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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

   

HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR

 

 

BASED ON OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS

 

BY DIRECTION OF THE HISTORICAL SECTION OF THE COMMITTEE OF IMPERIAL DEFENCE

 

 

 

NAVAL OPERATIONS

 

Vol. IV

 

BY

HENRY NEWBOLT

 

 

 

LONGMANS GREEN AND CO.

39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON

1928

 

 

(only edition)

 

 

 

CONTENTS

Preface

 

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

 

 

APPENDICES

 

A ‑ Precautions Against Raiders During 1916 ... 386

B ‑ Submarine Organisation In Home Waters ... 388

 

 

Index (not included – you can use Search)

 

 

PLANS AND DIAGRAMS IN VOLUME

 

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

 

MAPS AND DIAGRAMS IN SEPARATE CASE

(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

 

 

 

 

 

PREFACE

 

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.

 

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

AFTER JUTLAND

 

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  

THE FIRST COMMUNIQUE

 

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

THE GERMAN COMMUNIQUE

 

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.in‑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  

BRITISH CLAIMS TO VICTORY

 

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    

EXPERT COMMENT BEGINS

 

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  

NEUTRAL VIEWS

 

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

THE TWO WEAPONS

 

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

PROFESSIONAL OPINION

 

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

FLEET TACTICS

 

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.

 

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER II

 

HOME WATERS

 

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

DEATH OF LORD KITCHENER

 

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 DUTCH PATROL

 

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  

THE ADMIRALTY CONFERENCE

 

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   

A VOTE OF CONFIDENCE

 

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 

HARWICH FORCE IN ACTION

 

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 

GERMAN PREPARATIONS

 

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

THE GRAND FLEET SAILS

 

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

NOTTINGHAM SINKS

 

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

WESTFALEN TORPEDOED

 

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

THE FLEETS APPROACH

 

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

PURSUING A PHANTOM

 

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

SCHEER'S RETREAT

 

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

FALMOUTH TORPEDOED

 

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

POLICY REVISED

 

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

A NO‑MAN'S SEA

 

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 

MUENCHEN TORPEDOED

 

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.

 

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER III

 

HOME WATERS

 

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 

THE THREATENED POINTS

 

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

ADMIRAL BACON'S DISPOSITIONS

 

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:

 

Vessels

sailing from

15

Southampton for Havre, Rouen and Boulogne.

7

the Thames for Havre and Calais.

5

Littlehampton for Rouen.

1

Portland for Dunkirk.

2

Dover for Boulogne.

7

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

7

Calais for Newhaven, Barry, Dover, Deptford.

1

Boulogne for Newhaven.

7

Rouen for Southampton, Barry, Newhaven.

2

Dieppe for Newhaven and Havre.

3

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 

HEAVY LOSSES

 

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

MORE DRIFTERS SUNK

 

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

DESTROYERS IN ACTION

 

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

DESTROYERS IN ACTION

 

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 

TACTICAL QUESTIONS

 

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 

DESTROYERS REDISTRIBUTED

 

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

ADMIRALTY AND GRAND FLEET

 

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   

HARWICH AND ZEEBRUGGE

 

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

THE HARWICH FORCE SAILS

 

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

HARWICH DESTROYERS ENGAGED

 

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 

THE FAILURE EXPLAINED

 

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.

 

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER IV

 

THE OUTER THEATRES (EAST AND WEST AFRICA, MESOPOTAMIA, BALTIC) AND THE MEDITERRANEAN

 

 

1

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 

A DIFFICULT JOURNEY

 

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

MOTOR BOATS IN ACTION

 

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  

THE LAKE IN BRITISH CONTROL

 

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.

 

 

2

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   

PLANS TO RELIEVE KUT

 

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.

 

 

3

Mesopotamia

(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

THE RELIEF EXPEDITION FAILS

 

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

ATTEMPT TO REVICTUAL KUT

 

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.)

 

 

4

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 

DIVING INTO THE BALTIC

 

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  

PRINZ ADALBERT TORPEDOED

 

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   

A COMPROMISE

 

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.")