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World War 1 at Sea - Contemporary Royal Navy Accounts


HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR - NAVAL OPERATIONS, Volume 1, to the Battle of the Falklands, December 1914 (Part 1 of 2) by Sir Julian S Corbett


Published by Longmans, Green, London 1920

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

on to Naval Operations, Vol 1, Part 2 of 2


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

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.



















Fearless, 3,440 tons, 25.4 knots, 10 4" guns.

Division 5.

Division 3.

Division 2.

Division 1.


















The 4th Division of the 1st Flotilla (Badger, Beaver, Jackal, Sandfly) had been detached to accompany the Humber battle cruisers. Destroyers attached to the submarines were Lurcher (Commodore Keyes) and Firedrake.



Division 2.

Division 1.

Division 3.











In this order they had proceeded for nearly three hours when, shortly before 7.0, one of the German decoy destroyers was sighted to the south-eastward – that is, on the port bow – about three and a half miles away. Without altering course himself, Commodore Tyrwhitt detached his 4th Division in chase - that being the division nearest to the enemy. The enemy's destroyer at once made off south-eastwards into the Bight, and our chasing division soon made out a number of other German destroyers, which it continued to chase and engage, but at so great a range that

7.0-8.0 a.m.



the firing was ineffective on both sides. In half an hour's time they had got so far away from the Commodore that he could not see what was happening. Though it was a perfectly fine morning with a smooth sea and clear to seaward, as the land was approached the visibility was greatly reduced, and as the firing increased, the Commodore, although he had just sighted other destroyers to the south-south-west, decided he must go to the support of his detached division. He therefore signalled for four points to port, leaders together, and increased speed. In a few more minutes he was able to make out ten German destroyers with which his own were engaged. At 7.40, therefore, he altered another two points to port, and forming line abreast settled down to a full speed chase with the Fearless (right - Photo Ships) and her flotilla following.


With the mist thickening towards the shore the range was too great for effective firing, nor could his utmost speed reduce it. The enemy's destroyers could be seen on both bows, and first one and then another group was chased, but still without gaining on them. Yet for nearly half an hour the action was kept up, heading at full speed into the Bight. A few minutes before 8.0, however, a light cruiser of the " Stettin" class was seen coming up from the north of Heligoland (See Plan. Phase 8.0 to 8.25) from the peculiar arrangement of her three funnels it was believed that she was the Stettin (3,494 tons, 24 knots, 10 4.1" guns) herself, and Commodore Tyrwhitt altered four points to the eastward to engage her while the flotilla closed in. As he did so another cruiser, with two funnels, was seen coming up on the port quarter of the first, which proved to be the Frauenlob (2,656 tons, 21 knots, 10 4-1" guns.) She at once turned about


Aug. 28, 1914, 8.0-8.25 a.m.


sixteen points inwards, and Commodore Tyrwhitt altered to the south-eastward to engage her on a parallel course. The Stettin held on upon the opposite course, and for a time he was under heavy fire from both of them. His flotilla gave him all the support they could, both with guns and torpedo, but he soon began to suffer.


Relief, however, soon came. By 8.5 the Stettin had come in sight of the Fearless, and turned away sixteen points as though to run back behind Heligoland. The Fearless and her flotilla were away in chase to the eastward in a moment, and the Arethusa was left alone with the smaller of her two antagonists. At 8.10 the Frauenlob turned to the southward, down the west side of Heligoland, and Commodore Tyrwhitt altered to a slightly converging course. A running fight ensued with the range continually diminishing, till when it was below 4,000 yards the Commodore fired two torpedoes. Neither, he thought, took effect, and as the Arethusa's guns were being put out of action one after the other her position began to be serious. Some of his destroyers were attending to a tramp which, though flying Norwegian colours, seemed to be trying to cross ahead of the Arethusa in order to lay mines. Others were smashing up a small torpedo boat, which ran in from the westward, and though they thought they sank her she was eventually taken in in a pitiable state, lashed between two destroyers.


Thus not only was his force somewhat scattered, but it now became obvious the forts of Heligoland were firing, and sure enough the island suddenly loomed up to port. Promptly the Commodore made the signal " W. 1/4 S." (mag.)—that is, for the drive to the westward to begin. The Fearless obeyed it at once, and whipping her pack off the Stettin, left her to disappear in the mist. The Commodore, however, still held on and continued the action with the Frauenlob, till by 8.25 the only gun he had in action was one 6", but as it happened it was enough. For at this moment it got home apparently under the enemy's fore bridge, and she sheered off and made for the protection of the Heligoland batteries. So badly, indeed, was she hurt that it seemed doubtful whether she would survive, but according to prisoners taken later she did get in to Wilhelmshaven about noon, with the loss of about fifty killed and wounded, and a report that she had totally disabled the Arethusa. But this was far from the case, for as soon as she turned away Commodore Tyrwhitt signalled again to start the drive westward.


So the first phase of the operations ended, but it was scarcely over before the second phase developed. (See Plan. Sinking of V 187.)





The Fearless, who with the 1st Flotilla had begun the outward sweep a quarter of an hour earlier, had almost immediately caught a stray destroyer in her net. At 8.15, three minutes after she got Commodore Tyrwhitt's signal to turn to the westward, V187 was sighted ahead. She was the flotilla leader's boat, which had been scouting beyond visual distance, but on getting a wireless signal from another destroyer that she was being chased, V187 was steaming about east-south-east to her assistance. After making the challenge Captain Blunt opened fire and ordered the 5th Division to chase, but just then he took in a signal from Commodore Keyes, who in the Lurcher had been searching for enemy submarines, according to plan, on the line of the battle cruisers' advance. He seemed to be coming in from seaward, and Captain Blunt, fearing it might be the Lurcher he was attacking, ceased fire and cancelled the signal to chase. He then lost sight of V187, who appears to have turned away.


At 8.25, however, the 5th Division sighted her going south-south-west only 6,000 yards away, and gave chase. At first she went off to the westward, but soon turned to southward. On this course V187 tried to get away with the shells of our destroyers falling thick about her, when she was suddenly aware of two of our " Town " class cruisers ahead of her. They could only have been the Nottingham and Lowestoft, Commodore Goodenough's port division which, as will be seen directly, he had detached to support the flotillas. Seeing there was no hope that way the German officer doubled back sixteen points. But it was only to find that Captain Blunt's 3rd Division, which had been next to the 5th, had also come down and was heading to cut him off. He was now engaged with all eight destroyers, and in desperation he turned for the 5th Division, trying to get through on the opposite course. But it was a forlorn hope. Before he could win through his boat was circling helplessly, and in another minute she had almost stopped and nothing could be seen of her but a cloud of black smoke.


(The above details of the German Commodore's intentions and movements are from a statement made by an officer of the ship, Lieutenant-Commander Lechler, who was wounded and taken prisoner, supplemented by the following account of the affair by an officer of the watch in Kirchchoff's Der Seekrieg, 1914-1915 :—


" On the morning of August 28, ' V 187 ' was on scouting duty some distance off Heligoland. She received a signal from another torpedo boat, ' Am being chased by enemy torpedo boat destroyer. ' V 187 ' tried to go to her companion's help; could not find her, however, in the fog which suddenly got thicker, and in a short time found herself confronted by two enemy torpedo boat destroyers. Shortly afterwards four other enemy ships appeared, but could not be made out distinctly. ' V 187 ' in face of this superior force attempted to get away to Heligoland, but found her course intercepted by four more torpedo boat destroyers which appeared. These opened fire at close range on ' V 187.' The torpedo boat now tried by altering course to get past the enemy, but found an enemy cruiser in her way, which also opened a sharp fire on her at short range. Surrounded on all sides by superior enemy forces, the Commander of the ' V 187 ' decided to turn upon the enemy pursuers. The enemy destroyers were at first taken aback by this unexpected manoeuvre, but then—ten of them besides the cruiser— opened a concentrated destructive fire on the German torpedo boat. She was heavily damaged. One gun after the other was put out of action, her Commander wounded by a splinter. Hit after hit found her. The ship was completely covered in smoke and steam; a great part of the crew was dead; ' V 187 ' could only move at slow speed.")


8.30-9.10 a.m.


It was now 8.50, and seeing the enemy helpless, Captain Blunt left her to the 3rd and 5th Divisions, and with the other two went off to the southward to rejoin the Commodore. At nine they were together again, and reforming cruising order Commodore Tyrwhitt held on to the westward according to plan.


Up till this time they had seen nothing of either the battle cruisers or the light cruisers. Admiral Beatty had already reached his supporting position, fifty miles about west-north-west from Heligoland, and there, awaiting a call, he was marking time with successive eight point turns at good speed, so as to avoid submarine attack. At 8.30 Commodore Goodenough had also reached his final position west-southwest of Heligoland. His ships were not all in company, for at 8.10, having received a delayed signal from Commodore Tyrwhitt that he was engaged, he had detached the Nottingham and Lowestoft to assist him. They were soon chasing a destroyer to the eastward, which they quickly lost in the mist, but as they ran down abreast of Heligoland other boats appear to have been chased in various directions, and at 8.50, when they had passed the island, they saw more destroyers to the south-west and gave chase in that direction. These must also have been German; for when, twenty minutes later (9.10), having apparently lost them, the two cruisers turned north-west, they almost immediately saw and passed the reunited British flotillas steering to the westward.


Elsewhere the situation was in considerable confusion. When the action began Commodore Keyes, in the Lurcher, was still unaware that the northern force was present, and having searched for submarines in the waters over which the Invincible and New Zealand were to pass, according to the original plan of operations, he was making to the eastwards towards the sound of the guns. In doing so he was aware of two four-funnelled cruisers looming out of the mist.





They were difficult to make out, and in all probability were the Nottingham and Lowestoft, which had just been detached. At all events they were steering the same course, but Commodore Keyes, having no reason to suppose any British cruisers of the class were in the vicinity, signalled to the Invincible that he was in touch with two of the enemy and proceeded to shadow them.


At 8.15—that is, just after the Nottingham and Lowestoft had parted company—Commodore Goodenough took in the signal, and decided to go to the Lurcher's assistance. He was just approaching the final position from which he was to sweep seawards in conformity with the general movement. At 8.30 he turned to the westward, but not finding her, at 8.53 he altered to the northward. The movement quickly brought him in sight of the Lurcher, but the result was only to increase the confusion. For Commodore Keyes now thought he was in the presence of four enemy cruisers instead of two, and he held away about north by west towards the position where the battle cruisers were marking time. Our own ships followed, and he signalled to the Invincible that he was being chased by four cruisers and was trying to lead them on to her.


It was not, however, for long that Commodore Goodenough followed the false lead. Something was evidently wrong, and at 9.5 he turned to the westerly course laid down by the programme which he now knew the flotillas were taking. Unfortunately this led to further confusion, for it soon brought him upon the outer line of our submarines, of whose position he was still unaware. A little before 9.30 he came upon E 6 (Lieutenant-Commander C. P. Talbot) and made a prompt attempt to ram her. So close and quick was he that the submarine only escaped by diving under the flagship, but, thanks to Lieutenant-Commander Talbot's skilful handling, no harm was done, nor did he, being uncertain of his assailant's nationality, make any attempt to attack. Commodore Goodenough now continued his westerly course, while the Nottingham and Lowestoft, having quite lost touch, proceeded at 9.30 about north-north-west towards where they knew the battle cruisers were marking time. But, in fact, Admiral Beatty was just moving from his first position, for having ascertained that the seaward drive had begun, he, too, held away W. 1/4 S. (mag.) and signalled his intention to the three Commodores, but as the Nottingham and Lowestoft did not get the signal they held on as they were and were thrown out for the rest of the day.


Aug. 28, 1914, 9.45-10.20 a.m.


To complete the confusion, at about a quarter to ten the other submarine leader, Firedrake, passed to the Arethusa the Lurcher's signal that she was being chased. Commodore Tyrwhitt immediately stopped his westerly course and turned back eastward with his destroyers to go to her assistance. Almost at once they had sight of a three-funnelled enemy cruiser, which was probably the Stettin again. She was chased, but quickly disappeared in the mist. Then about 10.0 appeared the 3rd and 5th Divisions of the Fearless's flotilla coming back from finishing V 187. The Commodore now broke off the chase, and fearing he was getting too close to Heligoland, turned back 16 points to the westward. No enemy was in sight, and it seemed a good chance of doing some repairs to the Arethusa, whose speed had been dropping more and more owing to the injuries she had received from the Stettin and Frauenlob. Accordingly at 10.20, leaving his own flotilla to carry on to the westward, under Commander Dutton of the Lookout at 10 knots, he closed the Fearless and signalled to her and the 1st Flotilla to stop engines.


He was now able to get the story of the last hours of the German flotilla leader. They had been unexpectedly full of incident, and had afforded the first evidence of a spirit in our enemy for which we were little prepared. As we have seen, it was at 8.50 that the Fearless had left her two divisions to finish with the helpless destroyer, and after they had passed firing into her at 600 yards, with every shot telling, she was seen to be badly down by the bows and apparently sinking. Our destroyers then stopped and sent away boats to rescue her crew. No flag of truce was flown, though the enemy's colours were still flying, and the enemy's idea seems to have been that our object was to board and capture. The Germans had no intention that their gallant defence should have so tame an end, and an officer was seen to train and fire the after guns at the Goshawk, the leader of the 5th Division, which was only 200 yards away. The shot hit her in the ward-room, and it was clearly necessary to destroy the gun before the work of rescue could proceed. Fire was reopened and with such immediate effect that at 9.10 V 187 went down. The boats then closed to pick up survivors, but scarcely had they started when a cruiser of the "Stettin " class appeared out of the mist and began a heavy fire. She was probably the Stettin herself, who, after the Fearless had left chasing her, would seem to have come on again, and followed up our westerly sweep. With the best will in the world it was impossible to continue the work of mercy. Yet all that was possible was done. With our men there was nothing but admiration for the gallant fight the





enemy had made, and we had yet to learn that gallantry could exist without a spark of chivalry. It was beyond our officers to leave to their fate the wounded that were already in the boats and the men still struggling in the water. Our people were, therefore, taken on board and the boats left for the enemy. Two officers, including the Commodore and twenty-six men, were kept as prisoners, and with them our destroyers made off. In one case only had it been found impossible to pick up our own men. The Defender, rear boat of the 3rd Division, had drifted away from her two boats and was under such heavy fire that her commanding officer thought it his duty to save his ship and leave his boats to shift for themselves.


To all appearance they were irretrievably lost, and but for one man's gallantry and resource they would have been. Lieutenant-Commander Leir of the submarine E 4 (right - Navy Photos) had been watching the whole affair through his periscope. Having seen the cruiser coming up he had made a bold attempt to torpedo her, but she apparently detected the rush of air, and by a sudden change of course straight for the submarine she just avoided the torpedo. E4 then dived to avoid being rammed, and about 9.30, when all seemed quiet, came to the surface again. The cruiser was nowhere to be seen, but the boats were still there and she closed them. They were full of badly-wounded Germans, and our men had done their best to tend them by stripping to their trousers and tearing up the rest of their clothes for bandages. There were also two officers and eight men unwounded. To leave men who had fought so well to their fate was impossible, even in face of what the cruiser had done. So what Lieutenant-Commander Leir decided to do, besides taking on board the Defender's men, whom he had so miraculously rescued, was to take one officer, and two men prisoners, "as a sample," so he said, and leave the rest to look after the wounded. Then, having seen they had water and biscuits enough and a compass, and given them the course for Heligoland, at 10.10 he made off for the sound of guns in the south-west.


It was just at this time, as we have seen, that the re-concentration of the flotillas was completed by the 3rd and 5th Divisions of the 1st Flotilla rejoining the Fearless. By this time also the mystery of the Lurcher and her phantom chasing ships had been cleared up. About 10.0, as the general movement seaward had brought the Light Cruiser Squadron into a clearer atmosphere, she had so much doubt as to whether she was really in the presence of enemy ships that she ventured to make the challenge.


10.10-10.55 a.m.


It was answered, and the mistake was soon explained. The explanations, however, could only increase the anxiety of both Commodores, for though Commodore Keyes now knew that the Light Cruiser Squadron was taking part, his submarines did not know. They would now be moving westwards; it was impossible to warn them of the misunderstanding, and Commodore Goodenough signalled to the Admiral that he considered it best to retire out of the danger area. So the westerly movement continued, with the battle cruisers conforming to the northward, till 10.20, when Admiral Beatty again began to mark time, about eighteen miles S. 76 degrees W. of his last position, and Commodore Goodenough signalled to his two stray ships, the Nottingham and Lowestoft, to join the battle cruisers.


The second phase of the operations was now at an end, and, indeed, it might have seemed that the whole affair was over with disappointing results. But, in fact, it was only a pause before the last and most productive phase began.


When Admiral Beatty received Commodore Goodenough's signal explaining how the confusion, which had hitherto hampered operations, had arisen, and suggesting a retirement to get clear of our submarines, he replied by directing him not to get too far south, but to keep well to the northward of the flotillas. At 10.30, therefore, the light cruisers, which, having carried on with the outward sweep were now some thirty miles to the westward of the Arethusa, turned north. About the same time the Arethusa had managed to get all her guns, except two 4", into working order again, and was once more ready for action. But as Commodore Tyrwhitt feared that if he searched in the direction from which he had come, he would be getting too near Heligoland, he signalled (10.37) for a westerly course (N. 75 degrees W. mag.), hoping it would bring him into touch with the light cruisers. Meanwhile, as his crippled ship could only do 10 knots, he directed the Fearless to keep him in sight. The wisdom of the precaution was quickly apparent. They had been little more than ten minutes on the westerly course when (10.55) a large four-funnelled cruiser of the " Breslau " class was seen to the south-east coming up on a northerly course. This ship appears to have been the Stralsund. She at once opened an accurate fire on the Commodore, and in view of the crippled condition of the Arethusa, his position was obviously critical— so critical, indeed, that he had to request the Fearless to deliver a torpedo attack. Before doing so, Captain Blunt





ordered all destroyers that were short of ammunition to carry on homewards. Not a single ship appears to have accepted the invitation. The whole flotilla turned with him upon the enemy as she held to the northward, and in face of the overwhelming force she quickly sheered off. (A German officer, subsequently taken prisoner, stated the four-funnelled cruiser which fired on the Arethusa was the Stralsund, and that she was hit. She was of the " Breslau " class: 4,480 tons, 27 knots, 12 4.1" guns.)


The Commodore did not follow. Scenting a snare to entice his ships towards Heligoland, he promptly negatived the chase, and being anxious for the retirement to continue without further interruption, particularly as the Goshawk, leader of the 5th Division, had been somewhat badly hit in the action with V187, he signalled to carry on to the westward. Meanwhile the 3rd Flotilla, in pursuance of the original signal (10.20), had also been retiring westward, but at the first sound of the guns they turned 16 points towards the fight. In a few minutes, however, the 1st Flotilla were seen to the eastward, and Commander Dutton of the Lookout, who was in charge, returned again to his westerly course. At the same time the Fearless, in response to the Commodore's signal, was just turning back to rejoin him when a three-funnelled cruiser appeared to the eastward.


It was the Stettin once more, and she began to engage at once. In a moment the Fearless was round again; the Arethusa turned with her and another sharp action began, this time between the cruisers only. The flotillas were not at first permitted to take part. The Arethusa and Fearless could still be heard in hot action, the sound of the guns was irresistible, and at 11.15 Commander Dutton once more turned his flotilla back east-south-east. Five minutes later the Acheron, who was leading the 1st Division, having just taken in a signal from the Fearless to attack with torpedo, turned to the south-eastward and made for the position where she had last seen the Arethusa and Fearless.


11.20-11.50 a.m.


  1. Almost at the same time the rest of the 1st Flotilla, had sight of another enemy cruiser with three funnels. The new-comer was undoubtedly the Mainz. (Kolberg, Mainz, Koeln, 4,280 tons, 26.5 knots (max.), 12 4.1" guns.) At 10 a.m. she had been seen by our submarine, D 2, which was stationed off the Western Ems, coming out of the estuary and then making at high speed to the eastward. According to prisoners she had been lying at Borkum when the action began. She then put to sea and was hastening towards Heligoland when, on receipt of an order to go to the assistance of the Stralsund, she turned north-eastward, and thus ran up to our destroyers as they were retiring westward. When the 1st Flotilla sighted her she was to the west-south-west on their port bow and heading northerly across their course. (See Plan. Phase 11.30 to noon.) The Ariel, who was leading the 2nd Division, at once swung round to the northward to get into position for attacking her; the 3rd and 5th Divisions followed in line-ahead, and all three divisions continued their action to the northward with the Mainz at long range till in about twenty minutes they were surprised to see her suddenly turn back 16 points. The fact was, as they quickly perceived, she had been headed off by Commodore Goodenough, who at that moment appeared from the northward with the four light cruisers that he had kept with him in line-abreast and had opened fire on her. The 5th Division at once turned back on a parallel course to the enemy, while the other two divisions made to cross her wake towards our own cruisers.


The explanation of Commodore Goodenough's opportune appearance was this. All the time the 1st Flotilla had been engaged with the Mainz, Commodore Tyrwhitt, after driving off the Stettin, had been in hot action with the Stralsund. At 11.30 she had reappeared from the northward, and so severe and well-directed was her fire that, although the Arethusa was not hit, seeing how badly crippled she was her position was again so critical that he ordered his destroyers to attack with torpedoes, and sent an urgent signal to Admiral Beatty asking for assistance.


10.45-11.30 a.m.



Till 10.45 he had been marking time again, some fifty miles away to the west-north-westward, but then having sighted the light cruisers coming north he had begun to move to the eastward to close them. Almost immediately, however, his movement was checked by an alarm of a submarine. It was apparently false, but caused the squadron to scatter. But at 11.15 while he was re-forming and before he got the Arethusa's call for help, he had ordered Commodore Goodenough to detach two light cruisers to Commodore Tyrwhitt's assistance, and they, not having his position correctly, went off east by south where the sound of the guns seemed to come from. Ten minutes later the Arethusa's urgent call got through.


What was Admiral Beatty to do? He was now leading the battle cruisers on a course about S. 30 degrees W., and all he knew went to show the situation of the flotillas was extremely critical. Commodore Tyrwhitt's message spoke of a large cruiser, for in the bad light the four-funnelled Stralsund had been taken for something much more formidable than she was. The Admiral, moreover, had to consider that fighting had been going on for nearly four hours, and that since 8.0 a.m., when the outward sweep was to begin, it seemed only to have advanced about ten miles. The flotillas were consequently dangerously near two of the enemy bases—the Jade in their rear, and the Ems on their port bow. He calculated, therefore, that the Germans would have had time enough to be getting a powerful force to sea in order to deal a retaliatory blow, and the Commodore's signal that he was engaged with a large cruiser looked as if they were actually doing so.


In these circumstances there was obvious danger of the light cruisers being outmatched unless support reached them in time. But to be effective the support must be overwhelming and brought to bear with the utmost speed. The battle cruisers alone could give what was wanted, but, on the other hand, the risk of taking them in would be great. Not only did he believe enemy submarines were in action, but our own were also operating in the area, nor could the contingency of his meeting a battle squadron be ignored. Seeing how the mist was thickening to the eastward the risks were certainly great. With due deliberation they were calculated, but all together they were not found to outweigh the duty of rescuing the flotillas. The still air, which caused the mist to hang, gave also so glassy a sea that submarines could easily be seen in time for his high speed to enable him to avoid them, nor was it very likely a superior battle squadron could be on the spot


Aug. 28, 1914, 11.30-12.10 a.m.


in time if he made his swoop immediately and at his utmost speed. So, at 11.30, as the third call from the Arethusa came in, the Admiral's mind was made up. Commodore Goodenough was ordered to take all he had, and the Admiral himself led away eastward at full speed to cover the forty odd miles which lay between him and the position Commodore Tyrwhitt had given (54 degrees N. 7 degrees E.).


The bold and well-judged decision was taken at the last possible moment. The 3rd Flotilla which had been ordered to close the Commodore at 11.25, when the Stettin had been driven off, was just re-forming cruising order on the Arethusa when salvos began to fall amongst the destroyers from an unseen ship to the northward, which in a few minutes, as we have seen, proved to be the Stralsund. The Arethusa and Fearless opened a hot fire, and at the same time the Acheron's division, which was coming down south-east in response to the Fearless's signal to attack the Stettin with torpedo, sighted the Stralsund and attacked her. To avoid her the Stralsund turned to north-westward. This was the moment when the Commodore, feeling himself outmatched by the heavier enemy, had ordered his destroyers to attack with torpedoes. All four divisions sped off to obey, and the two leading divisions, going away to the north-westward, soon found the enemy and engaged her. Several torpedoes were fired, none of which hit, but they had the effect of forcing the German to turn away and disappear. Meanwhile, the 3rd and 4th Divisions, being to the southward of the Commodore, could not see the cruiser, and after an attempt to locate her, which brought them in touch with the Acheron's division, they rejoined the Arethusa and Fearless. The other two divisions also came back, and all were resuming the westward course in cruising order, when suddenly, shortly after noon, a three-funnelled cruiser loomed up ahead. (See Plan. Phase 12.5 to 12.30.)


It was the Mainz, still running to the southward from the fire of our light cruisers. They were coming down on her starboard quarter at full speed, continually reducing the range, and she had no choice but to run on to the southward to cross Commodore Tyrwhitt's bows. The Fearless, which was to the north of the Arethusa, turned promptly on the opposite course to the enemy and engaged her. She also fired a torpedo which failed, through gyroscope trouble, and she had to manoeuvre to avoid it.


12.10-12.15 p.m.



She then turned to assist the Arethusa, who had altered a little to starboard to bring her guns to bear. Commodore Tyrwhitt was again in hot action at 5,000 yards, and not knowing that our light cruisers were close on the Mainz's heels, had signalled the five divisions of destroyers that were in company to attack her. The 1st Division of the 1st Flotilla and the 1st and 2nd of the 3rd Flotilla, which were to the northward of the Arethusa, formed line-ahead and swung to starboard on the opposite course of the Mainz, the other two being to the southward held on to the westward, and upon the 4th Division, which was outermost, the Mainz turned all her energy as she came down. Her fire was extraordinarily well-aimed and calibrated, and just after the Laurel (right - Photo ships) had fired her two torpedoes and was turning away the fourth salvo hit her badly. Besides other damage, the lyddite in the after ready racks detonated, put the after gun and its crew out of action, and so damaged the after funnel that she was lost to view in a smother of smoke. She was thus able to limp away as fast as her crippled engines and boilers would allow.


To some extent the smoke also hid her next astern—the Liberty—but she, too, as she turned away was hit forward. Her mast was brought down, and her captain, Lieutenant-Commander Nigel Barttelot, killed. Still, she carried on under Lieutenant Horan, and continued to fire till the Mainz was lost in the mist. The Lysander (Commander H. F. H. Wakefield), which came next, had better luck, for the salvo aimed at her as she turned missed, and she proceeded to attack another cruiser which had just come in sight to the northward, which seems to have been the Stettin. Last came the Laertes (right - Photo Ships), and she received her salvo with such precision that every shell hit her, and though her casualties were only two killed and six wounded, she was brought to a standstill with no water in her boilers.


So the Mainz brilliantly repulsed the torpedo attack, but by this time, under the cross fire of the light cruisers and the flotilla and its leaders, she herself had suffered severely. She was on fire fore and aft, but was still gamely in action. For Commodore Tyrwhitt the situation seemed still critical. It was clear a concentration of German cruisers was taking place to north of him. The Stralsund had returned to the attack, for the Arethusa had caught a glimpse of her through a break in the mist, and given her a salvo. The Fearless, as she ran down across the Arethusa's wake to assist the shattered 4th Division, had become engaged with two other cruisers, the Stettin and her sister, the Koeln, and coming up astern of


12.15-12.30 p.m.


them was a fourth cruiser, the Ariadne (right - CyberHeritage/Terry Phillips; 2,608 tons, 22.2 knots, 10 4.1" guns.) But the anxiety was soon at an end. As the Fearless ran on she was again able to engage the Mainz and draw her fire, so that when the destroyers of the 3rd Division delivered their attack not a shot seems to have been fired on them. When the 4th Division attacked she had turned to the eastward, but so hot was her reception that she now turned back to the westward. This change, of course, prevented all the boats of the 3rd Division attacking with torpedo, but the Lydiard was credited with one fairly home. Possibly a second reached her as well, but in any case her hour had struck. Her turn to the westward brought her within decisive range of the light cruisers, and by the time the torpedo attack was over she had stopped and was practically silenced.


Still, where she lay at her last gasp, after the unequal action which she had maintained with so much skill and spirit, there still was apprehension that the tables might be turned by her consorts to the northward, who, as yet, had given her no effective support. Just as she was stopping, indeed, it looked as if this was to be the end. Four cruisers appeared out of the mist, coming down from the northward in line-abreast at high speed. There was a moment of acute suspense, and then it was clear they were not her friends. It was Commodore Goodenough with his four cruisers coming down from the northward at high speed.


As soon as Commodore Tyrwhitt recognised them he signalled " cease fire," and calling his destroyers to re-form cruising order, he left the Mainz to Commodore Goodenough and resumed the retirement westward. But the danger was not yet over. As in obedience to the Arethusa's signal the uninjured divisions were closing her to re-form, salvoes began to fall near them from the northward. In that direction they could now make out dimly two enemy cruisers—one seemed to be the Koeln(right - Photo Ships), flying the flag of the German Flotilla Admiral, and the other, some way astern of her, the Stettin. It was obviously within their power to turn the fortunes of the day, and the situation was extremely critical, when another surprise broke into it.


12.30-12.56 p.m.



Suddenly, out of the haze to the westward, the shadowy form of a very large cruiser loomed up coming on at high speed. There was another moment of breathless anxiety, and then she was seen to be the Lion. Nor was she alone. Astern of her appeared one by one the other four battle cruisers with the 2nd and 3rd Divisions of the 1st Flotilla, who, after their attack on the Mainz, had met and joined the squadron. (See Plan. Phase 12.30 to 1.40.)


So Admiral Beatty reaped the fruit of his difficult decision. Having taken it he had held on after the light cruisers, until, just when they turned to close the beaten Mainz and finish her, there was a burst of firing away to the eastward, and he promptly steered for it. What he heard was the Koeln and Stettin firing on the Fearless and the destroyers she had collected (Lysander and 5th Division of the 1st Flotilla). Having passed astern of the Arethusa to the rescue of the shattered division of the 3rd Flotilla, she was away to the eastward when the Koeln and Stettin appeared. She was still engaging them with her utmost energy to draw the fire from the Arethusa and the destroyers she was trying to rescue. Bold as was her action she was too much overmatched for the furious struggle to last long. But in a few minutes the tables were turned. Suddenly she saw her leading antagonist turn back sharply to the eastward and make off. In another minute she had sight of the Lion and knew that it was Admiral Beatty rushing in from the westward who had headed off the enemy. The Stettin probably also got the alarm and broke back, for she, too, disappeared, and the Fearless, seeing how completely the Admiral had the situation in hand, could turn away and resume her work of rescue.


Prompt as had been the action of the German Admiral, it was too late. Admiral Beatty had the speed of him and was in position to cut him off from Heligoland. As he overhauled the doomed ship he altered a little to port to reduce the range and in two or three minutes, under the storm of fire, the German flagship was a blazing cripple, limping off to the north-eastward in an effort to open out the range. She did, in fact, get a respite. For at this supreme moment (12.56) another cruiser took shape in the mist steering eastward directly ahead of the Lion. From the Arethusa Admiral Beatty had learned there was a second enemy near; she could not be allowed to get away, nor was it possible to detach ships in chase. Seeing how close they were to the enemy's bases and that a battle fleet might be met with at any moment, it was necessary to keep the squadron together.


1.0-1.30 p,m.


All five battle cruisers, therefore, held on to the eastward. But the ship ahead of them was not, in fact, the Stettin. That ship was out of sight somewhere to the northward and eastward and so got clear away. The new arrival was the little Adriadne, and for her, as for the Koeln, there was no possibility of escape. (The Ariadne had apparently come out of the Bight, for at 12.10 p.m. she was seen by our Submarine E4 steaming to the westward. Shortly before 1.0 this submarine saw her again proceeding eastward, so that she must have turned back, probably on learning from the Koeln of the approach of our battle cruisers. )


Though she was running at high speed across the bows of the Lion, and thus continually altering the range, the shooting was too good for her. In ten minutes she was a mass of flames, with a heavy list, and was obviously sinking. So Admiral Beatty left her, for the destroyers had reported floating mines to the eastward, and the work for which he had risked his ships was done. At 1.10, therefore, half an hour after his first shot was fired, he made the general signal " Retire."


Before, however, he himself led the battle cruisers back to the westward he circled to port to get back to the spot where he had been obliged to leave the crippled Koeln. About 1.25 the mist suddenly cleared and he had her in sight again crawling away to south-eastwards with her colours still flying. There was nothing, therefore, to do but finish the work, and the Lion leading round to port across her wake opened fire. The second salvo got home and only one more was needed. At 1.35, ten minutes after she had been found, she suddenly sank. Every effort was made to rescue the survivors of her gallant fight. Admiral Beatty immediately ordered his four attached destroyers to the spot. But all was in vain; the only trace of her they could find was a single stoker. The Flotilla Admiral and his whole complement of 380 had perished.


Even with the Mainz the work of rescue was difficult and hazardous. In a few minutes, after the light cruisers opened fire on her, she was reduced to a shapeless wreck, and at 12.50 she was observed to strike. There was nothing but admiration for the splendid fight she had made, and Commodore Keyes, who had just come up, closed in with the Lurcher and Firedrake to rescue the men that were jumping overboard. Commodore Goodenough, though he made off at once in the direction where the other enemy cruisers could be heard firing on our retiring flotillas, left the Liverpool behind to stand by, and she lowered three boats. Numbers of men were then picked up, but as Commodore Keyes' two





destroyers came near, it could be seen that the burning decks were crowded with wounded. At great risk, therefore, he ordered the Lurcher to be laid alongside, and by the devoted exertions of his company had managed to remove all the survivors except two officers who refused to leave their ship, when at 1.8 the Mainz turned on her beam ends and went down so suddenly that the Lurcher narrowly escaped being smashed by her propellers. The two officers who had remained on board were subsequently picked up by the Liverpool, and in all, 348 officers and men out of a complement of 380 were rescued. Amongst them were 60 wounded, many seriously, and of these several died of their wounds before they could be landed, while several others were found, as in the case of the Koenigin Luise, to have been shot in the back by their own officers (sic). At the same time, away in the mist to the eastward, the Ariadne, whom Admiral Beatty had left in flames, was also going with nothing near to help. With her were lost her captain, two other officers and seventy men killed, and an unknown number of wounded. Later on the few survivors of her crew were picked up by the Von der Tann, which possibly, with other battle cruisers, had come out to justify the risk Admiral Beatty took, but too late to save the situation.


Our own losses were exceptionally light. The Arethusa alone had suffered at all severely and was eventually towed in by the Hogue. Her losses were Lieutenant Westmacott and ten men killed, and one officer and sixteen men wounded. That they were comparatively so light after the punishment she had received was recognised as being due to her armour, and the first trial of the new type in action was held fully to justify its design. In the destroyers the losses were almost negligible, except for what the 4th Division of the 3rd Flotilla had suffered, and the total casualties for all ships engaged did not exceed thirty-five killed and about forty wounded. Moreover, every destroyer came in, two only being at all badly damaged. The enemy, on the other hand, had lost three light cruisers, Koeln, Mainz and Ariadne, and one destroyer, and in killed, wounded and prisoners their losses must have been well over 1,000, including the Flotilla Admiral and Destroyer Commodore. (Frauenlob, 50; V187, 50; Mainz, 380; Koeln, 380; Ariadne, 275. Total, 1,135, besides losses in other cruisers and torpedo craft.)


In the end, of course, thanks to Admiral Beatty's movement, we had been in overwhelming force, but it was not so in the earlier stages of the affair. Till our light cruisers came up the Germans had a decisive superiority in that type of ship, but it was neutralised, apparently, by the loose and ill-concerted manner in which they were handled. As it was, however, the Arethusa was twice engaged with two antagonists, and was only saved by the power of her 6" guns, the timely support of the Fearless, and the devoted covering attacks of the destroyers. Seeing, then, how our plan was confused by the unlucky wireless message that did not get through, and how the intended surprise was disconcerted by counter action on the part of the enemy, the day undoubtedly reflects high credit on all concerned. It should live as a fine example of making good a tangled situation, which but for the decision and resourcefulness displayed on the spur of the moment might well have been very far from the enheartening success which the moment so sorely needed.


The moral effect upon the enemy can be measured with less certainty, but in the opinion of the most competent judges at the time it was at least as important as the material loss they suffered. It can scarcely be doubted that at a time when the Germans were methodically fostering the spirit of their untried Navy by ridiculing the inactivity of the Grand Fleet and nursing a belief that it dared not operate in the North Sea, the sudden appearance of part of it off the Bight must have been very disconcerting. In gauging the extent of the success, therefore, its deterrent effect must not be forgotten, and to its credit, at least in part, must be placed the continued disinclination the enemy displayed to venture his ships beyond his base defences.








(See Map p. 126, and Map 8 in case.)


The immediate result of the Heligoland action was that Ostend was rendered safe for the landing of the Belgian troops that were to come from Havre, and Admiral Bethell could maintain his supporting position with less fear of torpedo attack. Nevertheless, as we have seen, the situation at Ostend was for technical reasons very unfavourable. It was not only that the height of the sand dunes obscured the field of fire inland, but should an attack render a sudden evacuation necessary, the large civil population would seriously restrict operations for covering the withdrawal of the landing force. These objections to Ostend as a pied-a-terre led to a proposal for using Zeebrugge instead. Its superior advantages were concurred in by the French as well as by both Admiral Bethell and General Aston. The civil population was small, the quay accommodation better, and the difficulty of ship co-operation could be got over by the monitors entering the Bruges Canal.


The adoption of Zeebrugge, however, had not been decided when, in the forenoon of August 30, the first echelon of 4,000 Belgians began to arrive. By 2.30 p.m. they had all been landed and were at once railed up country as prearranged, while our Marines continued to do their best to hold the 5 1/2-mile perimeter of Ostend. Meanwhile, another suggestion had come from the French, which was that Dunkirk should be used, as being much the best port of the three. Not only were its harbour facilities excellent, but with its well-designed land defences, its schemes for a protective inundation and its garrison of 20,000 men, it was practically secure against any force the enemy was likely to have available for its reduction. The only objection was that its greater distance from Antwerp made co-operation with the Belgian Field Army less easy. Still, the alternative might have been adopted, but that the developments in the main theatre brought the whole conception of a thrust from the sea to an end.

Aug. 26-29, 1914

The work it had been designed to do had been effected by General Sordet and a French cavalry corps operating on the British left towards Cambrai. The effect had been to reduce the strain on our over-burdened Expeditionary Force; at Le Cateau on August 26, in a hard-fought action, General Smith-Dorrien had been able to check the German rush, and in the next two days had outstripped the pursuit. By the 29th the whole of Sir John French's army had gained a position behind the Oise and was able to complete the reorganisation which had been already in progress during its march. On either flank its new line was prolonged by fresh French troops from the South, but the position was still not what was required, and after a visit by General Joffre to the British Headquarters it was decided, for strategical reasons, to fall back to the Marne.


It was a movement in which the French staked their own subtle strategical conceptions against the enveloping rush that characterised those of the enemy. They were untried, to some extent hazardous, and might well fail. Failure would mean to Sir John French the loss of his main supply line from Havre; and in any case it was endangered, for he had been drawn away from Amiens and the Germans had appeared there. The line was thus already menaced, and the question of a shift of base further to the westward, which had been raised as early as August 24, became insistent. On that day, pending a decision, all movements of stores and troops to Boulogne and Havre had been stopped, and our Government were discussing with the French the propriety of a shift to Cherbourg and Caen. The situation was still too obscure for a definite decision to be arrived at, and, though the War Office asked for six transports to be kept at Havre in readiness to evacuate it, stores and reinforcements continued to be directed there; but so uncertain was the outlook that the stores were not allowed to be disembarked.


Boulogne, however, was definitely ordered to be cleared and closed down. For two or three days longer the uncertainty continued, with increasing strain on the Admiralty as transports were held up at Havre and the port became more and more congested. But the situation ashore was deteriorating too rapidly for the matter to remain open for long, and by August 29 it was clear that if the Expeditionary Force continued to rely on its original base it would have to face the possibility of a great disaster. To shift a main line of supply, even for a victorious army, is always a serious step. It is doubly serious on the top of an exhausting retreat, with heavy losses to replace, and above all when the army is based upon the sea,


Aug. 29-31, 1914



and the change means shifting the base from narrow to open waters. Yet this is what a change entailed. In the Channel there was no port now, not even Cherbourg, which would give a new line that was reasonably secure, and nothing would serve but a port on the west coast. Great as were the difficulties, by August 29 it was clear they must be faced. On that day Sir John French had decided that an immediate shift had become imperative, and that a new base must be established at St. Nazaire at the mouth of the Loire.


The Admiralty thus found themselves suddenly confronted with a new and difficult task, which involved a wide change in their dispositions for protecting the Army's communications. Had it been merely a question of safeguarding the line of supply the necessary redistribution would have been complicated enough, but it was more. The transportation of the Expeditionary Force was not yet complete; this very week the Vlth Division was due to sail for France, and it was to St. Nazaire it had to go. The factors of the problem differed widely from those which they had hitherto successfully dealt with. It was no longer the comparatively simple task of protecting short routes within the Channel; the main sea-lines would now run outside and round Ushant into the Bay of Biscay. The patrol of this route, for reasons which will appear directly, was difficult, and for a force to cover it there was nothing to draw upon except the Channel Fleet. Obviously, therefore, its strength could not be spent on such a subsidiary object as the occupation of Ostend, which, however desirable, had now lost its primary importance.


Of this there could be no doubt, for it had been found that the 10,000 Belgians, on whom the possibility of effective operations from that point depended, were in such a state of exhaustion after the terrible experiences they had gone through, that they could not be fit for active service without a long rest. Accordingly, at midnight on August 30-31 Admiral Bethell received a sudden order to re-embark the whole Marine Brigade at once. To enable him to carry out the order he asked that three Bacchantes might be sent him, and after some delay Admiral Campbell, who since the Heligoland action had been holding the Broad Fourteens with his squadron and a division of destroyers, was directed to come down with his cruisers to assist in the operation. At 4 a.m. on the 31st General Aston got the order and the work began at once. The force of well over 3,000 men was distributed over an arc now extending to seven miles, with heavy weights of ammunition, tools and provisions, and some 200 tons of stores and equipment.


Aug. 31-Sept. 2, 1914


There was only one approach to the quay, and only one crane available. Yet, in spite of all difficulties, everything was on board Admiral Bethell's ships by 5 p.m., before he knew that Admiral Campbell was coming. Nor were the difficulties confined to the land; during the morning, in the height of the work, call signs were intercepted which indicated that the two German battleships, Pommern and Braunschweig, were out, and it was for this reason that Admiral Bethell decided not to wait for his colleague, who might well be otherwise engaged. Nothing, however, came of the alarm, and by 8.30 p.m. the squadron was able to weigh and proceed, in detachments, to land the Marines at their respective home ports.


Little as the Ostend enterprise had to show in material effect upon the campaign, its conduct was such as to give confidence for what the new force might achieve under more favourable conditions. In approving General Aston's management of the affair, the Admiralty wrote : " The whole operation has been carried out in such a way as to be a credit to the Marine Corps. Considering the suddenness with which the Expedition was dispatched, and the impossibility of previous arrangements for Staff, etc., the promptitude with which the Brigade was embarked, landed, and re-embarked was highly creditable." What effects had been produced were entirely moral. It is probable the Germans had no intention to enter Ostend, but the population could not know this. The Expedition found them depressed and even inclined to panic, and it left them in good heart, amidst enthusiastic farewells for men who seemed to have saved them from the fate of Louvain and Malines. It was at least some evidence that Britain did not mean to leave Belgium to her fate if by any possibility she could help it, and at this stage of the war, seeing what Belgium was suffering, this counted for not a little.


The moment the evacuation was complete the work of shifting the base began. It was no light task. At Havre and Rouen, besides the various disembarkation staffs, there were, with reinforcements held up there, 15,000 officers and men and 1,500 horses, and amongst the vast quantities of stores that had accumulated in the two places there were no less than 60,000 tons of oil, about which the French Government, who on September 2 withdrew from Paris to Bordeaux, were specially anxious. For the bulk of this our Admiralty had to provide tankers as well as transport for the troops and our own stores, and this was by no means the end of what they had to do for our Ally, besides the transfer of our own Army's base.


Sept. 1-16



The retirement towards the Marne had left isolated the French troops at Dunkirk and in the northern departments. With the Germans at Amiens, their withdrawal by land was too hazardous a risk, and it had to be done by sea. Of the troops at Dunkirk, so many as were not required for a garrison, the French were able to embark in their own transports, and to transfer them to Honfleur; but for the rest that lay out in the departments to the number of 25,000, mainly Territorials, the assistance of the Admiralty had to be sought. It was readily granted, and in due course all were embarked in British ships and landed at La Rochelle. Besides these, 2,000 Belgians at Havre, who had been found fit for service, were also carried with 2,000 horses to Ostend, and 10,000 French from Calais to Cherbourg; yet our Transport Department, as usual, was equal to the task. In about a fortnight after the word was given, Rouen and Havre, as well as Boulogne, were clear, and by September 16 the last store-ships had reached La Rochelle and Bordeaux. In the final six days of the evacuation there had left Havre 20,000 officers and men, 4,000 horses, and 60,000 tons of stores. Seeing how heavily the Admiralty was burdened in every other direction, it is a feat to be remembered.


It was in this way-—rather than by the landing at Ostend —that the British Navy was able to take a direct hand in that famous retreat that was destined to defeat the enemy's long-prepared purpose. It was but a subsidiary service; but, met as the sudden call was with a scarcely credible promptitude and sufficiency, it affords one more example of the freedom of manoeuvre which a fleet may give to a Continental army by a firm hold on the coastwise lines of supply and passage. There had been nothing comparable to it since 1813 when Wellington, as suddenly and with as little notice, called on the Navy to shift his base from Lisbon to the difficult ports in the inmost recesses of the Bay of Biscay - it was a tour de force carried out by the Admiralty and Lord Keith as promptly and smoothly as was the shift from Havre to St. Nazaire, and though almost forgotten in the glory of the Vittoria campaign to which it contributed so much, it was essential for that crowning victory, and deserves to be enshrined in national memory no less proudly than the similar feat of our own time.


The service which, at Sir John French's call, the fleet rendered to the common cause at the critical juncture is the more striking since it was done at the peril of the naval position. The denuding of the northern coast of France immediately raised again the old anxiety for the safety of the ports on which our hold on the Channel so much depended.


Aug. 25-Sept. 3, 1914


Once more the Admiralty applied to Paris for a detailed account of the defences of Calais and Dunkirk. " Those places," they said, " being of very great importance to our naval arrangements, we are anxious to form an exact impression of their military strength." They were soon reassured. About Calais and Dunkirk the French had no anxiety, but Boulogne, being indefensible from the land side, was abandoned as a military port, and all preparations were made for blocking it any moment when it might be threatened by the enemy.


The anxiety of the Admiralty as to the inherent strength of the ports in the Dover Strait was natural, since the change in the line of supply for our army involved a gravitation of the Channel Fleet to the westward. The main protection of the new route, along which the Vlth Division was about to pass, must lie with the Western Patrol, but in order to provide it with cover and support, Admiral Burney, having been rejoined by Admiral Bethell's squadron, moved his whole fleet to Portland on September 3. The Western Patrol, which it will be recalled was an Allied Squadron, was now under the command of Admiral Wemyss—this arrangement having been made when on August 25 Admiral Rouyer, at the request of the Admiralty, had withdrawn his armoured cruisers so as to have them in readiness to support the Ostend diversion. The squadron that remained under the British Admiral was still a strong one for its purpose.


Besides his own four light cruisers, Charybdis, Diana, Eclipse, Talbot, he had a French contingent of four armoured cruisers and three armed merchant cruisers, and with these he was carrying on the routine of the Patrol. But when the shift of base saddled him with the protection of the new route, it was clear he could not cover the whole ground. It was exposed not only to the unlocated German cruisers in the Atlantic, but also to the ships which had taken refuge in Spanish and Portuguese ports. As some of them were suspected of being armed, Admiral de Robeck had been doing his best to watch them, but his squadron was too much overweighted with commerce protection and convoy work to do it effectively. By the original plan his function had been to guard the waters between Ushant and Finisterre. But later on his principal position had been shifted to the southward — " on the trade route off the coast of Portugal." Moreover, as must now be told, events were occurring which fully occupied his attention still further to the southward, and neither he nor Admiral Stoddart, to the south of him, could spare a ship. To add to the difficulty, within a week or so Admiral Wemyss would



Plan - Shift of Base to Saint Nazaire

(click plan for near original-sized image)



Aug. 31, 1914



have to take his cruisers to the St. Lawrence to bring home the Canadian convoy, and about the same time the East Lancashire Territorial Division would be sailing for Alexandria. But for the French Atlantic Squadron the problem would have been very difficult to solve; it was they who came to the rescue. On August 31, the day the decision to change the base was announced, Admiral Rouyer was requested to take charge of the Ushant-Finisterre route with his second division, and to keep the first at Cherbourg in readiness to move east or west as might be required.








(See Map 2 in case.)


The causes which held the attention of Admiral de Robeck and Admiral Stoddart to the southward were due to influences which were beginning to make themselves felt all over the world. We have seen that by the middle of August both their squadrons had established a good grip on the stations assigned to them, so far at least as the coast of the Peninsula and the west coast of Africa were concerned. But no sooner was this accomplished than their commerce protection functions were disturbed from two sources. The first was the beginning of the Imperial Concentration—that is, the bringing home of the Imperial troops from abroad, which, unfortunately, the opening of the Continental campaign had rendered pressing and imperative; the second was the commencement of our offensive operations against German oversea possessions. At first sight it would appear that with so much on our hands in Europe, operations in the latter category were premature and unwise, as tending to dissipate our military force. But the question had been thoroughly gone into in all its aspects, and decisions taken on well-considered strategical grounds.


For the study of what operations might be undertaken a special Sub-Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence had been appointed in the first days of the war to deal with oversea attack. It was composed of representatives of the Admiralty, and the War, Foreign, Colonial and India Offices. In practice, however, the naval element was predominant, its President being Admiral Sir Henry Jackson, who had just vacated the office of Chief of the War Staff and had been nominated for the Mediterranean command as successor to Admiral Milne. The Sub-Committee was closely associated with the War Staff, and its instructions were to submit to the Cabinet proposals for combined expeditions which would produce a definite effect on the course of the war.


Aug. 5



At the outset of its deliberations the Committee recognised the principle that no force must be dissipated on enterprises which would prejudice the Imperial concentration in the main theatre and the safety of the great trade routes, and further that all expeditions for the conquest of distant territory were faulty in conception unless and until we had established a working command of the sea in all quarters. This being so, no objective would be legitimate which could not be dealt with by local forces, and no such objective could have a definite effect on the course of the war unless it tended to confirm our hold upon sea communications. As long as the enterprises were kept within these lines, so far from dissipating force, they would tend to assist and strengthen the main concentration of effort by keeping open the flow of trade and the Imperial lines of passage and communication. Unless this was done effectively a free concentration of effort in the main theatre was impossible.


The objectives within these limitations were not far to seek. They must all be naval, and of these the most important were the enemy's foreign bases and centres of intelligence. Long experience had shown that until such positions were in our hands the task of clearing the seas of hostile commerce destroyers must be precarious and indefinitely prolonged. The governing principle, therefore, on which the Committee set out, was that all operations were to be regarded primarily as designed for the defence of our maritime communications and not for territorial conquest. The single object was to deprive the enemy of his distant coaling and telegraphic stations.


Of these Tsingtau was the most important, but its reduction was too formidable an undertaking for the forces then available. Among other tempting objectives were Luderitz Bay in German South-West Africa, with the adjacent high power wireless station at Windhuk, and on the east coast Dar-es-Salaam. But Luderitz Bay had to be ruled out as requiring too large a military force, while an attack on Dar-es-Salaam must depend on the local naval situation, and upon what troops India could spare over and above those she was sending to replace the Mediterranean Garrisons.

Besides these three points, there were others less difficult to deal with which fell well within the limitations laid down by the Committee. All were mainly important as centres of communication. The key of the whole German system of telegraphic communication for the Atlantic was in Togoland in the Gulf of Guinea, adjoining our Gold Coast colony. Here the high-power station at Kamina made direct connection


Aug. 5-14, 1914


with Nauen near Berlin and linked up the capital with the German West African possessions, and thence with South America by the three German cables from Monrovia in Liberia to Pernambuco. Since these cables, though German owned, had both terminals in neutral countries, it had been decided not to interfere with them. All that was required would be gained without friction by destroying their feeding station at Kamina. It was therefore a point to strike at once, and, moreover, was within the power of the local forces. It happened that General Dobell, the Inspector-General of the West African Frontier Force, was at home, and in conference with him a scheme was soon worked out for doing the work with troops from the Gold Coast and Sierra Leone.


The capture of the adjacent German Cameroons was also taken in hand as an object of special and immediate importance. For in its excellent harbour at Duala several ships of the Woermann Line had taken refuge, and possibly the intention was to equip them as raiders. The operation was to be undertaken by the garrison of Nigeria if the force could be brought up to sufficient strength from elsewhere.


In the Pacific similar points were arranged for with the help of the Australian and New Zealand forces. The principal centres were in German New Guinea, which included the Bismarck Archipelago (The two main islands were Neu Pommern and Neu Mecklenburg, which, until the allocation of spheres of interest in 1885-6, had been New Britain and New Ireland. ); the island of Yap in the Western Carolines; Nauru south of the Marshall Islands; and Apia in the Samoa Group. Omitting for the present any attempt to occupy German New Guinea as being scarcely within the limitations laid down, it was decided, as a beginning, that its principal port, Rabaul, should be seized by the Australian forces as a base of operations against the cable and wireless stations at Yap, Nauru, and Angaur in the Pelew Group. To complete the scheme, New Zealand was invited to take similar action against Samoa.


Besides being charged with these world-wide operations, Admiral Jackson was also entrusted with the management of the Imperial Concentration. The dual function, if not quite logical, was eminently practical. For the pressing work of transporting to Europe the Colonial Garrisons and the various Dominion and Indian Contingents necessarily conflicted with the development of the oversea attacks which were the primary function of the Committee. For successful achievement there was need of the nicest adjustment of force and plans, and particularly an adjustment of naval force between the calls for escort and the exigencies of commerce defence.


Aug. 5-7, 1914



Although the fundamental idea was that all the oversea attacks were to be regarded as subservient to commerce defence, yet as the calls of the main European theatre became ever more insistent they tended to override the exigencies of trade protection, and the oversea attacks assumed more frankly the object of securing territory to balance the enemy's acquisitions in Europe. Such a development was probably inevitable, and was at any rate a recurrence of what always took place in former wars when the line between operations for the capture of distant bases and the conquest of colonial territory as "compensations" never preserved a clear definition.


In the present case the old tendency was emphasised by the moral importance of responding frankly to the outburst of Imperial enthusiasm in the self-governing Dominions, particularly as this was a factor which the enemy had omitted from his calculations, and which came upon him as a complete and disturbing surprise. Not only was it necessary to listen to the keen desire of the daughter states to get their troops as quickly as possible in line with those of the homeland, but our desire was also to give all possible rein and assistance to the aspirations of each of them to remove the enemy permanently from its own doors. The problem, therefore, was of a complexity and delicacy beyond anything with which our enemies or our Allies had to deal, and a typical instance of the kind of complication it raised was the difficulty already alluded to of modifying our naval distribution to meet the call of the new line of supply to St. Nazaire.


On August 14, when Admiral Stoddart had got his squadron complete and well disposed upon the Cape Verde-Canary station, Admiral Jackson's Committee had just recommended that not only should Kamina in Togoland be at once dealt with, but also the German wireless station at Duala in the Cameroons. Thanks to the promptitude of Mr. Robertson, the Acting-Governor of the Gold Coast, and the ready cooperation of the Governor-General of French West Africa and the Lieutenant-Governor of Dahomey, the operations against Kamina were already well advanced. On the first day of the war a force consisting of the Gold Coast regiment and other local details was mobilised under Captain (temporary Lieutenant-Colonel) Bryant, and an officer was sent to Lome, the chief German port, to summon the colony to surrender. The Germans had proposed its neutrality. This we bluntly refused, and on August 7 the Acting-Governor abandoned Lome and agreed to surrender it, with a large part of the hinterland.


Aug. 12-25, 1914


It was immediately decided to occupy the place as a base for further operations against Kamina, while other Allied columns from Northern Dahomey, Nigeria and the Gold Coast threatened the northern hinterland. So promptly did Colonel Bryant act that by August 12 he had landed his whole force at Lome, and there he rapidly organised his column for an advance on Kamina.


It was no easy task. The wireless station lay 100 miles inland on the hills near Atakpame. The only approach to it was by the railway and road, which formed practically two continuous defiles through almost impassable jungle, and though several locomotives and much rolling stock had been captured at Lome, the Germans were destroying the bridges as they retired. Skill and rapidity, however, overcame every difficulty. Nothing but rear-guard opposition was met with till at Agbelufoe station, twenty-five miles up the line, the advanced guard was hotly attacked. It succeeded in stoutly defending itself till the main body approached, and then the enemy fled, leaving thirty more miles of the railway to fall into our hands intact. After a three days' halt to get up supplies the advance was resumed, with the force increased by a company of Senegalese Tirailleurs, and on August 21 the enemy were found strongly entrenched on the Chra river, twenty-five miles short of Kamina.


A sharp action ensued, but by dark Colonel Bryant had succeeded in so far out-manceuvring them that during the night they fled. With that all resistance ceased. A French column under Major Lacroix was closing on Kamina from Dahomey and one of ours from the Upper Gold Coast, and during the night of August 24-25, when Colonel Bryant was ready to resume his advance, the wireless station was blown up, and next day the whole colony was surrendered unconditionally. It was all as smart and well-conducted a piece of work as could be wished, and withal so valuable to the Navy that the Admiralty sent a letter to the Colonial Office expressing their high appreciation of Colonel Bryant's conduct.


Duala in the Cameroons was to prove a much more serious matter. For this operation the Nigerian troops were to be mainly employed, and the French had promised to assist with a force from Senegal. It was not till August 15, at a conference with French Staff Officers held at the Admiralty, that the general plan of operations was settled. A cruiser was to proceed at once to Fernando Po to blockade the Cameroons, and, as this step would give an alarm, the troops were to be pushed up as rapidly as possible. In three weeks


Aug. 15-17, 1914



time the French would have ready 2000 men at Dakar, with six guns; Sierra Leone would send 600 and Nigeria 1700, with ten guns. The base would be Fernando Po, Calabar River or Lagos, and all troops would be conveyed in British transports.


In accordance with this arrangement, Admiral Stoddart was ordered to send the Cumberland to Fernando Po at once, and on her way she was to cover the passage of the Sierra Leone Contingent to Togoland, since it had nothing but the gunboat Dwarf as escort. This he did, and from this time the Cumberland, one of his most powerful units, was practically removed from his squadron.


Scarcely had the Admiralty given the order when the danger to our commerce defence system which Admiral Jackson had foreseen declared itself. In a few hours it was known that a German merchant cruiser had broken into the station and was playing havoc with the trade. This ship was the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, which in the early days of the war, before the Northern Patrol could be established, had broken out, as we have seen, into the Atlantic. Leaving Bremen on August 4 for a rendezvous off Heligoland, she had stolen up the Scandinavian coast and so out into the North Sea, making for the north-east of Iceland, where she lay a day in the ice. In this vicinity she captured and sank the trawler Tubal Cain, and then, keeping wide out in the Atlantic, made for the focal point which Admiral Stoddart had to guard.


Here during August 15 and 16, to the south-westward of the Canaries, she captured four British ships : the Galician from South Africa, the New Zealand Shipping Company's Kaipara from Montevideo to Bristol with frozen meat, the R.M.S.P. Company's Arlanza from Buenos Aires, and the Elder Dempster liner Nyanga, with a cargo originally consigned to Hamburg. The enemy's treatment of these ships was very good. The Galician and Arlanza, having passengers, were allowed to proceed after their wireless was removed; the other two were sunk and their crews taken on board the cruiser.


Owing to the disturbance of the station by the Togoland and Cameroons expeditions the Cornwall was the only ship in the vicinity, and she did not get the news till the 17th, when she spoke the Arlanza coming out of Las Palmas. It was not the Arlanza's fault the alarm was not spread sooner. Having a spare set of wireless she had rigged it as soon as the German cruiser was out of sight, but atmospherics had prevented her getting any message through. The Admiralty, however, had already received the news from Las Palmas,


Aug. 17-26, 1914



and immediately took measures to reinforce the area. As a first step Admiral de Robeck was ordered to send the Highflyer down to assist his colleague, while he himself was to have the Challenger from the Bristol Channel and Minerva from the Irish station, and for Admiral Stoddart the merchant cruiser Macedonia was coming down. Three other ships of the same class were also passing through the area, Armadale Castle and Kinfauns Castle for the Cape, and Otranto for South America, and the search was soon hot.


Its first result was that on August 22 the Kinfauns Castle captured the German barque Werner Vinnen, with 4000 tons of coal, and sent her into Sierra Leone. Next day Admiral Stoddart himself, while on his way to the same port to coal, captured the steamship Professor Woermann, which, as her log showed, had been hanging about Brava Island, Cape Verde, for some days as though expecting a friendly cruiser. Still the Kaiser Wilhelm was unlocated, but on August 24 our Consul at Las Palmas reported that on August 17—the day after her last captures—she had put into Rio de Oro, a desolate Spanish anchorage on the Sahara Coast some 300 miles south of the Grand Canary. In company she had the steamship Duala, which had recently been in Las Palmas, and after staying forty-eight hours, in spite of the Spanish Authorities, had cleared on the 22nd, ostensibly for New York.


Captain Buller in the Highflyer was promptly informed, and getting away at once found the chase in the afternoon of the 26th coaling between two ships off the Rio de Oro. A third collier was standing off stopped - showing what lavish arrangements the Germans had made in this area for keeping their commerce destroyers supplied. Captain Buller being in much superior force, summoned the enemy to surrender. (Highflyer, 5,600 tons, 20.1 knots, eleven 6" and eight 12 pdrs. Kaiser Wilhelm had six 10.5 cm. (about 4") guns firing 38-lb. shells. (Diary of J. Peters, her assistant engineer).) The prompt answer was, " German warships do not surrender. I request you to observe Spanish neutrality." The obvious retort was that she was violating it herself. This Captain Buller signalled, adding that he would sink her if she did not surrender, and warning her tenders to cast off. There was a second refusal, and after giving her an hour and a half to strike or put to sea, during which the tenders made off and the Highflyer manoeuvred to get a range clear of the land, Captain Buller at 3.10 p.m. fired a challenging shot. The German at once opened fire, the Highflyer replied, and the unequal action began.


Aug. 26, 1914



For an hour and a half it lasted briskly, but at 4.45 the Kaiser Wilhelm ceased fire and boats were seen to be leaving her. To save further bloodshed, Captain Buller signalled her to haul down her flag and sent off boats under the Red Cross with medical assistance. But before they could reach the battered ship she went down in shallow water. As the crew ashore had taken up a menacing position behind the sand-hills, Captain Buller then recalled the boats and left the Germans to their fate.


So it was that the only commerce destroyer that had started from Germany ended her career ten days after she reached her cruising ground. What her losses were is unknown. Those of the Highflyer were one man killed and five slightly wounded, while the material damage was so small that she held her ground in spite of the Admiralty authorising her to return to Gibraltar to refit. The British prisoners from the Galician, Kaipara, Nyanga, and Tubal Cain suffered not at all: for the German captain, with the humanity that had distinguished him throughout, sent them on board one of his colliers before the action began, and she on August 28 set them free at Las Palmas. The capture of this ship was specially happy, for it seems to have gone some way to break up one of the only combinations which the Germans appear to have arranged against our trade.


From a captured diary it is known she was under orders to proceed at once to South America, where, as will be related in its place, she would have met a consort in a weakly-protected area. As it was, so far as she was concerned, the scheme was nipped in the bud. Naturally, the Spanish Government complained of our violation of neutral waters; but on our being able to show that the Kaiser Wilhelm had used the lonely harbour as a base for nine days and had there been met by no less than four colliers and supply ships, they admitted both sides were to blame and presented a friendly but energetic protest to each Power. After careful inquiry our own Admiralty decided that Captain Buller had been fully justified in what he did. It was clear that for over a week the Spanish Government had been unable to enforce its neutrality against the enemy. To have left the offending ship untouched would have been to invite hostile commerce destroyers to seek sanctuary in similar unfrequented anchorages all over the world. A letter of apology in this sense was sent, the apology was accepted, and, in spite of a vigorous German Press campaign in Spain, no more was heard of the affair.


Sept. 1-8, 1914


In face of this outburst of German activity it was obviously impossible for Admiral de Robeck to attend to anything north of Finisterre. As soon as the depredations of the Kaiser Wilhelm were heard of he had been ordered to send down his armed merchant cruiser Marmora to join the Highflyer, and when they were fully known and before her destruction was reported, he left his usual station off Lisbon to the Sutlej and hurried off in his flagship to Madeira. While there he heard from the Admiralty that there were indications that the Azores required attention. The Vindictive was ordered there, and on September 8 she captured a German collier with 5000 tons of Welsh coal—a capture which made a prolongation of her cruise clearly imperative. About coaling in the Portuguese Colonial ports there was no difficulty. The attitude of that Government was that though they were neutrals in the war they were also allied to Great Britain, and therefore intended to afford every help to British ships.


Besides these preoccupations, both of the Mid-Atlantic Squadrons had now to be concerned with guarding the safe passage of the oversea garrisons which were beginning to move homewards, and the outgoing of the Territorial troops that in certain cases were to replace them. But these movements did not develop till September, and by the time they were under way the Admiralty, as we have seen, had taken steps to strengthen the areas concerned with some of the older battleships.








(See Maps 7 and 14 in case)


In the Pacific during the period in which the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse inaugurated the German attack on our commerce, the plans of the Oversea Attack Committee had been maturing—but not without difficulty, owing to the strength of the German squadron in those seas, and the intrusion of the Imperial Concentration which quickly absorbed the attention of the Cape and East Indian Stations.


When on July 28 the preliminary warning reached Admiral Jerram he was at Wei-hai-wei, where he had just returned from a cruise with the Minotaur (flag), Hampshire, Yarmouth, the gunboat Thistle and five destroyers (Welland, Ribble, Usk, Colne and Kennet). His second light cruiser Newcastle was at Nagasaki fuelling. Three other gunboats were at Shanghai and six in the Yang-tse-kiang, while at Hongkong was the battleship Triumph, demobilised and in dock, and the sloop Clio refitting. At Hongkong, also, was the rest of his squadron: three more destroyers (Jed, Chelmer and Fame), four torpedo boats and three " C " class submarines, with their parent ship Rosario, as well as four other gunboats.


He was still at Wei-hai-wei when on July 30 the Warning Telegram reached him, and he forthwith proceeded to act on his War Orders, the principal step being to direct the Triumph to be mobilised at once and to lay up the four gunboats on the Lower Yang-tse-kiang to provide her with a crew. He then put to sea to take up a position in view of war breaking out as seemed best to meet the situation as he knew it. According to his latest intelligence there was nothing at Tsingtau except the German cruiser Emden, four German gunboats (Iltis, Tiger, Luchs and Cormoran) and one old Austrian cruiser (Kaiserin Elizabeth). The gunboat Jaguar was at Shanghai. Neither of the two powerful units of the enemy's squadron was located; the Scharnhorst (flag) was believed to be out in


Aug. 4, 1914


the Pacific somewhere near Yap, and the Gneisenau was reported to have just left Singapore, but the intelligence was discredited, and was, in fact, an error; the ship in question was really the gunboat Geier, and the Gneisenau's whereabouts was quite unknown. The other two light cruisers belonging to the German Pacific Squadron, Nuernberg and Leipzig, were believed to be upon the west coast of North America. The force of the two squadrons was as under:






Trial speed






8 8.2", 6 5.9"





8 8.2" , 6 5.9"





10 4.1"




23.5 designed

10 4.1"





10 4.1"






Trial speed.


Minotaur (E. B. Kiddle)




4 9-2", 10 7.5"

Triumph (M. S. Fitzmaurice)




4 10", 14 7.5"

Hampshire (H. W. Grant)




4 7.5" 6 6"

Yarmouth (H. L. Cochrane)




8 6"

Newcastle (P. A. Powlett)




2 6", 10 4"


In these circumstances the Admiral intended, pending instructions from home, to place his squadron between the ships in Tsingtau and those at sea. Just as he was starting, however, he received an order to concentrate at Hongkong, where the Triumph was now mobilising, and where three Canadian Pacific liners and one P. & O. which had been taken up locally to reinforce his squadron were to receive their armament. They were the Empress of Asia, Empress of Japan and Himalaya, to be complete by August 13, and Empress of Russia by August 21.


In view of the prevailing naval opinion that the great difficulty in commerce protection would be dealing with enemy auxiliary cruisers of this class, these ships had a special importance. We have already seen how deeply their menace affected our cruiser dispositions in the Atlantic; in the area of the Eastern Fleet the preoccupation was no less insistent. Of the possible raiders in East Indian waters three remained, Tabora, Zieten and Kleist; the Derfflinger on reaching Port Said had been detained, and the Sudmark had been captured by the Black Prince when that ship was detached into the Red Sea with the Duke of Edinburgh.


July 17-Aug. 6, 1914



At Tsingtau were the Yorck and Prinz Eitel Friedrich. In the Philippines was the Princess Alice, at Shanghai two Austrians, China and Silesia, and in Australian waters the Seydlitz. All together they formed a serious menace, which for a long time complicated the problem for all the Admirals of the Eastern Fleet and added materially to the difficulty of seeking out the enemy's main squadron.


Seeing how uncertain was intelligence about the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, Admiral Patey on the Australian Station was no less concerned with them than Admiral Jerram. His last information was that the Gneisenau had left Nagasaki on June 23, probably with the Scharnhorst in company. If, then, they were not at Tsingtau he inclined to the view that the German Admiral was probably concentrating in the vicinity of New Guinea, where there were two comparatively important ports at his disposal, the one Friedrich Wilhelm Harbour in German New Guinea and the other Simpson Harbour in the adjacent island of Neu Pommern, where stood Rabaul and the capital Herbertshohe. But, in fact, Admiral von Spee was nearly 1000 miles away at Ponape in the Caroline Islands. About the end of June he had left Tsingtau for a cruise to Samoa with the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and a tender, the Titania, and, having reached Ponape on July 17, he called the Nuernberg from San Francisco to join him. She left that port on July 21 and Honolulu on July 27. It was not till August 6 that his preparations were complete. On that day the Nuernberg joined him, and with the Titania he put to sea.


(The main German authority for Admiral von Spee's movements is Das Kreuzergeschwader, sein Werden, Sieg und Untergang, by Admiral C. Dick (Berlin, 1917), but on points of detail it has been found to differ from diaries kept by German officers at the time. In the Kieler Neueste Nachrichten, January 10, 1915, the Titania is described as an auxiliary cruiser, but the identity of the ship is uncertain. She does not appear under this name in Lloyd's List, but elsewhere is described as a cargo vessel of about 2500 tons displacement and 1300 I.H.P., used as a storeship for Tsingtau. She was presumably armed, as on November 2 she captured the Norwegian sailing vessel Helicon and took her into Mas a Fuera, where she (Titania) was eventually scuttled by the Prinz Eitel Friedrich.)


Beyond a vague report of a German cruiser moving westward from Honolulu nothing of this was known to Admiral Patey. He could only act on the appreciation he had formed, and his idea was to concentrate his squadron south of British New Guinea, where he had Port Moresby available, and endeavour to get contact with the enemy.


On July 30, when the Warning Telegram arrived, Australia took steps to place her squadron at the disposal of the Admiralty. New Zealand had already attached her battle cruiser New Zealand to the Grand Fleet, and three light cruisers on the station now became available for general service.



Name, Type, Captain


Trial speed.


Australia (battle cruiser) S. H. Radcliffe



8 12"

Sydney (light cruiser) J. C. T. Glossop



8 6"

Melbourne (light cruiser) M. L. E. Silver



8 6"

Encounter (light cruiser) C. La P. Lewin



11 6"

Pioneer (light cruiser) T. W. Biddlecombe



8 4"

Yarra, Parramatta, Warrego (3 destroyers)



1 4"

Submarines A.E. 1 and A.E. 2. Parent ship, Protector.


NEW ZEALAND SQUADRON. Captain Marshall, S.N.O.

Name, Completed, Captain


Trial speed


Psyche 1899 H. J. T. Marshall



8 4"

Philomel 1891 P. H. H. Thompson



8 4.7"

Pyramus 1899 Viscount Kelburn



8 4"



* Designed




Aug. 4-6, 1914


Besides these ships there was also somewhere in the Pacific a French Squadron consisting of two armoured cruisers and two gun-vessels, under Rear-Admiral A. L. M. Huguet, with his flag in the Montcalm. She was known to be approaching Admiral Patey's station, and at the moment was making for Tahiti en route for the French port of Noumea in New Caledonia, where the gun-vessel Kersaint was awaiting her. At Tahiti was another gun-vessel, the Zelee; the other cruiser, Dupleix, was in Chinese waters. All these ships the French at once placed at the Admiralty's disposal, but owing to Admiral Huguet being unlocated the order was a long time reaching him.






Trial speed.






2 7.6", 8 6.4"





8 6.4"





1 5.5", 5 3.9"





2 3.9"




* Designed



Admiral Patey's first step was to assemble at Sydney all his ships except the Sydney and the three destroyers, which were sent northward to Moreton Bay near Brisbane. The Melbourne was to go to her war station at Fremantle in the south-west and the rest to the rendezvous south of Port Moresby. He would thus have the bulk of his fleet concentrated, so far as local considerations permitted, in the waters where he expected to find the enemy, and if no news was to be had of them his intention was to proceed to Simpson Harbour in Neu Pommern and destroy whatever he found there, including the wireless station, which was reported to be at Rabaul opposite Herbertshoehe.


Aug. 1-6, 1914



In view of the strength of the German Pacific Squadron and of the fact that it was unlocated, the detaching of so useful a unit as the Melbourne was obviously unsatisfactory, but this was quickly remedied. On August 6, the day Admiral von Spee left Ponape, Admiral Patey as he was proceeding northward received from the Australian Naval Board a report that the German cruisers had been heard near Malaita to the east of the Solomon Islands, and that they seemed to be steaming south-east. This could only confirm the impression that Admiral von Spee intended to concentrate in the vicinity of Australia, and the menace to the detached cruisers could not be ignored. Admiral Patey therefore took immediate steps for a counter concentration by arranging for the Pioneer to take over the Melbourne's duty at Fremantle and for the Melbourne to join him in St. George's Channel, which leads up to Simpson Harbour through the Bismarck Archipelago.


Admiral von Spee, however, was actually proceeding northwestward to Pagan Island in the Ladrones to complete his mobilisation in the seclusion of that remote spot. At Tsingtau his supply ships were being loaded in feverish haste, but in face of the possibility of an Allied concentration he had no intention of returning there. They were to come out to him at his island base disguised as British East Asiatic ships, and there, too, he summoned the Emden. This afterwards notorious cruiser had put to sea from Tsingtau on the last day of July on a cruise to the entrance of the Japan Sea. War with France and Russia had not then been declared, but she had received the "War Imminent" signal, and her object possibly was to catch the Russian cruiser Askold. In this she failed, but in the Strait of Korea she did capture the Byasan, a ship of the Russian Volunteer Fleet, and took her back to Tsingtau on August 6.


The only indication of Admiral von Spee's movement was that in Australia the Scharnhorst's signals were found to be growing weaker; but Admiral Patey, so far from changing his plan, was trying to call up Admiral Jerram and suggest his combining in the sweep he was bent on making in New Guinea waters. There was no reply. Admiral Jerram by this time was making a movement of his own which required complete wireless silence. By the time war was declared he had completed his concentration at Hongkong. Of the two French cruisers Montcalm and Dupleix which had been placed at his disposal, the Dupleix had joined him, but the flagship was still out of touch and much anxiety was felt for her safety.


Aug. 6, 1914


He, too, had received the vague reports about the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and also one, more precise, that the Emden, with four colliers, had left Tsingtau on August 3 as soon as his back was turned, though in fact she did not sail till three days later. He had also heard that the Leipzig had left Mazatlan in Mexico, and that the Norddeutscher Lloyd liner Yorck, which was fitted for conversion as a cruiser, had left Yokohama on the 4th full of coal and provisions. His appreciation on these data differed from that of the Australian authorities, and was less wide of the mark. It was that Admiral von Spee would concentrate somewhere in the South Sea, and then either attack our trade in the South American area, or seek out the Montcalm, or return to Tsingtau. On the last hypothesis it was obviously his primary duty to bar the enemy access to their base. Still, it seemed extremely probable that both the Emden and Yorck would make for Yap, the German telegraph centre in the Pelew Group, and it was just within his power to provide for this eventuality as well as for barring the Admiral's return to Tsingtau.


By dint of great exertions the Triumph was ready for sea. Her manning had been a difficult question. As the crews of the demobilised gunboats were insufficient to complete her, it had been intended to fill up with native seamen. None, however, were found willing to serve in a ship of war, but the difficulty was quickly solved by an appeal to the sister service. By permission of General F. H. Kelly, commanding the troops in South China, the Admiral called for volunteers from the garrison; almost the whole of it wished to come forward, and eventually two officers, 100 men and six signallers were selected from the 2nd Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. By this display of the old spirit the Triumph was completed and Admiral Jerram was able to do what he wanted. Whether or not the Emden was making for Yap, the island was of the greatest importance as an intelligence centre, for not only did it possess a high-power wireless station, but it was in cable communication with Shanghai and so with Tsingtau, as well as directly with the Dutch islands and Rabaul in the Bismarck Archipelago. If, then, its wireless station could be destroyed at once the German operations must be seriously hampered. By steaming fifteen knots he calculated he could reach it before the Emden if she had colliers with her. It meant a big detour on the way to Tsingtau, and only the Minotaur, Hampshire and Newcastle had sufficient coal endurance to do it. But now that the battleship was ready for sea he could safely make


Aug. 6-12, 1914



his sweep with those three ships, while the Triumph, Yarmouth and Dupleix with five destroyers went directly up the trade route under Captain Fitzmaurice of the Triumph to establish a watch on Tsingtau and prevent colliers and merchant-cruisers getting out. For such a movement to succeed secrecy was essential, and for this reason on August 6, the day he started, he forbade the use of wireless. Consequently, although on August 9 he heard the Australia calling, he made no reply.

On August 11 as he approached his objective he was rewarded by capturing the German S.S. Elsbeth with 1800 tons of Government coal from Tsingtau to Yap. As a prize crew could not be spared and the weather was too bad to coal from her, she was sunk by gunfire. The capture, however, was in a measure disappointing. She was not one of the colliers which the Emden was believed to be escorting, and this and other indications left little doubt that both the Emden and the Yorck had gone to some other theatre. Still, he decided to carry on, being unable to divine that Admiral von Spee was, in fact, still waiting at Pagan for the Emden to join him.


By this time the Hampshire was so short of coal that the Admiral ordered her back to Hongkong with the Elsbeth's crew, and at 8 a.m. next morning (the 12th) he appeared before the Yap wireless station. A small party had just arrived there from Rabaul in the surveying vessel Planet to garrison the place. They were busy entrenching the landing place when Admiral Jerram appeared but were not seen by him. No landing was attempted, but after giving due warning for the operator to clear, he opened fire at 9.30. His 7.5 with lyddite at 4500 yards made short work. The second shot set fire to the buildings, and in a quarter of an hour the 200 feet steel trellis mast was down and the oil stores and whole station irretrievably burning. Although the Emden had eluded him, Admiral Jerram could be content with a piece of work valuable both to himself and Admiral Patey, and by 10 a.m. he was away again to rejoin Captain Fitzmaurice and the rest of his squadron.


The rendezvous was at the Saddle Islands off the mouth of the Yangtse, and in order to lose no chance of intercepting any commerce destroyers that might have come out of Tsingtau, his two ships proceeded by different routes. The Emden, in fact, though she did get away, had between the Admiral and Captain Fitzmaurice a fairly narrow escape. When on August 6, the day she returned from her cruise to the Korean Strait, she had left again in response to Admiral


Aug. 7-12, 1914


von Spee' s call, she had with her a large tender, the Markomannia. The Prinz Eitel Friedrich, which had been manned as an armed merchant cruiser, left the same day with a convoy of supply ships. It was also on the 6th that Captain Fitzmaurice began to sweep northwards. On the 8th he reached the Saddle Islands, and as he started to coal there with all speed the Emden, about 100 miles away, was passing southwards between him and Quelpart. Her whereabouts was not unknown to him. Through the French wireless station at Shanghai he had word that at 10 a.m. on the 7th she had been sighted 120 miles south-east of Tsingtau. During the 8th he took in signals which seemed to place her sixty to eighty miles away, and next morning as soon as he could he made a sweep to the north-east. There was keen expectation. He actually crossed her track, but it was forty-eight hours after she had passed Quelpart, and nothing was seen of her or the Prinz Eitel Friedrich and her convoy. Still, he had now made good the ground as high as Shanghai and could advise all shipping to continue trading. This he did on the 9th, and next day as he turned back to his rendezvous at the Saddle Islands another vessel came out from Tsingtau. This was the Russian volunteer ship Ryasan, the Emden's prize, now converted as a merchant cruiser and renamed Cormoran. Two raiders had thus been fitted out in Far Eastern waters, but it does not seem that Germany had made special provision for arming such ships. In most cases, at least, they could only be armed at the expense of regular ships of war. In this case the Prinz Eitel Friedrich drew her armament and crew from the gunboats Luchs and Tiger and the Ryasan from the old Cormoran.


Though all the German squadron was thus at sea and unlocated, Admiral Jerram was now in a much stronger position. Besides watching Tsingtau, he was able on his return from Yap to establish patrols from Shanghai to Fuchau and Japan, and also by means of his armed merchant cruisers another from Hongkong to Singapore. He had thus less to fear from the enemy's auxiliary cruisers, and on August 10 his squadron was further increased by the two Russian cruisers Askold and Zhemchug being placed under his command. But what was of far more importance was that as he was leaving Yap he heard from the Admiralty that Japan intended to declare war that day upon Germany, and that as soon as she did so he was to open communications with the Japanese Commander-in-Chief. He was further told that he could now leave the protection of the trade north of Hongkong to Japan, and concentrate his attention on co-operating


Aug. 3-11, 1914



with the Australian Admiral in trying to destroy Admiral von Spee's squadron. He therefore altered course for Hongkong in the Minotaur, but for the Newcastle there were other orders.


So strong was the position now in Chinese waters that it was felt that something could be done for the other side of the Pacific, where the situation was causing no little anxiety. On the west coast of America we had nothing but two sloops, Shearwater and Algerine. The naval base at Esquimalt had been taken over by the Canadian Government, and they maintained there the old light cruiser Rainbow. When war became imminent both sloops were on the Mexican coast, together with the Japanese cruiser Idzumo, the German light cruiser Leipzig and an American squadron under Admiral Howard.





Trial speed


Rainbow (light cruiser)




2 6" 6 4.7"

Idzumo (armoured cruiser)




4 8" 14 6"

Leipzig (light cruiser)




10 4.1"


Owing to the disturbed state of the country there was some difficulty in getting the Warning Telegram through to our ships, but thanks to Admiral Howard the difficulty was surmounted, and on August 3 both sloops made away secretly for Esquimalt. Though they thus got clear of the dangerous Mexican waters they were far from safe, for there was still the Nuernberg unaccounted for. As we have seen, this ship— a sister of the Leipzig—had left San Francisco on July 21 for Honolulu. She arrived on the 27th, and sailed again the same day for an unknown destination. She had, in fact, been ordered to join Admiral von Spee. This, of course, was unknown to the Admiralty, and the prevailing impression was that both the Leipzig and Nuernberg would operate along the trade routes on the west coast of North America. (According to Admiral Dick (p. 98) it was the intention that Leipzig should do this, her special objective being the Canadian Pacific " Empress" liners. She expected to arrange for a continuous supply of coal from San Francisco, but as she failed to do so, the plan of operations broke down.)


Meanwhile, the two little sloops were toiling northwards against head seas which sometimes reduced the Shearwater's speed to a single knot, and nothing could be heard of them. Anxiety for their safety grew, and not only for theirs but also for that of Esquimalt. True, it had been strengthened by two submarines recently completed at Seattle for Chile, and these the Canadian Government had just purchased and placed at the disposal of the Admiralty, but till crews could be provided they were of no use. The Rainbow, however,


Aug. 9-12, 1914


was ready, and having also been placed at the Admiralty's disposal, she was ordered south to try to get touch with the Leipzig and protect the trade routes from Vancouver southward to the Equator. Though she was able to get to sea on August 3, the day the sloops left the Mexican coast, day after day went by and nothing more was heard of them. It was feared both were lost, and something had to be done for the station. For this reason the Admiralty on August 11 directed Admiral Jerram to send one of his light cruisers there by way of Yokohama, and he detached the Newcastle. So serious, however, did the

situation appear, as nothing further was heard of either of the sloops or of the Nuernberg, that the following day he was directed to detach the Hampshire as well, as soon as ever Japan declared war.


For another reason the increase of the Allied force on the China Station by the intervention of Japan was specially opportune. From now onward Admiral Patey had his hands more than full with the Australian and New Zealand Expeditions which were being organised against the German possessions in the Bismarck Archipelago and Samoa, and Admiral Jerram had received orders to cover the passage of the troops. While the operation at Yap was proceeding, Admiral Patey was engaged in his raid on Simpson Harbour and Rabaul. On August 9, when Admiral Jerram first heard him calling, his ships were assembled at his first rendezvous south of Port Moresby, and there he explained to his captains the plan of operations. His intention was for the Sydney to go forward with the destroyers, and at dark to make a torpedo attack on anything that was found at Simpson Harbour. What he expected to find was the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Nuernberg, with possibly two armed surveying vessels, Komet and Planet. If nothing was there they would try the adjacent Matupi Harbour. If both places were empty they would land parties to destroy the wireless station which was supposed to be at Rabaul. The whole plan had been worked out locally without reference to the Admiralty, but no sooner were Admiral Patey's arrangements complete than there came to his hand a message from Whitehall to impress on him the importance of doing immediately just what he was engaged in doing. The telegram, no doubt, was sent to ensure that his attention should not be diverted to other calls. These the Admiralty knew to be imminent, though in fact nothing had yet reached him. He therefore could have no doubt how to proceed, and the programme was duly carried out.


Aug. 12, 1914



But not a ship of any kind was found, nor, though parties were landed, could any trace of the wireless station be discovered either at Rabaul or Herbertshohe. He had therefore to be content with destroying the Post Office and all telegraph and telephonic communications. He did, however, capture a vessel from Nauru, which was bringing gear and an engineer to complete the wireless station. By this means he learnt it was hidden far in the bush, and not in good working order. Nothing more could be done without a landing force, and as the ships required coaling he proceeded to return to his rendezvous, searching the coasts on the way, and leaving the Sydney to make a fresh attempt to find the wireless station.


It was not till he had completed his work that the call reached him which the Admiralty had feared might distract him from the paramount duty of seeking out the enemy's ships and dealing with their centres of intelligence. That night (August 12-13) he received from the Governor of New Zealand a telegram to say that a force for the occupation of Samoa was ready to start, and asking if the route was safe. It was the first word he had heard of the expedition. The Australian Naval Board, indeed, was expecting that his next objective would be Nauru. Having found no colliers in the neighbourhood of Herbertshohe, Admiral Patey inclined to believe that the pressure was growing too great for the Germans and that they were moving away to Nauru, possibly by way of Samoa, and that their destination was South America. Here, again, he was on the right track.


On August 12 the Emden, with Prinz Eitel Friedrich and Markomannia joined Admiral von Spee at Pagan Island. This same day, it will be recalled, was the date on which it was first believed Japan would commence hostilities, and up to this time it would look as though the Emden was intended to form part of the main squadron. But on the day the Emden joined, Admiral von Spee is said to have heard of the coming Japanese ultimatum, and whether or not she brought him fresh orders from home, he detached her and her tender on a special mission to the southward, (According to Lieutenant von Muecke of the Emden, a not very trust worthy authority, she was detached at the suggestion of her commander Captain von Mueller) and it was now or shortly afterwards that he seems to have decided to move his squadron to South American waters. His reasons for choosing that theatre of operations are said to be that it would enable him to co-operate with the Leipzig on a frequented trade route, where, owing to German influence, he would enjoy good facilities for supply and better communication with home. The enemy, he thought, would be expecting him to return to Tsingtau, and out in the Pacific it would be hard to find him.


Aug. 13-18, 1914



Once on the American coast he would have only inferior force to meet him, and there, if the war lasted a long time, he would have the best chance of making through for home. In Asiatic waters, on the other hand, the enemy would be in superior force. The Australia was his special apprehension. She alone, he considered, was superior to his whole squadron, and it was his plain duty to give her a wide berth. (Letter to his wife, August 18, 1914.) On August 13 he could hear her wireless, as it seemed, not far off, and that evening he sailed to the eastward for his next coaling place at Eniwetok or Brown Atoll in the western extremity of the Marshall Group. Admiral Patey' s appreciation was thus very near the truth, and believing what he did he could only reply to the New Zealand Government that an escort much stronger than the old "P" class cruisers of their squadron could supply was essential. But as he thoroughly approved of the project, he at once made arrangements for meeting the Expedition with the Australia and Melbourne 400 miles south of Suva in Fiji, and proceeded to Port Moresby to coal. His other two cruisers and the destroyers were to be left to cooperate with Admiral Jerram in case the Germans should by chance come to the westward by way of Batavia.


On August 16, however, before he could reach Port Moresby, he heard that the New Zealand expedition had already started. To the Admiralty it appeared that the route, at least as far as Suva, was sufficiently covered by the China and Australian Squadrons, and that the Expedition might safely proceed so far under escort of Captain Marshall's three light cruisers Psyche, Philomel and Pyramus, especially as the Montcalm had now been located at Suva and was under orders to take part in the operation instead of joining Admiral Jerram. As for Admiral Patey's squadron, the Admiralty plan was that the Australia should meet the Expedition at Suva, while the Melbourne, Sydney and Encounter looked after the Australian expedition for German New Guinea, which Admiral Patey now learnt was about to leave for Port Moresby. This, however, was a plan which, in view of his failure to locate the German Squadron, the Admiral could not endorse. He wished to take to Samoa the Melbourne and Sydney as well as his flagship. In Australia, however, so keen was the desire to strike the blow that had been prepared that a postponement of the attack on Rabaul was very unpalatable. Eventually, however, it was arranged by the Admiralty that Admiral Patey, with the Australia and Melbourne and also the Montcalm, should meet the New Zealand Expedition at Noumea while the Sydney


Aug. 15-23, 1914



and Encounter escorted the Australian transports to Port Moresby in readiness to act at the earliest possible moment.


On August 22 the whole New Zealand expedition was assembled at Noumea; three days later it reached Suva, its last halting place, and by that time the whole situation in the Pacific had changed. We have seen that on the 12th when the two British Admirals appeared at Yap and Simpson Harbour they had been informed that Japan was coming into the war that day, and Admiral Jerram had redistributed his squadron accordingly. The event, however, was not so sudden. It was not till August 15 that Japan presented an ultimatum to Germany demanding the unconditional surrender of Kiao-chau, and it was not to expire for a week. The delay was unexpected and especially unwelcome as war had now begun with Austria, and two more possible commerce destroyers were added to the list, the China and Silesia, which were both at Shanghai. However, during the period of strained relations Japan undertook to place cruisers on the trade routes to protect British ships as well as their own.


Still, it was a period of some difficulty for Captain Fitzmaurice, on whom lay the duty of watching Tsingtau. In order to communicate the vital intelligence to his Admiral he had had to throw out the Dupleix and Yarmouth to form a wireless chain, and though his squadron had been reinforced by the Empress of Asia, it was not till August 20, after the two detached cruisers had rejoined, that he was able to establish anything like a close watch on the German base. (Considerable difficulty was found in manning the Empress of Asia and the other three merchant cruisers, Empress of Russia, Empress of Japan and Himalaya, but it was overcome again by General Kelly's help and that of the French. The crews, which were mainly R.N.R. men, were finally completed from the French Yangtse gunboats, R.G.A. and Pathan Sepoys.)


He then at once captured four German steamships coming out of the port, in two of which were 8000 tons of coal, 100 head of cattle and sixteen German officers. He learnt that their destination was the Dutch East Indies, and on August 22, when it was certain that Germany would reject the Japanese demands, he moved away to leave a clear field for the Fleet of our new Ally. The last act of the British blockade was a bold effort of the destroyer Kennet to cut off a German destroyer that was making for the port at sunset on the 23rd. But she was outpaced, and not only did the enemy get away, but punished the Kennet so severely that she had a gun put out of action and lost three men killed and six wounded, two of whom subsequently died.


Aug. 23-29, 1914


In the coming operations for the reduction of Tsingtau, it had been agreed that British troops from Tientsin were to take part, together with the Triumph and a destroyer. The Triumph, therefore, proceeded to Wei-hai-wei, where she had to disembark her volunteers, as the regiment was under orders to proceed to India. The parting was with much regret, for the revival of the old practice had proved a success. The soldiers had put their hearts into their new duties and had rapidly become efficient members of the crew. In return for our assistance the Japanese placed at Admiral Jerram's disposal their fine armoured cruiser Ibuki, a more powerful ship than the Triumph, as well as the light cruiser Chikuma.




Trial speed






4 12", 8 8", 14 4.7"





8 8"

 They also signified their intention of keeping the Idzumo on the North American coast, which enabled Admiral Jerram to cancel the Hampshire's orders and recall her to his flag. By this time both the sloops had arrived safely at Esquimalt, where they were paid off, their crews proceeding to Halifax to man the Canadian cruiser Niobe. As for the Newcastle, she arrived the day the Japanese ultimatum expired, and her commander, Captain Powlett, took over the station as senior officer.


The news of the Japanese intervention reached Admiral Patey at Suva. As the north-western Pacific would now be closed to the Germans, his inference was that they would be forced either eastward to America or south-eastward towards his own convoy, his actual information being that they were probably either in the Mariana or the Marshall Islands, the nearest of which was little more than 1500 miles to the northwestward of Samoa. If, therefore, the expedition against that place was to continue, no risks could be taken, and he decided to carry on with his whole force. His conjecture, as was afterwards known, was very accurate. From August 19 to 22 Admiral von Spee was actually in the Marshall Islands at Brown Atoll. The day before he reached it he had heard from Nauru that the Australia and two cruisers had been sighted off Rabaul steering south. After coaling he moved to Majuro at the other end of the group. He was there on the 26th, having heard the previous day that Japan had declared war. At this anchorage he was joined by the Cormoran from Tsingtau with two more store ships. On his way to it he had detached the Nuernberg to Honolulu for further supplies. As she proceeded she reported, on August 29, having heard the Australia and other British ships very near,


Aug. 30-31, 1914



and that evening the German squadron sailed. But Admiral von Spee did not intend to leave the Pacific untroubled. With this object, and also in the hope of giving a false impression of his movements, he left behind him at Brown Atoll the Prinz Eitel Friedrich and Cormoran, with orders to operate against trade in Australian waters, while he himself proceeded again eastward towards Christmas Island, just south of Fanning Island. But Admiral Patey was at work before him. On the morning of the 30th (Eastern time) the New Zealand Expedition was before Apia, the capital of Samoa. There was no resistance. At the Admiral's summons the place surrendered, and during the afternoon the British flag was hoisted and the New Zealand troops landed. Next day, having seen the new garrison installed, he left with the Australia, Melbourne and Montcalm to pick up the Australian Expedition, directing the two empty transports and Captain Marshall's cruisers to go back to New Zealand, where the contingent that was to proceed to Europe was eagerly awaiting their arrival.


The first work which now lay before Admiral Patey with the Australian Expedition was the seizure of Rabaul and Herbertshohe. Then, in accordance with the original plan, a base was to be established there, and three expeditions sent out to occupy Nauru, Yap and the adjacent island of Angaur. So he informed Admiral Jerram on August 31 before leaving Samoa. Admiral Jerram being anxious, as all naval opinion was, to seek out the enemy before any further occupation of territory was attempted and before the troops began to move to Europe, still wished to have the Mariana and Marshall Islands searched, and being unable to do it himself, he had asked his colleague if he would undertake it. But this was out of Admiral Patey's power, for not only had he the Herbertshohe Expedition on hand, but he had also been warned that before long his ships would be required to escort homewards the large Australian contingent which was rapidly being enrolled for Europe.


The inability of Admiral Jerram to make a sweep out into the Pacific was due to his feeling compelled to concentrate his fighting force in the south-western part of his station, and this necessity arose out of the situation that had developed in the neighbouring East India waters. The station was very inadequately furnished. Admiral Peirse, who commanded it, had nothing but the battleship Swiftsure, two light cruisers, Dartmouth and Fox, and three sloops, Alert, Odin and Espiegle, one of which was required in the Persian Gulf, and one was under orders to stand by to complete the crew of the Triumph.


July 30-31, 1914


The intention had been to reinforce him with two new ships, Falmouth and Nottingham, but the demand for light cruisers in home waters was so great that they could not be spared. Based at Dar-es-Salaam was the fast German cruiser Koenigsberg. Though actually within the Cape station, she was an immediate menace to his own, nor was the Cape Commander-in-Chief, Rear-Admiral King-Hall, in a position to deal with her effectively.


His force consisted of three comparatively old and slow light cruisers, Hyacinth (flag), Astraea and Pegasus.




Trial speed






11 6"





2 6", 8 4.7"





8 4"






10 4.1"

When the preliminary warning went out he was on a cruise to Mauritius. He at once concentrated his squadron at Diego Suarez, and as there was no other enemy ship on his station except the gunboat Eber, which had got away from Cape Town on July 30, he proceeded north for Zanzibar to look after the Koenigsberg. But seeing how Admiral King-Hall was situated when the period of strained relations began, Admiral Peirse considered it necessary to take steps for shadowing the Koenigsberg himself, and to this end he ordered the Dartmouth to get away out of the station to Zanzibar as soon as she was out of dockyard hands. There was a standing order that station limits were not to fetter urgent movements of this nature, and in fact he was only anticipating an order from the Admiralty which reached him a little later.


The necessity of his action was quickly apparent. On July 31, as Admiral King-Hall was coming north, the Pegasus, which had been sent ahead, sighted the Koenigsberg steaming out of Dar-es-Salaam, but the German cruiser quickly showed her a clean pair of heels and disappeared. Two hours later the Hyacinth came across her in the dark and was equally unable to keep touch for lack of speed. As it was impossible to tell where she would go, Admiral King-Hall decided he could not leave his cardinal focal area unprotected. He therefore decided to return to the Cape and leave the Astraea and Pegasus to carry on for Zanzibar.


Here, then, was another case of getting touch with an enemy cruiser just before war was declared and losing her from not having sufficient speed. In this instance it was peculiarly unfortunate, since there was no ship really capable of dealing with the Koenigsberg immediately available. The orders for the Dartmouth stood, but she was still in dock at


Aug. 1-8, 1914



Bombay and not expected to be ready for sea till August 8. It was further known that four large German liners, believed to be armed as commerce destroyers, were moving within the station, and Admiral Peirse had nothing left to deal with them except two of the Indian Marine ships, Hardinge and Dufferin, which by a long-standing arrangement incorporated in the War Book were transferred to the Royal Navy on the issue of the War Telegram.


In these circumstances it was not easy for him to decide how best to dispose his force. The three principal focal points in his area were Aden, where the Mediterranean station joined his own, Singapore, where almost the whole of the Far Eastern trade and much of the Australian streamed through the Strait of Malacca and, thirdly, the waters south of Colombo, where most of the trade routes converged. Between the two latter it was particularly difficult for the Admiral to choose his position. On the one hand, the Colombo area was most exposed to the Koenigsberg, and on the other Singapore was menaced by Admiral von Spee's squadron. He knew, when in the first days of the war this squadron was believed to be concentrating in the vicinity of New Guinea, that his colleague on the China Station had been directed to concentrate at Hongkong and would have his attention fixed primarily on Tsingtau. There was nothing, therefore, to prevent Admiral von Spee breaking into the Indian area through the Strait of Malacca or by the south of Sumatra, and it was in the Singapore area that Admiral Peirse saw his best position.


Accordingly, in response to an inquiry from the Admiralty, he informed them on the first day of the war that he was proceeding to Singapore in the Swiftsure, and leaving the Espiegle to do her best with the Colombo area. The Admiralty, however, knowing that Admiral Patey was concentrating the Australian squadron to deal with the New Guinea area, informed him that the Swiftsure would not be required at Singapore. Admiral Peirse, therefore, took up the Colombo position and proceeded on August 6 to patrol the route to Aden in his flagship, leaving the Espiegle to watch the focal point, and here, three days later, she was joined by the Fox. By August 7 the Bombay dockyard had succeeded in completing the Dartmouth—that is, a day ahead of time—but the Cape Squadron ships were now in the north of the station and there was no chance of finding the Koenigsberg near Dar-es-Salaam. She was therefore ordered next day (August 8) to proceed to Aden and patrol the Aden-Colombo route in concert with the flagship.


July 30-Aug. 9, 1914


That same morning the general situation was improved by a smart piece of work done by the Astraea. We have seen how, when Admiral King-Hall on receipt of the Warning Telegram had turned back for the Cape, he had directed the Astraea and Pegasus to watch Dar-es-Salaam. This was specially important since, although the Koenigsberg had got away, the Tabora, a liner of 8000 tons, had been located there. She was one of the four possible commerce destroyers which were known to be somewhere on the Colombo-Suez line and which were a source of considerable anxiety to Admiral Peirse. On July 30 she had put into Zanzibar, where it was found that she had on board an aeroplane and its pilot, and from there she had gone into Dar-es-Salaam. Captain Sykes of the Astraea was in charge of the detachment, and as soon as war was declared he was ordered, in conformity with the line we were taking everywhere, to close the port and to destroy its wireless station by gun fire. This was done early on August 8, and as the Germans themselves sank their floating dock to bar the entrance of the harbour, the Tabora was shut in and the place rendered useless as a base for the Koenigsberg for some time at least.


One danger point had thus been rendered innocuous, and the arrangements of the East Indian station were considerably facilitated. But not for long, for the day after the work was done everything was upset by the need to provide escort for troops. The critical diplomatic situation at Constantinople rendered imperative immediate steps for the protection of the Suez Canal, and a division of the Indian Army was to proceed to Egypt at the earliest possible moment. Moreover, the operation which the Oversea Attack Committee had projected for the reduction of German East Africa was also to be taken in hand, and would require further escort and support. The force for Egypt was expected to be ready to leave on August 15, and on the 9th Admiral Peirse was told that the Swiftsure and Dartmouth were to return with all speed to Bombay and that all the Indian Marine ships were to assemble there. Of these there were now five, for besides the Dufferin and Hardinge, three others, Northbrook, Minto and Dalhousie, were being armed for his command and were to be ready by the 15th. It was the same call which had compelled the Admiralty to detach the Black Prince and Duke of Edinburgh from the Mediterranean to Aden in order to take over the Egyptian convoy from Admiral Peirse. For trade protection he therefore had nothing left but the Fox and Espiegle in the Colombo area, while that of Singapore had to be left to the old French torpedo gun-vessel D'Iberville and three French destroyers, which were then searching for the Geier in the vicinity of the Malacca Strait.





Trial speed






1-4", 3-9pdrs.



Aug. 10-21, 1914



Thus, although the main Indian convoy from various causes was unready to sail till August 28—nearly a fortnight later than the Home Authorities hoped—from the 10th onwards Admiral Peirse had to devote all his attention to the Bombay-Aden route, and the Colombo and Singapore areas were at the mercy of the Koenigsberg. Hence, also, Admiral Jerram's anxiety to move to the Malay end of his station when Admiral Patey, having ascertained that the German Pacific Squadron was not concentrating at New Guinea, moved away for Samoa. Admiral King-Hall was equally unable to give help, for he soon had to call the Astraea to the Cape to assist him in escorting homewards the Cape Garrison, for whose speedy return to England the military situation in France was urgently crying.


On all sides, in fact, the paramount military necessity of completing the Imperial Concentration in the European theatre was overriding naval needs, cutting into the Admiralty system of commerce protection and forcing them to submit to the subversion of their most cherished strategical traditions. From Wei-hai-wei to Quebec it was everywhere the same, and the strain continued to grow more tense. The primary need of restoring the situation in France could not be denied, and the navy loyally submitted, with now and then a protesting growl as some new and unexpected call for convoy strained the tension almost beyond their power to endure.


Such demands were frequent, for besides getting home the Imperial Garrisons their places had to be filled from elsewhere. Thus, when on the Indian station the Admiralty were groaning over the fortnight's inactivity that had been forced on them by the premature call for convoy at Bombay, there came without warning a demand for escort to take an Indian Battalion to Singapore and another to Mauritius. Every draft was met, but not without paying the penalty. The risk that was being run was emphasised when on August 21 it became known that on the 6th the Hall liner City of Winchester had been captured in the Gulf of Aden by the Koenigsberg, and a week later had been sunk in Khorya Morya Bay on the south Arabian coast. The German cruiser must have had a narrow escape from the Dartmouth, who went on to Aden after her recall before returning to Bombay, but by the time the loss was known there was nothing available to search for the intruder and she got clear away.


Aug. 22-31, 1914


Whether by luck or good arrangement the Koenigsberg must have received a certain amount of intelligence. The German S.S. Zieten, which left Colombo on July 29, met her on August 7 at Makalla on the Arabian coast, where she first conducted her prize, and there took away part of the captured crew to Mozambique. The same day the Ostmark also met her there and went on to Massawa. The Sudmark communicated with her in the Gulf of Aden, and at Khorya Morya the Goldenfels was with her and took away the rest of the City of Winchester's crew to Sabang. All these ships got clear away before we were able to occupy the Aden area, but the Zieten had her wireless removed and her crew disarmed by the Portuguese authorities at Mozambique, and another ship, the Essen, was served the same way at Lourenco Marques.


It was just after the loss of the City of Winchester became known that the Japanese ultimatum to Germany expired and Admiral Jerram was able to move down to the Singapore end of his station, where he would be in the best position to support his colleague should the German Pacific Squadron break into the Indian Ocean. He had indeed some reason to believe that Admiral von Spee was coming to the back of Sumatra with the intention of using the Dutch islands as a base of operations against our trade. In this he was not altogether wrong. For this was precisely the special mission on which the Emden and Markomannia had been detached at Pagan Island.


On August 23, the day the Japanese commenced hostilities, the Emden had just passed through the Molucca Passage, and by the end of the month was steaming westward along the south coast of Java preparatory to making her famous raid into the Indian Ocean. The only error in Admiral Jerram's appreciation was that he expected his opponent to carry out the operation with his whole force. Accordingly, after having disposed his merchant cruisers and the Russian ships to maintain a patrol of the trade route, he concentrated the rest of the Allied Squadron at Singapore and sent a message to Admiral Patey suggesting that the Australian Squadron might search the Mariana and Marshall Islands in case the enemy was not coming west. But that was out of the question. Admiral Patey, as we shall see, had barely time to carry out the occupation of Herbertshohe before he, too, was entangled in the military concentration and powerless for any other duty.








(See Map 1 in case.)


We have now traced what may be regarded as the deployment of the fleet all over the world so far as it could be carried with the material available. All stations were short of fast light cruisers owing to what was regarded as the prior claim of the Grand Fleet on the new ones as soon as they left dockyard hands, but most stations had received their battleship supports as well as their armed merchant cruisers, of which there were now seventeen in commission. Thus by the beginning of September the general deployment was practically complete, and the war at sea began to take on the dead and uneventful character with which our ancestors were so familiar and which public opinion at first found hard to reconcile with its expectations.


Scarcely anywhere, indeed, had the expected happened. The great opportunity for an organised attack on our trade by means of armed merchant cruisers had passed by unused; and in home waters there had been no attempt to stop the passage of the Expeditionary Force to France either by direct attack during its transit or indirectly by a raid on our shores. It was this inertness of the High Seas Fleet that was the greatest surprise to naval officers. Knowing how German doctrine was saturated with the spirit of offence, and knowing well what they themselves would have done in like circumstances, they found the enemy's inaction difficult to explain. Yet it was but a repetition of what occurred in the old French wars when France had the inferior fleet. By massing an overwhelming concentration at the vital point the Admiralty had made sure of the command of the Narrow Seas upon which their whole system was built up. They had also made sure of a crushing decision on " the day," but incidentally they had made it inevitable that " the day " would be indefinitely postponed. All experience shows that in conditions such as our home concentration had set up an enemy will never risk a battle except for some vital end


Aug. 16-31, 1914


which cannot be obtained in any other way. For the Germans the stoppage of the transit of our Expeditionary Force did not fulfil that condition. Believing, as their High Command certainly did, that they could make an end of our few divisions in their first rush, it was obviously better for them that our Army should expose itself to that rush on a naked flank than that it should be held in reserve at home where it could strike at any time and never be struck. In any case it was far easier for them to deal with our Expeditionary Force on land than upon the sea, and the interruption of its passage was certainly not an object for which Germany could wisely risk any substantial part of her fleet. Nor must it be forgotten that since the German High Command certainly believed the war would be a short one—too short for our blockade to make itself felt—and that they then also regarded Russia as their most formidable enemy, they were more immediately concerned with the command of the Baltic than with that of the North Sea.


During the last half of August its importance had declared itself in a startling manner. Beyond all expectation Russia had found herself able to invade East Prussia in a devoted attempt to relieve the alarming pressure upon France. The operation was undertaken by two armies under Generals Rennenkampf and Samsonov, the first moving from the Niemen and the other through the Masurian Lake district from the Narev. The opening was a complete success. Between the 16th and 20th the weak German forces were defeated at Gumbinnen on the Berlin-Petrograd railway and at Frankenau, south-east of Koenigsberg. The result was that the German armies were split in two, part retiring in haste westward and part to the sea at Koenigsberg. The Russians quickly pushed as far as Allenstein in the western part of the Masurian marshes, and by the 25th General Samsonov's cavalry patrols had reached the Vistula. Here the tide suddenly turned. The Holy Land of the Prussian aristocracy had been profaned, a flood of panic-stricken fugitives was carrying the alarm into the heart of the kingdom, and, by exertions no less remarkable than those of the Russians, the Germans quickly had an army together under General von Hindenburg to purge the sacrilege. By August 26, near the classic battle-ground of Eylau, he had contact with General Samsonov at Tannenburg between Allenstein and Soldau, and by a flank movement to his left he succeeded during the next two days in involving the Russians hopelessly in the marshes. By August 31 they were completely cut in two, and though one half succeeded in escaping the net, the other


August, 1914



was annihilated, leaving, it is said, some 90,000 prisoners in German hands. Having thus dealt with Samsonov, Hindenburg turned on Rennenkampf, but here he failed of complete success. Rennenkampf succeeded in getting his army away, but not without a loss of perhaps 30,000 prisoners and a large part of his artillery. Thus for the time the danger was met, but in view of the shock which the sudden activity of the Russians had given to the confidence of the Germans and the evidence that their offensive power had been underestimated, the Baltic, with its all-important ports of Dantzig and Koenigsberg, asserted itself in all its old historic force as a vital element in the position.


There can be little doubt, then, that the policy they adopted in their Home Waters was the most correct for them and the most annoying for ourselves. It was a policy, so far as their fleet's activities indicated its nature, akin to that by which the French had so often and skilfully wearied our superior strength. The High Seas Fleet was simply kept in being while our fleets were harassed and our command disputed by every form of minor attack which modern development in material had placed within the Germans' reach. In the old French wars such minor attacks had been confined to privateering, with an occasional raid by a flying squadron, but that system could never be of any avail except against our trade: it tended in no way to break down our fighting superiority. But now all this was changed. By the enormously increased power of minor attack Germany could at least hope to reduce our margin of superiority so low as eventually to warrant her taking the offensive. Her policy had, therefore, even greater justification and greater promise than that which the French had been wont to adopt in analogous circumstances. Where France for redressing the balance of force could only look to the weather and the wear and tear of our long blockades, Germany had the minelayer and the submarine. It is with a legitimate pride that we look back upon the silent endurance with which the seamen of the old era clung on to their thankless task year after year through storm and sickness, but no one can feel aright the part our modern Navy has played unless he remembers how they, too, had to cling on in face of dangers beyond anything that Hawke or Cornwallis or Nelson had to face. It was the humour of the German Press to picture our Grand Fleet lying always securely in some inaccessible harbour. How far was it from the truth !


Aug. 26-31, 1914


By the end of August, on the eve of the Heligoland action, the Admiralty became aware of how the enemy were anticipating our minor offensive by a form of attack which, at the Hague Conference of 1907, they had solemnly deprecated in the name of German humanity. The minefields which were then discovered off the Tyne and the Humber were at first believed by the Admiralty to have been laid surreptitiously by trawlers under neutral colours, and this belief, though responsible naval officers doubted the capacity of small craft for the work, was confirmed by reports from neutral sources. The Germans lost no time in publicly declaring that the mines were laid by ships of the Imperial Navy, and there is now no doubt that it was so. Illegitimate as was their action, judged by the hitherto sacred traditions of naval warfare, it is clear they were embarking on a considered minor offensive with the probable object of forcing the Grand Fleet into some such hazardous enterprise as they wished to see it attempt.


The facts of the case, so far as they could be ascertained from the statements of prisoners and circumstantial evidence, seem to be that about August 21 a force of light cruisers and destroyers proceeded across the North Sea on what may have been a reconnaissance. Having reached the Outer Well Bank, which lies south of the Dogger about 80 miles east of Flamborough Head, they fell in with a fleet of British fishing craft. Of these they sank eight with bombs after removing the crews, and then returned to Wilhelmshaven with their prisoners. About two days later, encouraged by impunity, a similar force started again. This time it included the light cruisers Mainz and Stuttgart, both carrying mines, and with them was the minelayer Albatross. In making for Flamborough Head, which was again their landfall, they encountered another fleet of fishing craft about 70 miles east of the Humber. Sixteen of them were sunk by the destroyers with bombs as before, while the cruisers carried on to the westward. Thirty miles off the Humber, where it will be remembered the Invincible and New Zealand had just arrived, the Mainz laid a minefield, while the Stuttgart and Albatross laid another the same distance off the Tyne. The whole force then retired without having been seen by our Coast Patrols.


The work appears to have been done in the early hours of August 26. The first victim was a Danish fishing vessel which was blown up that evening in the Tyne minefield. On the same day also the Humber field was located by the City of Bristol trawler, which exploded a mine in her nets. Thus the discovery was made in time to prevent a disaster to the two battle cruisers who were under orders for the


Aug. 21-26, 1914



Heligoland raid, and who now proceeded to their assigned rendezvous round the south of the dangerous area. Sweeping operations were quickly set on foot, but till the extent of the minefields could be definitely ascertained both the Tyne and the Humber were unsafe as bases, and for this reason after the Heligoland action the two battle cruisers were ordered to the Forth. So much the Germans gained in military advantage and so far their unprecedented action was justified by what they called military necessity. The loss of two more neutral vessels did little to recommend the justice of their plea, and all they reaped from our naval forces were the minesweeping gunboat Speedy and a drifter blown up during the sweeping operations. After these losses the Admiralty directed that the minefields were to be left alone and sweeping operations confined to clearing a swept channel along the coast.


The minefields, indeed, were soon recognised as a blessing in disguise. The main reason why the Germans had not been detected was that by the War Orders the local Patrol Flotillas were to be kept concentrated and ready to deal with attempts to raid our coast. As the Germans themselves had barred to so great an extent the approaches to the Tyne and Humber districts, it was now possible to use these flotillas to extend the system of continuous coastwise patrol which had been organised for the East Anglian zone after the affair of the Koenigin Luise, and eventually the German minefields were not only left untouched but were actually reinforced by our own minelayers.


Had this form of minor offensive stood alone it would have been comparatively easy to contend with, but it was supplemented by an ever-increasing activity on the part of the enemy's submarines. Both methods of attack were forms of hostility of which we had no experience, and with which the fleet itself could not deal; they could only be met by small craft specially equipped for the work. Already by September 1, besides the regular flotillas and minesweepers, there were in commission some 250 trawlers, drifters and similar craft, besides seaplanes, entirely devoted to meeting the submarine and mine attack. Even so they were proving all too few and were being rapidly increased in number, but as yet they had been given little organisation, and for a long time to come they would be unequal to the work they had to do. The duties of the several classes of these craft were to sweep for mines, to guard the swept channels, to patrol tor submarines and examine vessels to see that they were not being employed as submarine tenders or as mine-layers.

Sept. 1, 1914


But swarming as the North Sea was with neutral traffic of all kinds, they were too few to examine more than a tithe even of the ships they sighted, and for all that could be done submarines were continually being reported in all directions.


At Scapa the Grand Fleet was given no rest. In the old days when gales drove our fleet from its station it had at least a secure port in which it could enjoy complete relaxation, but Admiral Jellicoe had none. Except for such makeshifts as the fleet itself could provide, Scapa was still an undefended anchorage; by three or four channels it was possible for submarines to enter, nor could the fleet even go in or out until the waters it had to pass had been elaborately swept. On August 24 the Committee specially appointed to consider the defence of the anchorage had recommended, with certain modifications, a scheme drawn up the year before. It provided for increasing the armament and for closing some of the entrances with blockships and others with mines. But in the fleet it was considered that the tidal streams were so strong that the danger of mines getting adrift forbade their use, and that blockships must be used everywhere.


A typical incident which occurred on September 1 will give the best idea of what the strain of this insecurity meant. The three Dreadnought squadrons with the light cruisers and a few other ships were at anchor in the Flow at three hours' notice preparing for a new movement. It was a typical Scapa day; the desolate anchorage was shrouded in a driving wet mist, and all conditions were favourable for a surprise attack. About 6 p.m., when dusk was beginning to add to the gloom and the strain of the look-out was more than usually exacting, the Falmouth, near the north-eastern entrance, was suddenly seen to be firing. Shortly afterwards she ceased, and reported that she had seen a periscope inside the anchorage and believed she had sunk a submarine. The report was not entirely credible, but in any case the risk was too great to run, and the Commander-in-Chief resolved to get to sea. While steam was being raised the Drake, to the westward, also reported a submarine, one or two other ships fired, and the destroyers were hunting feverishly all over the Flow. In the last of the twilight the whole fleet went out and returned again at sunrise. Subsequent investigations made it fairly certain that it had been a false alarm. On several occasions ships had fired on seals, which while swimming in a bad light were easily mistaken for periscopes, and the better opinion was that no submarine had entered the harbour.


Sept. 5, 1914



Still, true or false it made little difference. For so stealthy was the form of attack which the Germans were pursuing, that false alarms and unfounded reports were inevitable and must be taken seriously till they were proved to be untrue. The strain was therefore none the less continuous, nor was any relaxation to be expected till Scapa was adequately protected and the new-born system of floating defence perfected. Till that time came Admiral Jellicoe looked for security in almost continuous activity at sea. The movement for which he was preparing when the alarm of September 1 took place was a full strength sweep of the North Sea in combination with the Southern Force in hopes of catching the enemy's submarines and mine-layers as they made their way home. The Admiralty, however, who had other operations in view, requested him to defer the movement, and as he had been warned by them that they had information of a cruiser and submarine raid which was about to be made from the Baltic on his base, he substituted a sweep to the Skagerrak to endeavour to intercept the threatened expedition. The sweep was carried out as planned by the cruisers and destroyers with the battle fleet in support, but nothing was found, and on September 5 he took the battle fleet into his alternative base at Loch Ewe to coal.


This same day we suffered our first naval loss from submarine attack. The victim was the flotilla leader Pathfinder (Captain Martin Leake, commanding the Forth Destroyer Patrol), lost with nearly all hands off St. Abb's Head. She went down in four minutes, and at first it was reported to be a mine. But Captain Leake, who though wounded was saved, made it clear that it must have been a torpedo from a submarine which probably exploded the magazine. (Subsequently it was ascertained that the attack was made by U 21.) The means already adopted for dealing with the trouble were clearly insufficient. In seas so thick with traffic the enemy by using false colours could sow mines as they pleased almost with impunity, and to those who believed that this was the method employed there seemed no adequate remedy short of closing the whole of the East Coast ports to traffic and also forbidding fishing in the same area; but this remedy was regarded as worse than the disease, and it was decided to rely on the existing system in increased force and with better organisation. So much at any rate was rendered necessary by the skill and boldness with which the enemy's submarines were being handled, particularly in and about the Forth, where Admiral Lowry reported that his existing force was being worn out by almost incessant patrolling. During September, though the patrol boats had been


Sept. 7-10, 1914


attacked nine or ten times, one submarine was all they could claim. Stalking by submarines had proved ineffective, and it was clear that surface vessels, more numerous, faster and better armed, were the only radical cure.


It was as the unwelcome news of the Pathfinder's loss reached him that Admiral Jellicoe received instructions from the Admiralty for the movement they wished him to make. They had by no means despaired of forcing the High Seas Fleet to action, and their hope had been increased by learning from prisoners taken in the recent Heligoland action that the Germans had then intended to use their battle cruisers, though they had not been able to get out in time. It was possible, therefore, that a repetition of the movement supported by the whole Grand Fleet might lead to a decision, especially as it was to be timed so as to cover the passage of the Vlth Division of the Expeditionary Force. We have seen how, by the end of August, arrangements had been made for moving it to the new base at St. Nazaire. The great retreat had just terminated beyond the Marne, the Germans had been drawn by General Joffre into just the position he required for an offensive return, and the moment had come for throwing every available man into the conflict if the failure of the German opening was to be turned against them. The transports were to begin moving on September 8, and at dawn on the 7th the battle fleet left Loch Ewe. The transport line was patrolled by the French cruisers, and the Channel Fleet was thus left free to take part in the main combination by moving up in support of the Southern Force.


In the morning of the 10th all units were in position, and the Harwich flotillas carried out the raid into the Bight. The conditions were ideal for the Germans to accept action close to their base and with full advantage of their torpedo craft. It was a hot, still day with a haze and glare that brought visibility very low and rendered it impossible for the Commander-in-Chief to control all parts of the great combination. If ever the Germans had a chance—and a fairly safe chance—of dealing the kind of blow they wanted it was then. Yet not a ship stirred—not even a destroyer came out, and nothing was seen except a cordon of apparently neutral vessels 150 miles from Heligoland that were believed to have warned the Germans of the presence of the battle fleet. Accordingly, after coming down within 100 miles of Heligoland Admiral Jellicoe broke up the combination and led the Grand Fleet north again. If the Germans took any action at all, it must have been to get submarines out on his line of retirement. At all events one was rammed and apparently sunk by the


Sept.12-13, 1914



Zealandia about 10.30 on the morning the retirement began. Meanwhile the Vlth Division had been moving without interruption, and by the 11th the whole of it was safely landed at St. Nazaire.


If the German war direction found no energy to spare for taking action with the fleet it is no matter for wonder. While Admiral Jellicoe was carrying out his provocative sweep they were reeling amazed under the blows which brought their whole war plan to the ground. On September 3 the Russians entered Lemberg. Shortly afterwards the Germans on the Marne suddenly discovered a new French army on their right beyond the British Force; by the 9th as the Grand Fleet swept down the North Sea to take up its position for supporting the raid into the Bight and the Channel Fleet moved up to meet it, General Joffre was brilliantly breaking through the German centre on the Marne, and next afternoon as Admiral Jellicoe turned north again the shattered German line was in full retreat on the Aisne.


Though the covering movement of the Grand Fleet had failed to bring about an action and the prospect of getting a decision against the High Seas Fleet seemed more remote than ever, our minor offensive, which we were incessantly carrying on by means of submarines, was more successful. At midnight on September 12, as Admiral Jellicoe returned to his base, E9 (Lieutenant-Commander Max Horton) was lying on the bottom at 120 feet 6 miles south-south-west of Heligoland. At daybreak she rose and at once sighted a light cruiser less than two miles away. The weather, which had been thick, was clearing, and she immediately attacked. Two torpedoes were fired at a range of about 600 yards, and as E 9 dived one explosion was heard. Rising again, she could see the cruiser had stopped, with a heavy list to starboard, but shots from an unseen vessel splashed round the submarine, and Lieutenant-Commander Horton dived once more. When, an hour later, he came up to see the result there was nothing but four or five trawlers where the cruiser had been. The lost ship proved to be the Hela, whose fate was afterwards officially admitted by the German Admiralty. (Hela, 1896; 2004 tons; 19.5 knots (designed); 2 15-pdrs. 4 4-pdrs.)


All the rest of the day E9 was kept down by destroyers, but was able to charge her batteries during the night. Next day when she rose to reconnoitre nothing but trawlers were to be seen, and after suffering from heavy seas which made it impossible either to proceed on the surface or rest on the bottom, Lieutenant-Commander Horton brought his boat safely back to Harwich, having fully retaliated for the Pathfinder's loss.


Sept. 17, 1914


The military reverses of the Germans produced the inevitable reactions at sea. Their attention became fixed on the Baltic. Here they had recently had warning that they could not yet regard it as a German lake. In the last week of August one of their best light cruisers, the Magdeburg, a sister of the Breslau, while operating with destroyers at the entrance of the Gulf of Finland, took the ground on the Island of Odensholm and was there caught by the Pallada and Bogatuir and destroyed. The importance of the Baltic as a military highway for Germany was now so great that the recurrence of such incidents could not be risked, and it was soon known that the High Seas Fleet, or a considerable part of it, was occupied in covering the coastwise transport of troops and supplies to East Prussia. The moment was, therefore, favourable for resting the Grand Fleet and making good the minor defects which had developed by its almost continual cruising. Instructions to this effect were issued, and the occasion was also seized by the First Lord to hold a conference with the War Staff and the chief officers of the fleet to consider future plans. It was fixed to take place at Loch Ewe on September 17, and till then all but the routine cruiser patrols were suspended.


Amongst other questions discussed was the possibility of assisting the Russians to dispute the command of the Baltic by sending them some of our submarines, and so obviously desirable was this for the common cause that measures were set on foot for ascertaining how far it was feasible. There was also the question of meeting the German method of warfare by similar stealthy means. The Commander-in-Chief, finding the device of stopping trade and fishing on our eastern coast was impracticable, had proposed an extensive system of offensive mining in the open sea. But with so much detestation was this inhuman practice regarded that the Admiralty still held back from adopting it. Moreover, they still clung to their old creed of free manoeuvre in the open sea, and any measure that tended to curtail that freedom was too much against the old tradition to be adopted till all other means had failed.


So in spite of all the insidious dangers that surrounded it, the Grand Fleet had to settle down patiently to its hold on the north-about Passage. The actual work of intercepting ships was mainly done by Admiral de Chair with the 10th Cruiser Squadron which formed the Northern Patrol between the Shetlands and the coast of Norway. The Grand Fleet cruiser squadrons which worked from Cromarty and Rosyth


Sept. 8-17, 1914



formed a cordon more to the south, thus screening the Battle Fleet and constituting a second blockade line. In this duty, the older battleships, especially those of the " Duncan " class, also assisted from time to time. So heavy and complex was the administrative work of this quasi-blockade that it had been found to be beyond the power of the Base Admiral to deal with it. The bulk of it still fell upon the Commander-in-Chief, and to relieve him, in the first week in September the post of Admiral of the Orkneys and Shetlands was created. Under the Commander-in-Chief he was to be responsible in the islands for naval defence, naval establishments, and naval shore duties. The Base Admiral would be under his command, and the Admiral of the Coast of Scotland became henceforth a separate and co-ordinate authority, with no responsibility for the islands. Vice-Admiral The Hon. Sir Stanley C. J. Colville was appointed to the new command, and took it over directly after the Staff Conference at Loch Ewe.


The need of such an appointment was the more pressing since the tendency was, under the exigencies of war, for Scapa Flow to pass from the status of a mere war-anchorage to that of a flying base, and to increase its powers of dealing with repairs it had already been decided to send up the old "Fisgards" which had been fitted as workshops for training boy artificers at Portsmouth. After careful inspection and special preparation they had been pronounced fit to make the voyage, and on September 16 they started in tow of two tugs. They were to proceed west-about, but next day they encountered a gale which forced them to seek refuge. Fisgard I managed to get into Plymouth later on, but the Fisgard II was not so fortunate. She made for Portland, but was taking in water through her hawse-pipes very badly. As there was no way for it to escape she was soon in serious distress, and before she could reach the shelter of the Bill she foundered, with the loss of twenty-three out of the sixty-four naval and dockyard ratings by whom she was manned. Thus the full equipment of the Flow to meet the needs of the Grand Fleet was still further postponed. A further loss which it suffered at this time was the fine armed merchant cruiser Oceanic of the Northern Patrol, which on September 8 ran aground in the Shetlands and became a total wreck.








 (See Map p. 126 and Map 1 in case.)


By the middle of September it seemed that the part of the Navy in the war, so far as the European theatre was concerned, was to be confined to the weary and precarious watch to which it had settled down, and that its activities were to have little direct connection with the main operations on the Continent. The centre of military energy had drifted far away from the sea, and never, perhaps, since Blenheim had our army in a great war seemed so entirely divorced from the fleet. Yet so abiding are the advantages of the connection that the divorce was scarcely complete when the army began to look to the distant fleet and call for assistance.


The situation which had arisen and was to develop rapidly out of the battle of the Marne was one of the most revolutionary as well as the most permanently dominating of the many unexpected features which the war was destined to assume. The pursuit of the Germans from the Marne had been checked at the River Aisne sufficiently to allow them to dig themselves in on the heights north of the river, and by September 16 General Joffre had recognised that the enemy's new front could not be forced with the resources he had at his disposal. On that day, therefore, he decided to change his plans and endeavour to turn their western flank, which was then about Noyon, with General Maunoury's army— the same that had turned the flank on the Marne. It is possible that he foresaw that with the inferior force he had the movement was not likely to be a complete success. The Germans would probably reply, as they had done on the Marne, with a counter-turning movement, which would have to be met by a further prolongation of the Allied Line to the northward. The process would then be repeated, and in all probability would continue till both the opposed lines reached the sea. The best that could happen for the Allies was that they would be able to join hands with the Belgian Army that was now concentrated about Antwerp. This would keep the enemy away from the sea altogether, and at the same time

Sept. 11-17, 1914



Preserve the rich industrial and mineral districts of Flanders. Of this, however, there was little hope. New German forces had already appeared at Valenciennes and Cambrai; they had already compelled the Belgian Army to withdraw within the fortifications of Antwerp, and it seemed rather that we were threatened with the worst that could happen. The worst was that the enemy would reach the sea somewhere to the south of Boulogne, and, by gaining possession of the Flemish and Northern French ports, be in a position to dispute our hold on the Channel and upset our whole disposition in the Narrow Seas. At almost any cost this had to be prevented, and the Allied army must at least make an effort to reach the sea at some point midway between the two extremes, say about Ostend. In any case it would be a neck-and-neck race if General Joffre's turning movement failed, and it must have been obvious that the main chance of success lay in the prospect of the British being able to stretch out a hand from the sea to meet the northward movement.


Whether or not this was the precise process of reasoning on the part of the French Higher Command, it is certain that the day after General Joffre decided to change his plan of attack he sent through our Embassy a request which was destined to bring forward the British hold on the sea as a possible solution of the military problem. In the long roll of our wars similar attempts to relieve a Continental situation had been frequent, and, as was only natural, the suggestion had originally come from London. A week earlier—on September 11—only ten days after the Marines had been withdrawn from Ostend, a scheme of operations on the old lines had been put forward. By that time it was clear that the German war plan had broken down : the rush on Paris had just been stopped by the battle of the Marne. For the Allies it was no longer a question of securing a retreat or even of defensive operations. The way was opening for an offensive return, and the only doubt was whether the Entente forces were in sufficient strength to make it a success. So equally balanced did the opposing armies appear to be that very little might serve to turn the scale, and what our Government had in mind was that that little might possibly be found in a demonstration from the sea against the German communications. The idea was referred to General Joffre, but it was not till he found himself brought to a standstill before the enemy's new front that a reply was received.

He now intimated that "owing to the new German movements towards the north of France" (which obviously imperilled the success of his intended turning movement), he


Sept.18, 1914


would like to see it put in execution. What he asked was that all available troops should be sent to Dunkirk and eventually to Calais " to act effectively and constantly against the enemy's communications, and thus hinder their operations in that region." In forwarding the request our Ambassador said the French Government desired to recommend it to the earnest consideration of His Majesty's Government, and Lord Kitchener at once marked the telegram " Very urgent." To the Admiralty the scheme seemed " Very important"; in any measure to secure the ports of the Strait of Dover they were directly concerned. The First Lord and the War Staff officers who had attended the conference at Loch Ewe had just returned, and without hesitation the Marine Brigade of the Royal Naval Division was offered as an advanced guard, if the War Office would provide the necessary mounted troops. They offered a Yeomanry Regiment (the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars) and a party of Royal Engineers, and that night (September 18) the necessary orders were issued by the Admiralty and War Office. The Marine Brigade was to sail the following afternoon, and the Yeomanry in the evening. By September 20 the landing was to be complete at Dunkirk, where the force would be strengthened by the aeroplanes and armoured cars which had been left there under Commander Samson when the Marines were withdrawn from Ostend. More armed cars and motor transport were to follow.


General Aston was given the command of the whole. His instructions were that while he must regard his force as too weak for anything but demonstrations and minor enterprises to cut railway lines, he was to endeavour to give the impression that he was the advanced guard of a considerable British force destined to act against the enemy's communications. He was further reminded that the enemy could bring to bear upon him overwhelming forces whenever they chose, but if he forced them to concentrate for such an eccentric movement he would be achieving the object.


Seeing how fast the available British forces at home were ripening to efficiency, there was reason to believe the German Higher Command would not be able to ignore the threat. All past experience went to show that it was what lay behind such expeditions rather than their own strength that was the measure of their military value. And by this time we had troops that must be reckoned with. Part of the Mediterranean Garrisons were already at home : on the day the order was issued the Cape Garrison reached Southampton, and the famous IIth Division, as well as the IIIrd Cavalry Division


Sept. 18, 1914



of the old army, were being rapidly formed. Behind them, moreover, the Territorial Troops were showing a surprising capacity for fitting themselves for the field. It was therefore quite possible that the little demonstration would develop into something much more important, and it was a possibility with which the Navy as well as the enemy must reckon.


For protecting the waters over which the new line of communication would have to pass no special arrangements were made. The Admiralty were relying on the Southern Force, although it had recently been much reduced in strength. Its main support had been the Second Battle Cruiser Squadron, Invincible and New Zealand, which had been stationed in the Humber for the purpose; but since their withdrawal to Rosyth after the discovery of the German minefields they had been under Admiral Jellicoe's direct command. The New Zealand, however, was now in the First Squadron, the Inflexible, on her arrival from Malta, having joined her sister ship in the Second. The Channel Fleet, from which support could be looked for, had also been weakened owing to the dominating call of the Imperial Concentration. By the end of the month the Canadian Contingent was to be ready to sail, and to provide it with escort Admiral Wemyss on September 10—that is, as soon as the Vlth Division had been passed to St. Nazaire—had been ordered to leave the Western Patrol and proceed with his four cruisers to the St. Lawrence. Their place had to be taken by Admiral Bethell with the 7th Battle Squadron, so that he was not available as he had been during the Ostend landing.


The Southern Force, under Admiral Christian, at this time consisted of his flagship Euryalus and his attached light cruiser Amethyst, together with the 7th Cruiser Squadron under Admiral Campbell (Bacchante, Cressy, Aboukir, Hogue), and the Harwich Flotillas (1st and 3rd Destroyer and ten submarines of the 8th or " Oversea " Flotilla), with their attached light cruiser Fearless. The Arethusa had not yet made good the damage she had suffered in the Heligoland action, and Commodore Tyrwhitt was flying his broad pennant in the Lowestoft. Under the original War Orders of July 28, 1914, the cruisers were based on the Nore " in order to ensure the presence of armoured ships in the Southern approaches to the North Sea and the Eastern entrance to the Channel, and to support the 1st and 3rd Flotillas operating in that area from Harwich." The object of these flotillas, it was explained, was " to keep the area south of the 54th parallel (which runs a little south of the Dogger Bank and Heligoland) clear of enemy torpedo craft and minelayers."


Sept. 18-20, 1914


Cruiser Force " C," it was added, " was to support them in the execution of these duties, and also, with the flotillas, to keep a close watch for enemy war vessels and transports in order that their movements may be reported at the earliest moment."


Subsequently two patrol areas had been established for the Harwich flotillas—one off the Dogger Bank and one in the Broad Fourteens. As a rule the bulk of the cruisers were to the northward supporting the Dogger patrol, but from time to time at critical junctures, such as the crossing of the Expeditionary Force and the shift of base to St. Nazaire, they had been concentrated in the Broad Fourteens. The normal disposition which it was sought to maintain was three cruisers for the Dogger area and one for the Broad Fourteens, but frequently, owing to coaling exigencies, only three of them were available. This was so on September 16, and Admiral Christian, who was then in the Dogger area with the Euryalus, Bacchante and Cressy, and had been ordered to re-establish both patrols, was given permission to keep only two cruisers to the northward and to send one to the Broad Fourteens. On this permission he did not act at once. His own view, as he explained to the Admiralty on the 19th, was that it was better to keep his available cruisers concentrated in a position south of the Dogger, where he would be able to support either patrol as occasion required. At the moment, however, there was no question of support, for towards the evening of the 17th the weather turned so bad that both flotillas had to be ordered in to the base, and he reported that he was patrolling the Dogger area himself with three cruisers—that is, Euryalus, Hogue and Aboukir, the Cressy having gone in to coal and the Bacchante for docking and repairs.


Meanwhile, ever since the supporting battle cruisers had been withdrawn from the Humber, it had become obvious that the situation of the Southern Force area left much to be desired, and the day after the receipt of Admiral Christian's telegram stating that he was concentrated in the Dogger Bank area, the question of its reorganisation was put forward for consideration at the Admiralty. Experience was showing more clearly every day not only that more powerful and closer support was required by the strategical situation as it was developing, but also that the " Bacchantes" were tactically unfit for the work of close co-operation with the flotillas, work which in default of more suitable ships had to be assigned to them when the War Plan was settled. Now, however, that the eight light cruisers of the new


Sept. 19-22, 1914



" Arethusa " class were coming forward, it would be possible to relieve the " Bacchantes" by those which were first ready for sea, and use them with advantage elsewhere for duties which they were well able to perform. (See Appendix D.)


All this time the weather continued to be so bad that neither flotilla patrol could be re-established, and Admiral Christian continued to watch to the northward with his three cruisers. On the 19th it was a little better, and the patrols made an attempt to take up their stations, but at 6 a.m. the Admiral had to order them all back to harbour, and in informing the Admiralty he expressed his intention of carrying on with the three cruisers in the Dogger area. By the afternoon, however, it had been decided to withdraw the Dogger Patrol altogether during the equinoctial weather and to maintain that of the Broad Fourteens only. An order accordingly went out calling him down from the position he was recommending as strategically the best. " The Dogger Bank Patrol," it ran, " need not be continued. Weather too bad for destroyers to go to sea. Arrange with cruisers to watch Broad Fourteens." The telegram went out at 4.40 before the Admiral's appreciation can have reached Whitehall. At the same time the transports carrying Marines to Dunkirk were just about to leave Dover, but the order appears to have had no connection with this movement, about which the Dover Patrol had received special instructions. It was supplemented by one to Commodore Tyrwhitt directing him to re-establish the Broad Fourteens flotilla patrol next morning, if possible, by which time the cruisers would have arrived to support it.


During the night both the Marines and the Yeomanry, under the protection of the Dover Patrol, reached Dunkirk unmolested. At 5 a.m., on the 20th, Admiral Christian was off the Maas Light Vessel with the Hogue and Aboukir, and there the Cressy joined him from the Nore. An hour later, since his flagship was due for coaling and had had her wireless disabled in the gale, he parted company, leaving the squadron in command of Captain Drummond of the Aboukir. His intention had been to transfer his flag to her and remain out himself, but so high a sea was running that no boat could be lowered. For the same reason the Fearless, which was bringing out the destroyer patrol, was obliged to take them back to Harwich.


Thus all that day as well as the 21st the three cruisers were left to maintain the watch without a flotilla screen. The area they were to patrol was specially dangerous, since it lay


Sept. 22, 1914


between the German minefield and the Dutch coast, and thus left little room for variations of course. But as the cruisers had recently been supporting the Dogger Bank Patrol, Admiral Christian considered that this area was the one in which the enemy were least likely to look for them, and before parting company he gave special directions as to how the patrol was to be conducted so as to minimise the risk. In particular he recommended alterations of course to guard against submarines till the destroyers could come out again. On this score there was no special reason for anxiety. It was a generally received view that the short steep seas which a gale sets up in the locality, and which even the best destroyers could not face, rendered successful submarine operations impossible. Moreover, the Admiralty had information that the enemy's attention was turned to the north. This same day they sent word to the Commander-in-Chief of a report that a mixed force of light cruisers, destroyers and submarines had been seen from Esbjerg, in the south of Denmark, going north, and Admiral Jellicoe at once organised and carried out a sweep with his full force as far as the line between Flamborough Head and Horn Reefs, but again without meeting anything.


Nor were the three isolated cruisers exposed for long, for during the night the weather began to abate, and Commodore Tyrwhitt started off himself for the Broad Fourteens with the Lowestoft and eight destroyers. He was well on his way when, early on the 22nd, the wireless room at the Admiralty began to make out the words, " Aboukir, Hogue, sinking," constantly repeated; and then the position " 52.18 N. 3.41 E.," that is, about thirty miles west by south from Ymuiden. Eight more destroyers were immediately ordered to join the Commodore, and Admiral Christian made for the scene of danger with the Amethyst at full speed. But before any of them could arrive all was over, and one more tragedy was added to the tale of those useless sacrifices which never cease to darken naval memory.


It was part of the directions given to the captain of the Aboukir that he was to move to the south of his beat during the hours of darkness and patrol northward again at daylight. This precaution, which was enjoined by the original war orders of the squadron, was usual when the main danger to cruising ships was from destroyers, but it had no relation to the new conditions. To steam towards the enemy's base in daylight without flotilla protection was to increase the risk of submarine attack. Since the sea had gone down the better course, so the Admiralty held, would have been to keep to the southward till the destroyers returned.


Sept. 22, 1914



But for some reason which we do not know this was not done, and to make matters worse the squadron was proceeding abreast two miles apart without zigzagging and at barely ten knots. Still, a special look-out for submarines was being maintained, and at least one gun on each side was kept loaded and its crew closed up.


This, then, was the position when, just before 6.30 a.m., there was a violent explosion under the Aboukir's starboard side. No sign of a submarine was seen, and Captain Drummond, believing he had to do with a line of mines, signalled the other two ships to close, but to keep ahead of him. The wounded Aboukir quickly took a list of 20 degrees, then steadied, and an effort was made to right her by flooding the opposite wing compartments. But suddenly the list began to increase again so rapidly that it was clear she was going. " Abandon ship " was sounded, but only a single cutter was available— the other had been broken up by the explosion, and there was no steam with which to hoist out the boom boats. Every one had to take to the water, and twenty-five minutes after the blow the Aboukir turned over and floated awhile bottom upwards.


By this time Captain Wilmot Nicholson in the Hogue was at hand. He had warned the Cressy to look out for submarines while he closed the Aboukir, and he was now a cable or two ahead of her stem on. One watch was at the guns and two were hoisting out boats and getting up mess-tables, stools and hammocks to throw overboard to their comrades in the water. His intention was, in spite of the danger, to steam through them to give what help he could, but for some minutes he could not move as the boats were in the way. As soon as they were clear and he had put the telegraph " Ahead," he was struck by two torpedoes, and immediately afterwards a submarine came up on his port quarter. The Hogue promptly opened a brisk fire, but although at first it was believed that the damage was not vital, in five minutes the quarterdeck was awash; still the men stood devotedly to their guns, nor did they cease fire till she was almost on her beam-ends, and the word was passed for every one to shift for himself.


Her boats were just beginning to return with the survivors of the Aboukir. The Cressy's boats were doing the same, and she was herself standing by and making the signal which gave the Admiralty the first word of the disaster. Ten minutes after the Hogue was struck she went down, and then at 7.17 the Cressy (Captain R. W. Johnson) began calling for help, still without moving. At this moment a periscope was seen on the starboard quarter two cables away, and then the track of a torpedo. " Full speed ahead, both," was the order,


Sept. 22-23, 1914


but before she could gather way she was hit abreast the after funnel, though a second torpedo passed just clear of her stern. Then another conning tower was reported on her port beam; the gunner opened fire and the men were cheering what seemed to be a hit, when a third torpedo hit her just before the after bridge. It seemed to come from yet another submarine masked by the Hogue, for it passed over the spot where she had just gone down. It was the Cressy's coup de grace—she turned over on her beam ends and lay awash for a quarter of an hour, when she, too, disappeared. Her case was perhaps the worst of all. All her boats were away and filled with survivors from the other two ships, and nothing else was near but a couple of Dutch sailing trawlers, who hesitated to close for fear of mines; nor was it till an hour later that a Dutch steamship, the Flora, from Rotterdam to Leith, appeared on the scene and, regardless of all danger, came boldly up and began a strenuous work of rescue in a manner that excited general admiration. " I cannot," wrote Captain Nicholson, " speak too highly of the captain of the Flora in closing when he was unaware whether the ships had been struck by mines or torpedoes, and who thus incurred a great risk in the interests of humanity." As much might be said for the Titan, another steamer belonging to the same owners, which rescued 147 officers and men, as well as for the Lowestoft sailing trawlers Coriander and J. G. C. As for Commodore Tyrwhitt, for all his prompt departure he was still fifty miles away when he took in the call, and it was not till 10.45 a.m. that he was able to get up.


The loss of life was consequently very great. In all 60 officers and 777 men were saved, which meant that as many officers and nearly 1400 men were drowned. To give the last touch of bitterness, the old cruisers, being amongst the latest to mobilise, were manned mainly by Royal Naval Reserve ratings, most of whom were married men with families. Yet in spite of the rawness of the crews and the appalling nature of the disaster, by every testimony the discipline displayed was admirable and the conduct of the men beyond all praise both before and after the ships went down. As for the ships themselves, their loss was a small matter. They were already ripe for being sent to slumber out their obsolescence on the Mother Bank, and were but ill-adapted for naval warfare in its recent developments. But the crews, seeing how devotedly they had come forward from their civil occupations at the country's call, were a national loss to be lamented, the more since so much magnificent material perished helplessly by such insignificant means.


Sept. 23-26, 1914



At first it was believed that at least five or six submarines had shared in the attack. In the space of an hour six torpedoes had been fired, and when the Germans announced that only one boat had been engaged the claim was scarcely to be credited. As soon as it was known that Commodore Tyrwhitt had reached the scene the 1st Destroyer Flotilla was ordered to Terschelling to cut off the enemy's retreat, but nothing was seen. As the facts came out there seemed little reason to doubt that, as the Germans claimed, the whole work had been done by one comparatively old boat, U 9, which had not been out before during the war and which returned safely on September 23.


Nothing that had yet occurred had so emphatically proclaimed the change that had come over naval warfare, and never perhaps had so great a result been obtained by means relatively so small. The result of the Inquiry that was held was that the disaster might have been avoided had the senior officer complied more closely with the general instructions which the Admiralty had issued to provide as far as possible for the safety of ships exposed to the new danger; but at the same time it was held that his error of judgment was amply atoned for by the exemplary conduct he displayed during the attack.

It remains only to note a question of international law to which the fine conduct of the captain of the Flora gave rise. He had taken on board no less than 28 officers and 258 men, and with these, seeing that submarines were still believed to be about, he hastened into Ymuiden. The Foreign Office claimed their repatriation on the ground that Article XV of the Hague Naval Convention relating to internment only applied to belligerent persons landed by their captors. This view the Netherlands Government adopted spontaneously, and on September 26 all the officers and men, after receiving the most generous hospitality, were repatriated.








(See Maps 1 and 8 (inset) in case.)


Coming when it did, the effect of the loss of the three " Cressys" was deep and widespread, and to appreciate how the Navy rose superior to its moral oppression it is necessary to realise its full extent. The first result was a general order that henceforth it was to be recognised by all commanding officers that if one of several ships in company was torpedoed by a submarine, or struck a mine, she must be left to her fate and the rest clear out of the dangerous area, calling up minor vesssels to render assistance. " This," the order added, " is a further application of the rule of war to leave disabled ships in a fleet action to look after themselves." It was, in fact, a considerable stretch of the old rule. The original article of the first Fighting Instructions of the seventeenth century, as drawn up in 1653 by Blake, Deane, and Monk, was that if in action a ship was in danger of sinking and made signal to that effect, the nearest ships were strictly required to relieve her. It was only when not in danger of sinking or capture that she was to be left to herself. The rule was maintained, with only slight modifications, all through the eighteenth century. It appears in Howe's Instructions of 1799, and also in the last Instructions of the Great War period which were drawn up in 1816. In its final form it ran as follows : " If any ship should be disabled so as to be in great danger of being destroyed or taken . . . the ships nearest to her and which are least engaged with the enemy are strictly enjoined to give her immediately all possible aid and protection." No rule so stern as that of the new order had ever been formulated in our Service, and its appearance furnishes one of the many recent indications of how drastic and ruthless warfare had become for the seamen of to-day compared with anything their predecessors were called upon to face.


Another effect of the disaster was an order that for the future armoured ships, so far as possible, were not to board merchant vessels for examination. The process exposed them too dangerously to submarine attack, and steps were taken for attaching to the various squadrons suitable armed vessels for doing the actual work of examination.


Oct. 1, 1914



The dispositions of the Fleet also had to be modified. The War Plans provided for the Channel Fleet in cases of emergency being moved up into the North Sea, and the day before the three cruisers were lost it had been the intention to bring Admiral Burney and his 5th Battle Squadron to Sheerness, to be at hand should any serious attempt be made on the new line of passage, but as soon as the disaster was known the project was deferred. Again, since the mining and submarine activities of the enemy had so much increased, a new cruiser area had been established off the east coast of Scotland. It was frequently patrolled by the old battleships from the Humber, but now an order was issued that it was not to be patrolled by armoured ships at all.


To add to the difficulties, the suspicion that the enemy were using trawlers to lay mines in the open sea was increasing in strength. Though we now know the belief was erroneous, it was by this time so strongly held that the Admiralty came reluctantly to the conclusion that Admiral Jellicoe's suggestion for dealing with the trouble must be adopted, at least in part. Accordingly, they issued an order that from October 1 all the East Coast ports were to be closed to neutral fishing craft. Nor was this all. A certain war area was declared. North of the latitude of Whitby (54 degrees 30' N.), it extended to longitude 1 degrees E., and south of Whitby to longitude 2 degrees 30' E., and all neutral fishing craft found within these limits were to be treated as under suspicion of mine-laying. Innocent vessels were to be warned off; those defying the prohibition were to be seized and treated as guilty of unneutral action. To such a highhanded recurrence to the practices of the old Mare clausum were we forced by Germany's flagrant contempt for the time-honoured customs of the sea. Distasteful as these measures were to our maritime conscience, it was now clear that the niceties of the old naval code must be abandoned. The insidious form of attack, which it had been expected Germany would adopt, was bidding fair to produce results as drastic as the firmest believers in the power of the new methods had expected. Never since the invention of the torpedo had it achieved so sweeping a success as on September 22; still less had the submarine anything like such an exploit to its credit, and it was useless to shut our eyes to the fact that the old methods would no longer serve.


Sept. 22-28, 1914

As the Commander-in-Chief pointed out when asked for his opinion how to deal with the problem, the policy Germany was adopting was obviously the proper one for a belligerent in her position, in order to weaken our battle line before the main action was fought. Our policy, he submitted, should consequently be to resist all temptation to activities which entailed undue risk to our heavy ships, and meanwhile to devote ourselves to strangling the enemy's trade and destroying his submarines by every possible device. If Germany used fishing craft for warlike purposes, let us do the same. " The method of destruction," he said, " should be to use trawlers as freely as possible," and he proceeded to sketch a system on which they might be employed.


To realise a new danger meant for the Navy nothing more than devising new means to deal with it. That had always been the spirit; yet we need not be insensible to the fortitude the attitude displayed. Nor without bearing in mind the shock which the old tradition had received can we realise how severe was the fresh call that had to be made upon the Admiralty while the recent blow was still smarting. The new demand upon them arose from the military situation in France. The race for the sea was nearing its crisis. By reciprocal flanking movements the Allied and the German lines had stretched northward as far as Arras and Douai respectively, and between the Allied left and the sea at Dunkirk was a gap of some fifty miles very weakly held. At the suggestion of the French, the bulk of our Marine Brigade had moved inland to Cassel, with one battalion thrown forward as far as Lille; further to the eastward was a French force at Tournai; but, as against the strength which Germany was developing in the north, such forces were negligible. Nor could the Belgian Army help. The offensive movement which it had commenced from Antwerp against the German communications had just been crushed by the new forces that were pressing in from Germany; on September 28 it had been forced to withdraw within the line of the outer forts, into which the first German shells were already beginning to fall.


Simultaneously a profound modification of the situation in the main theatre was taking place. This same day the attempt of the Germans to break through the Allied Centre about Rheims had finally failed. It was this characteristic clinging of the Germans to their original plan which seems to have been the main cause of their otherwise unaccountable neglect to make more of their opportunity of reaching the Channel Ports. They seemed now awake to their error,


Sept. 27-28, 1914



their attention was evidently turning to the northward, and Sir John French saw the time had come for removing the whole of the British Expeditionary Force from where it was embedded in the French armies to its natural and original position on the sea flank. The proposal was at once accepted by General Joffre. The only hope of succeeding in his attempt to outflank the German right now depended on the possibility of a combined movement of French, British, and Belgian troops in Flanders. It was a moment, therefore, when the security of Antwerp and the field army it held was of special importance, for military reasons now as well as naval. It was, moreover, a typical situation which offered all possible advantages for a force to be dropped in from the sea at the decisive point. We had now the VIIth Division and the IIIrd Cavalry Division ready to take the field. Assuming the Navy was prepared to undertake the undoubtedly grave responsibility of transporting them, they could easily be thrown in from Dunkirk or Ostend, but without the co-operation of the Belgian Army they would be too weak to effect anything. There was, moreover, a further reason why direct action from the Flemish coast might be necessary in any case. Since the first week in September, when the fate of the frontier fortresses had revealed to the Belgian Government the impossibility of Antwerp resisting a formal attack, they had been asking the Allies to promise them 25,000 troops to secure the retreat of the Field Army by way of St. Nicolas, Ghent, Bruges and Ostend.


For the Admiralty such a development of the campaign meant a very heavy task. For with the whole British Army moving to the northward, St. Nazaire would no longer serve as a base. In addition to shifting it back to Havre, the Navy would have to protect the new lines of communication to Dunkirk and Ostend, and it was just at this moment that an incident occurred which redoubled the difficulties that had to be faced, and involved the previously simple plans in a tangle of complexities.

On September 27, the day the Belgian offensive was checked, the light cruiser Attentive (Captain Charles D. Johnson, commanding the 6th Flotilla, Dover Patrol) was attacked near the Strait by two submarines. Two torpedoes were fired, both were avoided, and the submarines dived and disappeared. Captain Johnson at once searched the area with his four divisions of destroyers. Commodore Tyrwhitt also sent a division to the North Hinder to cut off the enemy's retreat, but nothing more was seen of them, and


Sept. 29-Oct. 2, 1914


the inference was that they had perhaps gone into the Channel. All sailings of transports were therefore stopped, except those from western ports to St. Nazaire or Nantes, and till further orders no vessels were permitted to move in daylight.


In view of the critical military situation the sudden insecurity of our cross-Channel lines of passage was intolerable. On September 29 fresh intelligence came in of reinforcements reaching the German right, and, if the situation was to be saved, something must be done to secure for the Army its indispensable communications. Something more effective than the existing system was required, and nothing seemed likely to meet the case but a policy of extensive mining. This idea now began to be pressed upon the Admiralty. They were as unwilling as ever to adopt the obnoxious expedient, and so restrict the freedom of the Grand Fleet, and before consenting they referred the question to Admiral Jellicoe. The military situation was laid before him, and he was asked whether on naval grounds, apart from all others, he objected to the proposed comprehensive scheme; and in particular as to whether he would apply it to the Heligoland Bight, or confine it to the narrow waters of the Southern Area. It will be recalled that about three weeks earlier he himself had made a similar proposal, and he had not changed his mind. The opinion, therefore, that he expressed was that, though generally opposed to any attempt to mine the Bight or the entrances of the German ports, since the risk would be great and the effect merely temporary, for minefields in those localities could not be watched, yet on naval grounds he regarded the mining of the Southern Area as desirable.


His answer came to hand early on October 2, and orders for the minefield to be laid were issued forthwith. At the same time, however, the example which the Germans had set of keeping such minefields secret was one we were not prepared to follow, great as were its advantages. Their action was a direct breach of Article 3 of the Hague Mine Convention, which provided that " When anchored automatic contact mines are employed every possible precaution must be taken for the security of peaceful navigation." The Germans had taken no such precaution. Our Admiralty at once decided to take the obvious one of announcing the existence of the minefield, and, accordingly, an official notification of the limits of the danger area was immediately issued and given the fullest possible publicity.


Oct. 1-2, 1914



In accordance with Admiral Jellicoe's opinion the minefield was to be confined entirely to the narrow waters. The danger area was announced to be a parallelogram whose southern base was a line from the middle of the Goodwins to just north of Ostend. The northern limit was a line running eastwards from the Kentish Knock. Two minelayers, Iphigenia and Andromache, were told off for the work, but before they could begin it was clear they would have no easy task. During the morning (October 2) Submarine B3 of the Dover Patrol had been attacked unsuccessfully by a hostile submarine off the south end of the Goodwins. The work, therefore, could only be done at night and under destroyer protection.


The delay entailed was specially regrettable, for by this time the situation in Belgium had reached a crisis. On October 1, Forts Waelhem and Wavre St. Catherine in the south-east sector of the outer ring of the Antwerp defences had fallen and the Germans were pushing in through the gap. To the Belgian Government there seemed no hope of saving the city unless a diversion could be made against the left of the attacking army. To this end they appealed for help. The attacking force was believed to be no more than the equivalent of two army corps, while the German Governor of Brussels had at his disposal little more than one brigade of second line troops. The Belgians had in the fortress about 70,000 garrison troops besides their Field Army, numbering 80,000 men. Of the six divisions composing it, four were occupying the two southern sectors of the defences, one was at Termonde, and one in reserve with the cavalry on the flanks; but possibly two divisions, the cavalry in any case, could be spared to co-operate with an Allied force to make the required diversion. The French had promised a Territorial Division.


We had already sent some heavy naval guns, and Rear-Admiral Oliver, the Director of Naval Intelligence, had gone over to report on the situation for the Admiralty. Though our War Office was ready to respond with the two fine divisions they had ready, provided the French could send regulars, they naturally hesitated, after recent experiences, to send them to undertake so hazardous and difficult an enterprise in concert with second line troops. The point was still under discussion between the two Governments when, late in the evening of October 2, came the startling information that the Belgian Government had suddenly decided to retire to Ostend and to withdraw the Field Army from Antwerp, leaving the fortress troops to hold it as long as they could.


Oct. 2-3, 1914

It was a position that for naval reasons alone could not be accepted without an effort to prevent the breakdown of our plans that it meant—particularly since the measure seemed from our reports to have been dictated not so much by immediate military necessity as by a sense of being abandoned by the Allies. The French, moreover, had now promised two Territorial Divisions, with a full complement of cavalry and artillery, and were pointing out that they were no longer the raw troops which had so unhappily left our Expeditionary Force in the air at the first shock. The great difficulty was time. The diversion was decided on, but for the moment it was impossible to say when the troops would arrive. The main point was to enhearten the Belgians to hold on for a few days, and for this some prompt and practical evidence that they were not forgotten was necessary. It was decided, therefore, that the First Lord of the Admiralty should proceed forthwith to Antwerp on behalf of the Government and see what could be done. At the same time, as an earnest of what was to come, the Royal Marine Brigade was ordered to proceed at once to Antwerp to assist in holding the place. General Paris, who had succeeded to the command on General Aston being invalided, was then at Dunkirk, and had withdrawn his advanced battalion from Lille to Cassel as the French, under the increasing menace of the German right, fell back from Tournai. He was therefore able to start without delay.


The effect of these preliminary steps was immediate. As soon as the Belgian Government were informed of them they agreed to make no move until Mr. Churchill arrived. Travelling through the night, he reached Antwerp on the morning of October 3, and it was quickly apparent that the Belgians were as ready as ever to play a bold game so long as there was a shadow of hope. By the afternoon a provisional agreement had been come to which promised at least a substantial gain of time for General Joffre's plans to develop without any undue risk to the Belgian Field Army. The arrangement was that the Belgian Government would at once make energetic preparations to resist for at least ten days, and that within three days we would state definitely if and when we could launch a large operation for their relief. If within three days we could not give a satisfactory assurance of substantial assistance, they were to be free to abandon the defence and withdraw the Field Army, and in that case we were to cover its withdrawal by sending troops to Ghent or elsewhere on the line of retreat. A further condition was that, in the meantime, we were to assist the local defence in all minor ways, such as with guns, marines, and naval brigades.


Aug.-Sept. 1914



The acceptance of this last condition was a desperate expedient to meet a desperate situation. The immediate importance, it will be seen, was to do something at once to gain time for the larger operations contemplated, and this was the only means available. Besides the Marine Brigade, which was already well on its way, we were organising two Naval Brigades so as to form a complete Naval Division, but as yet the force was wholly unfit for active service. It was still only in process of development from the original idea of a small flying force for the occupation of advanced naval bases. The minute which had inaugurated the expansion was dated August 17, 1914, and it was not till next day that even the Marine Brigade already formed had been ordered to train for field service. The idea was to raise two more brigades from superfluous men of the Fleet Reserve, the Royal Naval Reserve, and the Royal Naval Volunteers, with a few active ratings, and the War Office offered to lend officers to train them as infantry. Each brigade consisted of four battalions, which were named after famous admirals.


(The battalions of the First Brigade were: (1) Drake, (2) Benbow, (3) Hawke, and (4) Collingwood; those of the Second Brigade were : (5) Nelson, (6) Howe, (7) Hood, and (8) Anson. The Royal Marine Brigade also had four battalions, numbered 9 to 12, and named after the Royal Marine Divisions at the Naval ports.)


It was not till the last days of August that the new formations were in camp at Walmer and at Betteshanger near Sandwich. They had thus had barely a month's training, and it had included practically no musketry. Arms for them had to be drawn from the Fleet, and it was the end of September before all received service rifles. Even so they were without proper equipment or entrenching tools, the majority of the officers and men were as yet quite raw, and a considerable proportion of the ranks were newly-raised recruits who had never served in the Reserves. Still, they were on the spot close to Dover, capable of being hastily embarked, and there was nothing else. It was, of course, little more than a forlorn hope, but they were only needed for garrison duty, and the troops they would have to meet were known to be of inferior quality. These considerations, coupled with the desperate condition of affairs at Antwerp as the crisis of the race for the sea seemed to justify the measure at least on moral and political grounds; and in telegraphing the heads of the agreement he had made, Mr. Churchill begged that, if they were approved, the Admiralty should be instructed to order the two Naval Brigades to embark at once for Dunkirk. The arrangement was approved, and orders were issued accordingly.


Oct. 3-4, 1914


Inferior as were these troops, it must be remembered that they were only intended to stiffen and enhearten the local defence for the vital three days. By that time, or possibly a day or so later, it was practically certain that a combined Franco-British force capable of co-operating with the Belgian Field Army against the besiegers' left would be concentrated at Ostend. For their second Territorial Division the French had substituted a complete Naval Brigade, which they regarded as a superior force. It consisted of two fine regiments of Fusiliers Marins, and one regiment of Zouaves, in all 8,000 men, with sixteen naval machine-guns. It was to go by rail from Paris, while from Havre would come by sea the LXXXVIIth Territorial Division, consisting of twelve battalions, two squadrons of reserve cavalry, and two brigades of 90-millimetre guns.


As for our own contingent, the Admiralty had accepted the risk of its transport, and marching orders had also been given to the VIIth Division and the IIIrd Cavalry Division, which were to arrive during the 6th and 7th. All told, therefore, the combined force assembled at Ostend would number 42,000 men, 68 British guns, besides those of the French and besides the 8,000 men of General Paris's Naval Division and the heavy guns. Such a force suddenly dropped into the gap, and threatening the besiegers' left, could certainly not be despised, especially at the moment when General Joffre's and Sir John French's great effort to turn the right of the German main army was developing.


While waiting for the relieving movement to mature the Belgians were carrying out their part of the arrangement by establishing themselves on the line of the Great and the Little Nethe, the position to which they had fallen back when the outer ring of forts was forced. Here the Marines joined. Having reached Antwerp with the Royal Engineer detachment brigaded with them, they had been ordered early next morning to Lierre, which, standing as it does on an island site formed by the junction of the Great and Little Nethe, constituted the key and main bridgehead of the river position. Here three battalions occupied a section north of Lierre on the Little Nethe, with the fourth battalion in reserve and Belgian troops on either flank. All this section of the line, with the Belgian troops allotted to it, was placed under General Paris's command. It was already under heavy bombardment, and the field defences very imperfect, shallow, and without head cover. The engineers at once set to work to improve the trenches and clear the field of fire, and by the evening the lines were much strengthened.


Oct. 5-6, 1914



All night, however, the bombardment continued with increasing violence, and the Belgians who had hitherto been holding the east bank of the Little Nethe were forced to retire behind the river. At the same time, some twenty-five miles away to the west-south-west, the enemy passed the Dendre, the river which flows northward into the Schelde at Termonde and so continues the main line of defence for Flanders towards the French frontier. They were thus able to begin an attempt to cross the Schelde itself at Schoonaerde and Termonde, a movement which seriously threatened the line of retreat from Antwerp.


To make matters worse, by noon next day (the 5th) the German infantry succeeded in occupying Lierre, and, though they could not debouch from it, they effected a crossing of the Great Nethe below the town and drove back the Belgian regiment which was on the right of the Marines. A counter-attack by another Belgian regiment was quickly organised, and, assisted by bombs from our naval aircraft, it was successful. By 4.30 p.m. the original line was re-occupied by the Allies, but the enemy were able to retain their lodgment on the west bank of the river. To the southward, however, there was no improvement. There the weak Belgian division which was guarding the line of retreat on the Schelde was being so hardly pressed, especially at Schoonaerde, that the situation was reported as critical.


An urgent request was now sent to Bordeaux that the Fusilier Marin Brigade, instead of stopping at Ostend, should proceed direct to Antwerp, and, in spite of all discouragement, a Council held by the King that evening, at which the First Lord was present, decided to hold on and fight it out. Scarcely had the resolution been taken when word came in that the Germans had forced a passage of the Little Nethe just north of Lierre. Some desperate effort seemed now necessary unless the river line was to be wholly lost.


About 1.15 in the morning (the 6th) an order came from the Belgian Headquarters for a general attack to drive the enemy back over the river. The message had been greatly delayed in transit, and, as the attack was timed for 2.0 a.m., General Paris, who in any case doubted its wisdom, had to say he could not arrange it in the time. Two Belgian regiments, however, made the attack alone with great dash, drove the Germans back over the river, and by 4.30 had restored the position. Till the morning they held it, but at daylight on the 6th the Germans attacked again with fresh forces and succeeded in penetrating the right of the Belgian line south-west of Lierre at Boomlaer and Hulst. Another


Oct. 4-6, 1914


gallant effort was made to recover the lost trenches; it was materially assisted by the naval aeroplanes dropping bombs upon the Germans, but, although part of the lost ground was recovered, it was no longer possible to hold the ill-constructed trenches against the enemy's shell-fire, and by 11.0 a.m. General Paris found it necessary to order his Belgians to retire to a position a little further back, between the river and the inner forts. As this movement exposed the right of the Marine Brigade, and as they were already under heavy shell-fire, they were ordered to withdraw to Vremde, a village about two miles in advance of Fort No. 3 of the Inner Ring.


By this time the 1st and 2nd Brigades of the Royal Naval Division had arrived. After being delayed at Dover by the non-arrival of a transport, they had crossed to Dunkirk in the night of October 4-5, and had begun to reach Antwerp by rail at 2.30 a.m. on the 6th, by way of Ghent and St. Nicolas, across the head of the German advance at Termonde, and had then gone into billets round Wilryck near Fort No. 6 of the Inner Ring. The idea of the Belgian Headquarter Staff was that, as the line of the Nethe seemed no longer tenable, they should occupy a system of trenches extending across the Lierre-Antwerp road from the military depot on the Malines railway to Vremde. General Paris, however, wanted them to reinforce his right, where the Germans, having established themselves across the Nethe on the Malines road south-west of Lierre, were forcing the Belgians to retire. But so exhausted were our Allies by this night attack, that it was very doubtful whether they could be supported in time, and at 10.30 a.m. he ordered the two Naval Brigades to occupy the system of trenches that defended the intervals between the inner forts so as to cover a further retirement should it become necessary. By 11.30 they were busy trying to improve the trenches with such tools as they had been able to get hold of, but in about an hour's time it became evident that the Germans were not pressing their attack, and General Paris ordered the 1st Brigade to advance along the Lierre Road and to throw forward one battalion to support the Marines at Boschoek, and another to Chateau Weyninekx so as to prolong the Marines' line westward to the Malines railway.


The situation seemed now to be fairly hopeful, but on the Schelde things had been going hardly with the Belgian troops who were covering the line of retreat. Attempts by the enemy to force a passage of the river at Baesrode, Termonde and Schoonaerde had never ceased.


Oct. 6, 1914



All were repulsed, but so exhausting was the effort that another whole division had to be withdrawn from the front of attack and sent across the Schelde at Tamise to reinforce the threatened points. But this was not all. The right of the German main army, which had been defeated on the Marne, was reported to have reached the vicinity of Lille and to be sending a mixed force of 5,000 cavalry and infantry in motorcars through Mouscron towards Ostend. There was therefore an obvious danger of the Belgian Army being cut off from those of the Allies. Its retreat, in fact, was being threatened from a new direction, and if the situation was to be saved it was necessary to reach out further up the Schelde and occupy Ghent at the great eastward bend of the river.


It had been hoped that the place would have been secured by the British VIIth Division. " Since the 4th," says a Belgian report, " the General Staff, convinced that Ghent must be occupied at all costs, and having no force available for the purpose, had urgently informed England, who was showing herself disposed to hold out a hand to prolong the defence of Antwerp, of the necessity of occupying Ghent. The intervention of the British VIIth Division, then disembarking on the coast, had been promised, and at the same time some French forces were to take part in the movement." But of these succours there was still no sign at the crucial point. Neither the French Marine Brigade, nor the Territorials, nor our own VIIth and Cavalry Divisions had been heard of.


The fact was that considerable difficulty had been experienced in getting the British divisions into place. The orders directed that they were to leave Southampton during the night of Sunday the 4th, at the same time that the Naval Brigade left Dover. By that time the new protective minefield would be completed, but, owing to the insecure condition of the Channel, further precautions had to be taken to safeguard their passage. The French were asked to provide all available torpedo boats to form an anti-submarine patrol from Selsea Bill to Dover. The Admiral of Patrols was to provide a special destroyer guard for the Strait, and Commodore Tyrwhitt was to use a sufficient number of the Harwich destroyers between the German and the British mine areas to prevent any enemy submarines getting through.


The French at once did what was required, and even went beyond what was required by the British plan. The Territorial Division which they were throwing into the gap was to come from Havre to Dunkirk by sea, and, according


Oct. 4-5, 1914


to their traditional views, the transports required cruiser escort. They were still unconvinced by the British system of cover and patrol, and accordingly they suddenly recalled for the duty their four armoured cruisers from Admiral Bethell's Western Squadron. He represented at once that the withdrawal of these ships rendered his squadron wholly inadequate to maintain an effective watch on the mouth of the Channel, and the Admiralty lost no time in begging the French to retain the ships in the covering position; but they still apparently preferred their own system—useless as such ships were against submarines. At the last moment, therefore, the western cover broke down.


Nor was this the end of the trouble. The orders for the VIIth Division and the Cavalry Division were to proceed to Dunkirk and Boulogne. But in the afternoon of the 4th, when it was known that the French Division was going to Dunkirk, the order was changed to Calais or Boulogne. Since the British reinforcements numbered 20,000 men, 68 guns, besides horses and vehicles, a clear port was evidently necessary for their reception. The Admiralty proceeded to give instructions accordingly, but the arrangements were barely complete when the War Office, owing apparently to the rapid development of the military situation in Flanders, suddenly asked that the troops should be taken on to Zeebrugge.


Nothing can speak more highly of the patient endurance of the Navy than that the demand was not at once and definitely refused. Sorely against their will, and solely to meet urgent military needs, they had consented at great risk to lay a minefield to protect the passage to Dunkirk, and now they were asked to take the transports through it. For the minefield blocked the approach to Zeebrugge, and a channel would have to be swept before the troops could pass. Still, having set their hand to the work of saving the military situation, they were not going to turn back. By midnight it was known that the Belgian troops had retired behind the Nethe, and the thing was settled. In the small hours of October 5 the orders began to go out for the transport staff from Nantes and Dunkirk to hasten to Zeebrugge, for the two southern groups of mine-sweepers which were then working between the Kentish Knock and the North Foreland to sweep the necessary channel, and for no ships of the convoy to proceed beyond Dover without orders. The weather was very bad for sweeping, but the attempt was made, and two of the vessels engaged were never heard of again. (Princess Beatrice and Drumoak.) Moreover, the submarines were still teasing.


Oct. 6-8, 1914



Early in the morning the Coquette of the Nore Defence Flotilla reported having chased one off the North Foreland and having lost her when she dived. It was necessary, therefore, to provide one, and, if possible, two destroyers to accompany each transport. It was also deemed essential to guard against a naval attack on Zeebrugge, which was likely enough to be attempted as soon as it was known we were using it. Consequently, the best of the Harwich submarines were told off to protect the new base, but the Ems patrol was maintained, and here on October 6 Lieut.-Commander Horton in E 9 caught and sank the destroyer S 116.


Under this system of protection, in spite of the fact that the narrow course the transports had to take forbade all deviations, the passage proceeded without incident till the evening of the 6th. The ships were organised in batches, and those of each batch were proceeding singly at intervals of ten minutes. Submarines were certainly about. The Mohawk, one of the patrol destroyers, was actually attacked. No harm was done, but as seven transports passed over the spot within an hour and a half, it was clearly not for lack of danger that the whole of them escaped. It was nothing but the skill and vigilance displayed and the masterly versatility in conforming to the sudden changes of the military plans that saved them. So the work went on, and by the morning of October 7 the whole of the VIIth Division was safely across.


The Cavalry convoy was a still more difficult matter, and the problem was complicated by the discovery that Zeebrugge was not fitted for a cavalry base and that they would have to use Ostend. To add to the trouble, the French were asking for special flotilla protection for their base at Dunkirk. Here, then, was another surprise to face. As things stood, it was impossible to provide destroyers enough for this duty as well as for escort, and the cavalry transports had to be ordered into the Downs till other arrangements could be made. Eventually, however, by calling down eight more destroyers from Harwich and giving the transports a new route through the Dunkirk defended area and then along the coast, the delicate and dangerous operation was carried through without accident.


Yet, the difficulties of getting the troops into position were by no means at an end. When Major-General Capper, commanding the VIIth Division, arrived he was pressed by the local military authorities at Ostend to entrain at once for Antwerp, but in view of reports of the attempts the enemy were making to pass the Schelde below Ghent he felt bound to decline. Having been specially cautioned by


Oct. 6, 1914


Lord Kitchener and the Chief of Staff not to get shut up in the fortress, he decided to billet his division about Bruges till the situation became clearer. Lieut.-General Sir Henry Rawlinson, who had come up by car from the Aisne to command the whole force, endorsed his view and established his headquarters at Bruges.


By this time, indeed, the idea of raising the siege by operating as originally arranged had been practically abandoned. In view of the way the situation in Belgium was developing, General Joffre and Sir John French had held a conference, at which they agreed generally that the best way now of relieving Antwerp was to carry out as rapidly as possible the great operation for turning the German right flank about Lille upon which they were then concentrating their main effort. In pursuance of this idea General Joffre ordered the Fusilier Marin Brigade to conform to the movements of the Royal Naval Division, presumably with the idea that Antwerp would then be able to hold out for the required period, but the Territorial Division he diverted to Poperinghe just west of Ypres, and at the same time ordered a second Territorial Division from Paris to Cherbourg, there to embark for Dunkirk.


Unfortunately, by some oversight these orders were not communicated by the French Staff to Sir John French or our War Office. General Rawlinson was thus left in ignorance that the combination on which his operations depended had been cancelled, and he was at a loss what to make of it. All that was clear was that the expedition could not now be carried out as designed. He had still nothing but the VIIth Division in sight—the cavalry had not yet arrived, the Royal Naval Division appeared to be already shut up in Antwerp, and of the French Marines and Territorials there was still no news. Moreover, while the situation at Antwerp was still obscure, it was certain that large bodies of hostile cavalry were concentrating about Lille as though to turn the French left, and by the evening of the 6th it was known the communication between that town and Dunkirk had been cut.


Meanwhile at Antwerp, owing to the loss of the line of the Nethe and the continued pressure of the Germans on the line of retreat, it had been decided that the time had come for extricating the Field Army in order to ensure its ability to co-operate with the expected relieving force. General Rawlinson had gone on there to concert measures with the Belgian General Staff, and in the afternoon of October 6 a conference took place at which Mr. Churchill was again present. The outcome was that, in view of the


Oct. 6-8, 1914



fact that from the lost ground the Germans could bombard the city and that the troops were becoming exhausted both physically and morally, a general retirement to the line of the inner forts must be carried out at once. General Paris, with the Naval Division and Belgian support, would hold the intervals to the utmost so long as the city endured the bombardment, and the rest of the Belgian Field Army was to be withdrawn immediately to an entrenched camp across the Schelde. From that position they would be best able to assist in any relieving movement from the westward which might still be possible, while General Rawlinson organised the relieving force at Ghent and Bruges. At the same time the Belgian Government decided to retire to Ostend.


The plan for withdrawing the Field Army was for three of the remaining four divisions to move across the river during the night while General Paris covered the retirement. He at once gave the word for the whole of his force to retire to the trenches in the intervals between the forts—the forts themselves being occupied by fortress troops. The 1st Naval Brigade, which led the retirement, took post on the left, Drake being between Forts Nos. 5 and 4, Collingwood between Nos. 4 and 3, Hawke on the extreme left between Nos. 3 and 2, and Benbow in reserve. The 2nd Brigade continued the line from No. 5 to 7, while one battalion of the Marine Brigade was between Nos. 7 and 8, with the rest in reserve at Waesdonck. Here the defences were also found to be very weak, and all that day and during the night strenuous efforts were made, with the assistance of the Royal Engineers and some Belgian troops, to improve them.


So much progress was made that the 1st Brigade, at any rate, were fully prepared to hold on. While the work was proceeding during the 7th all was comparatively quiet, but during the night a heavy bombardment of the city took place. As, however, the Government had left for Ostend and the civil population had been streaming across the Schelde after the army, this caused no immediate anxiety. But in the morning of the 8th the Germans began to shell vigorously the trenches which the Royal Naval Division was holding, and at the same time to develop a strong attack on Forts 1 and 2. General Paris, who was already convinced that the ill-prepared position was untenable under shell fire, at least for the raw and exhausted troops at his disposal, had telephoned at 7.5 a.m. to General Rawlinson at Bruges that he could not hold out beyond the day, and that he would then retire to the westward. To add to his anxiety, he now saw that the attack on the forts was endangering his left flank,


Oct. 8-9, 1914


and gave warning to this effect. Still, it was many hours before any definite orders for the retirement reached the division. Everything had been too hurried for proper staff arrangements to be made, and communication was very difficult. At 2.30 p.m., though no fresh instructions had reached the 1st Brigade, it was found that the Belgians had evacuated Fort No. 4. The 1st Brigade then occupied it with a company from the reserve battalion, and by sending another company to Fort No. 3, induced the Belgian garrisons both there and at Fort No. 2 to hold on. They had still no thought of letting go, and shortly after 4.0 the Marine Brigade sent a whole battalion to reinforce them. They were not, however, to be permitted to retain their hold. Already early in the day, on a false report that the northern forts had fallen, a decision had been come to at Headquarters in Antwerp that the British Force and the remaining Belgian division should be withdrawn across the Schelde during the night to join the main Belgian Army. This decision was now confirmed. They were to retire through the city and cross the two bridges of boats which had been constructed at Burght and St. Anne, and thence march to St. Nicolas, where trains would be waiting to take them on.


This order was received about 5.0 p.m., and in an hour's time the 2nd and Marine Brigades were marching away through Antwerp to cross the river by the Burght bridge. The Drake Battalion, which was on the right of the 1st Brigade, followed them, but the order did not reach the rest of the Brigade. They therefore stood fast till nearly 7.0 p.m., when a staff officer arrived with orders that they were to retire outside the city to the Gare de Formation—a railway depot opposite Burght—and that the 2nd Brigade would cover and follow the retirement. The movement was to begin at 9.0 p.m. It was not till an hour or so later that they found that the rest of the division had already gone, and even so they could not get away at once.


The Hawke Battalion, which was furthest north, found the village in their rear was being shelled, and they had to make a detour. Finally, it was fully 10.0 p.m. before they could move off, and then with nothing on their right it was unsafe to proceed by the Military Road as had been intended. They had to go by by-ways and through a wood in single file. Ably led as they were by three officers who had reconnoitred the route during the day, progress was very slow, many men fell out exhausted, and it was not till 1.30 a.m. that Brigade Headquarters reached the Gare de Formation and began to cross the river in a steamer to Burght.


Oct. 8, 1914



By this time the general situation was extremely critical. When in the morning of October 8 General Rawlinson received General Paris's message that he would scarcely be able to hold out during the day and must retire in the night, he was back at Bruges. But there was no longer any thought of organising his force for the relief of Antwerp. He knew the Belgian Army was retreating westward from the entrenched camp, and he was in doubt whether he was even in a position to cover its retirement. There were indications of strong German forces moving northward, as though intending to drive the retreating army over the Dutch frontier, and it was essential to do something to save it as well as our own Naval Division.


Ghent had been occupied by some 1,500 Belgians; he also knew that some at least of the French Fusiliers Marins had left Dunkirk to assist them, but of the lost Territorial Division he had still no news. The VIIth Division was concentrated and could reach Ghent next evening, and so could the Cavalry Division, which was then disembarking at Zeebrugge. He therefore announced his intention of making an effort, desperate as it seemed, to keep the road open unless he received definite orders not to attempt it.


At home there was grave doubt at the time whether it could be effected. In view of the increasing German concentration about Lille, something had to be done to protect Dunkirk, where the French Territorials were beginning to arrive. A detachment of 900 Royal Marine Artillery, with sixteen field guns, had just landed there with orders to proceed at once to Antwerp. They were now ordered to send on only half the number, the rest to stay with the guns, and the Oxfordshire Hussars were also told to stand fast and assist the defence of the place. (This detachment of Royal Marine Artillery was organised under an Order of September 22, to consist of four batteries of 4 12-pdr. Q.F. guns and 331 men, to furnish field artillery for the Naval Division.)


Ostend was an equal source of anxiety. On receipt of General Paris's message from Antwerp, the Cavalry, as it landed at Zeebrugge, was ordered to march to that port and billet, and the heavy guns to remain there. To cover this movement General Rawlinson had ordered General Capper with the VIIth Division to take up a position on an arc four miles out of Ostend. For the moment, then, they could not move. Indeed, so menacing was the unexpected strength the enemy was developing that it was still uncertain whether the whole force would not have to be withdrawn, and at 10.45 a.m. on October 8 came a message that motor-transport

Oct. 7-9, 1914


was not to be unloaded pending a Cabinet decision, and all empty transports were to remain. At 2.30 p.m. Headquarters moved into Ostend, and five minutes later the Cabinet decision was made known. The disembarkation at Zeebrugge was to continue, but the transports were to stand fast till further orders. Similar orders were subsequently sent to Ostend.


The Cabinet had decided that the force should remain, at least to make an effort to cover the retirement from Antwerp. It had already made fair progress. The previous morning (the 7th) all the Belgian troops, except the rear guard, were on the west bank of the Schelde, and although the enemy succeeded in forcing a passage of the river at Schoonaerde, and so were directly threatening the line of retreat, they were held at Berlaere and could get no further that day. German troops were also reported in the vicinity of Ghent, but with the Belgian Brigade that had been detached there the place would be safe till the Allied troops could reach it.


Definite orders to protect the retirement both of the Belgian Army and the Naval Division reached the British Headquarters at 5.45 p.m. on the 8th. By this time it was known that the French Marine Brigade had been railed to Ghent to join the Belgian Brigade that was holding the place, and, in fact, the last battalion was just detraining. The General therefore decided to support them, and sent off to Ghent two brigades of the VIIth Division with some artillery to co-operate in the Belgian plan. The other infantry brigade was to move back to Bruges as a reserve, and one cavalry brigade to Ecloo, where the Belgian Headquarters was established on the 9th.


Owing to the inexperience of an improvised railway staff, these dispositions took a long time to carry out, and they were still in progress when at 9 a.m. on the 9th the Naval Division was reported to have reached Selzaete, behind the Terneuzen Canal, and to be " coming along all right."


So far all was well. The bulk of the Belgian Army was getting into position behind the Terneuzen Canal from Selzaete on the Dutch frontier to Ghent, with one division in reserve at Ostend. On this line it was hoped to make a permanent stand against the German invasion, and to connect up with the left of the Franco-British Army as it extended northwards. Rear guards had been left at Loochristy, Lokeren, Wachtebeke and Moerbeke to cover the retreat of the Naval Division and the Belgian Division.


Oct. 8, 1914



This rear guard the Germans were endeavouring to force by a strong attack upon Lokeren. The statement, however, that the Naval Division was "coming along all right" was not entirely true. The 2nd Brigade and the Marines, with the Drake Battalion, made their way in good order through the narrow streets of Antwerp to the south-west corner of the city. Here they had to pass out again to proceed along the river to the bridge at Burght. The whole route was flanked by the oil tanks which the Belgians had fired and which were sending up vast columns of smoke. The heat of the conflagration was almost unbearable, but the pall of smoke had prevented the Germans from destroying the bridge by shell fire, and the river was crossed in safety.


From Burght the march continued to Beveren Waes on the railway that goes to Bruges by way of St. Nicolas and Lokeren. Here there was a hitch. A report had come in that the Germans had driven in the Belgian covering force at Lokeren and were advancing on St. Nicolas. It had accordingly been hastily decided that our men must proceed by the railway which ran near the Dutch frontier, and they had to strike off to their right front for St. Gilles-Waes, where they were informed trains would be found to take them direct to Ostend. On the new and devious route they struck the main line of retreat from the St. Anne Bridge, along which the Belgian Division was retiring. It was further choked with transport and throngs of refugees. There were no staff officers to control the traffic, and the brigades soon lost cohesion in the utter confusion that ensued. Still they toiled on, and eventually reached St. Gilles-Waes and were able to entrain for Ostend.


The attempt of the Germans to break through the covering force at Lokeren had, in fact, been checked. For a time it was certainly dangerous, and as soon as the British Cavalry Brigade reached Ecloo the Belgian Staff had asked for an offensive movement on that point to relieve the pressure. Preparations were at once made for an advance, but before they were complete the Belgian Headquarters announced that all anxiety was over in that direction, but that a more serious danger was threatening in the direction of Alost. The movement was therefore abandoned, and with serious results.


Meanwhile the rest of the 1st Brigade had reached Zwyndrecht on the main road west from Antwerp. Here they expected to find the Divisional Headquarters, or orders, but they found nothing but crowds of refugees, and it was not for some time that they heard the rest of the division


Oct. 9-10, 1914


had passed through Beveren and had gone on to St. Gilles-Waes. There was nothing for it but to press forward. The men, who had had no food since noon on the previous day, could do no more than put one foot before another. Still they struggled on, mixed with a helpless stream of fugitives, at a mile an hour, and eventually some 1,500 of them reached St. Gilles-Waes in the afternoon. There they found that the rest of the division had left some eight hours previously, and about 4.15 they were able to begin entraining. But long before the work could be completed news came in that the Germans had cut the line to the north of Lokeren beyond Moerbeke and were advancing upon St. Gilles-Waes. It would seem that about 4 p.m. a detachment which had been pushed out from Lokeren with artillery had attacked a train in which Colonel Luard was retiring with the 10th Battalion of Marines. The attack was met, but effective resistance soon proved impossible. All his efforts were frustrated by a throng of panic-stricken refugees who had boarded the train, and though he himself succeeded in extricating 150 men and reached Salzaete, the rest could not get clear of the crowd and were captured.


A second train, seeing what was happening, went back to tell the tale. The last exit to the west seemed closed, the brigade was utterly exhausted by its march during the day and the previous night, it was without guns, ammunition, transport, food or water, and the Brigadier decided there was nothing to be done except to march north-east along the railway and try to cover the few miles that lay between them and Dutch territory. This was done, and about 5 p.m. the frontier was reached. Here some thirty or forty men, with one officer, elected to try to escape along the border line, and they succeeded, but all the rest of the brigade and the engineer detachment, which had stood by them till the last, gave up their arms, and next day were removed by rail for internment.


With this exception, by the morning of October 10 the withdrawal from Antwerp was successfully accomplished, and, as was soon known, all might have escaped. The railway was still open. The Germans, after their coup at Moerbeke, appear to have retired hastily to Lokeren, possibly for fear of several thousand Belgian troops who, having chivalrously given up the trains to the British, were endeavouring to get away by road. The train the Germans had stopped was taken on later by a Belgian officer who could drive a locomotive. Another train with about 200 of our men passed later still, and other small parties got away on foot. Among them were the men who had been sent to re-occupy


Oct. 10-12, 1914



Fort No. 4, under Lieutenant Grant, R.N.V.R. No order to retire reached him till midnight. When he reached the river he found the bridge blown up, but, crossing by a steamer, he caught up the battalion that was retiring over the Dutch frontier. As soon, however, as he knew what their intention was he broke away westward. Another officer who got away was Flight-Lieutenant Marix of the Royal Naval Air Service, who on the 8th had made a flight to Dusseldorf and had there destroyed a Zeppelin in its shed. But though the threat to the line of retreat from Antwerp had not materialised, new grounds for anxiety quickly declared themselves. The French left was as far away as Arras, and the British Army from the Aisne, which was to fill the gap, had only just begun to detrain its leading units at Abbeville. Added to this, the effort of the Germans to interpose themselves between the Belgians and their Allies, which was developing about Ghent and Alost, was getting serious.


In the course of the day Antwerp capitulated, so that in a few days the siege army would be free for the field; and the trouble culminated in the news that three, and possibly four, newly formed German Reserve Corps, whose existence had been unsuspected, were entering Belgium. In these circumstances it was obviously impossible to hold the line of the Terneuzen Canal, or even that of Schipdonck Canal which lay immediately to the westward. For the Belgians further retreat was imperative to some position which was not only capable of prolonging defence, but which would also ensure an effective junction with the Franco-British forces. Such a position was to be found no nearer than the Yser. To that line a retreat was therefore ordered under cover of the Allied Forces which were now gathering about Ghent.


Such a movement entailed grave danger to our base ports at Zeebrugge and Ostend, and, indeed, their eventual abandonment. It was to Ostend the Naval Division had been ordered to retire. Having served its immediate purpose it had done all—and more than all—it was then fit for, and was now to be withdrawn to England. There was as yet plenty of time, but as a precaution, in case the Germans should succeed in breaking through in the vicinity of Ghent, the Admiralty ordered the three monitors to Ostend to cover the re-embarkation and the evacuation of the base so far as was immediately advisable. The work which these new dispositions unexpectedly threw upon the Transport Department and the Flotilla in the Strait was very heavy.


Oct. 11-12, 1914


The instructions were that the Naval Division, numbering now between 5,000 and 6,000 men, including the Marines, were to be embarked that night and sent into camp at Deal. Some 1,500 Belgian recruits and volunteers at Ostend were to be embarked for Cherbourg and 11,000 more Belgian recruits to be transported to the same place. Zeebrugge was also to be evacuated, and all transports there to leave at once. In addition to all this labour, the orders provided for dealing with the removal of Belgian stores and of from 8,000 to 10,000 wounded then at Ostend. But this work was to be subject to the need of our troops in case they required assistance, and there was a special instruction that enough transports to re-embark the VIIth Division and IIIrd Cavalry Division were to be kept in immediate readiness with steam up for the next forty-eight hours. Although it was unlikely they would have to be brought off, preparations for the emergency were to be made, and General Rawlinson was to telephone direct to the Admiralty the moment the situation rendered his re-embarkation likely. The three monitors were also held at his call, and all the naval armoured trains, armed motor-cars and aircraft (except those under Commander Samson at Dunkirk) were handed over to him.


The emergency never arose. General Rawlinson's Force, though too late and, owing to unforeseen developments, too weak to save Antwerp, was yet dropped in from the sea in time and strength enough to stop the enemy's efforts to cut off the Belgians altogether. It remained in Flanders, and from now onward, in co-operation with the French troops acting with it, became absorbed in the movements of the rest of the British Army which culminated in the first battle of Ypres. The battle had already begun with the cavalry in contact north of the Aire-Bethune Canal, and the race for the sea had reached the decisive phase, as the remains of the Naval Division re-embarked.


Though the combination which had been planned for the relief of Antwerp had never materialised, and the Naval Division had been left without support, it had something to show for the severe losses it had suffered. In a general order some days after their return the Admiralty summed up the results. After complimenting all ranks on the way they had borne the ordeal—and surely it was an ordeal such as raw troops had seldom been called upon to endure—it was explained that they had been chosen for the work as the nearest available force and the most quickly embarked. "The Naval Division," it was further stated, "was sent to Antwerp not as an isolated incident but as part of a large




operation for the relief of the city. Other and more powerful considerations prevented this from being carried through. The defence of the inner lines of Antwerp could have been maintained for some days; and the Naval Division only withdrew when ordered to do so in obedience to the general strategic situation, and not on account of any attack or pressure by the enemy. The prolongation of the defence, due to the arrival of the division, enabled the ships in the harbour to be rendered useless and many steps of importance to be taken. It is too early now to judge what effect the delaying even for four or five days of at least 60,000 Germans before Antwerp may have had upon the fortunes of the general battle to the southward. It was certainly powerful and helpful."


The claim that the work of the Naval Division had not been wholly barren is probably justified. Whether by prolonging the defence of Antwerp it really did anything to save the Belgian Army for the brilliant part they were destined to play in the operations for the defence of the Channel coast is doubtful. The justification of the attempt is rather to be sought in the concluding words of the Admiralty's general order. At the crisis of the race for the sea the German army of the north had been held for several days before Antwerp. But for the promise of the Naval Division the evacuation of the city would have begun on October 3; as it was, the surrender did not take place till the 10th. This was just the critical week. Unless something had been done, the army besieging Antwerp would have been free by the middle of it to prolong the right of the main German line. As it was, before they could move, there had been time to throw our two divisions and the French Marine Division into the gap between Ypres and the sea. There had also been time for a French Territorial Division to reach Dunkirk, and, what was of the last importance, time for our Expeditionary Force to get well forward with its flank march and to obtain a hold on the new ground it was to occupy south of Ypres.


Nor in judging the whole episode must it be forgotten that Belgium in its extremity had appealed for assistance, and it was an appeal which in honour could scarcely be disregarded short of absolute inability. It was this aspect of the affair which, when all was over, seems at least to have remained uppermost in the mind of the Belgian Cabinet. " I am to inform your Excellency," wrote the Foreign Minister to Sir Edward Grey, " that if the British co-operation did not avail to save Antwerp, the King's Government is none the less grateful to Great Britain for having complied with its request."








(See Maps 2 and 9 in case.)


Nothing is more eloquent of the effective control which the Navy was exercising over the North Sea, than that no attempt was made by the German Fleet to interrupt the operations for filling the Flanders gap. The startling success which the enemy had just achieved against the cruisers of the Southern Force seemed to have opened the way for a telling blow at the new line of passage, and, as we have seen, an attempt was expected and prepared against as far as was possible at the moment. For this work the Southern Cruiser Force was no longer available; it had ceased to exist. On October 2 both Admiral Christian and Admiral Campbell had been ordered to strike their flags, and their flagships, Euryalus and Bacchante, were told off for other duties, to the westward, where, as the Admiralty had indicated before the late disaster, their most suitable field of action lay, and where they were now urgently required.


The Wessex Territorial Division was about to sail for India to replace the troops that were proceeding to Europe, and the passage across the Bay was no longer guarded. The Cruiser Patrol, which the French had been asked to establish from Ushant to Finisterre, when the Army base was shifted to the mouth of the Loire, had suddenly been withdrawn as soon as it was known the base was to be shifted back to Havre. The idea of the French in taking this step was to use the cruisers to reinforce Admiral Bethell, whose force at the mouth of the Channel had been so badly weakened by the withdrawal of the French armoured cruisers as escort for the French Territorial Division from Havre to Dunkirk. Beyond Finisterre, Admiral de Robeck's squadron was more than fully occupied with the special duties of the station, and it had become necessary to provide escort for the outgoing division as far as Gibraltar. This much-frequented section of the Mediterranean and Eastern transport route had always been difficult to guard, and had been a serious disturbance to the


Sept. 12-Oct. 3, 1914



work of the squadron concerned. Its importance was growing, and likely to grow. It was therefore decided to furnish it with a regular and permanent escort service, and for this purpose the Euryalus and Bacchante were now attached to the Western Squadron. At the same time, to provide for a continuous patrol of the Bay, the French were requested still to maintain three cruisers between Ushant and Finisterre.


For another reason—and again a military reason—the security of the western area was specially important at the moment. A further development of the great Imperial Concentration was on foot, and this was the sailing of the first Canadian contingent. We have seen how, as early as September 12, Admiral Wemyss had taken his four light cruisers from the Western Patrol to fetch it, and how Admiral Bethell had replaced him with his reduced battle squadron. The convoy was expected to sail on September 23, but from various causes it was delayed till October 3, and by that time the Canadian Government had become seriously apprehensive for its safe transit. The convoy in the St. Lawrence consisted of thirty-one ships, and was to be joined off Cape Race by two more—one with the Newfoundland contingent and one with the 2nd Battalion of the Lincolns from Bermuda, where it was being replaced by the Royal Regiment of Canadian Infantry. For such a force, when it came to the point of sailing, the escort provided seemed to the Canadian authorities wholly inadequate, and on October 2 the Admiralty, in the height of their preoccupation with Antwerp and the Flanders gap, found themselves being urgently pressed to increase it.


The demand, it would seem, was made under a misapprehension as regards both the strength of the escort, which had been already arranged, and the principle of covering squadrons on which the Admiralty was mainly relying. Of these covering squadrons there were two—the Grand Fleet that lay between the line of passage and the German Home ports, and the North-American Squadron (now under Admiral Hornby) which was watching the German liners in New York and the adjacent ports. It was from one of these two points that attack was alone possible, except, perhaps, from the Karlsruhe, which at the time was operating in the Pernambuco focal area. It was but natural that a Government unfamiliar with the methods of naval warfare should ignore these two important elements and fix its anxious attention on the comparatively slender escort in sight. But this had, in fact, been materially increased. At first, when it was understood that the convoy would consist of no more than fourteen ships, Admiral Wemyss's squadron was considered


Oct. 3-8, 1914


by the Admiralty as sufficient, but later, when owing to the splendid response which Canada made to the Imperial call, it was known that double the number of transports would not suffice, important additions to the escort had been made. From Admiral Hornby's squadron his battleship, the Glory, was taken, and the Majestic from Admiral Bethell's was ordered to meet the convoy at a certain rendezvous on the secret route which had been given far out of ken of the usual track. At the same rendezvous the convoy would also be met by one of the best battle cruisers of the Grand Fleet, and for this purpose Admiral Jellicoe had been ordered to detach the Princess Royal. All this had been explained to the Canadian Government as early as September 19—that is, all but the last item. Had this been known there would probably have been no complaint, but it could not be revealed. In view of what the functions of the Grand Fleet were, its battle cruisers were all important—so important, indeed, that the detaching of one of them was dictated not so much by military considerations as to afford testimony of how highly the Canadian effort was appreciated by the Mother Country. It was much to ask of Admiral Jellicoe, but it was in accordance with the old principle that such detachments from the Main Fleet were within its normal action and involved little risk if they could be kept secret from the enemy while they lasted.


Secrecy, in fact, was the essence of the expedient, and the value of secrecy was as yet scarcely realised by the Canadian Press. Details of the convoy and the force it carried had been published in the papers and telegraphed home en clair. It was necessary, therefore, to keep the secret of the Princess Royal between the Admiralty and the Commander-in-Chief; even Admiral Wemyss was not informed. Naturally, the conduct of the Admiralty was misunderstood, but it was only one more of the many misunderstandings which they were content to suffer patiently, so long as additional safety was secured for all it was their hard duty to protect. They were content, in fact, to know that when, on October 3, Admiral Wemyss led the convoy out of the St. Lawrence its passage was as secure as skill and force could make it.


As a covering force for the New York Area were told off the Suffolk, the Caronia and the Canadian cruiser Niobe. Admiral Hornby himself, in the Lancaster, accompanied the convoy, guarding the southern flank of the route as far as longitude 40 degrees W., the limit of his station. On October 5 they met the Glory and the Lincolns off Cape Race; the Newfoundland contingent also joined, and together they proceeded on their secret route. On the 8th Admiral Hornby


Oct. 1-10, 1914



turned back, and next day they were in touch with the Princess Royal and Majestic, which for over two days had been waiting for them at the mid-Atlantic rendezvous. So, with ample escort, they carried on for the defended area off the mouth of the Channel.


With the Grand Fleet Admiral Jellicoe had made a disposition which rendered it almost impossible for any force equal to the Canadian escort to reach the convoy route from German ports. On September 30 he had returned to Scapa after a three-days' sweep to the Skagerrak in support of a submarine reconnaissance that was being made inside the Skaw. He then issued his new scheme of operation, which was to begin on October 2 and last a week while the Canadian Convoy was passing. Its main feature was the occupation of the cruiser areas, which he had established between Peterhead and the Norwegian Coast, by the 2nd, 3rd and most of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, as well as the light cruisers with the four battle squadrons in support. (These cruiser areas were established by the Commander-in-Chief by Fleet Order 84, August 1, and were subsequently modified by orders of August 8 and September 14. (See Map No. 1 in case.))


In addition, however, there was a second line so placed as to sight in the morning anything that passed the main line in the night. It was in three sections on the line of the islands. The Pentland Firth was declared closed to all ships of war passing from east to west, and the destroyer patrol had orders to fire on any attempting to do so. West of Fair Island, to watch the passage between the Orkneys and Shetlands, was the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, without, of course, the Princess Royal, who parted company for her escort duty the day the scheme started. North of the Shetlands and extended towards the Faeroes was the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron (Invincible and Inflexible), with the Sappho and the three minelayers. The cover was thus stronger than it had been at any time during the war, and it was maintained in full strength till October 10, the day on which the convoy continued its voyage with the Princess Royal and Majestic in company.


It had been Admiral Jellicoe's intention to coal at Loch Ewe after the operation, but on October 7 he had gone to Scapa with the Iron Duke to confer on certain matters with the Fourth Sea Lord. Amongst the subjects discussed was the organisation of a system of trawler patrol areas as a means of curbing the activity of enemy submarines in the vicinity of the Grand Fleet bases, and while it was being considered its urgency was emphasised by the unwelcome intelligence that one, or possibly two submarines had appeared inside Loch Ewe.


Oct. 7-12, 1914


There could be no doubt about it, for the repair ship Assistance came round to report exactly what had happened. No torpedo had been fired—probably, so it was thought, because no ship of high military value was in the anchorage at the time. In any case it was now no place to coal the fleet; the Assistance was ordered to remain at Scapa, and the Commander-in-Chief rejoined the fleet, having determined to coal again at Scapa, with all its drawbacks.


On rejoining he found further annoyance from submarines. Our Minister at Christiania reported one accompanied by four cruisers off Skudesmes. These waters were being patrolled by Admiral Pakenham with the 3rd Cruiser Squadron (Antrim, Argyll, Roxburgh, Devonshire). They had seen nothing of the reported cruisers, but during the afternoon of October 9 the flagship Antrim was attacked by a submarine about twenty miles south-west of Skudesnses. Two torpedoes were fired; she eluded both and steamed full speed straight at her assailant, with what result was uncertain, but Admiral Pakenham was of opinion that the submarine escaped. No more was seen of her, but three miles away was a steamer like a large trawler, which was stopped and seemed to be attending her. In view of what had happened to the " Cressys" it was too great a risk to examine her, and, in accordance with the recent Admiralty order, she had to be left alone.


Here was a striking instance of the crying need for more boarding vessels to be attached to the cruiser squadrons. Till they were forthcoming the submarine trouble could never be dealt with adequately, and, indeed, this was one of the points which the Commander-in-Chief had just been settling with the Fourth Sea Lord at Scapa. The question was all the more urgent since our mining of the Southern Area must inevitably tend to increase the flow of traffic north-about. Cruisers were already reporting an abnormal volume of trade entering the Skagerrak; much of it could not be examined at all, and with the approaching season of bad weather and short days the work would be more difficult than ever. The Commander-in-Chief reported that, in spite of all he could do, food and supplies were reaching the enemy in considerable quantities, and in his opinion the only cure was to require all neutral vessels to call at a British port for inspection. Those neglecting to do so should be sent in by the cruisers. After inspection innocent vessels would be allowed to proceed flying a private signal. His proposal was too great a stretch of belligerent rights to be adopted at once. As yet it was only at sea that it was fully realised how profoundly changed were the conditions of search and blockade by the advent of the submarine, but another striking illustration was soon to be provided.


Oct. 12-15, 1914



When, on October 12, Admiral Jellicoe brought the Dreadnought Battle Squadrons into Scapa for a few days' rest and refit, the battle cruisers and light cruisers made a sweep down to the Dogger Bank, while the rest occupied the north-about passage. The bulk of the 10th Cruiser Squadron (Crescent, Edgar, Endymion, Theseus, Hawke and Grafton) were still detached from their normal duty on the Northern Patrol, which was left to the " Duncans " and the rest of Admiral de Chair's command. He himself, with the above six ships, was occupying the central station between Peterhead and the Naze. At the moment, however, he was not with them, having taken his flagship, the Crescent, into Cromarty to coal, but he had left definite instructions for the method of cruising so as to minimise the risk of submarine attack. These instructions they were carrying out, with the Edgar as senior ship, when at 1.20 p.m., on October 15, the Theseus reported she had been attacked by submarines. She was not hit, and the Edgar ordered all ships to steam north-west at full speed.


All replied except the Hawke (Captain Hugh P. E. T. Williams). The Commander-in-Chief, on hearing of the attack, ordered the squadron, as well as its neighbouring one, to clear away to the northward, and at the same time hurried off the Swift, a special type of flotilla leader of exceptional speed, to make search for the Hawke. On nearing the position in which the missing cruiser had last been heard of the Swift reported having seen a submarine, but no sign of the missing cruiser. After a two hours' search, however, a raft was picked up with one officer and twenty men of the Hawke, and her fate was known.


On the morning of October 15 the five cruisers that were in company were spread in line abreast at ten-mile intervals, with the Endymion to starboard and the Hawke next. At 9.30 the Endymion was signalled to close to enable the Hawke to get mails from her. Both ships stopped on closing, and the Hawke sent a boat for the bags. The Endymion then passed under the Hawke's stern to close the other ships, and the Hawke, having hoisted in her boat, was proceeding at 12 or 13 knots to regain station when, about 10.30, there was an explosion abreast the foremost funnel. The engines were stopped immediately and she started to list. There was only time to lower the two sea boats; one of them drifted away with three officers and forty-six men and was subsequently picked up by a Norwegian steamer and brought in to Aberdeen. What became of the other is unknown.


Oct. 15, 1914


She was probably crushed by the ship, which rapidly turned over, and then, after floating a few minutes bottom upwards, went down bow foremost. It seems to have been thought at first that the cause of the disaster was a mine, but Captain Williams, while floating in the water, told an officer who was rescued that he had seen the track of a torpedo. Though the search was diligently continued, not another survivor was found, so that nearly five hundred lives were lost with the ship.

There can be little doubt Captain Williams was right. Submarines were certainly working in the area. Shortly after finding the raft the Swift, while continuing the search, was herself attacked. A few hours later another division of destroyers, which had been ordered to patrol off the eastern entrance of the Flow, also had an encounter. All escaped, but only by the skin of their teeth. The division at the time disposed in line-abreast to starboard (Lyra, Nymphe, Nemesis, Alarm) was steaming at 18 knots, and at 1.30 p.m. in Lat. 58 degrees47' N., Long. 2 degrees 7' W (so Nymphe's report. Alarm made the time 1.20, and the position Lat. 58 degrees 43' N., Long. 2 degrees 5' W), was just altering course.


The Nymphe had increased to 15 knots to gain station, when she sighted a periscope 3 points on the port bow, distant about 300 yards. The order was immediately given " Hard-a-starboard," and " Full speed both " to attempt to ram. " The submarine," so Lieutenant-Commander R. M. King's report continues, " at the same time fired a torpedo at us. ... I was in the chart house at the time and heard Lieutenant CreswelPs order to the guns, and rushed on to the bridge. I saw the submarine's periscope disappearing, and her wake almost right ahead 200 yards off. . . . The torpedo missed our stem by about two feet, and, the ship being under full helm, the track of the torpedo passed along the starboard side, about two feet off, abaft the after funnel, when it went under the stern and crossed about 200 yards ahead of the Nemesis and 100 yards ahead of the Alarm. ... As soon as the torpedo had passed our stern I put the helm hard-a-port and steered straight for the wake of the submarine, which I went over. She was still close to


Oct. 16, 1914



the surface, and the wash from her propellers could be plainly seen as our stern went over them. I don't know if we touched, as we felt no shock. ... I am certain if it had not been for the prompt action of Lieutenant Creswell the ship would have been torpedoed."


According to the Alarm her escape was much closer than it appeared to the Nymphe. She saw the Nymphe hoist the submarine flag and fire, and then was aware of a torpedo coming straight at her. Her Commander then says in his report: "I immediately rang down ' Hard-a-starboard ' and ' Full speed ahead both' and just managed to avoid the torpedo, which passed down my starboard side not more than ten yards distant. I had to go hard-a-port to prevent my stern swinging on to the torpedo."


Coming, as the Hawke disaster did, so soon after the loss of the three "Cressys," its impression was the more telling; nor was this the end of the Commander-in-Chief's trouble. In the evening of October 16, as he lay at Scapa, having just heard the full extent of the Hawke disaster, the Switha Battery reported a submarine inside the anchorage. Besides the Iron Duke, only three other capital ships were there, and as darkness fell all put to sea. The rest were away at target practice or at their cruising stations and well out of harm's way, but the 3rd Battle Squadron (that is, the " King Edwards ") and the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron were just leaving their stations to come in. It was clear that the enemy was pushing vigorously his policy of minor attack, and his recent successes confirmed its correctness and its possibilities. Indeed, the wonder is, in view of the results obtained, that a nation credited with so full a measure of the military spirit should so soon have turned its promising method of offence against a commercial objective instead of persevering against the naval one.


To the Commander-in-Chief it was at least clear that the German policy must be taken seriously, and to foil it he decided on a radical change in his whole dispositions. In the first place he saw it was only playing into the enemy's hands to continue to use the anchorages they had discovered until they were adequately defended. This was only a question of time. At Cromarty a system of anti-submarine protection had been installed that gave every satisfaction. He had already asked for a similar system for Scapa and Loch Ewe, and he had been informed that the necessary material would be put in hand with all speed. How long it would take was uncertain, but until everything was ready he decided to seek other war anchorages. It was one of the advantages of our


Oct. 17-18, 1914


geographical position that the west coast of Scotland provided such conveniences in abundance. The places he chose were two natural harbours well to the southward, in Skye and Mull, and as a third alternative Lough Swilly, a regular defended anchorage of old standing which was being used by the northern section of the Irish Cruiser Squadron.


In the second place he determined to shift his whole cruiser system further north. Instead of holding his advanced line between Peterhead and the Naze, he would draw it back to the islands—that is, to the position of his former second line, maintaining a new second line to the westward and southward. The new system would serve equally well for controlling the trade north-about. It, of course, left the North Sea itself more open, but this drawback was to be met by southern sweeps of the light cruisers at high speed. Finally, in communicating his intentions to the Admiralty, he begged for a dozen more armed merchant steamers to work with the cruisers as examination vessels. No time was lost in inaugurating the new system. On October 17 Admiral Colville reported another submarine inside Scapa; two destroyers had been attacked, again without result, and a vigorous hunt had produced no result. Accordingly, Admiral Jellicoe, next day, again urged the pressing need of the promised defences and began to move the fleet to its new positions. (Though the report was generally believed at the time, it is still doubtful whether a German submarine ever penetrated the anchorage.)


In the Channel Area the policy the Germans were pursuing required no less attention. Here there were unmistakable indications that they were trying to use their submarines against our communications with Flanders, and we have already seen the trouble they caused upon the new line of passage to Dunkirk; but the effect upon the Canadian Convoy was still greater. From the first the Admiralty felt the danger of bringing it up Channel, and the port they originally wished to use was Liverpool. Inquiry, however, showed that the dislocation of traffic in the Mersey would be too great, and Plymouth was substituted. Preparations to receive the convoy there were actually set on foot, but the War Office had objections. Southampton was the port for which all their arrangements had been made, and they pressed for its adoption. Again the Admiralty were at their wits' end how to meet the wishes of the General Staff. At the moment —it was the end of the first week in October—the Admiralty, at their request, were absorbed with arrangements for a sudden re-embarkation of the VIIth and IIIrd Cavalry Divisions, should the pressure on them in Flanders prove too great.


Oct. 9-13, 1914



To protect the eastern half of the Channel was, therefore, a serious task, and, to add to the difficulty, St. Nazaire was just being closed and Havre substituted with Boulogne as a subsidiary base. Nevertheless they once more gave way, and on October 10—the day the Canadian Convoy met the Princess Royal and Majestic—Southampton was settled as the port of disembarkation. That the concession was not an easy one to make was proved next day by a French Patrol reporting a submarine off Cape Gris Nez, which was the actual landfall which the Flanders Transports had been ordered to make to avoid the new danger. It all meant increased vigilance in the eastern part of the Channel, while what the War Office wanted called for equal vigilance in the western part.


Admiral Wemyss fully appreciated the difficulty of his task, and in order to minimise the danger he organised the convoy into three batches, and these, when it reached a certain point, were to come in separately, each with its own escort. The arrangement, however, could not be adhered to. On October 13 call signs which appeared to come from German ships were taken in. They were never accounted for, but Admiral Wemyss felt he must now keep the convoy and its escort concentrated till he reached Admiral Bethell's area, and the Admiralty approved the decision. Even so, the position was not as satisfactory as could be wished, since the withdrawal of the French cruisers for escort work to Dunkirk had seriously reduced the efficiency of the Western Patrol; and as for Admiral Burney, seeing how heavy our responsibilities were in the Eastern Channel, he had to keep a central position at Portland.


As the convoy approached the difficulties only increased. Directly after Admiral Wemyss had adopted his altered scheme, the French reported that a submarine had been seen off Cherbourg that morning, and a few hours later our own torpedo boat No. 116, of the Portsmouth Defence Flotilla, sighted one off Culver Cliff in the Isle of Wight. She was only 1200 yards away, and the torpedo boat steamed for her at full speed, firing as the submarine dived, but she just missed ramming her by a few seconds. This incident settled the question of what the convoy was to do. Within an hour the Admiralty had decided their duty was to override all military exigencies—the safety of the convoy, for which they were responsible, was the paramount consideration. It was clearly a case where the Navy must assert its time-honoured claim to the last word when troops were on the sea, and without more ado the convoy was ordered into Plymouth. Accordingly, as soon as Admiral Wemyss was inside Scilly


Oct. 14-22, 1914


he began to send forward the batches in succession. At 7 a.m. October 14 the first transports entered the Sound, and in due course all of them followed without further adventure. There was still a question whether the diversion to Plymouth was only temporary, but the Admiralty did not feel justified in taking any further risk. This same day they ordered the Admiral to proceed with the disembarkation of the troops at Devonport till the Channel was free from danger, and informed the War Office they had done so.


Nor was this the only dislocation of the War Office arrangements which the German effort entailed. Two other convoys of troops which were approaching had also to be diverted. The first was bringing home the remainder of the Egyptian Army of Occupation, and the second, four battalions and artillery from India. As Devonport was now full, both had to be directed to Liverpool, and there they arrived by the 22nd without incident.


So, in spite of the vigorous and well-designed offensive which the enemy was boldly pushing with his submarines all over the Narrow Seas, not a single transport nor a single capital ship had yet been touched. They had gained nothing material beyond one flotilla leader, the Pathfinder, and four obsolescent cruisers, a loss which detracted little or nothing from our real power of command, and the Navy had demonstrated its ability to pass troops across the seas in all directions in spite of every attempt of the enemy to prevent them. Considering how new was the form of attack, how slender as yet the means of meeting it, and how wide and conflicting were the preoccupations of the moment, it was an achievement of which all concerned might well be proud.


Our own submarines were no less insistent, though less fortunate. The diving patrol was maintained continuously in the Bight. In all weathers and in spite of the enemy's untiring efforts to keep them off with destroyers, submarines, mines and aircraft, they held their splendid grip on the outlets of the German ports; and of all they dared and suffered nothing was told, for no target came in their way. It was not from want of enterprise : every kind of risk was taken : yet only one boat was lost. This was E 3, who early in September had distinguished herself by rising as a German seaplane alighted on the water and capturing a flying officer and his mechanic. On October 18 while on the Western Ems patrol she had pushed so far inshore that, according to a German official announcement, she was cut off in a bay on the coast and destroyed.








(See Map 8 in case.)


If the Admiralty had been unable to meet the War Office in the matter of the Canadian Convoy, it was mainly because of a new call which the military situation was making upon them at the eastern end of the Channel. In Belgium, since the fall of Antwerp, the situation had developed in such a way as to afford another opening for interference from the sea, and this time it was a direct opening which the Navy could fill in a manner that was in shining contrast with what it had just attempted. It was no question of an immature landing force, but of clean coastal operations of a purely naval character.


Though, seen in the light of the vast forces which the war came afterwards to develop, the episode appears almost trivial, yet the special significance it had at the stage we have reached renders its progress of peculiar interest. Not only was the zone in question a vital point in the new plan of operations with which the Germans sought to restore the breakdown of their original plan on the Mame, but it was the first time that the power of ships was to be tested tactically in an effort to influence land operations under the revolutionary conditions which the struggle was so rapidly developing. The test was extremely severe, for the nature of the terrain rendered co-operation from the sea exceptionally difficult, and it is only by following the operations in some detail that it is possible to appreciate what was done.


With the decision of the Belgian Government to fall back to the Yser, the race for the sea may be said to have resulted in a draw. The Germans would reach the coast, but not at the point that was vital to their plans, and the question now was whether the line of the Yser could be held, or whether the Germans would be able to break through, and by turning the Anglo-French flank have Dunkirk and Calais at their mercy. It was a question, therefore, that concerned our naval position as nearly as it did the military; for with those


Oct. 12, 1914


two ports in the hands of the enemy, the protection of the lines of communication across the Channel might well prove an insoluble problem, and the whole situation in Home Waters would be undermined.


For the moment, at least, the worst had been warded off. There had been no need to re-embark the two British divisions. Whether it was due to the detention of the German forces before Antwerp, or to their heavy expenditure of ammunition, or other unknown causes, no adequate movement had been made in time or force enough to press our troops back to the sea. General Rawlinson, acting in conjunction with the French Marines at Ghent, had been able to cover the retirement of the Belgian army, and was now falling back through Bruges and Dixmude, with orders, in concert with the French troops with whom he was acting, to get touch with Sir John French's army and prolong its left north of Ypres. On his own left would be the Belgian army carrying the Allied front to the sea.


Ostend it would be impossible to save. It was to be abandoned, and the Belgian Government had decided to withdraw by sea to Havre. The Admiralty offered escort, and the ships selected for the purpose were the three river monitors, Mersey, Severn and Humber. They were now to see their first service and prove the wisdom of the purchase. For the special work, however, on which they were ordered they were too late. The sailing orders were issued on October 12, the day after the Naval Division re-embarked, and next day the evacuation of Ostend took place before they could arrive. The Mersey, however, was able to escort some transports that were leaving Dunkirk as far as Gris Nez. The other two went back to Dover, but not without incident. Half way across they were attacked at close range by a submarine. Neither was hit, nor was the attack repeated, and both reached Dover in safety and with increased confidence in the advantages of their shallow draft.


Zeebrugge was, of course, involved in the fall of Ostend, and from a naval point of view this was a more serious matter. The port had been found to be excellently adapted for a submarine base, and connected as it was by good waterways with Antwerp, it was likely, if left untouched, to prove a troublesome thorn in our side. The Admiralty had undertaken the work of evacuating the Belgian stores that had accumulated there, but in view of the naval possibilities of the port they also wished to complete their task by destroying its mole and harbour works. This unfortunately did not fit in with military views. The Higher Army Command was

Oct. 13-15, 1914



not yet prepared to accept the prospect of a deadlock. As yet the vast resources which Germany was capable of developing were underestimated, and there still existed a sanguine hope that when the British Army reached its new position it would be able, in concert with the Belgians, to carry out along the coast an offensive movement which would turn the German right and force it back from the sea. For such a movement to be carried through to its logical consequences Zeebrugge was essential as a port of re-entry, and the War Office pressed for its being left intact. The feasibility of the expected development was a purely military question which the Admiralty could not dispute. Deep, therefore, as was their sense of the risk that was being taken, they had reluctantly to acquiesce, and Zeebrugge was left intact, with what evil consequences time was to show.


At the moment, the prospect of Sir John French being able to accomplish his offensive return was certainly far from encouraging. On October 15 the withdrawal of the Belgian Army was complete, and it had taken up its new position. It extended from Boesinghe, four miles north of Ypres, along the Yser Canal to Dixmude, and thence north-westwards along the Yser itself to the sea at Nieuport. It meant a line of some thirty miles, and the Belgian Army that had to hold it was no more than six weak and exhausted divisions, without anything like its due complement of heavy artillery. No part of the Allied line gave so much cause for anxiety, though the situation of the British Army was bad enough. It was still in process of re-concentration. The First Corps had not yet come up from the Aisne, nor was it expected for five days. If, therefore, the Belgians were broken our left flank would be turned, and not only would all hope of an offensive along the coast be at an end, but Dunkirk and Calais would lie open to attack. Already, on October 15, the Germans had entered Ostend; their advance against the Belgian line could not be long delayed. Something had to be done to stiffen it, and that same evening the Navy received a call which was to inaugurate a long series of difficult and dangerous operations. It came from the Belgian Government. Their chief weakness was in the arm that was destined to dominate the whole war, and which was already asserting its control more clearly every day. Here, at least, the Navy could help, and the message that reached the Admiralty was that a British warship was anxiously desired to flank the Belgian line.


The Admiralty were ready for a prompt and full response. Seeing clearly what the fall of Antwerp and the continued vitality of Zeebrugge would mean to the Dover area, they had


Oct. 12-16, 1914