caught her, and she had no longer coal enough to run away from him. The judgment he showed surely deserved better fortune, but as it was he missed her by a bare sea chance.


Even so she was not yet clear of the trap he had set. After her narrow escapes from the Suffolk and the Bristol, she continued her course direct for Puerto Rico at economic speed, but her relief at finding no ship in sight as the sun rose was short-lived. As she proceeded she began to hear the Berwick. This ship, it will be recalled, after her search of the Bahamas had been making for Jamaica to coal, when she was ordered by Admiral Cradock to try to intercept the chase, and she at once made north-eastward from the Windward Passage. Though the indications of her presence came closer and closer, take Karlsruhe dared not venture either to increase speed or a circuitous course; but when escape seemed impossible,


Aug. 7-12, 1914



the calls began to grow weaker, for the Berwick, after running out nearly across her course, turned back to the westward for a further examination of the southern Bahamas. So the Karlsruhe got through, and by daybreak on August 9 put into Puerto Rico with only twelve tons in her bunkers.


The affair added one more to the long list of proofs that for commerce protection armament without speed is of little avail. Without the speed a decision cannot be counted on the enemy may be disturbed and forced to seek other hunting ground, but that is all, and in this case so much was gained. The intention obviously was for the Karlsruhe to make a dash at the main Atlantic routes, and this Admiral Cradock was able to prevent.


Captain Kohler's intention was now to raid some of the British and French West Indian Ports, but at Puerto Rico he could not obtain coal enough for the venture. On August 4 three, if not four, colliers had sailed from Newport News and St. Thomas to find him, but he had been driven away from the rendezvous. His only course was to seek fuel elsewhere. To St. Thomas he dared not go, as it was too notorious a coaling place. The only other possibility was the distant Dutch island of Curacao. By taking in all the coal he could lay hands on, he found he had just enough to bring him there, and at night he stole out again, and picking his way through the difficult Virgin Passage, as Drake had done before him, he reached the Dutch port without further adventure at dawn on August 12.


Meanwhile, in the absence of definite intelligence, Admiral Cradock could not regard the North Atlantic trade routes as safe. He had therefore hurried on to Bermuda, capturing on his way the German oil-tanker Leda. At Bermuda he found the two French cruisers, and learned that the day after we had declared war the French Government had cancelled their recall and placed them under his orders. This relieved his anxiety for the southern area, for he was able to send the Conde to watch the entrance of the Gulf of Mexico, with Jamaica for her base, and the Descartes to patrol the Caribbean Sea from St. Lucia. He also heard that two German liners, the Vaterland and Barbarossa, were ready to sail from New York, and as he could not yet be sure the Karlsruhe had not doubled back to the northward, he hurried on to take the Bristol's place off Sandy Hook. His presence in the north was the more necessary as Canadian rumours placed a hostile cruiser in the Cabot Strait, where the Lancaster had been watching till she was obliged to leave in



Plan - Escape of Karlsruhe and Dresden

(click plan for near original-sized image)



Aug. 12-14, 1914



order to coal. The Ottawa Navy Department also believed the Germans were bent on establishing a base at Miquelon and St. Pierre Islands, and all local shipping had been held up. By the 13th, however, the situation was cleared by definite intelligence that both the Dresden (right - Maritime Quest) and Karlsruhe were to the southward. On the 12th the S.S. Drumcliffe reported she had been stopped by the Dresden off the Amazon, and next day the Karlsruhe was located at Curacao.


Admiral Cradock being thus assured that the northern route was safe for the time, went on to Halifax to coal. Here he met the Good Hope, which had been sent out during the first period of anxiety as a temporary reinforcement for the trade route; she was being followed by the battleship Glory, and also by the armed merchant-cruiser Carmania, which was to be a permanent addition to the station.


At Halifax the Admiral received an enthusiastic welcome, which was given practical demonstration by the citizens assisting to coal his flagship. There was, in fact, an intense relief throughout the area. Not a single German liner had ventured to put to sea since the Kronprinz Wilhelm left just before the declaration of war, and the Admiralty's attention was now shifted to the southern area. The Admiral was asked if he could not reinforce that section of his command, and his reply was that he could if he might keep the Good Hope. A ship of her speed was essential for dealing with the two German cruisers, and although she had only just been commissioned and was still quite a raw ship, he proposed to shift his flag to her and go down himself. This the Admiralty approved, and he accordingly sailed, leaving Captain Yelverton of the Suffolk in command of the northern area, where he would have under his command the Essex, Lancaster and Carmania, with the Glory as supporting ship.


So by August 14, less than ten days after the declaration of war, the northern trade routes were completely secured, and on that day, in response to an inquiry from Paris, the Admiralty could report, "The passage across the Atlantic is safe. British trade is running as usual."


This, contrary to universal expectation, was true of all routes and it was due not only to the skill and rapidity with which the Admiralty had handled their not too adequate force of cruisers, but also to the courage of the merchants and owners. To them a large share of the credit is due. There had long been a doubt whether, when war should come, they would face the risks of the early days. If they did the Admiralty had no fear but what they could reduce the losses to an insignificant percentage. If they would not, nothing the Navy could do would prevent a serious shortage of supplies. The position had been placed frankly before the Chambers of Commerce during peace, and now in the partnership between navy and merchant shipping the owners played their hands with a boldness of which any nation might be proud. Except in areas where the Admiralty issued a special and temporary warning, there was practically no holding up of sailings, and the result was that the incipient food panic which threatened in the first days of the war died down before it had well shown its head.


This happy result was in a large measure due to the rapid completion and adoption of the reports of the two committees which had been appointed to supplement the preparatory work of the Co-ordination Sub-committee. It will be remembered that the Report of the Maintenance of Trade Committee recommending State Insurance had been reserved for further consideration, and no action was taken. But as soon as relations grew strained it became every day more obvious that, in the absence of some such expedient, British shipping would be brought to a standstill for a period, the duration of which could not be foreseen. Three days before war broke out action became imperative, and amongst other drastic and unprecedented measures which the Cabinet had the courage to take at this time was the adoption of the scheme in its entirety. The effect was immediate, and from the complications which would necessarily hamper our sea-borne trade the factor of an unsteady Insurance Market was practically eliminated.


It was a stroke of policy that required some boldness, but whatever its drawbacks it proved to have other advantages. By the power the Government retained of refusing re-insurance for routes that were dangerous or otherwise undesirable, it acquired a valuable control over the movement of shipping, which proved very effective in maintaining our own supplies and restricting those of the enemy.


The Diversion of Shipping Committee had also just completed the investigation of another difficulty that is, how to cope with the probable congestion of our western and southern ports owing to ships avoiding ports in the North Sea, and to get over it they had ready a detailed scheme for ascertaining the daily position as regards accommodation and for notifying ship-owners and merchants accordingly. This committee sat at the Admiralty under the chairmanship of Vice-Admiral Sir E. J. W. Slade, so that there was immediately available machinery for giving effect to the measures recommended, and the functions of the committee for assisting the flow and




safety of trade could be enlarged as experience was gained. Closely affiliated to the Trade Division of the War Staff, they carried out the work with conspicuous smoothness and efficiency. But for the thoroughness with which these two precautions had been thought out and the prompt decision with which the Government enforced them it is probable that the movement of our trade would have been seriously disturbed and the food panic difficult to allay, no matter how prompt and well-directed our cruiser operations.








(See Maps 3 and 4 in case)


In the area of the Eastern Fleet the opening had been even more successful than in Home Waters and the Atlantic, but the operations in this theatre were so much entangled with combined expeditions that they can best be made clear at a later stage. It was only in the Mediterranean, where Admiral Souchon was in command of the Goeben and Breslau, that we had met with failure, and even there so little was its gravity recognised that generally it was regarded almost as a success. It will be recalled that the day after Admiral Milne had concentrated his force at Malta he had been ordered to detach Admiral Troubridge's squadron, with the Indefatigable, Indomitable, Gloucester and eight destroyers, to shadow the Goeben and watch the entrance to the Adriatic. The Chatham was to look into the Strait of Messina, and the Dublin had gone to Bizerta to get into touch with the French Admiral. About 1 a.m. on August 3, to give further precision to their orders, the Admiralty directed that the watch on the mouth of the Adriatic was to be maintained, but that the Goeben was the main objective, and she was to be shadowed wherever she went. Taking this as a repetition of the previous order which instructed him to remain near Malta himself, Admiral Milne stayed where he was and left the shadowing to Admiral Troubridge.


The whereabouts of the enemy was still uncertain. Circumstantial rumours told of their having arrived at Messina to coal, but by 8 a.m. the Chatham had run through the Strait and signalled they were not there. A report had also been received that there was a German collier at Majorca. Concluding, therefore, they must have gone west, and mindful that his primary object was to protect the French transport line, he ordered Admiral Troubridge to detach the Gloucester and his eight destroyers to watch the Adriatic, and with the rest of his force to proceed to the westward along the south coast of Sicily. In this way the Admiral did his best to reconcile his instructions to watch the Adriatic, to shadow the enemy's cruisers, not to be brought to action by superior force and to cover the French transports.


Aug. 3-4, 1914



An idea now arose at the Admiralty, owing perhaps to unprotected state of our trade routes, that the Goeben and Breslau were making for the Atlantic. Early in the afternoon a patrol was ordered to be set up at Gibraltar, and Admiral Milne decided to take up a station in the Malta Channel. Accordingly he gave orders for Admiral Troubridge to turn back for the entrance of the Adriatic with his own squadron, and for the two battle cruisers to carry on to a rendezvous twenty miles north-east of Valetta, where he would meet them. But at the Admiralty anxiety for the Atlantic trade routes had grown more insistent, and at 8.30 p.m. came an order for the two detached battle cruisers to proceed to the Strait of Gibraltar at high speed to prevent the Goeben leaving the Mediterranean. The Toulon Fleet had sailed at 4.0 that morning, and for over sixteen hours it had been making its way at twelve knots towards the Algerian coast, where it would bar any such attempt on the part of the Germans. But we had not then sent our ultimatum, and organised connection between the British and French Admiralties had not yet been established. Consequently, the departure of the Toulon Fleet for the Algerian coast was not known to Admiral Milne till about noon on August 4, after the Dublin had reached Bizerta. Our Admiralty were informed sooner, but not till late on the night of the 3rd, through the Foreign office. Nor was it till next evening that it was known from Paris that the transportation of the troops was not to begin at once, owing to the presence of the German ships. Consequently, they had to play up to the French hand as best they could, and Admiral Milne gave orders accordingly. Recalling the Chatham, who had reported nothing on the north coast of Sicily, he himself remained during the 3rd in the Malta Channel with the Weymouth, Hussar and three destroyers, while the two battle cruisers hurried off to the westward under Captain Kennedy of the Indomitable.


Though Admiral Souchon had gone west having left the Straits ahead of the Chatham it was not for Gibraltar he made. He was, in fact, making a dash at Bona and Philippeville to hamper the transport of the Eastern Division of the Nineteenth Army Corps. Of what his ultimate destination was to be he as yet knew nothing; the probability was either Gibraltar or the Adriatic. Orders were hourly expected.


Aug. 4, 1914


About 6.0 p.m. he heard that war had been declared, and three hours later off the south coast of Sardinia the two ships separated, the Goeben making for Philippeville and the Breslau for Bona. At midnight his orders reached him. Their nature seems to have been entirely unexpected, for they directed the two ships to proceed to Constantinople.


During the 3rd it would seem some kind of an arrangement had been made at Berlin on which it was assumed that he would be permitted to enter the Dardanelles. Long afterwards it became known that on the following day the Kaiser informed the Greek Minister that an alliance had been concluded between Germany and Turkey, and that the German warships in the Mediterranean were to join the Turkish Fleet and act in concert. This statement would appear to have been at least premature. Whatever may have been arranged with the Young Turk leaders, events went to show the Turkish Government was no party to it.


Though the new orders to Admiral Souchon were marked " of extreme urgency," he did not take them to cancel the enterprise in hand, and he carried on. At daybreak (August 4) both ports were subjected to a short bombardment. Some damage was done to the railway stations, and at Philippeville a magazine was blown up, but that was all. Nowhere were the troops embarking as had been intended. By the French Staff plan they should have been on their way in transports, sailing singly and unescorted under cover of the whole fleet operating to the eastward, but when on August 2 the Goeben was reported near Bizerta, Admiral de Lapeyrere stopped the movement and informed the Minister he must now proceed to form convoys. After firing fifteen rounds Admiral Souchon left to rejoin the Breslau. His idea was first to proceed westward to give the impression that he intended to quit the Mediterranean. The two ships were then to meet at a rendezvous to the northward, and thence run back to the eastward.


Whether or not his intention was to make straight for the Dardanelles is unknown. It was possible; for a collier had been sent to Cape Matapan in the Morea to meet him. As a further precaution to escape observation, the course he took for the Levant lay between the two main trade routes. But here he was outwitted. For the result of the effort to evade was that he ran straight into the two British battle cruisers as they were hurrying westward. It was just after


Aug. 4, 1914



10.30 a m , some fifty miles westward of Galita Island, when the Indomitable sighted the two German cruisers coming eastward. The Goeben was seen at once to alter course to port, and Captain Kennedy altered to starboard in order to close, but the Goeben promptly turned away, and in a few minutes the two ships were passing each other on opposite courses at 8 000 yards. Guns were kept trained fore and aft, but neither side saluted, and after passing, Captain Kennedy led round in a wide circle and proceeded to shadow the Goeben, with his two ships on either quarter. The Breslau made off to the northward and disappeared, and early in the afternoon could be heard calling up the Cagliari wireless station.


By the time the Admiralty heard the Goeben had been found the decision was being taken to send an ultimatum to Germany. Two hours before it went out they begged authority to order the battle cruisers to engage the Goeben if she attacked the French transports. That Bona had been bombarded was already known, and the authority was granted, subject to fair warning being given, but the message did not reach Admiral Milne till 5 p.m. At 2.5 p.m. word was sent him that the ultimatum had gone out, to expire at midnight, and he was told that this telegram cancelled the permission to attack the Goeben. This had not yet reached him, and it did not affect the situation.


Indeed, even before the permission came to hand, it was clear the Goeben, fresh from her overhaul, was getting away from our comparatively slow ships, which had not been in dock for some time and whose engine-rooms were understaffed. In her efforts to escape it is said she did two knots over her official speed, while the Indomitable could not reach her best. Captain Kennedy then ordered the Indefatigable and the Dublin, which had joined the chase from Bizerta, to carry on. Still the Goeben gained, and as the hours of our ultimatum were expiring only the Dublin had her in sight. Then she, too, lost the enemy, but found her again about 5 p.m., with the Breslau in company. She asked if she might engage the light cruiser, but the answer was " No! " and an order to continue shadowing.


Exasperating as it was to miss so good a chance just as the sands were running out, our ships were well disposed for trapping the enemy at Messina. It was Captain Kennedy's intention to hold off for the night so as not to give away his position to observers on the Sicilian coast. During the dark hours he meant to form a patrol in case the enemy should break back and then close in so that at 4 a.m. he would be off Messina, But this he was not permitted to do,


Aug. 4-5, 1915


for at the moment a political difficulty arose which could not be ignored and materially altered the strategical outlook. At 7 p.m. when Captain Kennedy was disposing his ships for closing the northern exit from the Straits, Admiral Milne received a message from the Admiralty to say that Italy had declared neutrality, and that in accordance with the terms of the declaration no ship was to go within six miles of her coast. The declaration, therefore, seemed to bar Messina to both belligerents, and implicitly forbade any of his ships entering the Straits. It at least confirmed the impression that Admiral Souchon would go west, and on this supposition Admiral Milne made his dispositions for the night. The two detached battle cruisers, instead of carrying on to Messina, were to steer west at slow speed, the intention being that, as both of them wanted coaling, Bizerta should be used. The Dublin was to keep in touch, but she soon lost the chase, and about 10.0, being then off Cape San Vito, she turned to the westward and received an order to rejoin the Indomitable in the morning. The Admiral took station off Valetta, with the Chatham and Weymouth watching on either side of Pantellaria. Admiral Troubridge was patrolling between Cephalonia and Cape Colonne in the heel of Italy, but with his cruiser squadron and the Gloucester only, for about midday, when Admiral Milne knew that war was imminent, he had ordered him to send the flotilla to Malta to coal.


Though the news of the ultimatum was sent off at 2 p.m., it did not reach Admiral Milne till 7.0. An hour and a half later he issued a new general order which was dominated by his original charge to cover the French transport line. The destroyers were turned back to the Greek coast and coal was to be sent to meet them, but there was considerable delay in getting the colliers away. Admiral Troubridge was to detach the Gloucester to watch the southern entrance of the Strait of Messina, and with his squadron to stand fast where he was, taking care not to get seriously engaged with a superior force. Then at 12.8 a.m. (5th) the flagship proceeded to the westward to join the other two battle cruisers and pick up the Chatham and Weymouth on the way. " My first consideration," the Admiral explained in his report, " was the protection of the French transports from the German ships. I knew they had at least three knots greater speed than our battle cruisers, and a position had to be taken up from which the Goeben could be cut off if she came westward." Nevertheless, he had left the line of attack from Messina open, but, apart from this serious defect in his dispositions, they


Aug. 3-4, 1914



Were in accordance with his original instructions. The order that the French transports were to be his first care had not been cancelled, though, in fact, there was now no need for him to concern himself with their safety.


When at 4 a.m. on August 3, a few hours after it was known that the Goeben had put into Messina, Admiral de Lapeyrere had put to sea with orders to seek out the enemy with his whole fleet and cover the transit of the troops in accordance with the Staff plan. To him, however, the situation had seemed too uncertain to adhere to it. Germany had not yet declared war, the attitude of Italy remained doubtful, and it was quite unknown whether Great Britain would come into the war or not. It was in these circumstances he had decided to abandon the Staff plan and to form convoys, and to this end he organised the fleet into three groups. In the first group, under Vice-Admiral Chocheprat, were the six "Lord Nelson" type battleships of the 1st Battle Squadron, Diderot (flag), Danton, Vergniaud, Voltaire, Mirabeau, and Condorcet, the 1st Division of the Armoured Cruiser Squadron, Jules Michelet (flag of Rear-Admiral de Sugny), Ernest Renan and Edgar Quinet, and a flotilla of twelve destroyers. This group was to proceed to Philippeville. In the second group were the Dreadnought Courbet, carrying the Commander-in-Chief's flag, with the 2nd Battle Squadron Patrie (flag of Vice-Admiral Le Bris), Republique, Democratie, Justice and Verite, the 2nd Division of the Armoured Cruiser Squadron (Leon Gambetta, flag of Rear-Admiral Senes, Victor Hugo, Jules Ferry) and twelve more destroyers. This group was destined for Algiers. In the third group were the older ships of the Reserve Squadron, Suffren, Gaulois, Bouvet, and Jaureguiberry, under Rear-Admiral Guepratte, who was to go to Oran. The idea appears to have been that on reaching the latitude of the Balearic Islands the three groups would separate and each proceed to its assigned port.


This point was reached in the morning of August 4, when the Fleet was about twenty-four hours out, and the news of the attack on Bona and Philippeville reached the Admiral and forced him to reconsider the plan. The situation was so far cleared that he knew Italy had declared her neutrality the previous evening, and so far as she was concerned it was possible for him to seek out the German cruisers and destroy them. But, on the other hand, the co-operation of the British Fleet was still uncertain, and an attempt to get contact with the enemy might leave the transports exposed to attack.


Aug. 4-5, 1914

There was the further possibility, emphasised by the reported presence of a German collier in the Balearic Islands, that Admiral Souchon would seek to leave the Mediterranean and attack Algiers on his way to Gibraltar. Instead, therefore, of sending his first group to Philippeville, he ordered it to proceed with the second group at high speed to Cape Matifou, just to the eastward of Algiers, and there to take station on guard from 3 p.m. on the 4th till next day.


There was thus no occasion for Admiral Milne to trouble about the Western Mediterranean or the French transports, but he had received no word of Admiral de Lapeyrere's movements. Consequently, when at 1.15 a.m. on August 5 the order to commence hostilities against Germany reached him, and no modification of his general instructions accompanied it, he held to his disposition. After effecting his concentration to the west of Sicily, he detached the Indomitable to Bizerta to coal and the Dublin to Malta, and with the Inflexible, Indefatigable, Weymouth, Chatham, and one division of destroyers proceeded to patrol between Sardinia and the African coast on the meridian 10 degrees E., that is, to the northward of Bizerta.


At this time Sir Rennell Rodd, our Ambassador at Rome, was trying to get a telegram through to say the enemy were in Messina, but, owing probably to the pressure on the wires, the message did not get to London till 6 p.m. Though the Germans were using Italian wireless freely, nothing came through from our Consul at Messina to the Gloucester, which was now watching the southern entrance of the Strait. At 3.35 p.m., however, Captain Howard Kelly telegraphed that the strength of wireless signals he was taking in indicated that the Goeben must be at Messina. She was, in fact, there coaling from a large East African liner, the General, which had been waiting for her. Admiral Milne, however, made no change in his dispositions; the last he had from the Admiralty was that, although Austria was not at war with France or England, he was to continue watching the Adriatic for the double purpose of preventing the Austrians emerging unobserved and preventing the Germans entering.


Admiral Troubridge was then cruising between Cape Colonne and Cephalonia with this object. He regarded the Goeben, owing to her speed and the range of her guns (Goeben (1912) Trial speed 27.2. Guns 10.1"; 12-5.9"), as in daylight a superior force to his own, with which his instructions were not to engage, but his intention was to neutralise the German advantage by engaging at night.


Aug. 5-6, 1914



Accordingly in the afternoon of the 5th he steamed across towards Cape Colonne but about 10 p.m., as Admiral Souchon had not come out, and as he knew there were Italian torpedo craft about he turned back for his daylight position off Cephalonia. This he did with less hesitation, since, believing the French were guarding the approaches to the Western Mediterranean, he fully expected his two battle cruisers would now be returned to him. Indeed his impression was that when they were first attached to his flag it was a preliminary step to the whole command devolving on him. For in the provisional conversations with France it was understood that the British squadron at the outbreak of war would come automatically under the French Commander-in-Chief an arrangement which necessarily involved the withdrawal of an officer of Admiral Milne's seniority. Admiral Milne, however, took an entirely different view, and feeling still bound by his "primary object," began at 7.30 a.m. on August 6 to sweep to the eastward, intending to be in the longitude of Cape San Vito, the north-west point of Sicily, by 6 p.m., "at which hour," so he afterwards explained, " the Goeben could have been sighted if she had left Messina," where he considered she was probably coaling.


The Indomitable at Bizerta was greatly delayed in coaling, so that it was not till 7 p.m. she was ready to sail, and then she received her orders but they were not that she should reinforce Admiral Troubridge. (The cause of the delay was that Captain Kennedy, finding the briquettes which were ready for him were no good, wished to coal from a British collier he found their with a suspiciously large cargo over 5,000 tons consigned on German account to Jiddah and Basra, and he required the Commander-in-Chief's authority to requisition it, though he began helping himself before the authority came.) At 11 a.m., in response to an inquiry from the Commander-in-Chief, she had reported that the French transports had begun to move, and that Admiral de Lapeyrere, who had been last heard of at Algiers, was devoting his battle fleet not on the British plan to cover the line of passage but entirely to escort duty, and that it would not be free till the 10th. The French Admiral was, in fact, no longer at Algiers. For on the 5th, finding the Germans did not appear, he had broken up the Cape Matifou guard and proceeded himself, with the flagship and two ships of the 2nd Battle Squadron, to search the Balearic islands, leaving the rest of the squadron to carry on with the escort programme, and apparently detaching a squadron of four armoured and three or four light cruisers to Philippeville. For, with the other information, Admiral Milne heard


Aug. 6, 1914

from the Indomitable at Bizerta that this squadron had left Philippeville that morning at 8.0 for Ajaccio in Corsica. The messages, however, were not very clear and seem to have left Admiral Milne unchanged in his conviction that his duty was to close the northern exit of the Straits of Messina. The Indomitable was therefore ordered to join him thirty-five miles west of Milazzo, so that with his full force he could proceed to bar the Germans' escape for the night. If they eluded him, he intended to chase to the northward for the Strait of Bonifacio, or Cape Corso in the north of Corsica.


The reason for these dispositions was clearly a belief that the Germans might still have an intention to attack the French convoys, and so long as this was a practical possibility the Admiral could scarcely disregard his strict injunctions to protect them. We know now that Admiral Souchon had no such reckless intention. From all accounts he believed himself caught. At Messina he had hoped to coal, but facilities of wharfage were denied him, and he had to do what he could from German colliers he found there. His belief was that the French cruisers were watching to the northward, and that the main part of the British Fleet was about the Strait of Otranto, with its scouts off the Strait of Messina. The urgent order from Berlin that he was to endeavour to make the Dardanelles had not been cancelled, and the venture seemed more like a forlorn hope than ever; all the officers, it is said, made their wills. So desperate indeed was the chance that in spite of the ominous outlook in the Near East it was the only one which had not entered into our calculations. Our relations with Turkey were severely strained, owing to our having, the day before war was declared, requisitioned the two Dreadnoughts which were just being completed for her in British yards. We knew she was mobilising and that the German Military Mission was taking charge of her army, but we also knew the Dardanelles was being mined. Nothing of all this vital information was communicated to Admiral Milne, except the fact of the mine-laying, and if this detail had any effect upon his judgment it would tend to show that Constantinople was barred to all belligerents alike. That Germany, with the load she already had upon her, intended to attempt the absorption of Turkey was then beyond belief.


All this was in the dark when Admiral Milne, feeling bound by his instructions that " the Goeben was his objective," made his last dispositions to prevent her escape to the northward. But scarcely had he issued his instructions when Captain Kelly in the Gloucester, being then off Taormina


Aug. 6, 1914



signalled the enemy coming south. Admiral Souchon's intention as his one chance of escape, was to steer a false course till nightfall, so as to give the impression he was making back to join the Austrians in the Adriatic, and as his reserve ammunition had been sent to Pola, this was probably the original plan before the intervention of Great Britain rendered that sea nothing but a trap. The orders he issued were that the Goeben would leave at 5 p.m. at seventeen knots; the Breslau would follow five miles astern, closing up at dark; while the General, sailing two hours later, would keep along the Sicilian coast and make, by a southerly track, for Santorin, the most southerly island of the Archipelago. The two cruisers, after steering their false course till dark, would make for Cape Matapan, where, as we have seen, a collier had been ordered to meet them. In accordance with this plan, Admiral Souchon, the moment he sighted the Gloucester, altered course to port so as to keep along the coast of Calabria outside the six-mile limit.


When at 6.10 p.m. Admiral Milne got the news he was thirty-five miles north of Marittimo, proceeding eastward to his new rendezvous north of Sicily, but as the passage of the Strait was denied him he at once turned back. His idea was that Admiral Troubridge, with his squadron and his eight destroyers, besides two more which were being hurried off to him from Malta in charge of the Dublin, was strong enough to bar the Adriatic, and that there was still a possibility of the Germans making back to the westward along the south of Sicily. The Admiralty, however, an hour and a half later sent him an order to chase through the Strait if the enemy went south. Unfortunately, it did not come to hand till midnight, too late for the Admiral to modify the movement to which he was committed.


All this time Captain Kelly was clinging to the two German ships and reporting their course. It was not done without difficulty. At 7.30, being on their seaward beam, he began to lose sight of them against the land in the gathering darkness, and he saw his only chance was to get the inshore position and have the moon right when it rose. But to effect his purpose he must steer straight for the Goeben, well knowing if she opened fire he would be blown out of the water. Yet he did not hesitate and by his daring move succeeded in gaining the desired position well upon the enemy's port quarter. This position he held till the Breslau altered towards the land and forced him, after a struggle, astern for lack of sea room. Then she turned to


Aug. 6, 1914


cross his bows, as though she meant fighting. Captain Kelly altered to meet her and they passed starboard to starboard at about 4,000 yards. Still feeling it his duty to follow the Goeben, he did not open fire, and the Breslau disappeared east-south-eastwards, presumably to ascertain if the main British force was in that direction. So the shadowing went on till about 10.45, south of Cape Rizzuto, the Goeben suddenly turned to about S. 60 degrees E., and began trying to jam the Gloucester's signals.


By this time the Breslau had probably reported all clear in that direction. Admiral Troubridge was, in fact, off the Greek coast. When the Goeben came out of the Strait he was patrolling with his four cruisers (Defence (flag), Warrior, Duke of Edinburgh, Black Prince) off Cephalonia on the look out for a German collier. His destroyers, with scarcely any coal in their bunkers, were all either at Santa Maura or patrolling outside. (Their collier had been ordered to Port Vathi in Ithaca, but the Greek skipper had gone to another port of the same name.)


His intention, as we have seen, had been to seek an engagement only at dusk, but Admiral Milne had ordered him to leave a night action to his destroyers. On hearing the enemy were out, he at once steamed north-north-east towards Santa Maura, thinking they might be making for his base behind the island, and, with the same idea, he ordered his eight destroyers to be under way and hidden in Vasilico Bay by midnight. As soon, however, as he knew the Goeben was heading for the Adriatic, he held on for the position he originally intended to take at Fano Island, just north of Corfu, where he hoped the confined and shoal waters would enable him to force an action at his own range. Even when Captain Kelly reported the Goeben's change of course he believed it was only a device to throw him off, and it was not till midnight, when the Gloucester, in spite of the Goeben's efforts to jam, reported her still going south-east, that he was convinced her original course was the false one and that she was making for the Eastern Mediterranean, either to operate against our trade or to repeat at Port Said and Alexandria what she had done at the Algerian ports. He then turned to the south to intercept her, called out his destroyers, and signalled to Captain John Kelly, who in the Dublin was bringing up the two destroyers from Malta, to head off the chase. (Captain John Kelly when he heard the Goeben was heading for the Adriatic, calculating he could overtake her with his two destroyers next morning, had asked leave to deliver a daylight attack, but permission was refused and he was told to follow the Rear-Admiral's orders.)The Dublin had already received orders to the same effect from Admiral Milne, who, as soon as it became clear that


Aug. 7, 1914



the enemy was making to the eastward, ran for Malta to coal so as to be able to keep to the chase.


Guided by his brother's signals, Captain John Kelly and his two destroyers made for the zone in which it seemed the two German ships were intending to get together again, and about 1 a.m. he saw smoke. It was now brilliant moonlight so that the work in hand was extremely hazardous. Still as soon as he had gained a good position for delivering an attack he carried on to close the chase, till in a few minutes he became aware from the Gloucester's signals that the ship he was after must be not the Goeben but the Breslau, and that the Goeben must be between him and his brother. He therefore turned to meet her, and after getting across her course so as to have the moon right, he ran up to attack from ahead. It was a most promising situation. But he was doomed to disappointment. The Goeben was nowhere to be seen. Possibly warned by her consort, she had altered course to avoid the torpedo menace, but the failure may have been due to some confusion between local and Greenwich time in taking in the Gloucester's signals. Whatever the cause, she had given the Dublin the slip, and there was nothing to do but to carry on to the Fano rendezvous according to previous instructions.


At the same time (3.50 a.m.) Admiral Troubridge, being then abreast of Zante, also gave up the chase. He had received no authority to quit his position, nor any order to support the Gloucester. His intention had been to engage the Goeben if he could get contact before 6 a.m., since that was the only chance of his being able to engage her closely enough for any prospect of success, and when he found it impossible he thought it his duty not to risk his squadron against an enemy who, by his superiority in speed and gun-power, could choose his distance and outrange him. Still, he only slowed down, and held on as he was, in expectation that his two battle cruisers would now be sent back to him, with instructions for concerting action. But they did not come, and about 10 a.m. on August 7, by which time the Goeben had passed ahead of him, he went into Zante preparatory to resuming his watch in the Adriatic.


When Admiral Troubridge made the port, the Commander-in-Chief steaming at moderate speed was nearing Malta. During the night he had received from the French Admiral an offer of a squadron which he had requested should patrol between Marsala and Cape Bon to watch the passage between Sicily and Africa. (The ships were the armoured cruisers Bruix, Latouche-Treville, Amiral Charner and the cruiser Jurien de la Graviere.) Being thus relieved of anxiety in that


Aug. 7, 1914

direction he had moved away to the eastward at fifteen knots. The Indomitable was coming up astern at twenty-one knots, and when she reached Malta he did not send her on, but kept her there till his other two ships had coaled. Thus Captain Kelly in the Gloucester was left to carry on the chase alone. So perilous was his position that, about 5.30 a.m., Admiral Milne had signalled to him to drop astern so as to avoid capture; but he chose to take the signal as permissive only, and held on as doggedly as ever in spite of every effort of the Germans to shake him off. By 10.30 a.m. the Breslau had rejoined, and, after taking station astern of the flagship, kept crossing the Gloucester's course as though to drop mines. But Captain Kelly did not flinch. He steamed on undisturbed and with so much persistence that off the Gulf of Kalamata the Breslau began to try to ride him off by dropping astern. By 1 p.m. it became clear that something must be done if he was to keep the Goeben in sight. By engaging the Breslau he would be able either to force her to close the flagship or bring the flagship back to protect her.


At 1.35, therefore, he opened fire with his forward six-inch gun at 11,500 yards. The Breslau, who was two points on his port bow and had her starboard guns bearing, returned the fire smartly and accurately. Captain Kelly then increased to full speed, ran up to 10,000, and, turning 10 points to port, brought the enemy on his starboard quarter. As soon as the two ships were engaged broadside to broadside, the Goeben, as Captain Kelly expected, turned 16 points to come back, and, though far out of range, she opened fire. Having thus gained his object, Captain Kelly at 1.50 ceased fire and, with admirable judgment, broke off the action, considering it his duty to preserve his ship intact for fulfilling his main duty of keeping hold of the Goeben, and as soon as she turned again to resume her eastward course he informed the Commander-in-Chief and continued to shadow. Admiral Milne, who was coaling, had not yet felt able to leave Malta, and was getting very anxious for the Gloucester. Knowing she must be short of coal, he sent her orders not to chase further than Cape Matapan, and then to rejoin Admiral Troubridge, but no other cruiser was sent to take her place. By 4.40 p.m. the Gloucester had reached the specified point, the Goeben and Breslau could be seen holding eastwards through the Cervi Channel, and with this last report of their movements Captain Kelly turned back.


For his conduct throughout the affair he was highly commended by the Admiralty. "The Goeben," so ran the


Aug. 7, 1914



Minute on his report, "could have caught and sunk the Gloucester at any time ... she was apparently deterred by the latter's boldness, which gave the impression of support close at hand. The combination of audacity with restraint, unswerving attention to the principal military object, viz. holding on to the Goeben and strict conformity to orders, constitute a naval episode which may justly be regarded as a model." In endorsement of this judgment Captain Kelly received the honour of Companionship of the Bath.


His conduct was the one bright spot in the unfortunate episode. The outcome of a situation which had been so promising, and which might well have resulted in a success, priceless at the opening of the war, was a severe disappointment. But on his return home the Commander-in-Chief was able to give explanations of his difficulties which satisfied the Board and he was exonerated from blame. In view of the instructions which the Admiralty had given him in their anxiety to protect the French transport line and to respect the neutrality of Italy, it is clear that what blame there was could not rest solely on the shoulders of the Admiral. His failure was due at least in part to the fact that owing to the rapid changes in the situation, it was practically impossible for the Admiralty to keep him adequately informed. The sudden pressure on an embryonic staff organisation was more than it could bear, but the fact remains that intelligence essential for forming a correct appreciation of the shifting situation either did not reach him, or reached him too late, and, what was more embarrassing, his original instructions as to his "primary object" were not cancelled when they were rendered obsolete by the action of the Toulon Fleet.


After due consideration it was felt that the failure of Admiral Troubridge to bring the Goeben to action required investigation. A month later, therefore, he was recalled to justify himself before a Court of Inquiry. On its report, a Court Martial was ordered, before which he was charged under the Third Section of the Naval Discipline Act, that " from negligence or default he did on August 7 forbear to pursue the chase of H.I.G.M.'s ship Goeben, being an enemy then flying." But before a full Court of his brother officers Admiral Troubridge had no difficulty in proving his case. The Court found that he had acted in accordance with his instructions, that he was justified in regarding the enemy's force as superior to his own in daylight, and that, although if he had carried on the chase he might have brought the Goeben to action in the Cervi Channel, he would not have been justified in quitting the station assigned to him without further orders.


Aug. 7-8, 1914

Consequently they declared the charge not proved, and the Admiral was " fully and honourably" acquitted. There the matter ended.


Much as there was in these crowded opening days to excuse the failure, it must always tell as a shadow in our naval history. But it is only right to recall that the circumstances of the case are closely analogous to those in which Nelson in 1805, preoccupied primarily with the security of Sicily and the Eastern Mediterranean, allowed Villeneuve to escape to the west, as Admiral Souchon had been permitted to escape to the east. Nor is this the only precedent; for it was in these same hide-and-seek waters that Nelson's great successor Collingwood had missed Ganteaume and Allemande in 1809. Tried beside the failure of the two great masters in whom all our old naval lore culminated, it will perhaps be judged most leniently by those whose wisdom and knowledge are the ripest.


What makes the whole episode more unfortunate is that, had we been able to know it in time to take action, there was still a possibility of making good the failure of the first blow. Whatever may have been the truth about the alleged alliance between Germany and Turkey, it was clearly not working. For scarcely had Admiral Souchon shaken off the Gloucester and entered the Aegean Sea when a message reached him that he must not proceed at once to the Dardanelles, as the Turks were making difficulties about allowing him to enter. He was still, therefore, in a highly precarious position, and immediately took steps to get contact with the Loreley, the German guardship at Constantinople. To this end, at the risk of revealing his position, he signalled to the General to make forthwith for Smyrna instead of Santorini in order to act as wireless link. His other collier he had picked up at the pre-arranged rendezvous, and, having found a convenient bay to hide her, proceeded to cruise slowly eastward amongst the islands. During the 8th, while thus engaged, he fell in with two French passenger ships with a large number of reservists from the Bosporus, but as they kept within Greek waters he had to leave them alone. In the afternoon, getting no further instructions, he sent away the Breslau to fetch his collier and bring her into Denusa, a small and sparsely inhabited island east of Naxos, and there they coaled during the night.


Meanwhile Admiral Milne had taken up the chase again, but it was not till midnight (the 7th-8th) that he left Malta, and as in default of intelligence he steamed very slowly, at 2.30 p.m. on the 8th he was no more than half way to Matapan.


Aug. 8-10, 1914



Then fortune played another trick for here he received from the Admiralty a warning, which had been sent out by mistake, that hostilities had commenced against Austria. He could not yet tell whether the Goeben's objective might not be Alexandria and our Levant and Eastern Trade, but since his last news of the French Fleet was that it would not be free to co-operate with him before the 10th, his only course seemed to be to turn back and re-concentrate his fleet. He therefore proceeded to a position 100 miles south-westward of Cephalonia so as to prevent the Austrians cutting him off from his base, and ordered Admiral Troubridge to join him. The Gloucester and the destroyers were to do the same, while the Dublin and Weymouth were left to watch the Adriatic. Later on in the day (August 8) he was informed that the alarm was false but as, at the same time, he was instructed that relations with Austria were critical, he continued his movement for concentration till noon on the 9th. Then came a telegram from the Admiralty to say definitely we were not at war with Austria and that he was to resume the chase. Accordingly, leaving Admiral Troubridge to watch the Adriatic, he proceeded south-eastwards with the three battle cruisers and the Weymouth, calling the Dublin and Chatham to follow. The movement involved some risk, since, for the time, it left Admiral Troubridge in the air, but as the Admiralty were inviting the French to use Malta as their base it could not be long before they would arrive to join him.


Since Admiral Milne came down the Greek coast at only ten knots, presumably to allow his light cruisers to come up, it was not till 3 a.m. on August 10 that he entered the Aegean, some sixty hours after the Goeben had passed the Cervi Channel, and he was still entirely without information as to her whereabouts or object. Admiral Souchon was actually still at Denusa, waiting to hear that permission to enter the Dardanelles had been negotiated. But not a word could the General pass him of any alteration in the situation. The previous evening (9th) she had been ordered to make for the Dardanelles. Hour after hour went by in increasing anxiety, till about 9 p.m. he had begun to hear the wireless of the British. As it came nearer and nearer his position became too dangerous to hold, and although he was still without a word from Constantinople, he decided to make for the Dardanelles at all costs, determined, so his officers believed, to force an entrance if it were denied him. He had finished coaling at 5 a.m. on the 10th, and three-quarters of an hour later he put to sea.


Aug. 10-11, 1914


At this time Admiral Milne having rounded Cape Malea, was heading about north-east on a course that was rapidly converging with that of Admiral Souchon. He was well in sight of Belo Pulo Light, and little more than 100 miles to the westward of the German cruisers. But close as he now was upon their track it was too late. Even had he known what their destination was he could scarcely have been up in time to prevent them being piloted safely through the Dardanelles minefields. Nor had he any good reason for making the effort. So far as he was informed of the state of affairs, the immediate danger was for the safety of Alexandria and the Suez Canal. Apart from this there was still a widespread opinion that Admiral Souchon's intention was to rejoin the Austrians. He had had plenty of time to coal amongst the islands; indeed, there was a report that he had gone to Syra for that purpose.


Admiral Milne's main preoccupation, therefore, was to make sure the enemy did not break back to the southward, and with this object in view he spread his force so as to bar the passages through the islands between the mainland and the Cyclades, while the Weymouth was detached to look into Milo and Syra. Soon, however, German signals were heard near by, and a sweep was made to the southward. Then the German colliers were heard calling distinctly to the northward, and so the sweep turned in that direction to occupy the passage between Nikaria and Mykoni, while the Weymouth scouted as high as Smyrna, and Chatham, who after searching round Naxos had just joined, was sent to the eastward to examine the vicinity of Kos. But all doubt was soon to be at an end. Shortly before noon on the 11th, before the sweep was complete, the Admiral heard from Malta that the Goeben and Breslau had entered the Dardanelles at 8.30 the previous night. They had, in fact, anchored off Cape Helles about 5.0 that evening, still not knowing whether they would be received. But on calling for a pilot, a steamboat came out and signalled them to follow. As soon as the news reached Admiral Milne he hurried off after them, and in the course of the afternoon received an order to blockade the exit.


So the unhappy affair ended in something like a burst of public derision that the Germans should so soon have been chased out of the Mediterranean to suffer an ignominious internment. How false was that consolation none but the best informed could then even dream. It was many months before it was possible to appreciate fully the combined effrontery, promptitude and sagacity of the move. When


Aug. 11, 1914



When we consider that the Dardanelles was mined, that no permission to enter it had been ratified, and that everything depended on the German powers of cajolery at Constantinople, when we also recall the world-wide results that ensued, it is not too much to say that few naval decisions more bold and well-judged were ever taken. So completely, indeed, did the risky venture turn a desperate situation into one of high moral and material advantage, that for the credit of German statesmanship it goes far to balance the cardinal blunder of attacking France through Belgium.


(It would appear that the final decision was taken by Admiral Souchon himself. According to Admiral von Tirpitz, when on August 3 news was received of the alleged alliance with Turkey, orders were sent to Admiral Souchon to attempt to break through to the Dardanelles. On August 5 the German Embassy at Constantinople reported that in view of the situation there it was undesirable for the ships to arrive for the present. Thereupon the orders for the Dardanelles were cancelled, and Admiral Souchon, who was then coaling at Messina, was directed to proceed to Pola or else break out into the Atlantic. Later in the day, however, Austria, in spite of the pressure that was being put upon her from Berlin to declare war, protested she was not yet in a position to help with her fleet. In these circumstances it was thought best to give Admiral Souchon liberty to decide for himself which line of escape to attempt, and he then chose the line of his first instructions. )









Just as the transport of the Algerian Army was completed, that of our own Expeditionary Force was beginning. On August 6 the immediate dispatch to France of four of its six Infantry Divisions and one Cavalry Division was sanctioned, and before the Navy had had even time to get out its commerce protection cruisers, it found itself saddled with a task which in difficulty and magnitude was quite beyond its experience. The question whether such an operation was a legitimate risk of war before a decided command of home waters had been established had long been in debate. Still, the risk had been measured, and so vital did our own and the French General Staff consider it to get our Army upon the left of the French line at the earliest possible moment, that the risk, with all its hazards, had been accepted by the Admiralty. During the past three years every detail had been worked out between the two Services for landing the Force in the north-west of France, and a plan of operation settled which promised to reduce the risk to a minimum. For a landing in Belgium, which would involve a much higher sea risk, there was no plan at all.


The general idea involved the use of several ports of departure and two of arrival. The lines of passage consequently varied, but all were within waters that lay well for cover by the Fleet. The main port of embarkation for troops in England, as well as for horses and hospital ships, was Southampton, and thence the bulk of the transports were to make for Havre, the main port of arrival, though some proceeded up to Rouen and a few went to Boulogne. Certain units stationed in Scotland were to embark at Glasgow, while the Vth and Vlth Divisions (to avoid confusion with Naval units, Military divisions are specified throughout by Roman numerals), which were stationed in Ireland, were to start from Dublin, Queenstown and Belfast. For stores Newhaven was the principal port, but the heavier kinds, and the mechanical transport, were shipped at Avonmouth and Liverpool.


Aug. 4-7, 1914



At the last moment, however, the scheme was modified. The original idea had been to send five divisions, and transport to that amount had actually been taken up, but finally it was decided to be unsafe at the outset to leave the country with less than two regular divisions. The Vlth Division, therefore, instead of going direct to France from Ireland, was ordered to come to England first and concentrate to the north of London about Cambridge.


A special feature of the plan, in order to minimise the risk was that there were to be no convoys. Transports were to sail singly or in pairs as they filled up and to proceed independently to their destination. The system of protection, in fact, was the reverse of that which the French had been employing in the Mediterranean. There was to be no escort: everything depended on the Covering Squadrons. The plan was new. To a certain extent it had been used, somewhat precariously and not without loss, by the Japanese ten years before, but our more favourable geographical position enabled us to carry the principle to its logical conclusion.


The system of cover was based on closing both ends of the Channel against raids, while the Grand Fleet took up a position from which it could strike the High Seas Fleet if the Germans should choose to risk it in an effort to prevent our Army joining hands with that of France.


It was on August 5 that the decision was taken by the War Council. The day mentioned for the movement to begin was August 7, and the Admiralty had intimated that transports would all be ready by that time, and that from then onwards they could guarantee safe passage to the French ports designated. The Army Council, however, had to notify them that the troops could not reach their ports of departure so soon. The difficulty was that large numbers of Territorials who had just gone into training camps had had to be recalled for embodiment, and the railway time-table could not work until the labour of transporting them had been completed. The whole operation, therefore, had to be postponed till the 9th.


The utmost secrecy was observed, and it was not till the morning of the 7th that the Admiralty had the word to put their operation orders in action. At the same time the Channel Fleet was given a new organisation adapted to the special work at hand. As we have seen the "Duncans" of the 6th Battle Squadron had been ordered to join the Grand Fleet and the three units which were ready for sea had already sailed for Scapa. This squadron, which had been Admiral Burney's own, was now suppressed, and of the remaining he Lord Nelson and Agamemnon were to join the 5th Squadron and the Vengeance the 8th under Admiral Tottenham.


Aug. 7, 1914


These two squadrons with the 7th under Admiral Bethell were now to form the Channel Fleet, with the Lord Nelson, as Fleet flagship, flying Admiral Burney's flag. The remaining battleships on the active list - that is, the seven "Majestics" never actually formed part of it, being withdrawn for special service. The four that were stationed in the Humber were intended to form the 9th Battle Squadron Hannibal (flag), Captain J. F. Grant-Dalton; Victorious, Captain R. Nugent; Mars, Captain R. M. Harboard; Magnificent, Captain F. A. Whitehead; but when Admiral Jellicoe decided to make Scapa his main base he had asked for a senior officer to take charge of it and for some better defence. Accordingly Rear-Admiral F. S. Miller was appointed to the post and on August 7 was ordered to hoist his flag in the Hannibal and proceed to Scapa with that ship and the Magnificent. The Majestic and Jupiter were in dockyard hands, and the intention was to pay off the Illustrious in order to provide a crew for the Erin, the completed Turkish Dreadnought which had just been requisitioned.


On August 7, therefore, the Channel Fleet was constituted as follows:


Fleet Flagship: Lord Nelson.

Vice-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney, K.C.B., K.C.M.G. Captain J. W. L. MoClintock.

Attached light cruiser, Diamond, Commander L. L. Dundas.

Rear-Admiral Bernard Currey.
Rear-Admiral C. F. Thursby, C.M.G.

Prince of Wales (flag) - Captain R. N. Bax

Queen (2nd flag) - Captain H. A. Adam.

Venerable - Captain V. H. G. Bernard.

Irresistible Captain The Hon. Stanhope Hawke.

Bulwark Captain G. L. Sclater.

Formidable Captain D. St. A. Wake.

Implacable Captain H. C. Lockyer.

London - Captain J. G. Armstrong.

Topaze, Commander W. J. B. Law



Vice-Admiral The Hon. Sir A. E. Bethell, K.C.B., K.C.M.G.

(Commanding 3rd Fleet)

Prince George (flag) - Captain A. V. Campbell.

Caesar - Captain E. W. E. Wemyss.

Jupiter (In dockyard hands) - Captain C. E. Le Mesurier.

Majestic (In dockyard hands) - Captain H. F. G. Talbot.

Sapphire, Captain H. G. C. Somerville.



Rear-Admiral H. L. Tottenham, C.B.

(2nd in Command 3rd Fleet)

Albion (flag) - Captain A. W. Heneage.

Goliath - Captain T. L. Shelford.

Canopus - Captain Heathcoat Grant.

Glory - Captain C. F. Corbett.

Ocean - Captain A. Hayes-Sadler.

Vengeance - Captain Bertram H. Smith.

Proserpine (In dockyard hands) - Commander G. C. Hardy.

Aug. 7, 1914



The squadrons proceeded immediately to assemble at Portland, and so well had the whole scheme for the Expeditionary Force been worked out, that by the time specified for its passage Southampton and Newhaven were closed to commerce and all squadrons were in position. Admiral Burney himself with the 5th Squadron was cruising between the longitudes of Dungeness and the Owers (off Selsea Bill). He was given a free hand in case the enemy tried to break through the Strait of Dover, the Admiralty merely suggesting a certain position as the most favourable for meeting such an attempt with advantage. To provide him with a cruiser force the southern area of the North Sea was drawn upon. Admiral Campbell, after the loss of the Amphion, had been ordered, as we have seen, into the Downs with the Bacchante, Euryalus and Aboukir. There the Cressy had joined him, and at noon on the 8th all four were directed to pass the Strait before dark and join Admiral Burney's flag at Portland.


The Strait itself was held by the French destroyers and submarines of the Boulogne Flotilla in combination with our own Dover Patrol that is, the 6th Flotilla which since it had taken up its war station on August 3 had been examining all vessels that passed, directing all traffic through the Downs, and dealing with British ships under order for Baltic and North Sea destinations which their owners desired to have diverted to Home ports. Immediately in advance of this patrol was another line held by Commodore Keyes with the Firedrake and twelve submarines, and this ran from the North Goodwins through the Sandettie light-vessel to Ruytingen. Still further to the northward, as a special precaution for the detection of hostile submarines, a seaplane and airship patrol was established between the North Foreland and Ostend, and beyond this, again, were the 1st and 3rd Destroyer Flotillas at Harwich, ready to form an advance patrol in the waters off the Dutch coast, known as the Broad Fourteens, and elsewhere as might be directed.


Aug. 8, 1914



The western entrance of the Channel was similarly guarded by the Anglo-French cruiser squadron, which was dealing with traffic in the same way as the Dover Patrol. Under Rear-Admiral Wemyss were the light cruisers Charybdis, Diana, Eclipse and Talbot, and the French had five armoured cruisers, subsequently reinforced by two light cruisers. They were now under Rear-Admiral Le Cannellier, Admiral Rouyer himself having returned to Cherbourg with the other three armoured cruisers of his squadron. The special instructions of this force were to prevent disguised ships laying mines on the Army's lines of passage, and all doubtful ships that could not be searched at sea were to be passed into Falmouth.


In support of this cruiser patrol was Admiral Bethell with the 7th and 8th Battle Squadrons, but at first his station was somewhat removed from the cruisers. His assigned functions in the plan were to support the transports on the western side of the main line of passage in order to give confidence to the troops and to assist the transports with his boats in case of need. But when after the first night he found the presence of battleships along the line of passage was a source of danger rather than security, and when also a Life Saving Patrol organised by The Hon. Sir Hedworth Meux at Portsmouth appeared on the route, he was directed at his own suggestion to take station further west, and he then proceeded to patrol the line between St. Alban's Head and Cherbourg that is, just to the eastward of the line between Portland and Cap de la Hague, which was being held by the Cherbourg submarines. From this port, also, Admiral Rouyer, with the remainder of his squadron, operated in concert with Admiral Bethell. Thus there was nothing actually on the main line passage except the Life Saving Patrol, and this was in no sense an escort. It was composed of any small craft that could be pressed into the service, and they sailed unarmed under the blue ensign with the Red Cross at the main.


So far, then, as protection against cruiser or flotilla raids was concerned, the system was very complete and strong, but with the arrangements for dealing with the High Seas Fleet, should it come out, things proved more difficult. As Admiral Jellicoe, on the morning of August 8, was proceeding to take up the position he had selected, three ships, which had been detached for firing practice, reported submarines in the vicinity of Fair Island; one of the three was actually attacked unsuccessfully. They were at once recalled, but the Admiral, taking all precautions, held away for his chosen area,


Aug. 9-10, 1914



which he believed to be free both of mines and submarines. As he approached it, however, its supposed security became more and more doubtful. In the evening a periscope was seen by the flagship, but still he carried on, with constant alterations of course, for a rendezvous where the 2nd Cruiser Squadron and the light cruisers were to meet him. He reached it at 4 a.m. on the 9th, just as the advance parties of the Expeditionary Force were embarking, and here the Birmingham reported that a short time previously she had rammed and sunk the German submarine U 15.


It was the first achievement of the kind, and so far as it went gave a certain confidence that the new weapon, if boldly met, was not so formidable as it was generally supposed to be. Still, it was obvious that the area was not free from danger, especially as there was a strong suspicion that the enemy were using, or intended to use, the northern islands as bases for their submarines. In reporting the occurrence to the Admiralty, Admiral Jellicoe proposed taking his battle fleet west of the Orkneys as soon as the troops were across. Till then he was ready to accept the risk and held his ground all day in case the High Seas Fleet should move. Of this there was still no indication, and in the evening came an order from the Admiralty directing him to take the whole of his heavy ships north-west of the Orkneys at once well out of the infected area. This he did, proceeding to Scapa himself to organise a scheme for clearing the waters he had left with his lighter vessels.


One of the chief anxieties was a continuance of the reports that the Germans were endeavouring to establish submarine bases in the vicinity of the anchorage. They were said to have ships at the Faeroes and Lofotens. To the Faeroes were sent two ships of the Northern Patrol under Rear-Admiral Grant, who had just joined, in the Drake. Circumstantial intelligence also came in that they were using the Stavanger Fjord, and the Light and 3rd Cruiser Squadrons, which were sweeping in that direction from Kinnaird Head, were ordered to pick up the 4th Flotilla and examine the place, but with strict orders not to violate Norwegian neutrality unless the Germans were actually operating in territorial waters. Nothing was found, except that Norwegian officers were keeping a strict watch, and nothing came of it except that, unfortunately, a ship was searched within the three-mile limit, and for this a full apology was promptly sent to Christiania. At the Faeroes no suspicious signs were discovered, nor had the Northern Patrol anything to report. The search of the Lofotens was, therefore, countermanded.


Aug. 11-12, 1914


In view of how Germany had behaved to another weak neutral, these precautions against the Norwegian Fjords and islands being used by our enemy could not be regarded as other than moderate. Seeing how exposed was the Grand Fleet's position, without so much as a defended anchorage, even more might have been excused. The temporary defences which Admiral Jellicoe had been able to devise were wholly inadequate as a protection against submarines. It was owing to this precarious state of things that he had asked for two old battleships as guardships, with a flag officer to take charge of the anchorage, and that Admiral Miller was ordered up with the Hannibal and Magnificent, from the Humber, leaving the defence of that harbour to the Mars and Victorious. But even this was not enough. The worst feature of the case was that Admiral Jellicoe could no longer shut his eyes to the fact that the Germans, as was only to be expected, had already located his anchorage. He therefore further submitted to the Admiralty that it was essential for the Fleet's security to provide another as an alternative. This also was at once sanctioned, and steps were immediately taken to establish a second war-anchorage on the north-west coast of Scotland at Loch Ewe. Having arranged these matters, the Admiral rejoined the Battle Fleet. In advance of it his cruiser squadrons were working from Cromarty, and in this way the Grand Fleet, according to instructions, kept at sea while the Expeditionary Force was passing.


So far the operation had worked without hitch and according to programme indeed, the only variations appear to have been due to transports being ahead of time. During the first three days the work was mainly concerned with advance parties of various kinds, and it was not till August 12 that the bulk of the force began to cross. On the 13th the Vth Division was to begin moving from the Irish ports to Havre, and special measures had to be taken for its protection. For this purpose the 11th Cruiser Squadron, whose station was off the west of Ireland, had to be called away from its commerce protection duties. While one ship watched the North Channel, the other three, with the armed merchant cruiser Caronia, which had recently been added to it, patrolled between Queenstown and Scilly to guard against mine-laying and to hand on the transports to the Western Patrol.


Of hostile movements there had been no sign. By some the enemy's mysterious inaction was explained in view of his obvious nervousness about a British descent in some unexpected quarter by a conjecture that in his eyes the Expeditionary Force was less to be feared, or at least less


Aug. 12, 1914



disturbing in France than anywhere else. But of course it not then known how the German Staff counted on annihilating it at the first blow, and the ominous stillness seemed rather to portend a sudden counterstroke, either to prevent its transport being completed or to terrorise the country after it had gone. While, therefore, the precautions in the Channel were relaxed by resting half the submarines and withdrawing Admiral Bethell's squadron to a watching position at Portland, new orders were sent to the Grand Fleet. On August 12 the Admiralty informed Admiral Jellicoe that in view of the possibility of an attempt at invasion he ought to be nearer the decisive area than had hitherto been contemplated. They proposed, therefore, that he should bring the fleet back east of the Orkneys. If any attempt of the kind was in contemplation it would prove most telling after August 15, by which time the bulk of the Expeditionary Force would have left the country. It was to meet this situation that the VIth Division was to come over from Ireland and concentrate at Cambridge, and in response to the Admiralty's suggestion Admiral Jellicoe made arrangements for a full occupation of the North Sea during the critical period. The Grand Fleet was to move to a mid-sea position about the latitude of Aberdeen in full force even Admiral de Chair, with four of his cruisers, was called from the Northern Patrol to take a part. From that position the cruisers would sweep down to the Horn Reefs, and to complete the disposition he proposed a northward sweep of the 1st and 3rd Destroyer Flotillas from Harwich, with the 7th Squadron cruisers in support.


These ships were no longer under his immediate command. As early as August 8, finding communication with the southern area very difficult, he had requested the Admiralty to take over its direction, and this had been done by their issuing orders direct to Rear-Admiral Campbell and Commodores Keyes and Tyrwhitt. The system was now regularised by constituting the flotillas and the supporting cruiser squadron an independent command under Rear-Admiral Christian. Admiral Campbell's squadron comprised the Bacchante (flag), Hogue, Aboukir and Cressy, the Euryalus being taken for the new Admiral's flag. The whole became known as the "Southern Force," and its functions were to protect the Belgian coast, to prevent the Schelde being blocked, to keep a general command of our East Coast waters, and to give early notice of any attempt to interrupt our communications with France in the Channel. In carrying out this general idea the Admiral was given a free hand in arranging patrols, subject only to orders from the Admiralty when special operations were required.


Aug. 15-18, 1914


The first of these special orders was for the movement which was to combine with that of the Grand Fleet. During August 15th, 16th and 17th the operation was carried out so that on the 16th the day on which the largest amount of transport was passing - the Heligoland Bight was completely blockaded. To the north was disposed the Grand Fleet in full force, with Admiral de Chair and his four cruisers watching between it and the Skagerrak, while its extreme right was connected up with Terschelling by the Southern Force, consisting of the four "Bacchantes," three light cruisers and thirty-six destroyers, with four submarines in pairs, watching the mouths of the Jade and Ems. During these three days the transports made 137 passages the tonnage passing being well over half a million but still there was not a sign of the enemy moving, and on August 17 both forces returned to their normal stations, Loch Ewe being used by the Dreadnought squadrons for the first time.


No sooner, however, was our Fleet well out of the way than the Germans took heart. August 18 was the last heavy day for the transport work, the number being thirty-four vessels, totalling 130,000 tons, or only just under the average of the past three days. Admiral Bethell's squadron had since the 14th been entirely withdrawn, his attached cruiser, the Sapphire, being added to the Southern Force, but Admiral Rouyer had spread his Cherbourg cruisers further north to take his place. To the northward of the Strait of Dover, after the big movement was over, the normal Watching Patrol of the Broad Fourteens was resumed by the 1st Destroyer Flotilla under Captain William F. Blunt in the light cruiser Fearless. Proceeding to their station, they at 6.30 a.m. were nearing Brown Ridge, when they sighted a large German cruiser like the Yorck. She at once gave chase, and the patrol ran off to the westward, calling up Admiral Christian at the Nore and Admiral Campbell, who two or three hours earlier had anchored in the Downs. Commodore Tyrwhitt also got the alarm at Harwich, and by 7.20 was away at full speed with the Amethyst and the 3rd Flotilla. Half an hour later Admiral Campbell also got his squadron away. Meanwhile the Fearless had become engaged with an enemy ship, which proved to be only the 3rd-class cruiser Rostock. At 7.0 she gave up the chase, and as soon as Captain Blunt had collected his flotilla he proceeded to chase in turn, while Commodore Tyrwhitt headed to cut the enemy off from the Bight. The search was kept up all day and through the night, but nothing more was seen of her, or of the larger cruiser that had also been sighted.

Aug. 19-20, 1914



Nothing, therefore, was reaped from the opportunity the enemy had given, and one result of the affair was to make it cleared that if we hoped to profit by similar adventures in the future whether they were undertaken as reconnaissances or for driving in or punishing our patrols, the control of the North Sea must be made more effective. As the transport of the first part of the Expeditionary Force was now practically complete, and there was no prospect of the High Seas Fleet being tempted out by any smaller attraction, further sweeps southward by the Grand Fleet had been forbidden. The idea was to shift our destroyer patrol further south, where it could keep in touch with its supporting cruisers, and at the same time to provide a second force so placed as to be able to cut off the enemy's retreat if they attempted anything to southward. For this force the Humber was the base chosen, and as it was evident that faster and more powerful ships were required, two battle cruisers were ordered there, under Rear-Admiral Sir Archibald Moore, whose flag was in the Invincible. The lack of enterprise which the Germans were showing rendered her detention at Queenstown unnecessary. She was therefore available, and though she had been promised to Admiral Jellicoe, she had to be diverted. With her was detached the New Zealand, and three of the "Arethusas," the new light cruisers which were nearly ready for sea, were to follow. The places of the two battle cruisers in the Grand Fleet were to be filled from the Mediterranean. On the day the Broad Fourteens Patrol was chased off, the Inflexible, as will appear later, had left Malta for home, and next day - August 19 - the Indomitable was ordered to leave the Dardanelles for Gibraltar and there await orders.


The urgent need for strengthening our hold on the lower part of the North Sea was that the work of transporting the Expeditionary Force had received a sudden extension. By the programme the first movement was to be complete on August 20, but owing to the success of the Germans in forcing the Belgian frontier, the situation had to be reconsidered. The Belgian Government and Field Army had retired to the Antwerp, the enemy were in Brussels, and so precarious was the position of the British Army owing to the breakdown of the French opening, that it was decided to send over another division. The one selected was the IVth, which was then distributed along the East Anglian coast as a defence force, and on the 20th, all the covering squadrons and flotillas were ordered to stand fast for another five days.


Aug. 23, 1914


So smartly, however, was the work done, and so urgent the call for reinforcing Sir John French, that by the 23rd the bulk of the troops were across. In the afternoon Admiral Burney received permission to leave the position he had been holding between Beachy Head and Boulogne and to return to Portsmouth to overhaul his ships. At the same time, also, the Life Saving Patrol was withdrawn. There remained, of course, the permanent task of protecting the lines of supply, and for this purpose Admiral Burney was to hold half his fleet in readiness for prompt action, while Admiral Bethell was to stand by to join him at short notice with what was left of his command.


By this time it had been greatly reduced. The first draft upon him had been for the four "Majesties" which were now guarding the Humber and Scapa. In consequence of this reduction the 6th Battle Squadron had been amalgamated with the 5th, and the 7th and 8th had been merged into one, denominated the 7th. By the time the first four divisions of the Expeditionary Force were across, a further call had been made upon him. An idea was growing that the inexplicable inactivity of the High Seas Fleet possibly portended that the enemy was contemplating an organised attack with his heavy cruisers on our weak commerce protection squadrons that were scattered on the great trade routes. For the Grand Fleet to guarantee that battle cruisers could not break out was impossible, and as in the old days it was the practice to strengthen such squadrons with a lesser ship of the line, so now it was thought well to detach some of the oldest battleships to furnish them with a rallying point.


The Glory had already gone to the Halifax area, and now three more of the "Canopus" class were taken from the 7th Battle Squadron the Canopus herself for Admiral Stoddart on the Cape Verde station, the Albion, with Rear-Admiral Tottenham's flag still flying, for Gibraltar to support Admiral de Robeck on the Cape St. Vincent-Finisterre station, and the Ocean to Queenstown. For the defence of the new Grand Fleet anchorage at Loch Ewe another "Majestic" the Illustrious was taken, so that Admiral Bethell had now nothing left but the Vengeance, to which he had shifted his flag, Prince George, Caesar and Goliath, with the Proserpine as attached cruiser. The rest of the arrangements for securing the lines of supply stood as they were, but on the day it was all settled, as will be seen later, the system received a rude shock which for a time threatened to upset it altogether.









For the Mediterranean Fleet, seeing how the position in those waters was developing, the call on its battle cruisers was a severe one. True, it was less than our original war plan contemplated, but things had taken an ugly and unexpected turn. On August 6 a naval convention had been concluded with France by which the command of the Mediterranean was to be left entirely in her hands. As soon as the Goeben and Breslau were disposed of, all our armoured ships, except Admiral Troubridge's flagship the Defence, were to be withdrawn, and the rest of the fleet was to come under the orders of the French Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Boue de Lapeyrere, who would be responsible for the Austrian Fleet and the protection of British trade. In all other parts of the world the British Admiralty were to have the general direction of naval operations, the French ships in those seas were to be under the flag of the British officer commanding the station, and we have seen how in the West Indies the Conde and Descartes had been promptly placed at Admiral Cradock's disposal.


It was also in accordance with this convention that the French had been invited to use Malta as their advanced base. This was essential; for seeing that Italy's neutrality was now assured and the Germans had been driven out of the sea, the Austrian Fleet was the only source of danger. Still, owing to the diplomatic situation, it was some time before any combined plans could be settled. As yet, though Austria was at war with Russia, she had made no overt movement against France, and was giving plausible assurances to Paris. Though transparently insincere, they were accepted by the French Government at their face value, as a means of postponing the inevitable declaration of war till their fleet was free to take up the Malta position. For us the situation was an uneasy one; for Russia it was a source of grave anxiety.


Aug. 10-14, 1914


The need to get our armoured ships away did not arise solely from the situation in home waters; another urgent call had arisen. Owing to the critical state of the military situation in France it was necessary to get the Egyptian and Mediterranean garrisons home as soon as possible, and in order to replace them two divisions were under orders to sail from India on August 24. The Koenigsberg, and possibly another German cruiser, were operating on their route, and on August 10, before the French had made any move for Malta, it had been found necessary to order Admiral Troubridge to detach two of the 1st Cruiser Squadron, Black Prince and Duke of Edinburgh, to the Red Sea.


For Russia the apprehension was that Austria, before declaration, intended to dispatch her fleet to join the Germans in the Dardanelles, in order to overawe the Turks, penetrate to the Black Sea and force Bulgaria into the arms of the Central Powers. To our Admiralty this danger was not very real. Italy had not only refused to join the Central Powers, but was mobilising her fleet, and the prospect of Austria abandoning the Adriatic seemed too remote for serious consideration. Still, on general strategical grounds we were no less anxious than Russia to see the uncertain situation brought to a head. At Paris, therefore, we supported the urgent Russian request to have the position secured by a prompt declaration of war, and the final step was taken. On the 11th the French Ambassador left Vienna, and Admiral de Lapeyrere, who had just completed the transportation of the Algerian Army Corps, was ordered to concentrate his fleet at Malta. Next day Admiral Milne was informed of the convention, and that he, as being senior to the French Admiral, would have to come home, leaving under the orders of the French Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Troubridge and Admiral Carden, who was commanding at Malta.


At midnight these instructions were followed by news that we, too, had declared war on Austria, and that he was to sail for Malta at once in order to hand over the command to Admiral Carden, and to leave two battle cruisers and one light cruiser to watch the Dardanelles under the senior captain. Of the other two light cruisers that were there he was to take one to Malta, and to send the other to Port Said, where she was required to assist in protecting the Indian Transport route. Reaching Malta on August 14, he found that the French Fleet had concentrated there two days earlier, and that Admiral de Lapeyrere, with his 1st Battle Squadron and a division of cruisers, had sailed to join Admiral Troubridge at the entrance of the Adriatic.

(The French main fleet was now composed as under:



Courbet (Admiral de Lapeyrere), Jean Bart. Attached cruiser Jurien de la Graviere.



Diderot (Vice-Admiral Chocheprat), Danton, Vergniaud, Voltaire (Rear-Admiral Lacaze), Condorcet.



Verite (Vice-Admiral Le Bris), Republique, Patrie, Democratie, Justice (Rear-Admiral Tracou).



Jules Michelet (Rear-Admiral Ramey de Sugny), Ernest Renan, Edgar Quinet, Leon Gambetta (Rear-Admiral Senes), Victor Hugo, Jules Ferry.



Forty Destroyers. Six submarines.)


Aug. 15-16, 1914



Next morning the rest of the ships and nearly all the destroyers followed, and on August 15 the junction took place in a dense fog that did nothing to damp the scene of high enthusiasm that marked the event. But no time was lost beyond what was needed for a conference of flag officers, at which the French Admiral explained the immediate action he meant to take. His intention was to break up the Austrian blockade of Montenegro next morning. His plan was with his own battle squadrons and destroyers to steal up the Italian coast, without lights, as high as the latitude of Cattaro. Thence in the early morning he would strike across till he made the Montenegrin coast, while Admiral Troubridge and the French light cruiser squadrons would sweep from Fano island up the Albanian coast to drive the enemy into his arms. The movement was carried out with precision, but nothing was found but a small cruiser, the Zenta, and one or two torpedo craft. The latter escaped inshore, but the Zenta was caught, and though she was brought to a standstill by the first salvos of the Courbet, she gallantly refused to surrender. In ten minutes she was a mass of flames and blew up, but her devoted crew, who had abandoned the ship in time, managed to reach the shore. Still, the blockade had been raised, and Admiral de Lapeyrere retired for the night to the southward to get his fleet out of torpedo danger, and prepare for further action.


Aug. 9-10


His plan of campaign was by no means completed; indeed, the operation which had just been carried out was but the first step to something much more ambitious. The first obstacle to establishing a permanent blockade of the Adriatic was the advanced Austrian base at Cattaro, the southernmost of her ports, of which Montenegro formed the hinterland. Its capture would require more force than was at present available, but an idea prevailed at the time that Italy was about to join the Entente Powers. Her co-operation would make an attack in force possible, and the recent operation had been designed not only to break up the blockade of Montenegro, but as a means of getting into communication with the king and arranging with him for the investment of the Cattaro forts on the land side. Seeing how the war was likely to develop and as in fact it did - the success of the contemplated operation would have been inestimable. But the hour for Italy's intervention was not yet ripe; nor was this all. The opening operation was destined to be the last piece of combined work which the French and British Fleets were to carry out in those waters for many a long day. At midnight, as the Allied Fleet swept southward, Admiral Troubridge received an order from the Admiralty that he was to proceed at once to the Dardanelles in the Defence, taking with him all his destroyers and their parent ship Blenheim, and leaving the Warrior and the two remaining light cruisers, Weymouth and Dublin, with the French Admiral for the present.


Already the true significance of the escape of the Goeben and Breslau was declaring itself. Even before their arrival in the Bosporus the feeling at the Porte had become so much embittered over our detention of their two dreadnoughts that, as early as August 9, our Charge d'Affaires for the Ambassador, Sir Louis Mallet, was unfortunately away on leave had to enter a formal protest against German vessels being allowed to arm in Turkish ports. Next day, when the Goeben and Breslau entered the Dardanelles, another protest was delivered against their being permitted to pass the Strait, and Sir Edward Grey - for whom the news left no illusions - telegraphed an immediate warning to Cairo. "If confirmed," he said, "this means that Turkey has joined Germany and may attack Egypt."


Aug. 11-16



The effrontery with which our demand was metnot only deepened the sinister impression. To our protest, the Porte replied that they had bought the two German ships and that they were to be handed over to Admiral Limpus, the head of the British Naval Mission. Admiral Limpus himself was asking to be recalled to active service; but the Grand Vizier, who throughout was honestly opposed to a breach with us, protested he only required them as a means of bargaining with the Greeks for the return of the islands they had occupied during the Balkan War and not in any way for designs against Russia, and he begged that the Mission might be allowed to remain; to recall it was to leave the field to the Germans. It was, therefore, thought well to accept the Grand Vizier's assurance for the time, and Admiral Limpus, in spite of his urgent request, was ordered to remain.


But acquiescence did not mean inaction. Already, as soon as Sir Edward Grey's warning was sounded, orders had gone to India for all possible efforts to be made to advance the arrival of the first echelon of troops in Egypt by four or five days, and we have seen how the Black Prince, Duke of Edinburgh and Chatham had been detached to the Red Sea to clear their line of passage. Finally, when a warning came from our Embassy at Constantinople of persistent rumours that two Austrian cruisers were going to try, with the connivance of the Porte, to join the Goeben in the Dardanelles, it was decided to strengthen the blockade. It was then, in the afternoon of August 15, that the orders were dispatched to Admiral Troubridge to take command of the blockading squadron. (By an order of August 18 the command in the Mediterranean was regularized thus: Admiral Carden was to be Senior Naval officer, Malta; Admiral Troubridge to be in command of ships at sea, both officers being under the French Commander-in-Chief.)


Owing to his being engaged in Admiral de Lapeyrere's movement, it was over thirty hours before the order came to his hands, and in that time the cloud over the Bosporus had ominously darkened. Instead of the German ships being handed over to our Mission, Admiral Limpus and his officers had been suddenly superseded throughout the whole fleet by Turkish officers, and directed, "if they remained," to continue work at the Ministry of Marine. The hand of the Germans overmastering our friends in the Ministry was plainly visible, and in Egypt it was no less strongly felt. There, too, intrigues, like that which was entangling Turkey, were stirring on all hands, and with so much craft and activity


Aug. 15-16, 1914


that it was to be feared if war broke out with the Suzerain Power, the internal situation of the country might be critical. We knew already that at Constantinople the mischievous Minister of War, Enver Pasha, was a German puppet, and that his dream was to use the European War to recover Egypt by force of arms. The Turkish Army was being mobilised; troops were reported in Syria moving towards the Egyptian frontier, and in the Red Sea ports transports were embarking troops for passage through the Canal. Not only was there nothing to prevent their landing on its banks, but the gravity of the situation was increased by the knowledge that the numerous German ships detained at Suez and Port Said were full of reservists. Immediate precautions were necessary, and on August 16 the Black Prince, which had been ordered to Aden, was directed by an order from Malta to remain at Suez, where a Turkish gunboat was in continual communication with Constantinople.


The Black Prince had started down the Red Sea two days before, but a happy chance had just brought her back. On the previous afternoon, shortly after leaving the Gulf of Suez, she met and captured two Hamburg-Amerika ships, the Istria of 4,200 tons and the Sudmark of 5,100. With her two prizes she turned back to Suez, passing the Duke of Edinburgh, who had just started for Aden, and she in her turn captured the Argo Company's Altair of 3,200 tons and took her into Port Sudan. Late on the 16th the Black Prince reached Suez, but only to find that her previous orders had been superseded by one from the Admiralty. The protection of the Indian convoy was too pressing a need for her to be spared from Aden. Accordingly she was to carry on there. To take her place for the defence of Egypt the Warrior had to be withdrawn from the Adriatic, her instructions being to call at Port Said in order to take on the Black Prince's prizes to Alexandria, where she was to remain. The Chatham, which was then at that port with an Austrian prize she had captured off Crete, was to move at once to Suez. (This was the Marienbad, but she was released shortly afterwards under Art. III of the Sixth Hague Convention ("Days of Grace"), to which Austria, but not Germany, had subscribed.) Thus the last of our armoured ships was removed from the French Admiral's flag, and only the two light cruisers Weymouth and Dublin were left at his disposal at Malta.


Here, then, were the first effects of the unhappy escape of the Goeben. The prospect of joint operations with the French in the Adriatic were at an end, and two of our best cruising ships were condemned to the duties of guardships,


Aug. 20, 1914



and this at a moment that was peculiarly inopportune. For this was the time, as we have seen, that Admiral Bethell's squadron in the Channel was being broken up to provide battleship support in the Commerce Defence areas, and that the order went to Admiral Troubridge to send one of his battle cruisers to Gibraltar to await orders.


On August 20 the Indomitable parted company, leaving Admiral Troubridge to carry on the Dardanelles blockade with only two ships of force, the Indefatigable, which now carried his flag, and the Defence. Still Sir Louis Mallet, who had hurried back to his post, was reporting an improvement in the situation. The forces in favour of neutrality, headed by the Grand Vizier, were gaining ground; the Minister of Marine had even promised to admit our ships if the German officers and crews did not leave Constantinople. Nevertheless, the Ambassador foresaw the possibility of a coup d'etat by Enver Pasha, with the assistance of the Goeben and the German Military Mission, who now had complete control of the Army. The only counter weight was the British squadron. But quite apart from political considerations, it could not follow the German ships in, for Enver, as Minister of War, had control of the minefields. All it could do was to remain where it was as a moral support to the Grand Vizier and his party. This the Ambassador advised it should do, and at the same time he suggested the propriety of considering "how far the forcing of the Dardanelles by the British Fleet would be an effective and necessary measure in influencing the general outcome of the war should the situation develop suddenly into a military dictatorship."


In Egypt, on the other hand, there was no improvement, and the anxiety for the Canal increased. Now that the troops were moving from India, and the East Lancashire Territorial Division one of the two originally intended for Ireland was on the point of starting from home to replace them, it was more than ever imperative to prevent it from being blocked. At the urgent request of our Agent-General, therefore, the Admiralty ordered the Warrior to return to Port Said, and a division of destroyers from Malta to be detached as a patrol for the Canal. (Foxhound, Mosquito, Racoon, Basilisk. They arrived at Port Said on August 21.) The same considerations seemed also to demand special protection for the route between Port Said and Malta, and for this purpose the French Admiral placed at Admiral Carden's disposal the Weymouth and Dublin, the last of the ships which had formed the combined fleet. Almost immediately, however, he had


Aug. 20-27, 1914


to ask for one of them to proceed to Jaffa on the Syrian coast, where Russian subjects were crying out for protection. The Admiralty, who never shared the anxiety for the Malta-Port Said line while both the Adriatic and the Dardanelles were blockaded, at once ordered the Dublin on the required service. In their view the two cruisers were much more urgently required for hunting down the Koenigsberg, and they wished both of them to proceed in chase of her without delay, but in deference, apparently, to French opinion neither of them went. The Dublin, after doing what was needful at Jaffa, joined Admiral Troubridge, and the Weymouth remained at Port Said.


This was the more hazardous, for as the month wore away things grew worse at Constantinople. The diplomatic struggle centred on the release of some British ships which had been detained in the Dardanelles on the plea that the exit was mined, and the pro-German faction was obviously getting the upper hand, for a direct order of the Grand Vizier for their release was disobeyed. Moreover, so far from the crews of the Goeben and Breslau leaving the city, numbers of German officers, seamen and marines, were known to be passing through Bulgaria for the Bosporus. Two Turkish gunboats in the Red Sea were getting active, and the southward movement of troops in Syria continued. So critical was the situation that Sir Louis Mallet, though still regarding it as not quite hopeless, warned the Government to be prepared to deliver a rapid blow if hostilities broke out.


Russia was particularly anxious about the command of the Black Sea if, in combination with the Goeben, the Turkish Fleet, reorganised, officered and largely manned by Germans, chose to dispute it. In these circumstances, though the minefields in the Dardanelles had been extended under German direction, he again on August 27 recurred to the possibility of forcing the Strait. This time his despatch was accompanied by an appreciation from our Military Attache, who reported the operation as possibly feasible, but at the same time he pointed out that, even if the minefields could be passed, little good could be done without a considerable military force. This view the Ambassador endorsed in his dispatch, and it concluded with a warning that "failure, or even partial success, would have an effect that would be disastrous."


On this appreciation, as there was no prospect of our having troops available to act with the fleet, there was nothing to do but to avoid precipitating hostilities, and no orders could be given to Admiral Troubridge except to attack the


Aug. 27, 1914



Goeben and Breslau if they came out. The moment was, indeed, unfavourable for extending our military engagements for in the main theatre events were occurring which threatened to bar indefinitely all prospect of combines operations in the Mediterranean. The darkest days of the war were upon us and we were face to face with the possibility already alluded to, that owing to the alarming military situation our whole distribution in home waters might break down before the week was out.








(see Map, P. 126 and Map 1, in case)


Although on August 20 it had been decided to send the IVth Division of the Expeditionary Force to Flanders at once, the naval arrangements were to remain as they had been settled for the permanent defence of the Army's lines of supply. Admiral Jellicoe was ordered not to repeat his sweep down the North Sea, but to rest his fleet, and use the opportunity for tactical exercises. Instead of attempting to hold the North Sea with the whole Grand Fleet, the Admiralty, as we have seen, had strengthened the Southern Force by detaching two battle cruisers to the Humber. In view of the military situation it was the southern area which at the moment was vital.


Sir John French had practically completed the concentration of his force on the 21st and had moved forward to positions which he considered most favourable to assist in the operations planned by General Joffre, on the line Binche-Mons-Conde, so as to prolong the French left, which was about Charleroi. On the military side there was thus no immediate anxiety. From the naval point of view, however, the situation was unsatisfactory in one special point. On the 21st it was known that the Belgian troops had evacuated Ostend in order to join the concentration at Antwerp, and Ostend, if it fell into Germans hands, must prove a disturbance to the arrangements for covering the Army's lines of supply. In the evening the menace became more serious on intelligence that a force of German cavalry was expected to appear before the town next day, and as a precaution Admiral Christian was ordered to make a demonstration off the port with a light cruiser and two divisions of destroyers; two "Bacchantes" were also to be in support outside the shoals. He was specially enjoined not to fire on the town, but to confine his attentions to any bodies of the enemy that gave a target outside.


Aug. 22-24, 1914



On August 22 the operation was carried out, but Admiral Christian, on landing, was informed by the Burgomaster that it had been decided not to defend the place. The Civil Guard had been disarmed and their arms sent to Antwerp. No enemy troops had been seen, but eighty German motor-cars had entered Ghent and gone forward on the Courtrai road. In the decision that had been taken the Admiral concurred, mainly because he found the sand dunes along the coast masked the roads from the north, and those from the south and south-east could only be held by a military force at a point three miles from the town where the roads crossed the Bruges Canal. It was obvious that under these conditions no adequate support could be given from the sea with the force under his command. He therefore withdrew the flotilla to the outer roadstead, and, returning to his flagship, asked for further instructions. The reply was an order to withdraw the whole force.


Next day (August 23) our Army was violently attacked at Mons, and although in face of greatly superior force they brilliantly held their position all day, by nightfall it became evident a retirement was inevitable. With equal violence the French had been attacked at Charleroi; as a result they were retreating to their own frontier, and in sympathy our force had to fall back with its right on the fortress of Maubeuge. So difficult was the operation that no one could tell how or where it would end, and our anxiety for Ostend spread to Boulogne and even to Havre.


So imminent was the danger to both those ports that the Admiralty began to make arrangements for withdrawing from them all stores not immediately required by the Army. The intention was to transfer them to Cherbourg, and before noon on the 24th word went out that no transport was to sail for Boulogne or Havre till further orders. Cherbourg was the new base favoured by the War office in view of the ease with which the Cotentin Peninsula could be made an impregnable place of arms so long as we had command of the Channel. But for a really effective command of the Channel it was highly important that the Flemish ports should not pass into the hands of the enemy. The Admiralty, therefore, while pushing on all preparations for the transference of the base, were in no mind to abandon the more easterly Channel harbours without an effort to save them. Whether the Army required them or not, their naval value was permanent and indisputable.


Aug. 24, 1914


Representations were therefore made to the French Admiralty as to the importance which, for naval reasons, we attached to defending Dunkirk, Calais and Boulogne as long as possible. For this object our Admiralty expressed their willingness to release Admiral Rouyer's squadron from the Western Patrol and to support him with a battle squadron. Dover was also offered as a base for the Calais and Boulogne flotillas, and transport was ready to bring their stores across. They further joined with the War office in asking for particulars of the land defences at Dunkirk, Calais, Boulogne and Havre, and also as to the permanent defence of the neck of the Cotentin Peninsula. At the same time Admiral Jellicoe was informed of the serious consequences which seemed to be developing out of the battle of Mons, and warned to consider the possibility of having to fix a new position for the Grand Fleet should the Germans get control of Calais and the adjacent French coast that is, in fact, if they succeeded in breaking into the Dover defile. Here, then, as the direct result of a military reverse, we were faced with a by no means remote prospect of the fundamental distribution of our Fleet no longer sufficing for the exigencies of the war.


At first the French Admiralty took a less grave view of the danger and its consequences. In their opinion no readjustment of the allied naval force was called for, but in the evening (24th) they adopted the British view and ordered Admiral Rouyer to leave his light cruisers with Admiral Wemyss, and bring his armoured ships to Cherbourg, where he was to hold himself in readiness to co-operate in defence of the threatened ports. Sir John French, in his telegram explaining the necessity of his retiring on Maubeuge, had particularly desired that immediate attention should be given to the defence of Havre, and as there seemed no need for the moment for a radical shift of base, the stores from Boulogne were transferred to that port, and Cherbourg was left for further consideration.


This same evening, however (the 24th), the security of Ostend came again into the field of our naval operations. Detachments of German cavalry had been scouring the country round, and the authorities though unwilling to make a hopeless resistance to a serious attack, were fully prepared to stand on their defence against marauders. Accordingly at 7 p.m. the Belgian Minister in London received from the Burgomaster an intimation that the immediate dispatch of British ships and a landing force was desirable. Preoccupied as the Admiralty were with keeping out of German hands any port which could serve as a submarine base for operations in the Channel, they did not hesitate to take action. The first idea, it would seem, was merely to land a few hundred men from the ships, sufficient in co-operation with the local gendarmerie to drive off the enemy's cavalry patrols.


Aug. 25, 1914



But so important was the place, and so great the need to do anything that was possible to relieve the ever-increasing pressure on our Army, that the scale of the project rapidly developed. On the 25th it became known that the Maubeuge line had proved untenable, and that the Army was falling back still further on Le Cateau, under conditions which made its extrication a matter of the gravest doubt.


On the other hand, the rush of the Germans in pursuit was exposing their communications in a most tempting manner to a blow from the sea. Could it be delivered could it even be threatened - there was at least a chance of relieving the strain on our hard-pressed Army. In such circumstances it was impossible for the Navy to sit by and not try to hold out a hand to the sister service. No matter the risk, no matter how small the chance of success, the instinct to act even desperately was bred in the bone of the Navy. If troops were available so much the better, if not, then the Admiralty must make shift with their own resources. For just such a venture the Royal Naval Division was being raised, but it was still in embryo and quite unfit for service. There was nothing approaching readiness except the Marine battalions at Devonport, Portsmouth and Chatham, some 3,000 men, but even these were mainly composed of as yet unseasoned reservists and recruits. Still, with the pied-a-terre established, better troops might follow. Our VIth Division had not yet sailed for Havre, and as the Belgian Army was contemplating offensive operations from Antwerp, a comparatively small force acting in combination with it would have a fair prospect of bringing about an effective check to the enemy's advance.


So in the evening of the 25th the order went out for the three battalions to proceed to Ostend under Brigadier-General Sir George Aston. The general intention of his orders was to create a diversion on the western flank of the German advance and to sustain the Belgian forward movement. The Chatham Battalion was to be carried in the cruisers of the Southern Force, and the other two in Channel Fleet battleships. For this purpose Admiral Burney was to detail the Prince of Wales, Venerable, Formidable and Irresistible under Rear-Admiral Currey, who would take on the Portsmouth Battalion, while Admiral Bethell, who was at Portland, would fetch the Plymouth Battalion in what was left of his squadron {Vengeance, Goliath, Prince George and Caesar). These four ships, with the light cruiser Proserpine and six destroyers, were also to support the operation, but in this duty they were to be assisted by a recent addition to the Fleet.


Aug. 24, 1914


Three monitors, just completed at Barrow for the Brazilian Government, had been purchased in the first days of the war. It was a type essential for coastal operations, especially in shallow seas, but in spite of former experience of their utility and the value the Japanese had obtained from such craft, the type was absent from our Navy. The "blue water" trend of modern naval opinion inclined to treat all such craft as heretical, in that they were unfit to take part in a fleet action, and they had been pilloried with the designation of "Coast Defence Vessels." This unfortunate misnomer had served to throw into oblivion their function of "coast attack," and the type had died like a dog with a bad name. The first breath of war, however, had blown away the misconception, and these three vessels, each armed with two 6" guns and two 4.7" howitzers, had been added to the Fleet as the Severn, Humber and Mersey.


With this powerful support the co-operation of Admiral Rouyer was no longer necessary, especially as the French had been able to give full assurances as to the land defences of Calais and Dunkirk. His orders, therefore, were to continue his co-operation with Admiral Wemyss on the Western Patrol. A strong hold on the mouth of the Channel was in any case desirable, for the severe losses the Army had suffered in the retreat had to be made good; Southampton was closed again to civil traffic, and for some days troops would be once more pouring across to Havre.


A striking feature of the enterprise was the movement that was designed to cover it. While Admiral Bethell's battleships remained to support the occupation of Ostend, the whole of the Southern Force, including the Humber battle cruisers, was to carry out an offensive demonstration up to the Heligoland Bight. As the covering movement would absorb all the Harwich destroyers as well as Admiral Campbell's cruisers, the flotilla for Ostend was provided from the Dover Patrol, and, at the request of the Admiralty, Admiral Rouyer sent destroyers from Cherbourg to replace it, and with his three armoured cruisers, which were not required in the Western Patrol, moved from Brest to Cherbourg in readiness to weigh at four hours' notice in case the landing at Ostend should tempt the German Fleet to make a sortie. It will thus be seen that the dual object which had always been a feature of these enterprises recurred. Though as a diversion the landing might fail, there was always a hope that it might bring on an action at sea, and this hope, in the eyes of such masters as Lord Anson, was the real justification for the much-derided pinpricks of his time.


Aug. 25-28, 1914



In this case the enterprise was certainly of a sufficiently hazardous nature to provoke the enemy to attack; for owing to the difficulty of combining the three contingents of the landing force for the immediate action that was required, the ships had to be exposed for many hours in thick and heavy weather. The idea was for the Chatham and Portsmouth contingents to rendezvous off the Goodwins on the 26th and proceed in company. But when in the morning it was found that Admiral Currey could not arrive before night, Admiral Christian was ordered to go at once to Ostend to make a demonstration. It was now known that the Belgian gendarmerie had been in conflict with Uhlans three miles from Ostend, and as it was possible by this time that the town itself might be in the hands of the enemy, a careful reconnaissance was necessary before any action could be taken. He was off the port by 6 p.m. with General Aston and the Chatham Battalion, but before he could ascertain that the place was still free of the enemy, the weather had grown too bad for the Marines to land. Not till 3 a.m. on the 27th did it improve enough for the disembarkation to begin, and as soon as the ships were cleared Admiral Christian sent away Admiral Campbell's cruisers to the rendezvous for the Heligoland demonstration, and remained himself to see the landing completed.


Owing to the weather, Admiral Currey had had to anchor for the night, in spite of the position being exposed to torpedo attack; but weighing at 3.30 a.m., without lights, he was off Ostend by 6.30. Still, he could not begin landing, as the tugs which should have been there had not arrived. By 8.0, however, the Belgian authorities sent out the mail boat Princesse Clementine, which had just finished landing the first contingent. At 4 p.m. Admiral Bethell arrived, but owing to the congested state of the quays the Marines had to be kept afloat till next morning. Admiral Bethell, however, was able to take over the command according to instructions, and, while Admiral Currey left to rejoin Admiral Burney's flag in the Channel, Admiral Christian got away to conduct the covering operation of the Southern Force. Early in the morning of the 28th the tugs arrived, and the Plymouth Battalion was soon ashore with the other two.


As we have seen, the original conception of the force which was now in occupation of Ostend was that of an advance guard to seize a pied-a-terre for the inlet of further forces. It was recognised as being incapable either by training or equipment for field operations, and General Aston's instructions were that he was to keep his force in close proximity to the coast. In pursuance of these orders he was entrenching on the perimeter of the town, with small bicycle patrols thrown out, when word came from the French that they were ready to embark 4,000 Belgians at Havre and 12,000 more on the 30th and 31st if we could guarantee their safe landing at Ostend or Zeebrugge. These were the troops that had retreated from Namur with the French, and for a time there was hope that the Ostend enterprise would develop into something effective.


As things were, the position there was anything but satisfactory. The monitors, having only just reached Dover from the westward, had not yet appeared. All, therefore, depended on Admiral Bethell's squadron. This meant not only that it must remain dangerously exposed with insufficient flotilla protection, but as Admiral Christian had already reported, that should the inadequate garrison be attacked, the height of the sand dunes rendered effective support by ship fire impossible. Still, the prospect of affording some real help to the Army was now too promising for the project to be abandoned, and the Admiralty decided to hold on, and inform the French that they could guarantee the safe transport of the Belgian troops. There was, in fact, no longer any risk about it, for away to the northward events were happening which promised to keep the Germans quiet at sea for some time, and served to throw an enheartening ray of light over the unrelieved gloom which seemed to the Government and public at home to have settled over the fortunes of the Allies in France.








(See Maps 5 and 6 in case.)


Contemporary postcard from the scrapbook of Leading Signalman George Smith,
present on board HM Destroyer Forester


The operations in question took place off Heligoland. That they were used to cover the Ostend diversion was in some measure an afterthought. In their first conception they were dictated by a desire to assert our command of the North Sea right up to the enemy's gates. The idea originated in a proposal made by Commodore Keyes on August 23. Since the first days of the war the submarines of the 8th, or "Oversea" Flotilla, had been keeping a constant watch off the ports in the Bight. It was a risky and exciting service in which there were continual encounters with the vigilant and well-handled destroyers of the enemy and several hairbreadth escapes. Still, with such boldness and persistence was the reconnaissance maintained that the German patrol ships were in continual danger, and on August 21 a large cruiser of the "Roon" type was missed by sheer fatality in circumstances that made her escape miraculous. By extraordinary bad luck not a ship was touched; but, on the other hand, very full information had been obtained as to the routine of the German guard.


It was evident that their practice was for light cruisers to lead out a number of destroyers every evening to certain points where the destroyers fanned out to seaward. On their return at daylight they were usually met towards 8.0 a.m. by the light cruisers about twenty miles north-west of Heligoland. It had further been ascertained that enemy patrols also put to sea before dark and came back at dawn. This valuable information, which had only been obtained at great risk and by noteworthy skill and daring on the part of the submarine officers, the Commodore was anxious to turn to account. Little could be done in the daytime, for continuous guard was kept up both north and south of Heligoland by a large number of destroyers steaming at high speed on some regular system which was evidently designed to prevent mine-laying and to foil submarine attacks. But the Commodore was of opinion that a well-organised drive, commencing inshore before dawn, should inflict considerable loss on the returning night patrols.


At the time the proposal was made no special activity was contemplated. Indeed, a design which the Commander-in-Chief had just submitted for a sweep to the Heligoland Bight, in co-operation with the Southern Force, had been postponed by the
Admiralty on the ground that as another division of the Expeditionary Force would be crossing it was necessary to maintain the Broad Fourteens patrol in place; and when on August 23 it was no longer needed it was withdrawn, and its supporting cruisers directed to go to target practice. (The Southern Force supporting cruisers were now Euryalus (flag of Rear-Admiral Christian), with Amethyst as attached light cruiser, and Rear-Admiral Campbell's Cruiser Force C; that is, Bacchante (flag), Cressy, Hogue (right - Maritime Quest) and Aboukir.)


Commodore Keyes's scheme was then considered as a separate undertaking, and after consultation with Commodore Tyrwhitt its general lines were modified to this extent: instead of the destroyer sweep commencing from inshore before dawn so as to inflict loss on the returning night patrols, the actual drive was not to commence until 8.0, when the night patrols would have been safely in port. The expectation was that our flotillas would thus intercept the enemy destroyer day patrols, who were to be lured out to sea by an outer line of submarines. Otherwise the scheme was on the general lines suggested by Commodore Keyes. An inner line of three submarines (E 4, E 5, E 9) was to be first formed north and south of Heligoland, and till a certain moment they were to remain concealed so as to be in a position to attack any cruisers that might come out to drive off our destroyers, and also any they might catch of those returning.


An outer line of three others (E 6, E 7, E 8) would be placed some forty miles out, and their function would be to show themselves and try to draw the enemy's destroyers to sea. Two others were to take station off the Ems to deal with anything that might come out or try to get in. The attacking force was the 1st and 3rd Flotillas and their leaders, Arethusa and Fearless. The Invincible and New Zealand, which had just taken up their station in the Humber, were to act as supports, while Admiral Christian with Admiral Campbell's squadron was to be in reserve off Terschelling. The plan of operations was that while the submarines were getting into position, the battle cruisers and destroyer flotillas would get into touch to the south-east of the Dogger Bank, and during the night proceed to the north-eastward so that at 4.0 next morning the destroyers would be twenty-five miles south-west of the Horn Reef light-vessel, and the battle cruisers further to the westward.


Aug. 25-27, 1915



The destroyers were then to commence the actual raid by running down to the southward with the battle cruisers on their starboard-quarter till they had reached a point twelve miles to the westward of Heligoland at 8.0 a.m., when they would begin the drive to the westward.

Such was the plan as originally sanctioned, but it soon expanded into something more considerable. On August 25, when the diversion to Ostend was approved, it was decided to carry out the scheme at once by way of a covering attack for the expedition. The Commander-in-Chief was informed of what was intended and warned that the Ostend expedition might lead to a movement of the High Seas Fleet. Assuming from this that his co-operation was required, he proposed moving down the Grand Fleet cruisers and destroyers to a supporting position with the Battle Fleet near. In reply he was told the Battle Fleet would not be wanted, but that his battle cruisers might support if convenient. Early on the 27th he informed them he was sending Admiral Beatty, with his three remaining battle cruisers, Lion (right - Maritime Quest/Alasdair Hughes), Queen Mary, Princess Royal, and Commodore Goodenough's six light cruisers to meet the Humber battle cruisers next morning at their rendezvous. He also asked that directions should be sent to Admiral Beatty as to what the light cruisers should do, and the answer was that they should make for the destroyer rendezvous and follow their sweep in support.


Shortly after noon a message went out from the Admiralty explaining all this to Admiral Christian and the two flotilla Commodores. The message was duly received in the Euryalus, but by some mischance it never reached either Commodore, and they began the elaborate movement with no knowledge that the Grand Fleet cruisers were taking part in it. Consequently when, at 3.30 a.m., the light cruisers were sighted by the flotillas they narrowly escaped being attacked. Their identity, however, was quickly discovered, the junction was effected as arranged, and punctually to time Commodore Tyrwhitt began his run to the southward according to programme with the light cruisers following in support and the five battle cruisers some thirty miles distant on his starboard-quarter.


Meanwhile, however, the Germans had got wind of what was coming and had made dispositions to turn the tables on our flotilla. According to the statements of prisoners, wireless had revealed the approach of a strong force of destroyers shortly before midnight, and instead of the usual patrol being sent out, a counter scheme which had been held in readiness for some time in expectation of an attack was put in force. The idea was to send out a few torpedo boats

Aug. 28, 1914, 7.0 a.m.


as a bait to draw our destroyers inside the Bight and to dispose light cruisers to cut in behind them. The plan was a counterpart of our own, and a very interesting situation was set up in which each side was trying to entrap the other. As was inevitable, since we were on the offensive, the enemy were the first to score.


Commodore Tyrwhitt was leading down for the 8 o'clock rendezvous west of Heligoland in the Arethusa (right - Navy Photos) the name-ship of a new class of armoured light cruiser to which he had transferred his broad pennant the day before the operation began. The 3rd Flotilla was with him in cruising order that is, in divisions line ahead, disposed abeam to port, the columns being five cables apart. Two miles astern was Captain Blunt in the Fearless, leading the 1st Flotilla similarly disposed. Following them at an interval of eight miles was Commodore Goodenough, in the Southampton, with his six light cruisers in three divisions two miles apart.



Arethusa, 3,500 tons, 28.5 knots (designed), 2 6", 6 4" guns.

Division 4.

Division 3.

Division 2.

Division 1.