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World War 1 at Sea


NAVAL OPERATIONS, Volume 2, December 1914 to Spring 1915 (Part 1 of 2)

by Sir Julian S Corbett

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HMS Illustrious, pre-dreadnought battleship, with Swiftsure-class in background (Maritime Quest, click to enlarge)

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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. II














(Second edition published in 1938)







I. Redistribution of the Home Fleets and Operations on the Belgian Coast — November 20 to December 16, 1914

II. The Raid on the Yorkshire Coast, December 16

III. Home Waters, December 18 to January 18 — Further Precautions against Invasion — Loss of the Formidable — Prevision of the War Plan — Belgium and the Dardanelles

IV. The Mediterranean during November and December, 1914 — Operations on the Syrian Coast

V. The Dogger Bank Action — January 24

VI. Abandonment of the offensive in Belgium and Final Decision to Attack the Dardanelles — January 28

VII. The Attack on Egypt, January 27 to February 11

VIII. Salonica and the Dardanelles — Modification of the Plan — First Allocation of Troops — February 9 to 16 — Situation In Home Waters — Neutral Objection to the " Blockade " and German Threat of Retaliation

IX. The Dardanelles — Opening of the Naval Attack and the Question of Military Support

X. The Dardanelles — Resumption of the Bombardment and the First Landings — February 25 to March 4

XI. The Dardanelles — First Attack on the Narrows and the Smyrna Operations — March 5 to 10

XII. The Dardanelles — Further Development of the Plan — Decision to Use the XXIXth Division — Orders to Attack the Narrows — End of the Smyrna Operations — March 10 to 17


(Part 2 of 2)

XIII. The Dardanelles — Failure of the Attack on the Narrows and the Change of Plan — March 18 to 24

XIV. Progress of the Oversea Expeditions and Commerce Defence In the Outer Seas During the First Quarter of 1915

XV. Home Waters in February and March, 1915 — the British " Blockade " and the German " War Zone "

XVI. The Dardanelles — Organisation of the Combined Attack — March 28 to April 25

XVII. The Dardanelles — Landing of the Expeditionary Force, April 25

XVIII. The Dardanelles — The Initial Advance April 26 to 28, and the First Battle of Krithia

XIX. The Dardanelles — the First Reinforcements and the Second Battle of Krithia — April 28 to May 8

XX. Progress of the Submarine Campaign and Loss of the Lusitania — the Italian Convention — Resignation of Lord Fisher and Mr. Churchill, and Formation of a Coalition Government


Appendix A. — Organisation of the Grand Fleet, January 24, 1915

Appendix B. — British War Vessels In the Mediterranean, Egyptian, and East Indian Waters, February 19, 1915

Appendix C. — Grand Fleet, Channel Fleet, and Oversea Squadrons Except Those Shown In Appendix B. February 22, 1915


Index (not included – you can use Search)






(Within the Volume)

Bombardment of Hartlepool ... 34

Strategical Plan of the Raid on the Yorkshire Coast ...48

Alexandretta ... 80

Strategical Plan of the Dogger Bank Action ... 102

Suez Canal ... 118

The Approaches to the Dardanelles ... 123

The Dardanelles, Bombardment of February 19th ... 143

Dardanelles, Bombardment of February 25th ... 157

Smyrna ... 210

(Part 2 of 2)

The Dardanelles, the Attack on the Narrows ... 230

Gallipoli, the Southern Beaches ... 328, 329

Eastern Mediterranean ... 382


(In front and rear pockets of the Volume)

1. British Islands, North Sea and Baltic Entrance

2. The Raid on the Yorkshire Coast

3. The Battle of the Dogger Bank

4. The Dardanelles

4. The Dardanelles (repeated)

5. The Search for, and Destruction of S.M.S. Dresden







The present volume is mainly concerned with the Dardanelles operations from their inception as a naval diversion to their development into a combined eccentric offensive and their failure as a coup de main.


The narrative, though related from the naval point of view, is necessarily concerned with military movements, but they have been dealt with only in so far as seemed essential for elucidating what the navy did in endeavouring to facilitate the task of the sister service. The account of the shore operations must, therefore, in no way be regarded as an adequate or complete exposition of the fine work done by the army in face of the difficulties of every kind under which it had to be carried out. A special and detailed account of this aspect of the campaign is in preparation as a separate section of the Official History.


The purely naval operations treated include the raid on the Yorkshire coast and the Dogger Bank action. With regard to these chapters it seems necessary to emphasise once more that the Admiralty are in no way responsible for the presentation of the narrative or for the opinions expressed. The part of the Admiralty has been to place at the disposal of the author the whole of the documents in their possession relating to the war, and subsequently to examine the proofs with a view to pointing out errors of statement which may have arisen from a misreading of the existing documentary evidence. A prevalent idea that anything in the nature of censorship by the Admiralty has been exercised is purely erroneous.


Authorities. — Besides the classes of documents mentioned in the preface to the first volume, many others have become available with the lapse of time, both from our own and enemy sources. The principal of these are: —

1. The Report of the Dardanelles Commission with the statements prepared for its information and the evidence taken before it.


2. The " Mitchell Report," being the report of a special naval and military committee, sent out to Constantinople after the armistice, under Commodore F. H. Mitchell, to investigate the course of the operations and the defences in the Dardanelles.


3. Books written by high officers concerned with particular operations, the chief of which are: —


Gallipoli Diary, General Sir Ian Hamilton.

Funf Jahre Turkei, General Liman von Sanders.

Germany's High Sea Fleet in the World War, Admiral Scheer.

My Memoirs, Grand-Admiral von Tirpitz.

Aus Aufseichnungen und Briefen, Admiral Hugo von Pohl.

The German Official Naval History, Der Krieg zur See, 1914-1918 (Baltic Sea, Vol. I.), has also been consulted. Other books of less importance are mentioned in footnotes when special use has been made of them.


The publication of these works since the history began to be written has proved of great assistance in correcting false impressions and supplying gaps in our own information. Their value increases in Vol. III., which will include the opening of the Salonica operations, the Dardanelles from the Suvla landing to the evacuation, the Mesopotamia campaign to the capitulation of Kut al Amara, the commencement of the German extended submarine campaign and the battle of Jutland.

J. S. C.

July, 1921.










With the destruction of Admiral von Spee's squadron at the Falklands the war in its naval aspects entered a new phase. The first stage in the essential work of the fleet was, in fact, accomplished. The object of that stage was, as always, to establish a general command of the sea, and now that the enemy had no organised squadrons outside his own home waters we could regard the work — judged at least by traditional standards — as practically done. On the great southern and western trade routes, however, there was little immediate relaxation of the strain on the navy. The watch on the German liners in American ports and at the Canaries had still to be maintained, and this menace, coupled with the escape of the Dresden from the battle and the still unsolved mystery of the Karlsruhe compelled us to keep a considerable force of cruisers in the Atlantic and on the South American Station. (On January 1, 1915, there were still forty-one ships of war in the Atlantic, only six of which were under orders for home.)


But the end of these isolated ships could not be far distant, nor their power of disturbance serious. In those seas there was nothing else at large except two armed merchant cruisers, the Prinz Eitel Friedrich and the Kronprinz Wilhelm while Eastern waters had been made absolutely safe by the destruction of the Emden and the blockade of the Koenigsberg in the Rufiji River. (The Russian prize Cormoran which we last saw making for the Western Carolines (Vol I., p. 303) remained there for two months, and then, failing to find coal and provisions, on December 14, she put in at the United States island of Guam in the Mariana group, where she was at once interned.)



In Home waters there was a different tale to tell. There the conditions were making it more evident every day that the command could no longer be measured by the old standards. If command of the sea meant the power to move fleets, troops and trade freely where we would, then our command was not undisputed, and indeed it seemed to be growing gradually more precarious, as the mining activities of the enemy extended to our western coasts and their submarines with increasing power and range spread further and further afield. By the time we had freed the ocean highways there was scarcely an area in the Narrow Seas where movement could be considered safe. We found ourselves, in fact, faced with a new struggle of which we had no experience, and from now onwards the crucial question was whether the old sea genius would prove still vigorous enough to devise some means of overcoming the new forms of attack, or whether it would have to recognise that its day was done.


With sure instinct it was to the old well-spring of our sea power we went to renew our youth for the anxious contest. The fleet would no longer suffice, but behind it were still the deep-sea fishermen and the great sea-faring population to whom nothing afloat came amiss. We have seen already how they had been called on to form an organisation which later on was known officially as the Auxiliary Patrol, but as yet the call was only beginning. Over 150 trawlers and drifters had already been taken up, besides yachts and other small vessels, and as far as possible they were being fitted with guns and explosive sweeps. (These sweeps were lines towed astern. At the end of the line or wire were explosive charges which could be detonated electrically when a submerged submarine was located.)


As the men threw themselves into the work their increasing skill and enterprise proved the utility of the new force, and the cry for more became insatiable. Already during November the Commander-in-Chief had been promised for Scapa four units, each consisting of a yacht and twelve trawlers; Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty at Cromarty was to have three yachts and eighteen trawlers, and these only for securing free movement for the Grand Fleet in the vicinity of its bases. Everywhere else, in the Straits of Dover, the Channel, the Irish Sea, the demand was scarcely less, but nothing can emphasise the problem so strongly as the Northern auxiliary patrol. In all tradition it had been a constant duty of the Grand Fleet to protect our fishing fleets; now it was the fishing fleets that must protect the Grand Fleet.


Still the dominating fact of the naval position, it may even be said the key fact of the whole war, was that, in spite of the secret and sudden danger by which it was encompassed, the Grand Fleet held on to its controlling position. Except for teasing it from time to time with submarines, the Germans had made no attempt to disturb it. Notwithstanding every provocation the High Seas Fleet showed a


Nov. 1914



convinced unwillingness to try conclusions in a general action. The command of the Baltic was vital to the German position, and it is doubtful whether their main fleet could at this period have been devoted to any better object. The soundness of this strategical idea can only have become more indisputable as our overwhelming concentration became more pronounced with the addition of powerful new battleships, new light cruisers and others that were flocking home from distant seas where their work was done. Neither our operations on the Belgian coast nor the temptation of our lines of communication across the Channel had availed to stir the German Staff from the attitude they had taken up. (It appears from the Diary of Admiral von Pohl, who was then Chief of the Staff, that this attitude had been imposed upon him. He relates that on October 2 the Emperor again explicitly reserved to himself absolute control over the fleet, and directed that Admiral von Ingenohl, who commanded it, was to confine offensive action to submarines and destroyers, though occasional sorties of heavy cruisers might be attempted.)


They had not even ventured to hold out a hand to Admiral von Spee, as he perhaps, and certainly Germans in America, had expected. As against the enemy's main fleet, then, we could claim, and actually enjoyed, a command outside the Baltic as complete as ever it was in the old days of the blockades of Brest and the occupation of the Western position. Indeed in one respect it was more complete, for whereas in certain normally recurrent conditions of weather the Brest fleet could always get away into the Atlantic, our northern position rendered it impossible for the High Seas Fleet to escape without hazarding an action with a force strong enough in favourable conditions to annihilate it.


In these circumstances the keen desire for the return of the three battle cruisers which had been detached to deal with Admiral von Spee needs explanation. Now that the outer seas had been cleared the paramount need was to obtain a closer hold on the North Sea, with a view to the possibility of ultimately pressing our offensive into the enemy's waters. Such operations would involve coastal attack and inshore work, and required a special class of vessel. The necessary programme had been inaugurated when Lord Fisher returned to the Admiralty, and was being pressed on with energy. The ships designed were mainly of the monitor type, made as far as possible unsinkable by mine or torpedo, and certain very fast ships of battle cruiser size lightly protected, but with very heavy gun-power. But until the programme was well forward nothing could be done, and in the meanwhile the enemy might be expected to use the opportunity for operating in the North Sea in a way which would require the utmost activity and vigilance from our own fleet.


Seeing how deeply the German idea of war was imbued with the offensive spirit, it was not to be believed that the inactivity of their fleet could continue. The view that they would never undertake operations which might render them powerless to keep us out of the Baltic seems at this time to have had little weight with our own High Command. The more general conviction was that the apathy with which the Germans had suffered us to crush their Pacific squadron and wipe out their trade was only to be explained by an intention to husband their fleet for some sudden blow when the long winter nights would give them the best chance of evasion and surprise. Now that their failures in France had forced them to recognise that the war would not be the short and brilliant affair they had expected, they were already having to give anxious attention to the question of food supply, and however prudently inclined the High Command of the navy might be, its hand might at any time be forced into some desperate attempt to diminish the stringency of the blockade, or to deter us from sending further troops to France.


It was at the end of October that these considerations began to raise a doubt as to whether the distribution of the Home fleets was the best that could be made, and whether the principle of extreme concentration on which it was based was not the child of pure theory rather than of sound doctrine founded on the practical experience of past naval warfare. During November, when the Grand Fleet was back at Scapa from its temporary withdrawal to the westward, the whole question was gone into with the help of the veteran flag officers who during their period of active command had acquired most completely the confidence of the service.


The general result was in favour of further dispersal; Sir Arthur Wilson, the highest authority amongst them, after full consideration of all that could be said in favour of close concentration by its best advocates, pronounced emphatically against its continuance. " The dream of most naval officers," he wrote, " seems to be a great sea fight in which, by some means or other, we are to be enabled to collect all our forces together and crush the Germans at one blow. This, however, is only a dream. What we have to do is to dispose our forces so as to prevent the Germans from doing us more injury than we can possibly help and never to miss a good opportunity of injuring them. It is, above all,


 Nov. 1914



important to dispose the fleet so that the greatest possible number of troops may be spared for the front, and this makes some dispersion of the fleet absolutely necessary." Taking this broad view of the situation, which included military as well as naval considerations, he was specially opposed to the Harwich Force being regarded as an adjunct of the Grand Fleet to be sent to join the Commander-in- Chief when a battle was imminent. " First," he continued, " because there would be no possible chance of their arriving on the scene till many hours after the action was over; and secondly, because the object of the German main fleet in courting an engagement would probably be to enable a landing to be effected on the coast."


That the Germans might be intending to hazard some such desperate enterprise was certainly an eventuality which could not be neglected, seeing how the situation in France had been developing.


The long-drawn battles of Ypres were coming to an end, and the costly effort of the Germans to break through to Calais had failed. The German offensive was ending in a series of local actions, the prelude to the long period of trench warfare; day after day there was "no change to report"; and the defeat of the enemy's purpose was proving to be as complete as his effort had been powerful and persistent. Though it was clear the German plan for solving the formidable problem which the battle of the Marne had set them was now abandoned, too much had been staked upon it for them to be likely to sit down under the rebuff. The intention had obviously been to break down our commanding naval position by getting a foothold on the Straits of Dover, and it was only natural to suppose that they would seek the same end by other means. The most likely plan, since they had not ventured an attempt to break into the Channel and disturb the lines of communication by which we nourished our army in France, was to give us a strong inducement to keep our troops at home.


In these circumstances long experience taught us to anticipate an attempt to invade, or at least the threat of a formidable military raid on our coasts. Special precautions, indeed, had been under consideration since the end of September, and these began to be put in action very soon after the battle cruisers were detached from the Grand Fleet to deal with the German Pacific Squadron. At all likely places of descent, arrangements were made for meeting the first shock of any raiding force that might elude the vigilance of the Grand Fleet. The local naval defence was strengthened by additional guardships which were now available. Loch Ewe where the Illustrious had been stationed, was no longer required as a Grand Fleet base, and Stornoway had been found to be a more convenient base for the auxiliary patrol of the Hebrides area. The Illustrious was therefore moved down to the Tyne, which, though an imperfectly defended repair base, had hitherto had no regular guardship.


The Humber, as being the nearest secondary base to Wilhelmshaven, was better provided for. There was the headquarters of Rear-Admiral G. A. Ballard, the Admiral of Patrols, with his flag in the St. George. The Victorious and Mars were also with him, and he was now to be reinforced by the Majestic and Jupiter. Lower down in the Wash the three original monitors were stationed, and at all the principal ports along the east coast were distributed the old light cruisers, sloops and gunboats which had been commissioned for bombarding the Belgian coast in support of the army. In addition to these precautions preparations were being made for instantly blocking the ports and disabling their wharf gear in case of need, while at certain of those which were undefended, such as Blyth, South Shields and Sunderland, observation mines were laid. But it was by no means on such measures of passive defence that reliance was placed. The old way had ever been to do all that was possible to meet the invading force at sea, and to this end, as a result of the deliberations already referred to, the time-honoured practice reasserted itself in a redistribution of the Grand Fleet.


What was required was obviously a closer hold on the North Sea than had hitherto prevailed, but no such hold could be obtained so long as the Grand Fleet was kept completely concentrated in the far north. It was on that basis our distribution had hitherto rested. It served admirably so long as we could rest content with interrupting the enemy's communications north-about and trusting to the pressure so exercised to force his fleet to action. But that hope had now grown cold, and if, as seemed more likely, he meant to adopt the old French device of a direct attack on our coasts, a mere concentration on the great trade highway in the north would no longer serve.


The objections to opening out the original distribution were, of course, far from negligible. For an inferior naval Power the threat of military attack was a stock method of loosening the concentration of a fleet with a view to making an opportunity for bringing part of it to action under conditions of advantage. And now, if ever, seemed the enemy's chance of playing the well-known game. At home both from


Nov. 1914



A military and a naval point of view we were passing through a stage of weakness. Of the regular army there was nothing in the country except the troops arriving from India and the more distant colonial garrisons which were being formed into the XXVIIth, XXVIIIth and XXIXth Divisions; the Territorial Force had not completed the six months' training which was supposed to be necessary for its efficiency in the field; many of its best units had gone abroad, and the new armies were still in leading-strings. The Grand Fleet, moreover, was at its lowest ebb. The Audacious was gone, and although her place was more than supplied by two new " Iron Dukes," Benbow and Emperor of India, it was not till November 20 that they were ready to go to Queenstown to carry out their gunnery. Neither ship for some time could be really fit to lie in the line, and the new battle cruiser Tiger which had recently joined the fleet, was scarcely less raw. (Benbow and Emperor of India, 25,000 ton, 21kts design speed, 10-13.5in, 12-6in, 2-3in AA guns. Tiger, 28,500 ton, 30kts design speed, 8-13.5in, 12-6in, 2-3in AA guns.)


In addition to these drawbacks the base at Scapa was still insecure, though by this time it was less exposed. Something at least had been done to reduce the number of channels by which the Flow could be entered. By using twelve blockships Rear-Admiral F. S. Miller, in spite of the strong tidal streams, had succeeded in closing three of them, leaving besides the main southern entrance only one on the west side and two on the east. For the rest, anti-submarine defences of a type which had been successfully tried at Cromarty were being prepared, but had not yet arrived. Until they were in position, the Grand Fleet had to rely for security on the destroyers and Auxiliary Patrol vessels that had been attached to it for this special purpose. There were twelve destroyers that had been so lent, and every week the call for their return to their normal patrol functions in the south was becoming more urgent. The growing activity of the enemy's submarines in the Channel called for increased protection for the transports that were continually crossing to France. (During November nearly 70,000 troops and over 16,000 horses went over, occupying, with stores an average of about twelve transports a day.)


On November 21 a new plan for barring the Straits of Dover had been instituted. The whole zone was divided into eight areas, each of which was to be patrolled continuously by a British destroyer, while French submarines were to be always ready, when the alarm was given, to occupy the lines from Gris Nez to the Varne and from Calais to the Goodwins. But besides this cover the transports required escort, and nothing but destroyers could provide it adequately. A large number were therefore wanted, more indeed than we could possibly find, and in spite of the assistance the French were giving with their flotillas, less important ships had frequently to go over without escort, and a large convoy from India which arrived in the middle of the month, instead of coming to Southampton, was diverted to Devonport (The convoy consisted of six ships carrying ten battalions of infantry and eleven batteries R.F.A., besides one transport with three batteries of heavy artillery, which was the only one allowed to proceed up Channel.).


The insecurity of the Channel had just been emphasised by the loss of the Niger. On November 11 this old torpedo-gunboat was torpedoed and sunk off Deal (She was claimed by U.12, a boat which was destroyed by the Ariel later on.), and on the following day Admiral Sir John Jellicoe was instructed to return the twelve detached destroyers as soon as the Scapa defences were secure.


A further effect of the enemy's activity was that the cruisers of the Western Patrol were ordered not to risk submarine attack by boarding merchant vessels. They were to make it their main duty to look out for suspicious ships rather than, as hitherto, to stop the passage of contraband. The situation in the Northern Patrol area was also bad. The six old "Edgars" of the 10th Cruiser Squadron had proved to be so completely worn out, that the wonder was they had been able to do their work at all. Yet, thanks to the devotion of officers and men, they had maintained the blockade with splendid efficiency, and Rear-Admiral D. R. S. de Chair had lately received from the Commander-in-Chief a letter expressing his high appreciation of the manner in which the ships of the squadron had kept the sea, in spite of their age and the difficulty of keeping their machinery in order.


Now, so bad was their condition, that orders had been issued to pay them off, and as yet only a few of the armed merchant cruisers which were to take their place on the Northern Patrol were ready. But this defect would soon be remedied. For since it had been found unnecessary to form a new squadron for the West Coast of Africa to deal with Admiral von Spee, the Warrior, Black Prince, Duke of Edinburgh and Donegal were on their way to join Admiral Jellicoe's flag, and so were the Leviathan from dockyard hands and the Hampshire released from the East Indies after the destruction of the Emden





while the Cumberland was soon to follow from the Cameroons. To make up for the loss of the battle cruisers Admiral Jellicoe would therefore have in the near future three ships of the 1st Cruiser Squadron, with the Leviathan as the fourth ship, while the 6th Cruiser Squadron, of which he hitherto had only had the Drake and other stray units, would be completed with the Donegal, Cumberland and Hampshire.


When therefore we consider that the first of the " Queen Elizabeths " was nearly ready for sea, and that it could not be long before the Germans discovered the absence of the three battle cruisers, it was obvious they might well conceive they would never again have so good a chance of striking a damaging blow at our fleet. The risk of loosening its concentration at such a moment was therefore undeniable, but the new Board had shown already that when time-honoured principles were at stake it was ready to accept risks. It was one of those principles that where invasion or a raid is within reasonable probability, every possible step must be taken to ensure that it shall be met at sea, or at least when it reaches the coast. So the risk was taken now.


As a station to secure the end in view Scapa was too distant, and so was Cromarty, where Admiral Beatty was already stationed with his battle cruisers and the light cruisers. Yet for effectively securing the command of the north-about passage both bases had to be maintained. In order to meet the new situation it was therefore necessary to establish a third base further south. Rosyth, with all its drawbacks, was the only possible place, and as its first anti-submarine defences were on the point of being completed, it was now practicable to use it for a considerable force. Admiral Jellicoe, in view of his reduced battle strength, had asked to have returned to him the 3rd Battle Squadron, which it will be remembered had been called down to the Channel in the early days of November. But this request could not be granted in its entirety. Owing to the increasing menace of submarines in the Channel, and as the best means of abating it, the Admiralty had decided to attack the bases from which they were acting.


For this hazardous operation they had already earmarked the five "Duncans," which, with the Revenge, were to be formed into a new special service squadron, designated the 6th Battle Squadron, under command of Rear- Admiral Stuart Nicholson. The eight " King Edwards," however, could be spared. Vice-Admiral E. E. Bradford, therefore, was ordered to take them north again, and on November 18 seven of them left Portland to rejoin the Grand Fleet. But Scapa was not to be their base. On the previous day (November 12) the new plan for meeting any attempt of the Germans to land troops upon our coasts had been completed. Its base idea was that whether the enemy's expeditionary force appeared north or south of Flamborough Head, we should be in a position to strike immediately at its covering force, in order either to break through and attack the transports and their escort, or enable the flotillas to deal with them. For the northern area this duty was assigned to Admiral Bradford, and in order that he might perform it he was to be permanently stationed at Rosyth, and there he was to be joined by Rear-Admiral W. C. Pakenham with the 3rd Cruiser Squadron (Antrim, Argyll, Devonshire, Roxburgh) and half a flotilla of destroyers.


In the southern area the idea of the plan was more difficult to realise effectively. Here there was little available, nothing indeed but the comparatively old and slow 5th Battle Squadron and the still older "Duncans." Moreover, the only possible base was Sheerness, a port which did not admit of egress at all states of the tide or of indispensable fleet exercises. This was a specially serious drawback, because under the original War Orders the Channel Fleet was regarded as a reserve, and men were being continually drafted from it, so that it always contained a large proportion of untrained ratings. The inadequacy of the force was further emphasised by the fact that there was no cruiser squadron or flotilla available to act with it. Still the position had to be occupied, and there was nothing else. On November 14, therefore. Admiral Burney left Portland with the 5th Battle Squadron for Sheerness and the " Duncans " for Dover. (The 5th Battle Squadron at this time comprised Lord Nelson, flag of Admiral Bumey, Agamemnon and seven "Formidables," of which two were in dockyard hands, and two light cruisers. To get over the difficulties of Sheerness it was intended to form a protected anchorage in the Wallet, off the Essex coast, where the Gunfleet shoals made a submarine attack very difficult, but the plan was abandoned.)


Vice-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney's orders were that at the first intimation of a hostile expedition he was instantly to attack it, regardless of its strength, and call up the 6th Battle Squadron to his flag. In this way it was thought fairly certain that with the assistance of the Harwich and Nore flotillas he could prevent any landing in force, while ample provision was made with submarines and minelayers to render the enemy's retreat disastrous. Fresh orders were issued to Admiral Ballard by which


Nov. 1914



he was to regard the primary function of the East Coast patrol flotillas as being a first line of defence against military raids. This had been their function under the first distribution, but owing to the German activity in minelaying it had gradually been eaten into. Instead of being concentrated at certain selected ports, the patrol destroyers had been more and more devoted to intercepting the enemy's minelayers. As often as not they acted singly, and had thus become too widely scattered for immediate and effective action against a raid. Early in November the risk that was involved came prominently under notice by the Gorleston raid, and after a conference at the Admiralty it was decided to restore the original disposition as designed by Rear-Admiral J. M. de Robeck in April 1914. Admiral Ballard was therefore informed that he was to reconcentrate the destroyers in divisions as laid down in the War Orders, and leave the prevention of minelaying to the trawlers of the Auxiliary Patrol. (In accordance with these orders Admiral Ballard's two flotillas, the 7th and 9th were each organised in four divisions, one division of each flotilla to be always in reserve cleaning boilers. Of the active divisions, two of the 7th Flotilla were kept at Yarmouth ready for immediate action night and day, and one in the Humber. In the Humber also was one division of the 9th flotilla; another division lay in the Tyne and the third patrolled between Flamborough Head and Hartlepool.)


As the month wore on our intelligence seemed to confirm both the wisdom of the decision and the risk it involved. (Captain W. R. Hall was now Director of Naval Intelligence. From commanding the Queen Mary he had been appointed in place of Rear-Admiral H. F. Oliver, that officer having become Chief of the War Staff when Admiral Sturdee was given his memorable command afloat.)


There were increasing indications of unusual activity in German naval ports. First on November 20 came warning of a submarine attack about to be made in strength on one or more of the Grand Fleet bases. But this caused little concern, since the chances were they would find the bases empty. As usual the signs of German restlessness were to be met by a full-strength sweep to the Bight, this time in conjunction with an air raid on the Cuxhaven Zeppelin sheds as an additional means of goading the enemy to action. So much on the alert, however, did he appear to be that the air raid was countermanded, but from the 22nd to the 25th all squadrons of the Grand Fleet, together with the Harwich Force, made the sweep up to the Bight. As usual, nothing was seen, and all units returned to their newly-allotted stations. But the period of the operation was not entirely barren.


On November 20 a message came from General Joffre saying that since we had ceased operating on the Belgian coast, the enemy's guns east of Nieuport had been getting very troublesome. General Foch was, in fact, being subjected to a violent bombardment which he had no means of reducing, and the French Commander-in-Chief begged that the Admiralty would resume more active co-operation with him. Though, as will be seen directly, we had an operation of our own on foot in that quarter, the request was immediately complied with, and Rear-Admiral The Hon. H. L. A. Hood went over to Dunkirk with such ships as were immediately available. His force consisted of the Revenge, the Bustard and six destroyers, and at our suggestion four French destroyers and a torpedo-gunboat were placed at his disposal, and having done what was required, he was ordered on the 22nd to send the Revenge back to Dover.


Simultaneously our own operation had taken place. Owing to the increasing annoyance of submarines in the Channel, the occasion of the Grand Fleet sweep had been seized to inaugurate the new offensive policy against the enemy's submarine bases. The port that caused us the most uneasiness was Zeebrugge. Here the Germans were known to be establishing a submarine base for disturbing the army's lines of communication across the Channel. When the port was evacuated, the reasons for leaving it intact were indisputable. The risk was frankly accepted, but now the consequences were beginning to be felt. (see Vol I, P.215)


The increasing annoyance had already given birth to several projects for closing it with blockships, as the Japanese had so strenuously attempted to do with Port Arthur. Their failure, however, the reasons of which were perhaps not fully known, caused the design to be pronounced impracticable in the face of modern fortress artillery. Long afterwards, when improved technical devices had changed the conditions of the problem, one of the most daring exploits in the annals of our navy was to disprove the finality of this opinion, but for the present it stood, and operations against the port were confined to a bombardment.


On November 21, as the Grand Fleet was about to start its great sweep. Admiral Nicholson was directed to proceed off Zeebrugge with two of the " Duncans," Russell and Exmouth. He was to be joined by eight destroyers, as many Lowestoft minesweeping trawlers and two airships for directing his fire. On November 28 the operation was carried out. Owing to the low speed of the trawlers and the continual difficulty they had with sweeps parting on the


Nov. 21-26, 1914



shoals the approach was very slow, and finally Admiral Nicholson had only one pair in action. As for the two airships they failed to appear at all. Still he held on, and by 2.30 the two ships opened fire on the canal lock at a range of 12,500 yards. Running on till the range was 11,000 yards, Admiral Nicholson altered four points to port, so as to bring all guns to bear, and then distributed his fire between the railway station and the harbour and its forts. On this course he reached the Wielingen lightship, with the range down to 6,000 yards. Then he turned sixteen points and repeated the run on the opposite course, till 8.40 when, after just over an hour's bombardment, action ceased.


Owing to the absence of the airships it was impossible to tell what damage had been done. About 400 rounds had been fired, and one large conflagration and several smaller ones could be seen. If later reports from Holland could be believed, the success had been considerable. It was said that all the stores, buildings and cranes of the port had been destroyed, and that the sections of six submarines which were about to be put together were reduced to a tangle of twisted iron. The place, in fact, so it was said, had been made for the time impossible as a submarine base, and the Germans would have to make shift with Bruges. Circumstantial as these reports were, they lacked confirmation, and Zeebrugge continued to be a source of anxiety to our cross-Channel transport lines.


Of the increasing enterprise of the enemy's submarines there could be no doubt. The day the attack on Zeebrugge took place, a small British steamer called the Malachite, from Liverpool to Havre, was stopped by submarine U.21 close off the latter port and within sight of the patrol boat. So complete was the surprise that the submarine fired into the prize for nearly half an hour without interruption, nor was any attempt made from the shore to salve the Malachite though she remained afloat for at least twenty-four hours. For the next few days, however, the submarine was diligently hunted by French torpedo-boats. Several times she was seen, and on one occasion fired three torpedoes at one of her pursuers without effect. Still she held her ground, and on November 26, off Cape d'Antifer, just north of Havre, caught a collier, the Primo, bound for Rouen. This she treated in the same way as the Malachite, again without interference, and with no effort to salve after the enemy left her.


The actual loss was small, but what the incident signified was of the deepest gravity. The long-expected attack on the army's communications had begun, and it was obvious that existing measures were inadequate to deal with it. Though the French had eighteen destroyers at Cherbourg, their end of the line seemed almost unprotected. Our own arrangements for escort were as yet incomplete. Twelve armed trawlers with three leaders (The " leaders " of the trawler patrols were simply larger trawlers provided for the commissioned officer commanding the several patrol units.) from Great Yarmouth were under orders for the duty, but would not begin operations till November 26.


The sailing of all transports had to be stopped, and five about to leave Southampton had to wait till six destroyers came round from Harwich to escort them. This duty done the destroyers were to sweep back along the British coast in search of submarines and floating mines, of which a large number were being reported in the area. On November 26, the day the Primo was sunk, another division was detached from Harwich to sweep from Dover to the Needles, and the French were asked to do the same on their own coast. Dover was then drawn upon for six more destroyers for regular escort work, and by the time they arrived a division of " Beagles," one of the two that had been recalled from the Mediterranean to form a new flotilla for the North Sea, reached Devonport. They were at once assigned to Portsmouth for escort work, and it was then possible to use the Yarmouth trawlers to form a permanent patrol between Winchelsea and Poole which would cover the Dieppe route as well as that to Havre.


In this way the new situation was rapidly met and henceforth no important ship was allowed to cross without escort, and sailings were timed so that vessels should arrive at the French coast after dark. These measures were also supplemented by a new device. Since the submarine had been using gun-fire on the ships she stopped, there seemed a good chance of entrapping her. Instructions were therefore given for a decoy vessel, the Victoria, to be fitted out and armed with two concealed 12-pounder guns.


To all its other cares the navy had thus a new one added. At a time when, owing to the apprehension of an attack on our coasts, every destroyer was wanted in the North Sea, the army communications became a source of real anxiety, and from now onward an ever-increasing strain upon our flotilla strength. Yet for the moment it was not there that the enemy's main submarine effort was being made. On the day of the Zeebrugge bombardment, while the Grand Fleet was in position off the Bight, the expected attack on its base appears to have taken place. A submarine was observed by the trawler Dorothy Grey a mile or so south-west of Hoxa. So close was she that the trawler made a smart attempt to ram. It appears that the submarine was hit, but, in any case, she


Nov. 21-26, 1914



forced to dive so hurriedly that she struck her nose on the rocks off Muckle Skerry, and was so badly injured that she had to come up and surrender to the destroyer Garry. She proved to be U.18, and amongst the many distinctions which the trawlers earned, to the Dorothy Grey fell the honour of being the first Auxiliary Patrol vessel to bring about the loss of a German submarine. At 8.30 next morning a trawler reported a submarine off Duncansby Head steering west-south-west. A couple of hours later the Dryad, a mine-sweeping gunboat attached to the Northern Patrol, sighted and chased one of a large type forty miles east by south of the same point, which dived and got away. Early in the afternoon another was seen off Hoy, proceeding from Torness towards Stroma, that is, across the Pentland Firth.


The activity continued on November 25 as the fleet was making its way back. The officer in command of the Aberdeen minesweeper group chased and lost a submarine off that port, and the minesweeping gunboat Skipjack failed to catch another, U.16, near the Pentlands. How many in all there were it was impossible to say, but there were enough to indicate a concerted attack on the Scapa area. Though nothing came of it but the loss of an enemy submarine, it could only increase the anxiety for the still unprotected anchorage. To add to the trouble, a succession of gales interfered with the placing of the improvised boom obstructions which had been prepared on the spot, and November came to an end without any assurance that the Cromarty type defence would soon be ready.


A certain sense of insecurity therefore continued in some measure to cramp Admiral Jellicoe's freedom of action, and at the time it was intensified by a terrible catastrophe which occurred in the Channel Fleet at Sheerness. The 5th Battle Squadron, in pursuance of the new disposition, had arrived there on November 15, and on the 26th the Bulwark (Captain G. L. Slater) was taking in ammunition when she suddenly blew up with an appalling explosion. When the smoke cleared she had entirely disappeared, and of her complement of 750 only twelve lives were saved. The suddenness and completeness of the disaster seemed unaccountable. For some time foul play was strongly suspected, and did little to lighten the moral effect of the blow, and it was not till the middle of December that a court of inquiry established that the explosion was due to accidental ignition of ammunition.


The anxious period of stormy weather and long, dark nights, so favourable for any desperate enterprise the enemy might be contemplating, had now fairly set in, and with it came fresh indications of the menace in view of which the new distribution of the fleet had been established. On December 1 our Minister at Copenhagen sent home for what it was worth a specially detailed report of a numerous landing flotilla and a score or more of large liners being prepared and concentrated at Kiel. The original source was not very trustworthy, and even if the information were true, the nature of the preparations and the probabilities of the situation suggested the Russian ice-free coasts in the vicinity of Libau rather than our own as the objective. After General Hindenburg's victory at Tannenberg had put an end to the Russian invasion of East Prussia, the German advance had been brought to a standstill near the frontier, and the Higher Direction at Berlin had been forced to turn their attention to assisting the Austrians to stem the invasion of Galicia. Their hope of pushing their counter-attack into the Baltic Provinces was not, however, abandoned, and as the Russians were in strong positions in difficult country nothing was more likely than that the Germans were preparing to turn the position by an operation from the sea. The command of the Baltic was now, in fact, essential not only to German defence, but also to the success of their main offensive.


The attempt, however, was not likely to be made till the spring, while on the other hand the long winter nights were specially favourable for a combined expedition across the North Sea against our own shores. In any case the possibility could not be ignored, particularly as the propaganda which had been so active during the years preceding the war in connection with the movement for introducing compulsory service had done nothing to diminish our national sensitiveness to threats of invasion. Moreover, it was quite probable that within a week or two Vice-Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee would have struck his blow, and it would then no longer be possible to conceal the weakening of Admiral Jellicoe's battle cruiser force. There was therefore every reason why his fleet should be brought up to the highest possible pitch of strength, reach and mobility, and for this purpose the prompt return of the battle cruisers was essential. Still, the Admiralty had measured the risk, and having done all that was possible to make up to Admiral Jellicoe for what he had lost, they stood by it.


By this time he had his 1st Cruiser Squadron complete and the 6th nearly so. He had also been told that the Yarmouth and Gloucester were coming to join him from the East Indies. It was an addition that, would bring his light cruisers up to eight, and further to ease his task the armed


Dec. 8, 1914



merchant cruisers for the Northern Patrol were beginning to arrive. But no inroad was suffered upon the great plan for dealing with Admiral von Spee.


While the Admiralty thus held doggedly to the work of clearing the seas of all outlying enemy ships, in spite of the risks it involved, the impression that the High Seas Fleet was waking from its long slumber continued. As day by day went by with no visible sign, vigilance only increased. For the first week of December Admiral Jellicoe had planned another sweep down the North Sea. It was to be carried out from the 7th to the 10th by the battle and light cruisers, with the 1st Battle and 1st Cruiser Squadrons in support, but as after the recent violent weather mines were certain to have broken adrift in all directions, the Admiralty did not consider a mere reconnaissance worth the risk, and the movement was cancelled.


The Admiral accordingly devoted his attention to the protection of his base. There was need enough for it, for on December 8 a submarine had almost succeeded in penetrating the upper eastern entrance of the Flow. She was immediately detected by the Garry, the destroyer on guard. There was a very heavy sea running, and in such narrow waters ramming was impossible, but the Garry engaged her twice and the submarine fired a torpedo. It did not take effect, but the enemy got away to sea, and on reaching the 10-fathom line dived apparently uninjured before the Garry could get on to her. Further precautions were obviously necessary, and the Commander-in-Chief submitted proposals for rendering his base proof against submarines. But this was not the only anxiety. It had been found that, useful as the minesweeping trawlers were, their speed was too low to allow them to work far enough afield to give him elbow-room. To overcome the difficulty the Admiralty made a further draft on the mercantile marine by taking up eight fast railway packets and commissioning them as " Fleet Minesweepers," till specially constructed vessels came forward. (They were the Reindeer, Roebuck, Lynn and Gazelle of the Great Western Railway; the Folkestone and Hythe of the South-Eastern and Chatham Railway; and the Clacton and Newmarket of the Great Eastern Railway.)


To meet the increasing submarine menace the Admiralty was engaged in reorganising the whole system of patrols. For some time the increasing numbers of anti-submarine craft had outgrown the original organisation, and the conflicting calls for further protection which kept coming in from all quarters could only be met by a comprehensive system which would embrace the whole of our coasts. On December 8 the post of " Captain Supervising Modified Sweeps " was abolished, and in its place was set up a " Submarine Attack Committee," with Captain L. A. B. Donaldson at its head. Its function was to develop and organise the various methods of attack, which at this time were ramming, gunfire, explosive sweeps and indicator nets, the latter as yet in an early experimental stage. (Indicator nets were made of thin, strong wire and sustained by kapok, small bouys, or glass balls. By means of special clips each net was detachable from the whole " fleet " of nets, as soon as a submarine collided with it. The net would then envelop the submarine, and simultaneously would indicate the submarine's presence by means of a buoy moving along the surface of the sea.)


At the same time a scheme was being worked out for apportioning all the Home waters into twenty-three Patrol areas, each with its base close to the local Naval Centre, so as to ensure the rapid transmission of intelligence gained by the patrol. The duties of the Patrol would be not only to act against submarines, but also to prevent minelaying and spying. The actual sweeping of mines remained a separate organisation. To provide what was necessary it was calculated that seventy-four yachts and 462 trawlers and drifters would be required, besides motor boats for inshore work wherever suitable waters were found.


The Patrol areas under this organisation, which about August 1916 began to be styled the " Auxiliary Patrol," were as under: —






Hebrides and the Minch

Loch Ewe and Stomoway








Moray Firth



Off Rattray Head



Forth to Rattray Head



Seaward of the Forth









Off East Anglian coast

Yarmouth and Harwich


Dover Straits



East Channel






Western Approach



St. George's and Bristol Ch

Milford (sub-base Rosslare)


Irish Channel

Liverpool, Kingstown, Belfast


North Coast of Ireland

Lough Larne


NW Coast Ireland

Lough Swilly


West Coast Ireland

Blacksod Bay


West Coast Ireland

Galway Bay


S and SW Coast Ireland

Queenstown, Berehaven


There were, besides, the two special areas of the Clyde and the Nore. The main areas formed a continuous belt round the coast. (See Plan No. 1. (below))

Plan No.1 British Islands, North Sea and Baltic Entrance
(click plan for near original-sized image -

The system was formally inaugurated on December 20, but


Dec 9-14, 1914



although the necessary craft were being taken up m large numbers and armed under high pressure, it was some time before enough were available to supply every area with its allotted contingent.


Elaborate as was the defensive system, the Admiralty were not content to rely upon it. They were pushing forward with all speed the building programme, by means of which they hoped to open the second phase of the war by a vigorous offensive against the enemy's North Sea ports. The recent attack on Zeebrugge had been the firstfruits of the plan, and the need of persisting in such minor offensive operations as were possible was emphasised by the continued activity of the enemy's submarines. There was reason to believe that Zeebrugge was still being used. When, therefore, on December 9, there came through Colonel Bridges at the Belgian Headquarters a suggestion for a combined attack on the port, the idea was quickly taken up.


The suggestion was to use the " Duncans " from Dover, but they were no longer there. On November 8 the boom had carried away in a gale. The port would no longer afford protection for a squadron against submarines, and after five days exposure to attack they were ordered away to Portland. The three monitors, however, were called down from the Wash and the Majestic and Mars from the Humber, and Admiral Hood, as well as Admiral Nicholson, commanding the " Duncan '' Squadron, were summoned to the Admiralty to concert plans. Some horse boats were also ordered to be armed with 4.7in guns for service in inland waters, and a score of drifters to be fitted with 8-pounders and shields. But on the 11th the operations were postponed. All ships, however, were to stand-by at Dover and Dunkirk, except the Mars, which was ordered on to Portland.


Before this order came to hand Admiral Hood, in response to an invitation from the military authorities at Dunkirk, had landed there to visit the Army Headquarters. On his arrival it would seem he formed the idea of a combined attack on Zeebrugge had not materialised, and that all General Foch was contemplating was operations of purely subsidiary character. To risk ships in the boisterous weather that prevailed merely to assist minor military operations was quite a different thing from risking them to eliminate finally a dangerous submarine base. Admiral Hood was therefore told on December 14, while he was still at Dunkirk, that he was not to hazard the ships if the weather continued to be bad. Still he was loth to abandon the operations entirely.


The Majestic and Revenge had already left Dover for Dunkirk, and next day, December 16, they proceeded with two or three of the gun vessels to try to find the obnoxious guns. Little good, however, could be done. They were almost impossible to locate, and the Majestic was recalled by the Admiralty to Dover, as they did not wish any battleship except the old Revenge to engage in the operation. The Revenge stayed on and bombarded again on the 16th, but on both days she had a bad hit from apparently 8" shell, and the second damaged her so much below the water-line that she had to retire to be docked. Then, as in Admiral Hood's opinion the monitors could not do the work without support, further operations were stopped. It was a moment, indeed, when there could be no thought of detaching other battleships for minor coastal work, for what appeared to be the long-expected counter-offensive of the German fleet had suddenly developed, and everything had to be subordinated to meet it.








(See Plan No. 2 , and Plan p. 48. (both below))

Plan No. 2 The Raid on the Yorkshire Coast

(click plan for near original-sized image - 6.4Mb)

Plan - Strategical Plan of the Raid on the Yorkshire Coast

(click plan for near original-sized image)


By December 10 news of the Battle of the Falklands had revealed the weakening of the Grand Fleet. Now if ever was the enemy's moment to strike, and by the 14th reports that an attack of some kind was in preparation so far confirmed our expectation that it was decided to put the fleet in motion to meet it. It appeared to be a cruiser raid that was in the wind, with or without transports, but where it would try to strike, and from what point it would start, was uncertain. Under these conditions long experience had shown there was only one effective form of counteraction. So long as the objective was unrevealed it was hopeless to try to intercept the attack without a wholly vicious distribution of the fleet. But without any undue prejudice to a sound concentration it was possible to make certain that the enemy should have no time to land any serious force without interruption — or if a mere naval raid was intended, to ensure that, subject to the chances of the sea, he should never get back.


On these lines the Admiralty made their dispositions. In the southern area, while the 5th Battle Squadron was kept at the shortest notice for sea. Commodore R. Y. Tyrwhitt, who now had with his two flotillas at Harwich two more of the new " Arethusa " class — Aurora and Undaunted — as well as the Fearless, was directed to endeavour to get touch with the enemy off our coasts as soon as they were reported, and to shadow them. The northern area would be dealt with by the Grand Fleet. The Commander-in-Chief was to send out Admiral Beatty from Cromarty with the four remaining battle cruisers and two divisions of the 4th Flotilla which were attached to them, and Commodore W. E. Goodenough was to join him at sea from Scapa with the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron. From Scapa one battle squadron, preferably the 2nd, which was the fastest and most powerful, was to act in support, and together they should make for some point at which they were most likely to intercept the enemy as he returned, at whatever point he struck.


Admiral Ballard, who as Admiral of Patrols had charge of the floating coast defence, had also orders to be specially on the alert. He himself was in the Humber, with his flag in the depot ship St. George. Here also were the Victorious, Illustrious and the old light cruiser Sirius, with the Skirmisher leading two divisions of the 7th Flotilla (eight torpedo-boats), and two divisions of the 9th (" River " class destroyers), and four submarines.


The other two divisions of the 7th Flotilla were based at Yarmouth.


In the Tyne were the Jupiter and Brilliant and six submarines of the 6th Flotilla.


At Hartlepool, besides one submarine, there was the 3rd Division of the 9th Flotilla, with the cruisers Patrol and Forward, the 4th Division being on patrol off Whitby.


To the northward in the Forth was the 8th Flotilla, with its leader the Sentinel.


The Wash, where the monitors had been stationed, was being taken over by the sloop Rinaldo from the Tees, as they were under orders for Dunkirk.


(Of the other East Coast guardships, Mars had joined the " Duncans " at Portland and the Majestic, Admiral Hood at Dover.)


How close to the truth was our appreciation of the German intentions we did not then know. Ever since the Heligoland action the High Seas Fleet had been fretting at the inaction which was then imposed upon it by the Kaiser and his military advisers. Recently, as Admiral von Ingenohl, the Commander-in-Chief, had watched its spirit deteriorating, he had begged to be allowed greater latitude. The reply was a rebuff. It was explained to him that it was essential, in view of the general outlook, to keep the fleet in being, in order to preserve the command of the Baltic and to release the coast defence troops for the active army.


" The fleet," so the Naval Staff minute concluded, " must therefore be held back and avoid action which might lead to heavy losses. This does not, however, prevent favourable opportunities being used to damage the enemy. Employment of the fleet outside the Bight, which the enemy tries to bring about by his movements in the Skagerrak, is not mentioned in the orders for operations as being one of such favourable opportunities. There is nothing to be said against an attempt of the big cruisers in the North Sea to damage the enemy." (Admiral Scheer, German's High Sea Fleet in the World War, English Ed., p. 60. The remark about our movements in the Skagerrak will be noted as showing how little the Naval Staff believed the fiction, which was so industriously spread for popular consumption, that the Grand Fleet was skulking in port to avoid action.)


This intimation seems to have been taken by Admiral von Ingenohl as a hint to attempt something with his battle


Dec. 15, 1914



cruisers, and he quickly devised a plan for a raid on our coast which would serve to restore the spirit of the fleet, and might possibly tempt a detachment of the Grand Fleet within his reach. For this reason, therefore, he decided to stretch his limited instructions to the extent of supporting the raid with his three battle squadrons.


It was early in the morning of December 15 that the raiding force, under the command of Admiral Hipper, left the Jade. It comprised his four battle cruisers, Seydlitz, Moltke, Von der Tann, the newly completed Derfflinger and the heavy cruiser Bluecher, which formed the " 1st Scouting Division," and to these were also attached the " 2nd Scouting Division," composed of light cruisers and two destroyer flotillas. The battle squadrons left Cuxhaven during the afternoon, and the whole force met at a rendezvous to the north of Heligoland. After dark. Admiral von Hipper's divisions proceeded on their errand. They were followed by the battleship force, which proceeded in order of squadrons, with a distance of from five to seven miles between the squadron flagships. The two heavy cruisers, Prinz Heinrich and Roon, and a flotilla were stationed as a screen ahead of them; the flanks were covered by two light cruisers and two flotillas; and the light cruiser Stettin, with two flotillas, covered the rear. From this disposition it may be assumed that the function of the battle squadrons was to take up a supporting position, and to cover the retirement of the raiding cruisers after they had struck their blow.


By the time the German forces were in motion our own dispositions for meeting the expected movement were already taking shape. The squadrons detailed were already under steam, and had received orders to proceed to their intercepting position. The choice of it, a matter of no less difficulty than importance, had been left to Admiral Jellicoe. Seeing that some 800 miles of coast had to be considered, the first question was to determine the most likely objective for a raid. The obvious points were those which were most vulnerable, furthest from a naval centre, and best calculated to yield good results to a raiding force. On this principle of selection the Humber and the Tyne naturally suggested themselves. The Germans, moreover, had considerably simplified the problem by the extensive mining they had carried out in the North Sea. The chief of the danger areas lay off the East Anglian coast, where we had reinforced the German minefield as a defensive measure against raids. This was known to us as the Southwold minefield. Further north, off the Yorkshire coast, were the areas which the Germans had mined just before the Heligoland Bight action. (See Vol. I., p. 160. Von Pohl states the mines were laid on the night of August 25-26 by the minelayers Albatros and Nautilus under escort of two light cruisers and two half flotillas. They reported having laid the mines in the Tyne and Humber (Diary, August 26, 1914).)


Neither we nor they themselves apparently know precisely where the mines were. Those who had done the work appear to have reported to the German Staff that the mines had been laid in groups, one twenty to thirty miles off the Humber and the other five or six miles off the Tyne, but, in fact, we had found this minefield some thirty miles out to sea. (The declaration made by the Germans under the terms of the Armistice shows this minefield close off the Tyne. A similar error occurs in the Southwold field, which was begun by the Konigin Luise on the first day of the war. The declaration shows it in the fairway to the Thames east of the Galloper, whereas in a few hours it was found some twenty miles further north.)


In these circumstances the Admiralty had declared two danger areas, one extending from the Farn Islands to the Tees, and the other from Flamborough Head to the Humber, with a passage between them about twenty-five miles broad off Scarborough and Whitby. Notices to mariners defining these danger areas had been issued, and one set of them at least had probably been captured by the enemy in the British s.s. Glitra towards the end of October. The Germans, being perhaps uncertain as to the exact position of their northern minefields, and also as to whether we had not extended them as we had done the others, possibly used the captured information in designing the plan of operations which they had in hand.


It was not, however, entirely the basis on which our counteraction rested. So many floating mines had recently been reported to the eastward, that Admiral Jellicoe had marked as a danger area on his own chart all the waters between the old mined area and a line running roughly parallel to the trend of coast from the latitude of the Forth to that of Flamborough Head at a mean distance of about eighty miles. Of this Vice-Admiral Sir George Warrender, whose battle squadron was to act with Admiral Beatty, was informed before leaving Scapa, with instructions that no capital ships were to operate within the danger zone. Upon this basis and that of the gap between the areas originally marked the rendezvous for our squadrons was fixed. It was a point about twenty-five miles south-east of the south-west patch of the Dogger, on the direct line between Heligoland and Flamborough Head, and about equidistant from the tracks to the Tyne and to the Humber. It was actually 180 miles from Heligoland and 110 from Flamborough Head


Dec. 15-16, 1914



and moreover was about fifty miles to the south-eastward of the rendezvous which Admiral von Ingenohl had appointed.


The selection of the supporting battle squadron was a simple matter, for the 2nd Squadron, which the Admiralty preferred, happened to have the guard that day and was ready. (Second Battle Squadron: King George V (flag of Admiral Warrender), Ajax, Centurion, Orion (flag of Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot), Monarch, Conqueror, and Boadicea (attached light cruiser).)


With the light cruisers there was more difficulty. The Liverpool was under refit, and the Lowestoft, which had been out with the 1st Cruiser Squadron, had just come in to coal, so that Commodore Goodenough had only four ships available, Southampton, Birmingham, Nottingham and Falmouth, but the Blanche was added to his command. (The Blanche was the attached light cruiser of the 3rd Battle Squadron at Rosyth, but she was not now with them.)


To make matters worse, the squadron, in coming out, encountered such heavy seas in the Pentlands that both the Boadicea and the Blanche were disabled and had to return. It was due to the foresight of the Commander-in-Chief that this loss of cruiser strength was not more severely felt. Realising, early, the need of a strong cruiser force for the work in hand, he had added the 3rd Cruiser Squadron at Rosyth to the force originally ordered by the Admiralty; and this squadron under Admiral Pakenham had joined up with the 2nd Battle Squadron during the afternoon of the 15th. (Third Cruiser Squadron: Antrim, Devonshire, Argyll, Roxburgh.)


Admiral Jellicoe had, moreover, suggested that Commodore Tyrwhitt should be ordered to the Dogger Bank rendezvous, as the heavy weather might make it impossible for Admiral Beatty's destroyers to keep up with him, and he now urged it again, as the light cruisers attached to the Harwich flotillas were also required, but no immediate change was made in this part of the Admiralty plan. Accordingly Commodore Tyrwhitt proceeded off Yarmouth, and arriving there at 6.30 a.m. on December 16, kept his flotillas under way in the shelter of the banks to await orders.


Meanwhile all the other squadrons, under the command of Admiral Warrender, had joined up, and were approaching the rendezvous, which they were timed to reach at 7.30, that is, just before dawn. (The rendezvous was in Lat 54 10' N., Long. 3 00E.)


The order which he adopted for the night was for the battle cruisers to be five miles ahead of him, with the light cruisers five miles on their starboard beam and the 3rd Cruiser Squadron similarly disposed to port of them. Admiral Beatty's destroyers, of which there were only seven, he kept ten miles to port of the battle squadron, with orders to close at daylight and act as a screen for the battleships. (The destroyers were: — 1st Division: Lynx, Ambuscade, Unity, Hardy. 2nd Division: Shark, Acasta, Spitfire.)


As they were proceeding thus at 5,15 a.m. the Lynx (Commander R. St. P. Parry), which was leading the flotilla line, and had just reached a point about twenty miles north-east of the German rendezvous, was aware of a destroyer on the port bow. She was challenged, and, on her replying wrongly, fire was opened on her at an estimated range of 500 yards. As she moved away in a northerly direction the Lynx led the flotilla 16 points round to port and gave chase. Before long the leading boats could see her again dimly and they had been firing for some minutes when the rear of the line became aware of other destroyers to port, and they too had begun to fire, when the Lynx who had been hit several times, suddenly led some 14 points to port. (The Lynx in her report states that her helm jammed at about this time, and that, although she turned, she was able to resume her original course. It seems probable that her turn to the southward was made deliberately, after the accident to her steering gear had been put right.)


As the enemy to port had by this time disappeared all the boats as they followed the Lynx's turn engaged the original enemy till she made off to the eastward and was lost in the darkness. But she had left her mark. The Ambuscade next astern of the Lynx had been holed forward, and at about 5.50 was compelled to leave the line with five feet of water on her mess-deck. (It has been assumed that the Ambuscade left the line after the Lynx's turn to the southward; but it is possible that she hauled out before.)


The Lynx now altered course to S. 8 degrees W., and led down to resume station on the battle squadron, with which she hoped to fall in at daylight; but, three minutes later (5.58), a cruiser was sighted before the port beam of the Hardy and Shark at a distance of about 600 to 700 yards. She switched on recognition lights, and the Hardy at once opened fire on her, followed by the Shark. The enemy then got her searchlights on them and replied with a heavy fire on both boats, forcing the Hardy to haul out a little to starboard. The boats astern of her followed, while the Unity and Lynx ahead, not being under fire, held straight on. The result was that they lost touch with the rest of the division, for the Hardy quickly led the rear boats back to a course parallel to that of the enemy and continued the action. By 6.0, however, the Hardy was so severely damaged that her captain, Lieutenant-Commander L. G. E. Crabbe, had to turn out of the line and take





station astern. His steering gear was disabled, but fortunately he had installed a special fitting in case of emergency, and he was able to turn. Still he was in great difficulty; both engine-room telegraphs and all communications had been cut, and he had to con the ship from the engine-room hatchway.


After he had turned about 10 points to port, the cruiser, now on his starboard beam, again switched on searchlights and re-opened fire. The Hardy replied at less than 500 yards, and the gunner, who had orders to fire a torpedo when he saw a chance, seized his opportunity. Every one who saw the shot believed it got home. There was certainly an upheaval of water alongside the enemy, her lights went out, she ceased fire and disappeared to the southward. So by her own exertions the Hardy saved herself from destruction, and the Shark (Commander Loftus W. Jones), who with the rear division had followed the Hardy's lead, quickly came to her assistance. As soon as he ascertained her plight he decided to stand by with all his division. But the Hardy was still undefeated, and was soon ready to proceed, steering with her engines. At 6.20 she took station astern of the Spitfire, which was rear ship, and course was shaped to regain station on the battle squadron.


Somewhere ahead of them were the Lynx and Unity holding on with the same intention. When a little after 6.0 the firing astern of them ceased, they could hear the crippled Ambuscade calling for a vessel to be told off to stand by her, and the Lynx had ordered the Unity to go to her assistance. The Unity, however, soon reported that she was cut off from the Ambuscade by a cruiser, and the Lynx could now (6.15) see three enemy cruisers on her starboard quarter. These ships challenged, and the Lynx replied with something like the signal which she had seen the first German destroyer make. Fortunately, it seemed to satisfy the newcomers, for they made off and disappeared to the eastward.


As for the Lynx, finding at daylight there was none of our squadron in sight, and that her injuries were too serious for her to carry on alone, she turned to the north-westward to proceed to Leith for repairs, with the Unity standing by. (After seeing the Lynx out of danger the Unity was ordered to look for the Ambuscade, whom she found and brought safely into Leith.). The Shark division, however, was able to keep its formation, and held on at 25 knots, with the Hardy as rear ship, to resume station on the battle squadron.


To the flotilla officers it was now fairly clear that what they had run into was a screen of light cruisers and destroyers working to the north-westward, and that behind it was probably a more serious force. Their appreciation was accurate. It is now known that the light cruiser which our destroyers had engaged was the Hamburg, one of the cruisers attached to the advanced screen of the enemy's battle fleet. (Hamburg (1902-3), 3,200 tons, trial speed 22 knots, guns 10-4.1''.)


The torpedo which the Hardy fired at the Hamburg seems to have missed, while on her part the Hamburg incorrectly reported she had sunk a destroyer. In any case the bold attack by our destroyers had its effect. The presence of some of our flotilla units had been reported to Admiral von Ingenohl as early as 4.20 a.m., when a German destroyer in an advanced position sighted some of the destroyers which must have been those covering Admiral Warrender's port flank. The result was that when, about an hour and a quarter later, news of the destroyer engagement was received in the German flagship, the Admiral's apprehension of a torpedo attack increased. It still wanted two and a half hours to daylight, and mindful of his orders not to risk losses, he made a general signal for all squadrons to turn south-east. Even so he could not rest. A few minutes later he heard from the Hamburg of her encounter with our flotilla and then, finding that he had passed considerably beyond the arc from Terschelling to Horn Reef which defined the limit of the Bight, the courage with which he had hitherto strained his instructions gave way, and at 6.10, knowing nothing of the presence of our squadrons, he fairly turned tail and made for home, leaving his raiding force in the air.


Of all this we knew nothing till long afterwards. At the moment none of our cruisers even knew clearly what was happening to the flotilla. Since 5.30 the Lion had been feeling German wireless and seeing gun-flashes away to the north-eastward, but it was not till ten minutes later that a signal was received from the Lynx to say that she was chasing the first German destroyer. Admiral Beatty, therefore, carried on for the rendezvous, nor was it till nearly 7.0 that he heard the Ambuscade was in need of assistance. Still no change of course was made, nor, presumably to avoid using wireless, was any warning sent to the coast stations.


By this time the appreciation of the flotilla officers was being confirmed. At 6.50 the Shark division was again in touch with the enemy, and this time it was game that could not be ignored. The four destroyers were then coming down S. 30 E., and had just sighted smoke about three miles south-east on the port bow. They at once altered to close it, and by 7.0 could make out five destroyers, which they proceeded to chase to the eastward at 30 knots, with the Hardy gamely





keeping her station in spite of her injuries. When within 4,000 yards they opened fire. It was still an hour to day-light, and nothing could be seen beyond the faint outline of the destroyers. But in a few minutes they were surprised to see that close ahead of the ships they were chasing was a large cruiser which looked like the Roon. (The Roon was of the York type— 9,350 tons; 21-2 knots; 4-8.2'', 8-5.9")


She was steering an easterly course (N. 75 E.), and without a moment's hesitation the Shark led away eastwards to keep her in sight on the starboard bow. Though she was at first within 5,000 yards the cruiser did not open fire, possibly because she was unwilling to attract attention. So Commander Jones held boldly on, doing his best to get a signal through to Admiral Warrender.


It was not till nearly 7.30 that his message was received. By that time all four squadrons had reached the rendezvous, expecting to find there Commodore Tyrwhitt and his destroyers. Daylight was breaking serenely with a cloud-flecked blue sky and a calm sea. The visibility was all that a fine winter's morning could give, but he was nowhere to be seen. In fact he was still a hundred miles away, waiting for orders inside the banks off Yarmouth. It was therefore necessary to act without him, and as soon as the Shark's signal was received Admiral Warrender turned his squadron 8 points to port and began to zigzag to the eastward. At the same time Admiral Beatty, who had just sighted the battle squadron, but had not received the signal, turned back 16 points to the northward; this move was also in accordance with the pre-arranged plan; and he made it with the more confidence in that it brought his course into the direction from which for the last two hours signals had been coming in from the Lynx division that they were engaged with enemy destroyers and cruisers.


So they held on for about half an hour, when, shortly before 8.0, Admiral Warrender signalled to his colleague, " Are you going after the Roon? " Admiral Beatty replied that he had heard nothing about her, but in a few minutes he got the Shark's message and turned to the eastward at increased speed to cut off the enemy's big cruiser. Of this he informed Admiral Warrender (8.20), telling him he was proceeding with the battle and light cruisers, which latter were spread to the north of him, and leaving the 3rd Cruiser Squadron to keep with the battleships. With this Admiral Warrender concurred and said that he would conform, adding that he meant to retire north at 2.30, and that Admiral Beatty was not to go too far on his proposed course. Admiral Warrender then turned to the southward to get touch with the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, while Admiral Beatty, with his battle and light cruisers, carried on to the east-north-east at high speed to try to intercept the enemy, little thinking that he was chasing the whole German battle fleet.


In the meantime the situation of the shadowing destroyers had entirely changed. The weather conditions were no longer favourable, and, although it was still calm, there was a baffling mist which caused the visibility to vary continually between one mile and four. (It would appear as though the weather conditions had been fairly good to the east of Long. 3E., and very bad to the west of it. See Scheer, p. 72.)


About 7.40 it was so low that the destroyers had to close the chase still more in order to keep her in sight. Ten minutes later it cleared again, and they saw not only the Roon, but three light cruisers to the eastward which failed to answer the Shark's challenge. (They were probably those sighted previously by the Lynx and Unity.)


The tables were now completely turned. The strange light cruisers at once began to chase them off the Roon, and it was no longer possible to shadow her. The only thing to do was to entice the enemy into the area of our own squadrons, and with this object the Shark led away to the north at 30 knots, turning gradually to port till they were going north-west, with the chasing cruisers on their starboard quarter. The pace soon proved too much for the crippled Shark, and at 8.15 the division slowed down to 25 knots. The Shark then signalled to the Admiral that they were being chased by three light cruisers, but long before the signal was received the enemy, as though fearing a snare, had given up the chase and turned back eastward towards the Roon. The destroyers held on, till by 8.35 they had lost sight of the enemy and were heading southward direct for the original rendezvous. A quarter of an hour later they became aware of our own light cruisers on their port bow making to the eastward, and they held away to join them. It was some time, however, before our cruisers, intent on their search for the Roon were aware of them in the bad light, and it was twenty minutes before they were certain what to make of them.


In the meantime a new situation had arisen. Something — as yet it was not clear what — seemed to be happening on the Yorkshire coast. Just when the destroyers began to get sight of Commodore Goodenough's light cruisers. Admiral Warrender on his south-easterly course had got touch with the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, and at the same moment the wireless rooms of both Admirals took in a disturbing intercept. Over





150 miles away to the westward the Patrol, leader of the Hartlepool flotilla, was telling the Tyne guardship, Jupiter, that she was engaged with two enemy battle cruisers, and Admiral Warrender at once turned and made away north-westwards for the gap between the minefields — the shortest way to the threatened coast. Scarcely had he turned when at 8.55 an urgent message came in from the Admiralty, saying that, at 8.20, Scarborough was being shelled. A few minutes earlier Admiral Beatty had also intercepted the same report, but, serious as it was, he hesitated to abandon the chase of the Roan. It was only an intercept, and he knew some of the enemy were near him, for he had just received the Shark's signal of 8.15 that her division was being chased. Being as yet unaware that these destroyers had sighted his light cruisers, he seemed almost in touch with an enemy, and, feeling it his duty to go to the rescue, at 8.54 he turned to the northward. Scarcely had he done so when he also received the Admiralty message. With all doubt thus removed, he immediately turned west, so that, a few minutes after 9.0, all four squadrons were making at high speed for the new scene of action, and, on this course, the destroyers soon joined up.


The long-expected raid had, in fact, taken shape. A few minutes before 8.0 three ships, which were taken to be two battle cruisers and a light cruiser, suddenly appeared out of the mist off Scarborough. One of them with three funnels at once turned east-south-eastwards, and apparently made in the direction of Flamborough Head to lay a minefield as a protection against interference from the Humber and Harwich flotillas. In any case the existence of a new mine-field in this area was disclosed by the loss of three small steamers shortly afterwards. (See post, p. 47. We now know from Admiral Scheer that minelaying in the coastwise track was one of the objects of the raid, and that the mines were laid by the light cruiser Kolberg.)


The two larger ships, which were actually the battle cruisers Derfflinger and Von der Tann turned south-eastward parallel to the coast, and at 8.0 opened fire on the coastguard station and some empty yeomanry barracks behind it. (Derfflinger, 26,180 tons; 26.5 knots; 8-12", 12-6-9." Von der Tann, 19,100 tons; 26 knots; 8-11'', 10-5.9.")


There could be no doubt they did not believe the place was defended, for continuing to the southward they at once closed to within a mile of the shore, shelling the ruined castle and the Grand Hotel. (According to Admiral Scheer the Germans had information there was a battery defending the place, but as it did not fire, he alleges they thought it had been evacuated.)


Passing the whole front without ceasing to fire, they then opened a heavy bombardment on Falsgrave, a suburb of the town at which there was a wireless station, but no damage was done except to the neighbourhood and to the open country beyond. Off the White Nab they turned north again and once more began to distribute their broadsides indiscriminately at over the town. Having thus indulged in their inexcusable breach of the declared laws of maritime warfare for half an hour, they disappeared in the mist to the north-east.

(The bombardment was in direct breach of Convention No. 9 of the Second Hague Conference. Chapter I provides as follows: —


I— The bombardment by naval forces of undefended ports, towns, villages, dwellings or buildings is forbidden.


A place may not be bombarded solely on the ground that automatic submarine contact mines are anchored off the harbour.


II. — Military works, military or naval establishments, depots of arms or war material, workshops or plant which could be utilised for the needs of the hostile fleet or army, and ships of war in the harbour, are not, however, included in this prohibition. The commander of a naval force may destroy them with artillery, after a summons followed by a reasonable interval of time, if all other means are impossible, and when the local authorities have not themselves destroyed them within the time fixed.


The commander incurs no responsibility for any unavoidable damage which may be caused by a bombardment under such circumstances.


If for military reasons immediate action is necessary and no delay can be allowed to the enemy, it is nevertheless understood that the prohibition to bombard the undefended town holds good, as in the case given in the first paragraph, and that the commander shall take all due measures in order that the town may suffer as little harm as possible.


III. — After due notice has been given, the bombardment of undefended ports, towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings may be commenced, if the local authorities, on a formal summons being made to them, decline to comply with requisitions for provisions or supplies necessary for the immediate use of the naval force before the place in question.


Such requisitions shall be proportional to the resources of the place. They shall only be demanded in the name of the commander of the said naval force, and they shall, as far as possible, be paid for in ready money; if not, receipts shall be given.


IV. — The bombardment of undefended ports, towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings, on account of failure to pay money contributions, is forbidden.


Scarborough was clearly an undefended port within the meaning of the Convention. For if a port may not be bombarded because automatic mines defend it, a fortiori it cannot be bombarded because cavalry are encamped in its vicinity.)

This, however, was only half the raiding force. On nearing the coast it had divided, and while part headed for Scarborough, the flagship Seydlitz with the Moltke and Bluecher, turned more to the northward for Hartlepool. Here they had more excuse, for it was a defended port with three 6" guns, two on the headland north of the bay, known as The Heugh, and one on the other side of the headland near the





lighthouse commanding the bay. (See Plan P.34 (below))


Plan - Bombardment of Hartlepool

(click plan for near original-sized image)

It was also a flotilla station, and the Germans were not able to reach it entirely undetected. For some time past, as we have seen, the East Coast patrol flotillas had had special warning to be on the alert at daybreak, but as Hartlepool is only a tidal harbour there was some difficulty in carrying out the order. It will be recalled that Captain Alan C. Bruce, who was Senior Naval Officer in the port, had under his command his own ship, the Patrol, and another patrol leader, the Forward, with a division of the 9th Flotilla (Doon, Waveney, Test and Moy) and submarine C.9.


At 5.30 the destroyers had put to sea, but as they reported a heavy swell outside, which in the low state of the tide would make the bar dangerous, the light cruisers and submarine remained in the harbour ready to proceed at full speed. At eight o'clock, that is, just as the Scarborough bombardment began, and the two British Admirals were committed to the chase eastward in search of the Roon, the destroyers, who were patrolling five or six miles north-east of Hartlepool, became aware of three ships to the south-eastward standing direct inshore. Though it was nearly daylight the mist was too thick to make out what they were, and the destroyers, who were then heading southerly, increased speed to investigate. Five minutes later the strangers opened fire, and they were seen to be two battle cruisers, Seydlitz and Moltke, and a heavy cruiser, which was the Bluecher (Seydlitz, 24,600 tons; 26.7 knots; 10-11'', 12-5.9". Moltke, 22,640 tons; 27 knots; 10-11'', 12-5.9''. Bluecher, 15,500 tons; 26 knots; 12-8.2", 8-5.9''.)


As the destroyers were well out of torpedo range, and the salvoes began to straddle them almost at once, a daylight attack seemed impossible. They therefore turned away, scattered and made off to the north-eastward. By skilful manoeuvring they were all able to baffle the enemy's gunlayers, but three of them were hit by fragments of large shells that burst on contact with water, before in about a quarter of an hour they ran out of sight into the mist. In the meantime, the Seydlitz and Moltke, when about 4,000 yards from the shore, had turned to the northward, and steaming slowly up the coast began to engage the Heugh battery, while the Bluecher, stopping opposite the harbour, fired at the gun near the lighthouse. As the batteries were on the alert they immediately replied.


In the harbour Captain Bruce, the moment he got the alarm, had begun to work the Patrol out of the basin under fire, for shells were already falling about the docks, which were in the line of fire of the enemy ships. Possibly, therefore, they were only overs, but by the time he opened the fairway he found it and the entrance alive with bursting shell. The two battle cruisers were passing successively beyond the arc of fire of the Heugh battery, and when its guns could no longer bear, the enemy lengthened his range and began firing salvoes at the docks and harbour entrance. The result was that the Forward was greatly delayed in getting out, and the Patrol found herself faced with a barrage fire between her and the sea. Whether it was so intended by the enemy in order to prevent the submarine getting out is uncertain; but there it was, and without a moment's hesitation Captain Bruce put on full speed to make a dash for it, while close on his heels came Lieutenant C. L. Y. Dering in submarine C.9. For a time neither was hit, but as soon as the Patrol was far enough out to bring the Bluecher into sight she was struck twice by heavy shell. In another minute or so the two battle cruisers could see her and the submarine, and both began to fire on them. As the salvoes straddled C.9 at once, she was forced to dive, though it was nearly low water and there were only three fathoms on the bar. She bumped, but managed to scrape over. The Patrol had already taken the ground hard and seemed doomed.


But the Germans were not having it all their own way. Although, owing to the bad visibility and the clouds of dust thrown up by the enemy's shells as they hit the houses in rear of the battery, laying was very difficult, the Heugh battery was hitting the Moltke, and the lighthouse gun had been making such good practice on the Bluecher that she had moved northwards out of its arc of fire. But this only brought her within the bearing of the Heugh battery, which since the two battle cruisers had moved to the northward had nothing to do. Only too glad to find a new target, it at once opened on her with spirit and accuracy. Shell after shell burst on her superstructure, till she was forced to turn away to the eastward. The two battle cruisers at once ceased fire, turned back to the rescue and re-opened on the Heugh battery to cover the Bluecher's retreat. But not for long. After a few rounds, which again failed to find the battery, they too, about 8.50, turned away after their damaged consort. It was too late for the submarine to attack, nor could the Forward, who was just out of harbour, and was ordered to follow them, succeed in regaining touch. By 9.0 they had completely disappeared in the mist to the eastward — just as our four squadrons to seaward were heading westward to meet them. 




The military damage they had done was small. None of the guns was struck though the Durham Garrison Artillery, who had worked them, and the 18th Durham Light Infantry, who manned the defences, lost nine killed and twelve wounded. Thanks moreover to their promptness and good shooting the navy suffered as little. Neither the Forward nor the submarine was touched, but had it not been for the fine work of the batteries the Patrol when she took the ground could scarcely have escaped destruction. As it was, though badly holed and too deep in the water to recross the bar, she was able to reach the Tees in safety. (Her losses were four killed and seven wounded. The Doon lost three killed and six wounded. The other ships had no casualties.)


On the other hand, the civil damage was serious. The casualties amongst the townsfolk and seamen in the harbour were no less than 86 killed and 424 wounded. Structural damage, especially in the central business part of the town, was extensive. In all seven churches, ten public buildings, five hotels and some 800 houses were more or less injured. In the docks and shipyards three ships were hit and the buildings and marine engine works damaged.


Nor did the mischief end here, for the raid was not yet over. After the southern group of the enemy had done their work at Scarborough, they steamed north to rejoin the Hartlepool group. A few minutes after 9.0 the Derfflinger and Von der Tann appeared off Whitby from the southward and fired about fifty rounds at the signal station and town. This place also was entirely without defence, but in ten minutes they made off in an obvious hurry, for they left unmolested two tramp steamers that were passing southward at the time. As we have seen, it was about half an hour before these ships ceased fire, and just when the Hartlepool group was disappearing into the mist to rejoin them, that the British squadrons headed at high speed for Scarborough, and it looked as if nothing short of a miracle could prevent the enemy running into their arms through the unmined channel. The opposing battle cruisers can only have been about 150 miles apart, and in a little over three hours they should come into contact.


Meanwhile, Admiral Jellicoe, after making an exhaustive study of all mines reported, was coming to the conclusion that there was a clear gap in his declared danger area between latitudes 54 degrees 40' and 54 degrees 20' N., that is, opposite Whitby. He judged it to be about twenty miles broad and to extend from his danger line to Long, 0 degrees 20' E., that is, to a mean distance of twenty miles from the land. As soon as he heard that the enemy were on the coast, he felt fairly sure that they would make off through this corridor; there was, however, a possibility they might keep up the coast inside the mine-fields and get back round the north of them. He therefore ordered Admiral Bradford to take the 3rd Battle Squadron from Rosyth to a rendezvous fifty miles east of the Firth of Forth.


Commodore Tyrwhitt had also got the alarm, and at 8.40 started for Scarborough with his four light cruisers and both his flotillas. His intention was to go out through the Haisborough Gat; but, as soon as he was clear of the shoals, he found the sea so steep and short that, with the wind blowing strong to a gale from nearly ahead, he felt compelled to order the destroyers back to Yarmouth, and proceed with his four light cruisers alone.


Meanwhile, Admirals Warrender and Beatty, having continued their converging course, had come together again, and shortly after 9.30 were both proceeding to the west-ward, but neither Admiral as yet knew anything of the Hartlepool bombardment. The battle cruisers were ahead and the light cruisers still spread to the north of them, for Admiral Beatty was still unaware that the enemy's light cruisers had long given up the chase of the destroyers, and his main concern for the moment was that they should not get sight of him. Commodore Goodenough, therefore, had orders to drive them off if they appeared.


This was the position when a signal was intercepted telling that Hartlepool was being bombarded as well as Scarborough, and, the message said, by three Dreadnoughts. It was clear, therefore, that large operations were taking place on the coast, and the enemy were apparently moving northward. The two British Admirals could no longer be in any doubt that the Roon and the light cruisers to the northward should be let alone. The problem with which they were confronted was to devise, immediately, a plan for intercepting the enemy off our coasts. They knew that he must then be considerably more than 100 miles away, and that he had, in consequence, ample opportunities of evasion. But, at the moment, a solution came from the Commander-in-Chief. At 10.10 a signal from him was received informing them of the corridor which seemed to exist in the danger area, and intimating that the enemy would probably retire through it. (The signal was worded as follows: " From C.-in-C. H.F. To S.O. 2nd B.S.; S.O. 1st B.C.S. Gap in minefield between parallel Lat. 54 degrees 40' and 54 degrees 20' and as far as 20' E. Long. Enemy will in all probability come out there.")


It was evident, then, that the best intercepting position must now be where the corridor





debouched on the danger line. The difficulty was that their course to it was not quite clear. Right off the mouth of the gap lay the south-west patch of the Dogger Bank, and much of it in such a sea as was running was unsafe, at least for the battle cruisers, and both wind and sea were increasing. It had to be passed either to the north or south, and if they went one way the enemy might well escape the other. Admiral Beatty had already informed Admiral Warrender that he would have to haul more to the north in order to clear the patch, as the enemy seemed to be moving up the coast. After receiving this message. Admiral Warrender altered course for the south of the patch, but on the vague and apparently contradictory information they had intercepted there was still some doubt if this was the best course to pursue.


Some of the messages gave a different picture of what the enemy was doing. To Admiral Warrender it appeared that his Dreadnoughts must be off Scarborough, and his light cruisers at Hartlepool; and he was still discussing with his colleague the surest means of getting contact when, about 10.55, they got direct information from the Admiralty as to what the real facts were. The message informed them that the enemy had retired from the coast and were probably making for Heligoland, and that they were to keep outside the minefields and try to cut them off. On this it was clear that each Admiral was doing the right thing on a wrong inference. Admiral Beatty therefore carried on for the north of the patch, with his light cruisers spread before his starboard beam, while Admiral Warrender continued his course for the south of it and ordered his cruisers to spread to the south of him. He also called up Commodore Tyrwhitt to meet him in the southern entrance to the gap (Lat. 54 degrees 20', Long. 1 degrees 80' E.), and with the 3rd Battle Squadron blocking the line of escape northward it seemed almost impossible for the enemy to get away unfought.


Indeed, before long it began to look as if the disposition had succeeded. By 11.0 Admiral Beatty was clear of the north edge of the patch, and, slowing down to let his cruiser screen get well ahead of him on a broad front, he altered direct for the gap; but the bad conditions of weather off the coast were making themselves felt, and, by this time, the wind and sea had increased considerably. Although the visibility was rapidly falling, he became aware, in half an hour's time, that the left wing of his light cruisers was engaged on his port bow. The wing ship was the Southampton, in which Commodore Goodenough was flying his broad pennant. At 11.25, being between three and four miles ahead of the Lion, he had sighted an enemy cruiser and seven or eight destroyers crossing his course to the southward about three miles away. By this time the visibility was very bad; a strong wind, moreover, was blowing in his teeth, and spray and seas were drenching the forecastle.


Under such conditions it was practically hopeless to fight an enemy dead to windward. The Commodore therefore turned to starboard to improve the position; and seeing the enemy continued to the south-ward, he turned to the same course and opened fire with the chase well on his weather bow. As he did so he signalled (11.30) to his squadron to close, and to Admiral Beatty that he was engaged with a light cruiser and destroyers. The Birmingham had already turned to join the chase, and the Nottingham and Falmouth did so as soon as they received the Commodore's signal. After the chase had continued for nearly a quarter of an hour, with no result, owing to the difficulty of the weather, the Commodore at 11.44 again signalled to Admiral Beatty that he was engaged, adding that the enemy were running south. This information was taken in by the Lion three minutes later, and in another three minutes the Lion was signalling by searchlight " Light cruisers — resume your position for look-out. Take station ahead five miles." This, however, it would seem, did not express Admiral Beatty's intention. The signal was directed to the Nottingham, and was intended for her and the right wing cruiser Falmouth only. He was convinced that the best chance of bringing the enemy's battle cruisers to action lay in preventing the German light forces from detecting his presence. It was with this purpose in view that he decided to retain two ships of his screen, knowing that Commodore Goodenough would not require their support, owing to the presence of the 3rd Cruiser Squadron further south.


The Nottingham, however, as the signal was addressed to the light cruisers, passed it on in the ordinary course, and the result was that Commodore Goodenough, having just signalled that he was engaged with the enemy, felt there was no course but to obey. This he did the more reluctantly, for he had just sighted three more enemy cruisers to the south-west. Still his main function had been discharged, for he had driven the enemy's look-outs away from the front of the battle cruisers, and the newly-sighted vessels were well away, and apparently making direct for the position which Admiral Warrender's cruisers were to take up. As he turned, however, he sighted yet another light cruiser, which he took to be the





Prinz Adalbert, bearing south by east, and this about noon he signalled to the Admiral. Still the recall was not negatived, and he accordingly held on to resume his look-out station. In fact he was almost in visual touch with the flagship. Since 11.54 the battle cruisers had been steering down towards him, for in order to avoid a fleet of trawlers, for fear they might be enemy minelayers, Admiral Beatty had turned to the southward. At 12.5 he resumed his westerly course, and about ten minutes later the Southampton was sighted. Admiral Beatty did not yet appreciate that the enemy were lost, but a rapid interchange of signals explained the position. The supposed Prinz Adalbert had been dropped in the mist, and the Commodore could only reply to his queries " No enemy in sight." And then, and not till then, did he know that the recall had been intended for the Nottingham and Falmouth only.


The whole episode was another stroke of extraordinary luck for the enemy. The ships which had been encountered were part of the fight forces attached to the German battle cruisers. The intention was that they should take part in the bombardment; but at 6.0 a.m., when they reached the zone of bad weather, they reported that, owing to the steep, short seas, it was impossible to carry on, and Admiral Hipper had ordered them all, with the exception of the Kolberg, to rejoin the main fleet. In this way it happened that they were far ahead of the battle cruisers when the retirement began, and thus it was that, owing to the poor sea-going qualities of his light cruisers, and to no foresight of his own. Admiral Hipper got news almost immediately that there was something in his path to be avoided; and this timely warning, combined with the low visibility, gave him the one and only chance of making good his escape.


But our dispositions were still in favour of bringing him to action, and touch was almost immediately recovered. For just as the Southampton was resuming her look-out station ahead of the Lion, Admiral Warrender had got up to within fifteen miles of his intercepting station. His intention on reaching it — that is, at 12.30 — was to shift his cruiser line from the south to the north-westward of him and to establish a patrol with his whole force off the south entrance of the gap. He had just given the order when, at 12.15, he was suddenly aware of some cruisers and destroyers on his starboard bow. They were proceeding on the opposite course to himself at high speed, directly across the line on which he was about to spread his cruisers. How many or what they were it was impossible to tell. They could merely be seen from time to time as they ran out of one rain squall and disappeared into another, but they must have been the same with which our light cruisers had just lost contact. Evidently as soon as Commodore Groodenough, after receiving the recall signal, had left them, they had turned to the eastward, in which direction they were now making off. The chance of catching them was now very small, for Admiral Warrender's cruisers were still spread to the south of him and away from the enemy. All he could do was to turn his battleships north-eastward to try to cut off the newly-sighted vessels, and to order his cruisers to follow his movements and get ahead of him.


The news of what was happening quickly reached Admiral Beatty, who was then some twelve miles to the northward on the other side of the patch. More firmly convinced than ever that he must soon run into anything the enemy had behind the screen he had disturbed, he was still pressing to the westward for the middle of the gap, when, at 12.25, he received from Admiral Warrender a signal that " enemy cruisers and destroyers were in sight," and then another that he had turned north-easterly to engage them. Admiral Beatty at once (12.80) turned back 16 points to port and ran east to make sure of getting to seaward of the enemy's battle cruisers. Meanwhile the comparatively slow cruisers of the 3rd Squadron had been straining every nerve to get ahead of the battle squadron, and trying, in response to an order from the Admiral, to cover it by attacking the enemy's destroyers. But all their efforts were in vain. Seeing themselves chased the enemy turned away to port to escape across the patch. Though the Admiral pursued at his utmost speed the glimpses of them grew more fitful, and in twenty-five minutes, before his cruisers could get into position or the battleships fire a gun, the enemy were completely lost in the thickening mist.


What was now to be done? In ten minutes Admiral Warrender had seen enough of the enemy to make sure there were no battle cruisers among them, and this he then signalled to Admiral Beatty. The ships that had carried out the bombardment were therefore probably still to the westward, and in that direction Admiral Warrender at once turned (12.40). For twenty minutes he held this course and then altered to the south in order to resume his original station for barring the southern outlet from the gap. On hearing that this was his intention Admiral Beatty had little doubt as to the correlative movement he should make. Since the German light cruisers must have seen the battle squadron to the south, the battle cruisers would almost certainly try to get away to the north of the patch. At 1.15, therefore, when on his easterly course he had got back to the shoal, he





led to the northward, keeping his light cruisers spread to the westward. He fully shared Admiral Warrender's view that the German battle cruisers must still be in that direction, and by this time further light had been obtained by two signals which Admiral Ballard had made.


At the first alarm he had put to sea in the Skirmisher with the Humber flotilla, but finding the torpedo-boats which composed it could not face the sea that was running, he had sent them in again and come north alone. He was now off Flamborough Head, and his first signal (received at 12.40) was that there was no enemy between him and the Humber. Then came a second to say that all the German ships had steered east from the neighbourhood of Whitby and Filey Bay at about 9.0 a.m., and had not since reappeared. This signal Admiral Beatty received at 1.18, and ten minutes later he informed Commodore Goodenough that he intended to continue north at 15 knots until he was clear of the patch, and then turn to the westward again, and as the enemy, in his opinion, must still be to the westward, he wished the light cruisers to extend further from him in that direction. Judging from the time the enemy had left the coast, they should be very near him, and keeping on as he was, he felt fairly certain he must soon find himself cutting across their course. He was, therefore, still going north when at 1.48 he took in a signal from the shore saying that the enemy battle cruisers had been located an hour and a half previously about a dozen miles short of the outlet of the gap, and that they were then steering east by south at about 28 knots.


The situation thus indicated was difficult to understand. The course mentioned seemed to be necessarily an error, for it led right over the patch, and this was a risk Admiral Beatty considered the enemy would not venture to take. The probability, therefore, was that they were making to escape to southward — and this seemed to him almost a certainty, since his cruisers had not met with them to the northward. Still there was doubt, and the golden rule in an operation of this kind, when a retreating enemy was to be intercepted, is to make sure of keeping between him and his base. It was on this principle that he had turned back when at 12.30 he learnt that Admiral Warrender had sighted the enemy to the westward of him. On this principle he again decided to act, and at 1.55 he turned eastward and began working round the outside of the patch, till in half an hour he was going S. 60 E. at 25 knots on a course which converged with the line between the southern outlet and Heligoland Bight.


Meanwhile Admired Warrender had reached the southern limit of the gap without meeting anything. It was clear, therefore, the enemy had no mind to escape that way, and at 1.24 he turned north. In this movement he was confirmed when, twenty minutes later, he received the shore message giving the position and course of the German battle cruisers at 12.15. Had they continued that course he must have sighted them, and as he had not done so he concluded they had turned to the northward, and he held on as he was. Both Admirals were keenly expecting further information. But time went by and nothing came, nor was it till 3.20 that they had any further light. Then a message from shore was taken in saying that at 12.45 the enemy had turned north when they were close to the southern outlet, just as Admiral Warrender had assured himself the battle cruisers were not with the ships he had sighted making away across the patch. Admiral Beatty, still with a faint hope of cutting across the enemy's homeward course, turned to the northward. But all was of no avail. Neither he nor his colleague could find a trace of what they were so eagerly seeking, and by the luck of the weather had so narrowly missed.


How the German battle cruisers got away is now fairly certain. From various sources it appears that they must have been about fifty miles to the westward when Commodore Goodenough got into touch with their returning light cruisers, which, quite by accident, acted as a far advanced screen. When he forced them southwards, the German battle cruisers must have inclined away to starboard towards the southern outlet in the corridor, for, at 12.45 they were located close to it. But, finding that Admiral Warrender was blocking the way, they appear to have turned north, half an hour or so before Admiral Beatty did the same. They must, therefore, have got away ahead of him. Indeed between 2.30 and 3.30 they were seen by two British trawlers some twenty-five miles to the north of the patch, steering eastward at high speed. About 3.0 Admiral Warrender must have been over twenty miles south of them, heading to cross their wake, while Admiral Beatty was forty-five miles to the south-eastward of them on a diverging course.


Till 3.30 the search was continued, the battle squadron steering north and the battle and light cruisers continuing their sweep to seaward. By that time Admiral Warrender was well past the northern limit of the gap, and as it was now only too evident that the enemy must have stolen away in the mist, he signalled (3.47) to Admiral Beatty to discontinue the search and rejoin him to the northward next day.


The meaning of this was that at about 1.50 it had become


Dec. 16, 1914



known to the Admiralty that at 12.30 the High Seas Fleet was out, some seventy or eighty miles north-west of Heligoland. It was to this point its retirement had brought it, but to the Admiralty it seemed it was putting to sea. A concentration of the whole Grand Fleet, including the Harwich Force, had therefore been ordered, in the hope of bringing them to action next morning. Admiral Jellicoe was already at sea; shortly after noon he had left Scapa with his two remaining battle squadrons for a rendezvous which he had fixed midway between Aberdeen and the Skagerrak, where, as soon as he knew that the raiders had got away, he ordered his whole fleet to meet him at daybreak. The concentration duly took place as arranged, and he then moved south-east feeling for the High Seas Fleet, but before he had proceeded fifty miles towards the Bight he was informed by the Admiralty of wireless indications which made it fairly certain that the High Seas Fleet had gone back to harbour, and after spending a couple of hours in tactical exercises with the whole fleet he turned to the northward for Scapa and dispersed the squadrons to their stations.


So ended this remarkable incident. In all the war there is perhaps no action which gives deeper cause for reflection on the conduct of operations at sea. On our own side the disappointment was profound. Two of the most efficient and powerful British squadrons, with an adequate force of scouting vessels, knowing approximately what to expect, and operating in an area strictly limited by the possibilities of the situation, had failed to bring to action an enemy who was operating in close conformity with our appreciation and with whose advanced screen contact had been established. Our own general dispositions for intercepting the raiders were as admirable as ripe judgment could achieve. If any exception can be taken to them it is that too much reliance was placed upon the negative evidence as to the quiescence of the High Seas Fleet. We had reason to expect the raid would be made by cruisers only, and the possibility of its being supported in force was not adequately provided for. Admiral Jellicoe was not therefore moved down in support of our counter-dispositions, but this in no way affects the merit of his own disposal of our intercepting force.


It can now be seen that that was perfectly correct, and that what caused it to fail was primarily the movement which Admiral Beatty made to the eastward at 12.30 p.m. But this movement was equally inspired by the soundest principles of war. Seeing how impenetrable a cloud the weather had cast over the scene of action at the critical moment, and how uncertain was the situation of Admiral Warrender, there was nothing to do — by all tradition — but to make sure of keeping between the enemy and his home base. It was, in fact, upon that well-tried principle that the whole disposition had been based. But for the fear of missing the retiring raiders in the mist he would certainly have pressed on into the gap, and could then scarcely have failed to bring them to decisive action. It was a chance of the sea beyond human calculation.


On the German side — though much was made in public of the bombardments — the chagrin was even greater, at least amongst the more ardent spirits in the navy. " On December 16," wrote Admiral von Tirpitz about three weeks later, " Ingenohl had the fate of Germany in the palm of his hand. I boil with inward emotion whenever I think of it." Similarly Admiral Scheer, " Our premature turning to the east-south-east course had robbed us of the opportunity of meeting certain divisions of the enemy according to the pre-arranged plan which is now seen to have been correct. At all events the restrictions enforced on the Commander-in-Chief of the fleet brought about the failure of the bold and promising plan. ... At 7.0 a.m. the two main fleets were only about fifty miles apart. (That is: 6.0 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time.) It is extremely probable that if we had continued in our original direction the courses of the two fleets would have crossed within sight of each other during the morning."


It must be admitted that there was at least a chance of the Germans so dealing with two detached squadrons as to bring the Grand Fleet and the High Seas Fleet to at least something like equality. It is to be observed, however, that it was not Admiral von Ingenohl's orders that caused him to turn back when he did, but the fear of destroyer attack in the dark. Orders or no orders, this reason would presumably have made him turn back till daylight. About four hours would thus have been lost, but even so he might have gained contact early in the afternoon, when the Rosyth battle squadron would have been about 150 miles to the northward, and the rest of the Grand Fleet only just leaving Scapa. On the other hand, the British squadrons had a considerable advantage of speed which might well have enabled them to close on the Rosyth squadron had they chosen to do so. (Our 2nd Battle Squadron had a seagoing full speed of 19 knots. In Admiral von Ingenohl's fleet only his four " Kaisers " had as much — his other sixteen ships were several knots slower.)


Dec. 16-17, 1914



The situation is therefore too full of vague possibilities and indeterminate factors to allow of a final judgment, and each man must decide for himself whether or not Admiral von Ingenohl, but for his orders, had this day the fate of Germany in his hands.


The information which the Admiralty had sent to Admiral Jellicoe and closed his operations was true. The German battle squadrons had got back to port untouched, but the raiding force had a narrow escape. Till the very last they were in danger. When the operations began Commodore R. J. B. Keyes, on Admiralty orders, was forming a line of submarines off Terschelling. (He was in the destroyer Lurcher and also had the Firedrake, The submarines with him were E.2, 7, 8, 10, 11, I2, 15 and the French Archimede.)


About daylight on the 16th they were in position, and there they remained till about 10.30 a.m., when the Commodore intercepted a faint signal that the enemy were off Scarborough. It was at once obvious that his position was useless for intercepting them on their return, and the Commodore, being out of wireless distance, sent away the Firedrake to get touch with Yarmouth and ask the Admiralty for instructions. Meanwhile he proceeded to collect his submarines in readiness to act as soon as new orders arrived. At 3.35 p.m. they reached him, and, as he anticipated, their purport was that he was to take his submarines into the Bight and lie in wait for the retiring enemy. As the submarines were submerged he had great difficulty in finding them, and by 5.0 p.m. he had collected no more than four, E.10, 11, 15 and the Archimede. These he sent into the Bight with orders to form a line from north-west to south-west of Heligoland and himself continued to search for the rest till the weather became too bad to have any hope of success, when he went off to the North Hinder lightship to intercept them as they would be returning.


The result of his dispositions was that shortly after 7.0 a.m. on December 17, Lieutenant-Commander M. E. Nasmith in E.11, which had the southernmost station in the line off the Weser, became aware of a number of destroyers searching at high speed in all directions. An hour later he could see to the north-eastward two ships coming down from inside Heligoland. They can only have been the leading ships of Admiral Hipper's squadron which he was bringing into the Jade. He at once made for them, and though they were at very wide interval and zigzagging independently, he succeeded in getting within 400 yards of the leading ship and firing a torpedo. Unhappily, owing apparently to the boat rolling heavily in the short steep sea that was running, the torpedo ran too deep and missed.


Attention was at once turned to the third ship of the squadron, but just as E.11 got within 500 yards of her she turned in course of zigzagging dead for her. A very rapid dive was imperative to avoid being rammed. It was successfully accomplished, but unhappily the extensive flooding that it entailed disturbed the trim, and on coming up to a proper depth for renewing the attack she broke the surface and was seen. In a moment the German squadron had scattered. Increasing speed they raced round the unlucky boat beyond her danger area, and in spite of a daring effort to cut off the last ship they all disappeared into the rivers untouched. As the Germans had come down inside Heligoland, none of the other submarines saw anything, and though the three British boats remained out another day they had to return empty-handed. So it was that the luck of the weather clung to us, and in spite of Commodore Keyes's prompt action there was nothing to relieve the impression which the unpunished raid necessarily created.


It was over two centuries since anything like it had occurred upon our shores, and not since De Ruyter's raid on Sherness had a foreign enemy killed British troops on English soil. Still it must be said that the country bore the blow with exemplary fortitude. With the nation at large the prevailing note was one of stem resentment at the shameless breach of the laws of civilised warfare. An open seaside resort had been ruthlessly shelled, a crowded seaport with slender defence had been bombarded without the notice which the Hague Convention prescribed, and the effect was rather to intensify the popular conviction that a people capable of such barbarity could not be permitted to escape chastisement. If, as was supposed at the time, the main idea of the enemy was to intimidate, the actual result was to harden the war spirit.


Materially, the most disturbing result of the raid was the minefield which the German light cruiser had laid. Whether or not the enemy's chief object in laying it was to entrap ships acting against them and to cover the retirement of the raiding force, what they actually achieved was a serious interference with our coastwise traffic and an increased pressure on our hard-worked North Sea mine-sweepers. Hitherto these flotillas had only had to keep clear a swept channel from the Downs to Flamborough Head — that is, inside the minefields which the Germans had laid off the Eastern counties and the Humber, and which we had purposely left intact. Now the channel had to be continued northwards past Scarborough, and until it was


Dec. 17-25, 1914



swept all navigation between the Tyne and Flamborough Head had to be stopped. The minefield was particularly difficult to locate. It was only known by the loss of passing coasters, and the work of clearing a channel past it is typical of the unceasing drudgery by which the devoted minesweepers contributed so much and so obscurely to the war.


In order to ascertain how the mines lay, it was necessary to work in all states of the tide, with a consequent increase of danger from those near the surface. Three days after the raid (December 19), the three minesweeping gunboats, Skipjack, Gossamer and Jason, in charge of Commander L. G. Preston of the Skipjack, began sweeping from Flamborough Head, but nothing was found till they were off Scarborough, when two mines were caught in the sweep of the Skipjack and Gossamer. Having found them they made for the harbour. The trawlers were then at work south-east of the bay, and when the Skipjack came up with them, one (Orianda) was blown up close alongside her and two others were damaged by mines. The Skipjack was obviously in extreme danger, but with prompt resource Commander Preston anchored where he was and proceeded to destroy mines all round him as the trawlers brought them to the surface. (For his courageous and well-judged action Commander Preston was commended and afterwards promoted, and a General Order was issued recommending his action as an example to be followed in similar circumstances.)


Under Commander R. H. Walters, R.N., the sweeping was carried on till the end of the year. To assist him in the difficult work, he was given the Halcyon and eight drifters from Lowestoft — in all he had fourteen trawlers and twelve drifters. He reported the whole water to be thickly mined, and day after day the dangerous work went on, varied only by the still more hazardous duty of rescue. On December 20, Admiral C. J. Barlow, who was then serving as a Commander, R.N.R., in command of the armed yacht Valiant, and was on his way to Cromarty, had the propellers and rudder of his vessel blown off. Two trawlers were ordered to his assistance, and, though it was low water, they fearlessly went straight through the minefield to the rescue and brought him safely into Scarborough. (Admiral Barlow was only one of a score of retired flag officers who in the early part of the war volunteered their services, and in a never-to-be-forgotten spirit accepted commissions as Captains or Commanders R.N.R. for service with the auxiliary forces. Generally they served in command of armed yachts and in charge of trawler units, or were appointed Senior Naval Officers at patrol bases.)


The same day the patrol trawler Garmo was sunk off the town with the loss of an officer and five men. By Christmas eve the swept channel was complete as far as Scarborough, but there was still more to do. On Christmas morning the minesweeping trawler Night Hawk was blown up off Whitby and foundered with a loss of six men. Further south two merchant steamers were struck, one the Norwegian s.s. Gallier, and in assisting her the drifter and trawler skippers gave a fine example of their devotion. In spite of heavy weather two drifters, the Hilda and Ernest and the Eager, stood by her till she sank, and the trawler Solon, though it was dark and low water and the injured vessel showed no lights, proceeded to search for her in the minefield.


From now onward the channel was declared safe in daylight, and some fifty steamers that had accumulated in the Humber were allowed to proceed. By the end of the year the work of buoying the extended channel began, but till well into January losses of trawlers and vessels continued. When the buoying was complete there still remained for the mine- sweepers and patrols the increasing work in all weathers of keeping free the East Coast channel, which was now 500 miles long. Further south, and particularly about the Straits of Dover, where the heavy winter weather and strong tides were always setting both our own and the German mines adrift, the work was particularly arduous. The Irish mine-field, moreover, which the Berlin had laid off Tory Island, was still unswept. Week by week, as the weather permitted, the trawlers worked at it, many mines were destroyed, yet on December 19 the liner Tritonia was sunk within a few miles of the spot where the loss of the Manchester Commerce first revealed the existence of the danger.


It is difficult to gain a full impression of all the toil and danger, the skill and devotion which went to make up what minesweeping flotillas were giving to the common cause. Their part was but the sober background against which the more conspicuous exploits of the navy are thrown into relief, yet, if we would grasp what the sea service gave, we must never forget how that background was being worked in patiently, incessantly, stroke by stroke, in fair weather and in foul, with the old tasks never complete and new ones constantly being set. Nor must we fail to remember that all this grim fishing was over and above the hunt for submarines, for which, as we have seen, a special and vast organisation was just coming into operation as fast as the innumerable trawlers and drifters could be fitted with guns and gear. We have been taught to be proud of how in days gone by the sea spirit of the nation answered the call at the hour of danger, but never in all our long story had there been such an answer as this. 









Although the long-expected activity of the enemy at sea had taken the form of a purely naval, and not a combined operation, the intelligence which continued to come in made it impossible to relax the measures taken to stop an attempt to land troops on our coasts. Seeing how narrowly the enemy's squadron had escaped destruction in the northern area, there was an increased probability that any further attempt to invade would be made in the southern area.


Here the arrangements that it had been possible to make looked more unsatisfactory than ever. They were based on the old idea that an inferior fleet by bold offensive action might render a superior one incapable of further mischief even if it were itself annihilated. But on December 9 had been received the news of the Falklands victory, confirming the lesson of Coronel that our time-honoured belief was no longer tenable. It was pointed out how the two actions left little doubt that under modern conditions the normal result of an action between two unequal squadrons would be that the one with inferior speed and gun-power would be destroyed by the one that was faster and more powerfully armed, without being able to inflict upon the enemy any material damage. It was further urged that the destruction of a squadron detailed for stopping an invading force would have a very serious effect on the spirit of the nation. Nor could it be denied that since the orders of November 12 the southern areas had been substantially weakened by the loss of the Bulwark and the necessity of sending the 6th Battle Squadron back to Portland when the Dover anti-submarine defences were carried away. It was suggested, therefore, that the only means of securing the situation was to bring a squadron of battle cruisers, with a proportion of light cruisers and destroyers, down to Sheerness.


This, however, was regarded as too great an inroad on the concentration of the Grand Fleet; but something was done to bring the battle cruisers more closely into the anti-invasion system. On December 20 Admiral Beatty was ordered to move down from Cromarty and join the 3rd Battle Squadron and 3rd Cruiser Squadron at Rosyth. His squadron was still incomplete. (Lion (flag). Tiger, Princess Royal, Queen Mary, New Zealand, Indomitable.)


The Indomitable had not finished refitting after her return from the Mediterranean, and the Princess Royal was only just leaving the West Indies. The moment it was known that Admiral von Spee's squadron had been destroyed she had been recalled, and she accordingly left Jamaica on December 11, the day before Admiral Sturdee was first warned that his two battle cruisers of the 2nd Squadron were wanted at home as soon as convenient, but she was not allowed to proceed without interruption. The ghost of the dead Karlsruhe still haunted the West Indian seas: she had just been reported to be lurking about her old lair in the Bahamas; and so anxious were the Admiralty to complete the clearing of the oceans, that the Princess Royal was ordered to join the local cruisers in hunting her down. The search, which lasted a week and was of course without tangible result, necessitated a return to Jamaica for coal, and finally it was not till December 19 that she left Kingston for Scapa Flow. By the New Year, however, the squadron would be complete, and the Admiral would also have a squadron of the fastest light cruisers attached to his flag.


This could now be done without depriving Admiral Jellicoe of that class of ship, for as new ships were now ready and others were coming home, it was possible to form two light cruiser squadrons, of which the second, under the command of Rear-Admiral T. D. W. Napier, would remain with the Commander-in-Chief's flag. (2nd Light Cruiser Squadron — Falmouth (flag), Liverpool, Gloucester, Yarmouth and Dartmouth, but for the present the last ship was detached to the Pernambuco area in search of the Karlsruhe.)


The other cruiser squadrons which continued to be based at Scapa could moreover be used entirely as fleet cruisers — that is, without any preoccupation with the watch on the north-about trade routes. Of this duty the Grand Fleet was completely relieved by the development of the new 10th Cruiser Squadron, under the command of Admiral de Chair, with his flag in the Alsatian. This blockading force, which was designed to consist of twenty-four armed liners, had already twelve ships on patrol, and eight more were about to join. It was thus possible to organise them in four divisions and distribute them in such a way that it was very difficult for a ship to get through undetected.


Dec.25, 1914



They worked in four areas, which, though modified from time to time, were generally as follows:


Area A was north of the Faeroes;

Area B north of the Shetlands;

Area C west of the line between the Faeroes and Sule Skerry (north-east of Cape Wrath); and

Area D west of the Hebrides.


The arrangement worked well. Ships began to be intercepted in large numbers, and during the first week in January, when all four areas were fully occupied, no less than twenty were sent into Lerwick.


Though the shifting of Admiral Beatty's base to Rosyth meant a further loosening of the main concentration, it was not intended to affect Admiral Jellicoe's supreme control. He was to be in complete charge as before. At the first sign of another raid he would put to sea and assume the general direction, but as Whitehall was the centre of intelligence the Admiralty would directly instruct Admiral Beatty what should be the rendezvous. For the same reason they also reserved to themselves the initial control of Commodore Tyrwhitt and his flotillas, as well as Commodore Keyes's " oversea " submarines, but as soon as these came in touch with Admiral Jellicoe the direction would pass to him.


The various squadrons had scarcely assumed their new stations before the scheme was tested. For Christmas day another air raid on the Cuxhaven Zeppelin sheds had been planned. The attempt was to be made with nine seaplanes, carried in the Engadine, Riviera and Empress, with the Harwich destroyers and submarines and their attached cruisers Arethusa, Undaunted and Fearless in support. As before, it was hoped that the enterprise might provoke a fleet action, and the whole Grand Fleet was concentrated in the middle of the North Sea. The idea was for all the machines to drop their bombs on the Cuxhaven sheds, if they could find them, and if not to attack any ships or military works they could locate. In returning they were to endeavour to report what ships were at Kiel and at Wilhelmshaven, or in the Schillig roads.


It was a perfect Christmas morning, still and sunny, when the force arrived in position, and though only seven of the machines could start, there was every prospect of success. But as soon as they passed the coastline they encountered a dense frost fog which made it impossible to locate anything . Still some of them dropped their bombs, and apparently with effect, though the damage done was variously reported. A cruiser was also attacked on the return, but whether she was hit or not could not be seen. The main result was unrehearsed. In the Schillig roads were lying seven battleships and three battle cruisers, besides other cruisers and some destroyers. One of the Riviera section (No. 186, Flight-Commander C. F. Kilner) could see them well when it cleared the fog, but as a hit seemed scarcely possible no attempt to bomb them was made. The ships, however, took alarm and weighed in so much hurry that the battle cruiser Van der Tann fouled another cruiser and both were severely damaged. This was not known at the time, but the consequences were apparent later.


The return was full of adventure. Though no ships came out, Zeppelins and seaplanes were about, trying to attack our supporting force. They had no success; the airships were easily eluded by our cruisers; the seaplanes, though their bombs were well aimed, hit nothing, and were driven off by gunfire. Our aircraft, however, had no such easy work. Owing to their prolonged search in the fog their oil was barely sufficient, and only the two that had reconnoitred Schillig roads succeeded in getting back to their carriers. The others had to drop short in the sea. One was rescued by Commodore Keyes in the Lurcher and three others close off Norderney by Lieutenant-Commander Nasmith in submarine E.11, who here was to found the reputation he completed in the Sea of Marmara.


He had just taken off the pilot from one and got her in tow when two more alighted beside him. At the same time a Zeppelin was seen coming up fast. It was a critical moment. But he immediately cast off the first one, after removing her bombing sights, and then went off to rescue the newcomers. By the time he got them on board the Zeppelin was very close, and there was only just time to dive when two bombs fell harmlessly over the top of him. D.6, which was coming up to help, had also been forced to dive by the Zeppelin, but she came to the surface again, and did not leave the spot till she was satisfied that all three seaplanes were sunk. Flight-Commander F. E. T. Hewlett, in the seventh seaplane (No. 185), after an action with a Zeppelin, came down into the sea and was taken in tow by a Dutch trawler. Being unable to find any of our ships, he destroyed his machine, and was eventually taken in to Ymuiden, whence he was finally released as a shipwrecked mariner.


Though from the luck of the weather the main object of the raid had not been attained, the experience was as valuable as it was encouraging. From 4 a.m. till noon Commodore Tyrwhitt's supporting force had occupied the enemy's waters and no ship had put to sea to interfere with him. Their attempts to drive him off were confined to the air, and it had been shown how little ships in the open sea had to fear from aircraft — the Zeppelins had been avoided with ease, and the


Dec. 27, 1914



German seaplanes, in spite of their activity, had not secured a single hit. Moreover the operation, so far as it was a test of the new disposition of the Grand Fleet, was equally satisfactory. The concentration had worked smoothly, but its end was marked by a misfortune which entirely outweighed what we had gained by the disablement of the Von der Tann.


On December 27, as the battle fleet made its way back to Scapa it began to blow hard from the southward. As they approached the base to enter as usual in the dark a whole gale was raging in the Pentlands with a heavy sea of the worst type, and the result was that as they were going into the narrow entrance the Conqueror collided with the Monarch, her next ahead. Both ships suffered severely. The stern of the Monarch was stove in and the stempiece of the Conqueror fractured and her forepart badly damaged. The first examination showed that neither ship could be fit for service again without extensive repairs in dock, and before long it was found that a special salvage plant must be sent up before the Conqueror could even be patched up enough to enable her to leave Scapa. Thus two Dreadnoughts besides the lost Audacious were out of action for a considerable time and the 2nd Battle Squadron was reduced to five units. Still even this blow did not shake the determination of the Admiralty to keep their hold on the North Sea, and in spite of the serious diminution in strength the new disposition was maintained.


The drawing down of the Grand Fleet was only part of it. In the southern area the striking force had been strengthened by definitely attaching to the Channel Fleet the 6th Battle Squadron and moving it back to Dover in spite of the insecurity of that port. The Channel Fleet now therefore consisted of two " Lord Nelsons " and seven " Formidables " of the 5th Battle Squadron, with five ''Duncans," and the Revenge of the 6th. The command was also changed. The day after the Scarborough raid Vice-Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, who had been commanding the 1st Battle Squadron in the Grand Fleet, was called down to take the dangerous position, and Admiral Burney went north to fill the command his successor had vacated.


When Admiral Bayly hoisted his flag he found that the 6th Battle Squadron had gone back to Portland for firing exercises. Nevertheless he begged to be allowed to undertake certain offensive operations with the 5th Squadron against the enemy's coast in retaliation for Scarborough. This proposal, however, was negatived, since at the moment destroyers and fleet sweepers sufficient for his protection could not be spared. But he was consoled with the information that one of the most important functions of the Channel Fleet would probably be the bombardment of the enemy's shore defences in a combined operation with the military.


The fact was, that quite apart from the prospect of an enemy attack on our East Coast or the Thames Estuary, there was another sufficient reason for increasing the strength of the southern force. The point where the two opposed armies touched the coast still offered the most promising chance of breaking the threatened deadlock; for here it was that the fleet could be brought in to turn the balance against the Germans. So far as could then be seen it was conceivable that the whole course of the war might turn on whether or not the Germans could prevent us from bringing our coastal squadron into action at the decisive moment. This the Admiralty was fully prepared to do, although, in view of the larger offensive operations that were under consideration, they were as unwilling as ever to risk ships in making diversions for minor military attacks.


If a real offensive were intended with the object of turning the German flank, or even recovering Ostend and Zeebrugge, they were prepared to throw all that was needed into the scale, but so large an operation was not as yet the intention of General Foch. On December 19, however, he informed our liaison officer he meant to advance his heavy guns and would be glad of help from the sea. Admiral Hood, who still had the Dover command, intimated that he was ready. Though the 6th Battle Squadron was away at Portland, the Majestic, which was under orders to join them, was still at Dover, and he said he could act next day with her and the monitors; but nothing came of it. A week later there was another request for two or three days' bombardment. Again Admiral Hood said he was ready, but again nothing was done.


The reason was that a much more serious project was in the wind. Sir John French, reckoning on the additional strength to be provided by the three new Regular divisions, was elaborating a plan for devoting the whole British and Belgian armies in one homogeneous force to a great effort to turn the German right by a push up the Flemish coast. There was much to recommend it. Not only was there the sentimental reason that it was to protect Belgium that we had gone to war, but it was there, and there only, that we could develop to the full our peculiar war strength. There our sea and land force could be concentrated in a single effort, there navy and army could work tactically hand in


Dec. 1914



hand and our surplus naval strength could be brought in directly to redress our comparative military weakness. To the Admiralty the idea was naturally welcome, for it was in line with the great plan of offensive which was now their main preoccupation. If successful it would not only turn the enemy's flank, but it would also go far to solve the submarine problem by depriving the enemy of his best-placed bases. It amounted, in fact, to a development of the plan they had begun to attempt single-handed, and for which they had revived the 6th Battle Squadron. It was, moreover, in keeping with their best tradition. Whenever it had been found impossible for the British fleet to seek out and destroy that of the enemy, the primary alternative had always been to seek out and destroy the enemy's bases in concert with the army. Lorient, Rochefort, Brest, Ostend, Flushing, Antwerp, the Texel, Toulon, Copenhagen and St. Malo had all been objectives of this type, besides other ports in the East and West Indies.


Here, then, was a chance of reviving the old manner, and it could be undertaken without prejudice to the higher function of dominating the enemy's main fleet. Our surplus of suitable vessels, and especially of obsolescent battleships, was ample — so ample indeed that the effort of the army could be supported in great strength — even perhaps in decisive strength; and grave as would be the risk to the ships employed, this was what the Admiralty intended to do. They were no longer content with the 6th Battle Squadron, they would have all available ''Majestics" as well. Most of these fine old vessels were still being used as guardships, but for a Board so thoroughly inspired as it was with the spirit of offence they were too good for passive defence, and the intention, as we have seen, was to withdraw all of them as soon as the cruisers of the old 10th Cruiser Squadron could be refitted to take their place.


So well did the British combined plan seem to fit the situation that General Joffre gave it his full approval. Both he and the British Commander-in-Chief were anxious to strike before the new German formations that were in training could take the field. General Joffre's idea was to concentrate his army on two points where the German communications were most exposed, and for this he wished his colleague to release the French units which were still holding part of the line to the northward of the British. An amalgamation of the British and Belgian armies therefore entirely suited his plan, and at a conference at Chantilly on December 27 the matter was settled. But when it was submitted to the King of the Belgians he was unable to agree. If the Field-Marshal decided to make the attempt on Ostend he was ready to co-operate to his full strength, but he could not consent to the proposed unity of command.


Whether the operation would now be possible was very doubtful, and no decision had been come to when a sudden shock of disaster brought home with compelling force the need of doing what the Field-Marshal had in mind. Since the new system of patrolling the Straits against submarines had got to work, and light and navigation marks had been extinguished or altered, there had been a comparatively quiet time in the Channel. At this period indeed our anti-submarine system seemed fully effective. Drafts and stores were incessantly streaming across to France, an unending procession of merchant vessels was moving in mid-channel to the Downs, and there unmolested the flotilla of boarding vessels was engaged in the never-ending task of seeing that no contraband passed onwards for Germany.


For many days not a single submarine had been reported; yet it was not to be believed that the attack on the army's communications would not be renewed, and every precaution was being taken. Since the first week in December transports had been ordered to sail singly, each with a destroyer for escort, and all had gone well. On the 19th the system was to be severely tested. On that day the XXVIIth Division was to begin to cross, and it was the first occasion since the submarine attack that a large unit had to be taken over. It was a specially anxious task, for the whole passage could not be completed in the dark — the state of the tide making it impossible to enter Havre till some time after daybreak. Admiral Favereau was asked to have all his available destroyers off the port to meet the transports, and Admiral The Hon. Sir Hedworth Meux was ordered to send over some of his Auxiliary Patrol from Portsmouth. Though the new system of areas was not yet started, he had received three units, all furnished with guns and modified sweeps and the unit leaders with wireless. Besides he had his eight '' Beagle '' class destroyers, so that the transports could sail in groups of eight. In this way it was managed without accident.


The success of the operation, remarkable as it was, did little to relax precautions against the reappearance of submarines in the Channel. How impossible it was to regard the danger as negligible, even in waters that seemed undisturbed, was now to be demonstrated. At Portland the 6th Battle Squadron had just completed its firing exercises; the 5th Battle Squadron, in Admiral Bayly's opinion, needed similar practice, and as Sheerness was unsuitable the 6th Battle Squadron


Dec. 28-31, 1914



was called up to take its place, and on the 26th he received permission to go to Portland, with the usual caution to arrange his passage with due regard to the possibility of submarine attack en route. The practice for squadrons moving through the Straits was to time their sailing so as to pass the narrows in the night, or, if a daylight passage was unavoidable, not to move without destroyer protection. On December 28, Admiral Bayly informed the Admiralty that he wished to sail at 10.0 a.m. on the 30th, and they thereupon arranged for Commodore Tyrwhitt to send six destroyers to the Nore to accompany the squadron as far as Folkestone. The Admiral sailed according to programme and at Folkestone the destroyers escorting the squadron turned back.


From that point it was unguarded. It had no flotilla or cruiser squadron, nothing indeed but its two attached light cruisers, Topaze and Diamond, and it was therefore peculiarly exposed to torpedo attack. Nevertheless the Admiralty had directed that in making the passage every opportunity was to be taken of carrying out exercises and firing. Accordingly when at daybreak next morning Admiral Bayly reached the vicinity of Portland, instead of taking the squadron in, he began exercising tactics. The exercises, which were conducted within twenty-five miles from the Bill, lasted the greater part of the day. At their conclusion, so free did the Channel appear to be from submarines, the Admiral decided to remain at sea, and steamed direct for the south of the Isle of Wight, intending to continue the exercises next day.


By a Fleet Order it was laid down that where submarine attack was possible an alteration of course should be made just after dark. To comply with the order, although no submarine had been reported in the Channel during the whole of the month. Admiral Bayly made a 16-point alteration of course at 7.0 p.m., when he was abreast of the Needles, and so went back to the westward almost in his wake, with his two attached cruisers astern. The night, though cloudy, was remarkably clear, with a visibility of about two miles. There was moreover a stiff breeze from the southward, with a sea rough enough to make the detection of a submarine very difficult. Still, so little was danger apprehended, that the Admiral led on upon a straight course in line ahead at no more than ten knots, with the ships closed up and the Formidable (Captain A. N. Loxley) as rear ship. At 3.0 a.m., fifteen miles short of Start Point, they were to turn again sixteen points, and all wait well till 2.30, when, as the squadron was passing through a number of fishing craft, the Formidable was seen by the cruisers to turn out of the line. The Topaze (Commander W. J. B. Law) at once hurried up to her, to find she had a list to starboard and was already lowering her boats.


About 2.20 she had been struck by a torpedo abreast of the foremost funnel on the starboard side. The immediate effect was to cut off all steam and to give her a list of 20 degrees and she was brought up hard into the wind to get her head to the rising sea. With the increasing violence of the weather what light there had been was disappearing, and in complete darkness the launch and pinnace were got out. The two barges were also got out full of men, but one of them capsized, and then, about three-quarters of an hour after the first explosion, another torpedo hit the battleship abreast of the after funnel on the port side. The effect was to bring her on to an even keel, and as there was great difficulty in getting out the boom boats without steam, the hands were set to work bringing up all woodwork and breaking up the after shelter deck for saving life.


By this time the Topaze was circling round the Formidable and was ordered to close. Seeing boats on the water she tried to get hold of them, but the heavy sea made the work difficult and hazardous. Still she had succeeded in rescuing forty-three men out of the barge when Captain Loxley ordered her to go off to close a brilliantly-lighted liner that was passing and direct her to stand by. Commander L. L. Dundas in the Diamond immediately took her place, but though he passed the order to the liner and she acknowledged it, she continued her course. Rockets and lights from the Formidable made no better impression on her, and the Topaze went back to the stricken ship.


Her bows were now awash, but Captain Loxley hailed the cruiser to say there was a submarine on his port bow, and with fine devotion ordered her to clear away out of danger and go after another steamer that was appearing. The weather was growing rapidly worse. Sea and wind were rising and it was intensely dark. Still the ship held her own on an even keel till, about 4.45, nearly two hours and a half after she had been first hit, she suddenly gave a lurch to starboard and began to heel over rapidly and settle by the bows. Captain Loxley then gave the word for every one to take to the water, and all that could started slipping down the sides. But before all were clear she turned over and plunged down head foremost. For a minute or two she stayed with her screws out of water and her rudder swinging disconsolately from side to side as though she had struck the bottom, and then she entirely disappeared. What had happened was that U.24 (Lieutenant-Commander Schneider), one of the submarines which had recently begun operating from Flanders


Dec. 31, 1914



upon our southern coasts had been dogging the squadron all the previous afternoon and at last found nerself in position to attack as the squadron returned on its tracks. (Gayer, Die Deutschen U-Boote in ihrer Kriegfuhrung, 1914-1918, Vol 1. p. 21.)


The work of rescue was naturally extremely difficult. The officers, all but two of whom were in the water, came off best, as they had safety waistcoats, but the collars the seamen were wearing proved of little use in the sea that was running. Of Captain Loxley nothing more was seen. Survivors saw him standing with his terrier on the bridge till the last, giving his orders as coolly as though the ship were lying in harbour, cheering and steadying the men, praising the officers for each smart piece of work, and his reward was to see perfect discipline and alacrity maintained to the end. No effort was spared at every risk to save life. In spite of the darkness, the heavy sea, and the danger of another submarine attack, the Diamond succeeded in saving thirty-seven officers and men.


The launch, too, got clear in charge of the boatswain with about a dozen hands, and was soon crowded with men he picked up. With only eight oars she drifted away and with the utmost difficulty was kept afloat through the night, nor was it till noon next day that she was found by any ship. Then near Berry Head the Brixham trawler Provident, who herself had been lying-to in the gale waiting to make the harbour, came up, and after three abortive attempts to pass her a line the skipper. Captain W. Pillar, in defiance of the full gale that was now blowing, gybed his vessel and brought her close alongside the sinking boat. His crew numbered only four hands all told, but he was thus able to pass the launch a warp, and by a clever movement got her under his own lee. By this brilliant and fearless piece of seamanship all the men, to the number of seventy-one, were taken on, and the launch sank almost immediately. (For this fine piece of service the Provident was awarded a gratuity of £660, and each member of the crew received the silver medal for gallantry in saving life at sea.)


As for the other boats, a cutter was found bottom upwards on Abbotsbury beach, and another boat with forty-six men drifted ashore near Lyme Regis, but out of the Formidable's complement of 780 there were drowned or died of exposure 85 officers and 512 men.


What made the loss of so fine a ship and so many good lives the more regrettable was that it appeared to have been due to taking risks for no good purpose. The Admiral was called upon to give an explanation, and after considering his reply the Admiralty agreed that although there had been a lack of precision in the orders issued by the War Staff, and that the failure to provide flotilla protection was to be deprecated, yet the neglect of what they regarded as ordinary precautions against submarine attack which had been so unaccountably displayed could not be overlooked, even in so valuable and intrepid an officer as Admiral Bayly. In vain he pleaded that the exercises he had been ordered to carry out without destroyer protection involved higher risk than any he had run. The plea was not accepted. He was therefore ordered to strike his flag and Vice-Admiral The Hon. Sir Alexander Bethell was appointed in his place. (Admiral Bayly took over the Presidency of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and six months later, when the submarine trouble became acute, was recalled to active command and appointed to the Coast of Ireland Station, with its limits considerably extended. His able and energetic conduct of the command received special recognition from the Admiralty.)


Although in this particular instance the disaster was attributed to the neglect of ordinary precautions, it was clear that, unless something drastic was done to check the activity of the enemy's submarines, they must continue seriously to hamper the necessary movements of the fleet. This impression was increased in force by the fact that a similar though less tragic event had just occurred in the Adriatic. On Christmas day the French Admiralty announced that the Jean Bart, one of their new Dreadnoughts, had been torpedoed by an Austrian submarine in the Straits of Otranto. She was coming down from a rendezvous in the Adriatic at the head of the line when the submarine fired two torpedoes at her in rapid succession. The first passed astern, the other hit her forward, but though the damage was severe it was not enough to sink her, and she managed to reach port. The effect of the incident was that the French decided to withdraw their battleships to Malta and Bizerta till a defended anchorage could be prepared at Corfu, and to leave the blockade to the cruisers and destroyers, and active operations to the submarines which were acting from a base in Plateali Bay.

(La Bruyere, Deux Annes de Guerre Navale, p. 43. The French submarines had been showing considerable enterprise. In November the Cugnot had entered Cattaro Bay and attempted to attack the old battleship Rudolph in Castelnuovo, but she was caught in nets and hunted by destroyers, and barely escaped. In December the Curie had penetrated Pola itself, where the Dreadnoughts Tegetthoff and Viribus Unitis were lying, but she was hopelessly netted and had to surrender. Her loss was acknowledged on December 25. Ibid. pp. 44-6.)

The line which the British Admiralty took was more aggressive. Their case was different from that of the French. Our disaster had occurred in our own waters and on our army's line of communication, and there they had no mind


Jan. 1-4, 1915



to submit to the domination of the enemy, whatever means he might employ. In order to watch Zeebrugge they transferred two of the "C" class submarines from Dover to the command of Commodore Keyes; one of these, C.34, had already made two reconnaissances of the port and arrived safely at Harwich; but the other, C.31, which left Dover on January 4 for the Belgian coast was never heard of again. Apart from this, the Admiralty's main action was at once to press for a revival of the idea of a combined attack on the enemy's submarine bases. A week earlier it had practically been decided on by the British and French Commanders-in- Chief at the conference at Chantilly. But at this time the Allies were very far from unity of command, and, as we have seen, the project had fallen through owing to the opposition of the Belgians. But with this it was now impossible for the Admiralty to rest content, and as soon as ever the loss of the Formidable was known, they communicated the news to Sir John French as fresh and cogent evidence of the difficulties that were being imposed upon them by the development of Zeebrugge as a submarine station, and inquired definitely whether he saw his way to capture that place, as well as Ostend, in conjunction with the fleet.


He replied with a memorandum to the War Office, in which he said that the effect of the Admiralty's application was to raise in an acute form the very question which he had been earnestly studying for some weeks, and for which he at present saw but one solution that would fit the general situation. What that situation was he set out quite frankly, without an attempt to disguise the difficulties of realising the idea upon which he was as ardently bent as the Admiralty. Its dominating feature was that, in the view of the French High Command, a moment had arrived when the existing deadlock might be broken.


According to his own and General Joffre's information the Germans would be in inferior force to the Allies on the Western Front for some months — that is, till their new formations were ready to take their place in the line. It, therefore, seemed to him most important that the Allies should strike at the earliest possible moment with all their available strength. It was to this end that General Joffre was massing as many troops as he could lay his hand on in order to strike simultaneously at Reims and Arras. In order to free the units which he had to the north of the British army he had approved the Field-Marshal's idea of amalgamating the Belgian and British armies, and although that plan had fallen through, he was still pressing for the release of the French troops in Flanders. The Field-Marshal explained that it would be impossible for him to do this and also to carry out the operation which the Admiralty desired unless he received large reinforcements. Over and above the XXVIIIth, XXIXth and Canadian Divisions, which were already ear-marked for him, he would require at least fifty battalions of Territorials or the New Army.


The difficulty in coming to a decision on the point was very great. The main Question which the Government had under consideration at the moment was in what theatre the new armies could be best employed — that is, whether they should be used in France or on some alternative line of operation which promised to give a decisive result more quickly. The issue was extremely complicated, for while Sir John French's memorandum in answer to the Admiralty seemed to indicate concentration on the Western Front, an appreciation which he sent at the same time to Lord Kitchener threw grave doubt on its utility. In this paper he frankly stated that no decisive result was to be looked for in the west. It was not that he admitted the impossibility of breaking through — that, he said, was only a question of men and munitions — yet he was of opinion that even if the Germans could be driven back to the Rhine it would not mean a decision of the war. It was only in the east — the Russian Front — that ultimate victory could be attained.


On the other hand, if the French suffered a crushing defeat the consequences would be disastrous. For this reason he was convinced that not a man must be moved from France. This view in effect ruled out operations in any other theatre. Apart from the fact that he did not believe that any of the alternative plans under consideration could lead to a decisive result, he had no hesitation in saying that none of them could be attempted without first line troops. In conclusion, therefore, he expressed a strong conviction that the whole of our army should be employed in France, notwithstanding his confession that no decision could be expected on the Western Front.


It was excusable if Ministers were not convinced and were unwilling to commit themselves to such an impasse, which seemed to declare the bankruptcy of all our old traditions. Remembering the latest precedent, that of the Peninsular war, where our main army, with the navy at its back, had been used with so much effect away from the central theatre, they could not so easily reject the possibility of employing it on some independent line of operation where our command of the sea would give us the same advantage over Germany that it gave Wellington over Napoleon. But no such line


Jan. 1915



of operation was clearly in view. So long as Denmark and Holland remained neutral, northern Europe was out of the question. Operations against Austria from the Adriatic, even should Italy come in, seemed barred by the submarine. A third alternative was an advance from Salonica in concert with the Serbians and Greeks. Here was the closest analogy to the Peninsula, but the long and difficult line of communication it would involve was held to render it impracticable under modern conditions of warfare.


There remained Turkey, but at this time military opinion seems to have been almost unanimously in accord with Sir John French that no success in that quarter could lead to a decisive result. As yet, moreover, when the reality of Germany's aims in the Near East was not fully appreciated, it was believed that her forcing Turkey to take up arms had no direct relation to the object of the war, but was designed as a diversion to induce us to dissipate our force. Consequently to operate against Turkey would be to play the German game. At first sight, therefore, particularly in view of the paramount need of securing a real command of Home waters, it looked as though, hopeless as it was, the Field-Marshal's plan of concentrating our effort against Zeebrugge and Ostend was the best available.


But, in fact, the matter was not so clear. For it so happened that while Sir John French was drafting his appreciation other considerations were beginning to obscure the situation. The shadow of the first naval failure in the Mediterranean, which had been deepening ever since the Goeben had escaped into the Dardanelles, was already reaching the Flemish coast. It began to fall the day after the Formidable was lost, and it was first perceived in a telegram received early on January 2 from Sir George Buchanan, our Ambassador in Petrograd. As the Turks ever since they entered the war had been left undisturbed in the Mediterranean, they had been able to devote their resources, under German direction, not only to the preparation of an invasion of Egypt, but also to organising an enveloping movement in the Caucasus, which was causing the Russian General in command grave anxiety.


He was crying urgently for reinforcement, but the Grand Duke could spare nothing from the main theatre. Though he had just succeeded in checking the invasion of Poland before Warsaw, the German advance had gone far enough to stop his own invasion of Galicia, and unless he could deal a staggering blow in Poland the promising penetration of Austria could not be resumed. He was bent therefore on concentrating everything he could at Warsaw, and the General in the Caucasus was informed that he must hold on as best he could. But at the same time, as a means of relieving the pressure, the Grand Duke sent a message to Lord ' Kitchener to know whether it would be possible for him to arrange for a diversion against the Turks elsewhere.


The request was reasonable enough, and although on our side there was little faith in the practical effect of such a measure in so distant a theatre, Lord Kitchener replied next day through the Foreign Office that a demonstration of the kind suggested would be taken in hand. As no troops were then available he at once consulted the Admiralty as to the possibility of making a naval demonstration at the Dardanelles. Lord Fisher was more than doubtful. In his opinion the bombardment in November had shown that no possible purpose could be served by repeating it with the squadron which Admiral Carden had on the spot. For effective action a much larger and differently constituted force would certainly be needed. Still he strongly held the view that as an alternative theatre Turkey was the best in the field, if a sufficient military force was available to co-operate with the fleet, and he put forward a scheme for operating on that line with the assistance of the Balkan States.


But as his plan involved the diversion of a substantial force from France it was barred by Sir John French's view that no troops could be moved away without General Joffre's consent, and that that consent would never be given. The only course that remained was to increase the Dardanelles squadron by such of our older battleships as were available and to provide it with a sufficient force of minesweepers and other auxiliaries, which it would require if it was to act alone. The idea was that thus reinforced it might be able to force the Straits and reach Constantinople. It would certainly involve a considerable expenditure of ships, and with the fate of the Formidable and the disablement of the Monarch and Conqueror fresh in mind it was strongly felt by the First Sea Lord that the greatest caution must be exercised in hazarding the loss of our naval superiority by minor operations.


Still in this case the operation was of such vital importance to the common cause that it could not be discarded without the fullest consideration, and it was decided to send a telegram to Vice-Admiral S. H. Carden to ask his opinion whether at the cost of serious loss the Dardanelles could be forced by ships alone. He replied that in his opinion the Straits could not be " rushed," but might be forced by extended operations with a large number of ships. He was then (January 6) directed to send home particulars of the operation he contemplated


Jan. 1915



and the force he would require. Simultaneously a plan of operations was prepared in the War Staff by Admiral Sir Henry Jackson, and in this it was strongly emphasised that however successful the fleet might be by its own efforts, it could not hope to obtain any effective result without a military force to secure at least the ground behind it by occupying the Gallipoli peninsula. Sound and far-sighted as this appreciation eventually proved to be, it was not allowed to weigh against the sanguine views of the men on the spot, and from these conflicting origins sprang the enterprise which was destined to assume dimensions beyond all precedent.


Seeing how deeply we were already involved in France, the readiness with which we took up the Russian invitation appears almost quixotic. But looking back upon it against the background of our past war history, we seem to see in what prompted our action at this time a first indistinct warning that the old influences, which had never permitted us to concentrate in the main European theatre of a great war, were about to reassert themselves. Whether rightly or wrongly, they had always gained the upper hand over pure military doctrine. It would look as though they were inherent in the preoccupations of a world-wide maritime Empire and must always cause its action to differ from that of more compact Continental Powers.


Probably at this juncture the stirring of the old instinct was rather felt than consciously realised. At all events it was held that to commit so large a part of our force as Sir John French demanded to the Continent was premature, and the reply which the Field- Marshal received was precisely in line with the attitude the elder Pitt always adopted towards Frederick the Great. Our obligation to France would be fulfilled. So long as she was liable to successful invasion the place for our troops would be shoulder to shoulder with hers. As it was likely that the situation would shortly develop into one of stalemate, and a successful offensive in the main theatre would be impossible for the Allies until they had greatly increased their supply of men and munitions, it was necessary to consider whether we could not seek decisive results elsewhere.


In these circumstances, then, Sir John French's new plan for combined operations against Zeebrugge and Ostend could not be sanctioned. The Admiralty, although anxious to see the submarine bases destroyed, had declared that the possession of those ports by the enemy was not vital to our naval position, and on no other consideration were the Government willing to sanction a plan of operations which, apart from the inevitable cost in men, would mean the extension of our line to the Dutch frontier and in all probability involve developments on so great a scale that our whole military force would be committed irrevocably to the Western Front.


This conclusion was reached on January 8, and the question of an alternative theatre continued to be studied. Sufficient progress had already been made to admit of a general agreement that it was only in the Mediterranean that a new line of operation was to be found. A direct attack on Austria by way of Trieste or some other point in the Adriatic was one possibility, but apart from the difficulty of finding an adequate base on the enemy's coast it was out of the question until Italy came in. There was also the Salonica line, but that was impracticable without Greece, and Greece had already intimated that she could do nothing until the neutrality of Bulgaria was assured. There remained Turkey. As the result of a special study of this theatre by the General Staff, Lord Kitchener reached the conclusion that the Dardanelles was the most suitable objective. He believed that 150,000 men would suffice, though on this point further study would be required. He also inclined to a minor attack on Alexandretta with from 30,000 to 50,000 men. This force, he considered, would soon be available from Egypt. For there on November 10 it had been decided to land the Australian and New Zealand troops for the completion of their training, and by December 15 the disembarkation was complete.


Though it was resolved, in view of the paramount obligation of defending France, that nothing could be done till the result of the next German attack was known, the proposal was regarded as having much to commend it. For, as Lord Kitchener pointed out, the Dardanelles was the spot where the naval and military arms could act in closest cooperation, and there too we could hope to achieve the largest political, economic and financial results. The importance of the results was indeed so great that the wonder is, not that the scheme attracted, but that it was not at once adopted with higher conviction and complete singleness of purpose. But so long as the French High Command held the sanguine view that a repetition of the Allied successes on the Marne was possible during the next campaign, and so long as French soil was under the heel of the invader, Paris could not see with the same eyes as London. Though our own Government were ready to hold their hands till the resisting power of the Allied line was proved by the next attack, which every indication declared to be imminent, they were profoundly sceptical of anything being possible beyond maintaining the position intact. Sir John French's appreciation had only confirmed


Jan. 1915



the prevailing view. It was that, seeing how the rhythm of the art of war seemed to be bringing the defensive into dominance, there was little chance of being able to break the German hold till a very great preponderance of strength had been gathered, and for this they could see nothing but to develop the unlimited man power of Russia. She had at her call untold hosts of men, and she only needed arms, munitions and financial support to provide all that was required. Once she was fully armed, and not till then, a great concentric attack by all the Allies might avail to overcome the advantages which the Central Powers enjoyed in their interior position. But till the Dardanelles was open the work of arming the giant could not be done. In effect the Germans, by cheating the Turks into the war, had obtained an intolerable position on the main lateral line of communication between the Western Powers and Russia, and until the obstruction was removed a real combined effort such as was needed to crush so great a military Power as Germany was impossible.


This consideration alone might have seemed to justify the new departure even from the view of pure military strategy. But there was much more behind; for the political results that success would bring were almost invaluable. They promised, indeed, to complete the investment of the Central Powers with a ring of enemies and to cut them off — as Napoleon had been cut off by our naval and combined operations in the Mediterranean — from spreading the war effectively beyond the confines of Europe. At one stroke we could remove all danger to Egypt, secure the Balkan States, win the wavering respect of the Arabs and put an end to the hesitation of Italy.


The actual situation in the Balkans was specially calling for drastic treatment. Though in the middle of December the Serbians had driven the last Austrian from their territory and had reoccupied Belgrade, it was just now becoming apparent that Germany was insisting that Austria should make an end of her victim, so that a road might be driven through to Turkey. So entirely isolated was our unhappy little Ally that except for driblets through neutral territory we could give her no assistance. Nor was there any hope of saving her and the vital interests of the Allies in the Near East unless the other Balkan States could be persuaded to combine against Germany. Diplomacy — especially with such an opportunist as Ferdinand of Bulgaria holding the keys — could do little. What was required was some resounding feat of arms that would shatter the legend of German infallibility, and nowhere was such consummation within reach except at the Dardanelles.


Diplomatically, then, the case for developing our military power in the Eastern Mediterranean was overwhelming, and far outweighed all that could be said for the Flanders plan. From a military point of view it was scarcely less justifiable; for it was not, as it appeared to some, an eccentric operation, but an operation to clear lateral communications that were vital to securing a complete decision in the main theatre. Its financial and economic promise was equally great. With the Dardanelles open Russian corn could flow again through the Mediterranean to relieve the already menacing question of food supply for the Western Powers, and to re-establish Russian finance. Owing to the shutting down of her exports, foreign exchange was running dangerously against her, and materially increasing the difficulty of supplying her needs. Beyond this again was the general question of shipping. The enormous drain which the war was making on available tonnage was fast becoming a serious anxiety, and in the Russian Black Sea ports were locked up no fewer than 129 steamships, Allied, neutral and interned enemy, with an aggregate of nearly 850,000 tons gross, all of which would be released for service when the Dardanelles was opened.


It was on these grounds, then, that Lord Kitchener commended his selection of an alternative objective. The case for it was obviously very strong. It followed, moreover, the traditional lines of the system of warfare upon which — whether or not ideally the best — the British Empire had been built up. Still, in spite of all that could be said, military opinion in France remained unshaken. The Germans were on French soil, and at the French Headquarters, as well as at our own, the Staff clung to their conviction that during the next month or so, before the strength of the enemy was fully developed, there was a chance of dislodging them that might mean disaster if it were missed. So strongly was this view held that the whole question was re-examined on January 13 in consultation with Sir John French. There was nothing new to urge. He made no secret of the fact that neither he nor General Joffre looked for a decisive result except from the east, but he still pressed to be allowed to operate against Zeebrugge in co-operation with the fleet. Lord Kitchener was ready to reinforce him by the middle of February with two Territorial divisions, and with these he believed he could push through to the Dutch frontier and hold the extended line the advance would involve. Though it would be an isolated movement, which could not be claimed as leading up to a decision, it


Jan. 1915



was, in his opinion, the only place where we could take the offensive for the present. Although this proposal did nothing to remove the weighty objections to further committals on the Western Front, the influence of the purely military school of thought was so strong that in the end it was agreed that the necessary preparations should go forward and that a final decision should be postponed till February.


Meanwhile the study of possible action in the Mediterranean was proceeding, and as an immediate contribution to it the Admiralty put forward a plan of operations for the Dardanelles which had been received two days earlier from Admiral Carden. It was his reply to the instructions to furnish a detailed explanation of those extended operations by which the men on the spot considered the Straits might be forced. The War Staff had considered it and it had been passed by them as a feasible operation. An alternative project, which was felt to merit examination as likely to give more direct and immediate political results, was an attack on Cattaro. The conclusion was that while the preparations for the Zeebrugge scheme went forward the Admiralty should also study the question of Cattaro, and also prepare for a naval expedition in February to bombard and take the Gallipoli peninsula, with Constantinople as its objective. Finally the Government definitely laid down that if in the spring a deadlock occurred in the west the new armies would be used elsewhere, and a committee was appointed to study this aspect of the question and prepare for the eventuality.









The effect of the decision so far as it had gone was that the Mediterranean began to regain the prominence which it had never been for long denied in any great war. Since Admiral Carden's short bombardment of the entrance of the Dardanelles when, early in November, Turkey had first been driven helplessly into the war, it had attracted little attention. In the Adriatic the French had found it impossible to do anything effective in the face of the Austrian submarines, and their powerful fleet, still based at Malta, had to be content with maintaining a strict blockade of its outlet, and providing cruisers to escort our convoys between Malta and Egypt. But in the Black Sea there had been more activity. There Admiral Ebergard, who commanded the Russian squadron, had on November 6, in the course of a cruise, mined the entrance to the Bosporus, bombarded Zungaldak, the port of the Heraklea colliery district, and sunk four Turkish transports carrying troops or stores.


A week later the Russian Admiral was out again, and on November 17 bombarded Trebizond, the supply port of the Turkish army operating in the Caucasus. At the moment there were five Turkish transports making for the port under escort of the Hamidieh and Medjidieh, and Admiral Souchon, fearing these might be cut off, put to sea with the Goeben and Breslau to give them protection. The low coal endurance of the Russian squadron had by that time compelled them to return to their base. At about noon on November 18 they were some twenty miles to the south of the Crimean coast when the Almaz in the van reported the Goeben and Breslau ahead. The weather, which had been very thick in the morning, had cleared, but it was still misty, and a brief action began at a range of under four miles. It lasted less than a quarter of an hour, for the high speed of the German vessels enabled them to get out of reach. The Russian flagship Evstafi, on whom the Goeben had concentrated her fire, was hit four times, and the casualties in this


Nov.-Dec. 1915



ship amounted to five officers and fifty men killed and wounded; the other vessels were not touched. The damage and losses sustained by the enemy were not known, but reports from spies gave the impression that the Goeben suffered severely. On the strength of this information the Admiralty, in their anxiety to add the Mediterranean battle cruisers to the Grand Fleet, proposed to hand over the blockade of the Dardanelles to the French. The Minister of Marine insisted, however, that one battle cruiser should be left until it could be ascertained that the damages to the Goeben were really serious, and the ultimate result of this interchange of views was an arrangement that the Indefatigable, Dublin and three British submarines should remain, the other British ships being replaced by French destroyers and old battleships, the command to be eventually taken over by a French Admiral.


By the end of November, Admiral Carden had been joined by six French destroyers, three French submarines and the French battleships Gallois (flag of Rear-Admiral Guepratte) Verite, St. Louis and Charlemagne; and with this force he was entirely absorbed in maintaining his watch on the approaches to the Dardanelles, and doing his best to prevent contraband reaching the Turks by Smyrna and the Bulgarian port of Dedeagatch. It was weak enough for all the work in hand, and even so the Admiralty were anxious to reduce it.


So great was the demand for destroyers at home to meet the submarine menace that he was only allowed to keep the six he had on his urgent representation that the six boats the French had sent were of too old a type to deal with the modern Turkish ones. The Goeben moreover was soon active again. From December 7 to 10 she had been out in the Black Sea with the Hamidieh escorting troops and transports, and had bombarded Batum for a short time. At the same time the Breslau had been detected apparently laying mines off Sevastopol, but had been met by bombing aeroplanes. In the Dardanelles was another cruiser, the Messudieh, guarding the minefield below the Narrows. Without more cruisers it was therefore impossible to maintain a blockade of Smyrna and Dedeagatch, and at the same time guard the flying base which had been established for the flotilla at Port Sigri, in Mityleni. The French, however, came to the rescue by sending up two ships, the cruiser Amiral Charner and the seaplane carrier Foudre, which, having left her sea-planes in Egypt, had been doing escort duty on the Port Said-Malta line. They were still on their way when a brilliant piece of service was performed, which did something to relieve the Admiral's anxiety and much to brighten the monotony of the eventless vigil.


For some time the three British submarines (B.9, 10 and 11) and the three French, had been itching for a new experience. There were known to be five lines of mines across the fairway inside the Straits, but Captain C. P. R. Coode, the resourceful commander of the destroyer flotilla, and Lieutenant-Commander G. H. Pownall, who commanded the submarines under him, believed that by fitting a submarine with certain guards the obstacle could be passed. Amongst both the French and the British submarine commanders there was keen competition to be made the subject of the experiment. Eventually the choice fell on Lieutenant N. D. Holbrook, of B.11, which had recently had her batteries renewed and had already been two miles up the Straits in chase of two Turkish gunboats.


On December 18, having been duly fitted with guards, she went in to torpedo anything she could get at. In spite of the strong adverse current Lieutenant Holbrook succeeded in taking his boat clear under the five rows of mines, and, sighting a large two-funnelled vessel painted grey with the Turkish ensign flying, he closed her to 800 yards, fired a torpedo and immediately dived. As the submarine dipped he heard the explosion, and putting up his periscope saw that the vessel was settling by the stern. He had now to make the return journey, but to the danger of the mine-field a fresh peril was added; the lenses of the compass had become so badly fogged, that steering by it was no longer possible. He was not even sure where he was, but taking into consideration the time since he had passed Cape Helles, and the fact that the boat appeared to be entirely surrounded by land, he calculated that ne must be in Sari Sighlar Bay.


Several times he bumped the bottom as he ran along submerged at full speed, but the risk of ripping open the submarine had to be taken, and it was not till half an hour had passed and be judged that the mines must now be behind him that he put up his periscope again. There was now a clear horizon on his port beam, and for this he steered, taking peeps from time to time to correct his course since the compass was still unserviceable. Our watching destroyers noticed a torpedo-boat apparently searching for him; but after he had dived twice under a minefield and navigated the Dardanelles submerged without a compass, so ordinary a hazard seems to have escaped his notice. It was not till he returned to the base, having been nine hours under water, that he learned that the vessel he had torpedoed was the


Dec. 13, 1914



cruiser Messudieh. Such an exploit was quite without precedent. The Admiralty at once telegraphed their highest appreciation of the resource and daring displayed. Lieutenant Holbrook received the V.C, Lieutenant S. T. Winn, his second in command, a D.S.O., and every member of the crew a D.S.C. or D.S.M. according to rank. (The Turks state that the Messudieh was placed in this exposed position by the Germans contrary to Turkish opinion. They also say she was hit before she saw the submarine or could open fire, and that she turned over and sank in ten minutes. Many men were imprisoned in her, but most of them were extricated, when plant and divers arrived from Constantinople and holes could be cut in her bottom. In all 49 officers and 587 men were saved. The casualties were 10 officers and 27 men killed. She sank in shoal water and most of her guns were afterwards salved and added to the minefield and intermediate defences.)


Encouraged by this success Admiral Carden asked for one of the latest class of submarines. He was sure that if fitted like B.11 she could go right up to the Golden Horn. But as the Scarborough raid had just taken place and the High Seas Fleet showed signs of awakening none could be spared, and the blockade settled down again to its dull routine. Though there were constant rumours of a coming destroyer attack in retaliation for the loss of the Messudieh, the indications were that at the Dardanelles the enemy's only thought was defence.


In the Egyptian area there was greater liveliness. It was here the Turks were preparing their offensive, and the signs that an attack on the canal in large force was pending were unmistakable. It was on December 1 that Vice-Admiral R. H. Peirse, in pursuance of the Admiralty order to shift his headquarters from Bombay to the canal, re-hoisted his flag in the Swiftsure at Suez, and took over the new station which had been added to his own East Indies command in view of the expected invasion of Egypt. The immediate trouble, however, was at the lower end of the Red Sea. There the Turks had re-occupied Sheikh Syed, and were repairing the forts which the Duke of Edinburgh and a detachment of her Indian convoy had destroyed in November; and it became a serious question whether another combined attack should not be made upon the re-occupied fort, from which heavy guns would command Perim.


The Admiralty were ready to provide the Ocean, which, after the capture of Kurnah, had been recalled from the Persian Gulf for the defence of Egypt. But in view of the situation in Mesopotamia the Government of India were strongly impressed with the importance of giving the Arabs no cause of offence. We had issued a proclamation declaring a policy of non-interference, and action on the coast was regarded as highly impolitic unless they showed an openly hostile attitude. Finally therefore, beyond occupying the Farisan Islands and restoring the light-houses which the Turks had abandoned, it was agreed to do nothing more than maintain a patrol in the southern part of the Red Sea and keep a careful watch on the proceedings at Sheikh Syed.


On the coast of Syria, however. Admiral Peirse was given a free hand. When he arrived in Egypt the threatened invasion seemed to be hanging fire. The Arabs that had appeared across the Sinaitic frontier had retired, and though a concentration of troops had been located by French sea-planes at Beersheba, the main army of invasion seemed still to be in training at Damascus. Thanks to the long hesitation of the Turks in declaring war, the defences of the canal were nearly complete. Besides the Australian and New Zealand Divisions, which had been in training in Egypt since the beginning of December, the Indian troops which the Swiftsure had brought on had been landed at Suez and distributed along the canal. To shorten the line of defence its banks had been cut close to Port Said and the country to the eastward inundated as far south as Kantara. At Ismailia was the French coast defence ship Requin, while the Minerva and Doris were watching our right and left flank at Akaba and El Arish respectively. Air reconnaissances found no sign of movement at either place, and the lull seemed to give a tempting opportunity for harrying the Turkish communications along the Syrian coast. (See Plan p. 118. (below))

Plan - Suez Canal

(click plan for near original-sized image)

The opening came on December 11, when Admiral Peirse received instructions, if he had ships available, to watch the Syrian ports, particularly Alexandretta, Beirut and Haifa, with a view to stopping supplies for the Hejaz railway. He had two light cruisers immediately available, the Doris (Captain F. Larken) and the Askold, which the Russian Admiralty had recently placed at his disposal. This ship he sent forward to reconnoitre the coast as high as Alexandretta, and on her way she smartly cut a German ship out of Haifa. The Doris was to follow as soon as she had seen another air reconnaissance carried out in the Beersheba area. As no considerable force was found there Captain Larken at once went north, and proceeded to interpret the Admiralty instructions in a liberal manner. He began by bombarding a small earthwork near Askalon and landing a demolition party. They were fired on from the hills till a few shells dispersed the enemy. Similar reconnaissances at Haifa and Jaffa revealed no signs of a


Dec, 18-22, 1914



concentration. Further north, four miles south of Sidon, a party was landed to cut the coastal telegraph and telephone lines to Damascus. For over two miles the wire was removed and the posts cut down without opposition, and the Doris then carried on for Alexandretta, the Askold having returned to Port Said. (See Plan p.382. (below))


Plan - Eastern Mediterranean

(click plan for near original sized version)

At Alexandretta a large concentration of Turkish troops was reported, and much activity on the railway, which for some miles northward of the town ran close to highwater mark. (See Plan p. 80. (below))


Plan - Alexandretta

(click plan for near original-sized image)

Arriving after nightfall on December 18, Captain Larken landed a party two and a half miles north of Bab-i-Yunus (Jonah's Pillar, the old "Syrian Gates"), in spite of the heavy weather that prevailed. In silence they loosened a couple of rails, cut the telegraph, and successfully eluding the patrols regained the ship in safety unobserved. An hour later a train came down from the northward and was derailed. A second which appeared in the morning was shelled, but an attempt to cut off its retreat by destroying a bridge behind it failed, as its ferro-concrete construction resisted the effect of the shells.


In the afternoon of the following day, in accordance with the Ninth Hague Convention (1907), an ultimatum was sent in demanding the surrender of all engines and military stores under penalty of bombardment, and during the night searchlights were kept on the town to prevent the engines being removed. The Turkish reply was that one or more of the British subjects they had in detention would be executed for every Ottoman killed by the threatened bombardment. As this reply came ostensibly from Jemal Pasha, the Commander-in-Chief in Syria, Captain Larken informed him that if any such outrage was perpetrated it would be made one of the terms of peace that he and his staff should be handed over to the British Government for punishment.


A few hours' grace was given for a further answer, and the delay was used by the Doris to land a party just north of Payas, at the mouth of the Deli Chai, near Durt Yol, where they drove in the patrol and destroyed the railway bridge over the river. The railway station was then wrecked, the telegraph cut and the Armenian Staff brought off at their own earnest entreaty. In return for this service they afforded valuable information with regard to troop movements. Having thus stopped all railway traffic between Adana and Alexandretta, at 9 a.m. on December 23, when the period of grace expired, the Doris returned to find the ultimatum accepted.


During the night, under cover of a heavy rainstorm, the military stores had been secretly removed, but two locomotives remained, and these the Kaimakam was ready to destroy provided he could have the loan of some dynamite. Captain Larken, regretting that he had none, offered gun-cotton, and a destruction party under the torpedo-lieutenant of the Doris went ashore with it. Then a new difficulty arose. Turkish dignity could not submit to our torpedo-men having anything to do with the destruction. As it was equally impossible to trust them to use the explosive for the purpose intended, there was a deadlock. It was only broken by an intimation that gun-cotton in unfamiliar hands was apt to give unintended results. The Kaimakam then so far changed his attitude as to allow our men to lay the charges, but he still protested he could not permit any one but a Turkish officer to fire them. Hours were spent over the technical difficulty, but eventually it was overcome, with the assistance of the American Vice-Consul, by formally rating the torpedo-lieutenant as a Turkish naval officer for the rest of the day. Further delays ensued from the intractability of the engine drivers, and it was not till dark that the comedy was ended by a party of Turkish cavalry rounding up both locomotives and bringing them to the place of execution, when they were duly blown up under the beam of the Doris's searchlight.


Having completed his work at Alexandretta Captain Larken stood across the gulf to Ayas Bay, where he had heard of a likely prize. There he found the Deutsche-Levante liner Odessa, a new ship of 8,476 tons, but she had been abandoned by her crew and sunk in 2 ½ fathoms. After driving off a field battery that tried to interrupt the proceedings, an attempt was made to float her, but it was found to be impossible, and she was blown up and burned on Christmas eve. Thence the Doris moved to Mersina to see what could be done, but finding the place fully on the alert, she retired to Port Said. Further south the Askold bad been active again since December 22. On Christmas day she visited Ruad Island and landed a reconnoitring party south of Tripoli. The party was fired on, but nowhere did she observe any serious movement of troops. She also returned to Port Said, but the French cruiser d'Entrecasteaux came to Larnaca to carry on with the coastal operations. (The Amiral Charner seems also to have been in the vicinity. She had arrived at Port Sigri on December 19 in order to take up the Smyrna patrol, but Admiral Carden ordered her to Alexandretta to operate with the Doris.)


In Egypt all was still quiet. On December 19 the Regent had been proclaimed Sultan under British protection, and the severance of connection with Turkey had been well


Dec. 25-29, 1914



received. Nor were the good effects of the measure confined to the country itself. According to our information this step, combined with the bold action of the Doris at Alexandretta, had produced a marked moral effect in Syria. Still there were difficulties about continuing the operations. The American Ambassador at. Constantinople reported that the Doris's proceedings at Payas and Alexandretta had led to the imprisonment of all British subjects in the Damascus district, and they were threatened with death if Alexandretta or any undefended port were bombarded.


In view of the Turkish bombardment of undefended places in the Crimea before declaration of war the threat was impudent enough, and the Foreign Office confined itself to instructing our High Commissioner at Cairo that, while anxious that British and French non-combatants should not be exposed to imminent danger, it was desired to avoid hampering operations unnecessarily or appearing to yield to Turkish menaces. There were certain features in the situation that made the continuance of coastal operations desirable. We had intelligence of much Turkish energy in southern Syria, of the road from Hebron to Beersheba being completed preparatory to laying a railway, of much railway material at Haifa, of stores of grain and forage at Gaza; but at the same time there were no signs of a speedy advance, and, for the present, operations on the Syrian coast were confined to patrolling against contraband.


On the Akaba side things were equally quiet. Turkish cavalry patrols were occasionally seen by the seaplanes, and on December 29 the Minerva shelled working-parties of infantry in the hills, but a landing-party which reconnoitred the road into the interior saw nothing. This end of the canal line was now greatly strengthened by the presence of the Ocean, from the Persian Gulf. Captain A. Hayes-Sadler had brought her into Suez on December 29, and was directed to remain there as Senior Naval Officer till further orders. All local indications pointed to there being no imminent cause for anxiety, and this impression was confirmed by our Military Attache at Sofia. His report was that Jemal Pasha, the new commander of the Syrian army, had informed his Government that it would be impossible to send an expedition against the canal for three months. There seemed, therefore, no immediate necessity for risking the safety of British and French subjects by drastic coastal operations, and for a time they were discontinued.


But in the first days of the New Year the outlook entirely changed. Intelligence gathered in Egypt left no doubt that the invasion was to be hurried on. The unpopularity of the war was breeding discontent and desertion at Damascus, and the Germans seem to have come to the conclusion that if the blow were not struck quickly it would not be struck at all. The apparent inertia was simply due to the need of establishing food and water supplies well forward, and it was expected that enough had been done to warrant an advance very soon. The force of the invading army was estimated at 20,000 men, besides Arabs, and it seemed probable that one Turkish corps would move down by the coast routes to protect the exposed sea flank of the main advance.


In view of this information, which Admiral Peirse sent home on January 3, he was anxious to resume activity on the Syrian coast, and the Doris, which, after another air reconnaissance over Beersheba, had gone north again to look into Mersina, began a systematic harrying of the coast route. On January 5 she tried to land a party to destroy the Mersina railway bridge, but they were detected. Captain Larken, therefore, recalled them, and had to be content with wrecking the bridge by shell-fire. On the following day a double landing-party was put ashore at Jonah's Pillar, where on her previous visit the Doris had destroyed the bridge. Here the telegraph and railway lines were cut, and the timber which had been collected to repair the bridge was used as fuel for a fire to twist the rails. All was done in the face of sharp opposition from the railway patrols, and next day (the 7th) a party which had landed to blow up a road bridge further south was beaten back to the boats with the loss of one killed and one wounded. Still the bridge was afterwards dealt with by the ships' guns.


At the same time the Russians were equally active on the Anatolian coast off Sinope. On January 4 a cruiser with a division of destroyers sank a Turkish transport which was being escorted by the Hamidieh. Two days later the Russian fleet encountered the Breslau and Hamidieh, also on escort duty, but they escaped after a few shots had been exchanged. The Russians then proceeded to harry the coastwise traffic, and during the 7th-8th destroyed over fifty vessels at Sinope, Trebizond, Platana and Surmene, and finished by bombarding Khopi. Similar operations were kept up incessantly upon the sea communication of the Turkish army of the Caucasus. On January 19-20 eleven schooners and fifteen feluccas with supplies were sunk between Batum and Trebizond. The Germans could do little to stop the havoc. On January 27 the Breslau and Hamidieh, which had been continuously


Jan. 1915



engaged in escort and patrol duty along the coast, had again to fly from a squadron of Russian cruisers. The Goeben never appeared, and a rumour spread that she had been seriously damaged in a minefield at the entrance of the Bosporus on January 2. (She had, in fact, struck two mines in the Black Sea on December 26, and, though with difficulty she was repaired, her speed was reduced.)


On the Mediterranean side the severity of the blockade tended to increase, and the French were now invited to take a hand. Admiral Boue de Lapeyrere was only too anxious to assist, though some slight difficulty arose in adjusting the respective spheres of action. Since the French had already consented to both the Dardanelles and Egyptian areas being removed out of their general command of the Mediterranean, it was very desirable not to encroach upon it further. But as Admiral Peirse was responsible for the defence of Egypt, the logical arrangement was that he should have in his sphere the whole coast road from Mersina to El Arish, and particularly Alexandretta.


Upon this nodal point of the Turkish Imperial communications he wished to maintain an unbroken watch, not only to keep an eye on the movements of Turkish troops southward, but also with a view to future operations. A combined attack on the place was, as we have seen, one of the alternatives for action against Turkey which Lord Kitchener was suggesting. By very weighty opinion it was even regarded as a more suitable objective than the Dardanelles. From this point both the Bagdad and the Hejas railways were open to attack, so that a lodgment there would go far to secure our position both in Mesopotamia and Egypt, and it could be done with much less force than the Dardanelles required. Even by those who favoured the more ambitious design it was not rejected. For it was felt that if the Dardanelles defences proved too strong to be reduced, the operation could be broken off and given the colour of a feint by an immediate transfer of our attack to Alexandretta.


Admiral Peirse's view of his responsibilities was at once accepted by his French colleague, who agreed to confine himself to the patrol between Mersina and Smyrna. So the Doris remained at Alexandretta, while the Askold patrolled to the south of her, and two ships of the canal defence force, our own Proserpine and the French Requin, were told off to support and relieve them when necessary. (These two ships did one spell of patrol duty in the first half of January, but at the end of the month, when the Philomel and d'Entrecasteux joined, they returned to the canal stations.)


On January 11 the Doris reported that she had so damaged the cliffs near Alexandretta that no wheeled traffic seemed able to reach the town from the northward, and on the 16th the Askold damaged a railway bridge near Tripoli. For the rest the work was confined to blockade and reconnaissance, but till the end of the month nothing was seen to move on the coast road. Yet it was certain that a forward movement was being made, and it would look as though the operations had caused the enemy to abandon any idea they may have had of using it.

 In Egypt all preparations for defence, both naval and military, had been completed, and the country remained quiet. At the Dardanelles there was, of course, no movement of any kind, but preparations for a naval attack had gone so far that on January 15 Admiral Carden had been informed the force he required would be completed that month; till then there was nothing to do but to keep up the appearance of profound inaction.


Such, then, was the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean as January drew to an end, and the time was at hand when a final decision had to be made in regard to the Dardanelles and Zeebrugge. In the meantime events on the Western Front had begun to fix the most indeterminate factors of the problem. In the middle of the month General Joffre had developed a strong attack in the Soissons area which, though at first successful, was ultimately defeated with severe loss, and he had now decided that in order to carry out his offensive plans he must increase his mobile reserves. For this purpose he was definitely withdrawing from the line between our own army and the sea about 100,000 men, on whose presence in Flanders Field-Marshal French had relied for carrying out his push up the coast. It was clear, therefore, that a combined operation against Zeebrugge was out of the question unless reinforcements were sent him from home in such numbers as would throw out of gear the whole organisation of the new armies and irrevocably commit them to the French theatre.


Even from a defensive point of view, the situation on the Western Front was still not free from anxiety, though the latest events went far to increase confidence in the power of the Allied line to hold. On January 25 the Germans tested the strength of the British front by a heavy attack on both sides of the La Bassee Canal. To the north of it the line held, but on the south bank they gained ground, and it was not until after much sharp fighting lasting well into February that the position was restored. Elsewhere,


Jan. 1915



at several points of the long line held by the French, there were similar outbursts of local fighting towards the end of the month, but in general the resistance which the Allied line displayed did much to clear the outlook, and from the North Sea the news was equally encouraging.








(See Plan No. 3 , and Plan p.102. (both below))


Plan No. 3 The Battle of the Dogger Bank

(click plan for near original-sized image - 5.9Mb)


Plan - Strategical Plan of the Dogger Bank Action

(click plan for near original-sized image)

Since Christmas time, when the test of the new distribution in the North Sea had terminated in the unfortunate collision between the Monarch and Conqueror, reports of restlessness in the German naval ports had never ceased, and there was every reason to believe that the comparative impunity with which they had raided the Yorkshire coast in December would tempt the enemy to repeat the venture there or elsewhere. (The Monarch rejoined the Grand Fleet on January 20.) From time to time the Grand Fleet had warning to stand-by for sea at two hours' notice, and occasional reconnaissances were made to the Bight by the Harwich Force, but up till the middle of the month nothing happened.


Considering that it was possible for the Germans to strike at their selected moment and, if they chose to leave the Baltic bare, to strike with their full force, the situation was not without anxiety. With the loss of the Formidable, the disablement of the Conqueror, and ships away docking, Admiral Jellicoe could only count on eighteen "Dreadnoughts" and eight "King Edward " against the seventeen German "Dreadnoughts" and twenty-two other older battleships. The Queen Mary had just sailed for Portsmouth to be docked, the Invincible was at Gibraltar, and the Inflexible in the Mediterranean, so that Admiral Beatty had only five battle cruisers against the enemy's four. In view of recent accidents the margin was not great, though ship for ship ours were the more powerful, and about this time there was again some thought of sending the Channel Fleet to the north, that is, the 5th Battle Squadron ("Lord Nelsons" and "Implacables"), of which Admiral Bethell was once more in command, with Rear-Admiral C. F. Thursby as second flag. The three Dreadnought battle squadrons were based at Scapa with the 1st and 6th Cruiser Squadrons and the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron. The 2nd Cruiser Squadron was at Cromarty. At Rosyth were the battle cruisers, the 3rd Battle Squadron, the 3rd Cruiser Squadron and the 1st Light Cruisers.


At Harwich Commodore Tyrwhitt had the light cruisers Arethusa, Aurora, Fearless and Undaunted and the 1st and 3rd Destroyer Flotillas. Here also was the "oversea'' submarine flotilla under Commodore Keyes. (See Appendix A.)


Jan. 15-23



Such was the distribution in the North Sea when, on January 15, more circumstantial reports began to come in. The battle cruisers Seydlitz and Derfflinger were known to have left the Jade, and our agents reported such feverish activity at Kiel and Wilhelmshaven that an attack seemed imminent. Our battle cruisers, which had been about to go to the north for gunnery practice, were accordingly directed not to leave the base, and on the 17th Admiral Beatty was ordered to proceed with his battle and light cruisers west of Heligoland Bight to support a reconnaissance in force by the Harwich destroyer and submarine flotillas. It was duly carried out on the morning of January 19, but nothing was seen, and one of our submarines, E.10, which left Yarmouth for a patrol station north-west of Heligoland, never returned.


Nor in the next few days was there any further sign of activity, except that during the night of January 19-20 a new form of coastal attack was made. During the past month two Zeppelin reconnaissances had taken place towards the East Coast, but on this occasion for the first time they penetrated inland. Apparently three naval airships made the attempt, but only two reached our shores, and they dropped bombs on King's Lynn, Yarmouth and Sheringham. Two men and two women were killed and seventeen men, women and children injured. The material damage amounted to a few thousand pounds. The object of the exploit was obscure. By the crabbed psychology of the Germans a terrorising effect seems to have been looked for. Such influence as it had was in the reverse direction, stimulating effort and hardening purpose.


Signs of more serious offensive measures were dying away, and at sea things seemed to quiet down so much that the Commander-in-Chief proposed to bring the Iron Duke down to Cromarty for docking and himself to take a rest ashore, at which, after his six months' strenuous and anxious work, he was in sore need. At the same time special arrangements were made to keep watch by means of submarine patrols on each side of Heligoland and off the Ems, and orders were issued to Harwich for another reconnaissance on the 23rd. But nether arrangement was put into effect, for that morning intelligence came in which set in motion the whole machinery for controlling the North Sea. What exactly was in the wind was a matter of inference.


Great activity was reported in the Bight, and another coastal raid seemed probable. The Germans afterwards gave out that their intention was less ambitious. According to an official announcement the operation was provoked by our recent raid into the Bight, and had for its object to clear the Dogger Bank of our fishing vessels and its patrol, which they had persuaded themselves were there mainly for observation and espionage. (" Das Kreuzergefecht bei der Doggerbank am 24 Januar, nach amtlichen Quellen ": von Kapitan zur See D. von Kuhlwetter, Weser Zeitung, June 19, 1915.)


The connection is not obvious, and we must assume that if the fishing trawlers were really the objective the operation must have been designed to clear the way for some more formidable operation, the operative force allotted was four light cruisers, Stralsund, Rostock, Kolberg and Graudenz, with a strong destroyer flotilla; they were supported by the battle cruisers, Seydlitz (flag), Moltke, Derfflinger and the Bluecher, under Admiral Hipper. The Von der Tann could not accompany them, as she had not yet recovered from the damage she received during our air raid on Cuxhaven on Christmas day. (Derfflinger had 8-12", Seydlitz and Moltke 10-11" and all three 12-5.9"; Bluecher 12-8.2'' and 8-5.9". Against this the Lion, Tiger and Princess Royal had 8-13.5'' and the New Zealand and Indomitable 8-12" (See also foot-notes, pp. 31 and 33.) The German light cruisers had 12-4.1" against 8 or 9-6" of our " Town " class.)


Although the precise object of the coming operation was not known to the Admiralty, they were practically certain that a sortie was to take place on the evening of the 23rd. Their inference from the intelligence at their disposal was that they had to deal with a reconnaissance in force as far at least as the Dogger Bank, and that the force engaged would be four battle cruisers, six light cruisers and twenty-two destroyers. Information to this effect was sent out shortly after noon to the Commander-in-Chief at Scapa, to Admiral Beatty and Admiral Bradford (Commanding the 3rd Battle Squadron) at Rosyth, and to Commodore Tyrwhitt at Harwich, with orders which put in active operation the pre-arranged plan for meeting the long-expected attack.


Accordingly on the night of Saturday, January 23, as the German force was getting under way from its anchorage at Wilhelmshaven, Commodore Keyes, with the Firedrake, Lurcher and four submarines, was feeling his way out of Harwich in a dense fog, bound for Heligoland and the Ems. Commodore Tyrwhitt, with the Arethusa, Aurora and Undaunted and every destroyer ready for sea,


Jan. 23, 1915



followed, making for a rendezvous which the Admiralty had fixed on the north-east part of the Dogger Bank, clear of certain areas to the westward, which on fishermen's reports were suspected of having been mined. At the same time and for the same point Admiral Beatty was coming down with his five battle cruisers. The course he was taking was about south-east, in order to pass through the gap between the Dogger Bank and a suspected area of floating mines to the north of it. His light cruisers, under Commodore Goodenough in the Southampton, steamed straight out to sea, with orders to turn southward for the rendezvous when north of the Dogger. (1st Light Cruiser Squadron: Southampton, Birmingham, Nottingham, Lowestoft).


Between these two courses Admiral Bradford was taking the 3rd Battle Squadron and 3rd Cruiser Squadron to a rendezvous thirty miles north of the Dogger. Admiral Jellicoe, who had not yet started for Cromarty, was clear of Scapa by 9.0 p.m., and was proceeding, with the Dreadnought fleet, and his three Cruiser squadrons (1st, 2nd and 6th), disposed abreast fifteen miles on either hand and ahead of him, to a rendezvous midway between the Aberdeen coast and Jutland. Further ahead was his light cruiser squadron, under Admiral Napier, who was to reach the rendezvous at 8.0 a.m. — that is, an hour and a half before him — and then spread southwards. His flotilla was also to be there at the same time. His intention was to pass through the rendezvous at 9.30 a.m. on the 24th, and then carry on south-south east, and on this course the 4th Flotilla from Invergordon was to join him an hour later. These movements, it will be seen, practically covered the whole East Coast, with the exception of the approaches to Aberdeen, between the tracks of the battleships and the battle cruisers. The trap was perfected by a strict order that no wireless was to be used till the enemy was sighted, except for messages of the first importance.


So all night, stealthily and in silence, the various sections of the Grand Fleet sped to the appointed stations. The whole movement worked to time like a clock, except that, owing to the fog at starting, the Harwich flotillas were a little late. Up in the north it was very still, with a gentle breeze from the north-east and a quiet sea, and, as the hours slipped by, excitement grew, for now and again German wireless could be heard that seemed to indicate something serious was in the wind. But nothing further could be done, and the well-ordered combination went on unchecked.


By 7.0 — with the first shimmer of dawn — Admiral Beatty was passing through his rendezvous with his four light cruisers, who had joined about half an hour earlier, running on a parallel course five miles on his port beam. Within ten minutes Commodore Tyrwhitt was sighted ahead in the Arethusa, with seven of the new "M" class destroyers in company, led by Captain The Hon. H. Meade:


Meteor, Milne, Minos, Mentor, Mastiff, Morris. The Miranda, Commander Barry Domvile, having reached Harwich from Sheerness too late to follow the Arethusa, came on with Undaunted.


The Aurora (Captain W. S. Nicholson) and Undaunted (Captain F. G. St. John), with the rest of the destroyers, having been delayed by the fog at starting, were about thirteen miles astern:


First Flotilla: Flotilla Cruiser - Aurora. 1st Division – Acheron, Attack, Hydra, Ariel; 2nd Division – Ferret, Forester, Defender, Druid; 4th Division – Hornet, Tigress, Sandfly, Jackal; 5th Division – Goshawk, Phoenix, Lapwing


Third Flotilla: Flotilla Cruiser - Undaunted. 1st Division – Lookout, Lysander, Landrail; 2nd Division – Laurel, Liberty, Laertes, Lucifer; 3rd Division – Laforey, Lawford, Lydiard, Louis; 4th Division – Legion, Lark


After passing through the rendezvous. Admiral Beatty proceeded due south in the order Lion (Captain A. E. M. Chatfield), Tiger (Captain H. B. Pelly), Princess Royal (Captain O. de B. Brock), New Zealand (Captain L. Halsey), with Rear-Admiral Sir Archibald Moore's flag, and Indomitable (Captain F. W. Kennedy). He was on this course when he came in sight of the Arethusa, and being thus assured there was no enemy to the southward, he signalled his light cruisers, which had been opening out their distance from him, to spread for look-out duties at extreme signalling distance in a line of bearing north-east by north from the flagship. This was at 7.15, but while the signal was being made the Southampton could see gun flashes in the grey of the coming dawn ahead of her. To the Lion they were also visible on the port bow, that is, to the south-eastward, and hope beat high when, a few minutes later, the long-prayed-for signal came in from the Aurora that she was engaged with the enemy's fleet. The last signal to the light cruisers to spread was promptly negatived, with an order to " chase S. 10 E. (mag.);" and at 7.85 the Admiral held away at 22 knots





south-south-east (mag.) for the point where the flashes of the guns had been seen.


It could not yet be told whether the force of the enemy was what we expected; but from the course on which it was sighted he appeared to be making to pass north of his Dogger Bank minefield on a course which cut across that on which Admiral Beatty had come out. To this extent the intelligence on which the Admiralty had formed their appreciation was confirmed. The Arethusa, being well up to time, must have passed ahead of the raiding force without sighting them, but the Aurora, being half an hour astern, had fallen in with them. Shortly after 7.0, as she led her destroyers northward, she had made out a three-funnelled cruiser and four destroyers on her starboard beam. Dawn was only just breaking, and thinking she was probably the Arethusa, Captain Nicholson closed a little and gave the challenge.


She was, in fact, the Kolberg, and at 7.15 she opened fire at over 8,000 yards with salvoes. At first they were fairly accurate, and the Aurora was hit slightly three times, but as she replied and began to hit in her turn the enemy's fire became ragged. In about ten minutes a shell was seen to explode under the enemy's forebridge, and she turned away to the eastward. The Aurora then continued to make for the rendezvous in company with the Undaunted, who had not been able to get near enough to share the action. Further enemy forces now appeared in the distance on their starboard quarter, and our two light cruisers with their flotillas turned to the north-eastward to keep contact.


On this course they were soon in touch (7.30) with the Southampton, and through her the Aurora reported the presence of enemy forces to S.E. and E.S.E. of her. A few minutes later the Southampton sighted the battle cruisers and a group of light cruisers. They then seemed to be heading north-west, but, according to the German account, having already spread for their sweep of the Dogger, the whole force reconcentrated at the first alarm from the Kolberg, and then headed for home at high speed. (The Aurora actually reported that the enemy's light cruisers were to the E.S.E., and their battle cruisers to the S.E. of her; but this cannot be reconciled with the Southampton's report made a few minutes later or with the German account of the battle. It is probable that Aurora was mistaken in thinking that the vessels to the S.E. of her were battle cruisers.)


Since Admiral Beatty, on the Aurora's report, had altered to S.S.E. (mag.) in chase, he had been working gradually up to full speed and turning slightly to the eastward. The effect was, that in a few minutes (7.50) he himself could see the enemy's battle cruisers on his port bow fourteen miles away. Commodore Goodenough, who was keeping touch, had just reported there were four of them, and in a few minutes the whole force was seen to be steaming homewards on a south-easterly course. (The tracks and relative positions of the various units of the enemy before 7.50 are very doubtful, and up to this point no attempt has been made to plot them on the chart.)


Though the visibility was high, the dim light and the volumes of smoke which the enemy were emitting as they stoked up to escape made their movements and numbers uncertain. At a signal from the flagship, Commodore Tyrwhitt sent his "M'' class destroyers ahead to report their strength, and himself followed in support, while Admiral Beatty kept on in a general south-easterly direction and continued to increase speed.


The " M " class destroyers, led by Captain Meade in the Meteor, raced on till they had closed to 9,000 yards. The enemy then (8.15) altered course to engage them, and the rear ship, opening fire, forced them to turn away. But after half a dozen rounds the Germans resumed their flight, and Captain Meade carried on again till he was near enough to report definitely their strength and course. For the past hour the flotilla cruisers had also been sending in reports, so that by about 8.45 it was clear that the enemy consisted of four battle cruisers, at least four light cruisers, and a whole flotilla of destroyers.


By this time Admiral Jellicoe had received full information of what was going on. With his three battle squadrons and the 1st, 2nd and 6th Cruiser Squadrons disposed fifteen miles ahead and on either beam, and four divisions of the 4th Flotilla ahead of all, he had reached, shortly before 8.0 a.m., a point about 150 miles north-north-west of where the fighting had begun. He had been steering a south-easterly course, but now altered more to starboard, to intercept the enemy if they broke away north. The 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron he had sent on to the southward to join Admiral Bradford, who, with the 3rd Battle and 3rd Cruiser Squadrons, had reached his rendezvous north of the Dogger. To complete the net Admiral Jellicoe now sent him an urgent order to proceed at his utmost speed to the eastward towards a point where he would be in a position to cut the enemy off if they should make to the north-westward. These dispositions exactly supplemented those of Admiral Beatty.


His intention was to engage the enemy on their lee quarter, and this position he had not quite gained, when, at 8.15, he settled down to the chase on a parallel course. It was a stem chase and must inevitably be a long one, but as knot by knot





the battle cruisers worked up speed it became clear they were gaining. The response of the engine-room was magnificent. By 8.80 they were doing 26 knots, and the Admiral called for 27. Yet the Indomitable, whose mean trial speed was only just over 26, was keeping up, and the flagship, in admiration, signalled "Well steamed, Indomitable.'' The work of the New Zealand, which, though on her trial she had done 26, was designed for 25, was scarcely less splendid. But every man in the engine-rooms knew it was the chance of a life-time, and all that men could do they did.


The situation was now growing clearer. The Meteor was able to signal the enemy's strength, and having got up to within 9,000 yards of them, was being fired on by the Bluecher. Accordingly, Admiral Beatty, who was getting into extreme range of the enemy, recalled the Commodore and the " M " class destroyers, and directed them to take station ahead of the line. The rest of the destroyers were about two miles astern, and Commodore Goodenough's light cruisers were in a good position for observing on the enemy's port quarter. According to the weight of German and British authority, Admiral Hipper was leading in the Seydlitz, with the Derfflinger second, Moltke third, and Bluecher last, with his light cruisers and destroyers ahead. (*See note below for second and third ships in German line)


At 8.30 Admiral Beatty informed the Commander-in-Chief of the exact situation. On receiving the message Admiral Jellicoe held on as he was, and ordered Admiral Bradford, with the 3rd Battle Squadron, to steer for Heligoland in support of our cruisers and flotillas.


For Admiral Beatty the action had now settled down to a plain, stern chase. Speed was the dominating factor, and at 8.52 he signalled for 29 knots, well knowing that his two rear ships must begin to fall astern; but much had to be risked to get a hold on the rear of the flying enemy. The range was then judged to be down to 20,000 yards, and the Lion tried a shot. It fell short; a second at extreme elevation was over, and making the signal to engage, Admiral Beatty began a slow and deliberate fire on the rear ship. His firing was quickly taken up by the Tiger and Princess Royal; and, a quarter of an hour after the engagement began, the Lion seemed to be hitting the Bluecher. The range was still well over eight miles; but our leading battle cruisers, which had now worked up to their utmost speed, were gaining fast. At 9.14, as our fire was becoming effective, the enemy returned it. The Lion now shifted to the Moltke, leaving the Tiger and the Princess Royal to deal with the Bluecher. As our ships began hitting almost at once. Admiral Beatty altered slightly to starboard to bring the after turrets into bearing, and all three commenced regular salvoes.



From Battle of Dogger Bank in Outline

includes British Despatches, Casualties and Gallantry Awards

Pursuing British Battlecruisers
in line ahead - from the stern

(images, Photo Ships, except two)


*SMS Moltke was second in line, and Derffllinger third, as below


5 - HMS Indomitable






German 1st Scouting Group
also in line ahead from the stern


(all images, Maritime Quest)

4 - HMS New Zealand




 4 - SMS Blόcher

3 - HMS Princess Royal



3 - SMS Derfflinger

2 - HMS Tiger (Maritime Quest)



2 - SMS Moltke

1 - HMS Lion (Maritime Quest/Alasdair Hughes)







1 - SMS Seydlitz




Both the enemy's rear ships began to suffer. Prisoners stated that the third salvo fired at the Bluecher hit her well down on the water-line and materially reduced her speed. The fourth did enormous damage, both to ship and crew, almost carrying away the after super-structure, and disabling two turrets aft and between 200 and 300 men. Several of the Lion's salvoes were reported to have hit her new target, and from prisoners it was learned that she received a large amount of damage aft. Now, however, three of the enemy's ships were concentrating on the Lion, and at 9.28 she felt her first hit. The shell took her on the water-line and penetrated her bunkers. The damage was soon made good with hammocks and mess stools, but it was clearly time to break the enemy's fire concentration.


Already the New Zealand had begun to engage the Bluecher; so that at 9.35 the Admiral, seeing he had gained enough on the enemy, made the signal to engage opposite numbers. He himself took on the Seydlitz who was leading, and had just opened fire with her 12" guns, but as the range was still up to 17,500 yards the shots fell short; but, on the other hand, the Lion must have found the target at once. According to Admiral Scheer the Seydlitz was so badly hit astern, in the early stages of the battle, that she could not use her heavy guns aft for the rest of the action.


'' The first shell that hit her had a terrible effect. It pierced right through the upper deck in the ship's stern and through the barbette-armour of the rear turret, where it exploded. All parts of the stern, the officers' quarters, mess, etc., that were near where the explosion took place were totally wrecked. In the reloading chamber, where the shell penetrated, part of the charge in readiness for loading was set on fire. The flames rose high up into the turret and down into the ammunition chamber, and from thence through a connecting door usually kept shut, through which the men from the ammunition chamber tried to escape into the fore turret. The flames thus made their way through to the other ammunition chamber, and from thence up to the second turret, and from this cause the entire gun crews of both turrets perished very quickly. The flames rose above the turrets as high as a house."


Meanwhile the Princess Royal, in accordance with the signal, had shifted to the third ship, the Moltke, but the Tiger unfortunately misinterpreted Admiral Beatty's meaning. At 9.41, when Captain Pelly took in the signal, he was already engaging the leading ship. As the British force was five to four, and he thought the Indomitable was by this time in





action with the fourth ship of the enemy's line, he believed, that, by engaging the leading ship, he was acting in accordance with the General Fleet Instructions, which laid special emphasis on the tactical importance of disabling the enemy's van. To some extent the principle was a legacy from the sailing era, when disablement of the van necessarily threw a close-hauled fleet into confusion. Though of less decisive importance with ships of free movement, the principle was still cherished, but latterly, as the increasing power of guns and torpedo tended to long-range actions, and fire control became the dominant factor, it had been overshadowed by other considerations. It had become vital that the enemy's fire control should not be undisturbed, and consequently the master principle was that no ship should be left unfired upon.


This principle was not being observed. In spite of her fine effort the Indomitable had not yet got within range, the New Zealand was engaging the Bluecher and the Princess Royal the Moltke, so that the Derfflinger was not being fired at. The Germans were clinging to the principle of concentrating on the van, and their three leading ships were all engaging the Lion. The result was that the New Zealand and Princess Royal, being undisturbed, were making excellent practice on their opposite numbers. But, on the other hand, the Derfflinger, the middle ship of the three that were on the Lion, was also undisturbed. To make matters worse, in the gloom of the dull morning, interference from the enemy's smoke, as it drifted down the range, became so bad that the Tiger soon lost sight of the leading ships, and the Southampton signalled that her salvoes were all going over.


At this time, moreover, there was distraction from destroyers. Two of the enemy's ships, besides the Bluecher, were observed to be on fire, and to as it appeared that the German flotillas were meditating an attack, in order to check the chase. For the past quarter of an hour Admiral Beatty had been expecting an effort of this kind, but Commodore Tyrwhitt, in order not to foul the range with his smoke, had been gradually dropping back with the flotillas to a position broad on the battle cruisers' port quarter, and at 9.20 the Admiral had again ordered him to get ahead at utmost speed. But so fast were the battle cruisers going, that, do what they could, the flotillas had scarcely gained on them, when Admiral Beatty signalled a general warning to the squadron, and turned away two points (9.40). The battle cruisers had, in fact, to rely on their own powers of defence. Commodore Tyrwhitt, for all his efforts, had been unable to work his flotilla up to the head of the line, and, in desperation he ordered his '' M " class destroyers to go on ahead at their utmost speed.


Captain Meade, in spite of the odds, led away with alacrity in the Meteor, yet so great was the pace of the battle cruisers that even the Meteor, with her three fastest sisters, Miranda, Mentor and Milne, could only creep forward by inches. The anticipated attack did not take place, and for the next half hour the artillery duel continued with great intensity. It was at about this time that the Seydlitz was struck by the shell which put her after guns out of action, and our concentration of fire was certainly telling on the two last ships of the enemy's line, both of which were reported to be on fire. The Seydlitz which was leading was blazing amidships.


Our own flagship also began to suffer. At 9.54 a heavy shell struck the roof of "A" turret, smashed it in and disabled one of the guns. A few minutes later (10.1) an 11-inch shell from the Seydlitz pierced the Lion's armour. The engineer's workshop was flooded; the water spread to the open switch-board compartment, short-circuited two of the dynamos, disabled the after fire control and secondary armament circuits, and the ship began to take a list to port; but her speed, which had just been reduced to 24 knots to allow the squadron to close up, appears to have been maintained, and the battle continued at a range which increased considerably after our turn away at 9.40. (It would seem there was some reason to believe that the 10.1 hit narrowly missed having still more serious consequences. After piercing the ship's armour without exploding it passed through the top of the 4-inch magazine trunk and then broke in two. Had it by some chance burst at this precise moment an explosion in the magazine would probably have followed, which must have badly crippled the ship's fighting power, but the chance of course was fairly remote.)


Shortly after 10.0 the action assumed a new aspect, but what occurred is difficult to determine, for from now the movements of each Admiral became obscure to the other. Away on the port beam of the battle cruisers. Commodore Goodenough, who all this time had been maintaining his observing position on the enemy's port quarter, came under so heavy a fire from the Bluecher, that he had to turn his squadron right away and open out the range, before he could resume his course. To him it seemed that the Bluecher had sheered away from our battle cruisers, and so come within range of the light cruiser squadron; but to Admiral Hipper it appeared that our light cruisers were closing him, and he ordered his battle cruisers to engage with their port armament and drive them off.





Our own battle cruisers were no less uncertain of the enemy's movements. Their destroyers were setting up a dense screen of smoke, so that it was no longer possible even to spot the fall of our shells, and the impression on Admiral Beatty's mind was that another attempt from their flotilla was imminent, and that the heavy ships were sheering to the northward to get out of range.


But none of the German authorities, who have described the battle, make any mention of such a manoeuvre; and it is unlikely that Admiral Hipper should have committed his squadron to a move calculated to reduce its lead on our ships at the very moment when he was making every effort to get away. It is probable, therefore, that the Bluecher, which by now had suffered severely, yawed away to the northward at about 10.0, and that the remainder of the German squadron roughly maintained its course and speed, except for an occasional zigzag to throw out the range.


At 10.18, when Admiral Beatty, by successive turns towards the enemy, had brought the range to about 17,500 yards, two more shells from the Derfflinger struck his flagship. So great was the shock that at the moment it was thought a torpedo had got home. In any case it was bad enough. One shell hit the armour below the water-line, drove several plates through the timber backing and flooded the foremost port bunkers. The other pierced the armour on the water-line forward, burst in the torpedo body room, and in a few minutes all the adjacent compartments were flooded up to the main deck. It was too hot to last.


The enemy's fire was accurate and very rapid; the salvoes fell well together; their leading ships had got her range so well that splashes from their " shorts " were drenching the conning-tower and turret hoods like green seas, and Admiral Beatty was forced to begin zigzagging. All that our battle cruisers had left in them was now needed if they were to come to a decision. By this time it was fairly certain that under cover of the smoke screen the enemy's rearmost ships had hauled out on the port quarter of their leader. At 10.22, therefore, Admiral Beatty, in spite of the damage to his flagship, responded with a signal for his squadron to take up a line of bearing N.N.W. (mag.) from him, and to proceed at utmost speed.


He was desperately anxious to close the range for decisive action, but he could do no more than this, for the enemy's flotilla at once altered to starboard, and it seemed as though they meant to parry any attempt of ours to get to port by forcing us to cross their wake if we persisted in it. This was a risk that could not be taken for fear of minelaying, and there was nothing for it but to rely on speed to overlap the fleeing enemy, and so either force them to the northward towards Admiral Jellicoe or compel them to accept close action. The day was still young, they were over a hundred miles from Heligoland, our battle fleet was on its way down, barely 150 miles to the northward, and all the ships, except the Derfflinger, showed signs of suffering. There could, indeed, be little doubt of a crushing victory if only our speed would hold.


The Bluecher, at least, was clearly doomed. She was still burning; and, while making a desperate effort to return our fire, she seemed getting out of control and was dropping astern, but was able to follow her consorts. The remaining enemy ships were evidently bent on getting back to their base, and to this end they were wisely staking everything on disabling the British flagship. Two of them, if not all three, were still concentrating on her, and not without effect. Between 10.35 and 10.50 shell after shell hit her. Again the armour was pierced and more bunkers flooded. A shell burst in " A " turret lobby and caused a fire. It was quickly extinguished, and still the only thought was to get to decisive range, and that nothing should check the rush the Admiral made a signal, which like the old " general chase,'' made tactics subservient to the one thing needed. It was to close the enemy as rapidly as they could without throwing guns out of bearing. At the moment (10.48) the Bluecher, out of control, began a wide circle to port, a movement which quickly brought her within range of our own light cruisers, who engaged her. Her movement was at once detected by the Admiral, and he signalled to his rear ship, the Indomitable, which had just come into action, to " engage the enemy breaking away to the northward."


To all appearance the prospect of a crushing victory, worthy to rank with the two famous chases of Anson, was in Admiral Beatty's grasp, when suddenly the whole outlook was changed. Shortly before 11.0 the Lion was shaken from stem to stem by a hit that drove in the armour on the water-line abreast of one of the boiler-rooms and did so much damage to the feed tank and in the engine-room that the port engine had to be stopped. No. 1 dynamo was also thrown off by a short circuit, so that both light and power failed, and the list to port increased to 10 degrees. So the flying enemy attained his end. The Lion could now do no more than 15 knots, and though as full of fight as ever, she had to fall out of her station and see her consorts race past her.





The result was all that the advocates of concentration on the van could wish. Owing to the injuries the flagship had suffered the Admiral lost control of the squadron and apparently was unable to transfer it to his second-in-command. In fact, a period ensued at the crisis of the action when neither Admiral was in a position to direct the movements of the fleet, and inevitable confusion of aim occurred. It so happened that just before the Lion was forced to fall out of the line, and while the Admiral was still in full control, submarines were reported on her starboard bow.


(Gayer, (Vol. 1, pp. 22-3), states: "During the afternoon of the 23rd U.19, U.21, U.32 and U.33 had been made ready to proceed on that day to the rendezvous of our battle cruisers. They might, therefore, have been used decisively on the 24th. Regardless of these considerations, U.21 left harbour during the afternoon of the 23rd for the Irish Sea; U.19 and U.33 were kept ready in the Ems, and U.32 was out on patrol fifteen miles to the north of Borkum. ... On the morning of January 24, the submarine captain on duty in the Ems, when he received the signal from Admiral Hipper that enemy forces had been sighted, sent out the three submarines then in readiness to support our own squadron, which was then returning to the Heligoland Bight in action with a superior force. But it was too late." On those facts it is clear that none of these submarines could have been on the spot where they were reported or have taken any part in the action.)


To avoid them the Admiral signalled for eight points together to port (10.54). The movement was not without danger. On the new course the squadron must pass across the track of the enemy's destroyers and be exposed to the peril of mines. The Admiral quickly saw, however, that the turn as ordered was unnecessarily wide. It made the course north by east, almost at right angles to that of the enemy, and would mean losing a lot of ground before the chase could be resumed. All that was needed was that the squadron should not pass over the spot where the rear of the destroyers line had been at the moment when the turn was made; if that was cleared, the mine danger was cleared. Accordingly at 11.2 two minutes after the eight-point signal had been hauled down, he hoisted " Course N.E." The new course, while it converged with that of the enemy, was enough to avoid the danger point, and at the same time would cut the Bluecher off from the rest of the German squadron, and, as he hoped and expected, force them to turn back to her support. If, however, they decided to leave her to her fate, his intention was to turn again to a parallel course as soon as he was clear of the track of the enemy's destroyers.


German authorities claim that at about this moment Admiral Hipper did in fact make an effort to save the Bluecher by ordering his flotillas to attack, and by turning his squadron to the southward. If by this last movement he hoped to lead our battle cruisers from his stricken ship, the sharp turn which we made in an opposite direction at eleven o'clock must have disconcerted him. He had, as it were, offered a gambit which his opponent had declined. It is quite dear, however, that his attempt to extricate the Bluecher was abandoned almost at once; for neither the destroyer attack nor the turn to the southward was so much as noticed in our squadron. It may well be that the German Admiral, when he saw our eight-point turn at right angles to his own course, believed he would be able to gain enough ground on his pursuers to save his squadron. It must at last have seemed to open up a new prospect of escape which should be exploited to its utmost possibility, and he therefore resumed his course for home, leaving the Bluecher to her fate. If our estimate of the damage suffered by his remaining ships is accurate, it was the best thing that he could do.


On our side. Admiral Moore took charge of the squadron in circumstances of exceptional difficulty. By Admiral Beatty's orders the squadron had just been turned at right angles to the enemy's course to avoid a reported submarine. The range was therefore opening out very fast, and, if we are to understand rightly what followed, it must be borne in mind that Admiral Moore had not sighted a submarine and was unaware of the reason that had caused the Vice-Admiral to order an abrupt turn across the rear of the flying enemy. Nor was it possible for Admiral Beatty to explain.


The Lion was fast dropping astern and she could no longer act as guide to the squadron. Her wireless was out of action, she had only two signal halyards left, and Admiral Beatty felt that all he could do to make his intentions clear before abandoning control of the action was to hoist two short signals. The first was, " Attack the enemy's rear," and the second that which Nelson had used as his last word at Trafalgar, '' Keep closer to the enemy." Unhappily the signals were very difficult to read. As the wind was, the flags blew end on to the other three battle cruisers, and the first of the two signals seems to have been hoisted before the compass signal " Course N.E." had been hauled down. The result was that the Rear-Admiral concluded that his Chief was ordering the squadron to " attack the enemy's rear bearing N.E." that being the meaning of the flag groups as they were seen from the New Zealand, as well as from the Tiger and Indomitable, who both logged the signal in the same terms. The misunderstanding would, in all probability, have been cleared





up by the Vice-Admiral's final signal, "Keep closer to the enemy"; but none of the battle cruisers took it in. The Bluecher, which bore about N.E. from the New Zealand, was therefore taken to be the objective indicated, both by the eight-point turn made at 11.0, and the signals subsequently received. The Tiger and Princess Royal at once ceased firing on the Derfflinger and Moltke, and edged off to starboard to circle round the Bluecher. True, she was still fighting gamely. In spite of her condition she had been straddling our light cruisers so accurately that Commodore Goodenough had been forced to turn away. But he was again engaging her and, what is more, Captain Meade, seeing it was hopeless to reach the enemy's flotilla, was concentrating his four " M " class destroyers to make an attack on her, so that escape was no longer possible for the forlorn ship. Thus the German battle cruiser squadron, half beaten as it was, was left alone. The luck which had snatched the Germans from our grasp at the time of the Scarborough raid stood by them, and, for the second time, gave them a means of escape.


Admiral Moore had no difficulty in performing the duty that he thought had been assigned to him, for the Bluecher's final destruction was now certain. It could be seen that Commodore Goodenough's ships were hitting her effectively at 14,000 yards, and she could only fire with two of her turrets. A Zeppelin which came over and tried to intervene was driven off. The Arethusa was also coming up, and so were the '' M " class destroyers, and at 11.20 the Meteor was near enough to fire a torpedo; but, as she was manoeuvring for position, she was hit forward by a heavy shell, which burst in the foremost boiler-room and put her out of action. The other three destroyers took their turn and hits were claimed. The Arethusa had just come into action with her foremost 6" gun, and, holding on till the range was down to 2,500 yards, starboarded her helm and engaged with torpedo. Two were fired and both, it was claimed, took effect, one under the fore-turret and one in the engine-room, with, the result that all her lights were extinguished. The Bluecher too, fired torpedoes at the Arethusa, and possibly also at the battle cruisers as they crossed astern of her, but the distance was too great, and they circled round her, pouring in salvoes till she was a mere mass of smoke and flame. Then, at last, deserted, completely out of control and without power of resistance, she gave up the unequal struggle.


For three hours, during which she had been the focus of an overwhelming concentration of fire, she had never ceased to reply. Twice our light cruisers had approached to complete her destruction, and twice she had forced them to draw off. As an example of discipline, courage and fighting spirit her last hours have seldom been surpassed.


At 11.45 Commodore Tyrwhitt signalled that she appeared to have struck. Admiral Moore then ceased fire, and turned his attention to the ships that had abandoned her. In circling round her he had come to about his original course, and could at once resume the chase. But the three flying battle cruisers were now well out of range — over twelve miles away — and still apparently doing their full 25 knots. Was it possible to overtake them? It must be two hours, he calculated, before he could get into effective range again, and by that time, since he made his position a little over eighty miles from Heligoland, they would be close to the island. It would be practically impossible to push things home to a decision, particularly as the squadron had intercepted a signal to Commodore Keyes, who was disposing his submarines on their intercepting positions, that the High Seas Fleet was coming out. There was also the Lion to consider. Not a word could be got from her, and in grave fear for her safety Admiral Moore decided to retire in her direction, and leave the light cruisers to rescue the Bluecher's survivors.


As he held away back to the north-westward. Commodore Tyrwhitt closed the burning ship in the Arethusa. " She was," he says, " in a pitiable condition — all her upper works wrecked, and fires could be seen raging between decks through enormous shot holes in her sides." She had a heavy list to port, and on her upper deck and net shelves were clustered some 800 men, who raised a cheer as the Arethusa drew near to the rescue. She had got within a hundred yards when, at 12.10, the Bluecher suddenly capsized, and after floating a few minutes bottom upwards disappeared. All boats were immediately lowered, and with the help of the destroyers 260 survivors were picked up. More might have been done, but a seaplane came up and began to bomb the rescuers. It was quickly driven off by gunfire, and did no harm, except to kill some of the Bluecher's men who were still struggling in the water. Even assuming the enemy mistook her for a British ship, which they probably did, their action was a grave violation of the old courtesies of war upon the sea. The survivors could only be left to their fate, particularly as a Zeppelin was coming up, bent, apparently, on repeating the sorry attack, and Commodore Tyrwhitt had to call off his destroyers and boats.





Of all this Admiral Beatty knew nothing. So far as he could tell the chase was still being pressed as he had intended, and he was doing his utmost to rejoin it. In about a quarter of an hour after me Lion fell out of the line, having ascertained that immediate repairs were impossible, he determined to shift his flag and endeavour to resume command. At his call the destroyer Attack was smartly brought alongside while the Lion was still under way, and by 11.50 he was away in her to rejoin the squadron at her utmost speed. But the effort was in vain. When at noon he came in sight of them they were coming back towards him.


At a loss to know what it meant, he held on till he was abreast of the Princess Royal, and then, going alongside, transferred his flag to her. His hope was that at least one of the three flying ships had been sunk, and even before he heard they had all been suffered to carry on homewards in their damaged condition, he signalled to turn back 16 points after them. Further inquiry and reflection, however, convinced him that no more could be done. It was now too late, the crucial half-hour had been missed, and he came reluctantly to the conclusion that there was nothing left to do but re-form the squadron and go back to the Lion to cover her retirement.


When he picked her up she was heading homewards, still steaming with her remaining engine at about 12 knots, but her position was not a little precarious. Enemy submarines had been sighted by the squadron shortly before they closed her, and so tempting a target was likely to need all the destroyer protection that could be afforded. On the other hand, the flotillas, having heard the report of the High Seas Fleet being out, were anxious to sweep back at dark and make an attack upon it in force. At 2.30 Admiral Beatty proposed to the Commander-in-Chief that he should keep one flotilla to screen the Lion and send the rest back towards Heligoland to try to catch the German fleet after dark. About the same time, however, the Lion's starboard engine began to give trouble — her speed dropped to 8 knots, and it looked as if she would soon not be able to steam at all. By 3.30, before Admiral Beatty received an answer about the destroyer attack, it was clear she could not carry on alone, and he had to order the Indomitable to take her in tow. Shortly afterwards, and before he knew the state of affairs. Admiral Jellicoe sent word that he was detaching the 4th Flotilla to provide a screen, and that Commodore Tyrwhitt might sweep towards Heligoland with his own two flotillas to cover the withdrawal of the injured ship. But the movement was never carried out. With the Lion in tow the danger of torpedo attack was greater than ever, and all available protection would be needed. By the time Admiral Jellicoe's message was received the two sections of the Grand Fleet, which since the abandonment of the chase had been rapidly approaching one another, were in visual contact, and having fully realised the situation, the Commander-in-Chief ordered that the whole of the flotillas should be devoted to screening the two exposed ships.


Nor was even this considered sufficient. They were also to be protected to the eastward by a cruiser screen. At 2.16 p.m. Admiral Jellicoe had ordered the 2nd Light Cruisers, which he had sent down to act with the 3rd Battle Squadron, to carry on to Admiral Beatty, and both light cruiser squadrons now formed in line ahead ten miles on the Heligoland side, and the whole force proceeded to the northward, till at 4.30, when the two Admirals were in sight of one another, the Commander-in-Chief turned back for Scapa. An hour later the Lion was in tow. The night was now falling — at any moment the German destroyers might appear — but not till he knew all was going well did Admiral Beatty move northward out of the danger area with his three remaining battle cruisers, and leave his wounded flagship with her escort to make her way direct to Rosyth.


It was an anxious night. Shortly after Admiral Beatty parted company the Lion's engines broke down altogether, and the Indomitable could make but little more than 7 knots. It was scarcely to be believed that the enemy would not attempt a destroyer attack, and in the night a change of course was made, so as to avoid the direct route north of the Tyne minefield. Hour after hour went by with no sign of the enemy, and the fear that he might be postponing an attack until daylight increased the anxiety when morning broke. It found the Lion well within the area of the enemy's submarine activities and over a hundred miles from her base. It was an ideal spot for submarines to lie in wait. With break of day the flotillas reformed as a submarine screen, but still no enemy showed himself. All that day they toiled on, increasing speed as some of the Lion's flooded compartments were pumped out, and so at last, by a fine display of seamanship, she was brought into safety, and before dawn on January 26 was anchored in the Forth.


So ended the second timorous attempt of the Germans to prove their allegation that the old spirit of the British navy was dead. Their cue was to boast that their enemy was skulking in port with no power to assert a domination of the


Jan. 26, 1915



North Sea. They had their answer, but it was not such an answer as our own men could have wished. The old spirit was too rigorously alive to be content with such a victory. Still, much had been done, and the solid outcome was that for many a long day the Germans did not venture again to make good their idle claim. Several months elapsed before the German Government issued a detailed account of the action, and this long silence, combined with the inaccuracies of the report, when published, told plainly enough how severe had been the moral shock of the encounter. The assertion that our forces consisted of ''thirteen large ships and seven small cruisers " is certainly difficult to explain.


Admiral Scheer has accurately described the composition of our squadron in his narrative of the battle, and we are forced to conclude that documents accessible to him were either withheld from the official reporter, or handed over in a garbled condition. The report also alleges that, excepting the Bluecher, the German snips were hardly hit at all, and this statement must have been read with great surprise on board the three surviving cruisers. Their claim to have inflicted heavy losses on us, though untrue, was probably more honest. The enemy had twice seen Commodore Goodenough's squadron come within range and turn away as though badly hit; they had twice brought our destroyers under a heavy fire; they had observed their shells exploding upon the Lion, and had watched her turn away out of the line with a heavy list, whilst, as she did so, our squadron made a movement, which, to them, must have looked as though we had given up the fight. In addition to all this the commander of the German destroyer V.5, which took part in the attack at the close of the action, was confident that he had torpedoed one of our battle cruisers; and he was corroborated by the German airship, which did so much execution amongst the helpless survivors of the Bluecher. Her report was that only four of our large ships withdrew from the battle. (See Scheer, pp. 83-4.)


These things combined very likely induced the German authorities to believe, quite honestly, that we had suffered more than we chose to admit. In reality we had nothing to conceal, for our losses, with the exception of damage to the Lion, were negligible. The Meteor was towed safely into the Humber by the Liberty, with four dead and two wounded, and no other destroyer was touched. In the Lion, the casualties were eleven men wounded; in the Tiger, Captain C. G. Taylor the Squadron Engineer Officer and nine men were killed, and three officers and five men wounded. The other three battle cruisers were not once hit.


What the German loss actually was is more difficult to say. In the Bluecher alone the Germans lost over 1,100 killed, drowned or prisoners, besides the casualties that must have occurred in the other overcrowded ships. (Prisoners stated that 880 was the proper complement for the Bluecher, who had also on board 250 from the Von der Tann. Ah the other ships had similarly increased crews, the Derfflinger having 1,600.)


Credible reports from Denmark told of 1,150 wounded having been brought to the St. Paul's Hospital at Hamburg after the action, and that the Derfflinger came into the Vulcan Yard badly damaged. By a later report the Seydlitz arrived at Wilhelmshaven with 260 wounded, while the master of a Norwegian steamer, who witnessed the action, believed he saw two destroyers sunk. Allowing ample margin for exaggeration, such losses alone marked a severe defeat. However the Germans might seek to conceal the truth, they recognised it by retiring behind their minefields, while our own uninjured ships kept the sea till the term of the cruise expired.








The effect of the action on the general situation was to demonstrate the efficacy of the new distribution for improving our hold on the North Sea, and materially to reduce the chances of the enemy being tempted to hazard a military raid upon our coasts. The need of maintaining large numbers of troops for Home Defence was sensibly less, and, as we have seen, in the days immediately following the action, anxiety for the security of our position in Flanders was equally relieved by the results of the fighting then in progress.


It was on January 28, four days after the action, that the final decision to attack the Dardanelles was taken by the Government. Although Admiral Carden had been informed that his plan was accepted, the matter was still far from settled. The committee which had been appointed to consider the question of alternative objectives for the new armies, had not yet come to any conclusion, but it would seem that the course of events had been tending to move opinion towards direct action in the Balkans by way of Salonica. On January 28 negotiations were opened with Greece, offering her certain territorial concessions if she would take the field to assist Serbia. On the 27th her reply was received. She was ready and willing to act if Bulgaria would co-operate, but if Bulgaria would go no further than benevolent neutrality, then the assistance of Roumania would be necessary. If Bulgaria's neutrality could not be assured, then Greece would require, in addition to Romnania's active co-operation, the support of such a contingent from the Entente Powers as would ensure her against possible fluctuations in the attitude of her shifty neighbour. For this purpose, M. Venizelos explained, two army corps, either British or French, would suffice.


Under these conditions it was evident nothing could be done from Salonica for the present, with the result that opinion was solidifying in favour of an attack on the Dardanelles. It seemed at least the quickest way of fixing the attitude of Bulgaria, and though the naval attack on the Dardanelles had not been definitely sanctioned, the preparatory work which the Admiralty had been directed to undertake had made such rapid progress that the necessary ships were already on their way out. The project, moreover, had been communicated to our Allies and had received their approval. Russia was particularly eager in favour of the project as a means of relieving the pressure on her army in the Caucasus. In the first week of January it had heavily defeated the Turks at Ardahan, and having practically annihilated their Vth Corps at Sarakamuish, had broken up Enver Pasha's ambitious plan of envelopment with which it had been threatened, but the effort had exhausted the Russian impetus, and it had not been possible to pursue the victory to Erzerum.


At the moment, however, the Turks thought the place was in imminent danger. The shattered army which had retired there was clamouring for reinforcement, and at Constantinople the alarm was so great that there was a strong movement for abandoning the Egyptian expedition. This, of course, the Germans violently opposed, but so strained were their relations with the Turks at this time, in consequence of the disaster in the Caucasus, that a massacre was feared and they were sending their families away. From Greece it was reported that Egypt had actually been given up, in spite of German pressure, but this was not so. Reinforcements for the Caucasus were found from the Constantinople district, and the panic passed as it was found that the Russian pursuit had stopped far short of Erzerum.


There the Turks had securely established themselves and were reorganising their army. There, too, the reinforcements were beginning to reach them, and anxiety passed to the other side. At Petrograd it was now feared that unless something was done to stop the flow the position of the Russian army would soon become as critical as ever. Not a man could they spare from the Eastern Front. In that quarter their hands were more than full. The defence of Warsaw, and the fighting in Galicia and Poland were taxing their strength to the last ounce. They were once more looking eagerly to the situation in the Mediterranean, and to the Grand Duke the Dardanelles project seemed to promise just the kind of diversion that he required. The French also so far recognised its possibilities that when, after the preliminary decision of January 13, the First Lord informed them of the project Monsieur Augagneur, the Minister of Marine, had come over to discuss it. He himself was of opinion, so well did he


Jam. 12-25, 1915



think of it, that the French fleet should take part in the enterprise, but nothing had yet been definitely settled. (Dardanelles Commission, Report I, p.23)


Still there was serious opposition, and it came from the best British naval opinion, with the First Sea Lord at its head. There was no question of his not realising the importance of drastic action in the Eastern Mediterranean. Indeed, we have seen how, early in January, when the question of an alternative theatre first came up, he pronounced in favour of Turkey, and how the scheme he then formulated for a large combined operation had to be rejected as impracticable. Naval opinion, of course, never doubted the unwisdom of engaging in such an undertaking except in combination with a military force, but if a military force was not to be obtained, it was not their way to sit down and protest they could do nothing when action of some kind was so crying a necessity. So long, therefore, as it was a mere question of a demonstration to relieve the pressure on the Russian Caucasus Front, the First Sea Lord had not a word to say against the fleet trying to do its best alone.


He even suggested adding the Agamemnon and Lord Nelson to the older battleships that had been assigned to Admiral Carden, and as late as January 12 he proposed that the Queen Elizabeth, which was under orders to do her gunnery at Gibraltar, might just as well spend the ammunition on the Dardanelles forts. But when the enterprise began to take on the aspect of a serious attempt to force the Straits, and reduce Constantinople, without military co-operation, he began to contemplate it each day with graver apprehension. The enterprise would certainly entail the use of a large force: and the loss of many ships. So much, indeed, would have to be staked for success, that it would gravely prejudice, and even render impossible, the plans he was elaborating to secure a perfect control of Home waters and the Baltic.


So firmly convinced did he become of the viciousness of the navy getting prematurely involved in so extensive an oversea enterprise while the Home control was imperfect, that on January 25 he placed a memorandum before the Prime Minister setting forth his views. The principle on which his objections were based, the principle, that is, of command of Home waters being the condition precedent of all large oversea operations, was fully in accord with our naval tradition. So well established was it that no exception had ever been recognised except overwhelming political necessity. Assuming, however, that a naval attack on the Dardanelles was technically feasible, there had seldom been a case when political necessity more fully covered the exception. The First Lord therefore was able to meet his colleague's objections with another memorandum, in which he compared the relative naval strength of Great Britain and Germany, and showed that our superiority was sufficient to allow us to undertake a subsidiary operation, without prejudicing our command of the North Sea. It was submitted to the Prime Minister on the 27th, and thus it will be seen that when the War Council met next morning the Board of Admiralty was not in a position to give it a firm opinion on the all-important question. (Dardanelles Commission, Report I, p.25-7)


It is to be doubted, however, whether it was a case which could be decided on naval authority at all. A purely naval attack on a strongly fortified base was admittedly a departure from established doctrine which involved manifest risk. Once, and once only, had such an attempt succeeded, and that was when Rooke, with the fleet alone, had seized Gibraltar by a coup de main. But the famous rock fortress was then but in its infancy, and scarcely comparable, as an objective, with the Dardanelles. On the other hand, owing to new technical developments, the chances of a fleet against a fortified naval position could not be measured by the most accomplished experts with any degree of certainty. All that was clear was the political necessity for action and the decisive advantages that success would bring. It was pre-eminently therefore a matter for Ministers to decide. When expert opinion differed it was they, and they alone, who must judge the extent of the risk involved, and they, and they alone, who must judge whether the probable advantages of success justified the acceptance of the risk.


The main question, it must be borne in mind, was to settle, in accordance with the earlier resolution, whether the time had not come to select an alternative offensive theatre, for the employment of the new armies, in case of a deadlock in France. That such a deadlock would soon have to be recognised scarcely admitted of doubt. It was already evident that for a considerable time at least it would be out of the power of either side to make any decisive impression on the other, and since General Joffre had withdrawn over 100,000 men from the Flanders area, it was obvious that Sir John French's plan for an advance on Zeebrugge was out of the question. No immediate decision was taken, and it appears to have been understood that the special committee that was considering alternative objectives would make a final report in the afternoon.


Jan. 28, 1915



As there was little doubt of what it would be, the Council when it met in the morning of January 28 had to face the fact that the point had been reached, when, for the present, we had in view no plan for offensive action except the proposed attack on the Dardanelles. At the previous meeting the plan of operations elaborated between Admiral Carden and the War Staff had been fully explained and a decision to carry it out had been taken, and, since that date, the Admiralty had pushed forward their preparations. But, in view of the First Sea Lord's memorandum, Mr. Churchill felt it his duty to raise the question afresh.


After stating with what enthusiasm the Grand Duke had welcomed the project, how the French also favoured it and had promised co-operation, and how far the preparations had gone for opening the enterprise in the middle of February, he once more explained the plan which Admiral Carden believed to be feasible and asked for an opinion as to whether the Council considered the enterprise was of sufficient importance to justify the undoubted risks it involved. The First Sea Lord at once protested. He had understood, he said, that the question was not to be raised that day. Early in the morning they had both met in the Prime Minister's room to place their divergent views before him. After a full hearing the Prime Minister had decided that those of the First Lord had the greater weight, and he now ruled that the matter had gone too far to be left any longer in abeyance.


Lord Fisher then left the table with the intention of handing his resignation to the Prime Minister's private secretary. Lord Kitchener also rose and took the First Sea Lord aside before he left the room. After pointing out to him that he was the only one present who disapproved of the operation, he induced him to forgo his intention of resigning and to return to his seat. Lord Kitchener then expressed the opinion that the naval attack was vitally important. If successful it would be equivalent to winning a campaign with the new armies, and it had the great merit that it could be broken off at any time if progress became unsatisfactory. The other Ministers concurred in the decisive political effects success would produce, and the final word seems to have been left to the Admiralty, to say whether, in view of the opinions expressed as to the great political advantages of success, they would proceed to face the risks. (Dardanelles Commission, Report I, p.26-7, 53)


Nothing definite was said about the troops, though the First Lord appears to have made no secret of his conviction that the attack could not be m