Naval History Homepage and Site Search



World War 1 at Sea - Contemporary Royal Navy Accounts


HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR - NAVAL OPERATIONS, Volume 4, June 1916 to April 1917 (Part 1 of 2) by Henry Newbolt


Published by Longmans, Green, London 1928

Lieutenant William Skynner, HMS Hampshire, lost 5 June 1916 (Peter Skynner, no enlargement)

on to Naval Operations, Vol 4, Part 2 of 2


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




A Modern Introduction


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


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


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


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


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


Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net













Vol. IV












(only edition)







I. After Jutland

     Result Of The Action ... 1

     Professional Opinion ... 18

The Effect On Fleet Tactics ... 16


II. Home Waters, June to October 1916 ... 19


III. Home Waters, October 1916 to February 1917 ... 52


IV. The Outer Theatres (East And West Africa, Mesopotamia, Baltic) and The Mediterranean ... 80

1. East Africa And Lake Tanganyika ... 80

2. The Cameroons ... 85

3. Mesopotamia ...  87

4. The Baltic ... 91

5. The Mediterranean ‑ The Evacuation of the Serbian Army ... 99

6. The First Cruiser Action in the Adriatic ...106

7. The Evacuation of the Serbian Army ‑ (continued) ... 118

8. Salonica, January to June 1916 ... 125


V. The Mediterranean, June 1916 to January 1917 ...135

1. The Bulgarian Invasion of Northern Greece and its Consequences ‑ An Allied Fleet at the Piraeus ... 135

     2. Further Demands upon Greece ... 146

     3. The Landing Parties at Athens ...166

     4. Submarine Warfare ... 178


VI. The Raiders ... 176

     1. The Moewe ... 176

     2. The Leopard ... 191

     3. The Seeadler ... 195

     4. The Wolf ... 209


(Part 2 of 2)


VII. German Naval Policy, 1916‑1917 ... 229


VIII. The Mediterranean, January To August 1917 ... 276

     1. Submarine Warfare, January to May 1917 ... 276

2. Attack on the Otranto barrage ‑ Action in the Adriatic ... 297

3. Submarine Warfare, May to August 1917 ... 306


IX. Unrestricted Submarine Warfare ... 323

     1. February to April 1917 ... 323

     2. The Admiralty's Appreciation ... 325

     3. The Problems of Submarine Warfare ... 333

     4. The German Estimate of British Endurance at Sea ... 341

     5. The Achievements of Submarine Warfare, 1914-1917 ... 346

     6. Unrestricted Submarine Warfare begins ‑ Attacks on the Dover Straits ... 352

     7. Further Attacks on the Dover Straits ... 360

     8. The Submarine Campaign, April 1917 ... 379





A ‑ Precautions Against Raiders During 1916 ... 386

B ‑ Submarine Organisation In Home Waters ... 388



Index (not included – you can use Search)





Loss of the Hampshire ... 21

The Dover Straits Barrage ... 54

Lake Tanganyika Operations ... 82

The Entrance to the Baltic ... 92

The Central Baltic ... 94

The Balkans ... 100


(Part 2 of 2)


The Patrol Zones in the Mediterranean ... 276

The British and German Dispositions in the Dover Straits, February 25‑26, 1917 ... 353

The British and German Dispositions in the Dover Straits, March 17‑18, 1917 ... 361

Dover Straits Dispositions ... 366

The British and German Dispositions in the Dover Straits, April 20‑21, 1917 ... 371

Diagram Showing the Progress of the Submarine Campaign, June 1916 To April 1917 ... 382



(not included)

Map No.

1. Operations in the North Sea on August 19, 1916

2. The Raid on the Dover Straits, October 26-27, 1916

3. Operations in the Flanders Bight, January 23, 1917

4. Map to Illustrate Operations for the Relief of Kut

5. Strategical Plan of the Action in the Adriatic, December 29, 1915

6.  Tactical Plan of the Action in the Adriatic, December 29, 1915

7.  The Attack on the Allied Landing Parties at Athens, December 1, 1916

8.  First Operations Against S.M.S. Moewe, December 10-31, 1916

9.  Operations Against the Moewe

10. Plan Illustrating the Action in the Adriatic, May 15, 1917

11. The Submarine Campaign in the Channel and Western Approaches

12. & 13 Will Be Included in the Next Volume

14. Intercepting Dispositions








The Naval History of the Great War suffered at the end of 1922 an irreparable misfortune—the loss by death of its first architect and builder, Sir Julian Corbett, a man not only of intellectual and literary ability, but also of wide historical experience and balanced judgment. It was evident that the task of his successor must necessarily be a hard one: more than half the work remained to be done, and the qualities required were not likely to be once more found in full combination. On the other hand, the risk of failure was slightly lessened by two circumstances. First, the continuator would have the advantage of inheriting the system built up by his predecessor, and the services of the Staff who had been trained by long years of efficient and enthusiastic cooperation. The time has perhaps not yet come to say more on this point, which well deserves to be amplified and illustrated; but I cannot pass by without a tribute of admiration and gratitude the ten years' work of the late Mr. H. G. A. Leveson, the archivist of the Historical Section.


The second favourable circumstance was due to a coincidence. Sir Julian's last volume closed with the close of the battle of Jutland. Much remained to be said about that event, but the event itself had been fully narrated: the first stage of the war had been brought to a definite conclusion. The period of great naval operations in the old sense was over: the remaining volumes of the History were to deal with a new kind of war, a naval war on a vast scale, but conducted mainly by blockade and counter-blockade, both unexampled in kind; and with a moral struggle in which the vital conflict at sea was inseparably interwoven with a conflict of imponderable forces, acting by intrigues and negotiations, national and international. The new aspect would naturally call for some change or development of method, and the contrast between the working of two minds might thus be fortunately obscured.


A glance at the contents of the present volume will bear out what has been said. In the three opening chapters Sir Julian's narrative is directly continued from June 1, 1916. As the mists of confusion and misrepresentation clear away, the result of the battle of Jutland is plainly seen - the British policy and position are confirmed, and an imperative necessity is laid upon the German Government to abandon fleet action and go forward on the line of U-boat development.


At this point we are reminded that the work involved in the main struggle was not the sole call on our Navy: efforts were necessary in all parts of the world, some incidental to the main policy, some merely auxiliary to military operations on land: and some, again, carried on jointly with Allied forces. In order to place the whole position in a clear light it is necessary to bring up to date these secondary operations, and the eight sections of Chapter IV have this purpose. They include the adventurous story of the Tanganyika expedition - the smallest and most distant of the whole war, and one of the most successful: the brilliant episode of our submarine service in the Baltic: and the concluding scenes of the epic of the Serbian Army.


Chapter V takes up the story of the Mediterranean war, and endeavours to disentangle the threads of Anglo-French policy in relation to the Kingdom of Greece. This chapter, though in some ways unlike anything in the previous volumes, is written in full accord with the principle laid down by Sir Julian Corbett in his first Preface - "to give an intelligible view not only of the operations themselves but of their mutual connection and meaning, the policy which dictated them, their relation to military and diplomatic action, and the difficulties and cross-currents which in some cases delayed their success and robbed them of their expected results." The Greek affair is a marked example of the necessity for this treatment.


In Chapter VI is related the story of the German attempt to repeat the adventure of the Emden on a larger scale. It may be confidently assumed that no British reader will withhold his admiration from the fine seamen who commanded the four Raiders, or fail, on the other hand, to appreciate the vast and splendid Admiralty organisation before which their effort died away into futility.


Chapter VII brings us to the true climax of the war: we see, as we could not see before the publication of the German Official Documents, the bare truth about the gambler's choice which the supremacy of the British Fleet was certain to force, sooner or later, upon the Directors of the German war policy. By the autumn of 1916 the conflict has defined itself as one between the British and German systems of blockade: the British method is unendurably effective, the German is effective but not, so far, unendurable. It can be made so, in the opinion of the German admirals, but only by playing "the last card " - unrestricted submarine warfare - and that will, in the opinion of the German statesmen, bring into play the long-restrained hostility of America. The story of the fatal decision is highly dramatic, but it has an interest still higher. It exposes the intrinsic unfitness of the German Imperial system for directing the policy and conduct of a hardly contested war. The chapter ends with the entry of America into the struggle.


Chapters VIII and IX complete and sum up the account of the submarine and anti-submarine war in the Mediterranean and in Home Waters during the earlier part of 1917. The volume ends at a moment which appeared at the time to be the most dangerous and perplexing in our history: the reckless progress of the final German effort had brought us much nearer to privation than we had ever thought to be. The situation is dramatically one of extreme tension; but every reader of our narrative will know already that in our next volume we shall see one of the traditional methods of the British Navy adapted to meet the new crisis with complete and final success.


I am glad to offer my cordial thanks to Admiral von Mantey the Director of the Marine-Archiv in Berlin, who has kindly supplied me with a great deal of information about the movements of German naval forces employed in operations described in this volume.


Henry Newbolt.

August 1928.










Admiral Jellicoe's Battle Fleet (1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th Battle Squadrons) with the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron, the 11th and 12th Destroyer Flotillas, and part of the 4th Flotilla, arrived at Scapa between 10.30 a.m. and noon on June 2.1 At 9.45 p.m. Admiral Jellicoe reported to the Admiralty that the Grand Fleet was at its base, re‑fuelled, with steam at four hours' notice, and ready for sea. In reply to an inquiry, Admiral Beatty reported at 11.20 p.m. on June 8 that three of his ships, the New Zealand, Indomitable and Inflexible, were ready for action, and three others, the Lion, Tiger and Princess Royal, were available for action if necessary.


The result of the Jutland action may be summed up as follows from the purely strategical point of view:


The 2nd Cruiser Squadron with the Duke of Edinburgh (1st Cruiser Squadron) remained at sea searching for disabled ships, and reached Scapa on the afternoon of June 3. Other ships came as follows: the Marlborough (1st Battle Squadron) arrived in the Humber at 8 a.m. on June 2, and the Warspite was already at Rosyth by 3 p.m. on June 1; the Barham proceeded to Devonport and the Malaya to Cromarty for repairs on the 3rd.


The Nonsuch (12th Destroyer Flotilla) with the Unity and Acasta arrived at Aberdeen in the evening of June 2, the Acasta in tow by the Nonsuch. The Defender arrived at Aberdeen at I p.m. on the 2nd with the Onslow (13th Destroyer Flotilla) in tow. The Porpoise, Contest, Garland and Spitfire (4th Destroyer Flotilla) arrived in the Tyne on June 2, and the Broke at 6 p.m. on the 3rd. The Christopher (4th Destroyer Flotilla) and the light cruisers Active and Constance, who were detached on the 2nd to look for the Broke, returned on June 3 to Rosyth and Scapa.


The Battle Cruiser Fleet (1st, 2nd and 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadrons) arrived at Rosyth on the morning of June 2. The Lion, Tiger and Princess Royal had received twelve, ten and six hits respectively, but did not dock for repairs until a week later. The Australia, which had not been in the action, arrived from Devonport on the 3rd and rejoined her squadron on the 10th. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Light Cruiser Squadrons arrived at Rosyth on the morning of the 2nd, but without the Chester (3rd Light Cruiser Squadron), which had gone into the Humber for repairs on the 1st, and the Southampton (2nd Light Cruiser Squadron), which had been obliged to heave to and plug the shell holes in the waterline. The Birmingham had remained in company, and they both arrived in Rosyth about 12 hours after the remainder of the Battle Cruiser Fleet. The Southampton was taken into the dockyard a few hours after her arrival in harbour. The 1st and 13th Flotillas with attached destroyers arrived at Rosyth on the morning of June 2. The Onslow and Petard (13th Destroyer Flotilla) proceeded to Aberdeen and Leith for repairs.


Admiral Scheer had failed in his object of cutting off and overwhelming part of our advanced forces, and had found himself unexpectedly entrapped into meeting the Grand Fleet. From this encounter he had succeeded in extricating himself at considerable expense, but, on the other hand, both before and after the main action he had inflicted upon us more serious losses than he could ever have contemplated. Admiral Jellicoe had outmanoeuvred and surprised the High Seas Fleet, and for him the net result of the action had been to increase the Grand Fleet's large margin of superiority as a combative force, a defence against invasion, and an instrument of blockade. The control of the North Sea remained in our hands, and any expectation that this control might be weakened or taken from us had been finally dissipated. Merchant vessels which before the battle had been lying up in various ports put to sea on June 2 without hesitation.


It was not, however, from the purely strategical or the purely practical point of view that a general action between the two great fleets could at the moment be judged by the British or the German nations. On the one side, an empire founded and sustained by naval power and for a century accustomed to rely upon a well‑proved maritime supremacy had been looking eagerly for a decisive encounter which would mark a turning‑point in the war, and give the world a spectacular proof of its superiority at sea. On the other side, a people with no experience of naval war and no accurate judgment of the value of its untried weapon was moved by the conflicting emotions of ambition and apprehension. A second Trafalgar, an overwhelming and destructive British victory, was, among the several possible results, the only one which could not have surprised either side; what actually happened was unexpected by both. There is evidence that in the German navy, in spite of its high fighting spirit, the severe injuries received and the obvious necessity of retiring from close action caused a certain amount of dismay, but it would appear that, among the officers at any rate, the most marked feeling was one of relief and enthusiastic congratulation at having met the Grand Fleet and escaped without suffering something like complete destruction. It must also be remembered that the amount of guidance given to public


June 2, 1916  



opinion in the two countries differed very greatly both in skill and thoroughness. The methods of censorship and propaganda were practised by the Germans with premeditation and mechanical efficiency; by the British rather as an afterthought, and always with an instinctive feeling that candour would in the long run prove to be the most effective of psychological influences. This difference was well illustrated on the one side by the saying of Admiral von Holtzendorff that "in life it is not things as they are which decide, but the images people make of them. Whether Great Britain's naval predominance remains or not depends on what the rest of the world outside of Germany thinks on the matter on the last day of the world war." On the other side, no better example can be chosen than the first announcement of the battle of Jutland written by the First Lord of the Admiralty and issued to the Press on the evening of June 2, 1916. It ran as follows:‑


" On the afternoon of Wednesday May 31, a naval engagement took place off the coast of Jutland. The British ships on which the brunt of the fighting fell were the Battle Cruiser Fleet, and some cruisers and light cruisers supported by four fast battleships. Among those the losses were heavy. The German battlefleet, aided by low visibility, avoided prolonged action with our main forces, and soon after these appeared on the scene, the enemy returned to port, though not before receiving severe damage from our battleships. The Battle Cruisers Queen Mary, Indefatigable, Invincible, and the Cruisers Defence and Black Prince were sunk. The Warrior was disabled, and after being towed for some time, had to be abandoned by her crew. It is also known that the destroyers Tipperary, Turbulent, Fortune, Sparrowhawk and Ardent were lost, and six others are not yet accounted for. No British battleships or light cruisers were sunk. The enemy's losses were serious. At least one battle cruiser was destroyed, and one severely damaged; one battleship reported sunk by our destroyers during a night attack, two light cruisers were disabled and probably sunk. The exact number of enemy destroyers disposed of during the action cannot be ascertained with any certainty, but it must have been large."


Looking back from a position of complete knowledge and with the whole course of the war far behind us, we can now distinguish the merits of this announcement and the single point upon which it was disappointing. It was candid, accurate and restrained, and these are qualities upon which our people specially pride themselves. Yet it caused dismay and even indignation, because, while it said not a word that could ever be regretted, it did nothing to meet the immediate need of the nation. It disappointed high hopes without offering instead any estimate of the measure of success gained, or giving any guidance to the public as to the resulting naval position or the probable future course of the war at sea. It was, in short, designed as a first instalment of news, to be followed by further information when available, and by an appreciation when all should be known. To adopt so scientific a method at so sensational a moment was a proof of extreme confidence in the stability and good sense of our people; the stability was apparent from the first, as in all the disappointments of the war, but the good sense took time and some rather ill‑co‑ordinated efforts to establish itself.


This was partly due to the difficulty of ascertaining the details of the fighting and of the losses incurred on each side. The British Admiralty, only six hours after their first statement, issued a later report in which they substantially corrected the list of our destroyer casualties, but also claimed that three German capital ships had been sunk instead of two. This was substantially true, for besides the Pommern and the Luetzow, the Seydlitz had in fact sunk in shallow water on the way home, and was only raised and towed in some days later. But the German Admiralty were ahead of us both in time and enterprise. Their Official Report, dated June 1, and published on the 2nd, was received in neutral countries and commented on in the Press at least a whole day before any news arrived from English sources. It ran as follows:


"During an enterprise directed northward our High Seas Fleet encountered on May 31 the main part of the English fighting Fleet, which was considerably superior to our own forces. During the afternoon a series of heavy engagements developed between Skagerrak and Horn Reefs, which were successful for us and which also continued during the whole of the night. In these engagements, as far as is known up to the present, were destroyed by us the large battleship Warspite, the battle cruisers Queen Mary and Indefatigable, two armoured cruisers apparently of the Achilles type, one small cruiser, the new flagships of the destroyer squadrons, the Turbulent, Nestor and Acasta, a large number of Torpedo-Boat destroyers and one submarine.


June 2, 1916



By observations, which are free from any objections, it was stated that a large number of English battleships suffered damage from our ships' artillery and from the attacks of our Torpedo-Boat flotillas during the day and night engagements. Among others, the large battleship Marlborough was hit by a torpedo, as has been confirmed by prisoners. Several of our ships rescued portions of the crews of the sunk English ships, among whom were only two survivors of the Indefatigable. On our side the small cruiser Wiesbaden was sunk by hostile artillery fire during the day engagements, and the Pommern during the night by a torpedo. The fate of the Frauenlob, which is missing, and of some Torpedo-Boats which have not yet returned, is unknown. The High Seas Fleet returned to our ports during the day."


Both the overestimates and the omissions in this document are notable. We had lost no large battleship, no light cruiser, nor had any English battleships been damaged by German gunfire, except three of the advanced squadron with Admiral Beatty. But we all know how difficult it is to obtain trustworthy evidence on such occasions: it was the deliberate concealments which differentiated this report from the British one. On their own side, the German Admiralty only admitted the loss of the Pommern and the Wiesbaden; they added that the Frauenlob and some destroyers had not returned, but said nothing of the grounding of the Seydlitz nor of the destruction of the Elbing and the Rostock, light cruisers, and the Luetzow, battle cruiser, all three of which they had been compelled to abandon and sink themselves. This omission obviously cannot have been due to lack of information: it was made deliberately, on the principle that what the enemy's eye hath not seen, his heart cannot rejoice over. The effect, however, was in the end unfavourable, as we shall see presently. British newspaper comment on the Official Reports was at first little but a chorus of disappointment, to which the more responsible voices added a note of consolation here and there. The Times hoped that the German losses would be found to balance ours; the Morning Post and Daily Telegraph pointed to the. retreat of the enemy, and concluded that our battle cruisers had suffered because, while operating ahead of the main squadron, they had for a time been in action with the whole of the High Seas Fleet. This view was also taken by the naval correspondent of the Westminster Gazette the same evening, and by Sunday morning it was generally accepted by the press‑reading public.


On Monday, June 5, the British Admiralty issued a new report which ran as follows:


"To Press Bureau for publication, 9 p.m. ‑ Until the‑C. has had time to consult the officers engaged, and to write a full despatch, any attempt to give a detailed history of the naval engagement which began on afternoon of May 31 and ended in morning hours of June 1, would evidently be premature. But the results are quite plain. The Grand Fleet came in touch with the German High Seas Fleet at 3.30 on the afternoon of May 31. The leading ships of the two fleets carried on a vigorous fight, in which battle cruisers, fast battleships and subsidiary craft all took an active part. The losses were severe on both sides; but when the main body of the British fleet came into contact with the German High Seas Fleet, a very brief period sufficed to compel the latter, who had been severely punished, to seek refuge in their protected waters. This manoeuvre was rendered possible by low visibility and mist: and although the Grand Fleet were now and then able to get into momentary contact with their opponents, no continuous action was possible.


They continued the pursuit until the light had wholly failed; when the British destroyers were able to make a successful attack upon the enemy during the night. Meanwhile, Sir John Jellicoe, having driven the enemy into port, returned to the main scene of action, and scoured the sea in search of disabled vessels. By noon the next day (June 1) it became evident that there was nothing more to be done. He returned, therefore, to his bases, four hundred miles away, re‑fuelled his fleet, and in the evening of June 2 was again ready to put to sea. The British losses have already been fully stated, and there is nothing to add to, or subtract from the latest account published by the Admiralty. The enemy losses are less easy to determine. That the accounts they have given to the world are false, is certain ‑ and we cannot yet be sure of the exact truth. But from such evidence as has come to our knowledge, the Admiralty entertain no doubt that the German losses are heavier than the British ‑ not merely relatively to the strength of the two fleets, but absolutely. There seems to be the strongest ground for supposing that included in the German losses are: two battleships, two Dreadnought battle cruisers of the most powerful type, two of the latest light cruisers (Wiesbaden and Elbing), a light cruiser of the Rostock type, the light cruiser Frauenlob, at least nine destroyers, and a submarine."


June 5, 1916  



This report set out two claims to victory: first, we had "driven the enemy into port and scoured the sea in search of disabled vessels"; secondly, we committed ourselves to the statement that the German losses were not relatively, but absolutely, heavier than ours.


To the report were added an appreciation by Mr. Winston Churchill, and a semi‑official report by a highly placed naval officer. A brief analysis will show the direction in which they influenced public opinion.


Mr. Churchill evidently did not accept the official estimate of enemy losses. The whole purpose of his statement was to show that the loss of the Luetzow or the Derfflinger, with the Wiesbaden and Elbing, was more serious for the Germans than the sinking of the Queen Mary, the Invincible and the Indefatigable. If he had believed our claim to have sunk "two battleships and two Dreadnought battle cruisers," his argument would have been beside the point. In the second place, he did not rely upon the fact that we had driven the enemy into port. In his view the reassuring aspect of the battle was not that we had remained in possession of the scene of action, but that the enemy had no surprises in store for us. (A rumour that the Germans were arming their ships with heavier guns than ours had actually been the subject of investigation by the War Committee.) This was an indirect but clear announcement that we might look forward with confidence to any future meeting of the fleets.


This summary deserved better treatment than it received. Mr. Churchill had set aside estimates which were unproved, but had at the same time shown that, even on the least favourable reading of the communiques, there was no need for alarm. He had, in fact, been both critical and encouraging, at a moment when it was not easy to be either. Unfortunately for the success of his effort, he had not accepted those assurances of heavy German losses which the nation considered to be our best title to victory. Partly on this account, partly because he was unpopular at the time and the country was irritable from disappointment, his appreciation raised a violent squall of criticism, and little or no attempt was made to grasp the meaning of what was perhaps the soundest and most objective estimate of the battle which had yet appeared. The semi‑official report by "a high naval officer" was also an important contribution. Who he was has never been made known; but his account was a tactful attempt to correct in one particular of great practical importance the false impression which the public had been taking from the Press.


The Admiralty knew, from Admiral Beatty's telegram and from that of the Commander‑in‑Chief, that the loss of our battle cruisers had been caused not by a stronger, but by a numerically weaker enemy force. It needed no expert commentary to make clear the point that, however this had happened, it was an event without precedent in British naval history, and with a significant lesson for the future. The Admiralty could not, in the public interest, impart this lesson to the nation before they had themselves taken action upon it; but the attention of the critics might usefully be recalled to the facts.


The "high naval officer" did this discreetly in the following words: "The great battle had four phases: the first opening at 3.15 p.m., when our battle cruisers joined action with the enemy's battle cruisers. Shortly afterwards, the second phase began, with the arrival, on both sides, of the battleships; the third phase was the engagement of the battleships, which was never more than partial. . . . "


This was a well‑timed corrective, for on June 5, the day when it appeared, the Press had passed to the enthusiastic mood and was practically unanimous in acclaiming the victory "because, as we now learn, the German fleet lost more heavily than the British," and in describing it as primarily due to the incomparable fight of our battle cruisers against "the flower of the German High Seas Fleet." To these commentaries the Admiralty could make no objection: they were not derived from confidential communications, but from official reports, and their substratum of facts, though inaccurate in detail, was substantially sound ‑ for the enemy fleet had been heavily damaged, and our battle cruisers had fought with the traditional naval spirit in unforeseen and trying circumstances. But the public were none the less being drawn into accepting views which were not only exposed to criticism on minor points, but which might help towards the misunderstanding or neglect of some of the true lessons of the battle.


It would, however, have been a great misfortune if the legend of Admiral Beatty's heroic and unequal contest had been allowed to circulate through the nation without correctives; and the Press was well provided with expert writers who were quick to see the need for a more critical attitude. On the next day, June 6, either in consequence of the "high naval officer's" report, or because a verbal hint had been given by the Admiralty officials to the representatives of the Press, special articles in three leading journals began cautiously


June 6‑7, 1916    



to recapitulate the phases of the action in a new light, and on the 7th, Land and Water published an article which at last initiated the movement towards intelligent technical criticism. The new tendency was strongly shown in articles published by the Daily News and the Globe on June 9. Of these, one dealt with the problem of securing the magazines of a capital ship against the danger of explosions caused by gunfire; the other contained an examination of the rival claims of armour and gunpower in the design of a modern battleship. This line of inquiry was obviously suggested by the loss of the battle cruisers, and the article remarked that "in any case it seems established that our cruisers were destroyed not so much by the punch and smash of the enemy's gunfire as through an omission in their design."


During the next month the Press did not publish anything which effected any fresh change in the nation's attitude with regard to the battle. It may be said, then, that it had taken no more than one week ‑ from June 2 to June 9 ‑ for the British mind to swing to its anchor. It is impossible to say how far the ordinary public grasped the significance of the facts, which had now come through to them, but it was an unmistakable sign of health that they had begun to take a scientific rather than a purely emotional interest in them. They soon saw that the matters now under discussion were beyond their scope, and they perceived, at the same time, that their first instinctive anxiety had disappeared. The Grand Fleet was as ready and as competent as ever to fulfil its duties: its dispositions and routine were unchanged; any necessary technical improvements would, no doubt, be put in hand at once. The Admiralty showed no sign of apprehension as to the future of the war at sea, and private letters from officers and men present in the action, which were being published in many papers, proved that the navy's one desire was to meet the enemy again as soon as possible with a few more hours of daylight in hand for a fight to a finish. In short, the position was intact, and the question of victory had been shown to be a merely verbal one.


The soundness of the standpoint thus reached by our people was strikingly affirmed by the public opinion of the neutral nations of Europe ‑ the more strikingly because the first account of the battle came to the latter from Berlin, and by anticipating our own by twenty‑four hours, produced for a day or two a belief that we had really suffered nothing less than a defeat. In Denmark it was noted on the evening of June 2 that "ten hours have passed since the German report, and no news has come from England. The English silence is believed to be a confirmation." Dutch papers on that day and the next also spoke of our silence as "no very favourable sign." In Rome only the German account was printed on the 3rd. And in both Holland and Sweden the British communique, when it did come, was taken to confirm the German statements about a stupendous victory. On the 4th the Basler Nachrichten suggested that if our damaged ships were in proportion to those sunk, "Germany, before two or three months are over, will break the blockade and end the war." In Zurich too it was the opinion on June 8 that "the losses of the English fleet give the Germans the right to speak of victory." A still more adverse view was that of the Dutch Standard on the 5th, which declared "the position on the great waters completely transformed."


So much the enemy had gained by their prompt and secretive method of propaganda: they were now to pay the price and find themselves losers on the transaction. On the 8th after five whole days of silence, they issued a communique which gave a denial to all British reports, official and semi‑official, upon the action. After elaborating this contradiction at some length, the German authorities stated it had been necessary for military reasons, to conceal the loss of the Luetzow and the Rostock, but that, in view of British exaggerations, it had been decided to reveal them. This belated admission caused a strong and general revulsion of feeling. Alike in Denmark, Holland, Norway, Sweden and Spain there were sarcastic and contemptuous comments on the untruthfulness of the German reports. The famous expression "to lie like a bulletin" was said exactly to fit the German official communique; and this last was greeted with universal derision in Holland, where it was thought to resemble "an entreaty to the world to believe that Germany had really gained a victory." The Germanophil Swedish paper Svenska Dagbladet complained bitterly that "the German authorities are trying to throw dust in the eyes of readers," and the Stokholmstidning, a journal often unfriendly to the Allies, spoke on June 9 of the last German communique as "affording a painful surprise to those who have uncritically accepted the dogma of the defeat of the British battle fleet." In Denmark the Tidens Tegn of June 10 contrasted the "admirable frankness" of the British Admiralty and the "peculiar light" thrown on the German reports by their acknowledgment of losses previously denied, concluding that "even if the victory was not a complete one, there can be little doubt


June 8‑16, 1916  



that it must be credited to Admiral Jellicoe." In Spain El Mundo remarked on June 10 that "no one can blame the Germans for seeking safety, but one does blame their subsequent brag," while El Liberal pronounced that in Germany "the rulers have transformed what might have been a crushing disaster, averted by a timely flight, into a motive for national rejoicing." By June 16 it was perceived in Norway that "England's position as the world's strongest sea‑Power was not - as originally supposed ‑ shaken." In Holland it was considered that "the English carried off the fruits of victory, and still rule the sea, despite heavy losses." The Nederlander enunciated the principle that "the fleet which is first in a position to renew the conflict is victorious," and implied that the German fleet was not in that position. The Dutch naval officers were reported to be "filled with admiration for the speed with which Jellicoe was ready for action again."


In short, the neutral nations, like our own, had in a few days come back to their old moorings, realising afresh that there are in war such things as material facts, and that they will more often than not end by nullifying "the images which people make of them." We must not do the German leaders the injustice of supposing that they were not able to perceive this. It might be desirable to make images for the encouragement of their people and the maintenance of a hopeful tradition in their young navy; but for the determination of policy facts must weigh more heavily. Admiral Scheer tells us that the main lesson of the Battle of Jutland was thus summarised by him at the time: "The battle proved that the organisation of our Navy as a High Seas Fleet was a step in the right direction. The German national spirit can only be impressed on the world through a High Seas Fleet directed against England. If, however, as an outcome of our present condition, we are not finally to be bled to death, full use must be made of the U‑boat as a means of war, so as to grip England's vital nerve." (Scheer, Germany's High Sea Fleet, p. 177 (Eng. ed.).)


This was no passing opinion, but a fixed point of policy. On July 4 the Admiral sent a written report to the Kaiser, giving privately his "final impressions of the battle." The operative words are contained in the last paragraph. "With a favourable succession of operations the enemy may be made to suffer severely, although there can be no doubt that even the most successful result from a high sea battle will not compel England to make peace. The disadvantages of our geographical situation ‑ and the enemy's vast material superiority ‑ cannot be coped with to such a degree as to make us masters of the blockade inflicted on us. A victorious end to the war at not too distant a date can only be looked for by the crushing of English economic life through U‑boat action against English commerce." (Scheer, p. 169.) This proposition he afterwards stated a third time still more precisely: "As English economic life depended on sea trade, the only means of getting at it was to overcome the fleet, or get past it. The former meant the destruction of the fleet, which, in view of our relative strength, was not possible. The U‑boats, however, could get past the fleet."


Here, discreetly but clearly expressed, is the most important part of the truth about the battle. It was afterwards put rather more frankly by other officers and critics ‑ by Captain von Hase, for instance, in his Two White Nations (Part 11, p. 41), by Admiral von Capelle (Secretary to the Navy), by Captain Persius in the Berliner Tageblatt, and no doubt by many others when speaking in private. The German Fleet's "enterprise" was "frustrated by the battle of Jutland. Jellicoe did not for an instant surrender the command of the sea. The battle netted us a great number of cripples which most urgently needed repairs"; and "the losses sustained by our Fleet were enormous, and on June 1, 1916, it was clear to everyone of intelligence that this fight would be, and must be, the only one to take place. Those in authority have often admitted this openly." That was, of course, later, when the actual pressure of our blockade was inevitably necessitating the extreme policy to which Admiral Scheer had been more immediately converted. But there can be no doubt that the date of the change is the date of Admiral Scheer's first summary; it was the morrow of Jutland.


The battle therefore, though in a wholly unexpected way, had proved to be a turning point in the war at sea. Neither side now looked for a decision by a meeting between the two fleets; both were compelled to face a contest of a different kind, which must inevitably prove fatal to one or the other. The preliminary operations of this final struggle had already taken place, but their significance had not yet been realised. Our weapon was the Blockade of Germany, the pressure of which was gradual and cumulative; the enemy's was the U-boat attack, which had already caused us loss, but had not yet become dangerous. If it should be developed, by a desperate effort, to the utmost pitch of intensity, we should be faced


June‑July 1916



by the possibility of so great and rapid a loss of shipping as would starve us and our armies before our enemy collapsed under our grip. The launching of this effort by our enemies, its alarming immediate success, the repulse of it by new methods of protection and of counter‑attack, the fierce and continuous fighting of two huge fleets whose ships were numbered by hundreds and their losses by millions of tons, the destruction, the endurance, the breathless anxiety, prolonged not for hours or days but for many months incessantly ‑ all this will make up the story of a single naval operation, the decisive battle of the war, the greatest sea fight in history.


Professional Opinion.


The Admiralty and the Commander‑in‑Chief were equally anxious to get a considered professional opinion upon every aspect of the battle. Almost as soon as the fleet returned to harbour, Admiral Jellicoe appointed committees of gunnery, torpedo and signalling experts to report upon the manner in which the fleet material had stood the test. As soon as the Admiralty received the despatches of the Commander‑in-Chief, they put them into the hands of expert departments for examination. The committees of the Grand Fleet and the Departmental Staffs of the Admiralty were only concerned with technical matters; questions of leadership and naval policy were dealt with exclusively by Admirals Jellicoe and Beatty, the First Sea Lord, Sir Henry Jackson, and the Director of Naval Construction, Sir Eustace d'Eyncourt.


Neither the Commander‑in‑Chief nor Admiral Beatty had any hesitation in saying that the real significance of the battle was the destruction of the battle cruisers. It was, indeed, without historical precedent that a force of the first line, like Admiral Beatty's battle cruiser fleet, should be so severely damaged by a numerically weaker squadron. Admiral Jellicoe spoke of it as the disturbing feature of the action; and Admiral Beatty asked that a committee of scientific men should be sent to Rosyth without delay to investigate the causes of the disasters.


If Admiral Beatty had by then formed any opinion about the loss of his battle cruisers, he did not express it. He merely stated the problem as it stood: three British ships had exploded when hit, German ships had not done so even under the severest punishment. Admiral Jellicoe was more outspoken, and attributed the disasters to the "indifferent armour protection of the battle cruisers." His view was shared by Captain Dreyer, one of the great experts on fleet gunnery, who made out a technical minute upon Admiral Beatty's letter.


The fleet and squadronal committees on gunnery were rather painfully impressed by the extraordinary rapidity with which the German gunners had got the range of our ships; and drew up a long list of recommendations for improving and renewing our range‑finding instruments and for revising our own system of salvo firing. These were recommendations on points of detail; the general conviction in the fleet seems to have been that the disasters of the day were not likely to recur, if the magazines and handing‑rooms could be made more secure against explosions caused by jets of flame coming down the ammunition hoists at enormous temperatures and under high pressure.


Experts were also convinced that the fuzes to our shells would have to be re‑designed upon a new principle. (See Vol. III, p. 337.) The type of fuze used during the battle was extraordinarily sensitive, and mere impact with the water had frequently been sufficient to burst the shells. Some fuze was needed which, like the German, would detonate shells after they had penetrated the hull of their target. On this point the Admiralty and fleet experts were absolutely agreed, and experiments with a new design of fuze were at once taken in hand by the Ordnance Committee.


Although the Admiralty at once endorsed the technical findings of the fleet committees, they were slower in making up their minds upon the major problems of the battle; and it was not until Sir Eustace d'Eyncourt had examined the despatches that discussion was focussed upon the vital issues. Sir Eustace then at once drew attention to the gravity of Admiral Jellicoe's remarks. If the Commander‑in‑Chief's view was accepted, the guiding principle of British warship design would have to be reversed, and the designs of the new battleships Renown and Repulse reconsidered.


The fundamental maxim of British warship design had been that the best defence is a superior power of offence, but it was not possible to adhere to this and at the same time allot a greater proportion of a ship's total tonnage to armour protection. Sir Eustace carefully examined the reports of all the ships' captains who had witnessed the disasters to the battle cruisers, and decided that the explosions had been caused by the method of transporting charges to the guns, and that the remedy lay in altering the whole routine of the gun drill. In his opinion, there was nothing


June-July 1916



in the available data which would justify a departure from the existing Admiralty building policy. After a long and exceedingly technical discussion, the Board agreed with Sir Eustace d'Eyncourt. A letter was sent to the Commander‑in‑Chief telling him that the Admiralty had taken immediate and far‑reaching steps to make armoured ships less subject to explosion, and then added: "Having given careful consideration to the reports available to them, My Lords are forced to the conclusion that, in some of the ships engaged in the action of May 31, the precautions necessary to the safety of the cordite cartridges were, to a certain extent, subordinated to the great desire, necessarily felt, to achieve a rapid rate of fire. My Lords consider that the stringent instructions and measures, cautionary and protective, which have now been instituted, will have the effect of safeguarding charges and sensibly diminishing the risk of explosion."


This then was the verdict of the existing Board upon the loss of the battle cruisers. Their "far‑reaching" measures against explosion are that mass of technical improvements and alterations which, taken together, constitute what is known as "post‑Jutland design." The Board's immediate judgment upon the disasters of the battle was therefore that they were the outcome of defects which could be made good, and that they could not be attributed to the design and construction of the battle cruisers.


Now that all the relevant facts are known, there can be little doubt that the remedies suggested by the fleet committees were sufficient to ensure against a repetition of the disasters, and that the Board of Admiralty were right in deciding that the basic principles of British warship design needed no revision. The figures and narratives published by the German Admiralty are an extraordinary testimony to the gunnery standards of the British battle fleet. We now know that during the brief, interrupted action between the main fleets some fifty shells from the British battle squadrons struck the German battle cruisers, and that, during the same period, no fewer than twenty‑six shells from Admiral Jellicoe's battleships found their mark in the leading ships of the German line. (See The German Official History (Der Krieg zur See 1914‑18. Nordsee Band V, p. 477). The German battle cruisers were hit seventy times in all; from the narrative it appears that fifty of these hits occurred during the battleship action. The 5th Battle Squadron were responsible for about half of the remaining twenty. The surviving British battle cruisers were hit twenty‑eight times by large projectiles.)


These results were not obtained in a regular gun duel, but from spasmodic bursts of fire against targets which loomed for a few minutes out of the North Sea mist and disappeared into it again, and must certainly rank as an achievement which Admiral Hipper's gunners, in their best moments, could hardly equal.


The Effect on Fleet Tactics.


On September 11 Admiral Jellicoe issued a revised set of Orders and Instructions relating to battle tactics; and on October 17 he sent out a memorandum entitled "Notes on the defence of the battle fleet against torpedo attack." These memoranda are perhaps the most important documentary records of the immediate effect of Jutland upon fleet tactics. Other revised orders were issued, but none bear so clear an impress of the battle and its consequences as these.


The Commander‑in‑Chief's original battle orders contained two tactical rules which were the first derivatives of his plan of engaging the enemy on approximately parallel courses, in a single deployed line. The first of these rules was that the command was to be entirely centralised in the Commander‑in‑Chief, the Dreadnought fleet was to keep together, and squadron commanders were not to make independent tactical movements unless expressly ordered to do so. The second rule, equally important in the Commander‑in‑Chief's plan of battle, was that the destroyer flotillas were to be used defensively until the enemy was beaten by gunfire.


It is very significant that each of these governing rules was reprinted, without alteration, in the new Fleet Orders issued by the Commander‑in‑Chief on September 11. Obviously, then, no drastic change in our tactical methods was called for as a result of the action. The new instructions were intended to adjust our tactical scheme to the enemy's, and not to alter it in any important particular. The enemy had successfully employed evasive tactics, and the Commander‑in‑Chief in his new instructions was making out a detailed answer to a single question: How could we give effect to our plan of overwhelming the enemy by gunfire in the teeth of his intention to throw it out by a determined use of his torpedo armament and flotillas?


Analysis showed that if our battle line were subjected to a general torpedo attack from the opposing line, the extent of the danger and the point most threatened would vary; and that, as a rule, the van squadron would be more immune than the centre and rear, and would always be in a better


Sept.-Oct. 1916



position for closing the range. In his revised orders Admiral Jellicoe drew attention to this, and stated that independent action on the part of the van commander might therefore be necessary during a fleet engagement. This was a first departure from the principle of treating the battle line as a single unit, formed and manoeuvred by the fleet commander.


Admiral Jellicoe next dealt with the enemy's method of combining a flotilla attack with an evasive tactical movement. Nothing that had occurred during May 31 had caused him to alter his views on this very difficult question. If the enemy adopted these tactics, immediate pursuit was impossible; but this inability to pursue vigorously was only absolute if the whole line were manoeuvred together. If it were admitted that, in certain conditions, squadrons could break the continuity of the line, the case was different. In these circumstances, as in the previous case of a general torpedo attack from the enemy's whole line, the van would probably be far less menaced than the centre and rear, and it might be of very great advantage if the van squadron followed the enemy's evasive movement closely, and kept the head of his line under gunfire. The Commander‑in‑Chief therefore made express provision for this independent action on the part of one or more of his squadron commanders, and this was perhaps the most significant part of the new instructions. Analysis and examination had evidently proved to the Commander‑in‑Chief that the constituent parts of a battle line could only be kept together at a great sacrifice of other tactical advantages.


The battle thus caused no radical change in construction, fleet tactics or administration. It caused every officer in a responsible position to make a thorough investigation of existing methods; but its results did not prove that we had been at fault upon any main question of policy or leadership. Admittedly great changes took place in the fleet between June 1916 and October 1918; the phrases "post‑Jutland ships," "post‑Jutland gunnery" and "post‑Jutland tactics" may even seem to suggest that the battle produced a kind of revolution in naval methods. But naval men are not so inventive as to be capable of altering their methods radically upon the doubtful and confusing results of a brief, indecisive action fought in a North Sea haze in failing daylight. Jutland was a turning point, and not a revolution: it caused changes in material and tactics and administration which altered no basic principle. The changes were the first of a series which, taken as a whole, amounts to something of a revolution; but Jutland is by no means responsible for all of them. After Jutland the final submarine campaign gave an immense impetus to many adaptations which exerted a deep influence upon naval warfare, and made their impress upon tactics, material and design. There is an immense difference between the post‑Jutland and the pre‑Jutland navy; but it is only the less significant portions of the change for which Jutland is responsible.










June to October 1916


Russia had not succumbed outright under the formidable attack of the German armies in 1915; but the problem of assisting her recovery, and so enabling her to take the field again in 1916, was one which caused the Western Allies very great anxiety. For the British Government in particular the question was extremely difficult. Ever since the Russian defeats of the previous year, our Government had been asked to grant credits for the manufacture of immense quantities of material ‑ all which were stated to be urgent and necessary if the Russian armies were to take part in the next summer's campaign. The British Government could not accede to all these demands without prejudicing the financial engagements already entered into with other Allied Governments; but there could be no question of curtailing or refusing the Russian orders without first coming to an understanding with the Russian Ministers. It was felt that a great effort should be made to tide over this emergency without causing heartburning or friction; and it was decided, out of courtesy and consideration for a hard pressed and loyal ally, to send some envoy of the highest rank to Russia, who could explain, from a full knowledge of their financial and military policy, that British credits were being granted to each ally in the way which seemed most likely to benefit the united campaign of the Allies. Lord Kitchener seemed to be more fitted than any other member of the Government for such a Mission. His prestige and status in foreign countries were almost as great as at home: he could speak with full authority upon the campaign to be undertaken during the year, and upon the best way of giving cohesion and force to the Allied effort. Before any decision was taken his name was mentioned to the Tsar, who at once expressed his anxiety to meet him by sending Lord Kitchener a cordial personal telegram. Obviously then no better choice could be made; and on May 26, Lord Kitchener declared himself ready to go to Russia at the head of a military and financial Mission.


The Admiralty at once ordered the Commander‑in‑Chief at Scapa to make arrangements for conveying the War Minister and his staff to Archangel. The party arrived at Scapa on the 5th of June, in time to lunch with Sir John Jellicoe; and during the afternoon were taken on board the Hampshire (Captain H. J. Savill), which had been ordered to convey them. (The party included Brig.‑Gen. W. Ellershaw, Lieut. Col.O. A. G. Fitzgerald, Military Secretary, Mr. H. J. O'Beirne, of the Foreign Office, Sir H. F. Donaldson, and Mr. L. S. Robertson, of the Ministry of Munitions, and 2nd Lieut. R. D. Macpherson.)


When the cruiser was due to start, the weather was extremely bad and a gale was blowing from the north‑east. The Commander‑in‑Chief had to choose from three possible routes for the Hampshire's outward voyage. The first of these, which her Captain was directed to follow by the Sailing Orders issued to him on June 4, ran along the eastern coasts of the Orkneys to latitude 62 degrees N. The Commander-in‑Chief decided that it ought not to be used: during the previous week submarines had been twice reported near the track that the Hampshire would follow: the eastern side of the Orkneys was exposed to the full force of the gale which was blowing; the destroyer escort would not be able to keep up with the cruiser in the heavy seaway, and would in consequence be unprotected against attacks from any submarine that might still be about. It was, in Admiral Jellicoe's opinion, equally inadvisable to send the Hampshire out along the second route, which ran through the Pentland Firth to Cape Wrath, and thence northwards. During the morning a submarine had been reported off Cape Wrath, and the sweepers working on the route had been so hampered by the gale that they had not been able to sweep the channel thoroughly by the time the Hampshire was due to sail. The third route, which ran close along the west side of the Orkneys was a track ordinarily used by fleet auxiliaries: and this was the one which the Commander‑in‑Chief, after a good deal of thought, decided to be the best for the Hampshire to follow. In the prevailing weather conditions this route was less exposed than the other two and the destroyers would in consequence be better able to keep close up to the cruiser. Besides this there were other reasons. No minefield was known to have been laid so far north as this since the Moewe's raid, at the end of the previous year; submarine minelayers had never yet operated off the fleet base; and seeing how short is the night in the Orkneys at midsummer, it was not thought likely that a surface minelayer had been at work.


June 5, 1916



At a quarter to five, then, on the evening of June 5 the Hampshire got under way; an hour later the destroyers Unity and Victor met her off Tor Ness. Captain Savill's orders were to keep close in to the lee of the land and to steam at 19 knots. The wind soon backed into the north and west, and, as the head sea which it raised was too much for the destroyers, Captain Savill ordered them back and reduced speed.


At about 7.40, whilst the Hampshire was driving into the heavy seas, there was an explosion which seemed to tear the centre of the ship right out, and in a few minutes she went down with almost her entire company. Some of the few survivors stated that they saw a group of military men in the gun room flat, just after the explosion, another that he heard voices crying out "make way for Lord Kitchener," and another that Captain Savill's last anxiety was to get him into the galley. But beyond this nothing can ever be known.


As soon as news of the disaster came through to the Commander‑in‑Chief, four of the Grand Fleet destroyers were ordered out; they were followed by five others, but all hopes of saving life were vain. By the time the destroyers and patrol vessels reached the spot there was hardly a trace of wreckage; fourteen men had reached the shore on Carley rafts, but two of them died before the rescue parties on the cliffs could reach them.



Plan - Loss of the Hampshire



The Hampshire went down about a mile and a half from the shore, between the Brough of Birsay and Marwick Head.


The Hampshire had struck one or more mines in a field laid by Lieutenant-Commander Kurt Beitzen from U.75 on the night of May 28/29. U.75 was one of the German submarines detailed to watch the British bases during the German fleet's sortie before Jutland. The German Official History (Der Krieg zur See, Nordsee, Band V, pp. 201‑2) shows that Kurt Beitzen laid his mines in the hope of interfering with the British fleet's concentration if it should leave harbour to meet the German High Seas Fleet: "It then cleared up, and at about 1.10 a.m. Noup Headlight was sighted. It had been ascertained that a route used by warships ran about two miles from the coast to the south of this point, i.e., Noup Head, between Marwick Head and the Brough of Birsay; and U.75 was to mine it. This was done. Between 6.0 and 8.35 a.m. the cargo of twenty‑two mines was laid in several detached groups, about seven metres below high water, after which she returned home; there was no interference whatever from the enemy's patrols." (For full details see Admiralty Official Narrative: The Loss of H.M.S. Hampshire. Cmd. 2710, 1926.)


It is one of the wildest parts of the coast, where a dark rampart of cliffs rises sheer out of the foam and spray which storm against the wind‑beaten shore line. On the summit of the brough, overlooking the spot where the Hampshire sank, there is a mound of raised earth; and this some believe to be the tomb of a warrior long since dead, the ruler of a race who raised vast monoliths to the sun and moon. Kitchener too had long been a legendary hero of his people; and in their time of need he had by the mere sound of his voice called armies into being. But they mourned him, as they mourned all their losses, without despair, without even the lassitude of grief.


As we have seen, the first business of the Commander-in‑Chief on returning from Jutland was to set machinery for controlling the North Sea in motion again as soon as possible; and two days after his reorganisation had been approved and carried out, the usual routine of cruiser sweeps began afresh. (The 1st Light Cruiser Squadron carried out a sweep from Rosyth on the 14th. The 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron carried out sweeps from Scapa on the 21st and from Rosyth on the 29th. The 4th Light Cruiser Squadron carried out a sweep from Scapa on the 25th.)


Our light squadrons were out four times during the month, and returned on each occasion with "nothing to report." False alarms about escaping raiders occasionally brought out our cruisers, or altered the dispositions of the 10th Cruiser Squadron; but towards the end of the month it seemed as though the long monotony of expectation had settled down once more upon Scapa Flow.


At the southern end of the North Sea, the enemy was more active. Early in the month, the Admiralty got news that the 2nd German Destroyer Flotilla had been sent to Zeebrugge, and they concluded, quite rightly, that the reinforcement was intended to menace, and if possible to raid, our communications with Holland and our shipping in the Downs. It seemed, indeed, that the Germans were going to begin at once, for early in the morning of June 8, twelve destroyers appeared to the east of Dunkirk, and were engaged by the monitor Lord Clive and the "Tribal" destroyers on patrol. The Germans turned back before the Harwich forces could reach them, and did not repeat the experiment for more than a month; but the warning sufficed. The Admiralty ordered Commodore R. Y. Tyrwhitt (Commodore (T.)) to detach two light cruisers and eight destroyers as a permanent reinforcement for the Dover patrol. The forces in the Flanders Bight, which was later to become a theatre of fierce raiding and counter‑raiding, were now distributed between three points: Dover, Dunkirk and Harwich. At Harwich was the 5th Light Cruiser Squadron (five ships); the 9th Destroyer Flotilla (Undaunted, Lightfoot and twenty‑one "L" class destroyers), and the 10th (Aurora, Nimrod and fifteen "M" class destroyers).


June 1916



The 1st Flotilla (eight boats) ‑ based on Harwich ‑ was permanently attached to the 3rd Battle Squadron. The Dover Force consisted of the light cruiser Attentive, the flotilla leader Swift, twenty‑four destroyers, eight patrol or "P" boats and fourteen monitors. The Dunkirk Force had to be made up from the Harwich and Dover flotillas, and generally consisted of four to eight destroyers. The total force nominally available for the defence of the Downs and the Flanders Bight was thus eight light cruisers, three flotilla leaders, sixty‑eight destroyers, eight "P" boats and fourteen monitors; but, owing to the constant refits of the destroyers, and the periodic, uncertain calls for reinforcements in the Channel, whenever submarines were reported to be operating vigorously, the available striking force very rarely exceeded thirty destroyers and four light cruisers. The Commodore was thus already seriously burdened and hampered; and a new and arduous duty was about to be imposed upon him.


It is a matter of common knowledge that the German submarine campaign was an answer to our blockade; but it is not so well realised that, in almost every detail and every incident of these two measures of war ‑ sinking at sight, and cutting off supplies by naval and economic means ‑ two very different forces, the force of terrorism and the force of orderly, lawful pressure, are to be seen arrayed against each other and struggling for mastery. The British Government was now (June 1916) about to conclude a trading agreement which, it was hoped, would divert a considerable volume of Dutch trade from Germany to Great Britain. In order to prevent the agreement from being made useless by an outburst of raiding from Zeebrugge, the Admiralty decided to keep the whole route to the Dutch harbours under permanent patrol. Towards the end of the month this new duty had been taken up. A force of from five to ten destroyers and two light cruisers was generally allotted to it, and the route kept under their inspection ran roughly from the Sunk to the Schouwen Bank and thence to the Maas. The patrol undoubtedly saved the Dutch traffic from serious interference; but, on the other hand, the enemy's submarine minelaying increased in intensity. There were now fifteen submarines in the Flanders Flotilla operating as mine‑layers and commerce raiders in the Channel and the Flanders Bight. Political uncertainties had for the moment confined serious operations against commerce to the Mediterranean; but the relations between Berlin and Washington resulted in no restraint upon minelaying. The approaches to Lowestoft were particularly visited during the month, Fifty mines were swept up by the local sweepers; but eight merchantmen and an armed trawler fell victims.


This was roughly the position when, towards the end of the month, the Commander‑in‑Chief visited the Admiralty to discuss the battle of Jutland. Those present at the conference seem to have agreed that our dispositions had stood the test as well as could be expected. The disasters which had occurred were attributed to technical faults of material and design, and the decisions practically amounted to a vote of confidence in the Commander‑in‑Chief's leadership and policy.


Earlier in the year, the fleet had put to sea, with some chance of meeting the enemy, in February, when the Arabis was sunk; in March, when we tried to attack the airsheds on the Schleswig coast; and in April, when Yarmouth and Lowestoft were bombarded. On each occasion, the Commander‑in‑Chief had sent the 5th Battle Squadron ahead of the battle fleet, with orders to support the battle cruisers or to cover our detached forces. The conference confirmed this policy, and decided that the 5th Battle Squadron was to be considered mainly as a fast wing division of the battle fleet, and not as a portion of the battle cruiser fleet. It was realised that, on occasions, the Commander‑in‑Chief might think it advisable to reinforce the battle cruisers with the 5th Battle Squadron; if he did so, it was to be understood that the battleships were "simply a reinforcement."


In order to ensure to the Commander‑in‑Chief a greater measure of control over the units of his fleet, it was decided that, "where the initiative lay with us, the battle cruisers should not be advanced so far in front of the battle fleet as had been customary in the past." The words "where the initiative lay with us" obviously limit the application of this rule to minelaying operations and cruiser sweeps, supported by the battle fleet; and do not apply to the Commander‑in‑Chief's orders for the battle cruiser fleet on May 31, when the enemy, and not ourselves, had the initiative. In cases of the kind, the Admiralty were prepared to see the battle cruisers used even more freely than they had been by the Commander‑in‑Chief; for it was decided that, if our eastern or south‑eastern coasts were raided, the battle cruisers might have to be pushed forward, without any support at all from the battle fleet. The Admiralty thus closed a discussion which had now lasted many months, by accepting the views of Admiral Jellicoe.


With the spread of German minelaying a pressing need had arisen for better protection of the sweepers working in the


July 1916  



waters to the east of Flamborough Head and the Wash, and for a closer lookout on minelayers and suspicious vessels.


The Admiralty intended to meet this need by establishing the 4th Flotilla, a force of fifteen destroyers, at the Humber; and it was decided that the Commander‑in‑Chief should use it as a first reinforcement whenever he was operating in the North Sea. There remained, however, the further branch of the problem: the question of co‑ordinating the movements of the Harwich Force and the Grand Fleet; and upon this the Admiralty found it very hard to take a decision. They recognised that the Harwich Force ought to co‑operate with the Grand Fleet; but in practice there were great difficulties. In the first place, though our system of intelligence sufficed to warn us when the German fleet was putting to sea, it rarely gave us an immediate clue to their plans. Until we could be certain whether the enemy's forces had one, or two, objectives, it was impossible to order Commodore Tyrwhitt to join the Grand Fleet. Again, the enemy's plan might be such that we should risk having the Harwich Force cut off and crushed by ordering it north to join the Grand Fleet; and lastly, there was the fact that the German flotilla in Flanders was steadily expanding. In July 1916, it was believed to consist of twenty‑two destroyers, half of which were of the newest pattern. As the Dover flotilla of "Tribal" destroyers could not face this powerful detachment without assistance, the Harwich Force might quite well be needed to secure the Straits in a sudden crisis. (Their anxiety was fully justified. After the battle, Admiral Scheer seems to have decided to use Zeebrugge as a destroyer training base, and to detach flotillas from the High Seas Fleet with orders to carry on a sort of guerrilla warfare. Scheer, pp. 187‑8.)


The conference decided, in the end, that the question should be allowed to stand over until the Commander‑in-Chief had submitted his proposals.


In his despatch on the battle Admiral Jellicoe had stated that one of the greatest obstacles to bringing the enemy to decisive action was his inability to meet them early in the day.


The conference agreed, and decided that "all arrangements necessary for basing the 1st, 2nd and 5th Battle Squadrons at Rosyth instead of Scapa should be pressed forward with the utmost despatch." When this could be done, the Grand Fleet base would be brought considerably nearer the probable meeting point of the British and German fleets.


Until this became practicable, no redistribution of the fleet was necessary; the Sydney and the Melbourne were to be recalled from North America, so as to add two extra vessels of high speed to Admiral Jellicoe's scouting forces; but in other respects it was simply decided to proceed with the reorganisation of the battle squadrons at Scapa, devised two months before the battle.


The Commander‑in‑Chief urged most strongly that the yery poor wireless installation of our submarines should be improved. This question seems at first sight to be a purely technical one, but in reality it touched upon a very much wider problem ‑ the primary duty of our "oversea" submarine flotillas.


Minelaying had now made it impossible to push our patrols right inside the Heligoland Bight, as we had done in the earlier days of the war; but we knew, very accurately, what routes were used by the German fleet when it made sweeps into the North Sea, and were thus able to watch the areas into which the German swept channels debouched.


Our flotillas were therefore patrolling in two groups four and sometimes five Harwich submarines were stationed along a curved line running from the Texel to the northeastern corner of the Austern Grund, about seventy‑five miles to the west‑north‑westward of Heligoland; whilst the submarines from Blyth and the Tyne were generally watching the Horn Reefs‑Jutland Bank area. The first group was thus patrolling across the line along which the German fleet had advanced when Lowestoft and Yarmouth were bombarded; the second watched the route followed by Admiral Scheer on May 30.


The Admiralty, like the German High Command, had been striving, for a long time, to devise some means of co‑ordinating the operations of the submarine flotillas and the battle fleet; for the 11th Flotilla, at Blyth, had originally been created for use in a fleet action, and was under the orders of Admiral Jellicoe. There was, however, a strong contrast between our solution and the enemy's. Admiral Scheer's plan of co‑ordinated action between under‑water craft and a battle fleet resolved itself into using the submarines for getting early intelligence of our movements. According to our ideas the first duty of our submarines was to inflict loss on the enemy whenever he put to sea; and, though the Commander-in‑Chief's representations about their bad wireless equipment were well founded, it is more than doubtful whether a screen of submarines, encircling the German Bight, could have added much to our system of intelligence. In the outcome we continued to use them as detached outposts with a purely offensive r™le.


June-July 1916   



The decisions of the conference, amounting, as we have seen, to a vote of confidence in the Commander‑in‑Chief, and to an order to alter little or nothing in our existing dispositions, were a significant anticipation of the estimate which history will inevitably form of the advantage gained or lost by either side in the battle of Jutland. The action was an unfinished experiment, in which two different systems of tactics and commands had come into conflict. In certain highly technical points its lessons were clear and emphatic; in all else it left the naval position unaltered. After the battle, as before it, the Allies enjoyed all the superiority inherent in being able to obtain supplies from foreign markets and to transport and maintain great overseas expeditions; after the battle, as before it, we carried out those sweeps and operations which represented our control of the North Sea; and after the battle, as before it, we strangled German supplies by means of our agreements with neutrals, our economic strength, and our intercepting cruiser squadrons. Of its effect upon German naval policy we shall hear again and at considerable length.


The wisdom of instituting a special patrol for the Dutch route was very soon justified by events. At nine o'clock in the evening of July 22, Commodore Tyrwhitt put to sea with two light cruisers ‑ the Carysfort (broad pendant) and the Canterbury; and eight "M" class destroyers. The organisation was:


1st Division – Carysfort, Mentor, Mansfield, Mastiff, Manly

2nd Division – Canterbury, Melpomene, Morris, Matchless, Milne


As all the ships crossing during the night were coming from or going to the Hook of Holland, the Commodore was only concerned with protecting the route between Felixstowe, the North Hinder and the Maas. He therefore ordered the Canterbury and the 2nd Division to watch the route near the North Hinder, whilst he himself took the Maas patrol. The detachments were to arrive at their stations simultaneously, at 2 a.m. No news had come through of any movement by the German flotilla when Commodore Tyrwhitt left harbour.


The Germans had none the less been warned that ships well worth capturing were to cross during the night, and their flotilla left Zeebrugge at about the same time as the Commodore moved out from Harwich. They set a course for the North Hinder, so that contact between the two was practically certain.


After clearing harbour the Carysfort and her division, which had forty‑five miles further to go, steamed ahead, and the Canterbury slowed down. At a quarter‑past one, when the Commodore was well past the North Hinder, a group of hostile destroyers was sighted about three miles ahead on a northerly course. The Carysfort and her destroyers at once steamed after them at full speed, and the enemy turned to the eastward and made off. There were only three of them, and they obviously could not stand up against such very heavy odds as had been brought against them. The Commodore followed in pursuit and brought them under fire for a few minutes. It was a rainy night, and just as the engagement began a squall passed across the division and practically blotted out the enemy, who made use of the chance, put up a heavy smoke screen and turned sharply to starboard. When the squall had passed and the horizon was clear again, the German destroyers were out of sight.


The Commodore, however, still hoped that they might be caught. He turned to his course for the Maas, and ordered the Canterbury and her division to turn to the south‑east and try to catch the enemy near the Schouwen Bank. He then took his own division to the Maas to cut off the enemy's retreat if on meeting the Canterbury they should turn north again and try to creep in to Emden along the coast. Half an hour before he received the order, Captain Percy Royds had seen the flashes of the Carysfort's guns, and had steamed eastwards towards the engagement at 20 knots. When he received the Commodore's order he was just passing the light-vessel; he therefore turned south‑easterly and increased to 28 knots. At a quarter to two, when he was about ten miles north‑west of the Schouwen Bank, the German destroyers were sighted ahead. Six were now clearly visible; and though steaming at high speed across the Middle Deep for Zeebrugge, they were unable to make good the speed necessary to cross the Canterbury's bows out of range. Captain Royds altered to port to close them, and withheld his fire for the next twenty minutes. At ten minutes past two he opened fire at a range of about 5,000 yards; and the enemy at once replied. The Matchless was just out of dockyard hands and could not keep up; and Lieutenant H. R. Troup of the Milne decided that he must stand by his sub‑divisional leader. The result was that the Germans had only two boats to deal with, and so had a fair chance of damaging them, though much overweighted by the gun‑fire of our light cruiser. Just after two o'clock, Captain Royds ordered the Melpomene (Lieutenant-Commander Hubert de Burgh) to close in to attack; he did


July 23, 1916 



so with only the Morris (Lieutenant‑Commander E. S. Graham) in company, and at a quarter‑past two both boats were firing rapidly at the end of the enemy's line. In spite of our speed, the enemy had succeeded in getting across our bows, for his line then bore about one point on the Morris's starboard bow. Daylight was coming up fast; but the light was not yet strong, and the enemy put up a thick smoke screen, which for several moments made firing impossible. The range was dropping rapidly, and had the chase gone on for much longer our two destroyers would have been the target for the concentrated fire of the whole German division. The Canterbury was, by now, some way astern, though well within range. The engagement indeed promised to develop into an interesting tactical contest: would the heavier guns of our light cruiser, fired almost at hazard into a moving smoke screen, be enough to sustain the attack which de Burgh and Graham were trying to press home? Unfortunately the experiment could not be carried through to its conclusion: the boats were now (2.25) five miles past the Schouwen Bank light‑vessel, and were thus fast approaching the minefield off Zeebrugge. Captain Royds recalled them, and the flotilla re‑formed off the Schouwen Bank light‑vessel about a quarter of an hour later. (The German official bulletin reported that their destroyers had returned undamaged; the flotilla was recalled to Emden on July 31.)


This short engagement sufficed to show that our dispositions were well adapted for protecting the Dutch route. Warfare in the Flanders Bight was taking on a character of its own. The main fleet movements in the North Sea were practically always to be detected beforehand by observation of enemy wireless activities; so that the Commander‑in-Chief generally put to sea with a certain amount of positive intelligence of the enemy's movements. In the south matters were different; some warning of movements between Flanders and the Bight could be obtained by observation of enemy wireless, but the Flanders forces themselves were sufficiently compact and concentrated to be able to put to sea on written or verbal instructions, of which we could get no indication. The consequence was that our counter‑dispositions in the Dover Straits and the Flanders Bight had to be made upon that calculation of probable chances, and that provision against all contingencies which was characteristic of the naval warfare of an earlier period. This time our dispositions had undoubtedly stood the test; but it was equally clear that the Zeebrugge flotilla, though too far outnumbered and outclassed to be able to contest our command of the Flanders Bight, had none the less a great capacity for mischief, and must be considered in any calculation of forces.


Throughout July the German fleet had given very little sign of activity; but during the first half of August Admiral Scheer completed his plans for a new raid upon the English coast. The fleet was to move across the North Sea during the night of August 18 and to bombard Sunderland on the following morning "provided that it had not previously become engaged in fleet action" and that its line of retreat was clear. This laconic statement does not explain whether Admiral Scheer left harbour intending to bring about a fleet action, or to avoid one. Probably he was still nursing his old hope of gaining prestige by a blow at our light forces in the Flanders Bight. His present enterprise might bring him the desired chance: it would in any case be a bold one, and would exasperate British feeling. The operations involved, as before, the risk of meeting the Grand Fleet, and to that risk his courage and self‑reliance were equal; but he naturally desired to ensure as far as possible that the meeting should not be forced upon him suddenly, or in circumstances that would make it a fight to a finish. His dispositions show, as clearly as any explicit statement, the nature of the lesson which Jutland had taught him.


On May 31 his reconnaissance system had broken down; he had found himself in the presence of the whole British battle fleet, without the slightest preliminary warning Admiral Jellicoe had been able to steer unnoticed and undetected through the northern part of the North Sea. The German battle fleet had, in consequence, become engaged at a serious tactical disadvantage; the Commander‑in‑Chief had never had the time to form his battle line in a position from which his ships could fight satisfactorily; and had spent the best part of the afternoon in Kehrtwendungen (See Vol. III., p. 369.) and extricatory manoeuvres. A better system of intelligence was clearly called for. If he could devise some means of obtaining timely warning that Admiral Jellicoe's squadrons were advancing against him, of knowing the direction of their approach and the time of their arrival, some of the difficulties in which he had been involved need not be repeated. To secure the freedom of manoeuvre which was essential to him, if he were to carry out his plan without being surprised, as he had been on the afternoon of May 31, he decided to organise his submarines, airships and reconnaissance forces into successive lines of intelligence outposts.


He therefore arranged that, when he reached the English


Aug. 1916 



coast, his flanks should be covered by two groups of submarines, called U‑boat lines numbers I and III, stationed at about thirty and sixty miles on either side of the line of advance. A third group, formed from the Zeebrugge flotillas, was to take position on two separate lines in the approaches to the Flanders Bight, to the north‑westward of the Texel. Yet another line of five U‑boats was stationed across the north‑western approach to the bight, at about one hundred and twenty miles from Heligoland. The U ‑boat lines were constituted as follows:


Detachment north‑east of Blyth (Line I): U.44, U.67, U.65, U.52, U.53.


Detachment east of Flamborough Head (Line III): U.63, U.49, U.45, U.66, U.64.


Swarte Bank detachment (Flanders Line l): UB.39, UB.23, UB.18, UB.29.


Terschelling Bank detachment (Flanders Line 2): UB.37, UB.19, UB.16, UB.6, UB.12.


Heligoland Bight detachment: U.48, U.69, UB.35, U.55, U.56.


Lines I and III were to serve as a kind of long‑distance cover to the main fleet, when it was under the British coast; and the lines off the Texel. were intended as a trap for the Harwich forces. Other positions were to be occupied by the submarines as the sweep progressed; and, in order that their movements should be exactly co‑ordinated with those of the battle squadrons, the commander of the U‑boat flotillas sailed with the fleet in the Prinzregent Luitpold. (See Map 1.)


It was considered essential that the submarines should work in groups, and occupy straight lines, drawn across the most probable line of our advance. The previous system of posting them along the radii of circles drawn opposite our bases had not been satisfactory. When the submarines approached the centre they got bunched together and their movements were cramped; when they moved towards the circumference they were needlessly dispersed, and our squadrons passed through them without being molested. (Scheer, pp. 179‑80.)


These dispositions would suffice to protect him against surprise whilst he was actually engaged in operations against the coast; but he had still to cover himself whilst he was moving across the North Sea. For this he depended upon his airships, and he ordered eight Zeppelins to take up special stations when the fleet made its advance. (Scheer, Map 10.) The L.30, L.32, L.24, and L.22 were to patrol between Peterhead and Norway; L.31 was to watch the Firth of Forth; L.11 was to take station off Sunderland; L.21 to cruise over the Outer Silver Pit between the Humber and the Wash; and L.13 to watch the Flanders Bight. By thus encircling the outer end of his advance with airships, Admiral Scheer was confident of early news of the approach of "strong sections of the British fleet" if they advanced against him.


Before sailing he reorganised his fleet. The 2nd Battle Squadron had already been discarded as unfit for heavy fighting, "on account of its artillery and old type of torpedo." Some compensation for this sacrifice was supplied by the newly completed battleships Bayern, Grosser Kurfuerst and Markgraf; but they were not available as reinforcements for the main fleet. The battle cruiser squadron which had lost the Luetzow at Jutland, was also lacking the Derfflinger and Seydlitz, still in dockyard hands: the Moltke and the Von der Tann alone could not be used to oppose the five British ships of the same class, and still less the 5th Battle Squadron, which was believed, though erroneously, to be now attached to our advanced forces. Admiral Scheer therefore attached his three new ships to Hipper's remnant, and left himself with only eighteen battleships as against Admiral Jellicoe's twenty-eight.


At nine o'clock, then, on the evening of the 18th, his 1st and 3rd Battle Squadrons left harbour, preceded by the two scouting groups. The distance between the advanced cruiser squadrons and the battle fleet was reduced to twenty miles, in order to make quite sure that the battleships attached to the 1st Scouting Group could join up rapidly with the battle squadrons in an emergency.


During the forenoon of the 18th, we discovered, by the usual signs, that the German fleet was likely to leave harbour, and at 10.30 the Commander‑in‑Chief and the Vice‑Admiral commanding the battle cruiser fleet were ordered to raise steam. At five minutes to eleven they were ordered to proceed to sea and concentrate in the Long Forties, as the German fleet was apparently on the point of sailing.


The situation was strongly reminiscent of the train of events which had preceded Jutland, in that enemy submarines were evidently at sea in considerable force; and at one o'clock the Admiralty sent out a further wire stating that six submarines had been located during the forenoon. The first was about ninety‑five miles to the W.N.W. of Horn Reefs; the second and third were on the Dogger Bank; the other three were spread over the northern part of the Austern Grund. The telegram ended with the warning: "there may be others."


We could, therefore, only estimate the meaning of the enemy's sortie by its analogy with the last, as we had no idea what direction it was going to take, and his submarines were so widely spread that they gave no indication of the general plan. Slight as the information was, we got no more for the next fifteen hours; and, in the meantime, we had felt compelled to set the whole of our forces in motion.


Aug. 18, 1916



When the telegram giving the order to put to sea arrived at Scapa, Admiral Jellicoe was lying sick in the south of Scotland, and Admiral Burney was in charge of the Grand Fleet. The Royalist was, however, at Dundee, waiting to take the Commander‑in‑Chief north whenever needed, and as soon as news of the intended movement reached him he embarked, and made off to join the Grand Fleet.


In the meantime, Admiral Burney felt that he would hardly be justified in taking the fleet across the North Sea while the enemy's intentions were so obscure. He therefore ordered a general fleet rendezvous in Lat. 56 degrees 30' N., Long. 0 degrees 20' E., about 100 miles to the E.N.E. of the Firth of Forth, for five o'clock on the following morning; and gave orders for the battle cruisers to assemble thirty miles to the south at the same hour. Both fleets were then to turn to the southwards, and enter the southern part of the North Sea through "L" channel. He also ordered the Blyth submarines to assemble 50 miles eastward of Hartlepool, to cover the approaches to the Tyne‑Whitby district; with a special warning that they were not to spread too far apart, and were to be ready to join the Grand Fleet if necessary.


The Active and nine destroyers left Immingham at 10 p.m. on the 18th, whilst seven submarines left Blyth at the same hour to carry out the orders given.


We had, at the time, three submarines watching the Bight: E.23, H.5 and H.9 were patrolling the western approaches to the Ems. After ascertaining how many of our submarines were off the German coasts, the Admiralty ordered two more to be sent "to the north of Heligoland." E.38 and E.16 had left Harwich at about half‑past twelve, with orders to take up their stations along the swept channel which ran from the Amrum Bank to the west of Heligoland. After thus completing what might be called our North Sea measures, we made the following preparations for facing an attack in the Flanders Bight.


(i) The 3rd Battle Squadron was ordered to assemble in the Swin and have steam at one hour's notice by 8 p.m.; and the minelayers Biarritz and Paris were ordered to proceed to the fleet anchorage and place themselves at the disposal of the Vice‑Admiral.


(ii) Captain A. K. Waistell (Captain (S)) was ordered to station six submarines off Lowestoft, Yarmouth and Harwich, and then to send a group to a position about midway between Lowestoft and the Dutch coast, and another group to the Corton light‑vessel. The Firedrake and six submarines sailed for the first rendezvous at about a quarter to one on the morning of the 19th; the Hind and three others left a little later for the Corton.


(iii) Commodore Tyrwhitt was ordered to "be on the lookout at Brown Ridge by early dawn" on the 19th; and left harbour at 10.30 p.m. on the 18th in the Carysfort, with the 5th Light Cruiser Squadron, the Lightfoot and eighteen destroyers of the "L" and "M" classes in company.


As a result of these orders, our counter‑measures were in full progress two hours after the German fleet had sailed.


The Grand Fleet put to sea during the afternoon of the 18th; further south, the battle cruisers left the Firth of Forth at about half‑past eight, while the ships in Cromarty left harbour at about a quarter to six, and steered straight for the general rendezvous:


The fleet was one battleship and five light cruisers short of its full establishment, and was thus distributed:


At Scapa.

The   1st Battle Squadron (less Benbow).

2nd BS  (less Centurion and Monarch).

5th BS   full complement.

4th BS   full complement of battleships, but attached light cruiser Blonde absent.

2nd Cruiser Squadron (less Minotaur, Devonshire and Donegal).

4th Light Cruiser Squadron (less Caroline, Constance and Cambrian).

XIth, XIIth and XIVth Flotillas.


At Invergordon.

Minotaur, Benbow and Monarch.


At Rosyth.

The Battle Cruiser Fleet, less the Indomitable of the 2nd Battle Cruiser squadron and the Yarmouth of the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron.

Ist and XIIIth Flotillas.


When he left Scapa, Admiral Burney ordered the Iron Duke to advance ahead of the fleet and take the Commander-in‑Chief on board from the Royalist, which was coming up to meet the battle squadrons. But just before eight, as the Iron Duke and the Royalist were approaching the rendezvous, the Onslaught, one of the screening destroyers, was attacked by a submarine at very close range. The torpedo missed; and the Iron Duke continued on her course until Admiral Jellicoe was taken on board.


As the fleet was due to pass right over the danger spot about an hour later, Admiral Burney opened out his columns and gave the position where the submarine had made the attack a five‑mile berth. At about nine o'clock the fleet passed the danger spot in two divisions, one to the north and one to the south of it. At ten o'clock, when the fleet was about seventy miles to the E.S.E. of the Pentland Firth, a


Aug. 19, 1916



southerly course was set for the general rendezvous. Our main squadrons were thus taken past the outer cordon of watching Zeppelins unobserved, during the dark hours.


Further south, Admiral Beatty steered to the eastward during the night, with his light cruisers spread to the southward of him. At twenty minutes past three, when about 120 miles to the E.S.E. of the Firth of Forth, he turned sixteen points, and by five o'clock was at his rendezvous, thirty miles ahead of the battle fleet. He then turned to the southward and approached "L" channel at 18 knots, on a course which took the starboard wing of his screen straight towards the outer end of the U‑boat line to the north‑east of Blyth.


It was daylight between four and five; but the morning was very hazy. At about half‑past five, a small sail was sighted right ahead of the Dublin. The navigator, who took it for a small fishing‑boat, lost sight of it a few minutes later, and thought that the movement of the ship had obscured it behind some part of the upper works. This was unfortunate, for he had actually sighted U.52 manoeuvring into an attacking position; and twenty‑four minutes later the Nottingham was shaken by two violent explosions.


Although one of the torpedoes fired had been seen from the Dublin, which was working with the Nottingham on the screen, Captain C. B. Miller had sighted nothing, and thought that his ship had struck a mine. Neither of the two ships was in touch with the next groups on the screen, and it was not until half an hour after the disaster that the news was received by Admiral Beatty, who at once detached the destroyers Penn and Oracle.


The Nottingham remained on an even keel, but her fires and lights were put out; the vessel was thus without power of manoeuvre, with everything below the upper deck in darkness. The Dublin strove to keep down the submarine; but was herself attacked, and at twenty‑five minutes past six another torpedo struck the Nottingham on the port side. Captain Miller had, by then, got his crew into the boats; and about ten minutes before the ship went down the two destroyers arrived and helped in the work of rescue, although they were, in their turn, attacked. At ten minutes past seven the Nottingham sank, and the weather was, at the time, so thick that the Dublin was out of touch with her. It was not till seven o'clock that the Commander‑in‑Chief received the report that she had been hit. (He did not know definitely that she had been torpedoed until two hours later.)


In the meantime, the density of the haze had already suggested the need for unusual precautions. Admiral Jellicoe thought that in the circumstances his battle cruisers were too far ahead, and at six o'clock he ordered Admiral Beatty to close to within signalling distance of the Grand Fleet's advanced cruiser line.


The battle cruiser fleet turned north at a quarter past six to obey the order, and at twenty minutes to seven was in touch with the Duke of Edinburgh. Admiral Beatty then turned to his original course, and soon after ordered his advanced light cruisers to close on the centre and steer for "L" channel.


The Commander‑in‑Chief had at this moment but very slight means of forming an estimate of the enemy's plan. He had witnessed the attack on the Onslaught on the previous evening; his wireless room had taken in a message from the s.s. Harlost reporting an enemy submarine to the south of him in Lat. 55 degrees 19' N., Long. 1 degrees 3' W. (18 miles north‑cast of Blyth); and he had just heard from the Admiralty that an enemy battleship had been located by directional wireless about 200 miles to the S.E. of him, at twenty‑five minutes past five, in Lat. 54 degrees 19'N., Long. 4 degrees 48' E. (about 170 miles eastward of the Humber). Beyond this, and the news that the Nottingham had been torpedoed or mined ‑ he could not tell which ‑ he knew nothing. Scanty and disjointed as the information was, it seems to have sufficed to warn him that, by pressing straight on, he would walk into the trap which he had long expected the enemy to lay for him; for he turned the whole fleet to the northward at seven o'clock.


It is important that the consequences of this movement should not be exaggerated. Had it never been made, that is, had Admiral Jellicoe pressed on to the southward, his advanced forces might have been in contact with Hipper's squadron between twelve and one; but only on the supposition that the British advance was not held up by the submarines of U‑boat line No. 1, and that Admiral Scheer held on for Sunderland, in ignorance of the tremendous force which was steadily approaching his communications with Germany. But it is in the last degree improbable that the German Commander‑in‑Chief would have known nothing of the whereabouts of our Grand Fleet until it was close upon him; and, when once he knew that it was approaching, he would no doubt have endeavoured to gain time. It is certain that never, if he could possibly have avoided it, would he have joined battle with the Grand Fleet to the eastward of him, and with the prospect of an eight‑hours' daylight battle before night could bring him a chance of breaking away.


Aug. 19, 1916



Apart from all this, Admiral Jellicoe still had time, after turning to the northward, as he did, to bring the enemy to action; the decisive move, which prevented the two fleets from coming to grips, was made later on in the day by his adversary.


The Admiralty's last message, in fact, gave Admiral Jellicoe the impression that he had even more time to spare than was really the case. The German fleet was considerably ahead of the position given, and the only vessel which had actually been located was the Westfalen, which was then detached from the fleet, in serious difficulties, caused by a British torpedo.


At three o'clock, just an hour before daylight, Lieutenant-Commander R. R. Turner had been patrolling in E.23 about sixty miles to the north of Terschelling, on a southerly course, when he became aware that a force of vessels was passing ahead of him, steering west. In contrast to the conditions further north, the weather was clear, with a bright moon, and E.23 had the good fortune to be right on the track of the advancing German Fleet, in an admirable position for attacking them. The first echelon, which was probably Admiral Boedecker with the light cruisers of the 2nd Scouting Group, passed E.23 safely; but, ten minutes later, Lieutenant-Commander Turner was within shot of Admiral Hipper's battle cruisers, and attacked the leading ship at eight hundred yards. He missed, and was compelled to dive for a quarter of an hour. At half‑past three, he rose to the surface, and sighted another group of ships approaching him. An hour later (4.37) he had manoeuvred himself into an attacking position, and fired at a ship which he could not identify. His range was then between 4,000 and 5,000 yards, and he missed again; but he sighted another squadron of battleships to the eastward, and at five o'clock fired at the Westfalen, the last ship in the enemy's line, and hit her. For two and a half hours he dogged the Westfalen in the hope of attacking her again; but though he once fired his two bow tubes, at a range of 1,200 yards, the German destroyers kept him at bay, and got their escort safely back to Wilhelmshaven.


The damage to the Westfalen was not a serious matter, and Admiral Scheer continued on his course towards Sunderland, receiving a series of puzzling reports from his Zeppelins and submarines as he went. The movements of our own squadrons must be examined somewhat closely if these reports are to be understood.


Commodore Tyrwhitt had arrived on the Brown Ridge by 3 a.m., and at once began patrolling it at 20 knots. At a quarter to six he turned from a northerly to a south‑southeasterly course; and, a few minutes later, Zeppelin L.13 was sighted on the port bow. She dogged the Harwich Force for a few minutes, and reported to Admiral Scheer that she had sighted two flotillas and a cruiser squadron steering in company to the south‑west. It was not until a quarter to nine that L.13 was able to get in touch again, and this time she reported three destroyer flotillas and a few light cruisers steering to the north‑east. (Scheer, p. 181.) As an account of an isolated fact, this report was sufficiently correct, for the Commodore in order to maintain his station on the Brown Ridge, had turned to the W.S.W at seven o'clock, and to the N.N.W. at eight. It was on this latter course that he had now been sighted and mistaken for a new detachment. Admiral Scheer's intelligence, therefore, gave him good reason to suppose that we had two distinct groups of light forces in the Flanders Bight, and that each was making for a separate destination.


His news of our other forces was equally disjointed and baffling. Admiral Jellicoe had turned to the north at seven o'clock. A submarine was reported to the south of him almost as he did so; but beyond this, nothing occurred during his new movement, until the Galatea, from her position at the eastern end of the screen of light cruisers covering the retirement of the fleet, sighted and engaged Zeppelin L.31. The Zeppelin commander dogged us for a while, and was apparently able to make out the battle fleet ahead of the light cruisers, for he reported that "at 9.50" our main fleet was steering to the north‑eastwards from a position Lat. 55 degrees 35' N., Long. 0 degrees 35' E. (about eighty miles east‑north‑east of Blyth); but that he had lost sight of it in the rain squalls . (This signal is very difficult to explain, because all our forces had turned to the southward by 9.50.)


In addition to this, Admiral Scheer knew, from the wireless station at Neumuenster, that the Grand Fleet was at sea. He also heard, at about this time, that U.53, working on U‑boat line No. 1, had sighted "three large vessels, and four light cruisers on a northerly course, at ten minutes past eight"; and, soon after, that U.52 had fallen in with four light cruisers on a northerly course, and had sunk one of them, at seven o'clock.


He could thus be certain that there were considerable forces to the north of him, with apparently two light squadrons, in the Flanders Bight; and as far as he could tell, they were steering away from one another and away from him. These reports, he complains, gave him "no unified picture of the



Aug. 19, 1916



enemy's counter‑measures"; and, as he saw no reason to alter his plan, he held on with the whole fleet towards Sunderland.


Admiral Jellicoe had thus completely screened his movements by his turn north at seven o'clock. He continued the retirement for about two hours, and shortly after nine, as no submarines had been reported in the area through which the fleet was steaming, turned south again and steered for the centre of "L" channel.    


To the southward Commodore Tyrwhitt continued to move to and fro on Brown Ridge. Shortly before ten o'clock he received a message from E.23, reparting that the enemy's light cruisers, battle cruisers and battle fleet had been met at a spot some 70 miles north‑west of the Ems at 9.19 a.m. (The first signal intercepted by the Commander‑in‑Chief was even more incorrectly taken in, and gave the enemy's position as Lat. 54 degrees 20' N., Long. 7 degrees E, 70 miles further east and well inside the Heligoland Bight.)


The time was, of course, quite wrong, as by 9.20 Admiral Scheer had advanced to within 120 miles of Sunderland; but the message, as taken in, showed the Commodore that the High Seas Fleet was to the northward of hirn, and he at once passed it on to the Commander‑in‑Chief, and steamed north at 20 knots to get contact with the enemy. As the news only served to convince Admiral Jellicoe that he had ample time to meet the German fleet, he did not alter his dispositions.


The Grand Fleet was not further troubled by submarines; only one was sighted during the next two hours, when the Penn reported a U‑boat, too far off to be dangerous. On the other hand, Zeppelins were sighted without intermission. To the fleet it seemed as though several of then, were hovering about; but, in point of fact, there was only one, L.11, which had picked them up as they passed the latitude of Sunderland, and was conscientiously following them. It is surprising that Admiral Scheer received no warning from her until well after noon; on the other hand, the reports received between ten and twelve o'clock from his Zeppelins in the Flanders Bight caused him to alter his whole plan.


It would seem that L.13, to which the Flanders Bight area was assigned, had by now got well ahead, for, at eleven o'clock, she was sighted by the Harwich force as they steamed northwards. The Conquest strove to drive her off, without much success, and between twelve and half‑past, Admiral Scheer received two messages from the commander of L.13, telling him that an enemy force of thirty units, consisting of sixteen destroyers, large and small cruisers and battleships, had been moving towards him, between, half‑past eleven and noon, from the vicinity of the Swarte Bank. Soon after, L.13 passed into a mass of thunder‑clouds, and so lost touch with our forces before the commanding officer could correct his mistake.


The report that a force of battleships and heavy cruisers were to the south of him had an immediate effect upon Admiral Scheer. It seemed as though there were, within closing distance of him, a force so weak that it would stand no chance if he could meet it, and yet so important that its destruction would be a resounding victory. Everything gave way before the chance thus offered. All thought of bombarding Sunderland was abandoned (Scheer, p. 182.), and the fleet was turned round to the eastward (12.23) to a course which, Admiral Scheer estimated, would bring him into touch with the enemy to the south of him in about two hours' time. Simultaneously the 2nd Flotilla was sent ahead to carry out a tactical reconnaissance.


His miscalculation was complete. In the first place, the Harwich Force, at which he was endeavouring to strike, consisted of light cruisers and destroyers, which had the heels of him, and not of battleships which could be brought to action; and, in the second, it was no longer there; for Commodore Tyrwhitt, who had seen nothing of the enemy, and had up to noon received no message modifying his original orders, had decided that he ought to return to the station assigned to him. At 12.45 therefore he had turned south, and was now steaming away from the German fleet at 20 knots.


Thus Admiral Scheer was completely misled, but he was misled to his own salvation. The moment before he decided to turn eastward the advanced screen of our battle cruisers must have been about thirty miles from Admiral Hipper's forces; the distance between Admiral Scheer's and Admiral Jellicoe's flagships was about sixty‑five miles. Their two fleets were steaming at right angles, so that our advanced screen would probably have been in contact with the rear cruisers of the High Seas Fleet at about half‑past two; and unless Admiral Scheer had run for home, a fleet action in our own waters would have opened between four and five. This situation so full of imminent and vital possibilities was changed abruptly, and by the mere chance of a faulty reconnaissance. A Zeppelin commander who had not correctly ascertained the composition of the Harwich Force, and had been prevented by a thunder‑storm in the upper air from correcting his mistake, had offered to his Commander‑in‑Chief


Aug. 19, 1916



an imaginary prey, and by drawing him away from his original objective had given time for him to receive warning of the approaching danger.


To Admiral Jellicoe, on the other hand, it still seemed as though a fleet action was imminent. For nearly three hours he continued to keep to the S.S.E., with his fleet well concentrated. At noon he altered to a course about due south; and twenty minutes later he ordered the Active and the 4th Flotilla to join him at three o'clock in a position eighty miles to the east of Sunderland; and to spread the Blyth submarines on a line running north and south from Lat. 55 degrees 00', N. Long. 0 degrees 0' (fifty miles due east of Sunderland).


It is fairly clear that he thought the best means of getting hold of the enemy was not to go too far from their probable objective, the British coast; for at 12.32 he altered course to the westward, so as to pass between the western edge of the Humber minefield and the land. No news was coming in from his advanced forces or from the Admiralty; but, from time to time, his wireless room picked up signals from a fleet sweeper reporting a Zeppelin in the Sunderland area; and the ships round him, and on the screen, were reporting that the enemy's telefunken signals were increasing in strength. He in his turn was pursuing a phantom; there was nothing to tell him that all chance of a fleet action which would have ended with anything like a decisive result disappeared when the German fleet turned back at half‑past twelve. It is true that if he had adhered to his original plan of advancing down "L" channel (It is not easy to determine to what risk the Grand Fleet would have been exposed had the Commander‑in‑Chief gone down "L" channel. He decided as he did because he had received reports which located submarines in the channel at half‑past seven and ten minutes to eleven, and because the Nottingham had been torpedoed very near it at six o'clock. These messages doubtless referred to the outermost, or possibly the two outermost, boats of U‑boat line No. 1. By one o'clock he was well past them, and had nothing to fear except from U.53, which had left her station and contrived to dog him for nearly two hours in spite of his alteration of course.), he might have got into touch with the enemy late in the afternoon, and might perhaps have fought a tentative and indecisive action in the growing darkness. By one o'clock he was at the edge of the channel; but he decided that he could not pass down it, as the reports received earlier in the day seemed to show that it was held in strength by enemy submarines. He therefore determined to keep on his course and enter the southern part of the North Sea by the alternative "M" channel; and with this decision the last chance of any kind of engagement between the two fleets vanished.


As the fleet crossed "L" channel, the messages which came in from the advanced cruisers must have confirmed the Commander‑in‑Chief in his opinion that it was not safe to use it. At twenty‑five minutes past one the Minotaur reported a submarine to the W.N.W.; twelve minutes later she reported that she had fired a shot at it; and a little later the Achilles sighted a U‑boat. At about 2.0 p.m. Admiral Jellicoe received a message from the Admiralty which told him that, at half‑past twelve, Admiral Scheer's flagship had been located in Lat. 54 degrees 32' N., Long. 1 degrees 42' E., forty miles to the S.S.E. of the position he then occupied. Neither he nor the Admiralty had the slightest inkling that the enemy had turned back, and it naturally seemed to Admiral Jellicoe that a fleet action was certain. He ordered complete readiness for action, told the attached cruisers to take up their stations for approaching the enemy (2.5); ordered the guides of columns to bear W. 1/2 N., and then told the battle cruisers to proceed down "M" channel. Finally, he directed Commodore Tyrwhitt to make for Lat. 54 degrees N., Long. 5 degrees E. (forty miles north of Terschelling), so as to be in a position to attack the enemy as they made back to their bases (2.35). Having thus given what he doubtless thought would be his last orders before deploying, he signalled to all ships with him that the High Seas Fleet might be met at any moment, and that he had every confidence in the result (2.45).


Commodore Tyrwhitt did not at once get Admiral Jellicoe's signal; but the orders given to the 4th Flotilla were intercepted in the Carysfort, and reported to him. Realising that Admiral Jellicoe was concentrating every available destroyer under his flag, Commodore Tyrwhitt turned north again (2.12), and held on to a course slightly to the west of north for three‑quarters of an hour, reporting what he had done, with his reasons for doing it, to the Commander‑in‑Chief.


For a short time after Admiral Jellicoe had given his last orders signs of the enemy's presence increased. Zeppelins were sighted by the Hercules and the King George V, whilst the senior officer of the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron reported, at twenty minutes past two, that there were four airships in sight from his section of the screen. None the less, seeing how close the enemy seemed to be, it must have appeared strange to the Commander‑in‑Chief that no reports came in from his advanced forces. At half‑past two he got his first clue to the true position, when he received a message from the Admiralty that the High Seas Fleet had been turning to


Aug. 19, 1916



starboard at half‑past twelve. At three o'clock he realised that the chance was gone, though it was not until nearly an hour later that he got definite news from the Admiralty that Admiral Scheer was well on his way back, and had been located in Lat. 54 degrees 14'N., Long. 2 degrees 2' E. (78 miles northeastwards of the Humber), at a quarter to three. Admiral Jellicoe then advanced into the centre of "M" channel, and turned the fleet to the north‑westward at four o'clock; having previously cancelled his orders to Commodore Tyrwhitt, and warned him that the Germans might retire by way of Terschelling (3.47).


The signals sent to the Commodore took a long time to get through; and the delay made them puzzling and difficult to understand. None the less the Commodore succeeded in grasping the situation, and in the end brought his force into touch with the enemy. At three o'clock he received Admiral Jellicoe's order to be ready to attack the Germans as they returned to harbour, and he at once turned his squadron to the position ordered. After he had been about an hour on his new course he received the Commander‑in-Chief's signal cancelling the last orders given; and so returned (4.0 p.m.) to the northerly course which he had been steering between two and three.


Two more messages were then reported to him: the first was from Admiral Jellicoe, warning him again that the German fleet might be retiring by way of Terschelling; the second was the Admiralty message stating that the German flagship had been in Lat. 54 degrees 14' N., Long. 2 degrees 2' E., at a quarter to three ‑ that is, seventy‑five miles to the N.W. of the position the Harwich Force now occupied. It was not possible to reconcile the two messages; so the Commodore decided that he had better assume the Admiralty's observation to be correct, and held on as he was. At about twenty minutes past five, a Zeppelin was seen ahead, and, a few minutes later, the Lightfoot reported that she had sighted a considerable number of large vessels steering east. Realising that he was now gaining contact with the High Seas Fleet, the Commodore turned south, to avoid being cut off, and when he had got enough room, turned again and began to dog the enemy.


Admiral Scheer's rapid return home took place as follows. After turning to the S.E. at 12.23, he received several messages which warned him, at last, that whatever smaller forces might be in the direction reported, the Grand Fleet itself was not far off. The first message, from U.53, stated that our main fleet had been about seventy‑five miles to the east of Hartlepool, steering south, at a quarter past one, and this was fairly correct. The second, also from U.53, reported that our main body consisted of only ten battleships; this was not correct, and must have confirmed Admiral Scheer in his mistaken impression that we had divided our forces, leaving a fairly powerful squadron to the south of him. The third was from Zeppelin L.11, which told him that "single (einzelne) enemy forces" had been in about the same area at a quarter past two, also steering south.


These reports, though not accurate or clear, were enough to warn Admiral Scheer that our main fleet was to the northward of him, and that he ought to get into contact as quickly as possible with the force at which he intended to strike, as time was running short. Unfortunately, no further news was coming in from the Zeppelins in the Flanders Bight; and, at half‑past two, he felt that his southerly course had taken him so far towards the German minefield in the Outer Silver Pit, that he could not approach it much further while the possibility of his being forced to a fleet action was still impending from the north. He kept on until a quarter past three, and then turned the fleet to the E.N.E. and began to make for home. At about four o'clock, he learned from the Zeppelins and submarines to the northward of him that our main fleet had turned to the north‑westward. An hour and three‑quarters later he sighted the Harwich Force. When it was seen that Commodore Tyrwhitt's force intended to follow him, Admiral Scheer took the precaution to make ready for severe night fighting. His experiences on the night of May 31 left him in no doubt that the best way of dealing with destroyer attacks at night was to preserve the order of his main squadrons, and to form a screen in the direction from which the attack was likely to come. He therefore stationed a powerful group of destroyers at the end of his line, and held on as he was, without detaching a force to drive us off.


The Commodore followed them until he received a signal from Admiral Jellicoe, stating that the Grand Fleet was too far off to give him any support. Realising that by attacking he could not delay the German fleet sufficiently to provoke a fleet action, he turned away, and soon afterwards received orders to return to his base. Admiral Scheer returned to harbour unmolested, receiving good news of what was going on further north, during the Grand Fleet's retirement.


When Admiral Jellicoe turned to the north‑westward at four o'clock he was certain "that the enemy would either


Aug. 19, 1916



have laid mines after turning, or have left submarines over which the fleet would pass," and, therefore, thought that it would be "very unadvisable to pass over waters which he had occupied." There was certainly good reason for supposing that he was approaching a danger zone ‑ at twenty minutes past three the Hercules reported a submarine; twenty‑five minutes later she reported another, and followed it by a further message that yet another had been sighted by the Dublin. The fleet were formed in cruising disposition No. 5 when they moved up "M" channel. The light cruiser squadrons, which were covering the rear, were spread on a line running E.N.E. and W.S.W., with a distance of between three and five miles between the groups. Zeppelins L.11 and L.31 were following us closely, and at about a quarter to five, the ships of the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron engaged them.


There seemed, for the moment, to be only one submarine about; but it was obviously in a dangerous position. At the eastern end of the screen the Dublin had reported it to the N.W. some time after four o'clock, adding that it was "no immediate menace to any ship." This was true; but it was none the less on the track over which the light cruiser squadrons should pass; and at a quarter to five, as the Falmouth was turning back to close the Chatham after engaging a Zeppelin, she was torpedoed. Lieutenant‑Commander von Bothmer in submarine U.66 had done the work: he had been stationed on the Flamborough Head line and sighted the battle cruisers on their southerly course before four o'clock. He dogged them very tenaciously for the next hour, and our turn to the north‑westward gave him his opportunity. (Scheer, p. 183.)



The Falmouth was struck on the starboard side by two torpedoes fired at a range of less than 1,000 yards. The Chester was working with her on the screen; and as the distance between the pairs of cruisers had been reduced for passing up "M" channel, the Chatham was not far off. The Birmingham, which was the next ship to the eastward, had apparently not yet closed up and was out of visual touch.


When Admiral Beatty got news of the disaster, he ordered the destroyers Pasley, Negro and Pelican to assist the Falmouth, and told the Rear‑Admiral East Coast of England to send tugs at once; he then warned the light cruisers that they were not to be risked, and that the work of rescue was to be left to the destroyers.


As the distance between the battle cruisers and the screen was not very great, the destroyers were on the scene a few minutes after the disaster; but, prompt as they were, the armed trawler Cooksin had already gone alongside the Falmouth and taken off all the officers and men not required for working the ship.


Lieutenant‑Commander von Bothmer held his ground in the most determined fashion. His submarine was repeatedly attacked by the escorting destroyers; a depth charge put out all her lights, and made the water flow in so fast that the crew gave themselves up for lost; yet it was only at about seven o'clock that he sheered off, after firing several more torpedoes which only missed their target by a narrow margin.


The Chatham and Chester remained near the Falmouth for over an hour, and then steamed off, as the Vice‑Admiral's orders had been peremptory. When they left, there was good reason to hope that the Falmouth would reach harbour, as she could make headway, and was on an even keel. Throughout the night she proceeded under her own steam at 2 knots; and was joined at 11 p.m. by four destroyers of the 4th Flotilla, which had been detached by the Commander‑in‑Chief. In the early morning one of the tugs from Immingham arrived and took her in tow; and by 9 a.m. the second tug appeared and gave further assistance.


Unfortunately, the direct route to the Humber took the Falmouth right along the Flamborough Head U‑boat line, and at noon U.63 fell in with her, and fired two more torpedoes, both of which went home. As the Falmouth was then being escorted by eight destroyers, it must have required a high degree of skill and courage to bring off the attack. Even so, the Falmouth kept afloat all the afternoon, and it was not until eight hours after the last torpedo had struck her that she went down, only five miles from the shelving beach on the southern side of Flamborough Head.


The fleet's movement up "M" channel between 4 p.m. and dark is a fair test of the degree of risk incurred by a large force when it moves over an infested area. Their north‑westerly course carried the battle squadrons straight towards the line which the U‑boats off Blyth had been ordered to occupy, and everything favoured the enemy submarines. In order to keep inside the channel our screens were closed up; the spaces between the squadrons were considerably less than those prescribed for the formation in which they were then cruising; and as the channel was narrow, the ships could not zigzag freely. The whole target was at once massed and hampered. Without counting the submarine


Aug. 19, 1916



which torpedoed the Falmouth, eleven reports of U‑boats in dangerous positions came in to the flagship between 4 and 9 p.m. Sometimes the danger to our ships was very great, as, for instance, when a submarine was sighted 400 yards from the Galatea (5.20), or when, at ten minutes to eight, two torpedoes passed close astern of the Inflexible. By about half‑past eight the fleet had got clear; and the squadrons were dispersed to their bases during the next day; but the experience seems to have made a strong impression on the Conimander‑in‑Chief.


The U‑boats which harassed our retreat were under the belief that they had done more damage than was really the case. Lieutenant‑ Commander von Bothmer realised that he had only damaged the Falmouth, but, for some unexplained reason, thought that he had sunk a destroyer; while the captain of U 65, who fired at the Inflexible, was convinced that he had succeeded in hitting her. Admiral Scheer, therefore, took his fleet back into harbour under an exaggerated impression of the losses he had inflicted, and wrote the mistaken account which appears without correction in his book.


To Admiral Jellicoe it appeared as though the enemy had perfected the game which he had so long expected them to play.


He was persuaded that Admiral Scheer's operations had been designed to draw the fleet over submarines, and that unless we could protect our light cruisers with destroyer screens we should suffer heavy losses by striving to bring the enemy to action whenever he left harbour. More than that, he was convinced that the enemy had discovered the position of "L" and "M" channels, and urged that a new channel should be swept without delay. (Admiral Scheer, however, does not mention our swept channels.)


These were his immediate proposals. The consequences of the day's events upon our North Sea policy were more far reaching. Since the war began, it had seemed that we should always have a fair chance of bringing the enemy to action if he raided our coasts in force, and the opinion had been strengthened by the knowledge that, with the exception of the sortie which ended in the Dogger Bank action, the German light forces never put to sea for any considerable operation without the support of the High Seas Fleet. For this reason, we had invariably moved our whole forces whenever they seemed to be stirring.


Admiral Jellicoe now thought that this policy needed drastic revision. He could no longer undertake without an adequate destroyer screen to guarantee coastal towns against bombardment, or to interfere with the early stages of a landing, and he strongly urged that the plan of disregarding the submarine and mine menace and "seeking the enemy in any locality, whenever he was known to be at sea" was no longer tenable.


Hitherto, it had been understood that we ought not to seek action inside the area bounded by the latitude of Horn Reefs and the 5th meridian. Admiral Jellicoe now proposed an extension of the zone, and stated that, in his opinion, the fleet ought not to operate in the area to the south of Lat. 55 degrees 30' N. and the east of Long. 4 degrees E.: experience had shown that waters so far to the eastward could not be properly watched by our cruisers.


With regard to the waters to the west of Long. 4 degrees E., he was of the opinion that the fleet might enter them, and take the risk of mines, if a really good opportunity offered of bringing the enemy to action during daylight; but, so long as there was any danger from submarines, the fleet ought not to be taken south of the Dogger Bank, unless every class of vessel were protected by submarine screens.


These proposals meant that the duty of defending the North Sea and the British coasts south of Sunderland was, henceforth, to devolve in general upon the local defence flotillas, the Humber and the Harwich forces, and the 3rd Battle Squadron. Admiral Jellicoe made it quite clear that his proposals were independent of whether the fleet was based at Rosyth or Scapa; and that only if he could be given more destroyers would he be willing to reconsider his decision. The Admiralty endorsed these opinions, and new orders were issued to the Grand Fleet. Drastic and far reaching as they sound, there was in them nothing for which the Admiralty were unprepared.


In March, Sir Henry Oliver, Chief of the Staff, had admitted that, so long as the Grand Fleet was based on Scapa, there was little chance of a fleet action, and the First Sea Lord had expressed the same view, though more emphatically. In April, the Chief of the Staff stated that the enemy practically commanded the North Sea south of the Tyne, and was repeatedly making sweeps on the Dogger Bank which we could not counter; it had for long been realised that the Grand Fleet could not be in time to interfere seriously with the opening stages of a raid in force.


The operations on August 19 were thus the culminating point of a discussion which had been going on for six months and a practical test of the opinions that it had provoked.


Aug. 19, 1916



These revised orders to the fleet are a register of the striking change introduced into the war at sea by the tactical use of submarines. At this stage, in the absence of effective counter‑measures, they had for the time so restricted the movements of a fleet of super‑Dreadnoughts ‑ each one of which could steam for several thousands of miles without re‑fuelling ‑ that the waters opposite one‑third of the eastern coastline of Great Britain, and about half of the North Sea, were outside its zone of effective action. On the other hand, the Germans were as short of submarines as we were of destroyers, so that Admiral Scheer was also denied the use of these waters: his system of fleet scouting and reconnaissance made too heavy a call upon the total of U‑boats available for all purposes. By October, when, through the tireless efforts of Admiral von Holtzendorff, a new submarine campaign against commerce had been got well under way, the Ems and the Flanders flotillas were no longer at the service of Admiral Scheer as watching outposts for the fleet during a sortie. A deadlock had thus been reached, and it seemed that for the future the two great battle fleets could but lie inactive, watching one another across a kind of "No‑Man's Sea," where attack and defence were concerned only with transport and commerce.


The position, however, was much more interesting than it seemed, for it was always possible that of the two new policies which were causing the stalemate, one at any rate might be abandoned, perhaps temporarily and for some special reason. Admiral Scheer might at a critical moment receive orders, or obtain leave, to attempt a fresh sortie with or without the necessary submarines. It would then be seen whether the British Admiralty would stand by their policy of restraint, or would try once more to bring the High Seas Fleet to action by the old method.


The situation did, in fact, develop on these lines, and the result was exactly what might have been expected. The move came naturally from the Germans, for the strain of the deadlock told more heavily upon them; it was our commerce, and not theirs, which was at sea, and Admiral Scheer, still thinking of the prestige of his battle fleet, was evidently reluctant to forgo the minor successes he had hoped for. Though he could not have the U‑boats, he might possibly contrive to do something without them; and accordingly, just two months after his last effort, he made a final attempt to combine the tentative fleet policy in the North Sea with the new submarine campaign.


During the afternoon of October 18, the Admiralty took in the accustomed signs of an impending sortie; but their order to Admiral Jellicoe only instructed him to put the fleet under short notice for steam. There had been no signs of submarine activity during the 15th and 16th; but on the 18th, when the German fleet was making ready, reports came in of submarines off St. Abbs, Girdleness, the Shetlands and the Long Forties. The activity reported was not in any way abnormal; and had there been any reason to suppose that Admiral Scheer was moving southward, the Grand Fleet would doubtless have put to sea. As it was, the Admiralty stood rigidly on their revised orders, and the burden of resisting the impending raid was thrown entirely upon the local defence forces. Commodore Tyrwhitt was ordered to take his force to sea and to assemble to the west of the North Hinder, the Vice‑Admiral of the 3rd Battle Squadron was sent into the Swin, and the submarines from the Blyth and Tyne flotillas were moved to a line covering the coastline between Sunderland and Newcastle.


Admiral Scheer left harbour at about midnight, and moved out into the central part of the North Sea, with his flanks covered by a widely spread destroyer screen. His objective was still quite unknown, and, in order to provide against every contingency, Admiral Jellicoe ordered the Weymouth, the Melbourne, the Achilles and the Minotaur, and four destroyers from Cromarty, to watch for raiders at the northern end of the North Sea. (They were to spread and cruise between the eastern approaches to the Pentland Firth and the approaches to the Hardhanger Fiord, Norway.) Just before half‑past eight on the morning of the 19th the High Seas Fleet was at last satisfactorily located: it was then about fifty‑five miles north‑west of Ameland, steering north‑west. Admiral Scheer had thus taken his fleet into the zone which was being patrolled by our overseas submarine flotillas, and he was soon aware of it.


Lieutenant‑Commander John de Burgh Jessop left Harwich in E.38 for the patrol to the north of Ameland on October 13, and maintained his station for five days ‑ often in very bad weather ‑ without sighting anything. On October 19, at a quarter to six in the morning, he saw a large number of heavy ships to the eastward, on a westerly course, and steered to the northward to cut them off. In this he was unsuccessful; for at half‑past six he had the disappointment of seeing the German battle cruisers steer past him, with the Moltke at the rear of the line. Twenty minutes later, however, he sighted more vessels to the eastward, steering straight towards him. As they approached, he made them out to


Oct. 19, 1916 



be light cruisers, accompanied by a destroyer screen. A few minutes later he contrived to penetrate it by a very fine piece of manoeuvring, and attacked at a distance of about half a mile. Unfortunately his periscope dipped just as he was about to fire, and he was compelled to loose his torpedoes blindly. They missed, and when he rose to the surface again, he found that the whole German battle fleet was steering past him. It was then about half‑past seven, and, in spite of his constant eflorts to bring his boat within firing distance of the battle squadrons, he was again disappointed; for at a few minutes before eight he saw the last of the battleships pass him out of range. About half an hour went by before he saw another chance: a three‑funnelled light cruiser was then approaching him; but, as she was screened by no fewer than four destroyers, the difficulty of bringing off a successful attack was as great as ever. None the less, he contrived, once again, to get between the escort and the target, and at about a quarter to nine, three hours after he had sighted the first echelon of the German fleet, he got in a successful shot. As he sank to the bottom, he heard the detonation of the two torpedoes which he had fired from his bow tubes. (Lieutenant‑Commander Jessop attacked another German light cruiser about an hour later; returned finally to his patrol station and attacked a German submarine on the following day. He was given the D.S.O. for these exploits.)


The Admiralty learned, early in the forenoon, that the Muenchen had been successfully attacked; but the afternoon passed with no further news of the German fleet; and it was not until five o'clock that Admiral Scheer was again located: he was then about ninety miles north‑west of Heligoland, steering for the entrance of the Horn Reefs channel, with the obvious intention of returning to harbour. The defence forces along the British coast were at once ordered to "resume normal conditions."


This ended the series of fleet sorties, on which Admiral Scheer had been basing his hopes. He evidently decided that his new system of fleet reconnaissance was unworkable, and that the fleet could not move freely in the North Sea without the watching outposts of submarines which had become so important a part of his system. They were no longer available, and the October sortie was not repeated.










October 1916 to February 1917


WE have already noted (See Vol. III, p. 302.) that among the risks which the Admiralty had continually in mind was the possibility of an attempt to force the defences of the Dover Straits. After the battle of Jutland, the prospects of any such enterprise were, no doubt, less favourable, for the damaged condition of the High Seas Fleet made it for some months unequal to the necessary covering operations for a serious attack, and the opinions expressed by Admirals Scheer and von Holtzendorff behind the scenes were not long in bringing about the official decision by which its action was for the future restricted to supporting the submarine campaign. On the other hand, the pressure of necessity lay heavy upon the Germans; our anti‑submarine dispositions were being systematically extended and were becoming oppressive to the U‑boats. These dispositions might be interfered with by a limited offensive, and at the same time apprehension and loss might be caused among our transport and merchant shipping if the German Command were prepared to risk unsupported light forces under cover of darkness. On these somewhat tentative principles a raiding attack was decided upon, and Captain Andreas Michelsen, the Commodore of the High Seas Fleet flotillas, left Germany for Zeebrugge with the 3rd and 9th Flotillas during the night of October 23:


The 3rd Flotilla was composed of the 5th and 6th Half Flotillas, which were made up as follows:


5th Half Flotilla V.71 (leader), V.73, V.81, G 88, V.67, V.68, V.47.


6th Half Flotilla S.55 (leader), S.53, S.54, G.42, V.70, G.91; each of these destroyers was armed with three 4‑inch guns and six torpedo tubes.


The 9th Flotilla was composed of the 17th and 18th Half Flotillas, which were made up as follows:


17th Half Flotilla: V.79 (leader), V.80, V.60, S.51, S.52, S 36.


18th Half Flotilla: V.30, V.28, V.26, S 34, S 33; each of these destroyers was armed with three 4‑1‑inch guns or three 22‑pounders, and six torpedo tubes.


The Admiralty realised that some naval movement was afoot, and assumed that it would take place in the Flanders Bight.


Oct. 24, 1916 



They therefore telegraphed to Admiral Jellicoe to have the fleet under short notice for steam; and at a quarter to seven, Commodore Tyrwhitt was ordered to assemble his forces to the east of the North Hinder lightship; at the same time the whole East coast was warned to prepare for a "naval raid south." Commodore Tyrwhitt was at the North Hinder by about one o'clock on the 24th; but Michelsen hugged the coast all night, passed the Maas light‑vessel at about 2.0 a.m., and our forces never got into contact.


The Admiralty now realised that the Dover area was threatened, and sent two warning telegrams to Vice‑Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon, telling him that a force of destroyers - one flotilla ‑ had arrived at Zeebrugge, and that the French had recently reported a concentration of armed barges on the Ostend‑Bruges Canal. This new turn of events came as a complete surprise; for the Germans had held the Belgian ports for two years without attempting to use them as anything but submarine bases. As the information seemed to show that the enemy were at last about to make a serious move in the Nieuport sector, the Admiralty ordered Commodore Tyrwhitt at Harwich to reinforce the Dover Command with a light cruiser and four destroyers.


This reinforcement (Carysfort, Laforey, Liberty, Lucifer and Laurel) arrived at Dover on the 25th, and Admiral Bacon had then to decide how he could best distribute his forces between the numerous objectives which lay open to the enemy. Besides the seaward flank of the Allied armies, which seemed immediately threatened, he had to make a provision for defending the route between Beachy Head and the Downs, the mass of shipping which collected every night in the Downs anchorage, the barrage and the drifters watching it, and the transport route behind the barrage, between Folkestone and Boulogne. Of these targets the Downs appeared to him the most important, for it was there that the food supplies of the capital were assembled. The political effect of a serious and sustained raid against this central point of our vast network of communications would hardly have been less than that caused by the Dutch expedition to the Medway in 1667; and it might easily have been accompanied by an acute food shortage, lasting for several days when the ferment was at its hottest. The barrage was less important; but it had been established at a very great expenditure of material and labour, and was at the time looked upon as a powerful and effective obstruction to the German submarines. The net, which began at the South Calliper, on the southern end of the Goodwins, and ran to the south‑western end of the Outer Ruytingen, was guarded by a large number of drifters. These boats worked in groups of from six to eight, and to each group a section of the barrage was allotted; they were unarmed, except for a few rifles, and were not fitted with wireless apparatus.


Forces under command of Vice‑Admiral, Dover, October 26, 1916:


6th Destroyer Flotilla:

Light Cruiser, Attentive.

Light Cruiser, Carysfort (detached from Harwich).

Flotilla Leader, Swift.


32 Destroyers (seven under repair):

     8 "L" class, 29 knots, 900‑1,000 tons (detached from Harwich).

11 "F" class ("Tribals"), 33 knots, 900‑1,000 tons.

13 "B," "C,"   "E" classes, 30 knots, 400-600 tons.


12 Monitors (three under repair):

Three 15‑inch; five 12‑inch; four 7.5‑inch.


1 Gunboat.

3 Torpedo Boats (one under repair).

8 "P" class boats (two under repair).

5 "Racecourse" Paddle Minesweepers (built in 1916).


5th Submarine Flotilla:

Light Cruiser, Arrogant.

10 "C"-class Submarines (four under repair).


Seaplane Carrier, Riviera.


Auxiliary Patrol:

2 Yachts.

78 Trawlers (56 fitted with minesweep).

10 Paddle Minesweepers (old).

130 Net Drifters.

24 Motor Launches.

5 Motor Boats.



Plan - The Dover Straits Barrage


The Vice‑Admiral did not believe that the cross‑channel route or the traffic lane to the west of the barrage was seriously threatened, and though he kept a force in hand to protect them if need be, he placed them last in order of importance. His position was none the less a very difficult one. To begin with, the forces at his disposal were inadequate even to the ordinary work of the station, and at this moment the strain was making itself felt. The U‑boats had been very active during the previous week, and he had, in consequence, been compelled to double the number of ships engaged in escort and patrol duties; while the light cruiser Attentive had her boilers open for cleaning. He could not attempt to direct operations by going to sea himself; his problem was one of defence, and could only be solved by his remaining ashore at the telephone centre and signal station. There he must wait in the black darkness of a raid‑night, with lights out and windows open, to hear the sound of gunfire or to receive the reports of it from the many stations strung on the long line between Beachy Head and the North Foreland.


Oct. 26, 1916



or Dunkirk. His decisions must be doubly embarrassed, both by his knowledge of the many vulnerable points which he had to defend, and his complete ignorance of the force and direction of the enemy's attack.


On the 26th, then, Admiral Bacon, in the belief that the Belgian coast and the Downs were most probably the threatened points, distributed his ships accordingly over the area of his command. The Laforey's division he ordered to Dunkirk to reinforce the Swift, Syren, Racehorse, Falcon and Myrmidon, which were already there. They were not to leave until the evening and would, in crossing, serve as a night patrol for the barrage. The Lawford's division he sent to the Downs, where they arrived during the afternoon and anchored; the "Tribal" destroyer Zulu, and two "P" boats, he ordered to patrol the traffic route, and the 30knotter, Flirt, he sent out to support the drifters on the barrage. He kept six "Tribal" destroyers ‑ the Viking, Mohawk, Tartar, Nubian, Amazon and Cossack ‑ under his hand at Dover to use as a striking force if circumstances required. His remaining 30‑knotters, the Greyhound, Mermaid, Kangaroo and Gipsy, were formed into a general reserve. These dispositions inevitably left all the probable points of attack, except perhaps the Dunkirk area, where five monitors were stationed in addition to the destroyers, guarded by much weaker forces than Commodore Michelsen's two flotillas; but Admiral Bacon hoped that each detachment was in sufficient strength to delay or hold up the enemy until reinforcements arrived.


The Admiralty received no information of the enemy's intentions or movements after the 24th, and two days later Commodore Michelsen left Zeebrugge at dusk to raid the Straits.


The 9th Flotilla (17th and 18th Half Flotillas) was ordered to raid the transport line between Dover and Calais, and the 3rd (5th and 6th Half Flotillas) to operate against the drifters and the barrage.


The target open to the enemy's attack ‑ that is, the transports, supply ships, etc., which were actually at sea in the Channel during the night of October 26/27 ‑ were as follows:



sailing from


Southampton for Havre, Rouen and Boulogne.


the Thames for Havre and Calais.


Littlehampton for Rouen.


Portland for Dunkirk.


Dover for Boulogne.


Newhaven for Calais, Boulogne, Dieppe, St. Valery.


Calais for Newhaven, Barry, Dover, Deptford.


Boulogne for Newhaven.


Rouen for Southampton, Barry, Newhaven.


Dieppe for Newhaven and Havre.


Havre for Southampton.


A distinct area of operations was, however, assigned to each half flotilla: the 17th was to attack all transports and destroyers to the north and west of the Varne, the 18th was to search the Pas de Calais. The operation zone of the 3rd Flotilla was divided by a line joining the Colbart and the Sandettie shoals; the area to the north of the line was allotted to the 5th Half Flotilla, which Commodore Michelsen led in person; the area to the south of it was allotted to the 6th. The 9th Flotilla left Zeebrugge at 5.30 p.m., and was followed, three‑quarters of an hour later, by the 3rd. The vessels of each flotilla remained concentrated until they reached a point about twenty miles E. by N. of the Goodwin Sands, where they divided. The 9th Flotilla arrived at the dispersing point at about twenty minutes past eight, and the two half flotillas at once set course for their zones of operation; the 3rd Flotilla reached the point just after nine o'clock and also dispersed.


On the British side, Admiral Bacon's orders were being carried out with equal regularity. Lieutenant R. Kellett left Dover in the Flirt shortly after eight in the evening and steered towards the south‑western end of the Outer Ruytingen at 12 knots; the Laforey's division, which left at about the same time, went on at 20 knots and was soon out of sight. (See Map 2.) Both the Laforey's and the Flirt's course converged with the German line of advance, and the Germans soon became aware that there were British forces about. At twenty minutes past nine, as the 18th Half Flotilla was steaming along the northern side of the Outer Ruytingen, the German look‑out men reported four British destroyers to port, steaming on an opposite course. They were, of course, the Laforey's division crossing to Dunkirk, and if the British look‑outs had sighted the German destroyers, at least one division of the raiders would have been located and fought very early in the evening; but the German destroyers were not reported, and the Laforey's division steamed on to the Dunkirk anchorage, unaware that the enemy were so close at hand.


About a quarter of an hour later the 18th Half Flotilla was sighted by the Flirt. At 9.35, some time after she had passed the light‑buoy three miles distant on her starboard beam, the officer of the watch sighted and challenged a number of destroyers on his port beam. They repeated the signal which he had made, and disappeared in the darkness. The incident did not rouse Lieutenant Kellett's suspicions. He thought it probable that his ship and the

others had sighted and challenged simultaneously, that the Laforey's division had turned back and that he had passed


Oct. 26 



them; he therefore held on as he was and made no report to headquarters. The Germans made a brief alteration of course and then hurried on towards the transport line, still unreported, although they had now twice been in contact with British outpost forces. The two half flotillas of the 3rd Flotilla were now approaching the barrage, which was guarded by four drifter divisions ‑ the 8th, 10th and 16th were to the north and west of the Flirt, and the 15th to the eastward. The 5th Half Flotilla, led by Commodore Michelsen, was the first of the German detachments to locate our barrage forces, and the 10th Division was the first group attacked. It consisted of five boats, under the command of the Paradox, and was watching the barrage south‑west of 7A buoy. Shortly after ten the leading drifters sighted a number of destroyers; the strangers did not answer the challenge, and the drifter captains, more suspicious than Lieutenant Kellett, fired rifles at them. The leading destroyers took no notice and passed on; but those in rear switched on searchlights and opened fire. The drifters Spotless Prince, Datum and Gleaner Of The Sea sank at once; the Waveney II was damaged and set on fire; but the Paradox escaped and made off to the north‑westward.


Hearing gun‑fire to the north and west of him, Lieutenant Kellett turned the Flirt back at about twenty minutes past ten and steered towards the flashes of the guns. His course carried him straight towards the 6th Half Flotilla, which, as we have seen, was ordered to operate on the eastern side of the barrage against the drifter divisions patrolling the French side of the Straits. In a few minutes he fell in with them. He was still unaware of the real position, and was under the impression that the drifters were attacking a German submarine which was attempting to pass the barrage. Shortly after half‑past ten, the Waveney II was sighted ahead, and when the searchlight was turned on her she was seen to be lying stopped in a cloud of smoke and steam; almost simultaneously destroyers, which were assumed to be French, were sighted on the Flirt's beam. Seeing men in the water, Lieutenant Kellett stopped, and lowered a boat. As the boat got clear of the ship, the Germans opened fire on the Flirt, and she sank in a few minutes; only the boat's crew and the officer in charge escaped with their lives.


Meanwhile, news of the raid had come through to Dover and Dunkirk. Commander W. H. Owen, R.N.R., in the yacht Ombra, was the first to give the alarm. He was somewhere near No. 11A buoy when the 10th Drifter Division was attacked; and as soon as he sighted gun flashes to the west‑ward of him, he reported by wireless (at 10.30 p.m.) that there were "enemy warships 20 miles east of Dover." His signal was confirmed a few minutes later by a message from Calais which ran: "We observe flashes, apparently gun‑fire, to the north of Calais from the sea." Admiral Bacon at once passed on the Ombra's signal to Dunkirk and set his available forces in motion. At 10.50 the "Tribal" destroyers, Viking, Mohawk, Tartar, Nubian, Cossack and Amazon, were ordered to slip and proceed; five minutes later the commodore at Dunkirk was ordered to send out the Laforey's division.


(The Carysfort's fires were banked at two hours' notice. On receiving orders to "prepare to slip," her captain reported that he was "raising steam with all despatch" and would require an hour and a quarter. Later, he reported that he would be ready by twenty minutes past twelve, and was ordered, in reply, to patrol between Folkestone and Gris Nez. This order was subsequently cancelled (12.45 a.m.) by another which ran: "You are to patrol with four destroyers between the South Goodwin and No. 9A buoy. It is possible that French submarines may be out to eastward of the line joining 9A buoy to the N.E. Varne buoy." The Carysfort left harbour shortly afterwards; but took no part in the action. She assisted, however, in the search for damaged vessels. See p. 53.)


As these second orders were sent out, Commander Owen sent in a further signal that the forces he had previously reported were "apparently three destroyers firing at object north of me." After sending in his first message he had steamed westwards, and at eleven o'clock was trying to get into touch with the 16th Drifter Division to warn them of the danger.


Meanwhile, the two half flotillas of the 9th Flotilla, which had crossed the barrage about an hour before and had slipped past our outpost forces, were getting near the transport line between Dover and the French ports. As they approached the Straits (10.30 to 11.0 p.m.), four British vessels were particularly exposed. Patrol Boat P.34 was on duty to the north‑westward of the Varne; the hospital ship Jan Breydel was crossing to Boulogne, and was still in the Gris Nez area, making for Dover; the empty transport Queen was also on her way back from Boulogne, and was between the Varne and the French side; another hospital ship, the St. Denis, was steering for Boulogne, and was still on the northern side of the Straits. The transports which were to cross to Boulogne during the night were, apparently, still well down the Channel and out of danger. The 17th and 18th Half Flotillas pressed well on into the Straits, and found nothing; at a quarter to eleven the 17th reached the southern end of the Colbart, and turned back; the 18th steamed on a little further, and turned north‑east at a few minutes after eleven. The Jan Breydel was the first to sight them: at


Oct. 26‑27, 1916



about eleven o'clock, when she was about seven miles northwest of Grisnez, she sighted a group of destroyers which must have been the 17th Half Flotilla. They were to the southward of her, and were crossing her bows. Her captain was unable to signal the news, as he was in charge of a hospital ship, bound by international law to take no part in any warlike operation. Shortly after this, the transport Queen and the hospital ship St. Denis passed one another, near the Varne, on opposite courses. It was noticed from the St. Denis that the Queen was burning all her navigation lights, and was being followed by five destroyers. The captain of the St. Denis suspected nothing, and steamed on towards Boulogne. When the two ships had passed, the German destroyers steamed rapidly up on each side of the Queen, and stopped her. An officer from V.80 came on board, and allowed the captain and the crew to get into the boats; the Queen was then sunk by gunfire. The German 17th Half Flotilla then continued its course for home. This second attack, which took place between eleven o'clock and half‑past, was accompanied by a fresh onslaught against the drifters on the barrage.


The 5th Half Flotilla was again responsible for the new attack. Towards eleven o'clock this half flotilla was about three miles east of the South Sand Head, right on the track of any drifter division that might be returning to Dover after the general alarm had been given. Commander Owen was, in fact, doing everything in his power to spread the alarm. After giving his first warning, he succeeded in getting into touch with the 16th Division and ordering them back to Dover. Whilst he was doing so, the 8th Division, which was still further to the westward, was attacked (11.10), and lost two vessels; and a quarter of an hour later, the westerly course of the 16th Division brought it also in contact with the raiding destroyers. After two drifters had been sunk and one other severely damaged, the 16th Division got clear and made towards the Goodwins: at great risk to himself, the captain of the leading boat sent up rockets to spread the alarm. Commander Owen managed to send in a further signal about this second outburst. Whilst going westwards with the 16th Division, he sighted two German destroyers ahead of him. He turned back to avoid them, and so lost touch with the drifters; but soon afterwards (11.35 p.m.) got a signal through to Dover.


Admiral Bacon's dispositions were, however, interfered with for a time by two mistakes, both due to modern instruments of transmission, which confused the orders given to the Lawford and her division. He had intended that these ships should not leave the Downs area, but that the Laforey's division should support the "Tribals" and close the enemy. The order sent to Commander K. Kiddle, the Depot Commander, was that the Lawford's division should "weigh and keep a good look‑out." Commander Kiddle, quite properly, in sending on this message added the latest information then available, so that the order as actually sent to the Lawford at 11.17 ran as follows: "Urgent. Enemy's warships reported twenty miles east of Dover. Weigh and keep a good look‑out. 'Tribals' from Dover and Laforey's division from Dunkirk are closing that position." The order was either wrongly transmitted or wrongly read: in the message as handed to Lieutenant‑Commander A. A. Scott, the commanding officer of the Lawford, the word "warships" appeared as "airships." He took this part of the order as the explanation of his duties being limited to lookout work; and when later he intercepted a message from P.34, sent after picking up the crew of the Queen shortly before midnight, he decided that he was justified in leaving the Downs, now that he knew enemy destroyers to be present. He therefore steered to the eastward and asked for instructions (12.30 a.m.). Admiral Bacon gave the order for him to "return to the Downs forthwith." But here occurred the second mistake: the name Lawford on the telephone was misheard as Laforey, and the order was dispatched to the latter instead of the former. As things turned out, no harm came of this confusion: the Laforey's division had left Dunkirk between 11.0 and 11.15 p.m.; by midnight it had passed the Dyck on its proper errand. The Lawford's division had, on the other hand, cleared the South Goodwins and made eastwards towards Dunkirk. If the enemy in their absence had turned into the Downs after crossing the barrage, this second failure in the transmission of an order would have been disastrous.


These mistakes may be set aside as inevitable and instructive. The real misfortune of the night was the failure of our concentration to hold and punish the raiders.


The "Tribal" destroyers had been ordered to "Slip and proceed out of harbour, Viking taking charge." The senior officer in the Viking evidently did not construe this message as an order to keep his force concentrated, for his detachment left harbour in two sub‑divisions. The Viking, the Mohawk and the Tartar left by the western entrance and concentrated outside; the Nubian, Cossack and Amazon left by the other, and having failed in the darkness to find the


Oct. 26‑27, 1916



Viking outside, acted independently for the rest of the night. All the commanding officers, however, steered towards No. 9A buoy, the point at which the enemy was thought to be operating; and as they made eastwards they sighted gunfire and rockets to the north and east of them, where the enemy was at that moment attacking the 16th and 8th Drifter Divisions.


As time went on, the "Tribal" destroyers became still more scattered. The Cossack failed to keep up with the other boats, and dropped astern; the commanding officer of the Viking, when he came up to 9A buoy, at midnight sighted firing to the northward and crossed the barrage with the rest of his detachment. Almost simultaneously, Commander M. R. Bernard, in the Nubian, sighted firing further to the eastward, and made towards it. This movement separated him from the other boats in his divisions which crossed the barrage on a north‑north‑easterly course at 12.35 a.rn. About this time the message was taken in from P.34, reporting the attack against the transport line. This caused most of the commanding officers to turn to the southward towards the point where the enemy were now reported; so that, shortly after half‑past twelve, the destroyers were approximately in the following positions:


Viking, Mohawk, Tartar. Crossing the barrage near No. 9A buoy on a south‑south‑ easterly course at 15 knots.

Nubian. Steering S. 70 degrees W. from No. 8A buoy at 15 knots.

Amazon. Steering S. 70 degrees W. from No. 9A buoy.

Cossack. Near No. 15A buoy.

Laforey's division. About three miles south‑eastward of the Viking's detachment, steering north‑westerly.

Lawford's division. About four miles east‑south‑cast of the South Goodwine light vessel, steering east‑north‑easterly.


Although acting independently, the mass of our destroyer forces had thus assembled in the central part of the Straits; that is to say, they were in the area towards which the enemy was making. The two sections of the 3rd Flotilla were, by now, well on their way home and out of reach; but the 17th and 18th Half Flotillas, which had raided the transport line, were steaming north‑eastwards towards the centre of the barrage. The Nubian was the first to get into action with them. At about twenty minutes to one Commander Bernard sighted destroyers ahead of him, which he took to be the Lawford's division from the Downs. He challenged accordingly and put his helm over to avoid them, but a moment later, the 17th Half Flotilla passed along his port side and poured a heavy and destructive fire into him. Hardly a shot missed, for the range was very close; and, as he put his helm over again in a spirited attempt to ram the last boat in the enemy's line, a torpedo struck the Nubian under the fore bridge, and not only brought her to a standstill, but put her completely out of action. The foremost petrol tanks caught fire and blazed furiously. The flash of the explosion, followed immediately by flames and clouds of smoke from the fire, made a sort of beacon in the central part of the Straits, marking the point of the encounter.


The Lawford's division, several miles away towards the South Goodwin, sighted it and steamed towards the spot. From time to time the destroyers passed through masses of smoke, still undispersed and lying low down on the water. The Laforey's division, much closer, though still to the eastward, also sighted flashes and saw great quantities of smoke illuminated by the gunfire, towards which they immediately set their course. The Amazon's turn came next. Some time before the Nubian was in action, Commander M. R. Bernard had sighted the trawler H. E. Stroud, which was supporting the drifters near 4A buoy, and had slowed down to hail her. The skipper had no news to give, so the Nubian was again put on to her course of S. 80 degrees W. at 15 knots. Though the Amazon's commanding officer must afterwards have seen the gun flashes of the Nubian's action, and heard the firing, he was hampered by being separated from the rest of our destroyers; for he had necessarily to ascertain the character of every vessel he met. He finally fell in with the German destroyers at about a quarter to one, and was, for the moment, so convinced that they were "L" class boats that even when they fired upon him he replied by making the challenge. The Germans passed him at high speed, as they had passed the Nubian a few minutes previously. Each successive boat fired a round as she steamed by, and two shells burst in their target. One put the Amazon's after gun out of action, and the other put out two boilers in the after boiler‑room. The trawler H. E. Stroud was still in the neighbourhood, and one of the rounds from the German destroyers hit her also and killed the captain.


The 17th Half Flotilla had now completed its work, but the 18th, which was only a little distance away, had still to be reckoned with. The Viking, the Mohawk and the Tartar were, indeed, rapidly approaching the German destroyers on a southerly course. Commander H. G. L. Oliphant, who was leading the detachment in the Viking, first sighted the enemy on his port bow. For the third time the doubt as to whether they were friends or enemies caused delay at the critical moment.


Oct. 27, 1917



Commander Oliphant challenged; the enemy crossed his bows rapidly and opened fire. The Germans steamed past the starboard side of the British boats, discharging their broadsides as they went by. The Viking was not hit; and Commander Oliphant put his helm over to turn and follow the enemy. As he completed the turn, he found the Mohawk was in his way, the reason being that one of the German shells had hit her and caused her helm to jam, and Lieutenant‑ Commander H. S. Braddyll had turned out of line to port; the Tartar, following close behind the Mohawk, had conformed. When Commander Oliphant got clear of the Mohawk, he steered after the enemy to the north‑north‑east; he did not, however, succeed in picking them up, and in the pursuit he got separated from the other two destroyers. This was the closing episode in the night's work. The Laforey's division was only a short distance away from the scene of the last encounter, and Commander R. A. Hornell, the senior officer, sent the Lucifer and Laurel to the northward towards the gun flashes; but though they made off at full speed they failed to get contact. And though gun flashes had been seen from the Lawford since the first engagement between the Nubian and the enemy, the division was too far to the westward to come up in time.


The Nubian herself was lying disabled near 5A buoy, when about one o'clock she was sighted and taken in tow. Her forepart had been completely blown away by the torpedo, and she could only be towed stern first. Towards morning the wind got up, and at a quarter to six the towing hawser parted. The Lark, who was towing her, could not take her in tow again, and she drifted ashore between the South Foreland and St. Margaret's Bay. Whilst she was drifting helplessly towards the shore, with the seas sweeping over her, Thomas William Smith, master of the tug William Gray, steered his ship alongside and took off the wounded. His action was courageous and skilful in a high degree: when he placed himself alongside the Nubian the two vessels appear to have been only about half a cable from the shore.


(The Nubian was eventually salved: her missing forepart was replaced by the forepart of the Zulu, which later lost her stern by striking a mine. The combined vessel when commissioned was named the Zubian.)


The German flotillas returned to their bases without mishap. The 17th Half Flotilla reached Ostend at a quarter to four; Commodore Michelsen and the remaining three divisions made for Zeebrugge, and reached it rather later. Finally, our destroyers, which had been scattered during the remainder of the night, reassembled near the South Goodwin towards three o'clock, and then swept along the barrage looking for disabled vessels.


When he sent in his report, Admiral Bacon did not fail to explain the disadvantages under which his destroyer captains had been compelled to fight. "The raid was well planned and carried out," he wrote to the Admiralty. "It belongs to that class of operation that succeeds mainly by knowing at what point, and when, the blow will fall, and exactly what it is intended to carry out. The enemy had the advantage of knowing that everyone they met was an enemy; our boats were uncertain, at the moment of meeting, whether a boat was friend or foe; the enemy, therefore, more than once escaped being fired at, when being passed, through our boats waiting to make certain.... The raiders had a definite objective and a pre‑arranged plan: our boats knew nothing except what they could guess. It is as easy to stop a raid of express engines with all lights out at night, at Clapham Junction, as to stop a raid of 33‑knot destroyers on a night as black as Erebus, in waters as wide as the channel. My defence against night raids has been to have the Downs protected, and the transport of troops stopped, since the obvious response to a raid that cannot be prevented is to have nothing the enemy can raid." In a further letter he explained that he had considered the Downs and the Ostend area to be the two points which he had to cover permanently, and added, with regard to the defence of the Straits, "No attempt was made to provide for a defence of the Straits, nor could such defence be attempted with the vessels then at my disposal. To defend a strait against a raid, a considerable number more destroyers than the raiding force would have to be kept continually at sea, and, moreover, of such numbers as to cover, successfully, the area of the approach."


The Admiralty, after examining Admiral Bacon's reports, agreed that his dispositions and strategy were sound. "If we are to make fairly certain of countering the enemy," ran the First Sea Lord's minute, "we should have at least two flotillas patrolling every night in close touch with each other, and, in order to keep such a patrol going, we must have still a third flotilla as a relief. But we do not possess these flotillas, nor could they be berthed at Dover, and we must make the best of what we have until the Grand Fleet destroyer requirements are met, and also regulate our cross-channel traffic so as to expose our troops to as little risk as possible. The work of the Dover force has consisted in protecting the drifters on duty at the mine barrages,


Nov. 1916 



submarine hunting, occasional bombardments of the enemy batteries installed in Belgium, air raids and reconnaissances, protection of shipping in the Downs, watching the Belgian coast to prevent a raid at La Panne, organising and protecting cross‑channel traffic, and escorting vessels in the channel. The most important of these are cross‑channel traffic and protection of the Downs from the attack of surface vessels.... other considerations may give place to these when it is known or expected that the flotillas at Zeebrugge or Ostend are in a state of readiness and have been reinforced by vessels from the German bight."


There was, however, one point upon which the Admiralty eventually disagreed with the Vice‑Admiral. Courts of Enquiry upon the losses incurred and the conduct of the various divisions were held at Dover during the month following the raid. The officers in charge of these enquiries seem to have considered that the "Tribal " destroyers need not have gone into action at such a disadvantage." The 'Tribal' destroyers," they wrote, "proceeded to sea without any previous formation or orders; some left by the eastern and some by the western entrance; and as soon as they got outside they proceeded to lose touch with one another." When he forwarded these minutes to the Admiralty, Admiral Bacon said that the "Tribal " destroyers had carried out his wishes, and that he approved of their tactics. "The 'Tribal' destroyers," his letter ran, "generally interpreted my wishes as conveyed in my signal, which was for the 'Tribals' to proceed to No. 9A buoy, where the drifters were being attacked, it being far more important to get boats there early than for them to hold back and wait for others.... The commonplace tactics were to form divisions and proceed in company.


The sound procedure, under the circumstances, that would have been grasped by a good tactician was for each boat to get into earliest touch with the enemy, and, while keeping touch at sufficient range, to fall back in the direction of their friends which were arriving later. These were the ideal tactics, but ideals are rarely realised." To this the Admiralty replied that they were unable to agree with the tactics recommended. "All experience of night firing during this war," they wrote, "has shown that it is absolutely essential to keep the forces concentrated at night in order to avoid the great danger of our vessels mistaking one another for enemy ships. They consider that in all circumstances destroyers proceeding at night to gain touch with an enemy should be kept in company, and that it is further essential that, if two separate forces are working from different bases, each should, on dark nights, be confined to certain areas so as to avoid the possibility of meeting one another."


This ruling settled a question of tactics and settled it, no doubt, in the right way; but it did not eliminate, or seek to eliminate, more than one possible source of error in a very complex problem. The orders issued for any operation, and especially those for a dark night's fighting, may be correct in principle and yet fail of their intended effect. To be certain of success it would be necessary to foresee every contingency and to provide beforehand a definite answer to every question that could arise upon the scene of action. The Dover Patrol had not yet had a sufficient experience of night raids: the lessons to be learnt were many, and proficiency could only be gained by degrees. In the meantime the enemy had not succeeded in reaching any of the important objectives which lay within his choice, and showed no sign of attempting to profit by his experiment.


Less than a fortnight after the raid was over, the Admiralty heard that the 3rd German Flotilla had been recalled to Germany from Zeebrugge. This withdrawal might, however, be purely temporary, and they could not allow it to affect their plans for strengthening and reinforcing the Dover Command. But the needs of the Dover Patrol could not be considered independently of other new calls upon our destroyer forces. The growing activity of the German submarines in the Channel, and the rising toll of loss suffered by neutral merchantmen in the western approaches between Ushant and Land's End, had by this time created a pressing need for destroyer reinforcements at Portsmouth and Devonport. The matter was, indeed, so urgent, and submarine warfare was taking so serious a turn, that Admiral Jellicoe had admitted that "it might conceivably be wise policy to divert destroyers from the Grand Fleet and other available sources, such as the Humber, Harwich, etc., for a thoroughly organised attack on submarines, when it is known that they are operating in considerable numbers, in comparatively narrow waters such as the Channel."


The Commander‑in‑Chief expressed this view in writing on October 29, and repeated it when he came south to Whitehall, early in November, to discuss the naval position with the Government. The Admiralty were, for the moment, unable to assemble a force of sufficient strength to meet the Commander‑in‑Chief's suggestion: their redistribution of the destroyers could only be a sort of middle way between conflicting claims. They decided that the Dover Patrol should be reinforced by three divisions


Nov. 1916 



from Harwich, which were to be kept concentrated and used as a fighting force. This, it was hoped, would materially help Admiral Bacon, by giving him the use of a group of destroyers trained in the flotilla tactics which, in the Admiralty's view, were essential to a successful defence of the Straits. Five of the best destroyers from the 4th Flotilla at the Humber were to be added to this striking force. The remaining destroyers of the Humber flotilla were to be moved to Portsmouth, where they were to be used for offensive operations against German submarines operating in the Channel. But as by withdrawing the 4th Flotilla from the east coast the Admiralty would be leaving the 10th Sloop Flotilla unprotected, and thereby incurring the risk of another Arabis incident, the Commander‑in‑Chief was ordered to send a division of destroyers from the Grand Fleet to support the sloops. If, owing to this weakening of his destroyer forces, the Commander‑in‑Chief was unable to screen all his battleships, a part of the 4th Battle Squadron was to be left behind when the fleet put to sea.


Although the intentions of the naval leaders at Berlin were not known at the time, there can be no doubt, in the light of later information, that the Admiralty's decision to draw upon the Grand Fleet destroyers was sound. The German plan of concentrating all their naval resources upon the submarine campaign was strengthening with every week that went by; and a rather trivial incident had recently raised a discussion at Pless, and caused the whole naval policy of the Berlin authorities to be reviewed afresh.


On November 3 Admiral Scheer was informed that two German submarines, U.30 and U.20, had stranded in a fog off Bovbierg, and at once sent out four "Kaiser" class battleships, the battle cruiser Moltke, and a half flotilla, to assist them. When they reached the spot, the destroyers repeatedly tried to tow U.20 off, but failed; U.30, not being so badly ashore, was floated off. Whilst the destroyers worked close in shore, the Moltke and the battleships patrolled to the west and north. This brought them well into the zone which was being watched by our submarines of the 11th Flotilla; and they were, in fact, being closely followed. At about noon, Commander N. F. Laurence, in submarine J.1, sighted the four enemy battleships to the eastward of him, on a northerly course. A very heavy sea was running, and Commander Laurence was finding it very difficult to keep his boat at an even depth. It was not until an hour later that he was able to get into an attacking position: at one o'clock, just as the squadron was turning to a southerly course. he fired four torpedoes from his bow tubes, at a range of 4,000 yards. One of them hit the Grosser Kurfuerst, another the Kronprinz; and the result was that both ships were in dockyard hands for a considerable period.


The report of this incident was very badly received at Pless; and Admiral Scheer received a sharp rebuke from the Emperor himself: "To risk a squadron, and by so doing nearly to lose two armoured ships in order to save two U‑boats, is disproportionate (stuende nicht im richtigen Verhaltniss), and must not be attempted again." It was not to be expected that Admiral Scheer would meekly accept an order which recalled the restrictions placed upon Admiral von Ingenohl in the early days of the war. He succeeded, after a personal interview, in getting the imputation against his leadership withdrawn; but the general plan of naval policy which he laid before the Emperor shows that he now (as in his secret report after Jutland) regarded the High Seas Fleet as unequal to the task of defeating England, and useful only as a sort of auxiliary to the submarines. He had even definitely abandoned his earlier programme of fleet raids and bombardments in the North Sea. "The whole organisation of fleet preparedness," he writes, "is directed to giving every undertaking the highest possible degree of security; and to leave all ships returning to harbour for their necessary rest period, undisturbed. The maintenance of this decision is important in that, during the further progress of submarine war (upon which, in my view, our whole naval policy will sooner or later be compelled to concentrate), the fleet will have to devote itself to the single task of bringing the submarines safely in and out of harbour." (Scheer, pp. 191‑93.)


In Admiral Scheer's new strategy the destroyers at Zeebrugge were to play an important part. "They were," he says, "to attack the watching forces on the channel barrage, and so assist the submarines to get through." For the moment, however, this part of his plan was not very vigorously pressed; the 3rd Flotilla was not replaced, and the next undertaking in the Dover area lacked the decision and energy of Commodore Michelsen's earlier stroke.


Being now convinced that the Germans had at last turned their attention to a zone which offered so many targets to an attack by light craft, the Admiralty had done something to relieve Admiral Bacon's difficulties. After the raid in October, the First Sea Lord, as we have seen, had written that if the Straits were to be made secure, at least two flotillas would have to be kept on patrol, and a third one


Nov. 23, 1916 RAID ON THE DOWNS 69


kept in reserve; and, during the month following, some of these reinforcements had been collected from the other commands. On October 28, the Lightfoot and four destroyers were sent from Harwich to join the Carysfort and the eight boats which were already there; on the following day, the Lapwing and Phoenix arrived from the ist Flotilla to replace the Nubian and the Flirt. On November 21 three of the best destroyers from the 4th Flotilla in the Humber arrived. (The other two promised, see ante, p. 67, arrived on December 2.) Admiral Bacon was, moreover, promised two flotilla leaders from the Grand Fleet, as soon as they could be released by the delivery of the Seymour and the Saumarez, which were then completing. None of these new vessels was, however, brought into action by the very cautious attempt which the German flotilla at Zeebrugge made a few days after the first reinforcement came down from the Humber.


The German flotilla commander, Commander Goehle, was ordered to attack the northern entrance to the Downs, and to destroy all such warships and auxiliaries as he might fall in with: Ramsgate was to be bombarded if possible. The enterprise was to be carried out by the 9th Flotilla, reinforced by three destroyers styled the "Z" or Flanders Half Flotilla. The force that left Zeebrugge on the night of the 23rd was thus made up of thirteen destroyers:


9th Flotilla: V.79, V.80, S.36, S.51, S.52, V.30, V.28, V.26, S.34, S.33.


"Z" Half Flotilla: V.67, V.47, V.68.)


They reached the North Hinder Light at twenty minutes past seven, and then steered westwards towards the Kentish Knock at fourteen knots. When six miles off the Light they turned towards the northern entrance to the Downs and slowed down. Just before nine o'clock they were three miles north‑eastward of the North Foreland and could see the lights of Ramsgate. Commander Goehle now steamed towards the anchorage at a very slow speed, and he was soon sighted. The armed drifter Acceptable of the 2nd Division of Ramsgate drifters, which comprised twelve boats in all, was then patrolling at the north end of the anchorage near the Broadstairs Knoll, and her commanding officer, Lieutenant W. T. Fitzgerald, R.N.R., suddenly sighted six destroyers steering on a south-south‑westerly course across his stern towards the anchorage. He did not suspect that they were enemy boats, and ported his helm to get clear of them, but, as they passed under his stern, at a distance of less than a cable, he saw that they were strangers. They were painted in a lighter colour than British boats, and all had high, topgallant forecastles. When the last boat in the line had the drifters well abeam, she opened fire, and sent down nine or ten shells at the Acceptable, and at the drifter Buckler, which was near by. The drifters at once gave the alarm, and the three destroyers stationed in the Downs for the night, the CRUSADER, Saracen and MERMAID, slipped their cables and got under way; but by the time they had reached the northern end of the Downs, the enemy destroyers had disappeared, after firing a few rounds into Margate.


The German reconnaissance was so feebly conducted that the destroyers did not even wait to ascertain the forces which they would have to face if they ever attempted to press home a serious attack upon the anchorage. The incident showed, however, that the German commander at Zeebrugge was at all events determined to keep the Dover area under observation; and Admiral Bacon, when he forwarded his report on the night's occurrences, attached his revised plan for defending the Straits.


During the day he intended to maintain a patrolling division of five Harwich boats to cruise between the South Goodwins and Calais, and to keep a 12‑inch monitor at anchor in the Downs to protect the traffic against a raid in thick weather. One destroyer was to be stationed in the Dungeness, and another in the Beachy Head area, as an outer guard to the six destroyers which worked on the traffic route to Boulogne. This would leave a reserve of two light cruisers, two flotilla leaders, and a division of Harwich boats at Dover, standing by with steam at short notice. (The Harwich vessels were constantly being changed; but the contingent detached to Dover was henceforward one light cruiser, one or two leaders, and twelve destroyers.)


By night, when the chances of a raid were greater than by day, the Downs Force was to be increased by a light cruiser, a flotilla leader and the division of Harwich destroyers allocated to the Goodwins‑Calais patrol, who would be relieved by the other Harwich Division which had been held in reserve during the day. The night reserve at Dover kept in readiness for operations in the Straits would then consist of one light cruiser, one flotilla leader and the division of "Tribal" destroyers which during the day had been engaged on patrol and escort duty.


The signs of renewed activity in the Dover area did not shake the Admiralty's conviction that the German submarine campaign would shortly take first place in the war at sea, and that very special measures would be required to meet the danger. The feeling was shared by the country as a whole; the Press was restless and disturbed, and both the Government and the High Naval Command were



Nov-Dec. 1916



criticised. Everything suggested that a change of Ministers and of the Board of Admiralty could not be long delayed. Nobody doubted that the submarine campaign, which over-shadowed everything, would have to be answered by a drastic revision of our existing methods of war. In the words of Mr. Balfour, all measures taken up to date had proved mere palliatives; and it was only natural that new men should be called upon to devise and carry through a new policy. Admiral Jellicoe, who during the past few weeks had been making the most urgent representations about the coming danger, seemed to be the man upon whom the responsibility should be placed. On November 22, just as he was about to take the fleet to sea for exercises, he received a telegram offering him the post of First Sea Lord, and asking him to take up his duties without delay; simultaneously, Admiral Beatty was offered the command of the Grand Fleet. Both offers were accepted, and a week later Admiral Jellicoe was at Whitehall.


Admiral Sir Cecil Burney accompanied the Commander‑in‑Chief to the Admiralty as Second Sea Lord, and Admiral Sir Charles Madden succeeded him in charge of the 1st Battle Squadron. Rear‑Admiral A. L. Duff, the second in command of the same squadron, was called to Whitehall to take charge of the new anti‑submarine division, and was relieved by Rear-Admiral W. C. M. Nicholson. Both flag commands in the 2nd Battle Squadron were also changed. Vice‑Admiral Sir Thomas Jerram was relieved by Vice‑Admiral Sir John de Robeck; and Rear‑Admiral W. E. Goodenough, who throughout the war had gained much distinction as a cruiser commander, relieved Rear‑Admiral A. C. Leveson. There was no change in the flag officers of the 4th and 5th Battle Squadrons.


Admiral Beatty strongly urged that Admiral Sir William Pakenham, the rear‑admiral in charge of the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron, should succeed him in command of the Battle Cruiser Force. Questions of seniority made the appointment difficult; but as no other available officer of flag rank had anything like Admiral Pakenham's experience of the work, Admiral Beatty's views prevailed. Admiral Pakenham had had over four years' continuous service with the battle cruisers when he was appointed to take charge of the force. The command of the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron became vacant by the removal of Rear‑Admiral O. de B. Brock to the post of Chief of Staff to Sir David Beatty, and Rear‑Admiral R. F. Phillimore was ordered to assume it. In the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron Rear‑Admiral Leveson relieved Sir William Pakenham.


The vacancies created in the 2nd Cruiser Squadron and the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron by Vice‑Admiral H. L. Heath's transfer to the 3rd Battle Squadron and Rear‑Admiral Goodenough's removal to the battle fleet were filled by Rear-Admiral S. R. Fremantle and Commodore C. F. Lambert, the Fourth Sea Lord under the outgoing Board of Admiralty.


These changes had hardly been carried through when Mr. Asquith's Coalition Government fell.


The advent of Mr. Lloyd George's new Government was followed by important political readjustments which affected the administration of the war at sea. On assuming office, he at once altered the existing machinery by creating a small War Cabinet of four or five members, freed of all departmental duties; and also by creating new ministries for the rapid despatch of the vast mass of additional business which resulted from the complete mobilisation of the nation's resources. (See Vol. III., pp. 42 n, 200.) The first War Cabinet was composed of the Premier, Lord Curzon, Lord Milner, Mr. Bonar Law, and Mr. Arthur Henderson; it was subsequently increased by the addition of Sir Edward Carson, the First Lord of the Admiralty under the new administration. Further, this new War Cabinet was no longer an inner committee taking decisions which must be referred if they involved questions of policy: its rulings, taken after consultation with the naval and military authorities, were absolute and final.


In its general deliberations the new Board of Admiralty (The Board of Admiralty when the new Government took office was composed as follows: Sir Edward Carson, First Lord; Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, First Sea Lord; Admiral Sir Cecil. Burney, Second Sea Lord; Rear-Admiral F. C. Tudor Tudor, Third Sea Lord; Commodore Lionel Halsey, Fourth Sea Lord; Commodore G. M. Paine, Fifth Sea Lord (Director of Air Services). E. G. Pretyman, Civil Lord; Sir Francis Hopwood, Additional Civil Lord.)was destined to be occupied most closely with the submarine campaign, but its immediate attention was called to the Flanders Bight and the Dover area. On December 22 Admiral Bacon wired to the Admiralty to say that a German destroyer had gone from Zeebrugge to Ostend to reinforce the flotilla. He had previously reported that there were rumours of a German attack upon the wireless stations in his command combined with a raid upon the Downs or the Thames. The Admiralty at once decided that further reinforcements ought to be sent to Dunkirk whilst the long nights increased the chances of a successful raid; and Commodore Tyrwhitt was ordered to send the Nimrod and eight destroyers of the loth Flotilla from Harwich to Dunkirk "for service during the dark nights in the event of a raid."



Jan. 1917   



The Commodore had been reinforced from the Grand Fleet shortly before this order reached him. In order to replace some of the forces which it was intended to send from Harwich to Dunkirk, during the dark nights the Grenville and eight destroyers (Morning Star, Moon, Musketeer, Mandate, Opal, Nonsuch, Napier, Strongbow) had been sent south from Scapa and had arrived at Harwich on the 19th. They were in time to assist in a large minesweeping operation on the Swarte Bank, and when it was over, the Commodore was told by the Admiralty to keep them under his command for the time being. This redistribution of forces left the Commodore with the 5th Light Cruiser Squadron, two leaders, one destroyer of the 1st Flotilla, two of the 9th, two of the 10th, and six from the Grand Fleet. (The force naturally varied from day to day, as there were always a certain number of destroyers temporarily out of service on account of defects.) The result was that Admiral Bacon, after the readjustments which had been made at the close of the year, could generally count on having, in addition to his own force, a light cruiser, two flotilla leaders and from fifteen to twenty destroyers at his disposal.


The first three weeks of the new year passed without incident in the southern area; but during the forenoon of January 22, the Admiralty became aware that a German destroyer flotilla would be leaving the rivers for Zeebrugge during the afternoon. The chance thus offered us was an excellent one. There could be very little doubt that this reinforcement, like the last, was intended for operations against the Straits; so that, if it could be brought to action and dispersed before it reached its base, the whole German plan would be thrown into disorder from the very beginning. The duty of intercepting these new reinforcements fell entirely upon the Harwich Force. (See Map 3.) With five hours' steaming Commodore Tyrwhitt could get his cruisers and destroyers between the Schouwen Bank and the Maas, which the Germans would probably not pass until about midnight. Everything thus depended upon getting the Harwich Force away early and in sufficient strength.


At 11.40 a.m. Commodore Tyrwhitt was, therefore, ordered to "intercept the enemy with destroyers" and to take his light cruisers to sea "in support, to assist after daybreak." At the same time, the Admiral at Dover was told to send six, destroyers to Harwich without delay. (He detached the Nimrod, Moorsom, Phoebe, Morris, Matchless, Manly, Mansfield, which had been sent on 19th from Harwich to Dunkirk.)


When the warning telegram reached the Commodore he had six light cruisers, one leader, and ten destroyers ready; but reinforcements from the Dover command came in during the afternoon, and at half‑past five he put to sea with six light cruisers, two flotilla leaders and sixteen destroyers. (The Grenville and the eight destroyers sent from the Grand Fleet in December went back to Scapa on January 3. The Grenville returned to Harwich on the 18th, bringing with her the Sable, Radstock, Portia, Rigorous, Sorceress and Rob Roy.)


Shortly before he sailed, news came through that the German flotilla was on its way, and was due to pass Borkum between 4.45 and 5.15. It was thus evident that we were in good time, and everything seemed to promise well for the success of our operations. The flotilla which we were endeavouring to intercept was the 6th, in charge of Commander Max Schultz; it was composed of the flotilla leader ‑ V.69, and ten boats of the "V," "S," and "G" classes. We had thus a crushing superiority of ships and guns.


As the enemy had the choice of passing down the coast by the Maas and Schouwen Bank light‑vessels, or else of making for Zeebrugge down the central part of the Flanders Bight, past the North Hinder, Commodore Tyrwhitt's dispositions had to cover two alternative routes. Conforming as closely as he could to the Admiralty's intentions, he ordered his destroyers to take up patrolling stations in two detachments; the first off the Maas, the second off the Schouwen Bank. The light cruisers, also divided into two detachments, were stationed further to the westward between the North Hinder and the Maas. The actual allocation of forces was as follows.


1. The Maas detachment, under the commanding officer of the Grenville, was divided into three patrol lines: the Rigorous and Rob Roy in the western; the Grenville, Radstock and Sorceress in the centre; the Meteor and Melpomene in the eastern. Each group was to patrol on lines spaced two miles apart, and running north‑north‑east and south‑southwest (true).


2. The Schouwen Bank detachment under the commanding officer of the Nimrod, was divided into two lines. The first, consisting of the Nimrod, Morsoom, Phoebe, Mansfield, Manly, Matchless and Morris, was to patrol between the light‑vessel and the South Banjaard Bank light buoy; the second, consisting of the Simoom, Starfish, Surprise and Milne, was to patrol between the lightship and the Schar.


3. The light cruiser detachment was in two divisions. The first, consisting of the Centaur (broad pendant), Aurora and


Jan. 22‑23, 1916



Conquest, was to proceed to a patrol line about twenty‑five miles eastward of the North Hinder. The second, consisting of the Penelope, Cleopatra and Undaunted, was ordered to a patrol line about ten miles to the westward of the first. The two lines ran roughly north‑east and south‑west (true), and were parallel to one another.


The Harwich Force left harbour in three groups. The Grenville and her destroyers sailed at four o'clock; the light cruisers with the Simoom, Starfish, Surprise and Milne an hour later; and the Nimrod with the six destroyers from Dunkirk at about six. It was quite dark when these detachments passed Orfordness Light and cleared the Sledway. The weather was fine and clear, with a slight wind from the eastward. A sharp frost set in after dark, and it became bitterly cold: at midnight the thermometers were several degrees below freezing point, and as the night wore on the decks were coated with ice. All our ships had arrived on their patrol lines well before midnight, and for the next three hours they saw nothing.


The commander of the German flotilla had selected a route which passed about midway between the North Hinder and the Maas; and at a quarter to three he ran into the Centaur's division. Our ships were, at the time, in line ahead, with the Centaur leading, and were steering to the south‑west. The German destroyers were first sighted by the Conquest, at the end of the line, crossing astern of the cruisers from port to starboard. All our ships opened fire when the German boats were to starboard; but neither side switched on searchlights, as the ships were visible from the flare of their funnels. The German fire was spirited, but rather wild, and the Commodore, after swerving to avoid a torpedo, turned to starboard and tried to head the Germans to the north‑eastward. In this he was not successful, for the flotilla managed to get away under a heavy smoke screen and resume its course for Zeebrugge. But the encounter shook the German formation. V.69, the leader, was struck by a shell, and her helm jammed; as she turned in a circle G.41 rammed her, and was so damaged herself that her speed dropped to eight knots. S.50, the destroyer astern of V.69, lost touch with the rest of the flotilla when the leader fell out of line, and followed on by herself at twenty‑three knots. At three o'clock the German flotilla had shaken us off, and the Commodore turned south to close the Schouwen Bank, not knowing that two German destroyers, badly damaged, were steaming away from the scene of the struggle at slow speed, and that another, undamaged, but isolated from the rest, was making towards the Schouwen Bank on a course roughly parallel to his own.


The other ships on patrol were all aware that the Commodore was engaged; for the flashes of the guns were seen almost simultaneously from the Penelope and the patrols at the Maas and the Schouwen. Between three and a quarter‑past the patrols received a signal from the Commodore that the enemy was in Lat. 52 degrees 00' N., Long. 3 degrees 15' E., steering north‑east. This was followed by another, saying that the enemy had scattered; but as neither was accompanied by any order to close the scene of action, or to remain on the patrolling station, the senior officers of the destroyer detachments did not know whether they ought to act independently or remain on their stations and wait for further orders. Commander H. V. Dundas, in the Grenville, was quite certain that on the news received he had no right to leave his patrol line. The captains of the Meteor and the Rigorous thought differently, and made off to the northward to cut the enemy off from the Bight. They did not take in Commander Dundas's signal to close him, so that only the leader and the two boats in his immediate company were left on the Maas patrol.


To the south, the captain of the Nimrod took the same view of the position, and made off to the north‑eastward at 30 knots with his detachment of six destroyers. To the west of the Schouwen Bank, however, the destroyers kept their station. The captain of the Penelope moved his detachment eastwards towards the sound of the guns. The result of these movements was that, on the first report of contact with the enemy, practically all our forces lost their cohesion, and the original dispositions were broken up. In his report on the whole affair, Commodore Tyrwhitt explicitly justified Commander Dundas; but it should be remembered that the majority of the other captains decided spontaneously and without orders that it was best to act independently after contact was reported; and that Commodore Tyrwhitt's orders gave absolutely no guidance upon the very point which proved to be the main problem of the night's work. There was, indeed, a great deal to be said for those commanding officers who reasoned that the Commodore had located the forces which they had been sent out to catch, and that, in consequence, their duty was to pick up the scattered destroyers of the German flotilla. This line of reasoning was particularly justifiable in the case of the Penelope's captain, as the light cruisers were defined in the original orders from the Admiralty as a supporting force.


Jan. 28, 1916



As soon as the Commodore realised that the patrols were leaving their assigned positions, he ordered the destroyers back; but it was not until after half‑past three that his signal was taken in by everybody concerned. Our dispersed forces then turned back for their stations. The Commodore's order was not, however, received in the Grenville, and Commander Dundas, who knew that the Nimrod had left her station and was steaming towards him, took his detachment to the north of the Maas to avoid confusion when the Nimrod passed through his patrol area.


The next report of the enemy came from the other division of light cruisers. When Captain H. Lynes, in the Penelope, was certain that the Centaur was engaged to the eastward, he closed the Commodore's patrol line until about half‑past three, and then turned to the south‑westward. Ten minutes after he had done so, a "single German torpedo craft" was sighted on the starboard bow, steaming slowly on an opposite course. It was the leader of the flotilla ‑ V.69 steaming away, damaged, from the first engagement. The three British cruisers switched on searchlights and smothered her with shell at very close range. Everybody on the Penelope's bridge was convinced that the German boat was sunk, and some on board the Cleopatra thought they heard the cries of men in the water. The searchlights were, however, switched off too quickly for the facts to be ascertained; and the German flotilla leader, still afloat, though now more damaged than ever, with a funnel shot down and a huge shell‑hole aft, escaped towards Ymuiden, where she arrived several hours later. The German straggler, G.41, reached the Dutch coast, and steamed along it towards Zeebrugge, as fast as her damaged bows allowed.


At the time of this second engagement, the Centaur's division was about eight miles to the southward, closing the Schouwen Bank. The Meteor and the Melpomene, the Rigorous and the Rob Roy were still steaming at full speed towards the Bight, and Commander Dundas was moving north‑eastwards to keep clear of the Nimrod's division, which he imagined to be very near him. (His precaution was needless, because Commander R. G. Rowley‑Conwy had turned back towards the Schouwen Bank, on receiving the Commodore's orders to return to his patrol. The Simoom, Starfish, Surprise and Milne were still to the north‑west of the Schouwen Bank light‑vessel.)


Meanwhile, the bulk of the 6th Flotilla passed through our concentration without mishap. After their engagement, they steered a course that took them between the Nimrod's and the Centaur's patrol zones, and passed the Schouwen Bank light‑vessel at about seven minutes to four, unobserved by the Simoom, Starfish, Surprise and Milne, which were patrolling near it. Having passed the light‑vessel, the 6th Flotilla had cleared all our intercepting forces, for Commodore Tyrwhitt had stationed no detachment to the south of Schouwen Bank. The third straggler, S.50, was, however, following her flotilla, and she soon ran into our patrols. Shortly after four, as the Nimrod's detachment was approaching the Schouwen Bank on a south‑westerly course, the lookout men reported an enemy destroyer on the starboard bow. The commander of the Nimrod steered to close her; but before he could get within range, the Simoom's detachment had engaged her. The German destroyer had the good fortune to be nearly at the head of our line of destroyers, and so could concentrate on the Simoom. After a few minutes of intermittent firing, in which the Simoom suffered a certain amount of damage, the German got a torpedo home on her, and her magazine blew up with a tremendous detonation. Meanwhile, however, the Nimrod and her destroyers were working round the German destroyer's bows, and the German commander turned sharply to the eastward in order to get clear. He was now convinced that his passage to the southward was completely barred, and, as soon as he had shaken off the Nimrod, he steered towards the Dutch coast; having reached it, he made his way back into the bight.


The torpedoing of the Simoom ended the night's fighting; when the action ended, the Nimrod's destroyers had overrun the three boats of the Simoom's division, and the two detachments became very much involved. Lieutenant‑Commander Graham, of the Morris, took off all the survivors.


At a quarter‑past four Commodore Tyrwhitt heard from the Nimrod that enemy destroyers were near the Schoumen Bank light‑vessel; and he at once signalled back that he was closing the light‑vessel with his three cruisers. A few minutes later he heard that the Simoom was torpedoed, and repeated his previous order to all ships to remain on their patrols. At half‑past four the Nimrod reported that the enemy's destroyers had disappeared. Shortly afterwards, he heard that the Simoom was still afloat, and being uncertain whether she had been torpedoed by a destroyer or a submarine, turned northwards to get out of the danger area (4.35 a.m.). An hour later, he ordered the Penelope to close the Maas and sweep towards the Schouwen Bank at daylight with the Grenville's destroyers in company. The German Flotilla, which had passed the Deurloo buoy at 4.15, was by now well inside the swept channel to Zeebrugge and out of danger.


Jan. 23, 1916 



When daylight came on at a quarter‑past seven, the Commodore closed the Schouwen himself and wound up the operation as quickly as he could. The Nimrod, which was still standing by the Simoom, was ordered to sink her; after which her destroyers were directed to screen the light cruisers. The Penelope was ordered back to the base shortly after eight o'clock. A few seaplanes, which were hovering near the Schouwen Bank, were engaged; but they soon flew off and the force returned to Harwich.


The results of the night's work were extremely disappointing. In spite of our knowledge of the enemy's movements, and our great superiority in strength, the bulk of the enemy flotilla got past our intercepting forces, and inflicted in passing more injury than they received. The leader, V.69, was, it is true, very badly damaged when she reached Ymuiden, but we were quite unable to show that she put in to escape the pursuit of our ships, and the Dutch Government, in consequence, refused to intern her.


The failure of our dispositions to achieve success was, no doubt, due to the hazards of a night action, and the lesson to be drawn for future use was clear. In operations of this kind it is always possible that individual commanders may, at some moment, be out of touch with each other or with their Commodore, or both, and so find themselves under the necessity of acting on their own initiative. A great deal will then depend upon the uniformity of their principles, whether derived from their previous training or from the nature of their orders for the occasion. Ideally all contingencies should be foreseen and provided for in orders; when this is difficult, or perhaps impossible of attainment, general training will be the only guarantee of unanimity. Here, when the critical moment arrived, each destroyer captain had necessarily to decide for himself; and as the senior officers had been trained partly in the Grand Fleet destroyers and partly in the Harwich Force, their professional judgments differed.












East Africa and Lake Tanganyika


THE destruction of the Koenigsberg (July 1915) removed the last menace to our trade routes in the Indian Ocean (See Vol. III., pp. 66‑7.); but it did not materially affect the East African campaign. British and German forces were still facing one another on the southern boundaries of the colony, and Belgian troops were stationed at various points along the shores of Lake Tanganyika. On the northern front there were still considerable German forces in the Taveta and Mombasa regions. General von Lettow‑Vorbeck thus held practically the whole German colony, although on the coast we had seized Mafia Island early in the year. In the north‑west we had established control of Lake Victoria Nyanza; but the German armed steamers on Lake Tanganyika were still practically unopposed. As there was no thought for the moment of starting a major operation against the colony from the sea, the naval problem resolved itself into restoring the blockade which had been suspended by the concentration off the Rufiji delta. The Commander‑in‑Chief at the Cape, Vice‑Admiral H. G. King‑Hall, found it almost impossible to carry out this duty with the forces at his disposal. Even before the Koenigsberg had been put out of action, the Weymouth had been ordered to the Mediterranean; the Pyramus was required for operations in the Persian Gulf, the Laurentic was detached for other duties, and the Hyacinth and Pioneer needed refitting. The Commander‑in‑Chief was thus left with the Challenger, the Laconia, the tug Duplex, and a few whalers to deal with the German supply ships. In this he was only partly successful: for the Germans found a means of salving a great deal of the munitions left in the wreck in Mansa Bay. On the other hand, the Commander‑in‑Chief managed to send an expedition up the river at Lindi and to put the German


April 1915 



supply ship PrŠsident out of action. During the autumn months his anxieties were very great; the military authorities seemed to fear that if the Germans concentrated against Mombasa they might well carry it, and he could only tell them that he would be able to do little or nothing to help if the attack were delivered. Fortunately, General von Lettow-Vorbeck was not in a position to dissipate his resources in a large undertaking of doubtful issue; and by the end of the year his position was made still more difficult by the arrival of a British naval reinforcement which he could not possibly have foreseen.


Since the outbreak of war the Germans had controlled the waters of Lake Tanganyika. It was clear that if this control could be wrested from them by the Allies, it would greatly assist the conduct of joint operations by Nyassaland, Rhodesian and Belgian forces. But the German flotilla, though it consisted only of three armed steamers, all slow and small, and two unarmed motor boats, was supreme and unchallenged. It seemed indeed unchallengeable, for between Tanganyika and any practicable British base there lay more than 3,000 miles of African bush, narrow hill track, and primeval forest.


The Admiralty, nevertheless, determined, in April 1915, to treat these waters as an outlying sea within the sphere of British naval power, and to place an adequate naval force upon them. Two fast motor boats were selected, of 40 feet length, 8 feet beam, and 15 knots speed, armed each with a 3‑pounder and a Maxim gun. These were to be shipped to Cape Town, carried by rail thence to Fungurume in the Belgian Congo, a distance of 2,500 miles, then drawn 140 miles by steam tractors to Sankisia, after which eighteen miles of rail would bring them to the Lualaba River. If they could navigate this river for some 400 miles a final journey of 180 miles by rail would bring them to Albertville, the small Belgian harbour on the west side of Tanganyika, where some defensive batteries had been erected. The enemy harbours lay on the eastern side, which was part of German East Africa.


The command of the expedition was entrusted to Commander G. Spicer‑Simson, R.N. With him went Lieutenant A. E. Wainwright, R.N.V.R., Sub‑Lieutenant A. Dudley, R.N.V.R., and Dr. H. M. Henschell, Assistant‑Director of the London School of Tropical Medicine, now commissioned as Surgeon, R.N. The engineers, gunners and other ratings brought the total number up to twenty‑eight: all were experts, and all were bound in honour not to communicate to anyone living their destination or objective.


In spite of the formidable risks and difficulties encountered, this miniature expedition was attended by a good fortune almost as remarkable as that of Admiral Sturdee in his long voyage out to the Falklands. From first to last the enemy never received the least warning of what was afoot: the two motor boats, the Mimi and Tou-Tou, were shipped from Tilbury on June 11, landed at the Cape early in July, taken north by rail and detrained on August 4 and 5 at Fungurume, the railhead. There they were mounted on the fore‑carriages of ox‑wagons, and on the 16th and 17th their two traction engines and trailers were detrained. The road journey of 140 miles began next day, and took six weeks, during the latter half of which all drinking and fresh water had to be given up to the boilers of the traction engines. Besides this shortage and the plagues of heat, storm, dust and poisonous insects there were also the difficulties of the track to be overcome: the roads had to be made or widened, often by blowing up the forest trees, and nearly 200 bridges were built to carry the weight of the tractors and their load. The expedition, however, reached Sankisia safely on September 28, and two days later the Belgian railway brought them to Bukama. On October I the Mimi and Tou-Tou were launched upon the Lualaba River, which is in reality an upper reach of the Congo.


The river was dangerously low, so that the motor boats could not at first be allowed to use their own engines. Barrels were lashed under them to reduce their draught and protect their shaft brackets: eighteen paddlers were put on board each boat, and the stores were taken separately in barges. It was only on October 8, after frequently grounding, that Sub‑Lieutenant Dudley found the water deep enough to run the boats under their own power and to take the barges in tow. Next day, at Musanga, a river steamer and a 200‑ton lighter were waiting for them; the barrels were taken off, and the equipment and eventually the motor boats themselves were got on board the lighter. After ten more days of towing. grounding and hauling‑off, the flotilla at last reached Kabalo on October 21; there the motor boats were landed and once more entrained. By October 28 the whole expedition had arrived at their rendezvous ‑ Lukuga, on the western side of Lake Tanganyika.



Plan - Lake Tanganyika Operations


It was at once decided, with permission from the Belgian commandant, to build a small harbour under the guns of the fort. Rock was blasted and run down to the lake to form a breakwater. In spite of destructive gales the work was finished in about six weeks, and the harbour was named Kalemie.


Dec. 26, 1915



on December 23 the Mimi and Tou-Tou were launched; on the 24th they did their trials and attained a speed of 13 1/2 knots. On Christmas Day, the British Tanganyika Squadron being now ready for action, a sharp lookout was kept. At 9.25 a.m. on the 26th an enemy steamer was reported coming south. Commander Spicer‑Simson allowed her to pass Kalemie, and at 11.25 a.m. ran out to cut her off from her base at Kigoma. Besides the Mimi and Tou-Tou he took with him the small Belgian motor boat Vedette, manned by British ratings and laden with petrol, in case the chase should be a long one. This, however, was not likely: the enemy was the wooden steam gunboat Kingani, 55 feet long, with a speed of 7 knots, and armed with a 37 mm. Hotchkiss gun. As this gun was mounted in her bows, Commander Spicer-Simson ordered Mimi to attack on her starboard quarter and Tou-Tou on her port quarter, and as the decks of both would probably suffer from the shock if their own guns were fired abeam, the attack was to be made in line abreast.


At 11.40 a.m. the enemy sighted the British boats, turned east and made off at full speed, being then 5,000 yards due south and well into Tembwe Bay. By 11.47 Mimi and Tou-Tou were within 2,000 yards of the Kingani and opening fire slowly in a choppy sea. The enemy returned the fire with gun and rifles, making no hits but compelling both boats to manoeuvre for position. Mimi fired one round a minute till 11.52, when the range had shortened and every shot was telling. She then began to increase the rate of fire and used lyddite instead of common shell. At 1,100 yards the first lyddite shell pierced the German gun shield, killing the captain and one of the two men; the next killed the warrant officer and forced some of the native seamen overboard. The German at the wheel, though dazed, continued to steer for Kigoma; but at 11.58 the chief engineer took command, hauled down his flag, showed a white handkerchief and stopped his engines.


The sea was now running high and it was judged impossible to board the prize. The Kingani was therefore ordered to steer for Kalemie, escorted by the Mimi and Tou-Tou. Shortly after reaching the harbour she filled and sank from the effect of the British gunfire, which had been extremely accurate. Within three days, however, she was repaired and refloated. A Belgian 12‑pounder was mounted in her, and by January 15, 1916, she had been added to the British fleet under the name of the Fifi.


The Germans do not seem to have been put upon their guard by this loss: possibly they attributed it to the guns of the Belgian fort, and were still unaware of the presence of the British naval force. At daybreak on February 9 a message was received at Kalemie that an enemy vessel had been seen steaming slowly southward. The British flotilla at once went out to meet her, and at 8.35 a.m. sighted her about 8,000 yards away, heading south‑west at about 6 knots, and much disguised by the mirage caused by the glassy surface of the lake. She turned at once and made off, pouring oil upon her fires; but was rapidly overhauled. The Mimi was first to open fire, at 3,800 yards, and made several hits in the first few minutes. The Fifi then tried her 12‑pounder at 7,500 yards, without effect; but when she had succeeded in reducing the range to 5,600 yards she scored some forty hits out of sixty shots. Of these one high‑explosive shell burst in the engine‑room, killed the engineer and destroyed an oil tank; another burst between the engine and boiler, wrecking the engine, and a third made a large hole in the ship's bottom and set fire to the oil with which the engine‑room was now drenched.


Seeing his ship in flames and sinking, the German commander, Lieutenant Odebrecht, gave orders to abandon her. But when his boats were dropped astern they sank at once under the accurate British fire, and the survivors of the crew jumped overboard. Twelve Germans, including the commander, and eight natives, were picked up, and the Mimi took the wounded back to hospital at full speed. The captured vessel ‑ the Hedwig von Wissmann, a wooden steamboat 70 feet long, armed with two small guns ‑ was burning fast, and shortly afterwards went down head foremost.


From information given by the native prisoners it appeared that the German force now remaining afloat consisted of two ships only: a fast unarmed motor boat, the Wami, 25 feet long, and the Graf von Gotson, a steamer even slower than the Kingani, but 200 feet long and armed with two 4‑inch and two smaller guns. The latter, being greatly superior to all our ships in range and weight of metal, seemed likely, if she could be brought to action, to afford an instructive example of the relative values of speed and gun power. But the campaign ended in a much less interesting manner. Early one morning the British motor boats surprised the Wami transporting some native troops down the coast. The German commander, though at the moment well out of range, no doubt saw that he could not reach harbour before he was overtaken. He ran ashore on the German coast, landed his troops and set fire to his ship. Shortly afterwards the same realisation of the inevitable moved the German commander


Feb. 1916  



at Kigoma to blow up the Graf von Gotson in harbour, and destroy with her all his small craft. The British Tanganyika Expedition ‑ the smallest and most distant sent out during the war ‑ had thus cleared Central Africa of German naval forces and prestige, and the twenty‑eight officers and men composing it returned to other duties in other theatres of war.


In the meantime, the Government at home were taking steps to improve the position in East Africa. Reinforcements from India, home, and Cape Colony were ordered out in November, and at the end of the month Admiral King‑Hall was informed that the old battleship Vengeance would leave England in December to support the attack against Dar es Salaam, which was to form part of the general operations of the coming year. The year 1916 opened with two successive changes in the command of the forces. On February 9, General Smith‑Dorrien, who in spite of serious illness had taken over not long before from General Tighe, was relieved by General Smuts; and two days later Rear‑Admiral E. F. B. Charlton assumed command of the naval forces, which then consisted of the Vengeance, three monitors, four cruisers, two of which were armed merchantmen, two gunboats and eight armed whalers.


The plan of campaign which was finally adopted did not, however, include the coastal operations which were originally contemplated. General Smuts decided that the German forces in the Moschi‑Taveta area must be met and defeated before anything serious could be attempted against Dar es Salaam; and it was, in consequence, against them that he directed his concentration.




The Cameroons


On the other side of the African continent, events in the Cameroons were moving more quickly. On August 25, 1915, about two months after the offensive attempted by the French and British forces in the early summer had failed, a general conference of Allied commanders assembled in Duala. They decided to renew the attempt. As before, the general plan was to deliver a converging attack upon Yaunde, but this time the details were different. The British force was to operate along the line Ngwe‑Wum Biagas. Parallel to our advance, but with its lines of communication quite distinct, the main French column was to move from its advanced base at Eseka to the Yaunde‑Kribi road between Olama and Yaunde. In the southern area Colonel le Meillour's force was to advance from the eastern side of Muni towards Ebolowa, whilst General Aymerich pressed forward from Dume and Bertua. At the same time, subsidiary operations were to be undertaken in the extreme north, between the northern railhead and Ossidinge near the Nigerian boundary, and in the south, between Kampo and Ebajok, along the northern frontier of the Spanish enclave.


These movements were successfully carried out. On January 1, 1916, Yaunde fell, and during the next week, the attacking columns from the north, from the Belgian Congo, and from French Equatorial Africa all entered the town ‑ a remarkable proof of the skill by which the widely spread operations had been co‑ordinated. German resistance here was practically over; but a column of fugitive troops and refugees succeeded in escaping to the south‑westward and getting into Spanish territory, for the Allied column from Kampo had not been able to make enough progress to cut the enemy's last line of retreat.


The Germans continued to hold out in the north until the middle of February, when Mora was captured.


It fell to Captain Carre, the Senior Naval Officer on the coast, and to Captain C. T. M. Fuller, who was in command of the British naval detachment, to give these military operations whatever support they could.


Effective as the blockade had been, means were found to supplement it; and strong amphibious patrols were maintained on the four rivers which traversed the zone of operations: the Sanaga, the Lokundje, the Nyong, and the Kampo. The duties of the Kampo river patrol increased in importance as the operations progressed. It was found that the enemy was maintaining a regular line of supply from the coastal towns in Muni to Yaunde; the naval patrol, by their grip upon the line of the river, succeeded, in the end, in cutting off this source of supply, and, at the close of the campaign, General Dobell (See Vol. III., pp. 4-6.) reported to the Government that without the assistance which the Allied naval forces had rendered him "by sea, creek, and land, "the military forces" could not have accomplished the task which lay before them."


Captain Carre raised the blockade on February 29; and a month later the French and British Governments signed a Convention for administering the conquered territory. With the exception of a small strip running north‑eastwards from Victoria to the Nigerian frontier south of Yola, the whole


Jan. 1916   



colony was placed under French control; but this arrangement was temporary and was not to influence the terms of the final settlement. So long as the war lasted the British naval and military forces were to have an unrestricted use of the port of Duala. With the signing of this Convention on March 29 the campaign ended.





(See Map 4.)


Before the Turks closed in on Major‑General C. V. F. Townshend at Kut al Amara (See Vol. III., pp. 226‑9.), Captain W. Nunn, RN, withdrew downstream with the bulk of his river flotilla; only the Sumana remained with the beleaguered garrison.


Early in January, 1916, he concentrated his flotilla at Ali Gharbi on the Tigris. It consisted of four new gunboats - the Butterfly, Cranefly, Dragonfly and Gadfly (Each was armed with one 4‑inch, one 12‑pounder, one 6‑pounder, one 2‑pounder Anti‑aircraft pom‑pom and four Maxims.) ‑ two steam launches fitted for minesweeping, and a motor boat, sunk earlier in the war by the Espiegle and subsequently salved and rechristened the Flycatcher. A relief force under Lieutenant‑General Sir F. J. Aylmer had already been assembled and was preparing to march on Kut. From Ali Gharbi to Kut the distance by land is about fifty miles, but by river it is greater owing to the numerous bends. Between Ali Gharbi and Hanna the country is open, the only considerable obstacle being the Wadi stream, which enters the Tigris from the north a few miles below Hanna. On the left bank between Hanna and Sannaiyat, a distance of about eight miles is a large area of marsh, and troops can only advance over this distance along a narrow corridor between the marsh and the river. The Turks thus had a strong defensive position on the left bank, from which to block the advance of the relief columns; but they decided to make their first stand lower down.


As soon as they got news that British forces were assembling at Ali Gharbi, what troops they could spare were hurried down and took up a position astride the river about three miles below Shaikh Saad. The British force reached the Turkish lines on January 5, and it was decided to give battle on the following day. The British attacked on both banks, and the gunboats were chiefly employed in supporting the assault upon the Turkish right flank. The battle continued with the greatest obstinacy for two days. Owing to the exhaustion of the troops but little progress was made on the 8th, but the Turkish commander withdrew during the night, and Shaikh Saad was occupied by the British troops on the following day (9th). After retiring beyond the Wadi the Turks returned and entrenched themselves on the right bank of that stream.


The British army and the flotilla followed up, and battle was again joined on the 13th. After desperate fighting during the whole of that day, the Turks were forced to withdraw during the night to escape disaster, and took up their position at Hanna, between the marsh and the river. The British flotilla made the first reconnaissance of the Turkish position, and during the 14th the Gadfly, with the Senior Naval Officer on board, was hit and damaged by a 4.8‑inch shell, and had to be sent south to Abadan for repairs. On January 18 and 19 the gunboats bombarded the Hanna position, and on the 21st General Aylmer threw his troops against the Turkish lines. The gunboats supported the assault, and throughout the day the battle raged with varying fortunes; but by the evening it was quite clear that the British attack had failed; and with it the first attempt to relieve the garrison at Kut.


Meanwhile (January 19) Lieutenant‑General Sir P. H. N. Lake had relieved General Sir J. E. Nixon, whose health had completely broken down, and on February 10 the control of the operations in Mesopotamia, which had hitherto been in the hands of the Government of India, was taken over by the War Office. There was no thought of abandoning Kut; but the Government and the High Command were doubtful how soon to renew the attempt at relief, and undecided as to the best manner of carrying out the operation. It was eventually decided, however, that General Aylmer should not attack until early in March, when reinforcements would have reached him, and that the main British thrust should be made on the right bank instead of against the Hanna position.


In March, when everything was ready for the new attempt, the general position had altered considerably. On the left bank the Turks were still holding the Hanna position, and a British force was facing them; but on the right bank their main line of resistance was much further back. It was called the Es Sinn position, and consisted of a strong line of trenches, beginning at a point about fourteen miles above Hanna and eight miles below Kut, and running in a southerly direction to a point called the Dujaila redoubt; from here short lengths of trenches ran south‑westwards to the Shatt al Hai. On the


March 1916



left bank a line of trenches continued the defensive line as far as the Suwada marsh. There were on the right bank advanced positions at Abu Rumman and Bait Isa. Both sides had been reinforced; and the river flotilla had been strengthened by the arrival of the larger "China" class gunboats Mayfly, Sawfly, and Mantis. General Aylmer decided to contain the Turks at Hanna, and to carry the Turkish position on the right bank by surprise. He, personally, took command of the attacking force, which was sub‑divided into two columns, one under Major‑General H. D'U. Keary, the other under Major-General G. V. Kemball. The force was assembled secretly on the right bank, and marched south‑westwards through the night, so as to attack the Dujaila redoubt at dawn on March 8. After it was captured it was hoped that the Turkish army could be driven towards the river and completely defeated. The road to Kut would then be open, for the Dujaila position was the last serious obstacle between the beleaguered garrison and our advancing columns. On the left bank, Major-General Sir G. J. Younghusband demonstrated against the Hanna position to pin down the Turks in front of him, and three boats of the river flotilla bombarded the right flank of the enemy's position. The remainder were kept downstream to guard the camp at Wadi. The operation failed. Delays and misunderstandings held up the attack against the Dujaila redoubt; and when finally it was delivered it did not succeed. At nightfall, General Aylmer ordered a withdrawal to Wadi.


Lieutenant‑General Sir G. F. Gorringe now (March 12) succeeded General Aylmer in the command of the relief force. His plan was to make a steady, methodical progress along both banks, and to force a way through the corridor between the Suwaikiya marsh and the sea. It was hoped that, after the Hanna, Fallahiya, and Sannaiyat positions on the left bank had been cleared, and the Turks driven out of their positions at Abu Rumman and Bait Isa on the right bank, they could be defeated decisively on the Es Sinn position in front of Kut. At the time fixed for the operations to begin the Tigris rose and overflowed its banks, and it was not until April 5 that the assault was made on the Hanna position. This was carried without difficulty, as was also the Fallahiya Position; but the attempt to carry the Turkish trenches at Sannaiyat failed. It was now decided to operate on the right bank and to attempt to force the Es Sinn position, while containing the enemy at Sannaiyat. Bait Isa was occupied, but further progress was so slow that the only chance of relieving Kut in time appeared to be a direct assault on the Sannaiyat position. This was made on April 22; the troops, however, were so exhausted at the end of it, that three or four days' rest would be necessary before they would be capable of making any further effort.


The river flotilla, which by now had been further reinforced by the Waterfly and Greenfly, could take little part in the long and disappointing operations which followed the failure against the Dujaila redoubt; but it fell to them to make the last attempt to reach Kut. When General Gorringe was compelled to abandon his assault against the Sannaiyat position, the garrison at Kut was fast running short of provisions; and as the relief operations were likely to continue long after the end of April, it was urgently necessary to revictual the town by some means or other, and so prolong the defence. Vice‑Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, Commander-in‑Chief, East Indies, had visited the front on April 12, and reported to General Lake that the chances of getting a special river steamer through to Kut were very small; but that he would attempt it if assured that a successful venture would add to the chances of relieving the garrison. General Lake assured him that it would, and orders were at once issued to fit out the river steamer Julnar; when ready, she was stripped of all surplus woodwork and covered with protective plating. Although the chances of success were extremely small, and the chances of death, wounds, sickness and imprisonment proportionately high, practically all the officers and men of the river flotilla volunteered for the service; Lieutenant H. O. B. Firman, R.N., was selected for the command; Lieutenant‑Commander C. H. Cowley, R.N.V.R., was made second in command on account of his great knowledge of the river; and Engineer Sub‑Lieutenant W. L. Reed, R.N.R., was placed in charge of the engines; the crew consisted of twelve specially selected ratings.


At eight o'clock on the evening of April 24, the Julnar left Fallahiya, with 270 tons of supplies on board; as she passed the British lines, our troops started a tremendous racket with artillery and machine‑gun fire, to distract attention and drown the noise of the Julnar's engines. The night was dark and overcast and there was no moon. The Turks knew that the attempt was going to be made, and their outposts on the bank soon reported that a steamer was passing their positions. Rifle fire was soon opened upon her, but Lieutenant Firman held on steadily at 6 knots over the bottom: owing to the strong current he could do no more. At Sannaiyat the rifle fire became extraordinarily heavy; but the Julnar was taken past it and negotiated round all


April 29, 1916



the bends as far as the Es Sinn position, only ten miles from Kut. Here she came under artillery fire for the first time; and it increased steadily as she passed along the reach of the river between the Es Sinn trenches and Maqasis. Some moments before she reached the Maqasis bend a shell struck the bridge. Lieutenant Firman fell dead, thinking doubtless that success was in sight, for the Julnar was then within about eight miles of the town.

Lieutenant‑Commander Cowley, though wounded by the same shell, now took charge. In a few more minutes the Julnar struck a cable which had been stretched across the river at Maqasis, and drifted on to the right bank of the river near the fort. She could not be got off, and Lieutenant‑Commander Cowley surrendered. The Turks harboured nothing but a desire for vengeance against an officer who had shown such dauntless courage. (Lieutenant Firman and Lieutenant‑Commander Cowley were awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously and the crew were decorated.) Some time after they had carried off their prisoners the Turks separated Lieutenant‑Commander Cowley from his men, and he was never heard of again; but there are strong grounds to believe that he was shot by his captors in cold blood.


At Kut the garrison heard the rifle fire along the river bank grow nearer and nearer, and towards midnight they heard an outburst of firing from the Maqasis reach, followed by a complete silence. At one o'clock General Townshend reported that the Julnar had not arrived, and during the morning an aeroplane reconnaissance showed that she was in the enemy's hands. There was now no hope for the beleaguered garrison, and on April 29 General Townshend surrendered. (See Moberly: Mesopotamia Campaign, Vol II., pp. 457‑8.)




The Baltic


We have already recorded that in August 1915 in the Baltic the failure of the German combined attack on Riga had been immediately followed by the abandonment of the attempt to turn the flank of the Russian army, and the withdrawal of the German forces from the coasts of Courland and Livonia (Vol. III., pp. 136‑7.). Our share in the defensive operations had been limited to the assistance rendered by two submarines, E.1 and E.9, but the successful attack of Commander N. F. Laurence in E.1 on August 19 (1915) was believed to have contributed largely to the discouragement of the German Command, and our Russian Allies were enthusiastically grateful. They had already shown their reliance on us by petitioning for more submarines to be sent out; one of them ‑ E.8 ‑ was by this time (August 1915) on her way to Revel.


Lieutenant‑Commander F. H. H. Goodhart's account of the voyage of E.8 is a plain and terse document. He passed easily up the Skagerrak, keeping well out of the central line of traffic, but in the afternoon he had to dive and pass under a whole fleet of steam trawlers. Only at 7.0 p.m. was it possible to come to the surface again. He then ordered full speed, rounded the Skaw and entered the Kattegat. In the fading twilight several merchant steamers were seen going north. The shore and island lights twinkled out one by one. The night was short. By three o'clock on August 18 he was obliged to dive and lie quietly on shoal ground while the traffic went over him. At 5.25 a.m. he ventured to the surface, but was put down quickly by a steamer. At seven o'clock he ventured again, and scurried along for one‑and‑a half hours in a friendly mist. Then he dived again and crept along at 3 knots, till at 1.0 p.m. he was off the entrance to the Sound.


Here he had to make the choice between going forward submerged or waiting for darkness and then attempting the channel on the surface. He was confident of being able to get to his position under water, and decided accordingly to continue diving into the Sound and wait for night inside. He proceeded at 50 feet, and by 3.6 p.m. had verified his position, coming up to 21 feet to do so. He then went down again to 50 feet and altered course to pass through the Northern Narrows. At 4.10 p.m. he was east of Helsingor Light. At 5.20, after another observation, he went to bottom in eleven fathoms, feeling comfortably certain that he had not so far been detected.



Plan - The Entrance to the Baltic


At 8.15 p.m. he rose to the surface. The Danish shore was bright with many lights, the Swedish shore was dark. E.8 went south‑westward on the surface, altering course to avoid being seen by two destroyers, who were going north at a great pace along the Danish shore. One of them suddenly turned south, but then stopped, as if in doubt. E.8 ran on into still more dangerous waters; the lights of Copenhagen were blazing brightly, and in Middle Ground Fort a searchlight was working. Now and again it struck upon the submarine. Then several fishing‑boats came past, then two red lights in a small craft going south over to the Danish shore. She was on the submarine's starboard beam for some time, but luckily not near enough to see her, and


Aug. 1915 



Lieutenant‑Commander Goodhart headed boldly for Flint Channel.


Off Malmo the shore lights were dazzling, and it was extremely hard to fix a position. There were many fishing-boats about, each carrying two bright lights. Lieutenant-Commander Goodhart ordered the boat to be trimmed down with upper deck awash, and proceeded with one engine only, at 7 knots. He steadied his course through Flint Channel, passing at least twenty vessels towards the western end of it, some carrying two and some three white lights, and one making searchlight signals in the air. He had no sooner avoided the fishing‑boats by a change of course, than he ran past a small tramp showing first a green light, and then three white ones. The tramp seemed to have anchored, but two other vessels had to be avoided and then the ship which had been signalling with the searchlight. Immediately afterwards, when just north‑east of the lightship with her three vertical red lights, E.8 was sighted by a small torpedo boat or trawler as she was creeping by within 200 yards of her. Probably it was the searchlight in Copenhagen which had shown up the submarine. In any case the pursuit had now begun.


The enemy boat lighted red and green flares and altered course towards the submarine. E.8 dived, but struck bottom ‑ "very strong bottom" at 19 feet on gauge, which immediately decreased to 14 feet. At 14 feet she tried to proceed on her course, but the ground was very uneven, and a succession of bumps brought her to a dead stop. It was now 11.40 p.m. After an anxious quarter of an hour Lieutenant‑Commander Goodhart rose to the surface. The Drogden Lightship was on his starboard quarter. A large destroyer or small cruiser was ahead of him, showing lights. She was only 200 yards away, but Lieutenant‑Commander Goodhart trimmed E.8 deep, and stole past on his motors. But four minutes later he found a destroyer right ahead and only 100 yards from him. Again he dived instantly, meaning to go down to 23 feet; but at 16 feet the boat struck bottom heavily on the starboard side, carrying away all blades of the starboard propeller. E.8 lay on the bottom and listened to her pursuers overhead.


At 12.15 a.m. on the 19th the boat moved again and got down to 18 feet, but was still bumping badly. At 12.19 Lieutenant‑Commander Goodhart stopped her and came silently to the surface. The destroyer was there, close on his starboard beam. One minute later he dived again, as slowly as he dared, and at 17 feet glided away on his course, the depth of water fortunately increasing as he went. For a long time he seemed to be escaping, but at 2.10 a.m. he struck bottom at 18 feet. After waiting an hour he rose to the surface, only to see the destroyer again, this time on his port beam, but she was now a mile off, and E.8 dived again unperceived. When she came up once more at 7.15 there was nothing in sight. At 8.53 she dived for a steamer, and at 10.40 for a destroyer. This was well enough, but by now the battery was running very low. Her commander decided that he must find a good depth, go to the bottom and lie there till darkness should give him a chance of recharging. From 10.40 a.m. till 6.40 p.m. E.8 lay like a stone in 23 fathoms.


When she rose at 6.40 a Swedish steamer was patrolling ahead of her. At 8.25 a patrol of three vessels was close astern, and moving very slowly eastwards. The moon was too bright for surface work and Lieutenant‑Commander Goodhart dived again. At 9.30 he tried once more, but was put down by a destroyer to the southward. It was not until ten minutes before midnight that he found a space of sea where the boat could recharge in peace. Even this was only practicable for two hours; daylight comes early in northern waters. It was now August 20. At 2.0 a.m. E.8 dived again, and lay in 17 fathoms while her commander spent time and imagination upon the chart. He was well out of the Sound now and clear of the Swedish coast. On his starboard beam lay the island of Ruegen, further back on his quarter the channel that leads to Luebeck and to Kiel. Right ahead was the island of Bornholm, which he must pass unperceived, and beyond it the whole expanse of the Baltic lay open to him.



Plan - The Central Baltic


At 9.0 a.m. he rose to the surface, but dived again at noon. He was now not far west of Roenne, and as he wished to make sure of passing Bornholm unobserved, he decided to remain on the bottom till dark, then slip by and recharge his batteries for a long run north by daylight. By 7.0 p.m. he was on his way, and eight hours later he was passing the east coast of the great island of Gotland. At 9.2 p.m. on the 21st he dived for a light cruiser, which passed overhead forward; at ten o'clock he returned to the surface and proceeded northeast, running past the entrance to the Gulf of Riga and the island of Oesel. By 1.0 a.m. on August 22 he had to dive for daylight; but by three o'clock he was up again and going full speed on his course. At 8.30 a.m. he sighted Dageroert ahead and joined E.9 (Commander Max Horton). In company with her and a Russian destroyer, he passed into the entrance of the Gulf of Finland; and by 9.0 p.m. E.8 was secured in Revel harbour. Within twenty‑four hours of his arrival, Lieutenant‑Commander Goodhart had docked and


Oct. 1915  



overhauled her, replaced her broken propeller, and reported her ready for sea.


The career of E.8 in the Baltic was long and successful. On October 5 she captured the steamer Margarette of Koenigsberg and destroyed her by gunfire. On October 19 she arrived on her station to the west of Libau, and for four days watched the trawlers and destroyers patrolling the harbour near the swept channel. Their movements were always very cautious, and owing to the minefield he never got near them. During the 22nd, however, an armed trawler came out of Libau and took up her station off one of the swept channel buoys; at dusk she began to show flares as though to mark the approach for vessels entering or leaving. Lieutenant‑Commander Goodhart watched all night, and at some time after half‑past eight on the following day he saw smoke on the horizon as of a ship leaving Libau, and altered course to intercept her. When she appeared she proved to have three funnels and two very high masts, and was seen to be going west with two destroyers, zigzagging‑one on each bow.


Lieutenant‑Commander Goodhart ran on at 7 1/2 knots till he got within 3,000 yards, when he eased to 5 knots in order to lessen his wake. The wind was slight from S.S.E. and there was bright autumnal sunlight. The conditions were ideal for an attack from the southward. All tubes were made ready; the enemy came on at an estimated speed of 15 knots. At 9.28 the port destroyer passed ahead. Four minutes later Lieutenant‑Commander Goodhart fired his bow tube at the warship's forebridge.


His range was about 1,300 yards, and after one minute he observed a vivid flash on the enemy's waterline at the point of aim. This was immediately followed by a very heavy concussion, and the entire ship was hidden instantly in a huge column of thick grey smoke. Evidently the torpedo had exploded the fore magazine. The air was filled with debris, and the smaller pieces began falling in the water near the submarine. In one minute more E.8 was sliding down to 50 feet, and there she stayed for eight minutes, to give the remainder of the wreckage ample time to come down. At 9.42 Lieutenant‑Commander Goodhart rose to 20 feet, and took a survey through his periscope. There was no sign of the big ship. The two destroyers had closed on to the scene of the explosion. Lieutenant‑Commander Goodhart decided not to attack them, because, for all he knew, they were ignorant of his presence; if so, they might very probably imagine the damage to have been done by a mine, and give him future opportunities. An hour later he saw four destroyers hovering about the place of the wreck: he turned away and they made no attempt to follow him. At dawn next day he reported by wireless, and proceeded to his base. His quarry afterwards proved to be the Prinz Adalbert, a German cruiser of nearly 9,000 tons.


In the meantime E.19, Lieutenant‑Commander F. N. Cromie, and E.18, Lieutenant‑Commander R. C. Halahan, had arrived at Revel. Seeing that the enemy's naval forces in the Baltic had now been reduced, and had withdrawn to the area near the line of communications between Libau and the southern Baltic, our submarines were ordered to operate in two sections, one to hold up the ore trade between Sweden and the German ports, the other to waylay any warships which might pass between Libau and Dantzig. They achieved a remarkable measure of success. At 8.0 a.m. on Monday October 11 Lieutenant‑Commander Cromie "started to chase merchant shipping." At 9.40 a.m. he stopped the Walter Leonhardt, from Lulea to Hamburg, with iron ore. The crew abandoned ship, and were picked up by a Swedish steamer stopped by E.19 for the purpose. The empty vessel was then sunk by a charge of gun‑cotton. By noon Lieutenant-Commander Cromie was chasing the Germania of Hamburg, signalling her to stop immediately. As she continued to run and soon went ashore, he came cautiously alongside to save her crew, but found that they had already abandoned ship.


He tried to tow her off, but failed to move her, for her cargo consisted of nearly 3,000 tons of the finest concentrated iron ore, from Stockholm to Stettin. He left her filling with water, and at two o'clock gave chase to the Gutrune. By three o'clock he had sent her to the bottom with her 4,400 tons of iron ore from Lulea to Hamburg, after placing her crew on board the Swedish steamer. At 4.25 he began to chase two more large steamers going south. In twenty minutes he had stopped one ‑ the Swedish boat Nyland, with ore for Rotterdam and papers all correct ‑ told her to proceed, and ten minutes later caught the Direktor Rippenhagen, with magnetic ore from Stockholm to Nadenheim. While she was sinking he stopped another Swede bound for Newcastle, and gave her Direktor's crew to take care of. An hour later he was chasing a large steamer, the Nicomedia, who tried to make off towards the Swedish coast, but a shot across her bows brought her to. She proved to be a large and extremely well‑fitted vessel, carrying 6,000 to 7,000 tons of magnetic ore from Lulea to Hamburg. The crew were sent ashore in boats, and E.19 proceeded up the west of Gotland.


Oct‑Nov. 1915   



One more of E.19's captures may be mentioned because it marks the difference between the British practice of submarine cruiser war and the German policy of sinking neutrals and enemies indiscriminately. During the morning of October 12 Lieutenant‑Commander Cromie stopped the Nike, and went alongside to examine her. He found her to be in iron ore from Stockholm to Stettin, under command of Captain Anderson, whose passport, from the Liverpool Police, showed him to be a Swede. In accordance with international law and old British custom Lieutenant‑Commander Cromie sent Lieutenant Mee on board the Nike with a prize crew of two men, and ordered them to take the prize into Revel for further investigation.


The rest of the story exemplifies the difficulty of carrying on a naval war on behalf of Allies with a different set of problems from our own. The Russian Government was at this time seriously afraid of the possible results of interference with Sweden's Baltic trade. A fresh enemy in that quarter might make Russia's heavy burden altogether unbearable: it was therefore urgently suggested to us that we should release the Nike, in spite of the fact that she would undoubtedly be condemned by the British Prize Court as lawful prize. Sir Edward Grey, however, saw that this was an impossible course for us to take ‑ it would be a breach in our system, an abandonment of our claim that our Prize Courts acted in pursuance of no arbitrary rules but of international law; and it would be constantly quoted against us as a precedent for the remainder of the war. Fortunately Sir Edward Grey had an expedient ready to his hand: the ship was lying at Revel, a Russian port, and he suggested that she should be formally handed over to the Russian authorities. Her return to the Swedes by them could not embarrass our Prize Court practice, for it was merely a courtesy by an Allied Power, and could form no precedent against us.


Lieutenant‑Commander Cromie ended the 1915 campaign with a success of a different kind. Cruising in the Western Baltic on the morning of November 7, he sighted a light cruiser and two destroyers, but was disappointed in his attempt to attack. Three hours later, at 1.20, in a favourable mist, he had a second chance. A light cruiser ‑ perhaps the same ‑ with one destroyer as escort, came on at 15 knots, steaming south and east. He dived at once, and at 1.45 fired his starboard torpedo. The range was about 1,100 yards, and the shot went home on the cruiser's starboard side forward. She immediately swung round in a large circle and then stopped dead. She appeared to be on fire and sinking; but Lieutenant‑Commander Cromie was unwilling to leave her in uncertainty. He avoided the destroyer, passed under her stern, and manoeuvred for a second shot. This was fired at 1,200 yards, and was aimed at the cruiser's mainmast, just abaft of which it actually struck. A double explosion followed: evidently the after magazine had blown up, and several large smoking masses were shot out some 200 yards in the direction of the submarine. The destroyer then opened a heavy fire on the periscope with high‑explosive shell. E.19 dived to throw out the range; but three minutes later she came up again to see what was happening. The cruiser ‑ she was the Undine, of 2,650 tons ‑ was gone; the destroyer was picking up a few survivors, and after a restless half‑hour made off to the southward, leaving on the scene only a ferryboat flying the German mercantile flag. Lieutenant‑Commander Cromie arrived next day at Revel, where he reported the attack and added that under existing weather conditions it had been rendered possible only by the sound judgment and prompt action of Lieutenant G. Sharp, who was officer‑ofthe‑watch at the time.


E.19 was not alone in her successful campaign against the German iron ore trade. For the past three weeks, Commander Max Horton in E.9 had again been at work. In two successive days, October 18 and 19, he sank the Soderham, Pernambuco, Johannes‑Russ and Dal Alfoen ‑ four serious losses to the German gun factories, and even more serious blows to the courage of their carrying trade. The captain of the Nike told Lieutenant Mee on his voyage to Revel, that after E.19's first raid no less than fifteen ships were held up at Lulea, awaiting convoy; and after E.9's success the control of the Baltic seemed to have passed for a time out of German hands. (Dr. Muehlon, a Director of Krupp's, records in his Journal of the War (p. 226) on November 9, 1915: "I have learnt from a reliable source that there have been for some time past several English submarines in the Baltic; they are supposed to have their base at Libau. In consequence the German ships of war dare not sail out of Kiel, and even the trial trips of some newly launched ships have had to be postponed.")


Such a state of things could not, of course, be long maintained, for wintry weather soon made the Baltic impossible for submarines. E.1 had returned to Revel on October 30, and did not put to sea again. On November 8, E.8, E.9 and E.19 came in, and on November 17 E.18 returned to the base after three weeks' unsuccessful cruising. The campaign was over for the year.



Oct-Nov. 1915   




The Mediterranean ‑ The Evacuation of the Serbian Army


The double onslaught upon Serbia began in the first days of October (1915) (See Vol. III., pp. 174‑5.); and it was soon evident that the Serbian armies would not be able to stop it. Greatly outnumbered, and attacked simultaneously from the north and east, they were steadily driven back; and on October 22, whilst the northern armies were still fighting round Shabatz and Negotin, Uskub was seized by the Bulgarians. A wedge was thus driven in between the Serbian armies and Salonica; and all effective communication between Serbia and the Aegean was severed. The result was that, whether the Serbians held their ground or retreated, they had henceforward to be supplied from the Adriatic, unless Uskub could be recaptured. On this point French and British military experts were sharply divided. Nearly three weeks after Uskub had fallen General Joffre still hoped that the Serbs might rally and force the Bulgarians out of it. The British military leaders were persuaded that the place was gone and that there was no longer any hope of supporting the Serbian army from Salonica.


On October 30, therefore, Sir Edward Grey instructed our Ambassador in Rome to take up the matter with the Italian Government; and to inform them that, if the Serbian army were to be kept from surrendering, it must be supplied from the Adriatic. As this sea was entirely under Italian naval control, the Government at Rome was asked to accept all the naval responsibilities of the new line of sea communications.


At the beginning of November the Serbian armies were grouped irregularly along the plain of Kossovo from Novibazar, through Pristina and Prizren. As the country between Novibazar and Scutari is traversed by the north Albanian Alps, it followed that, if pressed from the positions they then held, the Serbs would only be able to retire along the mountain road, which runs from Prizren to the sea along the upper gorges of the Drin valley. Even this was soon in danger, for the Bulgarian forces pressed rapidly up the railway from Uskub and strove to seize the last line along which the Serbians could retire. King Peter's armies now made their last effort. On November 5, whilst the Italian and British Governments were still negotiating, the Serbian armies turned on their pursuers, and a battle began near Ferizovic. For three days it raged with the utmost fury, and in the end the Bulgars were thrown back on Kachanik. There was then a lull in the operations, and the Serbian army commanders seem for the time to have hoped that they might yet be able to hold a line along the mountains between Novibazar and Prizren.


Sir Edward Grey's request had been referred to the Italian Naval Staff by Baron Sonnino, the Foreign Minister. The Italians, it would seem, did not wish any naval Power but themselves to make a big maritime effort in the Adriatic, and were thus far from being disinclined to do as we asked. On the other hand, their naval problem was not an easy one. Their principal striking force of five Dreadnoughts and six pre‑Dreadnoughts was based mainly on Taranto, but with an advanced force at Brindisi. In support was Rear‑Admiral C. F. Thursby's squadron of old battleships and light cruisers, which had been at Taranto since May, and a detachment of French destroyers. Between Brindisi and Venice the whole Italian coast was exposed to attacks from the sea, for the Italians had no intermediate harbour on which to base a coast defence squadron or groups of flotillas. The shore line was particularly vulnerable, for the main railway runs close to the coast from Rimini to below Termoli, and was thus liable to be damaged by bombardment for about 200 miles. From Barletta to Brindisi ‑ a distance of about ninety miles ‑ the railway was again exposed; but here the danger was not so great, as this southernmost section of the line was within immediate reach of the naval forces at Brindisi. The advanced force of two pre‑Dreadnoughts, three cruisers, and forty‑two torpedo boats and destroyers had its base at Venice. To this powerful outpost was allotted the duty of guarding the right flank of the line of armies on the Isonzo front.



Plan - The Balkans


The Austrian navy was considerably less powerful than the naval forces under the Italian Commander‑in‑Chief, but the shape and structure of the Adriatic gave the Austrian Naval Staff two marked advantages. In the first place, the bulk of their forces was based on Pola, and the Italian squadron at Venice was therefore constantly facing a superior concentration; and, secondly, the Austrians could always send detachments down to Cattaro or Sebenico through the channels between the Dalmatian islands and the mainland without being brought to action, for the Italians had no means of detecting such movements in time to counter them. A force of hostile cruisers based on Cattaro had, of course, exceptional opportunities for raiding the communications between southern Italy and Scutari, or northern Albania. When Sir Edward Grey's request was transmitted to the Italian Government the Austrians had, in fact, assembled at


Nov. 1915 



Cattaro an advanced force of some two heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, and seven torpedo craft, supported by two old battleships.


With these considerations in his mind, Rear‑Admiral Pini, the Italian Chief of the Naval Staff, reported to his Government that the Italian navy could do what was asked of it, but that, as transports and supply ships in the southern Adriatic would need to be very carefully protected, the strain on the flotillas would be very severe. He therefore urged that the French contingent of destroyers should be brought up to allotted strength, and suggested that the British Government should send a detachment to assist. As the French destroyers had only been withdrawn from the Adriatic temporarily, they were sent back early in December. (The 2nd French Destroyer Flotilla had been taken from Brindisi in October, and moved to the Eastern Mediterranean.) We could not detach destroyers for the Adriatic, but later we sent four submarines to operate against Cattaro.


The negotiations between the Allies continued until the last week in November; on the 24th a committee, formed of an Italian naval captain, three officers from the Italian War Office, and the French and British Naval Attaches, met under the presidency of Admiral Pini. On the previous night Captain Seitz, in the Austrian cruiser Helgoland, with a small force of destroyers attached to him, had left Sebenico, and, after raiding the Otranto Straits, had gone up to Durazzo Bay. The damage done was not serious, but the Austrians had so timed their attack that it fell upon the first group of vessels detailed for transporting supplies. Six Italian steamers were now working between Albania and Italy, and one of these was sunk. The committee therefore met in face of a warning that the Italian navy would not be allowed to carry out its task unmolested. The difficulties ahead were serious. The three places where supplies could be landed, San Giovanni di Medua, Durazzo, and Valona, had landing places and piers adapted to the use of the trabaccoli ‑ light sailing craft which have done the coasting trade for centuries ‑ but that was all. Harbour facilities for moving large masses of supplies did not exist. The result could only be that unloading would always take a very long time, and, as San Giovanni di Medua and Durazzo were open roadsteads, there was every chance that the flow of supplies would be seriously interrupted by submarine attack. To Admiral Pini the enemy's recent activity was significant, as it contrasted with their previous attitude, and the Italian members of the committee raised once more the question of destroyer reinforcements. Our attache, Captain D. A. H. Larking, answered that we had none to spare, but presented a plan for protecting the vessels which were unloading by a guard of drifters supported by light cruisers.


In answer to the Greek occupation of southern Epirus the Italian Government decided to seize and fortify Valona, and during November nets were laid across the entrance of the harbour and guns were landed. It would thus be comparatively immune from submarine attack; moreover its position ‑ sixty‑two miles from Brindisi and 130 miles from Cattaro, the nearest point of attack ‑ was very much in its favour. These advantages were, however, outweighed by the badness of the roads leading inland. There is a rough line of communication between Valona and southern Serbia, but by the end of November there was no hope left that the Serbian armies would be able to retire on the Monastir district, where the track from Valona debouched. As the coastal road between Durazzo and Valona was little more than a mule track, the bay and the hamlets round it were practically cut off from western Serbia, where the Serbian armies were encamped. Further south Santi Quaranta had been occupied by the Greeks. In the end, therefore, the committee was compelled to override the naval objections to the northern landing places, and decided that provisions and supplies should be landed at San Giovanni di Medua and Durazzo, and, when possible, transported up the Bojana river to the lake of Scutari. In accordance with these decisions 1,500 tons of supplies were carried over during the next three weeks.


In the meantime, the Austro‑Germans had resumed their advance against the last Serbian positions. On November 20 Novibazar fell, and three days later Pristina was captured by the enemy. Realising that their armies would be unable to resist further, the Serbian Generals decided to retreat to the sea; and on November 30 they crossed the Albanian frontier, driving before them the 25,000 Austrian prisoners whom they had captured earlier in the war. Their line of march down the Drin valley would necessarily bring them by Scutari to the coast at San Giovanni di Medua, which, of all the places available, was the least suitable as a port of embarkation. (The exact line of march of the Serbian troops is a little difficult to follow. A fairly large group seem to have marched on Scutari through Ipek.)


The committee met in Rome the same day that the Serbian armies crossed into Albania. The military news was contradictory. The Serbian Military Attache, who knew that the army would soon be retiring to the sea, urged that supplies


Dec. 1915 



and motor lorries should be sent at once to San Giovanni di Medua. Mr. Lamb, the head of the British Mission at Scutari, on the other hand, had telegraphed that the Serbians would probably be able to hold a line between Ipek and Prilep, but that about 50,000 refugees were making for Scutari. As supplies were now being carried across with fair regularity, the committee confined itself to questions of detail. Meanwhile, the Italian War Office had decided to increase its garrison at Valona: 20,000 men, 3,000 horses, and 46 guns were detailed to reinforce the troops already there, and on the next day the transportation began, each convoy being escorted by a British cruiser and French or Italian destroyers. The naval responsibilities were thus increasing, and it was evident that the enemy intended to oppose the operations at sea to the utmost of his power. On December 4, the British light cruiser Topaze and the Italian destroyer Ardente were attacked whilst on escort duty; on the same day another Italian destroyer, the Intrepido, and the transport Re Umberto were sunk by mines off Valona, many lives being saved by the British drifters, netting the entrance. These attacks were followed by a raid on the transport route by the Helgoland and her destroyers. Leaving Sebenico at 8.30 p.m. on the 5th, they arrived in the Otranto Channel about five hours later, and cruised for three hours between the Italian coast and Cape Laghi, after which Captain Seitz turned north and sank several small craft in Durazzo Bay and at Medua. (The exact composition of the raiding force is doubtful, but it is stated that a cruiser of the "Sankt Georg" type was present.) The French submarine Fresnel, on guard in the latter district, grounded and was destroyed by gunfire from the Austrian ships.


Whilst the committee was working at the practical details of landing supplies on the coast and carrying them inland, the Serbian Headquarters Staff and Rear‑Admiral E. C. Troubridge, the head of the British Naval Mission, were arriving in Scutari. For the next ten days the heroic Serbians straggled in. They had been fighting and retreating for seventy days, and were destitute of everything. As far as can be judged from the documents available, the mass of them were then encamped round Scutari, but there was another force further south near Tirana, composed mainly of the royal bodyguard and of the troops who had retreated westward when Monastir fell.


In the meantime, the naval forces at Brindisi were making a determined effort. The light cruisers carried out no fewer than sixteen sweeps and convoy trips between December 5 and 10, thanks to which about 2,000 tons of supplies were landed or carried across to San Giovanni di Medua. The difficulties of carrying the food on to Scutari were, however, very great: "Of the twenty trabaccoli now being used for unloading ships, two are still full of supplies, which have to be carried ashore, one sack at a time, by soldiers, from a kind of wharf. On shore, sacks of biscuits, barrels of petroleum, petrol, and stores of every description are accumulating, and lie exposed to attacks by aeroplanes and the weather. Had the Austrian cruisers hit the stores of petrol, Medua would, by now, be burned down. The stores are carried to Scutari on ox carts; the road is so bad that the carts stand still for hours at a time and the journey takes three days. If it begins to rain matters will be much worse." This report came from Lieutenant Accame, who had been put in charge of the roadstead. It was laid before Admiral Pini's committee at a meeting on December 10, and the Italian members at once urged that no further supplies should be sent to San Giovanni di Medua, but that the Serbian armies should be embarked at Valona. The British naval and military delegates answered that masses of half‑famished and destitute troops could hardly be expected to march over a mule track until they had been fed and rested, and added that as far as they were informed 500 tons of food per week could be transported from San Giovanni di Medua to Scutari. In the end it was decided, on Admiral Pini's motion, that the provisions either actually landed or waiting would suffice to enable the Serbian armies to move southwards, and that every effort should be made to get them to do so. A further convoy of provisions was to be landed at Durazzo for the forces in the centre of Albania.


Nobody could doubt that the decision was sound; whether it could be carried out was another matter. During the following week news began to come in of an Austro‑Bulgarian concentration against the Serbian troops in central Albania. Their numbers were not large; a brigade only had been located round Berat, but if, as seemed likely, they were the advanced guard of a serious thrusting force, the position was serious. In the opinion of the Italian generals, the Serbian troops, against whom the blow would fall, bore "no resemblance to an army," and could put up no serious resistance. The result would inevitably be that communications between northern and southern Albania would be severed, and the garrison at Valona brought into great danger. Fortunately the threat came to nothing, but it sufficed to throw our arrangements into uncertainty.


Hoping, doubtless, to keep a foothold on Albania, the


Dec. 1915 



Serbs refused to move from the positions they then held, but they appealed to Admiral Troubridge to put some order into the harbour of San Giovanni di Medua, and placed all their troops under his orders. The need for a central controlling authority was indeed so obvious that the other Powers concerned soon took the same course. On December 19 Vice-Admiral Cutinelli, the Italian Commander‑in‑Chief at Brindisi, placed the Italian personnel, wireless station, and boats at San Giovanni di Medua under our Admiral's orders. The Montenegrins, who had occupied the place earlier in the war, did the same. Many sources of confusion were beyond control, but Admiral Troubridge did what he could by enforcing a few elementary rules of public hygiene and by organising parties for clearing the quays. After some consideration, he decided to leave the wrecks of the vessels sunk in the harbour where they were, as they formed a sort of obstacle to submarines. The business of clearing the port was made particularly difficult by the enemy's air attacks, which dislocated work, though they did little material damage. To counteract the nuisance, Admiral Troubridge placed a line of machine guns along the ridge near the harbour; by this means the aircraft were at least compelled to fly high.


The last contingent of Italian troops arrived at Valona on December 12, and two days later the evacuation of the Austrian prisoners, for whom a temporary camp had been provided a short distance outside that town, began. In the course of the next three weeks the entire 25,000 of these wretched cholera‑stricken men were conveyed to Sardinia in two Italian and three French transports.


No less lamentable was the condition of the Serbian troops, while that of the refugees who had fled with the armies was even worse. Admiral Troubridge strove to relieve them as best he could, by organising them in groups and placing them under police officers. It was but little that he could do, after all. The only medical stores were contained in the medicine chest of a British destroyer. Several more medicine cases were sent over from Brindisi, but there were practically no doctors available to use them. Admiral Troubridge's great achievement was that he succeeded in feeding the community from the army stores which he was distributing, and in maintaining order amongst them. But the high death rate continued unchecked, and each day, as a vessel arrived, crowds of women and old men flocked to the Admiral and besought him on their knees to let them embark. Between December 10 and January 14 over 3,000 of these were carried away into Italy.


The Italians lost no time in putting Durazzo into a state of defence, for it was henceforth to be a base of supplies and a port of disembarkation. By December 20 they had brought up a brigade of infantry from Valona; landed eight heavy guns and a battery of anti‑aircraft pieces and laid a minefield off the port. Quick as they were, they were only just in time, for, almost as soon as they had completed the work, the Austrians launched an attack against their lines of communication.



The First Cruiser Action in the Adriatic


On December 28,1915, Vice‑Admiral Fiedler, the Austrian Commander‑in‑Chief in Cattaro, had three old battleships - the Wien, the Monarch, and the Budapest ‑ one heavy cruiser ‑ the Kaiser Karl VI ‑ three light cruisers ‑ the Helgoland, the Novara, and the Aspern ‑ and a considerable force of torpedo craft, concentrated under his immediate command.






four 9.4", six 5.9", 17 knots

Kaiser Karl VI

two 9.4", eight 5.9", 20 knots


eight 4.7", 17 knots.



eight 3.9", 27 knots.

Five destroyers of the "Czepel" class

two 3.9", 33 knots

Two destroyers of the "Hussar" class

six 11‑pdrs, 28 knots

Eight torpedo boats.



Vice‑Admiral Cutinelli, commanding the Allied force at Brindisi, had certainly a more powerful squadron (following), but




Vittorio Emanuele

Regina Elena


Two 12", twelve 8", 20 knots

Nino Bixio


six 4.7", 26 knots


twelve 14‑pdr, 22 knots

Three armed merchant cruisers.


Mining vessels.


Nine destroyers (four "Abba," five, "Indomito")


Five submarines.




Nine destroyers (five "Casque," two "Bouclier," two "Spahi ).


Nine submarines






eight 6", 26 knots.


two 6", ten 4", 26 knots.


twelve 4", 22 knots.

Four submarines



Dec. 28, 1915



as the duty of supplying the Serbian army from Durazzo fell, alinost entirely upon him, some of his cruisers were generally away on escort duty.


Durazzo Bay, where a large part of the Serbian army was afterwards assembled, was protected by a minefield, and the surrounding hills were posted with Italian troops and batteries, some of which covered the seaward approaches of the bay. The protection afforded was not, however, absolute; Durazzo lies only eighty miles from the mouth of Cattaro Bay and was certainly within reach of a raiding attack. (See Map 5.)


The intelligence system of the Italian High Command sufficed to detect any movement that was actually on foot, and it was supplemented by reports from submarine patrols. But at the end of December, the number of submarines capable of going on patrol appears to have been small; there were no British submarines of the Brindisi force ready for service. The French submarines Archimede and Monge were keeping watch to the north and south of Cattaro respectively. On the 28th the Archimede torpedoed and sank a large Austrian steamer approaching Cattaro from the north. (It has not been possible to ascertain the movements of the Italian submarines.)


At 9.0 p.m. on December 28 Captain Seitz, the commanding officer of the Helgoland, received orders to raid Durazzo. He was to take with him the destroyers Czepel, Tatra, Triglav, Lika, and Balaton, and was to be off the bay by daybreak. If, when he got there, no Italian destroyers were found on patrol, he was to go inside at once and sink all the transports he could find.


By midnight the whole force was under way, and when clear of the harbour the destroyers took up their cruising formation: the Balaton astern of the Helgoland, the Czepel and the Tatra to starboard, and the Lika and Triglav to port. The night was clear, with very little wind, and soon after 2.30 a submarine's periscope was sighted in the Helgoland's wake, just ahead of the Balaton. It was the Monge. She had no chance of saving herself from the Balaton, which immediately rammed and sank her, and, an hour later, the raiders were again on their course with two officers and twenty‑five men prisoners on board.


At 6.0 a.m. on the morning of the 29th the force was fifteen miles to the westward of Durazzo, and after making a short sweep to the south‑westward to make sure that there was no sign of interference by Allied forces approaching from Brindisi, the raiders turned in towards the bay. They hoped to find a small force of Italian destroyers still inside, and the Helgoland and Balaton therefore steamed towards Cape Laghi at the southern end of the bay to cut off any ships that might attempt to escape. (Marine Rundschau, June 1922, p. 243.) It was soon evident, however, that there were only three unarmed ships inside ‑ a steamer and two small sailing vessels ‑ and at 7.30 the whole force steamed in, with the exception of the Balaton, which remained outside watching for submarines.


The Italian ships in the bay were sunk after twenty minutes' firing. To carry out the attack, the destroyers had gone right in, but the Helgoland kept outside the imaginary line joining the buoys at the northern and southern ends of the bay, and steamed slowly to and fro to the south‑westward of Durazzo. At about eight o'clock the destroyers came up to the northern end to join her. As they did so the batteries on shore opened on them, and the destroyers turned sharply to port so as to keep out of the Helgoland's line of fire. Their new course brought them into a minefield. The Lika almost immediately struck two mines in quick succession: the second explosion started a fire, and she sank, burning fiercely. (Ibid., pp. 243‑4.) The Tatra saved as many survivors as she was able to pick up ‑ it was impossible for her to go alongside the Lika on account of the flames ‑ but, almost simultaneously with the first disaster, the Triglav also struck a mine abreast her boiler‑room. These rapid and unexpected casualties placed the flotilla in a very anxious position.


The Triglav, it is true, remained afloat, and the Czepel was ordered to tow her out, but the towing cable got foul of the Czepel's screw, and Captain Seitz then ordered the Tatra to relieve her. All this took time, and in the meanwhile the guns ashore were getting the range. The Helgoland made every possible effort to engage the batteries and cover the operations, but it was not until 9.50 a.m. that the crippled flotilla moved out. The Triglav was entirely out of action, the Tatra was incapable of fighting so long as she kept the tow, and the Czepel's speed was much reduced by the portion of tow rope which still fouled her propeller.


Moreover, serious as was the difficulty of getting the Triglav safely back to harbour, a much heavier anxiety was now weighing upon the senior officer's mind. At 8.15 he had intercepted a signal from the Italian commander on shore reporting the raid to Vice‑Admiral Cutinelli at Brindisi. (This was probably a repetition; Brindisi seems to have had the news a good deal earlier.)


He knew, therefore, that our squadrons in Brindisi would


Dec. 29, 1915



be on the move, and at 10.10 he sent a telegram to the Austrian Admiral in Cattaro warning him of the dangerous position of the flotilla. "The Lika and the Triglav have struck mines off Durazzo. The Lika has sunk. Triglav in tow, but making water. Durazzo has warned Brindisi; it is therefore possible that we shall be cut off." His estimate was correct, for our counter‑movement was by then well advanced.


Shortly after seven o'clock an Italian officer came on board the Dartmouth. He informed Captain Addison that a force of Austrian destroyers was off Valona, and gave him an order from Admiral Cutinelli to proceed to sea with the Italian light cruiser Quarto and five French destroyers and cut them off. The Dartmouth and Quarto had steam up, but the French destroyers, the Casque, Renaudin, Commandant Bory, Bisson, and Commandant Lucas, were not quite ready. Captain Addison decided not to wait for them and got under way at once; but he gave them verbal orders to follow as soon as they could, and to meet him off Cattaro, for he determined to get between the raiding force and their base, as the only certain method of finding and engaging them. Just before the Dartmouth got under way, an Italian officer came on board and told Captain Addison that Durazzo, not Valona, had been bombarded. By eight o'clock the Dartmouth and Quarto were clear of the harbour. The Casque and the other French destroyers followed soon after.


At 7.45 Admiral Cutinelli sent a message to the Weymouth ordering her to raise steam at once, as an Austrian force of "cruisers and destroyers" was raiding Durazzo. As soon as he could do so, Captain D. B. Crampton went on board the Vittorio Emanuele ‑ Admiral Cutinelli's flagship ‑ and begged to be allowed to proceed. For the moment, the Italian Admiral was inclined to wait for more news, but shortly after nine he received a further signal to the effect that the Austrians were still off the town. This seems to have given him the confirmation that he required, for he at once instructed Rear‑Admiral Belleni to hoist his flag in the Nino Bixio and proceed to sea with the Weymouth and the four destroyers, Abba, Nievo, Mosto, and Pilo, in order to reinforce the Dartmouth and bring the enemy to action if he could. At 10.10, therefore, when the captain of the Helgoland informed the Austrian Admiral at Cattaro that the flotilla was in danger, the Dartmouth and the Quarto were about fifty‑five miles to the westward of him, steering for Cattaro, the French destroyers were following on the Dartmouth's track, and Admiral Belleni's force was about twelve miles to the north of Brindisi, also steering northwards for Cattaro.


So long as the Triglav was kept in tow the raiding flotilla could only proceed at 6 knots. The captain of the Helgoland made an effort to get on more quickly by ordering the Balaton to assist the Tatra in towing the Triglav, but the experiment failed, and the Tatra kept the tow. At Cattaro the Kaiser Karl VI was being kept under steam, and at 10.35 the captain of the Helgoland asked that she might be sent out in support. She was at once ordered to weigh, and passed the harbour entrance at about 11.30, accompanied by four torpedo boats (Nos. 70, 17, 81, and 80). The position that now arose was one of peculiar uncertainty. We had at sea four light cruisers and two destroyer flotillas chasing a weaker force. But the Kaiser Karl VI was far more powerful than anything we could oppose to her (unless Admiral Cutinelli put to sea with his heavier ships); so that, if the Austrian forces succeeded in joining up, the Dartmouth and Admiral Belleni's squadron might at any moment be in great danger. The Italian Admiral knew, fairly accurately, what forces the Austrians had concentrated in Cattaro; he learned by one o'clock that the Kaiser Karl VI and Novara were at sea, and, apart from this information (which was gained from the enemy's intercepted signals), it was not difficult to foretell that the Austrians would make every effort to extricate the crippled flotilla. He, therefore, informed the captain of the Dartmouth that Admiral Belleni was coming out to support him, and later he warned the Rear‑Admiral that the Kaiser Karl VI and the Novara were out.


Captain Addison's force was the first to come into contact with the Austrians. Adhering to his intention to cut the raiders off from their base, he kept on his course for Cattaro; but at about noon he received two messages from Admiral Cutinelli in Brindisi telling him that the raiders had lost two destroyers at Durazzo, and had left the bay at 10.30 a.m. with one boat in tow. (The messages were received at 10.50 and 11.20, but owing to the time necessary for deciphering them they were not in Captain Addison'a hands until nearly noon.) Although the information was not correct in every particular, it sufficed to show Captain Addison that the raiders were to the south of him. He therefore turned north‑eastwards towards the land, so as to make sure that the enemy should not escape him by hugging the coast, and, after holding his new course for twenty‑five minutes, turned southwards in the direction of Cape Rodoni. At 12.38 the Dartmouth and Quarto were joined by the French destroyers, and at 12.55, while they were still making towards Cape Rodoni, Captain Addison sighted the smoke of the Nino Bixio


Dec. 29, 1915



and Weymouth on his starboard beam. Admiral Belleni was, in fact, following Captain Addison's original plan, and making towards Cattaro, but, unfortunately, the messages from Brindisi about the crippled state of the Austrian flotilla did not induce him to turn at once, like Captain Addison, to the eastward. If he had done this his squadron would have come into action at least two hours earlier than it actually did. At 11.0 he sent on the Abba and Nievo to reconnoitre, and held on his course until he heard from Admiral Cutinelli that the Kaiser Karl VI and Novara were out; then he turned sharply to the eastward, and twenty minutes later altered course to the southwards, for his destroyers had warned him that they had sighted the Kaiser Karl VI further north, and that aeroplanes were in sight to the north‑east. (They actually reported a "cruiser of the 'Sankt Georg' type," and, although no mention was made in their signal to Admiral Belleni, the aeroplanes vigorously attacked the Abba and Nievo.) Realising that the presence of this heavily gunned cruiser made his position difficult, he recalled his destroyers (1.45), and made towards the Dartmouth, which was just coming into action with the enemy. (See Map 6.)


Captain Addison had ordered the five French destroyers as they came up to take station on his port beam. At about 1.20 he sighted two smoke clouds, one ahead and one just on the starboard bow. The first came from the Helgoland, with the Balaton and Czepel in company; the second from the Tatra towing the Triglav. Either because the light to the northward was clearer, or because his own ships could not be seen so easily against the land, the Austrian commander had become aware of our presence before we had sighted him. When he did so, he must have thought he had little chance of getting back alive. The Czepel had been unable to clear the towing rope from her propeller and could only do 20 knots, so that even if the Triglav were abandoned, the whole flotilla would be at least 5 knots slower than any one of the pursuing cruisers. Captain Seitz was by then aware that the Kaiser Karl VI was coming to his assistance, and he probably guessed that the Aspern, Budapest and Novara would follow as soon as they could. This knowledge of what was being done to save him must have sharpened his disappointment when he sighted our cruisers and realised that they had got between him and his supporting forces.


Captain Seitz would doubtless have been justified had he decided to abandon the Czepel, whose slow speed was endangering the entire flotilla. No such thought seems to have crossed his mind, however, for at 12.10 he sent out his final orders, which show that he intended to stand by her to the last. "If the enemy cruisers advance against us the Triglav is to be sunk. The Tatra and the Balaton are then to close the Helgoland, which will endeavour to attract the enemy's attack to herself, and so give the Czepel a chance of getting away on the disengaged side. The Triglav is to be made ready for sinking. Documents, money, and crew are to be placed on board the Balaton."


He then continued on his northerly course, and at 12.50 had the good fortune to speak to U.15, which was patrolling in the neighbourhood. Realising that he would soon be in action, he told the submarine commander to stand by the Triglav, which would certainly attract our light cruisers, and so give him an opportunity of delivering a successful attack. A quarter of an hour later, the Czepel and Balaton reported the Dartmouth and Quarto, and orders were given to sink the Triglav.


(It seems as though it took some time to carry out this order. The entries in the Dartmouth's log between 1.0 and 1.43 p.m. are as follows: - "1.18, sighted smoke S. 30 E; 1.22, more smoke I point on starboard bow; 1.30, portion of smoke observed to separate and cross to port, apparently one T.B.D. towing another. Remainder identified as Novara and 2 T.B.D. Increased full speed; 1.35, S. 5W.; 1.40, T.B.D. slipped tow and proceeded to endeavour to join remainder of enemy's squadron; 1.42, Co. S. 25 W.; 1.43, opened fire.")


Standing stiffly to his determination to save the destroyers if he could, Captain Seitz steered straight for us, so as to cover the damaged Czepel, and at 1.30, when all hope of joining the Kaiser Karl VI was gone, turned to the westward.


As soon as Captain Addison had made out the Tatra with the Triglav in tow, he detached the Casque and her destroyers to deal with them (1.38). The enemy were thirteen miles away when the order was given, and, by the time the French boats reached the spot, the Triglav had been sunk and the Tatra had rejoined the Helgoland. The senior officer of the French flotilla reported this to Captain Addison some time later (2.12), and followed the Dartmouth and Quarto to the westward. The French boats were several knots slower than our light cruisers, and were not engaged during the afternoon.


The enemy was by now (1.30 to 1.35) well settled on his westerly course. The Czepel had first tried to escape to the eastward, but seeing that it was quite impossible to get past us and the French flotillas, turned to follow the Helgoland. At 1.35 Captain Addison steered south, so as not to let the enemy draw too far ahead; seven minutes later he made a


Dec. 29, 1915



further turn to starboard, and almost simultaneously opened fire at a range of about 14,000 yards. By then, the Helgoland was steering to the south‑south‑west, as it must soon have become clear to Captain Seitz that he would get to a dangerously short range if he attempted to hold his westerly course and cross the Dartmouth's bow.


When the action began, Admiral Belleni was about fifteen miles to the north‑north‑westward of the Dartmouth and Quarto, the Kaiser Karl VI to the north‑eastward, several miles out of range, and the Aspern, Budapest and Novara were just getting under way. Captain Addison had, therefore, definitely placed himself between the Helgoland and her supporters, but it was still possible that he might be cut off from Admiral Belleni. The danger of this was, however, diminishing, as Captain Addison had informed the RearAdmiral in the Nino Bixio at 1.30 that the enemy had turned to a westerly course, an intimation which would deter him from making too far to the north and east.


It was clear to Captain Addison that Admiral Belleni could not arrive for some time, and he soon discovered that the enemy had the heels of him. (In his report, the captain of the Helgoland states that his ship was worked up to a speed of 29 knots through the water.) He therefore decided to use his intercepting position to drive the enemy south‑westwards towards Brindisi, where he hoped that Admiral Cutinelli would be waiting for them. It would be a long time before the enemy could work round his bows, and so long as he kept the Dartmouth to the north, the enemy's advantage in speed would be countered, and, at the same time, his efforts to break north would keep him within range of the Dartmouth's 6‑inch guns.


When Captain Seitz settled the Helgoland on a southwesterly course at 1.34, he was fully alive to the Dartmouth's advantages, which were not in her position alone, but in her choice of range, for the Helgoland's guns could not fire effectively at more than 10,000 yards. Between 1.40 and two O'clock the converging courses of the two squadrons reduced the range fairly rapidly, and at 1.55 the Helgoland was hit. (The hit was at the fore davit of the starboard lifeboat, and caused eight casualties (one killed, seven wounded).) Throughout the afternoon the Austrian gunlayers endeavoured to return an effective fire by aiming at our mastheads with the sights set at extreme range, but the device was not successful, and from first to last Captain Seitz's only chance of escape was in the speed of his squadron.


At two o'clock the Helgoland was turned to a course due south, in order to open out the range, but Captain Seitz brought her back to her south‑westerly course a few minutes later, and renewed his effort to get round the Dartmouth's bows. The Helgoland was not hit again for nearly two hours, during which time the courses varied between south‑west and west‑south‑west, with the Helgoland slowly drawing ahead. In the meantime, Captain Accini in the Quarto was causing the Austrian commander the greatest anxiety. He had manoeuvred his vessel into the Helgoland's wake, and it seemed as though the Czepel would be cut off in spite of all the efforts that had been made to save her. What followed is a fair example of how one of the two adversaries in an action may mistake the other's intentions. Captain Accini had apparently moved out to attack the lagging destroyers on his own initiative, and at about 2.10, Captain Addison directed him to take station on the Dartmouth's port quarter. As Captain Accini put his helm over to obey the order the Helgoland fired a torpedo, and Captain Seitz thought the aim had been so good that the Quarto had moved out of the way to avoid the torpedo. In point of fact, no one on board the Quarto realised that there had been anything to avoid.


Between 2.30 and 3.15 the Quarto, acting under orders from Captain Addison, again endeavoured to cut off the Czepel, but by now the opportunity had passed, and the movement was not noticed in the Helgoland.


(Captain Seitz speaks of the Quarto's turn towards the Dartmouth at 2.10 in terms of great relief, but he makes no mention of the second deliberate attempt to intercept the Czepel. His war diary runs as follows: "2.10. The direction of the torpedo is good. Quarto makes a large turn to port (sic): simultaneously Czepel is extricated: Helgoland is cleared for two hours."


It should be noted that, although the Czepel reported at about noon that she could only do 20 knots, she must have far exceeded that speed during the whole afternoon.)


In spite of the difficulties of firing with 6‑inch guns, at ranges up to 13,000 yards, on a target which was frequently covered by smoke, the Dartmouth's shooting was extremely accurate. At 2.30 the Helgoland was straddled; but she succeeded in throwing out the range by turning away, and the Dartmouth ceased fire to avoid wasting ammunition. For the next twenty minutes (2.40 to 3.0) Captain Addison turned his ship gradually to port, and the distance between the Dartmouth and the Helgoland shortly decreased. The Dartmouth kept up an intermittent fire from her broadsides, to test the range, and at 3.2 the Helgoland was hit by two shells from these experimental salvoes. Just after 3.0 the range slowly opened out again, as the Austrian squadron then established their lead, and the enemy's chances of


Dec. 29, 1915



getting away improved. At 3.15 the Helgoland had got well ahead, and Captain Seitz began edging to the westward. (Not shown on the plan, as the Helgoland's position at 3.15 can only be conjectured.) He made several more turns to starboard; but at 3.30 he sighted Admiral Belleni's approaching ships and realised that his chances of escaping were lessening again. For some time past the Rear‑Admiral had been seen approaching from the Dartmouth; but the smoke of the destroyers obscured the view to the eastward of the Helgoland; by the time Captain Scitz became aware of Admiral Belleni's approach the fresh ships were nearly within range.


Admiral Belleni's squadron was in a somewhat irregular order. At 2.5 Captain Crampton had asked for permission to close the Dartmouth. It had been granted, with the result that the Weymouth had edged considerably to the southward, and when the new squadron came into action she was on the Nino Bixio's port quarter. To port of the Weymouth were the destroyers Mosto and Pilo. The other two destroyers, Abba and Nievo, were on the disengaged side of the Nino Bixio. As he overhauled the Helgoland, Captain Crampton sighted the Czepel some distance to the southward, and asked permission to send the Mosto and Pilo to cut her off (3.30). The request was granted (3.40), and the two destroyers began to manouevre towards the Helgoland's wake.


At 3.50, when the Weymouth opened fire, at the extreme range on the sights, the Helgoland had a slight lead on the newcomers; but she was now outnumbered by four to one - without counting the destroyers; and the Czepel had only to lose a knot or two to be cut off by the Quarto, which was following in a position wide of the Dartmouth's beam. (She had been ordered to cut off the Czepel at 2.30, and recalled at 3.15, but she does not appear to have obeyed the recall.)


Here once more the Austrian commander was in a position of great danger. At 3.40 he had turned to a north‑westerly course in the hope of breaking through; but the attempt soon proved impossible, as the new course took him right across the track of the Weymouth and the Nino Bixio, and rapidly reduced his lead on the Dartmouth. Indeed, in a few minutes the range had fallen so much that the Austrian destroyers were bringing their guns into action against the Dartmouth, and Captain Seitz saw that it was no longer possible to get away to the westward. He therefore turned sharply to the south (4.0), "in order to gain time until sunset "; but this move increased his difficulties. It put him on a course at right angles to his original pursuers, the Dartmouth and Quarto, and although the Dartmouth conformed and took up a parallel course, the Quarto held straight on and overhauled the Helgoland rapidly. Taking this as a threat to separate him from the Czepel, which he had risked so much to defend, the Austrian commander turned to starboard again and steered to the south‑west (4.7). Again the Dartmouth conformed, and kept up the intermittent firing which had continued since the fight began.


The difficulties in the way of accurate shooting were at the time great, as the Austrian destroyers were sending up a very heavy smoke‑screen; and the colours at the Helgoland's masthead were often the only part of the ship still visible. Our fire was, none the less, extremely accurate when it was possible to fire at all, and at 4.25 the Helgoland was hit by a shell which entered the top of her third funnel: two fires in two boilers were put out, and one boiler was damaged. "We were now pursued by four cruisers," says Captain Seitz in his war diary; " it was the hardest moment of the fight."


As a matter of fact, however, the Helgoland's chances of escape were at this moment improving. She was again steadily increasing her lead, and at about 4.30 the Czepel rejoined her. (It was at about this time that she was hit in the fore topmast; the shell wrecked the crows' nest.) As she did so our firing increased in intensity; for the sun had now set, and the Austrian ships were clearly outlined against the evening sky.


It is possible that Captain Seitz's view of our ships had been obscured by smoke, and that, in the confusion and uncertainty of the action, he had thought his position worse than it really was; for only five minutes after the situation had seemed so black, he realised, as he looked down the range, which was clear for the first time since the fight began, that he had a good chance of escaping to the north‑westward. He did not immediately make the attempt; but held on his south‑westerly course for another twenty minutes, and at 4.50 turned to a course parallel to the Italian coast, which was by this time only twelve miles away. The moment was well chosen, for the Dartmouth and Quarto were then well astern of him; and, in the failing light, he had at least a good chance of getting past Admiral Belleni without being disabled. His south‑westward course since 4.7 had carried him out of range of the Nino Bixio; for the Rear‑Admiral had kept on a more westerly course, in the hope of cutting off the enemy's retreat during his swerve to the southward. Captain Seitz's new movement towards Monte Gargano peninsula now put the two opposing flagships on to rapidly converging


Dec. 29, 1915



courses. If it had been made earlier in the day it would have meant certain destruction for the Helgoland; but dusk was now gathering, and Captain Seitz decided to take the risk.


The Helgoland was soon within range of our guns, and the Weymouth and Nino Bixio opened on her with salvoes. Difficult as the conditions were, our shells fell accurately; and one of them hit the Helgoland on her armour. But as she had the good fortune to suffer no damage, the Helgoland was able to maintain her speed during the critical moments when she most needed it; and at five o'clock Captain Seitz signalled to the Budapest squadron, which had put to sea during the afternoon and joined up with the Kaiser Karl VI, that he was trying to break through in the direction of Monte Gargano.


His position continued for some time to be most critical, for the range between him and Admiral Belleni's ships was rapidly decreasing; and a lucky shot would have put him at our mercy. A few minutes later his danger broke full upon him: the Weymouth and Nino Bixio opened a concentrated fire upon the Austrian ships as they stood out against the last glow of the twilight, and our salvoes fell all round the target. But Captain Seitz held on without swerving, and a few minutes later his courage and good leadership were rewarded; for our fire began to slacken as gunlaying and range‑finding became mere guesswork in the growing darkness.


Our last chance of preventing the enemy from getting home was now centred in the Mosto and Pilo ‑ the two destroyers on the Weymouth's port beam ‑ and at about 5.2 they made a final effort to get within torpedo range. (They had been manoeuvring for position ever since 3.40, when Captain Addison ordered them to cut off the Czepel.) As they approached, however, it was clear that they could not get into position without coming under the fire of our ships, and the attempt was abandoned.


At 5.30 the range had dropped to 7,000 yards; the Nino Bixio was slightly hit; and in the obscurity Admiral Belleni thought he detected the enemy turning to the northward. He put his helm over to conform; but Captain Crampton, who was nearer, and saw no change of course, held on as he was; and so got between the Nino Bixio and the enemy. Admiral Belleni at once ceased fire; but the Weymouth continued to send down salvoes until 5.50, when she, too, stopped. At six o'clock, when the Captain of the Helgoland saw that he had all his pursuers abaft the beam, he turned north, and was soon lost to view, for it was by then quite dark.




The Evacuation of the Serbian Army (continued)


Admiral Pini's committee had met on December 24. At this sitting the Italian members and the president again urged the need for moving the Serbian army from round Scutari further to the south. Despite Admiral Troubridge's efforts, the confusion at San Giovanni di Medua was terrible. The enemy's submarines were threatening; as far as could be ascertained, there was one continually at work off the Bojana River. The Italian members were, moreover, deeply irritated by the criticism which was being levelled against them by persons who were quite unable to see the difficulty of landing supplies at an open roadstead, where there was a total lack of facilities for receiving them. No decisions were taken, and the committee, after meeting again on January 4, asked Commander Larking to cross over to Albania and report on the local conditions.


In the meantime, matters in Albania were moving towards a crisis. The Serbian army round Scutari refused to stir; and on December 31 General Mondesir arrived from France to take charge, as the Allies had decided that it should be the allotted duty of the French to re‑equip and reorganise the Serbian troops. Disregarding the dangers of transporting an army from an open roadstead within reach of the enemy's raiding forces, and anxious only to remove the Serbs to some place where he might again bring them under military training, General Mondesir urged that the embarkation should be pressed forward. His intention was to embark 88,000 men at San Giovanni di Medua, 45,000 at Durazzo and the remaining 10,000 at Valona, and that they should all be conveyed to Tunis. But his proposal only strengthened the Serbian opposition; and it was due to Admiral Troubridge that the matter was settled without a violent quarrel. This officer's influence with the Serbian generals was very great. From the moment when he arrived on the Danube he had won their affection and respect. Throughout the retreat his proud military bearing and the self‑control of his officers had been noticed by everybody. The Serbian authorities were very bitter about the Allies; but their affection for the British Admiral had never wavered, and when they arrived at the coast one of their first acts had been to give him authority over their own soldiers and fellow‑countrymen. But for this Admiral Troubridge's position would have been impossible; as matters stood, it was still extremely difficult.


Jan. 1916   



His naval instinct told him that San Giovanni di Medua was no place from which to embark an army; but he was well aware how strongly the Serbians disliked the idea of being marched south to Valona. On the other hand, he had no wish to obstruct or oppose the French General. He decided that no personal feeling ought to prevent him from giving his advice as clearly and candidly as possible; and when General Mondesir forwarded him a plan for embarking 2,000 troops a day, he at once stated his objections:


"As soon as I learned that I was responsible (for embarking the Serbian army) I considered it my duty to tell the Serbian Headquarters Staff that it is neither reasonable nor practicable to embark 88,000 men at Medua.


"The first desideratum for such an operation is to find a suitable harbour as far as possible from the enemy.


"Medua is the least suitable harbour, and is the nearest to the enemy of those available.


"If the soldiers come here, I shall assist them as far as I can; but I have told the Serbian Headquarters that I cannot bear responsibility for what may occur.


"With the greatest respect, I am of the opinion that the operation has been badly conceived and will end badly."


The letter was a very happy combination of bluntness and tact. With a Frenchman's quickness of apprehension, General Mondesir realised that such plain speaking must certainly be honest, and that Admiral Troubridge's objections were obviously sound. The Serbian Headquarters Staff knew how loyally the unpalatable advice had been given, and at once replied through Colonel Pavlovitch:


"To my sorrow it has come to my ears that you have been thinking we should act differently. We consider you our greatest friend, and we are happy to have so competent and illustrious an officer for our naval affairs. We shall always address ourselves to you, and your advice will be held most precious."


The Serbians were as good as their word, and on January 7, 16,000 men marched off to Durazzo. The destination of the Serbian army was at the same time changed from Tunis to Corfu. This port was now occupied by a French naval detachment, who prepared it for the reception of the Serbian troops.


The wisdom of clearing northern Albania was soon evident. On the very next day, a telegram came in to say that the Montenegrin army was being attacked over its whole front. Details of the position and extent of the Montenegrin lines are lacking; but it would seem that most of the country was at this time in the hands of the Austro‑Germans, and that the Montenegrin forces were covering Cettinje from a defensive position between the northern end of the lake of Scutari and Mount Lowcen. To the north and north‑east of this principal position, the mountain chain of Kuk and the town of Podgorica seem to have been held in strength. As the Serbian troops could no longer be treated as a field army, the Montenegrin lines were the last barrier between northern Albania and the advancing Austro‑Germans.


It was now clear that the barrier would not stand. On the day after the assault began, the Italians were informed that one position after another was falling; and on January 11 it was known that the occupation of Cettinje was imminent. On the following day the Montenegrins asked for an armistice. It was granted them; and they were disarmed and disbanded by the Austrian Staff.


The resulting position was serious for more reasons than one. San Giovanni di Medua would certainly be occupied; but this was not all. Mount Lowcen overlooks the harbour of Cattaro; it had thus been used as an observing station for the movements of the Austrian light cruisers, and had been linked up with Medua by a chain of look‑out and wireless stations. All these were now being withdrawn, and the difficulties of opposing the Austrian light cruiser raids increased in proportion.


It was now decided to evacuate San Giovanni di Medua completely and at once. (The French were now in complete charge of the arrangements, and, as Admiral Troubridge's services were no longer required, he proceeded to Taranto on January 20, and was shortly afterwards recalled home.) The Serbs marched south as fast as the state of the Durazzo road would allow; those who could be transported by sea more quickly were pressed on board the available steamers; and by January 22, the work was done. All the artillery, stores and wagons were removed, and the harbour was left empty. On January 29 the Austrians occupied the town.


Durazzo now became the centre of the evacuation. From this port the troops were carried either direct to Corfu, or sent in small vessels to Valona and then transhipped into large transports for the rest of the passage. The work was not absolutely completed until early in April; but the bulk


Feb. 1916  



of the Serbian forces, amounting to about 134,000 officers and men, with 36,850 horses and transport oxen, were removed during February. To carry out the operation 203,000 tons of shipping had been employed, and the vessels had made in all 322 voyages. The naval effort upon which this movement rested had been very heavy; 1,159 cruiser sweeps and convoy trips were carried out by the Allied vessels. In each case the Italian contribution had been from a half to two‑thirds of the total. It may be said with confidence, that if the Austrian High Naval Command had been as energetic as the Allied, the work of embarking the Serbian army from Durazzo would have been a good deal more difficult than it was. The Austrian navy as a whole made no move; interference with the embarkations and convoys was left to the submarines and the indefatigable Captain Seitz. From first to last the operation cost the Allies eleven light craft (destroyers and auxiliaries) and eight steamers; whilst the attacks upon our bases and lines of communication cost the Austrians two destroyers and two aeroplanes.


By February 6 Captain Seitz, having repaired his ship, was again at sea in the Helgoland, with six torpedo boats (Nos. 83, 87, 88, 74, 78 and 80) in company. A powerful column of Austrian troops was then marching southwards on Durazzo. As the Italians only intended to hold the place as long as they needed it for their immediate purpose, the approach of the enemy compelled them to press on with their embarkations. Captain Seitz, on the other hand, moved towards the threatened harbour and its congested traffic, hoping to arrive in time to attack a large convoy which, according to his information, was due to leave Durazzo early in the morning. Simultaneously with the blow he hoped to strike, a destroyer, the Wildfang, with two seaplanes, was to operate close inshore in conjunction with a line of submarines. The times at which these two groups sailed and the course they took are a matter of conjecture; all that can be said with certainty is that they were both at sea during the afternoon of February 7. Two of our light cruisers were patrolling near the transport route. The Liverpool had left Brindisi at 1.0 p.m. on the previous day, with the Italian destroyer Bronzetti in company, with orders to protect the coastwise traffic between Valona Bay and Durazzo; the Weymouth, with the French destroyer Bouclier, left Brindisi at eleven o'clock in the forenoon of the 6th. The Italian destroyers Abba and Ardente with the torpedo boats Airone and Ardea were on guard at Durazzo itself. (Camillo Manfroni: Storia della Marina Italiana, p. 97.)


At about 2.0 p.m., the Liverpool and Bronzetti, which were then steering for Brindisi, sighted a hostile aeroplane. They were, at the time, about forty‑five miles S. 6 degrees E. (true) from Cattaro. The aircraft turned sharply to the northward, and Captain G. W. Vivian, realising that she might be the herald of something more serious, followed her. A few minutes later smoke was sighted towards Cattaro, and the Bronzetti was ordered ahead to investigate. The Weymouth was about twenty‑five miles to the south‑eastward. Captain Crampton got a signal from his colleague that "an enemy ship was in sight " (2.25 p.m.), and at once turned northwards to support him. What had happened was that the Liverpool and the Bronzetti had fallen in with the Wildfang and had turned her back.


The Liverpool was naturally outpaced; but the captain of the Bronzetti, Commander Grixoni, pressed ahead, and at 3.0 p.m. opened fire. The Wildfang returned it; but the range was still too great and the salvoes fell short. Captain Vivian soon saw that the chase was carrying the Bronzetti dangerously close to the batteries in Traste Bay and recalled her. Commander Grixoni was actually under fire from the shore when he turned back. The Wildfang anchored in Traste Bay, and the Weymouth and Bronzetti resumed their course for Brindisi. At 3.20 Captain Crampton in the Weymouth got a signal that the enemy to the north of him had got back to Cattaro, and he thereupon resumed his patrol. Though they did not know it, Captain Vivian and his Italian colleague had thrown out the first movement of a serious attack upon the transport line.


The Liverpool and Bronzetti were back in Brindisi towards nightfall, and the Weymouth and Bouclier continued the patrol. At about 7.30, a group of destroyers was sighted ahead. Our cruisers were then about thirty‑five miles to the southward of Cattaro, on a course towards Cape Rodoni. Three hostile boats were distinctly made out, and a fourth was reported; the enemy were steering south across Captain Crampton's bows. He also turned southwards to bring them on his beam and so get his broadside to bear. It was getting dusk; but the weather was fine and clear, and the Weymouth opened a slow and deliberate fire at a range of 7,000 yards. For a time the Austrians held on resolutely and closed the range. Just before eight o'clock, the two groups were within 5,000 yards, and Captain Crampton altered away slightly and increased his speed. Soon after 8.0 p.m. it was seen that the enemy group had turned north. Captain Crampton at once turned after them; but ceased fire, for it


Feb. 1916  



was growing dark. The Austrian destroyers were now making for Cattaro, and we continued to dog them until nine o'clock, when they were no longer visible. Whether these two successive encounters were the only causes which upset Captain Seitz's plans we cannot say with certainty: we must be content to record that, on the night of February 6‑7, there was no organised attack on the transport route, though everything combines to show that something serious was attempted.


(At 7.0 a.m. on the following morning the Weymouth and Bouclier, when about fifteen miles to the west‑north‑westward of Durazzo, were attacked by a submarine; possibly one of those which Camillo Manfroni mentions as working in conjunction with the Wildfang.)


By February 9, the Serbian troops round Durazzo had been transported; the Italians then had a force of 8,500 men and 36 guns posted on the hills round the town, under the command of General Ferrero. The Italian Staff had always intended to withdraw this garrison as soon as it was no longer needed for covering the Serbians; but in consequence of the breakdown of the Montenegrin fronts and the southern advance of the Austrian armies, the withdrawal now had to be carried out in the presence of the enemy. On or about the 10th the Austrian forces began to approach the Italian positions; but it was not until nearly a fortnight later that they had assembled in any considerable force or had brought up their artillery. For some reason or another the Italian army authorities still delayed the evacuation. On February 15 General Ferrero reported that he was ready. The naval commander at Brindisi, Admiral Cutinelli, at once sent over fifteen transports and two hospital ships with a sufficient escort; but, almost as soon as they assembled in Durazzo, General Ferrero countermanded the evacuation. It was not attempted again until the 25th, and during the interval the enemy pressure had very much increased. The withdrawal was at last carried out on the nights of February 25, 26, and 27 in very adverse circumstances. Since the 23rd the enemy had encircled the Italian positions, and kept them under a continuous bombardment; on the 24th the Austrians seized the Sasso Bianco (white cliffs) and kept the beaches under fire.


The naval part of the business in hand was, therefore, very arduous. It was extraordinarily difficult to keep down the fire of the enemy's batteries, and harder still to get the troops embarked. A very large force had to be allotted to the operation: fourteen transports and a hospital ship were concentrated in the bay; a group of British drifters under Lieutenant‑Commander M. E. Cochrane netted the harbour and assisted in the actual embarkation; whilst three light cruisers, four destroyers, and four armed merchant cruisers engaged the enemy's batteries. Outside, the Italians detailed two battleships, three light cruisers, and two flotillas of destroyers to act as a covering force. During the night of the 26th‑27th the evacuation was completed, but the losses were severe. Of the 8,000 ashore on the 25th, 600 odd were killed, wounded or captured, and thirteen guns were lost or destroyed.


Throughout the operations the British naval forces had been continually at sea. They had been frequently attacked by submarines, fortunately without loss. In close contact with the shore had been the British drifters, which had netted all the harbours where embarkation was in progress. "No praise is too high for them," writes Admiral Thursby; "their nets have kept off submarine attacks, and, no matter what happens, drifters always appear on the spot. They have already been the means of saving many lives from ships which have struck mines or been torpedoed." The passage of so many troopships between Valona and Corfu was safeguarded by a long line of drifters covering the whole distance with their nets. Between October and the end of February six drifters were lost, two being sunk by gunfire from submarines and four by striking mines. The last was the Lily Reaich, which gallantly fought a submarine on February 8, only to blow up and sink with all hands at Durazzo on the 26th.


The evacuation of Durazzo by the Italians was the last important incident in the transporting of the Serbian armies. The Serbian troops soon regained their morale and were ready shortly to be taken to Salonica, their new sphere of action. The spring of the year thus found the Austro‑Germans in possession of all northern Albania; but confronted by an Italian Expeditionary Force, based on Valona, with a short and easy line of sea communication to Italy.


After the last act of rescue was achieved the war in the Adriatic changed its character. The Austrian Naval Command evidently decided not to risk their ships against the Valona line of communications, which was well to the south of Brindisi; for when the Allied transport ships had finished their work the enemy cruiser raids completely ceased. For many months the British and Italian cruisers swept the Adriatic without sighting anything but their own patrols, or perhaps the periscope of a submarine. The routine work of naval war went on without interruption; mines were laid


May  1916 



off Brindisi and swept up again; the Venice Patrol kept watch off Pola, the Southern Patrol off Cattaro, and from time to time there were rumours of an impending sortie by the Austrian fleet.


In May 1916 Admiral Mark Kerr took charge of the British Adriatic Squadron in succession to Admiral Thursby. The Adriatic had by then become a theatre of guerrilla warfare ‑ although we were committed to a measure which might at any moment bring the Austrian raiders from their anchorages. Ever since September 1915 we had maintained a force of armed drifters in the Straits of Otranto and along the line between Valona and Corfu. At a naval conference held at Malta in March 1916, the French and Italian admirals had recommended that the drifters should be strengthened; the Italians were then getting ready a flotilla for work off Valona, and we had over twenty additional drifters as a reinforcement. The crowd of mosquito craft in the southern basin was thus increasing with every month that went by, and Admiral Kerr, in one of his first letters to the Admiralty, pointed out that they were unprotected, and might at any moment be severely attacked. His warning was justified; but it was many months before the danger came to a head.




The Mediterranean – Salonica - January to June, 1916


When the French and British Governments made their final decision with regard to their military policy in the Balkans (See Vol. III., P. 223.), General Sarrail had reached the limit of his advance into Serbia. In his bold and cool‑headed attempt to carry out his orders and save the Serbian armies, he had pushed forward the bulk of his troops to the Cerna River. The British forces and a French detachment under General Bailloud were left to protect his communications against a Bulgarian stroke along the defiles which lead southwards into the Vardar valley from Strumitza. But during November the Bulgarians carried the Babuna Pass, and so got between Sarrail and the retreating Serbians; all hope of keeping open their line of withdrawal to Salonica then disappeared.


General Sarrail's position was now one of extreme danger. (Sarrail, Mon commandement en Orient, p. 43.) The Bulgarians were pressing more and more insistently upon his immediate front, and an attack against his positions in the Strumitza valley threatened his whole line of communications with Salonica; nor could he forget that there were several Greek army corps in his rear. Would they receive orders to attack him when the time came to order a retreat? For a moment he seems to have inclined, like his naval colleagues in the Aegean, towards an attempt to overawe the Greeks by a naval demonstration. Wiser counsels prevailed. He met Lord Kitchener on November 17, and was persuaded that such high‑handed measures would probably lead to his own destruction. They would in any case have destroyed what was for the present the Allied army's first line of defence ‑ the obstinate and even‑handed neutrality of the Greek Government. When General Sarrail actually began to withdraw from Krivolak at the beginning of December the Germans made precisely the mistake from which Lord Kitchener's moderation had saved us.


Their Military Attache at Athens presented to King Constantine a telegram from General von Falkenhayn, dated November 29, 1915, to the effect that if Greece failed to disarm the retreating forces of the Entente, or to secure their immediate re‑embarkation, the German and Bulgarian armies might very probably find it necessary to cross the frontier. The Skouloudis Cabinet not only refused to consent to this violation of Greek territory, but they skilfully added that if the proposed advance was not hostile to Greece herself, they would refrain from opposing it by force of arms, upon condition that certain guarantees were first given. These guarantees were in fact nineteen conditions, the acceptance of which would have seriously hampered the German command. They were not acceptable to Falkenhayn, and discussions and hesitations followed, which lasted till near the end of May. In the meantime King Constantine had promised Lord Kitchener personally that no attempt should be made during the retreat of the Allied armies to intern or disarm them. The Greek Government confirmed this by a formal undertaking to give the Allies the entire control of railways to the frontier, and to allow them a free hand in "establishing a defensive organisation" round the town of Salonica, and in front of the Chalcidic peninsula. This arrangement was as favourable to us as the proposed naval demonstration would have been disastrous. The troops were withdrawn without difficulty, and early in the new year the entrenched camp at Salonica was completed. From Skala Stavros, in the Gulf of Rendina, it ran along the line of lakes to the western end of the Langaza


Dec. 1915 



geul; from thence it followed the line of hills to Aivali, where the French and British troops joined. The French held the line between Aivali and the Vardar and threw out strong posts to the west of the river. Provision was made for giving naval support to the eastern end of the line at Skala Stavros.


The Bulgarians made no attempt to cross the Creek frontier in pursuit of the Allied troops; and after long conferences and discussions the King of Greece defined his attitude. He protested formally against the existence of an entrenched camp on Hellenic territory, and declared that if the Germans and Bulgars should ever move southwards to attack it, he would move his forces out of the way and not interfere. If, on the other hand, the Allies re‑embarked, the Greek army would hold the frontier, and defend it by force, if need be. When, after some hesitation, the Allied Governments decided in December that Sarrail's army should remain in Salonica, the Greek troops were redistributed, so as to leave the Allied communications free. A small watching force was left in the north near Gevgeli; but the bulk of the Hellenic army was divided into two groups: one in eastern Macedonia, to the east of the Struma, the other facing the northwestern frontier, to the north and west of Vodena. This concession undoubtedly set up a workable state of things; but, as could be seen at a glance, it was not a permanent or even a stable position.


If the Allies should ever leave Salonica and advance once more against Bulgaria, it was hardly to be doubted that the Central Powers would press the Greek Government with fresh demands. Moreover, the naval position still held within it all the material for a conflagration. The Anglo‑French squadron at Salonica was anchored under the guns of Kara burun fort (The fort was occupied by the Allied forces on January 28, 1916, on the order of the French Admiralty.); it was inevitable that the Naval Command should be alert and even apprehensive. When the first landings were made, it was noticed that gangs of Greek workmen were at work on the fortifications. Several times the naval representatives had urged that the fort should be seized; but General Sarrail resisted. At a conference between himself and the Greek authorities he received a formal assurance that the coastal batteries would never, in any circumstances, be used against the Entente, and that all work upon them should cease. (Sarrail, p. 322.) With this he was obliged to be satisfied; but the naval commanders never reconciled themselves to the position.


After the crisis had passed, and when the evacuation of Gallipoli was complete, it became necessary to reconsider the distribution of our forces in the eastern Mediterranean. For months past the defence of Egypt had been occupying the military authorities, and early in January a force of battleships was detached from Admiral de Robeck's command to protect the canal. At Salonica, the French were given the position of predominating partners, and a composite force of two British and four French battleships, two French armoured cruisers, three British monitors and four French destroyers was concentrated behind the net defence. Its duties were to assist in the blockade of the Bulgarian coast and to support the army ashore. The bulk of Admiral Gauchet's Dardanelles Squadron was based upon Milo, and the remaining British force continued to work from its northern bases off the mouth of the straits.


The naval war in the eastern basin changed its character with the evacuation of the Gallipoli peninsula; the navy could play no part in any offensive operations which might be undertaken in Macedonia; and its principal duties were, henceforth, to be preventive. The objects of the naval force concentrated in the Aegean, as defined in a telegram sent from the Admiralty shortly after the evacuation, were "to watch the Dardanelles, and safeguard the Greek islands in our occupation, to maintain the blockade and submarine patrols in the Aegean, and to support the army at Salonica." Active submarine operations in the Sea of Marmara were practically discontinued.


The redistribution of our military forces had, however, increased the weight of our naval responsibilities; when the Salonica force was finally entrenched and equipped, five British and as many French divisions were being supplied by oversea transport. The defence of Egypt laid even greater burdens upon the navy. The dispositions finally settled by Lord Kitchener and General Maxwell stationed a large defending force in the country; the whole garrison of Egypt, with its administrative units, artillery and transport, now amounted to 222,000 officers and men and 325 guns. (The higher formations of the garrison were: One division; one Anzac mounted division; one Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade; four mounted brigades; four dismounted brigades, and two Indian infantry brigades.) There were thus some 400,000 men in the Mediterranean War Area, and their power to fight depended entirely upon the security of a route against which the German submarine commanders were about to concentrate their efforts. There had been a


Oct. 1915‑March 1916



lull after the heavy sinkings in November;



British ships lost.

Allied and neutral ships lost.

October 1915









January 1916










but it was realised that this was only temporary, and that to meet a renewed attack effectively would be the dominating naval problem of the coming year. In December, representatives of the Allied navies met in Paris to confer upon the situation; and the discussions showed, at once, that the French and British staffs were divided upon the measures to be adopted. The method favoured by British naval opinion at that time was the diversion of shipping to certain definite routes, patrolled by swarms of light craft. The French staff thought differently. They were convinced that German submarines were laying down stores of oil and provisions in the deserted creeks of Crete and Asia Minor, and using them as operating bases. The essence of their proposals was, therefore, that a force of old cruisers should be set apart to search every creek in the eastern basin for submarine anchorages. In the light of later knowledge it can be seen that neither plan was adequate to the pressing need of the moment; but at the opening of the conference each side held firmly to its opinion. It should be added, in justice to both sides, that the opinions of the French Commander‑in‑Chief, Vice‑Admiral Dartige du Fournet, more or less coincided with our own.


Before the conference he had sent a detailed plan to the British Admiral Superintendent at Malta, suggesting that about 280 trawlers and 140 destroyers should be allocated to anti‑submarine work in the Mediterranean. If these had been available, it is possible that the British and French navies would have carried on the campaign on the same lines. But the requisite force was not available, and it became necessary to devise a new plan of operations. The outcome was that the two staffs agreed to divide the Mediterranean into eighteen areas or zones, of which four were allotted to the British, four to the Italians, and ten to the French. The French Commander‑in-Chief was made responsible for arranging the secret transport routes, and the senior officer in each zone kept the routes under patrol with the forces allotted to him ‑ and arranged for the movements of ships within his own area. This conference, which dealt more with the general principles of command than with practical details, was followed by another, held at Malta on March 9, 1916, and attended by the Admirals with local commands. At this Admiral de Robeck pressed for a slight redistribution of the zones, urging that his squadron could undertake larger responsibilities now that it was free of the Dardanelles operations. The French, however, were anxious to retain their position in the Aegean, and this was agreed to, but to complete the compromise the whole of the transport route from Egypt to Malta was made a British zone.


These discussions may be said to have overcome some of the difficulties in a divided command, and to have paved the way for concerted action against the growing menace.


(The decisions and recommendations of the second conference were: (i) to re‑arrange the zones of operation; (ii) to recommend that more light craft should be allocated to the theatre; (iii) that the secret routes should be settled and communicated by the French Commander‑in‑Chief; (iv) that more submarines should be sent to the Adriatic; (v) that all aircraft bases in the Mediterranean should be placed under a central organisation; (vi) that the Mediterrannean should be declared a war zone; (vii) that a central wireless intelligence bureau should be established at Malta; (viii) that more directional wireless stations should be established; (ix) that the Allies should assume control of all Greek posts, telegraphs and customs; (x) that Greek and Armenian volunteers should be used for military expeditions.)


For the time being, however, there could be no doubt that the attack had got the better of the defence. As had been foreseen, the lull in March proved to be only temporary; in April sixteen ships were sunk inside the Mediterranean, and in May the figure rose suddenly to thirty‑seven. It was the Italian merchant fleet which suffered most severely from the renewed attack; in May they lost over 30,000 tons of shipping, and, in the following month the figure was even higher. As a purely defensive measure the system of patrols and secret routes was not giving good results ‑ and as a means of destroying submarines it was even less satisfactory. Since the beginning of the year, only two German boats had been lost: one (UC.12) had fouled her own mines off Taranto, the other (UB.15) was permanently missing "from causes unknown."


Such then was, briefly, the course which the war against our sea communications had taken during the first months of the year; such was the unstable and anxious position of our forces on land; and such the harassed and harassing diplomacy of the Greek Government. It is regrettable, but not surprising, to find not many weeks later (June 8) that the strain has at last reached breaking point, and to see the capital of our old Allies yielding resentfully to the loaded broadsides of our naval armament.


The course of events was perhaps as inevitable as any


March    1916



sequence could be. If the Allies could have found it possible to hold the entrenched camp at Salonica as a mere preventive to guarantee, and to remain on guard there, such difficulties as subsequently sprang up might have been solved by slight extensions to the December agreement (See ante, p. 126.), but new and quite natural decisions taken in the Allied councils altered the original position, and, at the same time, created new points of friction in the relations between the Allied Powers and the Greeks. In the first place, it was natural that General Sarrail should do everything which he considered necessary to make his rnilitary position secure. As he knew that the Greeks would not resist a Bulgarian advance across the frontier, he deemed it proper to close at least one line of approach to his position, and therefore ordered the Demir hissar bridge to be destroyed. This action was bitterly criticised by Greek officers ‑ it interrupted communication between the Greek troops to the east and west of the Struma. What advantage could the Allies obtain, they asked, by crippling the military forces of a nation which they still regarded as a friend and possible ally? General Mahon, to whose loyalty General Sarrail, subsequently paid the most generous tribute, was doubtful whether such sudden and drastic action was wise.


Soon afterwards Kara burun fort was occupied by the Allies. The pretext was that a British ship had recently been sunk in Greek territorial waters, where she was by international law under the protection of the Greek Government; but the real reason for our action was the underlying belief that German submarines were receiving information from the shore. Both the French and the British naval staffs seem to have been firmly convinced that some prominent Greek politicians had a secret understanding with the German submarine officers. Doubtless in a country so divided as Greece both the Allies and the Central Powers had numerous partisans; but, in the light of later information as to the tactics of U‑boat commanders, it may be doubted whether this charge of connivance between the Greek and German naval authorities was well founded.


The German submarine raids upon shipping were governed by the general plan of going as secretly and as unobtrusively as possible to those places where shipping was likely to congregate, and of remaining there for as long as possible. Any system depending on information from the shore would continually endanger the secrecy which was the very essence of the method. When anchored for a rest in some deserted bay, U‑boat officers may from time to time have landed and conversed with a shepherd or a charcoal‑burner; but the probability is that they depended upon their own deductions to lead them to good hunting grounds, and made themselves as independent of the shore as they could. The only charge, then, upon which the Allied action could be expressly founded was the failure of the Kara burun garrisons to guard our ships against U‑boat attacks; and the Greeks took it hard that they should be punished for failure in so difficult a task. The occupation of Kara burun fort was, moreover, followed by other measures against which the Greek Government was bound to protest, so long as it adhered to its policy of opposing an impartial resistance to Allied measures which it did not like and to Austro‑German demands for concessions to balance them.


Corfu was made a French naval base, Castellorizo was occupied ‑ and General Sarrail instituted a severe police regime outside the town of Salonica. He had practically no choice but to act as he did. He was a military commander operating from a neutral town with a very mixed population. The better class was educated and intelligent but divided by faction; below them lay a mass of small levantine traders whose political sympathies fluctuated with the contents of every bulletin; and lower still was the raceless rabble of idlers, swindlers and wastrels which has no right to the Hellenic name. Who could tell which of these elements might at any moment be in control? On the other hand, it should be remembered that, on more than one occasion, General Sarrail's British colleagues, though themselves keenly alert, were of opinion that he might have issued his proclamations more diplomatically and have enforced them less harshly.


Resentment and ill feeling increased during the first three months of the year, and something very like a crisis occurred when M. Skouloudis, the Premier, said that he could not allow the Serbian army to be moved into position over the Greek railways. According to one authority (Abbott, Greece and the Allies, p. 88.), he added that he would destroy the railway system rather than see his country coerced. These, and other incidents of the same kind, doubtless made the conflict more acute when it occurred; although they did not actually create it. The immediate cause was of a different kind.


The Allied General Staffs had met at Chantilly on March 12, and had decided that the Allied armies, when it became possible, should all assume the offensive together ‑ in the hope that the German resistance would either collapse or be seriously damaged at some point or points by the pressure. The army at Salonica was expected to take a share in this general assault upon the Central Powers; it was not to be reinforced, but was


March‑June 1916



to make itself more active when the united attack began. If, however, the Balkan positions were to be altered in our favour by the advent of new Allies, or the withdrawal of other Balkan belligerents, the armee d'Orient would then attack at the most favourable moment. The decision, which represented the French view, seems to have been the governing rule of our strategy in the Balkans for the year. (At a conference held in the Foreign Office on March 27, General Joffre strongly opposed the British proposal to withdraw a division from Salonica and send it to the Western Front.) General Sarrail was, at first, in doubt as to what was required of him; but the plan that he finally adopted was to baffle his opponents as much as possible, and be ready to make a rapid stroke against Monastir at a favourable moment. (Sarrail, p. 85.) In the middle of March, therefore, he began to move his army out of the entrenched camp and extend it in detachments across a broader front.


The inevitable counter‑demand followed upon this movement. Pressed by General von Falkenhayn, the German Government protested that the Greek authorities were allowing the Allies an unfair advantage (Abbott, p. 97.); and, after a series of recriminatory letters, announced that the troops of the Central Powers would be compelled to take possession of Fort Rupel, the key to the Struma valley. It was accordingly occupied late in May, and the Greek troops were forbidden to offer any opposition.


It can hardly be denied that the Greek Government had a valid justification for their consent. The basis of the understanding arrived at in December 1915, between the Entente Powers and Greece, was that if the Anglo‑French army remained on Greek soil, the Hellenic army would not help it to attack its adversaries, or impede the Central Powers from advancing against it. The Greek Government could therefore argue that the surrender of Fort Rupel was a mere application of the existing understanding. But M. Skouloudis' Government was by this time so much out of favour with the Allies that any pleading from it was listened to with impatience. General Sarrail proclaimed a state of siege inside the town; the naval authorities urged that action should be quickly and impressively taken. On June 8 Admiral Moreau, of the French Syrian Squadron, occupied Thaso; a partial blockade of the Greek coasts was instituted; and detailed preparations were made for a demonstration against the capital. General Sarrail sent away two brigades to be embarked and to act as landing parties, and Admiral Moreau was put in charge of the naval forces of the expedition. The ships detached for the operation were:





(a) French:





4‑12"; 18-6.4"

2 Waldeck Rousseau class


14‑7.6" x 2

6 destroyers



(b) British:





4‑12"; 12‑6"; 10‑12‑pdr.



9-4"; 2‑T.



9-4"; 2‑T.



1‑4.7; 2‑12‑pdr.

Earl of Peterborough


2‑12"; 2‑12‑pdr.



1‑9.2"; 1‑12‑pdr.




Peony fleet sweepers



Azalea fleet sweepers



4 destroyers



2 torpedo boats



2 minelayers



18 auxiliaries




By June 20 the men and ships were assembled in Milo Bay, and lay crowded in the land‑locked, airless harbour in the sweltering heat of the Aegean summer. On the following day, the Allied Note was presented at Athens.


The Allies demanded that the Greek army should be demobilised, that a "business ministry" should replace the Cabinet then in office, that the chamber should be dissolved and new elections held, and that all police officers obnoxious to the Allies or their military commanders should be discharged. Nothing was refused; and so, once again, the crisis passed. Our punitive squadron was dispersed, though arrangements were made to reassemble it at a moment's notice, and our naval force in the Mediterranean was entirely devoted to the vital struggle for the control of communications.











The Bulgarian Invasion of Northern Greece and its Consequences ‑ An Allied Fleet at the Piraeus


The latter half of the year 1916 was a period of suspense and of preparation: the Allies were aware that in the war at sea they were approaching a danger zone the nature and extent of which could not be foreseen with any exactness. The situation in Greece was especially hard to appreciate, because it was complicated by the bitter antagonism of the two political parties, who might be expected in the near future to bring their country into the war equation on this side or on that. In other words, there was here added to the clash of arms a prolonged and obscure diplomatic conflict. Under the head, therefore, of Naval Operations there will fall to be considered not only the overt acts commonly so described, but also the diplomatic action and the difficulties of policy which accompanied or impeded them. A great combined squadron was occupied for six months in a naval operation which did not involve, on our part, the firing of a single shot; but which depended at every step upon the changes and embarrassments of the diplomatic situation. Moreover the episode in question has few parallels in English naval history, and is in several respects unique. Here, as in the Adriatic, our naval force was acting, in a manner unknown in previous wars, as the subordinate partner in a mixed command; while our diplomatic action was being conducted by Ministers acting in concert with the French Commander‑in‑Chief. For the student of history, and perhaps even more for the naval officer of the future, it is evidently necessary that so instructive a situation should be thoroughly set out.


It may also be as well, for the sake of avoiding any possible rnisinterpretation, to indicate beforehand the general lines of the course pursued by the Allies, and to suggest here and there the advantages or disadvantages of the turn taken at certain moments. No judgment will be passed either on persons or on Governments, except by necessary implication from the facts. The failure ‑ for temporarily and in a certain degree there undoubtedly was failure ‑ will appear to have been the result of almost irresistible urgencies. The British Admiral was co‑operating with the French squadron, but was not in an independent position. The aim of the two Powers was one and the same; but the problem did not present itself to both under the same aspect.


To our Government and to its representative it seemed clear that our end could only be completely attained by a procedure which should avoid the actual use of force, or even the open threat of it. To the French Government it appeared that the time had come for insincerity and prevarication to be dealt with by sternness and even by severity. Upon such a matter and at such a time no difference of opinion could be allowed to imperil the harmony of the Allies or the unity of command: to secure this unity our civilian representative endeavoured for a time to keep step with his military colleague; and it is conceivable that when the critical moment was reached this novel form of co‑operation might have proved advantageous, especially as Admiral Dartige du Fournet and Sir Francis Elliot were both men distinguished not only by professional ability, but also by a high sense of their own duty and of the consideration due to others. But under the system adopted, an unforeseen result occurred: when the stern determination of the French Government cut short their admiral's opportunities for tact and conciliation, pushing him forward by definite and unconditional orders, our diplomacy was at once left behind, and our naval commander was deprived of consultative power. Failure followed inevitably: the action taken was unsuitable for the attainment of the end desired.


All the demands in the last note to Athens related to the domestic affairs of Greece, and it fell to the Allied diplomats to see to it that these demands were being complied with. But the internal administration of a country is complicated, and difficult to follow in detail; its supervision by a foreign diplomat must be tactful and uncensorious. Moreover, even if the Greek Government intended honestly to comply with the Allied conditions, the execution of them would take time and must give rise to many questions which would need delicate handling. For some weeks no hitch occurred; the army was slowly demobilised and M. Zaimis, who succeeded M. Skouloudis at the head of a non‑party Ministry, was on good terms with the Allied Ministers. A few questions arose about the dismissal of prefects and police officers to whom the Allies objected; and although it must have been very painful to M. Zaimis to remove Greek officials from their posts at the request of a foreign Power, he did not flinch from


July‑Aug. 1916



this responsibility, and in general he showed himself obliging and conciliatory whenever the Allies had a complaint to make. The position was, however, still very difficult and its future developments were uncertain. By demanding that a business Ministry should be summoned and by insisting that new elections should be held, the Allies had intervened on behalf of the constitutional party which objected to King Constantine's autocratic theory of government. For the moment, thanks to the restraining influence of M. Zaimis, the quarrel between the two parties in the State was only moderately heated; but if anything should happen to blow it into a fresh flame, nobody could foretell how far it might spread or in which direction ‑ it was as likely to scorch the Allies as their enemies.


In the general theatre of war several events now took place which had a great effect upon the situation in Greece. On July 19, the Turks opened their second attack upon the Suez Canal; it was completely repulsed by the British army at Rumani; and, whilst the battle was raging, British and French naval detachments cruised off the coast of Asia Minor and bombarded Marmarice, Makri, Phineka and Mersina. On August 2, General Sarrail, the French Commander‑in-Chief at Salonica, who was then reinforced by the Serbian army and by Russian and Italian detachments, launched his Macedonian offensive. The Bulgarians at once replied by counter‑offensives on the extreme flanks of General Sarrail's left and right wings.


On the left the Serbian army held the Bulgarian attack successfully, and the operations involved none but military questions; on the right the position became more serious. Here General Frotie was watching the Bulgarian frontier towards Brody with a mounted force of ten squadrons and a battalion of Zouaves; a Greek army corps was spread out between Dernir Hissar and Kavala. (Sarrail, p. 142.)


The Bulgarians marched into Greek territory at several points, and General Frotie fell back. The Greek corps, being a detachment of a demobilised army, with its communications running through territory occupied by foreign armies, was obviously unable to resist the Bulgarians. The corps commander withdrew his troops as the Bulgarians advanced; the garrison at Kavala had no line of retreat, and were compelled to surrender to the Germans with all their material. (The formal surrender of the garrison took place on September 19.) By the last week in August practically all that part of Macedonia which lies to the east of the Struma was in Bulgarian hands.


Seeing that the Allied Generals refused to allow the Greek troops to be taken off by sea, and threatened to resist their retirement into Thessaly, it seems hard to maintain that the Greek corps commander could have avoided surrendering. But the difficulty of reviewing the new situation judicially, either at home or on the spot, was very great, and a number of wild rumours added to the prevailing tension. M. Venizelos told the British Minister at Athens that the retirement of Greek troops in eastern Macedonia was, he felt certain, a first preliminary to putting the whole of Greece into Bulgarian and German hands. The Bulgarian army would shortly instal itself at Ekaterini and on the lower slopes of Mount Olympus, from whence batteries of heavy guns would command the whole of Salonica Bay. Simultaneously, the Austro-Germans would march south, join hands with the Greek troops stationed at Larissa, and occupy Athens. The French Naval Intelligence Service at Athens elaborated this forecast by reporting that the Greek Government was collecting rolling-stock at Ekaterini, and that detachments of German cavalry were already at Larissa.


This alarming news was considered and discussed by the British Government on August 23. Their military experts had no difficulty in showing that the danger was quite imaginary, and that it would be utterly impossible for the Germans or the Bulgarians or the Greeks to put a plan of the kind into execution. The Government therefore pointed out to Sir Francis Elliot that, in the view of their advisers, Athens could not be occupied by enemy forces until the force at Salonica had been defeated, of which there was no probability for the moment. In this respect the situation improved; but in another and more important respect it grew worse. The Government had only discussed the technical and more recent aspects of the reports from Athens; it was not yet possible to come to a conclusion on the basic question, whether or no the Greek King and his Ministers were assisting our enemies with advice, secret intelligence and plans for cooperation. The decision that no action ought to be taken on such rumours did not check the growing clamour for "strong measures," "drastic action" and the like, against a Government whose complicity with our enemies was at first suspected, afterwards credited, and finally treated as proved, although no indisputable proof of it had ever been coming.


The Bulgarian invasion very much affected one of the points insisted upon in the Allied Note of June 21. Since agreeing to it, the Greek Government had been preparing for a general election in the early autumn; when eastern Macedonia was overrun the King was actually considering a draft


Aug. 1916 



decree for dissolving the existing Chamber. It had, however, to be considered whether any general election ought to be held at all in the new circumstances. Half the population of Macedonia would be unable to vote; and the constitutional party in Greece were counting upon the support of the Macedonians, who had been united to Greece after the second Balkan war, and were anxious that their political rights should not be whittled away by dynastic absolutism. M. Venizelos urged that the elections should be held, in spite of everything; M. Zaimis that they should be postponed, and in the end the Allies decided to leave the decision to the Greek Government, which thereupon let the matter drop.


As the Bulgarian occupation of Kavala had not, after all, injured the military position of the Allies or impeded General Sarrail's offensive, it might possibly have been better to stand aside from the first and allow the Greek nation to form its own judgment of a Government which made no resistance or protest when the armies of a neighbouring power invaded Greek territory, sacked and burned Greek villages, and committed every kind of savagery upon the defenceless peasants. This, however, was not the view which prevailed. At Paris, and in a lesser degree in London, it was held that the Greek army's surrender of a fort and its munitions to Bulgaria gave the Allies a right to demand corresponding concessions from the Greek Government. The French Government took action at once, and in response to an urgent request from Paris the British Government ordered the Vice‑Admiral in the Eastern Mediterranean to detach a force to Milo to co‑operate with Admiral Dartige du Fournet. Within a few days a large and imposing squadron had been assembled and placed under the orders of the French Commander‑in‑Chief.


For the moment our Government refused to commit itself, and deterrnined to wait until French intentions were clearer; the first instructions sent out by the Admiralty (August 26) were that Rear‑Admiral Hayes‑Sadler, who was in command of the British detachment, was "on no account to take part in any offensive action against Greece without explicit orders from here." On the following day the French Government informed Whitehall that Admiral Dartige du Fournet had been ordered to "immobilise the Greek fleet and the Greek General Staff; seize the Austrian crew which, according to the French Naval Intelligence Service, has arrived at Athens to take charge of a Greek submarine; seize all enemy ships at Eleusis; seize all enemy agents and establish control over all telegraph post offices, wireless telegraph stations, coal and petrol depots and railways; and endeavour to cut off railway communication between Athens and the Peloponnese." At the end of the month, therefore, it was known in London and in Athens that the French were about to make a decisive move with their fleet.


On the very day that these orders were issued Rumania entered the war on the side of the Allies, and almost at once the Greek Government reconsidered its attitude. On August 30, Sir Francis Elliot had a long interview with M. Zaimis, and wired home that the King thought the time had come to abandon neutrality and join the Allies. "In view of the above," wrote Sir Francis, "a demonstration and landing at the present moment, when the political situation seems to be changing so completely, would seem to be ill‑timed and might do infinite harm."


But unfortunately the British Government had by then committed themselves, and the warning was unheeded. When the War Committee met to discuss the situation on August 30, they had before them the draft instructions to the French Commander‑in‑Chief and a memorandum by the French Ambassador in London which ran thus:


"The French Government is persuaded that the enemy headquarters staffs are informed of all the movements of the armee d'orient by the Greek military. In these circumstances, Monsieur Briand considers that it is no sufficient guarantee that the Chief of the Greek General Staff has been replaced. So long as it is possible for Athens to communicate with enemy forces by way of Florina, so long as German agents, with the complicity of the Greek authorities, can give information and even supplies to the Bulgarians, the situation will not be settled in such a way as to give security to the offensive of the Allied armies at Salonica. If the armee d'orient is to carry out the duties assigned to it, the French Government thinks it absolutely necessary that the posts and telegraphs, the railways and the harbours of Greece should be under its control. All this demands rapid, direct action; and the French Government has made preparations for landing a brigade at Athens or at other selected strategical points in order to support its demands. There is no reason to fear that Greece will raise difficulties. M. Zaimis has been careful to say, and indeed to repeat, that no resistance would be offered to the Entente or to Bulgarians; he has also clearly shown, when discussing the matter with the King, that the Entente must rely uppn itself for protection.


"The French Government will only act with the British Government. The French Ambassador has, therefore, been instructed to beg the British Government to agree to a line of action which involves a minimum of inconvenience and is the only one which will ensure success to the Salonica operations. The French Government considers it absolutely necessary


Aug. 30, 1916



that the special troops on board the British ships should take part in the landing operations under the direction of the French Admiral.


"M. Briand considers it essential that the action taken should be rapid, so that it may secure the advantage of surprise, avoid danger from the German submarines, and shorten as much as possible the time during which the ships necessary to the operation will be immobilised.


"To sum up, the French Government asks that the British Government should carry out the operation projected for June 21, to which it previously agreed."


The British Government accepted this responsibility, though with considerable difficulty: in the general interests of Allied unity they agreed to a course of which they could not entirely approve. Their first feeling was one of strong regret that a proposal so far‑reaching should have been thrust upon them with so little explanation. Several Ministers were for rejecting it outright, on the grounds that it was most unwise to place M. Zaimis in difficulties, and that the projected operation was provocative and easy to misrepresent.


The outcome of the discussion was that the British Government telegraphed a long and carefully drafted message to Lord Bertie, the British Ambassador in Paris, telling him that the British squadron at Milo had received orders to go to Salamis, under the command of Admiral Dartige du Fournet, to "support the demand" for the control of the Greek posts and telegraphs. The British Government were, however, most reluctant that troops should be landed, as a large number would be required "for a definite military occupation," and a small body might well be endangered if Greek feeling became heated. Further, as the Greek Government had hitherto agreed to every demand made of them, the British Government "were loth to meet the friendly attitude of M. Zaimis' Government with severe measures," and could not agree that the control of Greek harbours and railways was for the moment an urgent necessity.


In conclusion the British Government said that they did not believe there was any danger of a "German‑Bulgarian incursion towards Athens," and that the situation, as it then stood, was not comparable to the situation on June 21. The telegram very accurately expressed the doubts and hesitations of the British Ministers; but it gave the French what they required. The Presence of British ships in the French squadron made the British Government jointly responsible for the policy upon which the French were about to embark. And since it was part of that policy to replace the ordinary diplomatic representatives of the Allied Powers in Athens by Generals, Admirals and a formidable squadron of battleships, it was made particularly emphatic by British naval co‑operation.


The scruples of British Ministers did not in any way affect the final instructions to the French Commander‑in‑Chief. They were substantially the same as those which had been communicated to the British Government some days previously, except that Admiral du Fournet was no longer ordered to seize the Austrian crew of the Greek submarine, an order which had obviously been based on very inaccurate intelligence. On August 31 he assembled the flag officers on board the Provence and told them that he intended to carry out the first two duties assigned to him: the "paralysis of the Greek fleet, more especially of its submarines," and "the capture of enemy merchantmen in the Piraeus."


During the night of August 31, the armada began to steam out of Milo.





Provence (flag of V-A.‑C.‑ Dartige du Fournet)


10-13.4", 22-5.5"

Exmouth (flag of R‑A. Hayes‑Sadler)


4-12", 12-6"

3rd Battle Squadron

Verite (flag of V.‑A. Darrieus)


4-12", 10-7.6"



4-12", 10-7.6"



4-12", 10-7.6"



4-12", 18- 6.5"



4-10", 18- 6.5"

Patrie (flag of R.‑A. de Marliave)


4-12", 18- 6.5"

2nd Light Division

Waldeck Rousseau (flag of R.‑A. Biard)



Ernest Renan


4-7.6", 12 6.5"

Jurien de la Graviere, Repeating Ship



Other vessels

Forward, light cruiser



Sentinel, light cruiser



Earl of Peterborough, monitor



M.29, monitor



M.33, monitor



Aster, Honeysuckle, sloops



Prince Edward, Queen Victoria, net layers



Empress, British seaplane carrier



Campinas, French seaplane carrier



Diligente, Impatiente,  French gunboats



Pluton, French minelayer



Perdita, British minelayer



16 destroyers (4 British, 12 French)



2 torpedo boats



Hussar, torpedo gunboat (broad pendant of Commodore Heneage)



25 trawlers, drifters and Chalutiers




At eleven o'clock Commodore Heneage sailed


Sept. 1, 1916



in the Hussar, and the rest of his division, the monitors, sloops, drifters, destroyers and the auxiliaries, followed at regular intervals. At ten o'clock on the following morning the battle squadron weighed and formed single line ahead outside the harbour. Early in the afternoon it reached Phleva Island, where it was met by Commodore Heneage, who escorted the battleships up a channel which he had swept and marked by drifters. As soon as the ships anchored, the Prince Edward laid a net between Point Keramus and Lipso Island. The Greek fleet, consisting of the battleships Kilkis and Lemnos, the cruiser Giorgios Averoff and a handful of torpedo boats and submarines, lay at anchor before Salamis dockyard and behind a barrage which was placed across the Giorgio Channel. None of the ships had steam up, and most of the crews were ashore for the afternoon. The cruiser division under Rear‑Admiral Biard at once seized the enemy ships off the Piraeus and towed them to the fleet anchorage; so that, by nightfall, the first two sections of the Admiral's orders were executed to the letter. The enemy steamers were in French hands, and the Greek fleet, which could only have put to sea by passing across the batteries of the entire battle squadron in Salamis Bay, was completely paralysed. The rest of the French Government's orders had obviously to be discussed and examined before they could be carried out; and on the following day, M. Guillemin, the French Minister in Athens, and the French Naval and Military Attaches came to luncheon on board the Provence.


On the very day that the Anglo‑French squadron anchored off Salamis, Sir Francis Elliot had an interview with King Constantine, which showed how tangled and confused the whole situation had become. The King said he was now convinced that the time had arrived for him to declare war against Bulgaria; but he found it impossible to act quickly, for his army was demobilised and the two divisions still in Macedonia were surrounded; in addition to this, he had to think of the Greek population in Asiatic Turkey, who would be exposed to every kind of ill treatment as soon as Greece declared war. The question uppermost in his mind was how far he could rely upon the Entente to re‑equip his army with the material necessary for putting it on a war footing. Sir Francis Elliot, who thought that the hesitating attitude of the King might well stiffen into open partisanship of the Entente, if only the situation were handled carefully, was most anxious that the naval demonstration should be brought to an end as quickly as possible, and that the remaining French demands should not be pressed. The right to control the Greek posts and telegraphs in particular seemed to him a most provocative demand. "Is it wrong," he wrote, "for a neutral Power to use wireless telegraphy if it has no other means of communicating?" If it was necessary to save the face of the naval expedition, could not the Entente Powers be content with demanding the expulsion of Baron von Schenk? (Head of the German propagandist section in Greece; formerly Krupp's agent in the Balkan peninsula.)


Almost simultaneously with the King's proposal and the appearance of the Allied naval force in Salamis, a further incident occurred which gave fresh evidence that the French and British authorities were not likely to agree as to the best method of dealing with the Greeks. For months past a section of the Greek population in Salonica had been trying to form a sort of temporary local government independent of Athens, and to enrol a local battalion of Greeks to operate under General Sarrail against the Bulgarians. Late in August the leaders of this patriotic movement openly appealed to the Greek garrison for support. Some officers and men enrolled themselves; others said that they would stand by the King and the Government; and, as feeling naturally ran high, the controversy led to brawling and shooting. General Milne was careful that no officers or men under his orders should take any part in a quarrel between the two Greek factions; but General Sarrail intervened, disarmed the officers and men who had refused to desert their colours, and marched the officers through the streets under an escort as though they had been ordinary prisoners. On September I they arrived at Athens and were received by the King, who thanked them for their fidelity. The incident made a deep and unfortunate impression in the capital. Sir Francis Elliot said openly that it had done us a great deal of harm; General Moschopoulos, the new Chief of the Staff, a strong friend of the Entente, who was then using all his influence to persuade the King to declare war, spoke of it to the British Military Attache with the greatest distress; even the temperate blood of M. Zaimis ran hot when he spoke about it to the British Minister.


Sir Francis Elliot's telegram to say that he thought a naval demonstration most unwise, and his further message suggesting that the demands made on the Greek Government should be modified, had arrived too late to stop the promise of British co‑operation; but as soon as they were received the War Committee assembled to consider them. Should they act upon these warnings or disregard them? The policy to which the British Government were committed was still indefinite enough for them to withdraw from it without actually breaking any undertaking. As at every previous discussion, the Government were strongly divided; but this was the first occasion upon which the general principle of coercion or no coercion detached itself clearly from the usual technical questions about naval and military operations. Several Ministers felt that the real motives of French policy towards Greece were entirely hidden from us: what puzzled them most was the repeated allegations of Greek complicity with the enemy. If, as the French asserted, such complicity could be proved by documentary evidence, why were these proofs never forthcoming?


All the Ministers with diplomatic experience were convinced that the time had come to hold back, to treat Greece as an ordinary neutral country, free to place her sympathies where she wished, and to restrict our demands upon her to whatever was made absolutely necessary by the very peculiar position of the Salonica force. The traditional British practice of not forestalling events, but of acting upon them as they arise, was never more strongly expressed than at this meeting; yet the counsellors of drastic action prevailed. Sir Francis Elliot was instructed to associate himself with his French colleague in demanding not only the expulsion of Baron von Schenk, but the seizure of Austro-German ships and the control of Greek posts, telegraphs and wireless stations, unless the situation should have so much changed that these demands were no longer necessary.


The French orders were now, therefore, to be executed. But before a Note could be presented at Athens the technical implications of the demand for control of the Greek posts and telegraphs had to be carefully discussed: what was to be understood by the word control and how was it to be exercised ? On September 9, after a long conference between the Allied Ministers and Admiral Dartige du Fournet, it was decided: (i) that no wireless message should be sent in cipher unless it was authorised by the Ministers of the protecting Powers; (ii) that controllers were to be stationed at the principal telegraph centres of the kingdom, Athens, Larissa, Janina, and that travelling inspectors were to be appointed; (iii) that certain Greek officials of the posts and telegraphs were to be removed; (iv) that Allied control officers were to have the right to examine everything transmitted; (v) that no telegram was to be sent unless it was stamped with the stamp of the control office; (vi) that no ciphered telegram was to be allowed to pass unless it was being sent by the Greek Government to one of its legations in Allied capitals or by a neutral legation in Athens; (vii) that the number and substance of every message to neutral and enemy countries together with the number of groups in it, were to be communicated to the control officers.


Whilst this meeting was taking place, a gang of disorderly Greeks broke into the courtyard of the legation, fired a few pistol shots into the air, and shouted insulting remarks through the open windows. On the following day M. Zaimis called on the French Minister, and agreed that both the guilty persons and the Greek soldiers who had been on guard outside the Ministry for War, and had not interfered, should be punished. This would have closed the incident, but Admiral Dartige du Fournet landed a small legation guard of French soldiers next morning; and thus took the first step in the direction of making armed landings a part of the Allied policy, a step which the British Government had always most rigorously opposed.


Meanwhile the Greek conditional offer to intervene on the side of the Entente had been handed in at Paris and London, and was being examined and discussed. In it, M. Zaimis repeated what he had already told Sir Francis Elliot in conversation: Greece wished to co‑operate with the Entente; but desired to know whether the Allies would promise all the war material necessary for re‑mobilising the army and for making good the material lost in Seres, which was then in Bulgarian hands. The British Government received these proposals cautiously, and sent a reply to the effect that if Greece ever became an ally, Great Britain would give her all the assistance in her power. There was a certain unreality about the position which had now been reached. King Constantine was avowing his readiness to declare war on Bulgaria, to whom a few weeks before he had voluntarily surrendered fortresses, arms, munitions and territory; and Great Britain was promising to give money and war material to Greece, whose Government was under suspicion of having recently been acting in complicity with our enemies.




Further Demands upon Greece


The British answer was delivered almost at the same time that M. Zaimis agreed to the Franco‑British demands with regard to the control of posts and telegraphs. He then resigned, giving as his reason that the new policy of collaboration


Sept. 1916 



with the Entente could not be carried through by a business ministry like his own. At their last official interview Sir Francis Elliot asked him whether he had not felt obliged to resign because King Constantine was obstructing the work of the Cabinet in secret; but though pressed very hard, M. Zaimis denied absolutely that this was so, and said that the King was still "tending towards co‑operation with the Entente, but had not yet made up his mind."


King Constantine accepted M. Zaimis's resignation, and called upon M. Kalogeropoulos to form a Government. Very little was known about the new Premier; but whatever his character and opinions may have been, the King could not have made a more unfortunate choice. Sir Francis Elliot at once wired home that the constitution of the new Government, which was purely political, was a "flagrant violation" of the Allied Note of June 21, and the British Government took the same view. Moreover, evidence was not lacking that, if the King had really felt inclined on September 10 to join the Allies, within a week later he had changed his mind. At an interview with Sir Francis Elliot the King spoke very angrily about the Allied generals and admirals, complained bitterly about the pressure which was being put upon him by the presence of the French fleet at Salamis, where it lay at anchor with its guns trained upon the capital, and said that months would go by before he could form an army, and that, when he had done so, he would declare war "if he thought it advisable"; but not if General Sarrail's army were defeated during the interval. He added that if he were to join the Entente he should require a promise of Thrace, the Dodecannese, and Albania as far as the River Skumbi. When the interview was over the British Minister wired home that in his opinion the King's former proposals had not been sincere.


The War Committee met to consider the new situation in an altered temper. Since the last meeting, however, the French Premier had positively denied that he wished to upset the Greek monarchy; so that Ministers now felt more reassured about the real purposes of French diplomacy, and refrained from passing anything like a hasty resolution. It was decided, simply, that the attention of the Greek Government should be drawn to the fact that one member of the new Cabinet (M. Ruffo) had openly declared himself an opponent of the Entente.


The British answer to Greece, promising help in the matter of munitions and equipment, had not dealt with the general question of Greek intervention, which could only be settled by the Allies in collaboration. After long discussions between Paris and London, the Allied Ministers in Athens were instructed to tell the Greek Government that it must give a proof of its sincerity by declaring war against Bulgaria not later than October 1, and a Ministry must be formed capable of carrying through a genuinely national policy. The Allies could not admit that the military unpreparedness of the country was a valid reason against an early declaration of war, for the Bulgarians could not advance farther into Greece than they had already done. In conclusion the Ministers were instructed to give a solemn assurance to the King of Greece that the Entente Powers had no wish to injure his dynasty or the monarchical principle in Greece or in Europe. A Crown Council was assembled at the Diadoch's Palace in Athens to discuss this communication, and, when thus brought face to face with the condition that he should declare war at once, King Constantine flinched. Some days later he appears to have proposed to Paris that the Allies should by an ultimatum order him to declare war upon Bulgaria. Sir Francis Elliot, to whom the King's wishes were known, informed his Government that this tortuous proposal was made in order that the King might appear to decree mobilisation against his will, and that the nation might, in consequence, disregard it. King Constantine could then claim to have done all in his power to assist the Allies, and argue that it was not his fault if the nation would not follow him. The move may have had an even subtler intention than this; and if so, it was successful. Since the King would not accept the Entente's conditions, and since the Entente Governments could not for a moment entertain the King's counter‑proposal, no more was heard of Greek intervention for a long time to come. (The text of the official written reply from the Allies to the King of Greece was settled at the Inter‑Allied Conference at Boulogne on October 20. By then the situation had so completely changed, and there was so little chance of Greek intervention, that the Note was unimportant.)


The British Government were perfectly sincere when they assured King Constantine that they did not wish to injure his dynasty or the monarchical principle in Europe. Again and again they had reminded the French Government that this principle of not interfering with the existing institutions of neutral countries was of the very essence of the Entente's policy. When the relations between Greece and the Entente had become the subject of fresh discussions, nothing had caused the British Government more anxiety than the fear that French policy in Greece was antidynastic, and nothing


Sept. 24, 1916    



had given greater relief than M. Briand's assurance that our fears were groundless. All this was unfortunately hidden from King Constantine, who was quite incapable of detaching his mind from the political passions which raged around him. For weeks past he had never referred to M. Venizelos or to the Venizelist party without some expression of unrestrained hatred. He insisted always that in M. Venizelos he recognised an enemy to himself, to his family and to the dynasty; and knowing that the Entente Governments treated M. Venizelos as their most trusted unofficial adviser, he could not believe that, at heart, they had an honest wish to deal fairly by him even when they found it difficult.


After the King's final refusal to enter the war, M. Venizelos felt that he could no longer remain a passive spectator of a policy which, as he judged it, would bring his country nothing but contempt and discredit; and he now took a step which widened the division between his party and the palace into an open breach. On September 24, he left Greece for Crete, in company with M. Politis, a Permanent Under-Secretary in the Greek Foreign Office, Admiral Condouriotis, an officer who had greatly distinguished himself in the second Balkan war, and General Danglis. He was escorted to Crete by French naval forces, and on his arrival he set up a Provisional Government for the purpose of making war upon Bulgaria.


Nobody on the spot made a shrewder observation upon the new situation than the French Admiral: "It was with regret," he writes in his book, "that I witnessed this exodus, this voluntary elimination. For anyone interested in the Allied cause, it was obviously vexing to see the army, the navy, the administrative services, all gradually abandoned by our friends and passing entirely into hostile hands. The loss was sensible and immediate, the possible gain hazardous and remote. I expressed this view officially and repeatedly." (Dartige du Fournet, Souvenirs de Guerre d'un Amiral, 1914‑1916, p. 134). The Admiral was right. Up to the time of M. Venizelos' departure, there was always a party in the Greek Departments of State which was willing to receive the Entente's Notes in a friendly spirit and to execute them with goodwill. From now onwards, the Allies had to reckon upon a determined. obstinate resistance from the Greek administrative services; and bureaucratic opposition can be the most formidable and the most intangible kind of obstacle that exists.


During the discussion which had taken place between Paris and London upon the terms of the Allied Note to Greece, M. Briand had shown an unexpected tenderness with regard to King Constantine, and even after the Allied Ministers in Athens had received their instructions, he put forward drafts for further Allied Notes to the King of Greece, all written in very conciliatory language. After this moderation the next move from Paris was the more surprising; for, without previous consultation, the French Government now took a step which made a reconciliation between the Allies and King Constantine impossible.


Early in October, Admiral Dartige du Fournet, acting upon instructions from the Ministry of Marine in Paris, raised again the question of the non‑fulfilment of some of the conditions in the Allied Note of June 21. His instructions were to demand that Venizelist officers in the Greek navy, who had recently been dismissed, should be restored to their posts; that officers of the army and navy who had shown themselves hostile to the Entente should be removed; and that the Piraeus and the Greek railway should be placed under Allied control. When the Admiral communicated his instructions to the Allied Ministers at Athens, he said that he proposed to land 300 French marines to "reinforce the police." Sir Francis Elliot was quite aware that this new series of demands against the Greek Government was part of a general policy of exercising coercion by naval pressure. "We do not know," he wired home, how far the Allied Governments have delegated executive authority to the French Admiral in matters involving questions of policy and the employment of British and other forces which have been placed under his orders.


Point I [the return of the naval officers] is intended to counteract the Greek Government's endeavour to prevent a secession of the Greek fleet to Venizelos. Point 2 [the control of the railways and the Piraeus] marks a step in the direction of the complete control of Greece which has been the aim, if not of the French Government, at least of some of its servants." Sir Edward Grey answered at once that "the presence of the French fleet did not entitle the Admiral to act as he liked," and the French Government, realising the difficulty felt by the British Government in abandoning the policy hitherto agreed upon, decided to spend no further time in consultation, but to lay aside the ordinary diplomatic procedure and act directly through the Admiral. On October 6 Admiral Dartige du Fournet seems to have made some kind of communication to the Greek Government, and on the following day he made a threatening move with his battle fleet. "I passed the battleship division Patrie, Suffren, Democratie and the Russian ship Chesma which had just joined us, into Eleusis Bay. The Greek


Oct. 9, 1916   



fleet was thus brought between two fires and completely paralysed." (Dartige du Fournet, p. 138.)


The new French demands upon Greece were made to coincide with a Greek internal crisis. Early in October M. Kalogeropoulos resigned, and Professor Lambros, the new Premier, was still forming a Cabinet when the Admiral, acting under orders from Paris, presented his Note and said that if it was not complied with by October 11 he would "take the necessary measures." Sir Francis Elliot urged that nothing should be done until Professor Lambros was "in the saddle"; and finally, when every argument failed, told the Admiral that he must present his Note direct to the Greek Government, neither he nor his colleagues could consent to be associated with it.


Sir Francis Elliot's message arrived at a time when the British Government was in very great anxiety about the Rumanian situation. Since Rumania's entry disaster had followed disaster, and the British Government were bending all their energies to devise some means of saving that country. The Greek situation was only hastily considered, and the political implications of the French Admiral's instructions were not touched upon.


On October 9, Admiral Dartige du Fournet received a telegram from the Rue Royale instructing him definitely to act without the co‑operation of the Allied Ministers at Athens in regard to matters affecting the safety of the armee d'orient, and the fleet. (Ibid., p. 138.) Accordingly on the following day the Admiral presented a Note to the Greek Government. The text as communicated to Sir Francis Elliot ran as follows:


"Although the Greek Government has given partial satisfaction to the demands of the Allied Governments, it has taken certain measures, such as changes amongst officers and crews of its ships and concentration of troops and artillery stores in Thessaly, of an unfriendly nature to the Entente, and regarded by the French Government as compromising the safety of the Allied fleet and of the army at Salonica.


"The Admiral is also aware that, far from disarming, reservists, leagues in provinces are arming and maintaining an agitation against the Entente. He can no longer delay taking measures of military protection which he considers necessary, and has therefore decided:


"1. To sequestrate the fleet, light cruisers, torpedo-boat destroyers, torpedo-boats and submarines of the Greek navy. These ships, on board which will remain only those of their crews who wish to do so and whom the Admiral has no reason to exclude, will join the Allied fleet at its anchorages, or will be brought there. They will remain there until an agreement with regard to them has been come to between the French and Greek Governments. The three large ships will remain where they are, but will land their breech‑blocks, torpedoes and ammunition, and will reduce their crews to one. third of normal complements.


"2. To occupy Lipso Island.


"3. To insist on the disarming of batteries on Salamis, Giorgio Island and at Perama.


"The Admiral will begin operations October 11 at I p.m. He has asked the Greeks to ensure execution of the above measures without violence and that the ships named may be handed over complete in all respects. He requests the Greek Government to confirm these orders, specially as regards Lipso Island and batteries, in respect of which he in this connection has made no communication to the Greek Admirals. Moreover, the Admiral considers it indispensable to assure the security of the Piraeus by removal of, or distribution of, breech‑loaders from all batteries except two which he proposes to occupy.


"Lastly, the safety of the army at Salonica demands that control of police and Piraeus‑Larissa railway be exercised by officers designated by the Admiral. He consequently asks the Greek Government to inform him to what authorities controllers appointed by him for the port of Piraeus, police and railways should be accredited."


The Greek Ministry passed the whole night in conference, and at eleven o'clock on the following morning a Greek officer arrived on board the Provence with a Note saying that the Greek Government protested against this act of violence; that it yielded to force majeure and had issued the necessary orders. When the Greek officer went on board he found the whole ship ready for action and the guns' crews at their stations.


At half‑past twelve the operation began, and was carried out under the eyes of two French deputies who were on a tour of parliamentary inspection at the time. The light cruiser Elle, the store ship Miaoulis, nineteen torpede-boats, two submarines and five auxiliaries were taken to the fleet anchorage. The breach‑blocks and munitions of the larger ships Kilkis, Lemnos and Averoff were landed, and their crews reduced to care and maintenance parties. By the evening the work was done, and throughout this painful and trying day, the Greek officers and men behaved with a self‑restraint


Oct. 1916  



which did them honour.(There can be little doubt that the Greek navy, though strongly entento‑phil, was royalist in sympathy. When M. Venizelos acceded to Crete, the Hydra and two torpedo-boats left their anchorage and joined the Allied fleet. "En somme, le mouvement dissident ne se generalisait pas dans la flotte grecque," writes Dartige du Fournet, p. 137.)


"It must be admitted," says Admiral Dartige du Fournet, "that the Greek Government did not try to escape from any of its engagements with regard to the fleet. Later visits showed that none of the sequestrated ships had been subject to sabotage." This seizure of the Greek fleet was thus outwardly a success, and many persons who had seen it done congratulated the Commander‑in‑Chief. " I can say now that he suffered at being compelled by events to use force against a weak neutral nation, against a ward of France, and against a navy in which we counted so many friends. He had to do it, and he did it; but he found nothing in the incident to cause him pleasure or pride, and that was his answer to the inopportune compliments which he received." (Dartige du Fournet, p. 141.)


The French Admiral was now obliged to enforce the other demands in his Note ‑ for the control of the Piraeus, of the police and of the railways. The technical details of these had not been considered by the French; and, as the Admiral had been told to make his demands direct, he had himself to arrange for their execution without the assistance of the Allied diplomats. He was conscious that the policy of which he was the most unwilling instrument was extremely dangerous. " The Ministry of Marine, like its counsellor [the French Naval Attache, de Roquefeuil], never seemed to reflect that every inhabitant of Greece could now point in scorn to the Entente's abuse of force. We admitted, officially, that Greece had a right to be neutral, and yet we were putting our hands upon a part of her national life, and were probing into the private secrets of every Hellenic citizen." He accordingly tried to mitigate the effects of what he had to do by placing the most level‑headed officers he could in charge of the controls. Commander Portzampare was appointed chief of the railway control, Commander Roques head of the police, and it should be added that during the weeks of excitement and strain which followed the seizure of the Greek fleet, the Greek Government never uttered a word of complaint about the way in which these officers performed their duties. Moreover, M. Lambros, the new Premier, showed himself as accommodating as he could in the trying circumstances. The Greek Government evidently resolved to bear the humiliation patiently. (Ibid., p. 142.)


The French Admiral's view was correct, and events confirmed it both at the time and afterwards. The British Naval Mission in Greece, established several years before had been a strong link between Greece and England, and had been a centre of British influence in the country. Rear-Admiral N. C. Palmer, who was then the head of it, was universally respected, and the friendships which he and his officers had formed had made the Hellenic navy more solidly favourable to the Entente than any other neutral force in Europe. When the French seized the Greek fleet, Admiral Palmer at once told Sir Francis Elliot that his position was impossible. As he belonged to a Service which had helped to humiliate the Greek navy (A landing party from the Duncan had been placed on Lipso Island whilst the French fleet seized the Greek ships.) it offended his sense of justice that the Greek Government should be obliged to pay him any longer. Moreover, apart from this, the Greek navy was disbanded and he had no more work to do.


The Greek naval officers went ashore angry and dispirited, and the King received them and thanked them for their admirable bearing. It would be useless to deny that the Allies damaged themselves seriously by the whole transaction; to have acquired the use of nineteen torpedo-boats and two submarines was not a satisfactory return for the loss of friendship and respect which we suffered.


By openly seceding from the royalist Government at Athens, the Venizelist party created a problem which added to the perplexities of the Allies. The British Government was unanimously of opinion that the Venizelists must be supported; their leader had never wavered in his belief in the Allied cause, and in supporting it he and his companions had suffered exile, and had lost both position and property. Public feeling in France and England was expressing itself very strongly, and British Ministers were determined that the provisional Greek Government should be financed and that the Venizelist army should be supplied with whatever it required. This resolve left over the very difficult question of official recognition. Signor Tittoni, the Italian Minister in Athens, stated it succinctly: what were the territorial limits of the new Government ? If the Allies admitted its jurisdiction in certain places, and not in others, they were practically dividing Greece into territories. M. Briand, the French Premier, was especially troubled by doubts. Although he had agreed to the seizure of the Greek fleet, his real policy was to conciliate the Greeks and to bring King Constantine and M. Venizelos together again. He now felt that by openly


Oct. 1916  



recognising the Venizelist Government the Allies might so anger King Constantine that they would lose what influence they still possessed at Athens, and add fresh bitterness to the civil dissensions which were raging in Greece. It seemed clear to him that Greece would never be an Ally for us unless the two parties in the State could either abandon their feud or reduce it to the status of an ordinary political controversy under some moderating influence from outside. The British Government gave weight to his judgment, and while they instructed our consular officers in Crete to afford M. Venizelos and his servants all the support in their power, they refrained from giving official recognition to the provisional Governnient.


The civil divisions of Greece were in no way healed by this indecisive action, and they led directly to the most regrettable of all the episodes in our troubled relations. After the Venizelists had left for Crete, many officers in the army thought it their duty to follow them; the King, in order to check a movement which he thought subversive of all discipline, took severe measures, and a number of officers and civil servants were arrested and thrown into prison. In the country every town and hamlet was divided between the two parties, royalist and Venizelist. The reservist leagues formed armed bands and attacked and cudgelled their opponents wherever they could find them. In Athens, where royalist feelings ran strong, the Venizelists were often violently attacked, and the Allied Ministers, with shame and indignation, saw their political friends arrested, beaten and thrown into prison. At Ekaterini, on the other hand, the Venizelist volunteers attacked the royalist garrison and drove it out; the French had to occupy the town in order to prevent the soldiers from returning and exacting a fearful vengeance.


The immediate cause of what followed was the action of the King, who, at some time in October, began to collect troops in Larissa. His intention was, without doubt, to suppress the Venizelist movement in Thessaly; but this concentration of troops in rear of the left wing of the Salonica army thoroughly alarmed the French; General Milne, when asked for his opinion as to the meaning of it, answered that King Constantine was probably creating "a zone of independent action at Larissa " in case further pressure was directed against him or his Government at Athens and the Piraeus. "Such action," concluded the General, "in my opinion, is a possible danger."


This question of securing the army at Salonica naturally caused a new set of demands to be presented to the King; but as the French assumed the whole management of the affair, and treated it as a purely military matter to be settled without diplomatic intervention, it is very difficult to find the exact origins of the subsequent events or even to follow the course of their first development. This much, however, is fairly clear.


No sooner had Admiral Dartige du Fournet carried out against the Greek fleet an order which, as a man of the world, he thought foolish, and as a gentleman, he detested, (Dartige du Fournet, p. 141.) than he was called upon to open a new series of demands against the Greek Government. We know that his first instructions were to order them to deliver 1,500,000 cartridges, but he does not say exactly how he presented the demand or how it was received. (Ibid., p. 154.) Meanwhile King Constantine and M. Lambros, thoroughly alarmed at the course that things were taking, made a serious attempt to conciliate the Allies. In a series of interviews with Sir Francis Elliot, the King offered, of his own free will, to disband the 1914 and 1915 reservists, to withdraw his troops from continental Greece and leave only 9,000 men in Thessaly; all that he asked in return was that his concessions should be treated as a final settlement, and that no further demands should be made of him.


The British Government, being entirely absorbed with plans for stemming the tide of defeat in Rumania, did not discuss or consider this new aspect of the Greek situation; the negotiation was left more and more in French hands, and it seemed, at first, as though it would be successfully concluded. The business was, indeed, most happily advanced by a young French deputy, M. Benazet, who had been sent to Salonica by the French Parliament to visit and inspect the armee d'orient. On his way back he went to Athens, and, whilst he was there, King Constantine asked him to pay a visit to the Palace. The King had always been able to get on with soldiers, and M. Benazet, as a retired officer, who was besides "young, seductive and with fine courteous manners," made an excellent impression. (Ibid., p. 153.) The first interview went off so well that it was soon followed by others. Everyone on the spot was pleased at the new and better complexion that M. Benazet's visit had given to affairs, and, after a fortnight's stay in Athens, he returned to France carrying with him a plan for burying the past and for reconciling the Venizelists to the Royalists and the Greek people to the Allies. He had discussed his project with all the Allied authorities and with King Constantine, and thus had an assurance that the Greek Government would put it fairly and loyally into operation.


Oct.‑Nov. 1916  



The plan was that the Allies were to demand the surrender of war material and the demobilisation of the reservists, to compensate them for the military advantages which the Central Powers had gained by being allowed to occupy Fort Rupel and Kavala. Their demand was to be made in the form of a "Sommation" drafted in moderate and courteous language; King Constantine's Government would then make a formal protest, after which the King would issue a general proclamation to the Greek people, beginning: "I owe to my people a frank explanation with regard to my conduct during the present course of events," and going on to say that he agreed to the Allied demands in order to maintain a strict neutrality between the two belligerents. A condition upon which the King insisted was that the Allies should promise him that the arms and munitions which he surrendered should not be handed over to his political opponents. He desired that the Entente should consider themselves under an obligation to preserve his throne in return for the concessions he had made to them. The agreement thus reached, combined with the King's promise to withdraw his troops from Thessaly, would give the Allies the right to enrol Greek volunteers of the Venizelist faction and the power to arm them from our own resources; and it would end, once for all, the friction and misunderstandings between Greece and the Allies.


All existing causes of quarrel would go, and, if new ones arose, they could be talked out more easily in an atmosphere of goodwill and mutual understanding. M. Benazet urged his Government to carry through his plan. "It is to be hoped," he wired home, "that during the period in which Greece makes arrangements for giving us volunteers and munitions of war, and affords us all the support she can without ceasing to be neutral, all these daily bickerings on points of detail will cease. The King and the President of the Council are, however, well aware that certain persons are averse to this reconciliation. [M. Benazet was doubtless referrin to the French Naval Attache. They have, none the less, decided to show the greatest patience until a final agreement has [been reached and] borne fruit. They have both charged me to say that they have entire confidence in the Commanderill‑Chief of the Allied naval forces . (Dartige du Fournet, p. 178.)


These proposals were brought to the notice of the British Government at the Inter‑Allied Conference which took place in Paris on November 15; but they were only revealed in conversation by M. Briand, and were not communicated in documentary form. The result was that no decision was taken, and the conference agreed with M. Briand that the Allies might as well wait for developments which could not be long delayed. To adopt this suggestion, and to leave the matter where it stood, was perhaps the greatest mistake that the Allies made in Greek affairs. It may seem that if King Constantine's offer had been accepted, and if his execution of it had been supervised with forbearance and goodwill, his differences with the Allies might have been satisfactorily composed.


Yet this is not certain; for no one could be certain about King Constantine. After making his offer through M. Benazet, he strove repeatedly to show that he was really endeavouring to carry out his pledges; he recalled the IlIrd and IVth Corps to the Morea and agreed that he would not in future move troops without previously consulting the Allies. But in another respect his conduct was baffling and difficult to understand. The whole basis of his understanding with M. Benazet had been that the Allied demands should be presented in a Note, to which he should agree: the Note and its reply would then form a written understanding between the two parties. But no sooner had M. Benazet gone back to France than King Constantine asked Sir Francis Elliot that the Note should not be presented, and that he should be allowed to carry out his engagements voluntarily. To this surprising and ambiguous request no answer was given.


Meanwhile events had moved quickly. At the end of October two Greek steamers were torpedoed by a submarine; the Entente Governments used the incident as a pretext for expelling the enemy legations from Athens. On November 2 Admiral Dartige du Fournet presented a Note to the Greek Government in which he asked for the right to man the sequestered ships of the Greek fleet and use them in the naval service of the Allies. The Greek Cabinet refused to agree, but the Admiral hoisted the French flag on board the torpedo boats and took possession of Salamis arsenal. Sir Francis Elliot thereupon protested to the French Minister that the Entente Powers could not bear responsibility for measures resolved upon and carried out solely by the French Government or its officers.


The French Government, however, continued to act independently. The Note demanding the surrender of war material was now nearly ready. It was, apparently, drafted by M. Guillemin, acting in collaboration with General Sarrail and with General Roques, the War Minister, who was then on a visit to the armee d'orient. The British Government were


Nov. 1916



not consulted about the negotiations or asked to approve or amend the draft. The French Cabinet seems, indeed, to have given General Roques full powers to settle all outstanding questions with Greece by the simple method of giving the necessary orders and letting the Greek Government know them. He decreed that a base should be established at Itea, in Greek territory, and that the transport of troops along from it should begin at once; then, having approved the Note demanding the surrender of Greek war material, he left for France, after telling Admiral Dartige du Fournet that he must be responsible for presenting and enforcing it. "Nothing," writes the Admiral, " authorised me to raise serious objections. I could but obey." (Dartige du Fournet, p. 183.)


When this Note, which bore such fatal consequences to the King and to the Allied cause in Greece, was ready for presentation, the political position in the capital was to the last degree confused. Since M. Venizelos and his friends had seceded, the King had pushed on with his measures for maintaining discipline in the services. Officers who had abandoned the regular army were cashiered and deprived of their pensions, and numbers of others were arrested and thrown into prison on mere suspicion. Civil servants, magistrates, mayors of towns and villages, were treated in the same way. The Liberal press was muzzled, the offices of the Ethniki and the Hestia were closed, and the editors arrested and imprisoned. Whenever a man was held in detention, his house was visited and pillaged by gangs of soldiers; sometimes the escort sent to arrest a man would kill him on the way to the magistrate.


An eminent Venizelist was bayoneted in this way, and his body lay in the street until dark, because his family dared not venture out to remove it. The magistrates, who remained attached to the royal cause, examined accused persons with the utmost brutality; many of them were beaten to the ground by police officers whilst they stood in the dock to answer questions from the bench. Rumours were abroad that these measures were mere preliminaries, and that all avowed Venizelists in the army and navy would soon be shot as rebels. In country towns and villages matters were even worse. The reservist leagues made themselves the accusers and judges of all who disagreed with them. These outrages made Sir Francis Elliot's blood boil; he thought himself bound in honour to protect the Venizelists if he could, and to show his detestation of the ill treatment they were receiving; he was accordingly doing everything he could to press the Greek Ministers with interviews and protests. Prince Demidoff, whose Government was a little concerned lest the course of events should dislodge King Constantine, was spending his whole time in trying to reduce the growing friction between the Entente and the King; the Italian Minister had always rather held aloof; his Government, like the Russian, distrusted and disliked the Venizelist party. Whilst the other three Allied Ministers were thus concentrating their attention upon different aspects of the Greek situation, the French completed the preparation of their Note. It was presented on November 16 by Admiral Dartige du Fournet and ran thus:


"Monsieur le President,


"During the last few weeks, the Greek Government has been able, on more than one occasion, to make quite certain that the Entente Powers recognise Greece's right to remain neutral in the present conflict. By the setting up of a neutral zone in the north of Thessaly, you are guaranteed

against any attack by armed forces such as happened at Ekaterini.


"The Greek Government has, on the other hand, repeatedly stated, in the most definite way, that it is maintaining a benevolent neutrality with regard to the Entente. Amongst the proofs of benevolent neutrality thus given must be counted the much‑appreciated measure of putting the army on to a peace footing and the withdrawal of the IIIrd and IVth Corps, and the 16th Division, into the Peloponnese. But it is equally true that the surrender of Fort Rupel and of Kavala to the Bulgarians, and the delivery to them of the important mass of war material in those places, has given the enemies of the Entente Powers considerable advantages (rupture d'equilibre au profit des ennemis de l'Entente).


"The French Government, being anxious to retrieve these advantages, and wishing to put an equal quantity of war material at the disposal of the Commander‑in‑Chief of the armee d'orient, has decided to demand that the Greek Government shall deliver up all that war material which is rendered useless to it by the reduction of the army to a peace footing.


"I have therefore received an order from my Government to demand from the Greek Government: sixteen field batteries with 1,000 projectiles for each gun; sixteen mountain batteries with 1,000 projectiles for each gun; 40,000 Mannlicher rifles with 220 cartridges for each rifle; 140 machine guns with a corresponding number of cartridges, and fifty transport automobiles.


"In a recent Note on the subject of the light forces of


Nov. 16, 1916



the fleet, I informed the Greek Government that I had the necessary powers to offer a just payment for all deliveries made; but no answer was given.


"I have the honour to inform you, herewith, that the French Government is still inclined to offer you a suitable payment for the war material delivered to it, or else to bind itself to give back an equal quantity of material, in good order, at the close of hostilities.


"As you cannot but be aware that the present course of events makes this demand an urgent one, the French Government requests that the Greek Government shall give a proof of its goodwill by at once delivering ten mountain batteries to me, the rest of the material to be handed over with as little delay as possible.


"The material is to be deposited at the Thessaly railway station, in Athens, from whence we shall carry it to Salonica; and I ask that an officer nominated by you shall be sent to me to settle details." (Dartige du Fournet, pp. 188‑9.)


It will be seen that this Note was not in any way harsh or peremptory. Since the source of all these demands was a suggestion from King Constantine himself, the French Government had every right to make them, and, indeed, to expect that they would be agreed to. If there was any fault, it lay not in the Note itself, but in its omissions and in the manner in which it was presented. When King Constantine first made his proposals to M. Benazet he was evidently given to understand that his difficulties at home and abroad would be sympathetically considered; and so believing, he had stipulated that the arms and munitions which he surrendered should not be given to the Venizelists, and that he should not lose his throne by abandoning Thessaly to his political enemies. The Note promised him nothing. The Entente Powers could not, it is true, have given open undertakings against the Venizelists who had adhered to the Allied cause at the cost of so much suffering to themselves. But it may be that if their diplomatic Ministers had been instructed to go on with the negotiation which M. Benazet had begun, to bring it to perfection by further discussions and conversations, and to draft the Note on the basis of agreements reached during the course of those discussions, an acceptable text could have been presented.


Yet it must be admitted that here again the circumstances were not such as to suggest of themselves a sympathetic and delicate method of dealing. Naval commanders have more than once in European wars shown themselves to be shrewd and tactful negotiators. But in the present struggle King Constantine had already given too much proof of his ingenuity and too little of his goodwill or sincerity; he had exhausted the patience of those in whose hands lay the overwhelming executive power. It was therefore, from our point of view, a mistake to remove the conduct of the affair at this stage from the cool and dexterous hands of professional diplomacy and to entrust it to the commander of an irresistible force, who had orders to carry out, and was given no powers of delay or discretion.


As soon as the Greek Cabinet had considered the Note, King Constantine asked Admiral Dartige du Fournet to come and see him. The Admiral describes him as "absolutely courteous, and, indeed, almost cordial," but adds that "his attitude had obviously changed." He certainly made clever use of the weak points in the French case: why was the Note presented by a Naval Commander‑in‑Chief in the name of the French Government? What guarantee had he that if he agreed to what France demanded of him, another Allied Power would not send another fleet and ask for fresh sacrifices? How could he be expected to make the present demands acceptable to the Greek people, when they were unaccompanied by the guarantees which had been the starting point of all his proposals to M. Benazet? He then made a telling point about the behaviour of certain French officers in Athens, and asserted that arms and munitions for the Venizelists were stored in the French Naval Attache's offices; this, it seems, the Admiral could not deny. (He had no responsibility in the matter; the French Intelligence service at Athens was not under his orders.)


In conclusion, the King said that he was overborne by public opinion and had no power to compel the delivery of the material demanded. Admiral Dartige du Fournet, who, throughout the business, gave proof of much shrewdness, wired home to say that "even if the King did not personally refuse to agree to the demand, he would do nothing to get it accepted by the army." The impression left upon him was evidently that the King had discovered that his party would not endorse the promises he had given to M. Benazet, and was striving to escape from them by accusing the French of breach of faith. He sympathised with the King in this dilemma, but was by no means persuaded that he was entirely straightforward.


On November 21 the Greek reply was handed to Admill Dartige du Fournet. In this, after reciting the contents of the French Note, the Greek Prime Minister continued: "As I do not wish to discuss why the Greek Government was compelled


Nov. 21, 1916



to offer no opposition to the surrender of those forts [Rupel and Kavala] and to the capture of the war material in them, I shall confine myself to letting you know that the Greek Government then in power could not act otherwise without abandoning neutrality; that it protested absolutely; and that it let the Entente Governments know both the terms of its protests and its own point of view upon the matter.


" As for the equilibrium between the Powers at war, I can assure you that your information is not correct. As you can see from the table annexed hereto, the naval and military authorities of the Entente have 191 Greek guns of various calibres in their possession, most of which are quick‑firers of the latest model; the Germano‑Bulgars, on the other hand, have only 124, most of which are old and useless. Also, you have in your hands more Greek machine‑guns and rifles than your enemies.


"After being so conciliatory, since it came into power, and after giving you so many proofs [of good‑will] by settling in a friendly way those questions raised in the Notes which you have sent to it on several occasions, the Greek Government had the right to hope that it would not, in future, be presented with demands which, by their very nature, cannot possibly be accepted.


"If it surrendered its war material, the Greek Government would be committing so flagrant a violation of its neutrality that the Central Powers, which have already protested forcibly against the seizure of the light craft in the Greek navy, would without doubt look upon it as a hostile act. Besides this, public opinion in the country, which is showing itself clearly on the present issue, would not tolerate it if Greece were disarmed and left without means of defending its vital interests, should they ever be in danger.


"For these reasons, Monsieur l'Amiral, I am obliged, on behalf of the Greek Government, to refuse absolutely to accede to your demands, dated November 16, and have every hope that you will agree that my refusal is well founded.

"Spyridon Lambros."


Admiral Dartige du Fournet answered the Greek refusal as firmly and as tactfully as he could: "I cannot admit," he wrote, "that a country so enlightened as Greece could think it intolerable to yield to Powers towards which she professes a benevolent neutrality arms and munitions which are not "use by her armed forces, but are lying in depots." Then, after showing how the French demands contrasted with the Bulgarian invasion of Greek territory, he went on: " If only it were more enlightened, Greek public opinion would have realised that there is nothing in this surrender of arms which could offend against the warmest feelings of patriotism or the rules of international law. These arms are intended for liberating territory where the noblest blood in Greece has been shed: their proper place is not in a depot or a magazine, but on the fronts of Monastir and Macedonia, where the fate of all Balkan peoples is being settled." He closed by saying that the orders under which he was acting made it impossible for him to discuss the matter further, and that if the ten mountain batteries were not delivered by December 1, he would take "all those measures which the situation called for." The French Ministry of Marine, on being informed that matters were moving to a crisis, told him to ask for reinforcements from the armee d'orient if he thought them necessary. He decided to act alone, mainly because he thought it most important that there should be no delay in making his demonstration. He was helped by the French Military Attache in drawing up plans for occupying the important points round the capital, but he was certain that if he called for additional forces from Salonica, the whole operation would have to be postponed. (Dartige du Fournet, pp. 189‑201.)


Shortly after he had received his orders from the Rue Royale, Admiral Dartige du Fournet made his last visit to the palace. King Constantine assured him that he personally was full of goodwill, but that this demand for arms and material had so roused the public and the army that he could no longer control the situation ‑ an unfortunate confession from a monarch who had replaced the parliamentary institutions of the country by a personal autocracy of his own. Finally, as though to show his conciliatory feeling, he insisted that if only the quantities of arms and munitions to be surrendered could be reduced, an agreement could certainly be come to. The French Admiral perceived, no doubt, the inconsistency of this huckster's offer with the King's concluding statement at the previous interview: he answered firmly that there was no time for further negotiations, and that he was going to send his landing parties ashore on December 1. Just before leaving he asked the King whether the Greek Government would maintain order whilst the Allied landing parties were ashore in Athens. The King said he would look into the matter, and two days later Admiral Dartige du Fournet received a letter from Count Mercati, the master of the King's household. It ran as follows:


Nov. 24‑30 , 1916



"Monsieur l'Amiral:

"By order of his Majesty, I have the honour to transmit to you the assurance of my august master that neither the persons, nor the private houses, nor the shops of Venizelists are in danger, since the police and the authorities of the kingdom, whose duty it is to maintain order, will exercise the strictest supervision and will guarantee their security. These high assurances are, of course, given under the formal condition that neither the secret police in the service of the Allies nor the landing parties will arrest, deport or remove Greek subjects, and under the further condition that the Venizelist partisans on their side will refrain from committing any act of violence, any excess or any abuse which might provoke reprisals."


This astute and evasive letter gave no promise with regard to the landing parties; but it certainly conveyed the impression that they would not be opposed. Admiral Dartige du Fournet was clearly intended to assume from the wording of the whole note that there was to be no disorder of any kind, and therefore that his landing parties would not be interfered with; and he himself goes so far as to say of it "la promesse etait ferme." (It should be added that he states in his book (p. 204) that, at his last interview with him, King Constantine promised that the Greek troops would have "orders not to fire first." Nobody can doubt that the promise was given verbally; and it is most significant that it was not confirmed in the letter from Count Mercati. King Constantine was probably speaking the truth when he said that he was "deborde.") What he means, of course, is that an implied undertaking is as binding as an avowed one. Doubtless it would be so to him; but he was dealing with men who had a wholly different view of the use of language.


Before landing his troops Admiral Dartige du Fournet sent home a telegram to say that the root of the whole trouble was that King Constantine had not been given any guarantees against the disruptive activities of the Venizelist party. "My personal opinion," he wrote, "is that, as the King has not received the guarantees for which he hoped, and which were given in detail in my telegram No. 11683 A 531 of November 8, he considers that he is freed from his promises, and is not very anxious (met tres peu de zele) to perform them." In the opinion of the Admiral, therefore, there had been a falling short on the French side; and he had not only the sense to grasp it, but the courage to say it.


The Greek Government still owed the Admiral a reply to his last Note: it was handed in on the afternoon of the 30th, and repeated the previous refusal to surrender arms and ammunition. In the evening the Admiral attended the daily conference of Allied Ministers. They were all very anxious. For the past week Athens had been in a ferment; the people of the capital were rallying round the King, volunteers were being enlisted and armed, and the army was evidently in an ugly temper. The Allied Ministers, who realised that this rising anger might provoke a regrettable incident, asked the Admiral whether some compromise was not possible; could not the French insist only on the surrender of ten mountain batteries, and waive their other demands? The Admiral answered that he personally agreed with them; but that his orders prevented him from negotiating further. This, indeed, was the real evil: the line of division between diplomatic and military action had disappeared, and the Admiral, who was now the chief Allied representative in Greece, was not given freedom to act as a diplomatist. He was still bound by those "superior orders" which are the very essence of military discipline, and was thus unable, at a critical moment, to carry out the political duties which had been thrust upon him. If only he had been given instructions of the ordinary diplomatic kind, the tragedy of the following day would not have occurred.


Just before the meeting broke up, Count Mercati called upon the legation and suggested a compromise; with a heavy heart the Admiral replied that he had no powers to treat. A few hours later the landing companies were marching upon the Greek capital from the Piraeus. (Dartige du Fournet, pp. 201‑13.)




The Landing Parties at Athens

(See Map 7.)


The object of the landing operations was to establish a force of some three battalions of seamen and marines on the hills which dominate Athens from its south‑western corner ‑ the Nymphs, the Philopappos and the Phynx ‑ and to hold the Zappeion theatre ‑ another commanding point ‑ with a second detachment. In addition to this, outpost companies were to seize a powder factory to the west of Athens on the road to the pass of Daphne, an arsenal called the Roaf on the Piraeus road, and a cartridge factory to the south‑east of the city. The three landing battalions were placed under the charge of Captain Pugliesi‑Conti. Major C. D'O. Harmar, R.M.L.l., who was in command of the British force, composed


Dec. 1, 1916  



of three companies of marines from the Exmouth and Duncan, was under the immediate orders of Commander Millot, the officer in charge of the third battalion.


Between three and five in the morning of December 1, the battalions marched up from the Piraeus, and by nine o'clock every point except one had been occupied without opposition. One company from the first battalion was at the Daphne powder factories, another was in support, and the two others were at the Rouf. The second battalion was installed on the Phynx‑Philopappos position, where it was reinforced by a party which had been sent to the Zappeion some days before the landing began. The third battalion, which included the British contingent, was at the Zappeion theatre.


There had been no hitch; but Admiral Dartige du Fournet was anxious. Early in the morning he received news that Greek troops were massing near the capital, and at once decided to go to Athens himself. At eight o'clock he left in a motor car, accompanied by Captain Chamonard and Commander Douxami. As he passed through the Piraeus his anxiety increased; Greek troops had occupied the school which had been assigned to the French colonial troops by the municipality, there were Greek soldiers everywhere, and the crowd was in a black, sullen temper. He told the French commanding officer to occupy another building near by and to watch the Greek troops carefully. At nine o'clock he reached the Zappeion. As he came up, Commander Millot ordered Major Harmar to occupy the powder magazine and cartridge factory to the south of the town with a British company, reinforced by a French company under Lieutenant Deve. The situation, already clouded, now began to darken; Greek troops were assembling at all points which the French had occupied, and the Admiral saw that they were in an ugly mood.


After speaking for a few minutes to Captain Pugliesi‑Conti at the Zappeion, he went across to the Philopappos, where he found a company of Greek soldiers facing the French marines. He asked the commanding officer, Major Constantine Grigorakis, to withdraw his men; the Greek officer replied angrily that his orders were to defend the monuments of his country. At about the same time news came in that a French supply company had been stopped on the Piraeus road and its baggage taken from it. Admiral Dartige du Fournet undertook to settle the matter with the Greek Government, and for the next hour nothing occurred except the steady massing of Greek troops. Major Harmar and Lieutenant Deve found Greek troops at the cartridge factory and the powder magazine; the Greek officer in charge was fairly civil, and said that he would remove his men as soon as Major Harmar withdrew. But at eleven o'clock, when their concentration was complete, the Greek troops opened fire at every point; each of the Allied detachments was attacked simultaneously. The moment had obviously been chosen beforehand, for the attack had all the precision of a military movement prepared and executed by a central command.


Afterwards, the Greek Government claimed that the French had fired first, and, when they found that this accusation was untenable, they said that the Venizelists had started the fighting. Major Harmar's report is good evidence that the Greek troops acted deliberately, and that they were under orders; it runs thus: "I signalled to the Zappeion, reporting the movement of Greek troops I had observed, and, shortly after, received an order from Captain Millot ordering me to return to the Zappeion with both companies. The Greek colonel was still with me when I received this order, and I informed him that I was going to withdraw. He said that he would move his men away directly I left, and at the same time ordered a Greek company, which had come up on my right flank, to move further back. A few minutes later, a few shots were fired on Philopappos hill, and I could see people running down the hill and the French standing up on the top. Lieutenant Deve agreed with me that the French were firing blank to frighten the crowd back. I immediately ordered both companies to fall in; the French, at the time, were on the Zappeion side of the magazine, and the Royal Marines on the opposite side. I ordered Captain Palmer to move his company off, and went round to tell Lieutenant Deve to follow. Just then, about eleven o'clock, heavy fire was opened on us from all sides."


If the Greek army had told the Allies, through King Constantine, that to surrender their guns and munitions was a dishonour and an indignity that they would not bear, and had said outright that they would fight rather than suffer it, they would be entitled to our respect. But the behaviour of the Greek colonel who opened fire after the British and French had formed up in the open, relying on his promise to withdraw, puts the matter in another light. The indignation of the Greek officers was in itself honourable; but they undoubtedly gave expression to it by a concerted act of treachery.


It seems probable that the Greek High Command intended to overawe the French detachments by surrounding them at every point; and having done so to make them withdraw ingloriously after intimidating them with a few volleys. If


Dec. 1, 1916  



so the whole plan was brought to nothing by the stubborn courage of the French seamen. At the powder factory on the Daphne road, at the Rouf, at the Zappeion and at the Philopappos they stood to their arms, returned the Greek fire shot for shot and volley for volley; and a few minutes after eleven, every occupied point was the scene of a desperate struggle. At one place only did the Greeks score anything which could be called a success: Major Harmar's company was completely cut off from the Zappeion and had to fall back upon Phalerum. Just to the north of them Lieutenant Deve and Captain J. M. Palmer, R.M.L.I., managed to get their men into the magazine, which they held for the rest of the day; and it was here that Lieutenant Deve was mortally wounded whilst firing a maxim gun with his own hands.


The French detachments were completely surrounded, and could only fight where they stood; Captain Pugliesi-Conti was at the Philopappos, the Admiral at the Zappeion; signals could be exchanged between the two positions, and Admiral Dartige du Fournet could communicate with the French ships in the Piraeus. At a quarter to twelve, he sent a message to the French ships in the bay to open fire on the Stadium, where the Greeks, strongly installed, were firing heavily at the Zappeion position; it is to his honour that he absolutely declined to order a general bombardment of the capital. Whatever happened he would never have it said that he made a Louvain of Athens.


After the fight had gone on for nearly an hour, and the Greeks had got no advantage from it, Admiral Dartige du Fournet received a message from King Constantine; would the Admiral compromise and accept the surrender of six mountain batteries? The Admiral told Captain Pugliesi-Conti that he was going to treat with the Greeks, ordered the Provence to cease fire, and with great difficulty got into telephone communication with M. Lambros, the Premier. Shortly afterwards the fire from the Greeks died down, and several members of the legations reached the Zappeion without interference. General Bousquier, the French Military Attache, came up to confer with the Admiral, and Madame Bousquier accompanied him to tend the wounded. Meanwhile, the Admiral answered that he accepted the Greek offer; but that it must be repeated to the Allied Ministers at the legations. This exchange of messages took time, and the afternoon passed more or less quietly, although the Greek troops on the Stadium and the Acropolis occasionally opened fire for a few moments. At half‑past four the Greek troops again opened fire at all points, and the conflict blazed up afresh.


The French seamen on the Philopappos were brought under a heavy fire from the Acropolis, and the Zappeion was swept from the Stadium. This second onslaught, like the first, was deliberate and concerted; and Admiral Dartige du Fournet again signalled to his ships in the Piraeus to open fire on the Stadium. The effect was excellent; the Diadoch's palace, where the King was installed, stands quite near the Stadium, and the first shells fell in the courtyard. The Queen and the children were sent below into the cellars, and soon afterwards the Greek troops ceased fire.


At a quarter to seven Colonel Pallys, King Constantine's aide‑de‑camp, arrived at the Zappeion with Sir Francis Elliot, M. Guillemin, and Prince Demidoff, the Ministers of Great Britain, France and Russia. An agreement was soon reached. King Constantine promised that six mountain batteries should be surrendered, as soon as the landing parties were withdrawn; Admiral Dartige du Fournet undertook to recall the bulk of the three battalions landed, but kept a party on the Zappeion; he refused to promise that the party which remained behind should not be reinforced, and he warned the Greek authorities that the withdrawal of the landing parties was only "the preliminary to grave events." The retirement of the troops began at about eleven o'clock, and continued throughout the night. The positions at the Rouf, the Daphne road and the Philopappos were evacuated in good order and the prisoners taken by each side were exchanged before the march to the Piraeus began.


Although the French seamen had been surrounded in their positions and outnumbered by four to one they had fought so fiercely and stubbornly that they had eighty Greek prisoners to exchange against sixty of their own when the day was over. (Dartige du Fournet, p. 236.) They had lost 191 officers and men killed and wounded; the British twenty‑one killed and wounded. Major Harmar's Marines, who retired on Phalerum after they were cut off from the Zappeion, suffered most. This forced withdrawal of the British Marine detachment was the only positive achievement that the Greeks could claim, and it was not one to boast of. After dislodging the Marines by a treacherous promise of reciprocal withdrawal, the Greeks took up positions on their flanks and kept them under a galling fire during the whole of their retirement; but the Marines never broke their order of march or showed the slightest concern. They carried out their orders to the letter, picked up their dead and wounded as they fell, and marched on with proud stolidity until they reached old Phalerum.


Dec. 1‑4, 1916



The Greek Government were more scrupulous than their army in carrying out their agreement with Admiral Dartige du Fournet. The dead men were brought down to the Piraeus on the following day by a party of French stretcherbearers, headed by two doctors and an abbe, who had worked all day in and about the places where there had been fighting, and had received neither injury nor insult from the Greek officials or the Greek population. On the following day, December 3, the funeral took place at the Piraeus. As the cortege went past, the Greek troops turned out, and the Greek population uncovered.


In another respect, however, the Greek authorities acted in the way most calculated to exasperate the Allies. As soon as the landing parties had withdrawn, soldiers and armed reservists turned savagely upon the Venizelists, and all day on December 2 they sacked and looted their houses and bludgeoned everybody who resisted them. A handful of stout‑hearted Cretans installed themselves in M. Venizelos's house, and defended it for the best part of the day before they were finally overpowered. On the following day, the royalists had completely mastered their opponents, and they began a systematic round up. All day long arrested Venizelists were marched in fours, with their hands tied behind their backs, to places of detention. The ordinary prisons soon overflowed and schools and theatres were requisitioned. The houses of the arrested men were pillaged from cellar to garret, and their families were maltreated. This brutal treatment of the Venizelist partisans was felt by Sir Francis Elliot to be far more humiliating to the Allies than the withdrawal of the landing parties.


The news of the events in Athens reached London just as the British Government was passing through a political crisis. Mr. Asquith resigned on December 4, and it was not until five days later that Mr. Lloyd George's War Cabinet could assemble to discuss the position. Meanwhile, however, orders were sent to the Vice‑Admiral in the Eastern Mediterranean to co‑operate with the French in a blockade of Greece; to occupy Syra; to make all necessary arrangements for interrupting railway communications between Athens and Larissa, and for cutting the railway on the Isthmus of Corinth. He was told, however, that no troops were to be landed at the Piraeus. The French at once took measures for relieving Admiral Dartige du Fournet, who left the French fleet some days later, very much regretted by the British officers who had served under him.


When the new War Cabinet assembled for the first time on December 9, they had before them a telegram from King Constantine to H.M. King George, which cleared the air, in that it gave an absolute assurance that the Greek Government did not intend to make war upon the Entente. Ministers had until then been very uncertain whether the attack on the landing parties was not a first act of open war. But in other respects the telegram was most unsatisfactory. King Constantine alleged that his troops had been obliged to fire: he had "irrefutable proofs" that the Venizelists, "profiting by the Allied landing," intended to "make themselves masters of the town and bring back M. Venizelos in triumph." He went on to say that two automobiles belonging to the Anglo-French Intelligence Service were ready to give the "order for revolt," and that the movement broke out at about three o'clock in the afternoon. He did not say how this, even if true, excused the deliberate concerted attack upon the French seamen four hours previously.


H.M. King George answered, in very restrained language, that he could not accept the explanation given, although he was glad to hear that Greece did not contemplate making war upon the Entente. "My Government," the King concluded, "can only take a very serious view of the events resulting in the death of my gallant troops. These events have aroused a feeling of deep and widespread indignation among my people, a feeling intensified by the accounts received from many, including neutral, sources of the treatment to which the Venizelists in Greece are now being subjected. Your Majesty will understand that the demands which, in conjunction with the Allied Powers, my Government must now make, will include reparation for the unprovoked attack made by your troops and guarantees for the future."


When this reply was sent Sir Francis Elliot was instructed at the same time to demand that all Greek troops in northern Greece should be removed to the Morea, and that the evacuation should begin within twenty‑four hours; also, all troop movements from the Morea northwards were to be stopped at once. "The blockade of Greece," the instructions ended, "will be maintained until reparation has been made for the recent unprovoked attack by the Greek forces upon the troops of the Allies at Athens, together with satisfactory guarantees for the future." Sir Francis Elliot was further instructed to leave the legation at once, after handing in this ultimatum, and to go on board a ship which the Rear‑Admiral was holding ready for him at the Piraeus. Three days later, the British Minister carried out his instructions, and on December 15, the Greek Government sent an envoy to the


June‑Dec. 1916  



s.s. Abbassiyeh, in which Sir Francis Elliot was embarked, to deliver a Note accepting the terms of the ultimatum. By December 17 Allied control officers were at work at Larissa and Janina superintending the first movements of the Greek army to the Morea.




Submarine Warfare


In midsummer 1916 the Germans were maintaining fifteen submarines in the Mediterranean. Three of these were stationed at Constantinople, the remaining twelve were at Cattaro. During the last six months of the year the enemy increased these forces to twenty by reinforcements to the Adriatic flotilla. The number of boats which were actually at sea at any one time varied from three to five. The German naval authorities were not slow to realise that submarine operations in the Mediterranean would be less hampered and restricted than operations in any other theatre, by the undertakings given to the American Government in April. The German Government had then promised that no vessel should be sunk without warning and without attempting to save life; their submarine commanders in the Mediterranean frequently felt themselves free to disregard this promise, and they soon learned by experience that the American Government did not intend to hold them to it unless American lives were endangered.


In June a U‑boat of the Constantinople flotilla sank the armed steamer Moeris without warning, off Cape Sidero, in Crete; no protests followed, and in the following month a U‑boat off Algiers treated the armed steamer Euphorbia in the same way. Again no protests followed. After that the German submarine commanders sank armed steamers without warning whenever they considered the circumstances suitable. It is true that it was only armed vessels which they attacked without signal or summons; this restricted their breach of agreement and kept it within certain limits, but the breach was no less flagrant. The German Government had made its promise subject to only one condition; they would not sink vessels without warning inside or outside the declared war zone unless those vessels attempted to escape or offered resistance. A gun mounted in a freighter's after part suggests that if she is attacked she will probably resist; but actual resistance and potential resistance are not the same thing, and such men as Lieut.‑Commander von Arnauld de la Periere, who was one of the most successful U‑boat commanders in the Mediterranean, were well able to distinguish between the two.


The zones of attack varied from week to week; but throughout the German submarine commanders preferred the western to the eastern basin. A severe attack in the Gulfs of Lyons and Genoa was generally followed by another against the Algiers coastal route and the channel between Tunis and Sicily. Both these areas were within the French zone of control, and the French could only do as we were doing in the approach routes to the British islands: vary the tracks that shipping followed, and patrol the terminal points. They were short of patrol craft, and the defence never kept the attack in check; also, as far as we could tell, the line of British drifters across the Otranto Straits seldom impeded the in‑ or out‑going passages of the Cattaro flotilla. In July the attack was extended to the transport route between Sicily and southern Greece, and the approach routes to Salonica were mined at fairly regular intervals. The attack upon the transports was not successful, and the German submarine commanders made the destruction of merchant shipping their principal concern.


On June 9 Arnauld's submarine – U.35 ‑ was located in the Straits of Otranto, outward bound. He took her up the western coast of Italy and made havoc of shipping in the Gulf of Genoa, and then operated for about a fortnight off the coast of Spain, or on the traffic route between Marseilles and northern France. He carried with him an expert marksman from the High Seas Fleet, and destroyed nearly all the ships he attacked by gunfire. The method was most successful; and when U.35 returned to Cattaro at the beginning of July, Arnauld had sunk over forty ships, half of them steamers of heavy tonnage. He was succeeded in July by Walther Forstmann in U.39, who operated with telling effect off the northern coast of Algeria between the 12th and the 25th, while a smaller boat, presumably from the Austrian submarine flotillas, took station between Malta and Greece and attacked shipping on the eastern route. Arnauld made his most destructive cruise in the month of August. He started out towards the end of July, and went back to his old hunting grounds, between the northeastern coast of Spain and the Gulf of Genoa. In three weeks he sank about fifty steamers, with a total tonnage of 76,500, and gained the extraordinary distinction of having destroyed two‑thirds of the tonnage sunk in every theatre of war during the month of August, and of having done this enormous amount of damage with a single four‑inch gun. He


June‑Dec. 1916



was succeeded towards the end of the month by Max Valentiner in U.38, who took a heavy toll of shipping between the Balearic Islands and Spain. The losses were most felt by British and Italian shipping, and during August the French redistributed their patrol forces along the Algerian coast; but this reorganisation of the defence forces did not cheek the losses.


The reinforcements sent out from Germany seem to have reached the Mediterranean during the last three months of the year, and the number of operating submarines increased. During September, three large U‑boats were located at work at the same time, whilst one or more boats of a smaller type operated in the eastern basin. In October the number rose slightly, and during December the French Intelligence Department identified six separate cruises by large U‑boats, and three by vessels of a smaller type. The losses rose proportionately, and to the British Government they were particularly serious; vessels under the British flag in the Mediterraean are generally steamers of considerable size, and though as a rule more Italian than British ships were lost during any given month, a heavy proportion of the total loss of carrying power was borne by British tonnage.


The most serious feature of the position was that in the Mediterranean, as at home, the losses showed a distinct increase during the last two months of the year, and the German submarines were operating with relative immunity. From June to the end of the year only three German submarines were lost in the Mediterranean area, and on July 30 the drifters on the Otranto barrage were responsible for sinking the German submarine – UB.44 ‑ which was known to have been destroyed by our anti‑submarine forces. In contrast to the rising list of shipping losses, the list of U‑boat destructions showed a tendency to decline. Everything, indeed, seemed to show that our seaborne traffic was threatened by what might prove to be a danger of the first order:


(The Allied losses in the Mediterranean during the last six months of the year were:

British, 96 vessels, 415,471 tons; French, 24 vessels, 64,829 tons; Italian, 136 vessels, 181,831 tons. Total 256 vessels, 662,131 tons. The British loss was therefore 62 per cent. of the total tonnage, and 32 per cent. of the total number of ships.)











The Moewe


Late in the autumn of 1916, the German High Command decided upon a plan for attacking our trade routes in the outer oceans with surface raiders. The enterprise was timed to start from two months to a month before the beginning of unrestricted submarine warfare, and was probably designed as a preliminary to that desperate venture. If so, the plan of combining a cruiser attack upon the outer routes with the submarine onslaught upon the approach routes in home waters was, in itself, a good one. A raiding cruiser which shifts its ground continually and creates uncertainty in distant ports of shipment may compel unwieldy concentrations of cruiser forces which must become wholly absorbed in watching focal points and carrying out sweeps and searches. If the three German raiders selected for this service were able to keep up a continuous attack upon our communications in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, they had good reason to hope that cruiser forces, which would otherwise be employed in convoying and protecting shipping in the Atlantic and waters near the British Isles, would be pinned to distant points in these outer seas.


In this country it had been realised for months past that the Germans might do great mischief if they could devise and carry out an efficient plan for raiding the distant trade routes; and the Admiralty and Admiral Jellicoe had taken elaborate precautions to meet the danger. Cruiser forces were under standing orders to take up patrol stations in all the exits to the North Sea as soon as we should have knowledge that a raider was out; and their stations ~ were altered in accordance with our latest intelligence. (See Appendix A and Map 14.) The German raiders nevertheless eluded us at the start, but this was only because we never knew within seven days the actual date of their sailing: each of them, in fact, contrived


Aug.‑Sept. 1916 



to get to sea without any information of their departure reaching the British Admiralty; and it was that which saved them.


The problem had been carefully considered not only by the central authorities but by the commanders of our cruiser squadrons on the outer routes. On September 22, 1916, Rear‑Admiral Sydney Fremantle took command of the 9th Cruiser Squadron in succession to Vice‑Admiral Sir Archibald Moore. He had under his command the cruiser King Alfred (flag), the old battleship Swiftsure, the cruisers Donegal and Sutlej, and the armed merchant cruisers Ophir and Avenger. By the original war orders the area under his control lay between the latitudes of St Vincent, Cape Verde Islands, and the 44th parallel, and between the meridian of 40 degrees W. and the African coast. Inside this zone an area had been allotted to the French 6e escadre legere under Rear-Admiral Jaures, the western and northern boundaries of which were longitude 20 degrees W. and latitude 30 degrees N. (The 6e escadre legere consisted of Kleber (flag), Desaix and Dupleix: its base of operations was Dakar.)


This disposition dated from the early days of the war, when the German light cruisers were still abroad and operating on the trade routes; in August 1916 the Admiralty considered that such rigid limits of command were no longer necessary, and wrote to the Admiral Commanding to tell him that "the 9th Cruiser Squadron is stationed in the Atlantic for service against the enemy as required. It is neither desirable nor possible to lay down limits to the area in which it may be called upon to operate. It is not an isolated squadron operating by itself as a self‑contained unit; but it is a collection of vessels maintained as a strategical reserve for reinforcing and emergency purposes."


To the south of the 9th Cruiser Squadron were the cruiser Highflyer and the armed merchant cruiser Marmora; and, further south again, patrolling off the south‑east coast of America, were the light cruisers Glasgow and Amethyst, and the armed merchant cruisers Macedonia, Orama and Edinburgh Castle.


Since March the operations of the 9th Cruiser Squadron had been much assisted by the Portuguese declaration of war against Germany; in consequence of which our cruisers were free to make unrestricted use of the harbour facilities at Funchal and the Cape Verde Islands. But in another respect our difficulties had increased. The cruise of U.53 to the western side of the Atlantic had proved that Madeira, the Cape Verde Islands and the Canaries were all within the zone of action of the German submarines of the new type. The open roadsteads of Funchal and Porto Praya were therefore no longer suitable as war anchorages or coaling stations, and the headquarters of the squadron was now Sierra Leone.


On taking over the command Admiral Fremantle issued a set of war orders, describing generally the scope of his operations, the measures to be taken against raiders, and the special precautions to be adopted if submarines attacked the area. Under the first head he proposed to arrange for his ships to make passages through zones where shipping was thickest "to demonstrate our command of the sea, and our intention to enforce our rights, to neutral trade." In order to carry this out, he intended never to have more than two ships at the base at one time; to keep a ship in the Azores continuously; and to see to it that the African coast north of latitude 30 degrees N. was frequently visited.


With regard to the second head, of special precautions, careful consideration seemed to show that a raiding cruiser's best plan of operation would be to attack trade near the Canary Islands, and to use as a coaling station some deserted anchorage on the African coast. In that event, Admiral Fremantle decided that his endeavour "would he to organise a sweep, or a series of sweeps, on a broad front in such a direction as to afford the best opportunity of finding the enemy while he is cruising to attack trade," and he proposed that the French squadron should co‑operate on the eastern wing of the advance. If the enemy should raid the trade routes with a battle cruiser, the 9th Cruiser Squadron would either act as a scout line for the battle cruisers sent out from England, or, if none could be spared, keep concentrated and "seek out the enemy with a view to making him burn coal and preventing him from doing damage." Admiral Fremantle also took the precaution to add, that, if faced with a battle cruiser raid, he did not intend to accept action unless the circumstances were decidedly favourable.


During October he visited the African coast to see how far it would afford facilities to enemy submarines operating against the trade routes to the westward. He found that, though the French were keeping a trawler patrol at work off the Moroccan coast, the Spanish Government had no means of making their neutrality respected in the Spanish zone further south. Having visited the Cape Verde Islands in the last part of the month, Admiral Fremantle went on to Dakar to confer with Admiral Jaures. He arrived on November 4: three days later a conference of the two


Nov.-Dec. 1916  



staffs was held, to make arrangements for common action against raiders or submarines. Admiral Fremantle continued to receive reports that enemy submarines intended to attack his zone. On November 22, therefore, when the whole squadron had assembled in Sierra Leone, he took the opportunity of discussing the problem of submarine attack with the military and civil authorities. He found that nobody had seriously considered what ought to be done if Sierra Leone were attacked, and a set of emergency orders was accordingly drawn up.


Events soon showed the wisdom of Admiral Fremantle's preparations. Ever since his return home in March 1916 (See Vol. III., pp. 287‑70.), Count Nikolaus zu Dohna Schlodien had retained his command of the Moewe; and on November 22 he slipped out into the North Sea for a new raid against British commerce. In his account he does not quote his orders, but says simply that he preserved the utmost secrecy about his departure. On this occasion he was not acting by himself. The Moewe was followed, about a week later, by the Wolf, commanded by Captain Nerger, who had orders to operate in the Indian Ocean; whilst on December 21 Count von Luckner left in the ship Seeadler for an attack on the Pacific routes. The Moewe was the first to begin active operations and she was the first of the raiders of whom we had news.


Count zu Dohna's earlier movements cannot be traced with any accuracy, but it seems fairly certain that he made his way along the eastern side of the North Sea in very bad weather and turned west when in or about the latitude of the Faroes. By November 30 he had set his course to the south; two days later he made his first capture, the British cold‑storage vessel Voltaire, which was then on a voyage to America in ballast. The position was latitude 41 degrees 43' N., longitude 36 degrees 48' W., that is, he was roughly half‑way across the great circle track between Cape Clear (S.W. Ireland) and Cape Race (Newfoundland); and it was only by a piece of exceptional luck that the Moewe was not at once reported. The Voltaire had an old gun mounted aft, and Count zu Dohna had to use his own armament very freely before he could get her captain to strike. No sooner was the fight over, and the Voltaire left sinking, than a Dutch vessel, whose captain must certainly have heard the firing, steamed past and asked, by signal, whether the Moewe had taken up the crew of the sinking steamer. Why the Dutch captain made no further report of the incident has always remained completely unknown.


Count zu Dohna determined to direct his first operations against the North American trade route, and so held his position for the next few days. He captured nothing during December 3, and on December 4 he had an unforeseen misfortune; he brought to and examined a vessel which proved to be the Belgian relief ship Samland. As she had a safe‑conduct from the German Embassy in New York, after destroying her wireless installation, he let her go, and this meant that he could only keep his operations secret for some three or four more days. He had gained a much longer start than this on his first voyage; but he realised that even now it would take some time after the alarm was given to organise a search. He therefore decided that he could remain on the North Atlantic track for some days longer without risk, and between the 6th and the 12th he steered on a west‑south‑westerly course diagonally across the great circle tracks between New England and the Lizard, capturing five British steamers as he went.


(The Cambrian Range, 4,234 tons, grain and piece goods; the King George, 3,852 tons, munitions; the Georgic, 10,077 tons, general cargo; the Yarrowdale, 4,652 tons, munitions; and the St. Theodore, 4,992 tons, coal.)


Of these he sank three, but kept the Yarrowdale and the St. Theodore. At last, on December 9, he heard the Bermuda wireless station warning all vessels within call that there was a raider in the North Atlantic. Even then he was reluctant to abandon the North Atlantic routes; and in the meanwhile our counter‑measures were being pressed forward. (See Map 8.)


The Admiralty received the Samland's report on the 7th, and at once informed Paris and all the responsible officers in the Atlantic. Troop transports at the Cape, Dakar and Sierra Leone were ordered to remain in harbour until further orders; and the five transports which were known to be at sea were ordered back to Sierra Leone.


(The Borda, City of Sparta, Durham Castle, Willochra and Tofna.)


There was a general resemblance between the latest description of the raider and those which had come in when she was at sea during the early months of the year, but not yet enough to establish her identity. All the Admiralty could say with certainty was, that the new raider had a short, broad funnel, and two rakish masts, and that her armament consisted of one 6‑inch, two 4.7‑inch and two 8‑inch guns and four torpedo tubes. (The calibres were necessarily approximate, as they wore the guesses of a Belgian merchant captain.


Dec. 1916



At the moment when these reports came in, our forces in the North Atlantic were disposed as follows:‑



Leviathan: Kingston, Jamaica.  

Roxburgh: on passage to Bermuda, from Jamaica.

Carnarvon: at sea off Bermuda.    

Antrim: Bermuda.

Isis: Halifax.  

Calgarian: Halifax.

Caesar: Bermuda, guardship.    

Devonshire: Halifax.

Berwick: Kingston, Jamaica.

Drake: at sea, Bermuda to Trinidad.

Laurentic: Liverpool, in dock.  




King Alfred: Freetown.    

Swiftsure: Sierra Leone.

Ophir: Sierra Leone.   

Donegal: Dakar.

Sutlej: Gibraltar.

Orotava: on passage to Sierra Leone.



Highflyer: Sierra Leone.

Marmora: patrolling between Bathurst and the Cape Verde Islands.



Glasgow: Cape Town. 

Macedonia: on passage, Abrolhos Rocks to Pernambuco.

Amethyst: Vicosa Reef.    

Orama: Abrolhos Rocks.

Edinburgh Castle: at the Plate.



Having only recently worked out his plans for meeting the very emergency that had now arisen, Admiral Fremantle at once took action, and ordered his cruisers to sweep along the trade route towards Madiera, and the Josephine Bank, with Admiral Jaures and his cruisers on their right flank. A few hours after they had got to sea, an Admiralty telegram arrived telling him to "suspend action." The Admiralty had, in fact, worked out a plan for a co‑ordinated search by our Atlantic squadrons. The outline of this was as follows.


On the western side of the Atlantic, Vice‑Admiral M. E. Browning, commanding the North American and West Indies Station, was to distribute his force over four lines of search: (i) in the north, the Devonshire and Calgarian were to sweep along the main trade route to longitude 50 degrees W.; (II) the Leviathan, Antrim and Carnarvon were to spread on a line of search joining Bermuda to the Azores, until they reached the 45th meridian; (III) the Roxburgh and Berwick were to watch the Mona passage, and (iv) the Drake, which had been cruising in the West Indies, was to sweep on a line between Trinidad and the Azores as far as latitude 25 degrees N. In addition to this, the French Admiral in the West Indies was asked to send two cruisers along the northern coast of Brazil to search for secret coaling places, such as Maraca Island, which the Moewe had used as a base during her previous voyage.


(The Weymouth was ordered out from home to reinforce him; she arrived at Bermuda on December 22, and had at once to go into dock. She took no part in the sweep.)


The dispositions for the other squadrons in the Atlantic were based upon our arrangements for diverting traffic from its ordinary routes; with regard to which a word of explanation is necessary. Soon after the Moewe's first raid the Admiralty had drawn up a plan for diverting the Cape shipping to four tracks, two to the eastward and two to the westward, of the main route; and of sending the Plate trade along two lanes which passed 200 and 600 miles eastward of St. Paul Rocks. The main object of these artificially created routes was, of course, to break up the concentrations of shipping which ordinarily occur at such nodal points as the Rocas and the Canaries. They were not to be rigidly adhered to, but to be used as a general guide. Intelligence officers abroad were to vary the route instructions as they thought fit, so long as they contrived to keep the normal routes as deserted as possible, and saw to it that no two ships, sailing within a few days of one another, followed the same track. Admiral Fremantle was therefore ordered to assemble his ships in latitude 10' N. longitude 270 W., and sweep up the traffic lane to the west of St Vincent; whilst the French patrolled the area to the east of the 30th meridian between parallels of S' and 14' N. The Sutlej, which was just completing her refit at Gibraltar, was directed to make for Sierra Leone down the traffic lane which Admiral Fremantle's ships were about to search. The Highflyer was to remain at Sierra Leone; whilst the Marmora, and the Kent from the Cape Station, convoyed the homeward‑bound transports.


(The Gloucestershire, Almanzora, Orcoma, Arlanza (10th Cruiser Squadron) were ordered out from home to reinforce him. The Almanzora, Orcoma and Arlanza arrived at Sierra Leone on January 4, and the Gloucestershire on the 8th and took no part in the sweep. The Arlanza and the Almanzora returned home on January 14: the other two vessels remained on the station as escorts for the transports on the Cape route. They took no part in the operations against the raider.)


In the Southern Atlantic measures were taken on the same principle. The Amethyst was to remain near Abrolhos Rocks to protect the colliers; the Edinburgh Castle was to protect the shipping at the River Plate; whilst the Macedonia and Orama were directed to sweep up the traffic lane to the east of Fernando Noronha. The Glasgow was at Cape Town refitting and could not be included in the dispositions.


Dec. 12‑31, 1916



Carefully as these measures were thought out, they were fruitless. They left a gap between the eastern ends of the sweeps ordered for Admiral Browning's squadron and the western limit of Admiral Fremantle's line of search, and it was exactly down this gap that Count zu Dohna directed his course.


On December 12 he transferred about 400 prisoners to the Yarrowdale and ordered Lieutenant Badewitz to return with them to Germany. The vessels parted company on the following day and the Yarrowdale arrived safely in Germany on December 31. By the capture of the St. Theodore Count zu Dohna had made up a stock of 7,000 tons of coal. He parted from her almost at once, after putting her in charge of a prize crew; but gave her a rendezvous at which to meet him. As we have seen, the Moewe's course down the mid‑Atlantic took her clear of Admiral Fremantle's and Admiral Browning's cruisers; but it also took her down a very deserted part of the Atlantic. The result was, that from December 12 to December 26 she only captured the Dramatist, an English steamer laden with Californian fruit, and the Nantes, a French sailing vessel.


Having met the St. Theodore at the rendezvous on the 23rd, Count zu Dohna decided to arm her and send her on an independent cruise under the charge of Sub‑Lieutenant Koehler. From December 23 to 28 the work of converting the St. Theodore went on in mid‑ocaan. She was successfully fitted with a wireless apparatus and armed; and when the work was finished the Count headed for the South American route at full speed. He was, in fact, making for the RocasFernando‑Noronha area, where he operated, off and on, for the next six weeks. That he should have been able to do so almost without hindrance is truly remarkable. In view of the success with which the Karlsruhe had operated in this zone two years before, and of its attraction for the Moewe a year ago, we had every reason to guard it, and, indeed, almost throughout the raid our cruisers were patrolling it. Nor was this all; such reports as we could get of the Moewe's movements all tended to show that she was working in that area, so that our vigilance at the vital spot was redoubled. In spite of all this the Moewe remained at sea for as long as her coal and provisions held out and returned to harbour at her commander's convenience. Facts so surprising at first sight deserve to be closely investigated.


The Admiralty's dispositions had allotted the Fernando-Noronha‑Rocas zone, which Count zu Dohna was now approaching, to the Macedonia and Orama. When the orders were sent out the Macedonia was on her way to Pernambuco, and the Orama was at the Abrolhos anchorage; both vessels, therefore, had time to get into the Fernando Noronha zone before the Moewe. They were actually in the area by the 16th, and at once began to work along the trade route between the Equator and latitude 5 degrees S. The Count was still in the Northern Atlantic, and, though his southerly course carried him clear of the Drake, it none the less took him into an area which we now held strongly. He was, therefore, standing directly into danger; and it might have been thought that his destruction was a mere matter of time.


On December 25 the King Alfred, Swiftsure, Donegal and Sutlej finished their sweep and returned to harbour. Three days later, Admiral Fremantle was relieved by Rear-Admiral T. D. L. Sheppard, who at once wired home a fresh scheme of search. (Admiral Fremantle had been appointed to the command of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, Grand Fleet.) The Admiralty did not approve it, and they sent out new orders on December 30. They had evidently made up their minds that it was a mere waste of coal and machinery to search for the raider on such vague data, and their main preoccupation was to hold the vital point at Fernando Noronha as strongly as possible. The King Alfred, Swiftsure and Sutlej were ordered to remain concentrated at Sierra Leone; whilst the Donegal and Orotava, accompanied by two colliers fitted with wireless telegraphy, swept down the trade route and relieved the Macedonia and Orama at Fernando Noronha. These vessels were then to move south and reinforce the Edinburgh Castle off the Plate; Trinidad was to be examined on the way.


The new dispositions therefore covered the vital point quite as effectively as the old; but as it was always possible that the raider would slip past our patrols, and work in the South Atlantic from some base in the Patagonian archipelago, there was another point to be considered. The high‑power wireless station at the Falklands was exposed to an attack from the sea, and could even be put out of action by indirect fire from Berkeley Sound; so that, if it were to be protected, a ship would have to be permanently stationed there until the raid was over or until some kind of local defence had been erected. On January 4, therefore, orders were sent to the Lancaster - one of our Pacific cruisers, which was at the time at Port Stanley ‑ to land two of her 6‑inch guns. The work, which was very difficult, was not completed until a month later.


Dec. 28, 1916‑Jan. 9, 1917



From December 28 to New Year's Day Count zu Dohna held on south towards our cruisers, steadily increasing his danger. He hoped to pick up some of the grain and meat cargoes, and so from the 1st to the 5th of January steamed slowly southwards at about eight knots. His search for rneat and grain ships from the Plate was not successful, and it very nearly brought him into contact with our cruisers. Between the 1st and the 5th the Orama, the Macedonia and the Amethyst were sweeping north‑eastwards from Fernando Noronha. (See Map 9.) They crossed Count zu Dohna's line of advance on the 2nd and 3rd and when they turned south‑westwards on the 4th, he was well to the south of them. He was therefore undisturbed, and only made two small captures, a four‑masted french schooner and the Japanese steamer Hudson Maru; on the 6th he turned further to the south to a course which converged with the line patrolled by the three British cruisers. They were now catching him up and were sweeping towards the coast, with the colliers Daleham and Minieh in company; these vessels, being fitted with wireless telegraphy, were stationed ahead to extend the zone of search. The course of the squadron was now converging rapidly with the Moewe's; but the Count was quite unaware that he was standing into danger.


Late on the 7th the British steamer Radnorshire was captured and sunk by the Moewe about 280 miles to the south‑westward of our three cruisers, and some time next day the Count swung his vessel round and steered in a direction which took him straight to the Amethyst. When he did this our ships were rather widely spread. At a quarter‑past six on the evening of the same day the squadron had closed, and the Macedonia, after taking all the mails on board, steered towards Pernambuco. The Orama went straight on with the Daleham in company; the Amethyst and the Minieh remained behind to coal. They finished coaling during the afternoon of the following day and the Minieh was then sent on ahead, and told to steer for the rendezvous at six knots. Her captain was told that the Amethyst would be twenty miles astern, and he was ordered to report suspicious vessels by wireless telegraphy. On the morning of the 9th the Amethyst increased speed and sighted the Minieh at six o'clock, about eight miles away, bearing three points on the starboard bow. After this the two vessels were out of sight of each other all day; just before dark the captain of the Amethyst saw smoke coming from the direction where the Minieh was supposed to be; and as he had received no wireless message from the collier, reporting a suspicious vessel, he concluded that everything was in order and did not steam forward to sight her before dark.


In the meantime, late in the afternoon, Captain Williams of the Minieh had sighted smoke ahead; but being under orders only to report suspicious vessels, he refrained for the moment from sending out any message. (The line under patrol was to the west of the secret track along which shipping was being diverted. The object of the patrol was to intercept the raider if he tried to proceed easterly or westerly off the trade routes to coal " all vessels steaming at right angles to the track of the patrol were presumably deemed auspicious and interrogated.)


For the next hour the strange vessel and the Minieh closed, and at five o'clock the new‑comer, when she was only half a mile away, suddenly hoisted the German ensign, made a signal to the Minieh to stop using wireless and swung out her guns. Captain Williams told the operator to disregard the order from the raider; to signal "What ship is that? " and to make the S.O.S. It is impossible to be sure whether the operator really attempted to make these signals or not. This much is certain: nothing was heard in the Amethyst's wireless room, and in a few moments all chance of sending out a message from the Minieh was at an end, as the Moewe's boarding officer came over her side with an armed party. (The naval authorities maintained that the wireless operator could not have done so, because none of our cruisers heard anything at all, and the wireless rooms in our ships would most certainly have been aware that jamming was going on. The contention is not a strong one, as the Moewe undoubtedly jammed a great many S.O.S. calls sent out by merchant ships in the Rocas area, just before they were captured, and none of our cruisers picked up any sign either of signalling or of jamming.)


Captain Williams did what he could to disguise the real position, and to keep Count zu Dohna ignorant of his danger; but the facts were too obvious to be kept dark for long. Whilst the Germans were ransacking the ship they came upon the chief officer's log, which showed them that the Minieh was the auxiliary to a squadron of cruisers. Put thoroughly on his guard by this discovery, Count zu Dohna sank the Minieh at about nine o'clock, two hours after sunset, and steamed off to the eastward. He was away in time. Shortly after dark Captain the Earl of Glasgow, in the Amethyst, increased speed, intending to close the Minieh during the night and go with her in company to the rendezvous next morning. But when day dawned on the 10th, the collier was nowhere to be seen. Count zu Dohna, after bringing off his amazing stroke, was also out of sight, making off eastwards towards the secret trade route.


Captain Lord Glasgow steamed south towards the rendezvous


Jan. 10‑Feb. 2, 1917



all day, puzzled that the Minieh was not sighted, but still not suspecting what had happened. When he met the Orama and the Daleham and found that they too had seen nothing of the Minieh, he at once started a search. The three ships were joined by the Macedonia on the 11th, and the sweep was kept up until the 18th. It was then realised that the collier was lost ‑ snatched almost from under her consort's wing; the Amethyst parted company and made for Bahia; the Macedonia and Orama swept towards Trinidad, to carry out the Admiralty orders of the 30th, and then moved south for the Plate.


After sinking the Minieh, the Count decided to leave the Rocas area altogether. The Hudson Maru was loaded up with prisoners on the 10th, and sent to Pernambuco; after which the Moewe held on to the eastward across the Central Atlantic. Count zu Dohna met the St. Theodore, which had been christened the Geier, on the 17th, and learned that her cruise had been very unproductive. Since the two ships had parted company, Sub‑Lieutenant Koehler had only captured one small Canadian vessel. During the 18th and 19th the Moewe took in coal from the Geier, after which the two ships again separated and the Moewe held on to the eastward. From January 22 to February 2 she cruised on the Cape route between the latitudes of 15 degrees S. and 30 degrees S.


In the meantime the dispositions ordered by the Admiralty on December 30 were being put into effect. Their general purpose was to move the cruisers under Commodore Aubrey Smith, Senior Naval Officer, East Coast of South America, further south, and to transfer the patrol of the Rocas-Fernando‑Noronha area to ships detached especially from the 9th Cruiser Squadron. The Orotava and Donegal, which had been ordered south, left Sierra Leone on January 5 and 6, 1917, respectively, and on the 15th arrived off the Rocas. The Moewe appears to have been somewhere to the south of them as they approached the Rocas; but, though not far off, she was never sighted nor in any real danger from them. The two cruisers made a sweep towards Lavandeira Reef, which they reached on the 16th. On the 21st, having coaled with the utmost difficulty, they sailed again and swept to the eastward. The Donegal soon developed serious engine-room defects; and, on the 23rd, her commanding officer, Captain d'Oyley ordered the Orotava to patrol near Fernando Noronha, with the collier Albistan, whilst he returned to Sierra Leone with the Pretoria. At the moment, Commodore Aubrey Smith was returning to his station in the Glasgow, which had been laid up at Cape Town for a refit, and was on his way to Abrolhos Rocks.


Realising that this meant a reinforcement to the station, Captain d'Oyley asked the commodore to support the Orotava with an additional cruiser. This the commodore could not do, but knowing that the Orotava was running short of water, he wired to her to go to Pernambuco to get it. The message never got through, and she left the patrol for Sierra Leone on the 30th. Thus for the first time since the operation began the Rocas area was temporarily uncovered. The gap in our dispositions did not, however, give the Moewe any additional facilities; for she was, all the time, at the other side of the Atlantic; and Commodore Aubrey Smith soon had the area under observation again. The arrival of the Macedonia and the Orama off the Plate released the Edinburgh Castle, which moved up to Abrolhos Rocks. Here she found the Amethyst, and was joined later by the commodore himself in the Glasgow, which, after calling at Pernambuco on the 19th, arrived on the 22nd at Abrolhos Rocks. On the 24th all three vessels got under way again, and swept north; the Amethyst parted company on February 1, and returned to watch the base at Abrolhos Rocks; but the Glasgow and the Edinburgh Castle held on and reached the Fernando Noronha area just as the Orotava was returning to Sierra Leone.


The prisoners from the Hudson Maru had been landed at Pernambuco. From them we got a better description of the raider, and a practical certainty that she intended to operate on the Plate route against the meat and grain vessels. We knew, moreover, from the reported conversations between the prisoners and their German captors, that the captain of the Moewe was quite baffled at finding none of the cargoes for which he was seeking. Our system of secret routes was therefore working well. The information thus received was not, however, enough to alter the existing dispositions, more particularly as the area in which the Moewe was supposed to be operating was already being closely watched.


On February 2 Count zu Dohna left his position on the Cape route, and steered for his old zone of operations off the Brazilian coast; a day later, Commodore Aubrey Smith, in the Glasgow, and Captain Marshalll, in the Edinburgh Castle, having finished their northerly sweep, turned southwards, and made for Abrolhos Rocks, which they reached on the 10th. The hunters were, therefore, well placed for running down the quarry, although for the time being the scent was lost. The Moewe was, in fact, still many hundreds of miles away. After leaving the Cape route, where he had found absolutely nothing, the Count steamed towards Trinidad in the South


Feb. 11‑14, 1917



Atlantic. On February 11, he fell in with the Geier, and learned that she had only sunk one vessel since she had last parted company; the two vessels then steamed on towards the island where they intended to coal. Ostensibly no better spot could have been chosen. The compiler of the Admiralty Sailing Directions for the South American coast describes the isolation of this lonely rock with scientific precision: "It is a rugged mass of rocks, the centre peak rising 1,952 feet and what soil there is on the island is on the eastern and southern sides .... the whole shore is so ironbound, and there is such a swell surging against it that it is almost impossible to land anywhere without danger of staving the boat ... the shore is skirted by sharp rugged coral rocks. The island was taken possession of by Dr. Halley, afterwards Astronomer Royal on April 17, 1700, and in 1781 the English tried to form a settlement and failed; and, more recently, the Brazilians, with like success." This certainly conveys loneliness and desolation, and the Count approached the island in full confidence that his coaling would only be watched by "sea eagles, man‑of‑war birds and boobies." He found to his dismay that the shores were covered with bungalows and bathing machines; after an anxious stay of a few hours, at an anchorage which, he hoped, was not visible from the settlement, he again made off to sea. On the 15th the Moewe was about 300 miles east‑south‑east of Abrolhos Rocks, having sunk her consort the Geier on the previous day.


For a second time the Count was standing into danger. On the 12th the Glasgow had left Abrolhos Rocks and sailed for Rio, leaving the Amethyst and the Edinburgh Castle in the area, and the Orama to the south of it.


(The Glasgow's movements since the first alarm were: December 7 to 27 at Simonstown, refitting; December 27 to January 3 on passage to St. Helena; January 4 to 10 on passage to Sierra Leone; January 13 to 19 on passage to Pernambuco; January 20 to 22 on passage to the Abrolhos; January 23 to February 7 patrolling between Abrolhos and the Rocaa; February 7 to 8 at Bahia; February 8 to 10 on passage to Vicosa Reef. The Macedonia was patrolling off the Plate.)


As the Abrolhos Rocks and the Vicosa Reef were the coaling bases of the squadron, they could not be left unguarded, and the Amethyst remained at anchor near the Vicosa Reef for the rest of the month. The Edinburgh Castle, which, as has been shown, joined her there from the Rocas area on the 9th, remained at anchor until the 14th. She then weighed and made for the secret trade route to the eastward, with the colliers Headcliffe and Dunclutha in company, on a course which took her almost straight for the Moewe.


After sinking the Geier on the 14th, the Moewe took up a station on the 20th parallel about three hundred and sixty miles from the continent. The Count had at last got on to the route to which the Plate trade had been diverted, and he soon became aware of it. The new hunting‑ground was more productive than any he had been on for several weeks past, and he at once began to make captures.


(On the 15th, s.s. Brecknockshire; on the night of the 15th‑16th, the French Prince; and on the morning of the 16th, s.s. Eddie.)


Count zu Dohna rose early on the morning of the 16th to superintend the capture and sinking of the Eddie; and a few minutes later the raider was in touch with the Edinburgh Castle and her colliers. But here again the luck was against us; for it so happened that, when Count zu Dohna sighted our ships, they were carrying out a special evolution, so that their movements at once roused his suspicions. Unaware of the raider's presence, Captain Marshalll of the Edinburgh Castle had stopped his engines at 8.15 and sent a whaler with fresh provisions towards the Headcliffe and Dunclutha, whose masters closed him. When the Count sighted them, therefore, he saw a large two‑funnelled vessel completely stopped, and another moving across his bows. Concluding at once that he was in face of a trap, and that the moving vessel was a decoy, he approached cautiously. His suspicions were confirmed when he saw signals going up from the Headcliffe, and he at once made off at the top of his speed.


Probably because he had issued strict standing orders to make as little smoke as possible, our ships did not sight the Moewe until half‑past ten, when she was reported to the eastward from the masthead of the collier Headcliffe. At the moment she was barely visible, so that there was nothing to cause suspicion of her; but when the Edinburgh Castle moved towards her, she was seen to swing round sixteen points and make off to the north‑eastwards at high speed. Captain Marshalll grasped the position in an instant and steamed after her in chase. The Moewe had a start of anything up to twelve miles, and it was soon evident that the Edinburgh Castle would never overtake her. Up to noon our ship held her own; but, with her bottom foul, and her engines in need of an overhaul, she never quite worked up to 14 knots. By one o'clock the raider was drawing ahead, and at 2.40 Captain Marshalll. gave up the chase and turned to, starboard to examine the s.s. Hermione of Liverpool, which was approaching from the north‑castward.


(Captain Marshall's movement towards the Hermione was quite misunderstood by Count zu Dohna, who thought the Hermione was mistaken for the Moewe.


This was the


Feb-March 1917



last that was seen of the Moewe. When Commodore Aubrey Smith received the news, the Glasgow was patrolling the plate route about 300 miles to the south of Abrolhos Rocks; the Macedonia and the Orama were off the Plate; and the Amethyst was guarding the base at the Vicosa Reef. Thinking, from the course the raider had taken, that she was making for the Plate, the commodore decided to move south in the Glasgow, and to send the Orama north up the traffic lane. But in point of fact Count zu Dohna was now nearing the end of his resources and was making northwards for home.


He kept well out into the middle of the Atlantic, and sank six more British steamers on his way back.


(The Katherine (2,926 tons), the Rhodanthe (3,061 tons), the Esmeraldas (4,678 tons), the Otaki (9,575 tons), the Demeterton (6,048 tons), the Governor (5,524 tons).)


During the first days of March the Count took his ship through the western edge of Admiral Sheppard's zone, but he was never in any danger from our cruisers. Neither the Admiralty nor the Admiral had had any news of the Moewe's movements since February 16, and no special movements were made until March 9, when Admiral Sheppard left Sierra Leone with the King Alfred and Sutlej to sweep towards Ascension. All the other ships of his squadron were engaged in convoying transports; for all drafts and stores between Australia or East Africa and England were now sent round the Cape. In the south, Commodore Aubrey Smith had divided his force into two groups: one he kept off the Plate; with the other he set up a patrol of the secret trade route between latitude 25 degrees S. and the Equator. But these movements had no effect upon the Moewe's operations, which were practically at an end: when Admiral Sheppard began his sweep on the 12th, Count zu Dohna was somewhere in the latitude of Lisbon running for home.




The Leopard


The German Admiralty had evidently decided that the attack upon the outer routes ought to be maintained; for, just before the Moewe's return home (March 22) another raider put to sea. The new raider was the British steamer Yarrowdale, captured by the Moewe on her last voyage, and now fitted with an armament of about a dozen guns and two torpedo tubes: we do not know the name of her captain or what his orders were.


The Admiralty had a certain amount of information as to the enemy's intentions, and had ordered the Commander‑in-Chief to strengthen the Northern Patrol (10th Cruiser Squadron) and to keep a watch on the Norwegian coast. Admiral Beatty at once sent two cruisers and two armed boarding steamers to patrol to the north of the Shetlands along the meridian of 1 degrees W., and detached the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron with four destroyers to watch the Norwegian coast between the Nord Fiord and the Sogne Fiord. Both groups returned on the 14th, having sighted nothing: they were not ordered to renew the patrol, and were soon absorbed in other duties. At some time on the 20th or 21st the Moewe must have passed through the zone previously watched by the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron.


The Moewe's relief ‑ she was renamed the Leopard ‑ was not so fortunate; but her failure to escape into the Atlantic can only be explained by a retrospective glance at our arrangements for closing the North Sea.


In March 1916 the Commander‑in‑Chief had ordered that the Northern Patrol should be reinforced from the three Grand Fleet cruiser squadrons. His intention was to keep one cruiser watching the meridian of the Shetlands between latitude 62 degrees and 65 degrees ; for he considered it certain that outgoing and incoming raiders would cross this line. In the course of time this extra patrol became a supplementary force to the 10th Cruiser Squadron further west; and the duty of maintaining it, which, in the beginning, had been divided equally between the 2nd, 3rd and 7th Cruiser Squadrons, had fallen entirely upon the 2nd. The business of the patrol had also increased as time went on: in March 1916 it was intended to keep one cruiser and one armed boarding steamer on the work: a year later the allotted force was trebled.


On March 11, 1917, Admiral Fremantle issued one of his periodic instructions to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron. From March 10 until reliefs arrived, the patrol line north of the Shetlands was to be occupied by the Achilles and the Dundee, the Minotaur and the Royal Scot, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Fiona. The ships sailed from Swarbacks Minn on the appointed dates, and the week passed uneventfully; on March 16, the day before they were relieved, the Achilles and the Dundee were patrolling at the northern end of the line. The weather was as bleak and cheerless as the high latitude could make it. The sky was a mass of dull grey


March 16, 1917  



moving rapidly towards the northern horizon before a southeast wind; from time to time a patch of darker colour would bring with it a snow squall or a burst of cold, biting rain, more chilling than the snow itself. Just before noon on the 16th a steamer was sighted to the eastward of the Achilles. There was nothing remarkable in this; ships had been sighted and examined every day; it was the ordinary work of the patrol; so Captain F. M. Leake of the Achilles turned eastwards, and signalled to the Dundee to follow. The unknown steamer was evidently fast; for it was not until two o'clock that the Achilles, steaming at 15, and later at 18 knots, came up to her. She stopped when ordered and obeyed a further signal to turn towards the Dundee, which had fallen astern. (The Dundee was an armed boarding steamer of 2,187 tons, with two 4-inch guns.)


As soon as these two orders had been carried out, Captain Leake ordered Commander Selwyn M. Day, R.N.R., the captain of the Dundee, to lower a boat and examine her. Commander Day was, by now, very suspicious. The steamer was flying the Norwegian flag and called herself the Rena; it was true the name appeared in Lloyd's Register, but Commander Day could not understand why the letter N should have been painted upside down, and when the ship was bows on he realised that she was a large vessel; far larger than the 3,000 tons Rena of the register. Commander Day noticed also that all superfluous woodwork had been removed, and that she had no wireless; she had, moreover, steamed well and steadily at 13 knots for several hours, a thing of which no genuine cargo boat is capable. He spoke of all this to his assistant, Lieutenant F. H. Lawson, R.N.R., and told him that he thought the new‑comer was a raider.


Lieutenant Lawson at once volunteered to take charge of the boarding boat: an act of deliberate courage which cost him his life. At a quarter to three it was put into the water, and was rowed across towards the Rena: it was soon out of sight on her lee side. While Commander Day was waiting for the boarding party to give him a sign or a signal he inanceuvred his ship so as to keep her on the stranger's Weather quarter, ready, if needs be, to rake her with his two 4‑inch guns. If he was right in supposing that she was a disguised raider his position was most dangerous, for a broadside from her would blow him out of the water, and his only protection against it was to keep her from getting him on her beam. He therefore kept his ship in movement and noticed, after a few minutes, that the enemy was continually turning, as though trying to out‑manouevre him.


Commander Day kept his guns' crews closed up and waited. At twenty minutes to four, nearly an hour after Lieutenant Lawson had left the ship, the stranger's Norwegian flag, painted on her port quarter, fell out‑board with a crash. Commander Day waited no longer but at once gave the order to fire; almost as he did so, two torpedoes passed the Dundee's stern, hardly twenty yards away. The Achilles was four miles away in the east‑north‑east, so that the Dundee was now in the greatest danger. The enemy raider at first steamed away; as she did so Commander Day steered across her stern and raked her with his 4‑inch guns; as the range was very close every shot went home, and in a few minutes volumes of smoke and steam rose from the enemy. After a few minutes the German captain put his helm over and turned to starboard, but Commander Day was ready for him; he ported his helm so as to keep the enemy behind him and so dodged the deadly broadside. When the turns were completed the Dundee had fired over forty shells, and tremendous clouds of smoke were being carried north‑westward from the burning raider. Almost simultaneously the Achilles opened fire. Commander Day had now opened the range as much as he could, and decided, most unselfishly, that he must now risk everything to give the cruiser a clear line of fire: he therefore steered straight for the Achilles down the lane of smoke. As he did so, the enemy sent down a broadside; fortunately her firing was wild, and a few minutes later the armed boarding steamer was under the shelter of the Achilles.


About five minutes after the first gun was fired by the Dundee the Achilles's gunnery officer was recording hits upon the enemy. The raider was now a doomed vessel. She was often hidden from view in clouds of black smoke, and several times the gunners in the Achilles had to check their fire. For nearly an hour the Germans stood up against the stream of shell which poured into their ship; her internal fires, and the bursts of the heavy shell from the Achilles, started explosions and sent up jets of flame through the smoke clouds which rose out of her: when she began to settle down it seemed to some that the whole of her fore‑part was red‑hot; others thought that it was melting; but the Germans fought on without any sign of surrender. They could certainly have yielded without dishonour before the end came. It was thought both in the Achilles and the Dundee that the raider fought under the Norwegian colours. This may or may not be so; it would be easy enough to make a mistake on such a point in the confusion of an action; and men who fought


March 22, 1917



with such courage would be hardly likely to go to their death under a foreign flag. Just after half‑past four the raider sank. There were no survivors; Lieutenant Lawson and his crew perished with the Germans: he was doubtless made a prisoner when he went alongside the raider. He knew what he was doing when he volunteered to board so suspicious a ship, and he would never have wished his friends to hold their hands for his sake. He and his men must have spent their last moments of life in full knowledge of the success which they had bought.




The Seeadler


For the next six days no ships were reported overdue; but on March 22 news came in which showed that our difficulties were by no means ended. A neutral vessel arriving from the South American trade route informed us that she had been stopped on February 25 by a full-rigged ship, armed with guns and fitted with full raiding equipment and an auxiliary motor. The new raider was the Seeadler, formerly the Pass of Balmaha: and her captain, Count von Luckner. (Seeteufel, by Graf Felix von Luckner.) When first reported he had already been at sea for nearly three months, and had made several captures. His story claims our attention for the thoroughness and skill with which he had prepared for his cruise, and our admiration for the seamanlike chivalry with which he conducted it.


Felix von Luckner's career had not been that of an ordinary German officer. He had begun by going round the world in a sailing vessel as a fo'c'sle hand under the name of Phylax Luedicke; he had then passed the examination for an officer in the merchant marine, and finally through the influence of his family had entered the Imperial Navy. After serving in the Kronprinz at the battle of Jutland, he was transferred to the Moewe, where he remained under Count zu Dohna's command until the late autumn of the year. His very unusual training had evidently been carefully noted at the German Admiralty; for, when they formed their plans for sending out raiders at the end of 1916, Count von Luckner was sent for and ordered to take command of the Pass of Balmaha, a captured American sailing ship; to fit her out as a commerce raider at Geestemunde, and to get to sea when he could.


He carried out these orders with foresight and ingenuity. His first care was to get his vessel fitted with an auxiliary engine of 1,000 horse‑power, and with oil stowage of 480 tons and large fresh‑water tanks. The whole of the 'tween deck space was then furnished to receive prisoners, and hammocks and bedding were got ready. Cabins with three bunks and a washing basin each were built on the lower deck for officer prisoners, and a library of French and English books was got together to console them during their confinement. At the same time Count von Luckner searched all the shipping records he could lay his hands on, and found that the Pass of Balmaha resembled a Norwegian sailing vessel named the Maletta which, in the past, had carried cargoes between Copenhagen and Melbourne. He accordingly decided that his new command should be made to look as like her as possible and should sail under the fictitious name of Irma. A complete set of ship's papers, as for a voyage to Melbourne with timber, was prepared; all the vessel's deck machinery and even the thermometers, barometers and compasses were stamped with the names of Norwegian firms; the fo'c'sle was painted out and decorated with Norwegian picture postcards and illustrations from Norwegian weekly papers.


The personal records of the German Admiralty were then searched, and 23 seamen who could speak Norwegian were selected as part of the crew. Each was given a fictitious name and place of birth, and ordered to read up all about his native town in BŠdeker, so that he might speak with ease and familiarity of its streets and public buildings. To each, moreover, was handed a packet of family letters, or love‑letters, which the Count had ordered to be composed by a Norwegian scholar, and then rewritten in twenty different handwritings. To these were added photographs of girls, and of wives and children, stamped with the names of Norwegian photographers in every part of the country. Every man was then examined on the contents of his packet to be quite sure that he would make no slip inconsistent with their contents ‑ would know, for example, exactly what terms he was on with his sweetheart; what was his father's position or occupation; how many children he had, and what were their ages. It was made a punishable minor offence for a man to say, in December, that he had a baby ten months old, and not to have added the corresponding number of months when cross‑questioned again in March. Little is known about the character and personality of the carefully imaginative man who made these preparations. In his photographs


Dec. 21‑25, 1916



he looks like a German officer who affects the English style of appearance; his face is long, and beyond a slight prominence of the eyes his features are not remarkable. The photograph is rather theatrical, and shows him with a haughty, unattractive expression, which does not at all agree with what we know of him. His officers, being chosen from the merchant service, were certainly not his social equals; but he lived with them on easy terms, and seems to have admitted them to his friendship. In all the testimonies of his English and French prisoners there is no word of complaint against him; some even go out of their way to say that he treated them kindly; we can therefore conclude, with certainty, that he was a bold, calculating and adventurous leader; and we have every reason to believe that he was a kindly and courteous gentleman as well.


After a long wait in the Heligoland Bight, the Seeadler sailed on December 21, 1916. (This wait was nearly fatal to him. On December 9 the British Minister at Christiania warned the Government that a German warship would pass Haugesund that night. The Commander‑in‑Chief was informed, and sent out intercepting forces to close the exits from the North Sea on the 10th: they remained at sea until the 14th. The Minister was mistaken; the ship passing the Sound was an interned merchantman.)


Count von Luckner was clear in his mind that he would have to face an inspection by the British cruisers; if sighted he could not get away from them; and if he fell in with foul winds between Iceland and the Faroes, he might be beating to and fro for days across the British lines of patrol. Everything, therefore, depended upon the disguise of the ship and crew; which had been completed by dressing up a youngster, with a slight figure and a fresh girlish face, as a woman, in a habit specially made by a dressmaker ashore. The boy was instructed to play the part of captain's wife, and to pretend to be suffering from very severe toothache when the British officers came on board. By this artifice it was hoped that, out of respect for a sick woman, the boarding officers would not press their cross‑examination too rigorously, and would be content with looking at the ship's papers.


The Seeadler soon fell in with a very severe south‑westerly gale which drove her far to the north; when the weather abated, her sails and running and standing rigging were so completely frozen that she could not spread more canvas. Count von Luckner therefore steered to the southward, and on Christmas Day was brought to by an armed merchant cruiser, about midway between the Faroes and Iceland The German‑speaking section of the crew went below, and hid themselves in the cargo with bombs, rifles and revolvers in their hands. Our two officers then examined the ship's papers and the log, in the teeth of some ten invisible bayonets. The inspection was quite conscientiously carried out and nothing roused our officers' suspicions. As the ship's papers had been forged before the Seeadler was held up in the Heligoland Bight, the dates on her cargo manifest and bills of lading proved that her voyage had been delayed. The log was presumably written so as to show her at anchor in some Norwegian fjord during the time of her actual stay off the German rivers, and our boarding officer not unnaturally asked why the ship had been held up: Luckner answered that he had been warned against German raiders, which were then abroad and would certainly confiscate his ship and cargo if they found her. This satisfied our boarding officer, who went over the side into his boat.


Everything seemed to have gone well for Luckner; but in the next minute the whole artifice was on the point of being discovered. The Seeadler had backed her main topsails for the inspection, and was drifting slowly to leeward; the result was that the examination officer's boat, which had made fast on the lee side, could not get clear, and was dragged aft as the crew tried to shove off with their boat‑hooks. Count von Luckner thus saw the inspecting officers carried almost over the screw of the auxiliary motor, of which no mention had been made in the ship's papers; the British officers had only to look into the water to see it and the adventure was at an end. But Luckner's nerve did not fail him: as the boat drifted aft he went to the side, passed down a rope, and swung it to and fro so that the two officers in the boat had to duck to avoid being struck. As was to be expected, everybody looked upwards at the rope instead of downwards at the propeller, and a minute later the boat was clear of the Seeadler's side. As soon as the British cruiser was out of sight, the cargo was thrown overboard, the ensign hoisted and Christmas Day celebrated in German uniform. (This is Luckner's story; it cannot be corroborated in every detail, but it seems probable that his ship was examined by the armed merchant cruiser Patia, and that the Seeadler at the time was disguised as the Norwegian sailing ship Hero, bound to Melbourne with a cargo of timber.)


Count von Luckner soon picked up a fair wind for his southerly voyage, which brought him to his first hunting-ground off the Rocas in three weeks. On his way he captured the British steamers Gladys Royle and Lundy Island. The Seeadler's course carried her to the westward of the Canaries, somewhere between the meridians of 25 degrees and 30 degrees W.; and


Jan. 1917   



she was in the Madeira‑Cape Verde area between January 9 and January 17. That a raider should have passed through the zone so easily shows the change which had come over the conditions of war in the Atlantic during the preceding twelve months. It was only by an extraordinary chance that Count zu Dohna slipped through the 9th Cruiser Squadron in his first voyage a year before; and if the conditions had been the same, that is, if Admiral Sheppard's vessels had been patrolling the passage between Madeira and the Canaries, whilst the Highflyer watched the tracks between the Cape Verde Islands, a sailing ship proceeding south under full canvas could hardly have avoided observation at some point in the zone, seeing that it took her eight days to pass through it. But the submarine campaign had by now made it impossible for the 9th Cruiser Squadron to maintain the patrol, and our system of controlling the Central Atlantic had been modified accordingly.


In October 1916, U.53, under Lieutenant‑Commander Hans Rose, had appeared on the American coast, and sunk vessels off the Nantucket lightvessel; which meant that the Madeira‑Canaries zone was thenceforth within the reach of German submarines. The fact was emphasised by the bombardment of Funchal on December 3. In itself this would not have been enough to make us withdraw our patrol; but it made it much more difficult. Our cruisers could no longer move to and fro at low speed and coal at the open anchorages in the islands. All ship movements had to begin and end at Sierra Leone or Dakar, since no other place would serve for taking in coal, water and provisions. The 9th Cruiser Squadron was, moreover, burdened with an additional duty which made it quite impossible to keep the zone under a continuous patrol. In December 1916 it was decided that the Mediterranean route should no longer be used by transports which had to pass through the canal; in other words, that all troop movements to and from Australia, India and New Zealand should go round the Cape. This meant that the 9th Cruiser Squadron had to escort the troopships of the ANZAC armies between the Cape and the mouth of the English Channel. As the stream of ships was continuous, the new duty practically superseded the old.


For these reasons Count von Luckner was able to pursue his voyage without disturbance, and on January 21 he reached a position to the north of the St. Paul Rocks and captured the French barque Charles Gounod. He then held on to the south for a week, and after sinking the Perce, a British schooner, on the 28th, made to the north‑west. For the next six weeks he operated within a rectangular area about 860 miles long and 180 wide, the extreme points of which were respectively some 210 and 550 miles to the north‑westward of St. Paul Rocks.(See Map 9.) The area was never so much as crossed by our cruisers, which were all operating against the Moewe further south. As Count von Luckner was not in any danger from them, it would be of no use to compare his movements with ours. Between January 20, when he reached his raiding ground, and March 21, when he left it, he seized nine ships and took 260 prisoners. Most of his captures were sailing ships, and amongst them was the British ship Pinmore, in which, years before, he had sailed round the world as the fo'c'sle hand Phylax Luedicke. He went on board her, and after rummaging about in the familiar corners of the fo'c'sle and the saloon, and seeing the mark on the brass of the steering‑wheel, where he had cut his initials "F. v. L.," he gave, with feelings of keen regret, the order that she should be sunk.


(After his own capture and before being sent back to Germany, Luckner made a statement before Captain Thompson, RN, the naval adviser to the New Zealand Government, in which he stated that he took the Pinmore into Rio, and impersonated Captain Mullen in front of the Brazilian authorities. He alleges that he put his arm in a sling so that he should not be compelled to sign his name; and, having bought provisions, and got what news he could of the British cruisers, put to sea again, and met the Seeadler at a rendezvous. He says not one word of this in his printed memoirs, and the story is most improbable. We have not, it is true, got Captain Mullen's deposition; but the adventure is not even hinted at in the existing testimonies. This is not the only reason for disbelieving it: all our official news of the raid was sent by our diplomatic representatives in Rio; there is no suggestion of this Pinmore adventure in any of their telegrams, and it is inconceivable that the prisoners should have said nothing about it to them. The story is not, in itself, impossible; but it is more likely that Count von Luckner could not resist the temptation to score off his captors by making them believe that they had been more careless and stupid than was really the case.)


On March 21 he seized the French sailing ship Cambronne, which was carrying Chilean nitrates to France, and to her he transferred all his prisoners. Realising that he would need a long start if he were to escape from our cruisers after the alarm had been given, he ordered his men to saw off the Cambronne's top‑gallant masts and bowsprit, so that she would make a slow passage to Rio. He then put Captain Mullen of the Pinmore in charge of her and gave him the course. The Cambronne thus sailed under the colours of three different nations in one day.


The prisoners and their captor parted on extremely good terms. Count von Luckner had taken no precautions against the Seeadler being recaptured by them; thinking probably


March, 1917  



that their difference of race and language made all concerted action between them impossible. Everybody had, therefore, been allowed to roam about the ship as they wished; and apart from this, Count von Luckner had several times acted graciously and generously. During the chase of the Horngarth, a British ship, one of her boys had been killed by the Seeadler's shells: he was buried at sea with full honours, under the British flag, and Count von Luckner himself read the burial service over him. When the British Yeoman was taken, and it was seen that there was a woman on board her, Luckner gave his only other woman captive a bunch of flowers, and told her to receive the new‑comer at the gangway and reassure her. On many an evening the Seeadler's band had been told to play "Tipperary." All this had impressed the prisoners, as well it might; so that they were transferred to the Cambronne with cheers and shouting; and even the French masters, whose proud, implacable attitude had deeply impressed Count von Luckner, shook hands with him before they went over the side for the last time.


On the very day that the transfer was being made we heard that this new raider was abroad, and that she had last been seen on February 25 some 420 miles to the northwest of St. Paul Rocks. On March 30 the Cambronne arrived at Rio, and on the following day came a message from our Embassy there, giving details of the captured crews. The Seeadler had last been seen on the 22nd; Count von Luckner had therefore contrived to secure for himself a start of nine days.


It was very doubtful whether it would be enough. From the crews of the captured ships we learned that the Germans had always kept charts of Cape Horn, and this gave us a very good clue to the raider's intentions. We had seven ships on the west coast of South America at the time: of these the Lancaster and Otranto were at San Nicolas, Peru, the Orbita was at Mejillones, and the Avoca in northern British Columbia. On the 1st of April, therefore, the Lancaster, Orbita and Otranto were ordered to proceed to the south to intercept the raider.


When these cruisers were set on his track, Count von Luckner was in mid‑Atlantic on the meridian of Buenos Aires. He had therefore very nearly as far to go under sail as his pursuers had under steam, and he was faced with the trial of getting round the Horn at a very bad time of year. Our cruisers were thus bound to arrive at the intercepting point in time; but whether they would be able to pick up a single sailing ship in those wild waters was much less certain.


On the 5th the Admiralty sent out a further order to the effect that the Orbita and Otranto were to patrol on a line running north and south from Cape Horn, and were to keep the collier Finisterre in their company. The Lancaster was to proceed south as fast as she could. Thanks to a fair wind, Count von Luckner very nearly preceded our cruisers. They had not been able to go south simultaneously; on the 13th, whilst the Seeadler was about a day's sail from Staten Island, the Orbita had not yet reached the latitude of the Magellan Straits, the Otranto was half a day's steaming from Darwin Bay, and the Lancaster was between Valparaiso and Coquimbo. The next day enabled them to pick up the lead; the Seeadler made little progress owing to head winds, whilst the Orbita, steaming all day at 14 knots, was a few hours short of Cape Horn by noon on the 14th. The Admiralty's orders were that she should stop there on patrol but this the captain did not do, either because he had never been given the Admiralty telegram, or because the senior officer of the cruisers had superseded the Admiralty instructions by others of which we know nothing.


The Orbita did not remain off the Horn, but went straight on; and by noon on the 15th had passed Staten Island, and was steering north. By then the Seeadler was in a fair way to get past her; for Count von Luckner, finding the winds contrary and the weather very bad, headed south on the starboard tack during the 14th, and was 200 miles south‑south‑east of the Orbita at noon on the 15th. The Otranto, the nearest ship after him, was one day's steaming to the south of Darwin Bay, and still north of the 50th parallel. If the Seeadler had chanced to get a slant of wind, as sometimes, though very rarely, happens to a ship bound westward round the Horn, she might have given the Orbita the slip and preceded the Otranto and the Lancaster; but the wind kept in the northwest for the next two days and forced her southward. On the 16th it still headed her, but she made fair progress: by noon on the 17th she was on the meridian of the Horn and about 120 miles to the south of it: the Otranto, which had just arrived, was then at Orange Bay, whilst the Orbita was patrolling off the eastern entrance to the Magellan Straits.


At this point there occurred an incident which is very difficult to explain: Count von Luckner states on the chart attached to his memoirs that he sighted a British cruiser on the 18th; and in the text (p. 196), the same incident or a similar one is assigned to the 24th. But after making every


April‑June, 1917



allowance for the errors which must inevitably occur by transferring Luckner's track from a very small‑scale map, it is irnpossible to find that the Seeadler's course was even within eighty miles of that of the Otranto (the nearest ship to her) on the 18th, and it is quite certain that all our cruisers were several hundred miles away from her on the 25th. If the track of the Seeadler be compared with those of the Orbita and Otranto, it will be seen that she slipped past them between noon of the 17th and noon of the 19th by keeping well to the southward; whilst the Otranto patrolled on a line about thirty miles to the south of the Horn. It is therefore hard to see how the German and British ships could have come within sighting distance of one another; and only one possible solution of the problem can be offered.


Throughout the 18th the wind headed the Seeadler and blew hard from the west-south‑west: it is, therefore, just conceivable that, if Count von Luckner stood to the northward on a long board, his masthead‑man may, at some time, have reported the Otranto to the northward, visible for a moment in some interval of the driving scud and haze. This would at any rate agree with Luckner's statement that he instantly put his helm up to port and wore the ship to get away. If it is true that he got as near to the Otranto as he thinks he did, his escape was a truly marvellous piece of good fortune; for a sailing ship even though she is under reduced canvas is more easily picked up at sea than a steamship, and if he sighted us, it is impossible to say why we failed to sight him.


By the 19th then the Seeadler was clear of our cruisers; by the 21st had made enough westing for a northerly course to be set. According to a vague report, she passed within sight of Valparaiso on the 23rd; but after that we heard no more of her for many weeks. (The report was undoubtedly wrong: the Seeadler went north along the 80th meridian until she reached the latitude of Talcahuano, and then steered north‑west.)


On April 28 the Avoca, which was then at Esquimalt, was ordered to search the Galapagos Islands; she did so between May 14 and 16, but found nothing, for Count von Luckner, after reaching the 35th parallel, made north‑westwards for the Central Pacific.


To this point he had had the fortune that he deserved; but his star had now passed its blazing period, and, like other temporary stars, was doomed to fade rapidly towards extinction. By June 8 the Seeadler had reached the Equator, in about longitude 150 degrees . The position was not upon any recognised track; but American sailing ships do a good deal of trading in the Central Pacific, and it was doubtless against these that Count von Luckner hoped to operate. He was not very successful, for he only captured three American schooners in rather over five weeks, and after this the ship's doctor told him that the crew were showing signs of scurvy. The Seeadler was then turned southwards, and on July 28 anchored off Mopeha, a deserted island, covered with cocoanut trees and abounding in turtle. The entrance to the lagoon was so narrow and intricate that she had to anchor outside it, and for three days the crew rested in camp ashore and recovered. On August 2 disaster overtook them; almost without warning the sea became violently disturbed, and within a few minutes the Seeadler was in a very heavy sea‑way. Before the motor could be started she parted her cables and was driven against the reef: a few minutes later she was a total wreck.


Count von Luckner faced the disaster with his usual energy: two boats were saved; provisions, fire‑arms, canvas and spars were got ashore, and habitable quarters set up for the men. Three weeks after the shipwreck, Luckner, with three officers and two seamen, was out in the Pacific in an open boat, about 20 feet long, loaded with hand‑grenades, rifles and munitions, intending to capture the largest schooner he could master, to return to Mopelia with it and to start afresh. He was not successful. Having made his way to Atiu, an island in the Cook Group, he landed; and, after telling the Chief Resident that he and his officers were Dutch Americans, persuaded him to give them fresh fruit and provisions. He and his companions then sailed westwards, and cast anchor at Aituaki.


Here the inhabitants were not so gullible, and the natives loudly clamoured that the visitors should be arrested. The Resident hesitated, but finally let them go. He was quite unarmed, and doubted whether he would be able to overpower them, for they had taken him to their launch and shown him their revolvers and grenades. Luckner and his men then sailed westwards, and on September 21 anchored off Wakaya, in the Fiji Group, utterly exhausted. They were discovered by a half‑caste trader, who informed the authorities, and the police were set on their track. After a day's stay at their anchorage, during which they seem to have made friends with the captain of a local schooner, the adventurers were arrested by a group of native policemen under a white officer. Count von Luckner, as he was caught out of uniform, decided that he ought not to fight it out.


He was first placed in the common jail at Suva, and then transferred to New Zealand. Here his confinement was very easy, and he was lodged on the island of Motuihi with a


Sept. 1917 



number of interned Germans from Samoa. As might be expected, he soon got an ascendancy over his fellow‑prisoners, and persuaded a selected group of them to escape under his leadership. By carefully preparing their plan they succeeded in getting hold of the commandant's launch, in which they reached Red Mercury Island and there lay in wait, until after a couple of days two small schooners sailed by. One of these they boarded and seized, and sailed in it to the Kermadec Islands; but there they were overtaken and brought back by the cable steamer Iris, sent out in search by the New Zealand Government. Henceforward Count von Luckner's imprisonment was more rigorous; but he never lost hope, and, when the day of the Armistice arrived, he was once more plotting some desperate scheme of escape.


Those of the Seeadler's crew who had been left behind at Mopelia were equally unfortunate. Lieutenant Kling, their senior officer, put to sea in the other launch, and managed to overpower a French schooner, in which he and his men sailed to Easter Island. Here they sank their boat and were picked up by a Chilean cruiser, which carried them to the continent. After a certain amount of correspondence, the Chilean Government agreed that they should be treated as belligerents who had taken refuge in neutral territory, and interned them accordingly.


The Seeadler's captures in mid‑Pacific were not reported to us, so that we knew nothing certain of her from the end of March to the beginning of September. In consequence, we were soon obliged to call off our vessels from active searching, and make our dispositions preventive only. We were much assisted in this by America's entry into the war. At the end of June a force of four American armoured cruisers arrived in Rio de Janeiro, and at once arranged for a combined patrol of the route between Fernando Noronha and the Plate. The Brazilian Government followed America's lead, and broke off diplomatic relations with Germany in April. In July they informed our Government that the Brazilian navy intended to patrol the coast from Rio Grande do Sul to the Guianas. All this strengthened our hold of the South American routes considerably; but these additional forces were not used to extend our patrol to the north and northwest of the Rocas, although it was in this area that the Karlsruhe had operated in 1914, and it was here that Count zu Dohna and Count von Luckner had made most of their captures. There were, inevitably, gaps in our dispositions, and the Rocas area was one of them. Early in July the French cruiser Marseillaise visited Rio to confer with the United States Admiral, and her captain pointed out that the existing dispositions left unprotected a point on the trade routes which had been persistently attacked.


To our operations on the west coast America's entry into the war made less difference; for the Washington Government sent no reinforcements to our squadron in Chilean waters. On May 8, when it was fairly clear that the raider had either gone home or had cleared the Horn and entered the Pacific, the captain of the Lancaster wired to suggest that the Otranto and Orbita would be better employed on the trade routes than off the Horn, as the long dark nights and the foul weather would make interception almost impossible. The Admiralty replied that the two cruisers were to remain south of Valparaiso for the time being. If the raider should appear further north, between Panama and Iquique, ships would be sent through the Panama Canal to intercept her. Permission was, however, given to station the Avoca off the northern coasts of Chile.


On the strength of this, the Orbita and Otranto withdrew from the Horn, and a regular patrol was set up to the south of Valparaiso: one ship was kept continuously between the Gulf of Penas and Ancud; the other worked on this southern section of the patrol when she could, but left it for periodical visits to Valdivia, Coronel and Valparaiso. The disposition naturally caused Captain Seagrave of the Lancaster some uneasiness, for it left the trade route off the ports of Peru practically without protection; and about a month later he sent home the following telegram: "If the raider appears, its probable point of attack will be the nitrate trade near Iquique or the traffic near Santa Elena, Ecuador, and Gulf of Panama, using Galapagos Islands as base. Consider it important that one ship should be in the vicinity of one of these places to act if occasion requires. Trade south of Valparaiso is negligible; but raider coming round Cape Horn might use anchorage in Chonos to refit and store before going north. I therefore recommend that one ship should cruise between the Gull of Penas and Coquimbo; another between Valparaiso and Callao, and another between Callao and Panama, periodically examining the Galapagos Islands."


To this the Admiralty answered simply that the previous disposition was to be maintained. No further active searching was done during the Seeadler's raid. On September 24, news came in that two German naval officers and four men had been captured at Wakaya. As we had learned, on the day before, that a boat‑load of suspicious strangers had visited Aituaki, there could be no great doubt that the two


June 1916  



reports referred to the same party. It was clear, therefore, that the Seeadler must be somewhere to the eastward of the Fiji islands; but it was not until five days later that the prisoners informed our officers that their ship was a wreck at Mopeha.


After the Samland had reported, on December 7, 1916, that there was a German raider in mid‑Atlantic, a long interval followed, during which we knew nothing of what she was doing and nothing to guide us as to her whereabouts. On January 3, therefore, when our last news was nearly a month old, the Admiralty warned the Commanders‑in‑Chief of the China and East Indies stations that the raider might intend to attack trade on the routes in the Indian Ocean. Vice‑Admiral W. L. Grant, the Commander‑in‑Chief of the China station, answered that the measures for spreading traffic were in full force and that the focal points in the Bay of Bengal would be protected; but he warned Whitehall that he had not sufficient force at his disposal to defend the route between Colombo and Australia. The measures to which he thus referred must be described in detail; for they were about to be tested by a raider who was actually on her way to the Indian Ocean when the Admiralty sent out their message.


In June 1916, Admiral Wemyss, the Commander‑in‑Chief of the East Indies station, had held a conference with Admiral Grant at Colombo. They both realised, from the Moewe's recent raid, how necessary it was to safeguard the trade routes against surface raiders, and a plan for doing so was agreed between them. As in the Atlantic, the general purpose of the scheme was to see that ships kept away from the ordinary routes, and to make sure that naval protection was provided at points where traffic was bound to congregate. This was done by plotting a number of new tracks on either side of the normal route between any two places, and by giving vessels special sailing orders at their ports of departure. These orders were so made out that all ships used these artificially created routes; but no two steamers leaving harbour in succession used the same one. The number of traffic lanes which had to be drawn on either side of any given track, in order to give shipping the requisite amount of spread, varied with the volume of trade to be diverted.


The intention of the whole scheme was to protect the stream of shipping which moves, in both directions, between Acheh Head and Aden. To do this the traffic was spread over five tracks in its eastern section, and over eight in its western. Between Acheh Head and Colombo, the northern track ran through the Ten‑degree Channel; whilst the southern one, after curving round Acheh Head, ran along the parallel of 3 ½ degrees N. to a point about 150 miles south‑south‑east of Pointe de Galle, when it inclined upwards to Colombo. On its western half the spread was greater, as here the mass of shipping was increased by the traffic to and from the ports in the Bay of Bengal and Australia. The northern track, therefore, ran along the fifteenth parallel; the southern-most passed through the One‑and‑a‑half‑degree Channel, in the Maldives, to a point about 360 miles to the (true) north‑north‑west of the Seychelles, after which it inclined towards the Gulf of Aden. In the Bay of Bengal itself the shipping was diverted and spread in the same way; four special tracks were laid down between Calcutta and Colombo and three between Colombo and Rangoon.


This dispersal made it practically certain that a raider would sink very little tonnage by attacking the central part of the routes; but it made naval protection at the points where the tracks converged more necessary than ever; for the focal points were now the junctions of many tracks, instead of the congested ports of a few, and therefore spread over a wider area than they do in peace time. They were, in consequence, more difficult to patrol. Natural causes had divided these focal points very unevenly between the spheres of the two naval commands in the Indian Ocean. To take the China station first; here there fell to the Commander‑in-Chief the duty of guarding: (i) the zone to the east of Colombo and the north‑east of Ceylon; (ii) the approaches to Calcutta; (iii) the track to the north and south of the Andaman Islands, and (iv) the route to the north of Acheh Head; in addition to which he had to keep some kind of patrol in the Malacca Straits (420 miles long), where no dispersion was possible, and to be prepared to guard the Sunda Straits, where a raider could do great mischief in the congested flow of traffic to and from the Dutch East Indies and the Far East. Later in the year, a number of special transport routes were added to the other traffic lanes; but these need not be examined in detail. Those with which we are most concerned ran from the Leeuwin to Aden, and the Leeuwin to Colombo. Like the special traffic routes, they were laid down well away from the direct track, but they necessarily converged at the points just described.


Admiral Grant had covered the principal focal points in his command by nine patrol areas: three to the south and east of Ceylon; three on the northern approaches to the Malacca Straits, one to the south of the Andaman Islands, and one to the north of them, and one off the south and


Nov.‑Dec. 1916



south‑western approaches to the Hooghli. He endeavoured to distribute his cruisers over these zones as evenly as possible; but he never, at any time, had enough ships to occupy them all simultaneously and effectively. A force of Japanese vessels under Admiral Oguri generally guarded the Straits of Malacca from Penang, and was named the Brothers patrol ‑ from the group of islands off Batu Bara, half‑way down the western side of the straits.

On the East Indian station the principal responsibilities of the Commander‑in‑Chief were in the Gulf of Aden. The tracks along which shipping had been diverted converged to the north and south of Sokotra. The three southernmost combined off Cape Guardafui; the remaining five ran fairly close together along the Gulf of Aden. Thus at each end of these trade routes the shipping had to run down a lane where dispersal was practically impossible. As many cruisers as could possibly be spared were, therefore, kept in the area between Socotra, Cape Guardafui and the Arabian shore; and a vessel was generally detached to the Straits of Bab‑el-Mandeb for duty on the Perim patrol.


This was the position when the Admiralty sent out their warning; and their appreciation was quite correct, for the Indian Ocean was about to be raided, though not by the Moewe.




The Wolf


For their third raider the German Admiralty had chosen the Hansa liner Wachtfels, 3,600 tons. They placed Captain Karl Nerger in command of her and ordered him to fit her out for her purpose. When ready, he was to "interfere with enemy shipping in distant seas, more particularly in the Indian Ocean." He accordingly renamed her the Wolf, armed her with two 6‑inch and four 4‑inch guns, and fitted her with a small scouting seaplane, which was stowed amidships; he also carried mines, 500 in all, which were stowed in one of the holds. By the end of November he sailed, and slipped past our cruisers by keeping very far to the north. During the critical days the weather was exceptionally bad, and he pounded to the westward in a blizzard of wind and snow, of such severity that it was not until December 10 that he was out in the Atlantic clear of the British patrols. He then held straight on for the Cape, keeping in mid‑Atlantic to lessen the chance of any incident which might reveal his presence.


During the fortnight following the Admiralty's warning telegram, we made ready to meet the raider in the Indian Ocean with as much care and forethought as though we knew the last detail of Captain Nerger's intentions. The Commander‑in‑Chief at the Cape was ordered to postpone his impending visit to East Africa in the Hyacinth, and to keep an efficient ship at the Cape. The Commander‑in‑Chief, East Indies, withdrew the Minerva from Rabegh, in the Red Sea, and ordered her to strengthen the patrol of the "congested area off Sokotra." The French Government were equally vigilant. During the first week in January they sent out a general warning to the Governors of Madagascar, Indo China, New Caledonia and Tahiti, and suggested that their forces and ours should co‑operate in any plan that might be settled when the situation became clearer.


By the time these last precautions were taken Captain Nerger was nearing the Cape, after a completely uneventful voyage through the Atlantic. On January 16, 1917, as he approached the land, he saw the Cornwall and six transports steam by him on a northerly course. That evening he laid his first minefield off Dassen Island, Saldanha Bay. Some hours later, probably on the next day, he mined the track to the south of Cape Agulhas, and then steamed off towards Colombo, keeping well clear of the shipping routes.


The minefield was not at once discovered, and two days later the Admiralty got news that the Moewe had been operating off the Plate route on the 12th, the date on which Count zu Dohna captured the Minieh. This was duly wired to the Commanders‑in‑Chief in the Indian Ocean, but rather tended to put them off the scent. All precautions had been taken on the assumption that the Moewe was about to raid the eastern trade routes; it now seemed that the danger was far more remote than had been imagined. By January 25, therefore, Admiral Grant had decided that on the strength of the latest news he could withdraw the patrols off Colombo and Penang, and direct the Venus to return to Singapore. On the very next day two freighters, the Matheran and the Portugal, got into the minefield off Dassen Island: the first sank, but the second was towed into Simon's Bay. The telegram which announced the casualties suggestcd that the vessels had been torpedoed; so that this news too did not help us to grasp the position, but rather the contrary. A Swedish ship then in Cape Town was detained and thoroughly searched; and after it was evident that her master and owners were innocent of all complicity, the three Commanders‑in‑Chief were ordered to stop all transports


Jan. 1917   



sailing for South Africa, as a submarine had been operating off Cape Town on the 26th. Later in the day, sailings were ordered to be resumed, as the authorities at the Cape had informed the Admiralty that the ships had probably been lost owing to internal explosions. It was not until February I that the Commander‑in‑Chief at the Cape felt able to warn the Senior Naval Officer, East Africa, that a vessel, probably a raider, had laid mines off Cape Town, and might be expected to do the same thing off Durban, Delagoa Bay and the east coast ports.


When the position was grasped the Wolf was somewhere in mid‑ocean, on her way to Colombo, and our forces available for operating against the raider and for securing our lines of communication were disposed as follows



Kent (9,800 tons; 22 knots; fourteen 6").

On escort duty between Devonport and Sierra Leone.

Hyacinth (5,600 tons; 18 knots; eleven 6").

At Simonstown.


East Africa Group.

Talbot (5,600 tons; 17 knots; eleven 6").

At Kiswere.

Challenger (5,900 tons; 20 knots; eleven 6").

At Dar es Salaam.

Rinaldo (980 tons; 13 knots; four 4").

At Lindi

Thistle (710 tons; 11 knots; two 4").

At Kilwa Kisiwani.

Himalaya (6,929 tons; 18 knots; eight 6").

On escort duty between Lindi and Durban.

Princess (8,684 tons; 14 knots; eight 6").

At Kiswere.

Trent (1,872 tons; 21 knots; two 12‑pdr.).

On passage Dar es Salaam to Durban.

Mersey (1,260 tons; 12 knots; three 6").

At Mohoro Bay.

Severn (").

At Durban.



(a) British Forces.

Euryalus (12,000 tons; 20 knots; two 9.2"; twelve

At Bombay, refitting.

Pyramus (2,135 tons; 17 knots; eight 4").

Movements unknown, as her log has been lost; probably Gulf of Aden. (Paid-off at Bombay – see

Fox (4,360 tons, 17 knots; two 6 "; eight 4.7").

At Port Sudan.

Sapphire (3,000 tons; 18.6 knots; twelve 4").

At Colombo, refitting.

Dufferin (Indian Marine).

At Bombay in dry dock.

Suva (2,230 tons; 13 knots; three 4.7").

On passage Aden to Bombay.

Enterprise (armed launch).

Central part of the Red Sea.

Minto (Indian Marine).

Central part of the Red Sea.

Hardinge (Indian Marine).

At Sherm Wej.

Lunka (2,193 tons; 16 knots; one 6").

At Suez.

Lama (2,198 tons; 16 knots; three 4").

At Rabegh.

Perth (2,058 tons; 15 knots; three 4.7").

At Perim.

Northbrook (Indian Marine).

At Yenbo.

Clio (1,070 tons; 13 knots; six 4").

At Kamaran.

Odin (1,070 tons; 13 knots; four 4").

At Aden.

Minerva (5,600 tons; 19 knots; eleven 6").

On passage Aden to Zanzibar.

Britomart (900 tons; 10 knots; two 4").

At Bombay, refitting.

Bramble (710 tons; 14 knots; two 4").

At Bushire.

Philomel (2,575 tons; 19 knots; eight 4.7").

On passage Muscat to Bombay.

Juno (5,600 tons; 20 knots; eleven 6").

At Muscat.


(b) French Forces.

Pothuau (5,374 tons; 19 knots; two 7.6"; ten 5.8").

D'Entrecasteaux (7,995 tons; 17.2 knots; two 9.4"; twelve 5.5").

D'Estrees (2,421 tons; 18.3 knots; two 5.5"; four 3.9").



(a) British Forces.

Psyche (2,135 tons; 20 knots; six 4").

Doubtful; log has been lost.

Fantome (1,070 tons; twelve knots; two 3‑pdr.).

At sea, Sandakan to Singapore.

Cadmus (1,070 tons; 13 knots; six 4").

On passage from Jesselton to Singapore for refit.

City Of London (8,917 tons; 15 knots; eight 6").

At Colombo.

Venus (5,600 tons; 20 knots; eleven 6").

At Singapore.

Diana (").

On patrol off Singapore.

Fame (destroyer; 340 tons).

Doubtful; log has been lost.

Rosario (submarine depot ship).

At Hong Kong.

Virago (destroyer; 395 tons).

Doubtful; log has been lost.

Whiting (destroyer; 390 tons).

At Hong Kong, in dry dock.

Huon (Australian destroyer; 700 tons).

At Jesselton.

Torrens (").

On patrol off Singapore.

Swan (").

On patrol off Singapore.


(b) Japanese Forces

Suma (2,700 tons; 20 knots; two 6"; six 4.7")

On passage to Singapore.

Niitaka (3,420 tons; 20 knots; six 6").

At Singapore, preparing for voyage to Mediterranean.

Akashi (2,800 tons; 19 knots; two 8"; six 4.7")

On passage to Singapore, preparing for voyage to Mediterranean.

Tsushima (3,420 tons; 20 knots; six 6").

On passage from Japan to Singapore.

Katsura (destroyer; 665 tons)

At Singapore, preparing for voyage to the Mediterranean

Kayede (")


Ume (")


Kusunoki (")



This list, numbering fifty‑five ships in all, seems to represent a very powerful and widespread combination for the interception of a single raider; but to an eye familiar with the vast spaces of the sea the immediate suggestion is of the opposite kind. From the first it was obvious that we could not protect every vital point with the forces at our disposal; and the Admiralty's first care was to send out reinforcements. The Newcastle, which was on her way from Mudros to the East Indies at the time, was allotted to the Colombo patrol


Feb. 7‑21, 1917  



February 7); and the Japanese Government agreed to the Cape squadron with their two cruisers the Niitaka and Tsushima (February 13). The French Government were asked to place the D'Estrees, the Pothuau and the D'Entrecasteaux at our disposal; and, as a temporary measure, the French Admiral at Djibouti agreed to keep two of them continually off the port, so that they could be detached to Admiral Wemyss's command at a moment's notice.


For the moment the trade routes in the Far East were not threatened; but Admiral Grant's anxieties were heavy. There were German steamers in Tarakan, Balikpapan, Macassar and the Java ports, and for all he knew the raider's main object might be to penetrate into the eastern archipelago and arm them all. He therefore ordered the sloop Fantome to watch Sandakan and the northern end of the Macassar Straits, and told the Venus to visit Macassar. (He stated, in his letter to the Admiralty, that he also ordered the Huon to Sandakan; actually, the Huon arrived at Singapore on January 3 and worked on the Brothers patrol until the end of the month.)

This was the best he could do; but, as he himself admitted, it left Amboina and the ports to the east uncovered.


The minefield off Cape Agulhas was discovered on February 10, and seven days later the Worcestershire struck a mine off Colombo and sank. The authorities were, however, still doubtful as to the cause of the casualties: Admiral Wemyss appears to have been practically certain that a raiding minelayer was at work; but the local authorities reported, as they had done at Cape Town, that the ships might have been lost from internal explosions. On February 21, Admiral Wemyss heard that Bombay had been mined, and this seems to have decided him; for, on the following day, he telegraphed that he had established a patrol at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, and the Straits of Bab‑el‑Mandeb, and that the Government of India had started methodical minesweeping off Karachi, Madras, Calcutta and Rangoon. The Sapphire, which was under orders to return to Aden, he now ordered to remain at Colombo and patrol the western approaches. Having made these dispositions, he wired to the Admiralty to say he could not believe that a submarine had been operating off Colombo, though many others were sure of it; and he asked whether the Naval Staff were of opinion that a raider was operating in the Indian Ocean or not. The Admiralty did not feel that they could answer definitely, but said that there might well be a raider in the Indian Ocean and that such precautions as were possible should be taken.


A few days after this telegram was sent out all doubts were ended. After mining Colombo and Bombay, Captain Nerger turned westwards, and took up a position between Aden and Colombo, on what he probably believed to be the main shipping route, and, but for the measures in force, he would very likely have done considerable damage. As it was, he only captured two ships in a week, the Turritella and the Jumna. He decided that the first of these could be fitted out as an auxiliary minelayer, and so, having put a prize crew on board, and armed her with a small gun, he ordered Lieutenant Brandes to take charge of her and mine the approaches to Aden: her captured crew were Chinese, and had no objection to working under their new masters. When these arrangements were complete, Lieutenant Brandes made off towards Aden, whilst Captain Nerger held his position about half‑way between Colombo and Sokotra. The two vessels seem to have parted company some time during the evening of February 27.


The Turritella's career as a warship was neither long nor fortunate. Only five days later the commanding officer of the sloop Odin, which was then lying at Aden, was told by the senior officer to search the approaches to the port, in order to see whether the town had been properly darkened. At about twenty minutes to ten the Odin was some six miles to the south of the entrance to Aden, when she sighted a ship, which was showing no lights, and was steering on a westerly course at about 11 knots. The sky was clear and the moon was near full, so that it was easy to watch and follow her. Some time after ten o'clock, Lieutenant‑Commander Palmer asked the strange ship, by signal, where she was going and for what purpose; and, as the answer was made in rather peculiar English, and with a certain amount of hesitation, he became suspicious and ordered her to stop. The steamer answered this order by a signal which ran, "Why did you not stop me when I passed Aten? Meadows, master." This second message seemed to Lieutenant‑Commander Palmer even more peculiar than the first: on the one hand it was a perfectly natural reply for a British merchant captain to make, if ‑ as this man had stated ‑ he thought he was being followed by a German raider; but, on the other hand, why was Aden wrongly spelt? On the whole, it confirmed his previous suspicions. " I had now been in pursuit for some considerable time, and, if he were a British merchantman, he must have known that it was most unlikely that a German raider would go on chasing him without firing." Lieutenant‑Commander Palmer therefore held on after her, and signalled his course and speed to all ships on the patrol. During the morning


Feb.‑March, 1917



watch the chase, which was in fact the Turritella, began to ease down, and a signal was made to her to say that, if she did not stop, the Odin would open fire. It was now half‑past four in the morning; but soon after the moon set, and for the next hour it was very dark. Lieutenant‑Commander Palmer therefore kept the chase in the beam of his searchlight until dawn. Daylight came up very fast, and at a quarter to six, just as a boat was going to be lowered from the Odin, it was seen that the stranger's boats were already in the water: a few minutes later two loud explosions were heard aboard her, and she was seen to be settling down. After this not much explanation was needed from the recaptured Chinese crew; and within a few hours a general warning was being sent to all shipping afloat to let them know that there was a raider in the Indian Ocean. Captain Nerger, lying in wait on the trade route a few hundreds of miles away, took in the Admiralty's warning, and after cursing the Chinaman's invariable fidelity to the interests of his de facto masters, acknowledged, regretfully, that the description of the Wolf and her seaplane was singularly accurate.


Seeing that we were at last on his track, he now decided to leave the Indian Ocean for a time, and made towards Australia, on a course which took him to the westward of the Chagos archipelago through the most deserted part of the Indian Ocean. He captured the Wordsworth (3,509 tons) on March 11, and a sailing ship, the Dee, nearly three weeks later, in a position about 600 miles to the west of the Leeuwin. He was, by then, anxious about his coal supplies, and made to the south of Tasmania, hoping to pick up grain ships and colliers; he was disappointed in each case, for as soon as we knew positively that a raider was at work, all wheat transports were ordered to go through the Panama Canal. On May 22 the Wolf was anchored at Sunday Island in the Kermadecs, with her coal supply running low and her engines and boilers in need of an overhaul.


The stay at the Kermadecs brings the first part of Captain Nerger's raid to an end; and as he never once came near the areas where we concentrated our watching forces, our counter dispositions can be dealt with briefly.


On receiving news of the sinking of the Turritella, the Admiralty stopped all troopships in the Indian Ocean, and gave orders that those at sea on their way to Colombo should be met and escorted; after which Admirals Wemyss and Charlton were ordered to escort all troop transports and supply ships on their way to the Persian Gulf or East Africa. Admiral Grant was then warned that low‑powered cruisers and sloops like the Pysche, or the Fantome, should not be risked singly against the Wolf, as she would probably overpower them with her fifteen‑centimetre armament. On March 9 the Commander‑in‑Chief, East Indies, was told that the cruisers Doris and Topaze and the old battleship Exmouth would reinforce his flag. By an arrangement with the Japanese Government the cruiser Akashi and eight destroyers were to be sent to the Mediterranean station. These ships were due to leave Singapore on March 11; and the Japanese undertook to spread them over a wide front and make a regular sweep on his way to Colombo. The cruisers Tsushima and Niitaka, which were to have gone to the Cape, were ordered to work under Admiral Wemyss when their reliefs arrived at Singapore.


Admiral Grant's chief difficulty was to make the Malacca Straits, which he described as a "main artery 640 miles long, admirably suited to minelaying," as safe as he could. To do this, he had to keep all his destroyers within the Straits, which, naturally, restricted his operations elsewhere. He was, moreover, ordered by the Admiralty to keep a permanent watch over the Sunda Straits, and had to detach the City of London for the purpose.


The most important consequence of the raid was that whilst the Wolf was at large and unlocated we were compelled to convoy all transport. The first transport line was from Fremantle to Colombo, and thence to the Red Sea; the second from Fremantle to the Cape, and the third from Bombay to the Persian Gulf. This new demand came near to absorbing all our available forces and compelled us to make heavy calls upon our allies the Japanese.


Early in March Admiral Oguri, the Japanese commander at Singapore, had under his orders the light cruisers Suma, Tsushima, and Niitaka. The Akashi and eight 30‑knot destroyers, the Katsura, Kaede, Ume, Kusunoki, Sakaki, Matsu, Sugi, and Kashiwa, were within the zone of his command, on their way to the Mediterranean. Late in March the British Government asked that the Japanese navy should detach two ships to patrol the Australia and New Zealand area, and should send the Tsushima and Niitaka to Mauritius; they further asked that the troop transports between Australia and Colombo should be escorted by four battleships or cruisers. The Japanese Government at once agreed to these proposals, and did rather more than was asked of them. The cruisers Chikuma and Hirato were constituted into a fourth squadron, and sent out to operate and protect allied commerce in the east coast of Australia


March 1917   



and New Zealand area under the command of Rear‑Admiral Yamagi. The Tsushima and Niitaka were sent to Mauritius to patrol; and the first detached squadron, reinforced by the Nisshin and Kasuga, took over the escort duties between Australia and Colombo. After carrying out their patrol duties at Mauritius during April and the first part of May, the Tsushima and the Niitaka became absorbed by escort duties between Mauritius and the Cape. This reorganisation left Admiral Oguri, at Singapore, with only one vessel ‑ the Suma ‑ under his command; he was, therefore, reinforced by the light cruisers Yahagi, Tone and Idzumo, and the destroyers Kisaragi, Hibiki, Hatsushimo and Kamikaze. By the assistance thus given the Japanese Government became the predominant partner in the Indian Ocean. The call for help and the scale on which it was given are a significant commentary upon the power of diversion possessed by a single raider.


By the end of March our available forces had adjusted themselves to the new situation, and were roughly disposed as follows:


(i) In the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden: the Hardinge, Perth, Northbrook, Clio and Odin were patrolling in the Gulf of Aden, and the Straits of Bab‑el‑Mandeb; the Fox was on escort duty between Aden, Colombo and Bombay.


(ii) In the Colombo and Bombay area: the Pyramus and the Sapphire were employed on the transport route between Colombo and Aden, the Exmouth and the Juno between Colombo and Bombay; the Doris was working between Fremantle and Mauritius, also on escort duty; whilst the Diana and the Newcastle maintained the patrol to the south of Ceylon. The Euryalus and the Suva were refitting.


(iii) To the east of Colombo: the Venus, the Cadmus, the Fantome and the destroyers Huon, Swan, Torrens and Fame were watching the southern end of the Malacca Straits; the City of London was at the Sunda Straits, and the Pysche was on escort duty between Rangoon and Calcutta. As has been said, the Admiralty gave an order that only vessels with sufficient gun‑power to fight the Wolf successfully were to be ernployed on escort. So burdensome and exacting was the new duty that within a few weeks practically all cruisers which had the requisite strength were actually absorbed into the convoy system, and only the Newcastle and the sloops and destroyers were left patrolling the focal points.


During the month of April our forces were strengthened by the light cruisers Gloucester and Brisbane, which were detached from the Adriatic and Australia to the East Indies; and by the seaplane carrier Raven II, which arrived in Colombo on April 1, and searched the Chagos archipelago and the Maldives during the month, under the escort of the French cruiser Pothuau. None of these measures told us anything of the Wolf's whereabouts or indeed brought in evidence of her bare existence; and we soon found that it was not possible to keep so many forces on the spot. On May 16 the Newcastle was ordered to the Adriatic, to replace the Dartmouth, which had been damaged in an action with the Austrian forces on the previous day; a week later the Raven II and the Gloucester were recalled; and on June 2 the Admiralty ordered that escorts need no longer be provided in the Indian Ocean, and between Australia, New Zealand and the Cape. For the next five and a half months, therefore, our ships simply performed the routine duties of the station, as not a word was heard of the Wolf or of what she was doing.


Captain Nerger was, none the less, actively at work during this long period of silence and uncertainty. Sunday Island, where he had anchored the Wolf for an overhaul, is an island upon which the New Zealand Government had once tried, but without success, to place settlers. The ruins of their farms and the enclosures to their properties are still there, although almost covered with scrub and jungle. The orange trees originally planted by the colonists seem to have flourished without cultivation ‑ for the landing parties found them bearing fruit.


The island rises steeply from the sea. It is largely covered with forest or jungle, but where the slope is too steep for this, the carpet of foliage is broken by huge bluffs of basaltic rock, which rise sheer above the tops of the trees. Although a boat can land at several spots on the shore, the surf is always breaking on some part of the coast; and whenever the slightest wind gets up a ship has at once to get under way and go round to the lee side of the island to be out of the rollers. Whilst he stayed here, Captain Nerger did what he could for the prisoners, and allowed them to go away in the boats to fish, and to land with the hunting parties. Every day the seaplane called the Wolf Cub made a flight: on June 2 she reported an approaching steamer: the Wolf got under way and captured her, though, if her captain had ignored the threat to drop a bomb on his ship, she would in all likelihood have escaped, for the seaplane would probably have missed her; and as the German engineers had not completed their engine repairs, the Wolf could never have caught her. The captured ship was the Wairuna; and from her the raider got over a thousand tons of coal and large quantities of fresh provisions.


June‑Aug. 1917  



A fortnight later the schooner Winslow was captured and brought in. Captain Nerger was on the look‑out for her ‑ his wireless officer had taken in messages announcing her voyage about a month before.


It was not until June 22 that the Wolf was able to re‑start her cruise, so that during four whole months Captain Nerger had sunk only four vessels: the Wordsworth, the Dee, the Wairuna and the Winslow. To this total should certainly be added the three large ships which struck mines off Bombay in June; but even with this allowance made the destruction was at a rate of less than one ship a fortnight, and the general disturbance to shipping practically nothing.


The remaining eight months of the Wolf 's cruise were even less successful. Three minefields were laid during the next fortnight: one at the Three Kings Island, another in the western approaches to Wellington, and a third off Gabo Island, the south‑eastern point of Australia. They caused only two casualties, which occurred long after the mines had been laid, and were attributed to internal explosions. (In October it was realised that a minefield had been laid off Gabo Island, and that the s.s. Cumberland had sunk on it.) From Gabo Island, Captain Nerger steered to the north‑eastwards; and on August 6 stopped his ship about midway between the Solomon Islands and the Huon Gulf in New Guinea, to wait for the steamship Matunga, which he knew from intercepted wireless signals to be somewhere about. She was met and captured in due course; a prize crew was put on board her, and the two vessels steamed in company to an anchorage in Waigioe Island, off the north‑western end of New Guinea, which they reached eight days later.


For the next twelve days the Wolf lay in a closely landlocked bay, clearing the Matunga. A dense tropical forest came down to the water's edge, and from time to time the natives pushed out from under the overhanging growth in their canoes, and came on board to barter fruit for knives and calico. Ashore the beach was thick with crocodiles; and in the evenings, when the noises of the ship had ceased, the screeching of the parrots almost drowned the human voice. The heat was intolerable and the prisoners suffered terribly.


Whilst the Wolf lay in the bay, a wild scare was started amongst the crew that the prisoners were breaking out, and for several minutes a group of armed men on deck kept up a fusillade at a number of crocodiles which they took to be escaped captives. Captain Nerger describes the incident as a joke; but in point of fact it had a deeper significance. The prisoners all state, that although Captain Nerger was always courteous and considerate to them, his crew were not; and that he had to face a growing spirit of indiscipline amongst his men, who, on one occasion, went so far as to make a petition that the cruise should be brought to an end and the vessel taken into a neutral port.


In the forenoon of August 26 the Wolf got under way and steamed westward. On the night of September 2 she laid her last minefield in the eastern approaches to Singapore, almost within sight of one of our patrolling vessels. Captain Nerger then turned back, crossed the Java Sea, and re‑entered the Indian Ocean through the Lombok Straits a few days later.


It was almost at this moment that our authorities were beginning to suspect his presence. The loss of the Dee and the schooner Winslow seem to have caused no comment; but the sudden disappearance of the Wairuna and the Matunga was another matter. Both carried cargoes, consigned, presumably, to important mercantile houses; the associations with which the ship and lading had been insured would not pay the claims without previous inquiry, and several important and influential persons were passengers in the Matunga when she was captured. The unexplained loss of two steamers was not enough, in itself, to make us decide on any speci