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World War 1 at Sea



London Gazette editions 31189-31970 (January 1919-December 1920)

Officers of Dover Patrol destroyer HMS Zubian in 1918 (Jon Richards,

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Naval Despatches, Part 3 of 3

(London Gazette edition in brackets)

Achilles and Dundee, Action of HM Ships (31301)

Dardanelles, Naval attack on (31322)

Leopard, sinking of German raider (31301)

Mines, (Postwar) Protection against risks of (31336)

Ostend Raid, First (31189)

Russia, North, in 1918 (31970)

Russia, North Russian Expeditionary Force (31906)

Russia - Caspian Sea Operations (31590)

Russia - Baltic Sea Operations (31856)

Zeebrugge and Ostend Raids (31189)


Return to Main Index for all Naval Despatches, and Army Despatches that relate to Naval Operations and Mentions







31189 - 18 FEBRUARY 1919



NAVAL DESPATCH dated 9 May 1918



Southern North Sea and Dover Straits, click to enlarge


Admiralty, 19th February, 1919.






Fleet House, Dover, *9th May, 1918. (No. 1806/001.)


(* Some amendments to this despatch of 9th May, 1918, have been made by the Vice-Admiral, Dover Patrol, in the light of information received between that date and 22nd January, 1919.)



Be pleased to submit for the information of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty the following Report on the Operations on the Belgian Coast on the night of the 22nd-23rd April, 1918.




2. To make the report clear, the different sections of the operations have been separated as much as possible. Fuller details than appear in this despatch will be found in the complete set of orders and reports forwarded herewith. (NOTE. - These orders and reports are not published with this despatch.)


3. The main objects of the enterprise were (1) to block the Bruges ship-canal at its entrance into the harbour at Zeebrugge; (2) to block the entrance to Ostend harbour from the sea; and (3) to inflict as much damage as possible upon the ports of. Zeebrugge and Ostend.


4. Zeebrugge harbour is connected by a ship-canal with the inland docks at Bruges, which communicate again by means of a system of smaller canals with Ostend harbour. The whole forms a triangle with two sea entrances. The eastern side, which is 8 miles long, is the ship-canal from Zeebrugge to Bruges; the southern side, which is 11 miles long, consists of smaller canals from Bruges to Ostend; the base, facing north-west, is the 12 miles of heavily fortified coast line between Ostend and Zeebrugge. This fortified line is prolonged 8 1/2 miles to the westward, extending to the right flank of the German Army, facing Nieuport, and 7 miles to the eastward as far as the Dutch frontier. The defences include a number of batteries mounting over 225 guns, 136 of which are from 6-in. to 15-in. calibre, the latter ranging up to 42,000 yards.


5. This formidable system has been installed since the German occupation in 1914, and Bruges has recently provided a base for at least 35 enemy torpedo craft and about 30 submarines. By reason of its position and comparative security it has constituted a continual and ever-increasing menace to the sea communications of our Army and the seaborne trade and food supplies of the United Kingdom.


6. When the operations of the 22nd-23rd April were undertaken it was believed that, although the blocking of the Zeebrugge entrance to the Bruges ship-canal was the most important of all objects, it would be necessary also to block the entrance to the Ostend harbour in order to seal up the Bruges ship-canal and docks; for unless this were done the lighter craft would still be able to pass to and fro more or less freely through the smaller canals.


7. The attack upon the Zeebrugge Mole, as well as the bombardment of Zeebrugge by monitors and from the air, were designed to distract the attention of the enemy from the main operations. Without this diversion the attempt of the blocking ships to pass round the end of the Mole, to enter the harbour, and to reach the ship-canal entrance at the inner end must almost certainly have been discovered, with the result that the vessels would have been sunk by the shore batteries long before they reached their goal.


8. An important, though subordinate, object of the attack upon the Zeebrugge Mole was to inflict as much damage as was possible in the time upon the harbour works and defences. In order to prevent enemy reinforcements being brought from shore, while this work was in progress arrangements were made for blowing up the viaduct which connected the Mole with the land.


9. Similarly the bombardment of the Ostend defences by our shore batteries in Flanders, by the monitors and also from the air was designed to cover the attempt to block the entrance to that harbour.


10. It was anticipated that, in addition to the fire from the land batteries and harbour works, the attacking forces would have to face a counterattack from the powerful destroyer flotilla which was known to be inside. One destroyer emerged from Zeebrugge harbour, and is reported to have been struck by a torpedo fired from C.M.B. No. 5. Other torpedo craft, which apparently had not steam up, remained alongside the Mole, and their crews assisted in its defence. The greater part of the flotilla had for some reason been previously withdrawn to the Bruges docks.


11. As will be seen from the subsequent narrative, our operations were completely successful in attaining their first and most important object. The entrance to the Bruges ship-canal was blocked. The second object - the blocking of the entrance to Ostend harbour - was not achieved, for reasons which will be explained subsequently. The attack on the Zeebrugge Mole was completely successful as a diversion to enable the blocking ships to enter the harbour, to proceed to their allotted stations, and, with the exception of the "Thetis," to be sunk in accordance with the plan. The blowing up of the viaduct was carried out without any hitch, and produced the desired results. Owing, however, to various reasons which will be more particularly dealt with later, the less important objective, the destruction of the defences on the Mole, was not so thorough as had been hoped.


12. The main results achieved have, however, proved greater than I expected when the fleet returned to port on the morning of the 23rd. April. Aerial observation and photographs show clearly that even the lighter craft in the Bruges ship-canal and docks have so far been unable to find an exit through the smaller waterways to Ostend harbour. At least 23 torpedo craft have remained sealed up at Bruges ever since the operations on St. George's Day, and so far as can be seen not less than 12 submarines would likewise appear to be still imprisoned. As yet no effective steps seem to have been taken to clear the Zeebrugge entrance to the Bruges ship-canal, where the silt is shown to be collecting; and although doubtless in time the enemy will succeed in opening a way out, it seems likely that this important section of his raiding and commerce-destroying forces must inevitably be seriously hampered for a considerable period. In addition to suffering this substantial injury, the enemy has been obliged to bring down reinforcements from the Bight of Heligoland to Zeebrugge and Ostend.


13. The preparations and training for the attack extended over a long period, during the latter portion of which (i.e., from the 22nd March) the Dover Patrol was subjected to an exceptional strain owing, to the unprecedented transport of reinforcements to France.


14. Success would have been impossible without the eager and generous co-operation of the Grand Fleet, the neighbouring commands and dockyards, and the Harwich Force.


15. The concentration of the attacking fleet had to take place about 63 miles distant from Zeebrugge and Ostend. As the length of time needed for reaching these objectives after the forces had been assembled was seven hours, it was inevitable that there should be a period of not less than four hours of daylight during which enemy observation by air and submarine might discover our movements. In order to guard against this, which would have meant the certain failure of the expedition, it was necessary for the patrols and air forces to show the utmost degree of vigilance and energy. There is every reason for believing that, as a result of their efforts, the enemy remained up to the last entirely unaware of our intentions.


16. In order not only that the attack might have a reasonable prospect of success, but that it might not end in disaster, various conditions were essential - (a) a certain state of the tide; (b) calm weather; (c) a more or less favourable direction of the wind; and (d) absence of fog, with, if possible, a moderate amount of haze. The first of these conditions (the state of the tide) fixed the dates between which it was practicable to make the attempt. The others it was not possible to reckon with in advance, owing to the uncertainty of the weather, more especially at that time of year, and also to the fact that all these conditions might be different on the Flanders coast from what they were off the Goodwins, or that they might change for the worse between the starting of the expedition from the point of concentration and its arrival at its destination seven hours later.


17. It was anticipated that minefields, which would endanger the heavier draught vessels, might be encountered in the enemy's waters, but this risk had to be faced, and special arrangements were made to save the crews and storming-parties in the event of vessels being sunk.


18. On two occasions previous to the 22nd April the concentration took place, but, owing to unfavourable weather conditions setting in, had to be dispersed. This fact, although it caused disappointment among the officers and men, and also contained a danger that the enemy might become aware of our designs, had a considerable practical value as a rehearsal of the preliminary stages of the undertaking. On this point I may say here that, although on this occasion the wind changed and served us badly at a moment when we were finally committed to the attack, better conditions had, not - since the preparations were completed - occurred before, nor have they recurred up to this date.


19. The main force started from the point of concentration at 4.53 o'clock on the afternoon of Monday, the 22nd April.


20. The bombardment of Zeebrugge by monitors began at 11.20 p.m., simultaneously with that of the Ostend defences by monitors, and by our shore batteries in Flanders. These bombardments had been carried out on several nights prior to the 22nd April to give the enemy no reason to anticipate further action on our part on this particular occasion.


21. The vessels charged with making a smoke screen began operations simultaneously off Zeebrugge and Ostend at 11.40 p.m.


22. According to time-table, the hour at which the "Vindictive" (below, as a cruiser -  Photo Ships) (Captain Alfred F. B. Carpenter) should have been laid alongside the Zeebrugge Mole was midnight. She reached her station one minute after midnight, closely followed by the "Daffodil" (Lieutenant Harold Campbell) and "Iris II" (Commander Valentine Gibbs). A few minutes later the landing of the storming and demolition parties began. By 1.10 a.m. the "Vindictive" had taken off the survivors, who had meanwhile done their work upon the Mole, and by 1.15 a.m. she and her consorts were clear of the Mole.




23. At 12.15 a.m. Submarine C3 (Lieutenant Richard D. Sandford) had succeeded in ramming herself between the iron piers of the viaduct, and was thereupon abandoned by her crew after they had lit the fuses. Five minutes later the cargo of explosives blew up, completely destroying communication between the Mole and the shore.


24. The "Thetis" (Commander Ralph S. Sneyd, D.S.O.), the first of the blocking ships, passed the end of the Mole, according to arrangement, twenty-five minutes after midnight. Making her way to the entrance of the ship-canal, she carried away the obstructing nets, and being then in a sinking condition from gunfire, with both her propellers fouled, was sunk by her crew close to the entrance of the canal. The "Intrepid" (Lieutenant Stuart S. Bonham-Carter), the second of the blocking ships, following a few minutes later, was sunk in the ship-canal itself; and the "Iphigenia," (Lieutenant Edward W. Billyard-Leake), the last of the three blocking ships, following close astern of the "Intrepid," was sunk with the most complete success across the narrowest part of the ship-canal at 12.45 a.m.


25. It was expected that the blocking ships "Brilliant" (Commander Alfred E. Godsal) and "Sirius" (Lieutenant-Commander Henry N. M. Hardy, D.S.O.) would have found the entrance to Ostend harbour by midnight. For the reason, however, which is explained in the next paragraph, they missed their objective, ran ashore, and had both to be sunk about 12.30 a.m.


26. The success of the Ostend enterprise was affected to some extent by two adverse factors: (1) at 12.15 a.m. the wind (N.N.E.), which so far had been favourable for purposes of the smoke screen, shifted into an unfavourable quarter (S.S.W.), thereby exposing the attacking forces to the fire of the enemy; (2) the buoy which marks the Channel to Ostend harbour had been moved very shortly before, unknown to us, to a position some 2,400 yards further east, so that when. "Brilliant" and "Sirius" found, it and put their helms to starboard they ran ashore.


27. The manner in which the survivors of the crews of the five blocking ships and of Submarine C3 were rescued and brought away by volunteer crews in motor launches and a picket boat was beyond praise. The various incidents are described in subsequent paragraphs.


28. In the course of the attack on St. George's Day our casualties to officers and men were as follows: Killed, 176; wounded, 412; missing, 49; of the latter 35 are believed to have been killed. Although these casualties are light compared to those that the Army constantly suffers in similar enterprises, we have to mourn the loss of comrades selected from practically every unit of His Majesty's sea forces. Our losses in ships were as follows: H.M.S. "North Star" and motor launches Nos. 424 and 110, sunk. No other vessel was rendered unfit for further service.


29. I have already submitted to the Lords (Commissioners of the Admiralty the list of naval officers whom 1 considered deserving of promotion, either immediately or as soon as they have the prescribed service. I propose to forward as soon as possible a supplementary despatch bringing to their Lordships' notice the names of other officers and men who distinguished themselves, for they are naturally numerous. They came from many ships, and were scattered immediately the operations were over, so that it is difficult to obtain the details relating to them.


30. I cannot close this brief summary without reference to those gallant souls who did not live to see the success of their endeavours. It seems almost invidious to mention names when every officer and man who took part was animated by one spirit, ardently welcoming the opportunity of achieving a feat of arms against odds in order that honour and merit might be added to that which our Service has gained in the past. Amongst those who lost their lives were many who shared with me the secrets of the plan, and of those I cannot refrain from recalling Lieutenant-Colonel Elliot, Captain Halahan, Commander Valentine Gibbs, Majors Cordner and Eagles, Lieutenant-Commanders Harrison and Bradford, Lieutenants Hawkings and Chamberlain, and Wing-Commander Brock, who all worked for many weeks in the training of the personnel and the preparation of material. Their keen enthusiasm, and absolute confidence that the enterprise would be carried to a successful issue were invaluable to me. During the anxious days of waiting in crowded ships in a secluded anchorage, and in spite of two disappointments, the patience and faith that our chance would came, which were displayed by all, owed much to the fine example of these officers.






31. In order that all parts of the Naval Service might share in the expedition, representative bodies of men were drawn from the Grand Fleet, the three Home Depots, the Royal Marine Artillery and Light Infantry. The ships and torpedo craft were furnished by the Dover Patrol, which was reinforced by vessels from the Harwich Force and the French Navy. The Royal Australian Navy and the Admiralty Experimental Stations at Stratford and Dover were also represented. The details thus contributed, which finally composed the whole striking force, were as shown in the following table:




Besides those belonging to ships in preceding columns.





Grand Fleet (exclusive of Royal Marines)




Harwich Force:




Covering Squadron

7 light cruiser, 2 leaders, 14 T.B.D.s



For Operations

1 leader, 6 T.B.D's



Dover Patrol

9 monitors, 1 light cruiser, 4 leaders, 17 T.B.D.'s, 36 M.L's, 12 C.M.B.'s, 1 minesweeper




11 M.L.s, 12 C.M.B.'s, 1 parent ship, 1 blocking ship, 2 submarines, 1 boarding ship



The Nore

12 M.L.'s, 1 picket boat, 1 parent ship, 4 blocking ships, 2 boarding ships







Royal Australian Navy




French Navy

7 T.B.D.'s, 4 M.L.'s



Dover Experimental Base




Royal Marine Artillery




Royal Marine Light Infantry











32. A force thus composed and its weapons obviously needed collective training and special preparation to adapt them to their purpose.


33. With these objects, the Blocking Ships and the Storming Forces were assembled towards the end of February and from the 4th April onwards in the West Swin Anchorage, where training specially adapted to the plan of operations was given, and where the organisation of the expedition was carried on. The material as it was prepared was used to make the training practical, and was itself tested thereby. Moreover, valuable practice was afforded by endeavours to carry out the project on two occasions on which the conditions of wind and weather compelled its postponement, and much was learnt from these temporary failures. The "Hindustan" (below - Maritime Quest), at first at Chatham and later at the Swin, was the parent ship and training depot, and it is due to Captain A. P. Davidson, D.S.O., who also did good work in fitting out the various ships, that the accommodation of the assembling crews and their maintenance during the weeks of preparation and postponement was so ably organised as to reduce the discomforts inseparable from the situation to a minimum. After the second attempt, when it became apparent that there would, be a long delay, the "Dominion" joined the "Hindustan," and the pressure on the available accommodation was relieved by the transfer of about 350 seamen and marines to her.




34. Two special craft, the Liverpool ferry steamers "Iris" (renamed "Iris II.") and "Daffodil," were selected after a long search at many ports by Captain Herbert C. J. Grant (Retired) and a representative of the Director of Dockyards, on account of their power, large carrying capacity (1,500), and shallow draft, with a view in the first place to their pushing the "Vindictive" alongside the Mole (for which they were in the result most useful); to the possibility, should the "Vindictive" be sunk, of their bringing away all her crew and the landing parties; and to their ability to manoeuvre in shallow waters or clear of minefields or torpedoes. They proved to be admirably chosen, and rendered good service.


35. The blocking ships and "Vindictive" were specially prepared for their work in Chatham Dockyard, the "Iris II" and "Daffodil" at Portsmouth. I received the most zealous and able help from all officers and Departments concerned, who did their utmost to expedite the work in every way.


36. I was able to devote more personal attention and time to working out the plan of operations and the preparation of personnel and material than would otherwise have been possible, because Rear-Admiral Cecil F. Dampier, Admiral Superintendent and second in command of the Dover Flotilla, Commodore the Hon. Algernon Boyle, C.B., M.V.O., Chief of Staff, and Captain Wilfred Tomkinson, commanding the Sixth (Dover) Flotilla of Destroyers, practically relieved me of all the routine work of the Dover base and patrol. I am greatly indebted to Admiral Dampier for his loyal co-operation in connection with the operations. In order to bring together the number of destroyers requisite for the operation, while maintaining the work of the patrol, it was necessary to have the entire available force in running order. This called for high organisation on Captain Tomkinson's part, and was made especially difficult because the period of preparation coincided with that in which very heavy demands were suddenly made on the escort flotilla by the pressing needs of the army in France. The fact that the many additional services which the Dover Patrol was called on to carry out in addition to its routine, were performed without deranging its working, reflects the greatest credit on Commodore Boyle, whose exceptional powers of organisation have been invaluable to me.


37. Reference to Wing-Commander F. A. Brock's services during the operation will be made in connection with the attack on the Mole, but I cannot leave this part of the subject without recording my indebtedness to him for the indispensable share he had in the operation. When, as Vice-Admiral of the Dover Patrol, I first began to prepare for this operation, it became apparent that without an effective system of smokescreening such an attack could hardly hope to succeed. The system of making smoke previously employed in the Dover Patrol was unsuitable for a night operation, as its production generated a fierce flame, and no other means of making an effective smoke screen was available. Wing-Commander Brock and sixty ratings were lent to my command, a factory was established in the dockyard, and he worked with great energy to obtain materials, designing and organising the means and the plans, and eventually developing the resources with which we finally set out. These were of great value even in the adverse circumstances which befell us, and I greatly deplore the loss of a man so well qualified to carry experiments in this matter further. When on the Mole he was very keen to acquire knowledge of the range-finding apparatus which might be of use to the country, and his efforts to do this were made without any regard to his personal safety, and I fear cost this very brave and ingenious officer his life.


38. The fitting out of the motor launches and coastal motor boats with smoke apparatus, designed by Wing-Commander Brock, was carried out at Dover, under short notice and with untiring energy by my Flag Captain, Ralph Collins, ably assisted by Commander Hamilton Benn, Engineer Lieutenant-Commander M. G. A. Edwards, Lieutenant F. C. Archer, and Mr. G. D. Smart, of H.M. Dockyard, Dover.


39. Staff-Paymaster Walter C. Northcott, R.N.R., the Naval Supply Officer at Dover, was at all times most zealous and untiring in dealing with the vast quantities of stores and munitions which had to be checked and distributed, often at very short notice.


40. The first officer who became available for a command in the blockships was Lieutenant Ivan B. Franks ("Dolphin"). Although suffering from the severe effects of an accident on service, his confident enthusiasm fired all who came into touch with him. He was put in charge of the early preparations of all the blockships and commanded the "Iphigenia" in the two abandoned attempts, but to his great disappointment he was taken ill with appendicitis two days before the actual attack, and had to be sent to hospital to undergo an operation. I do not wish the good work he did, and the good example he set, to go unrecorded.


41. The flag officers of other commands who were in a position to assist me did so most generously. The Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet sent me a selected body of officers and men truly representative of his command, for I understand that the whole of his command would have been equally glad to come. From the neighbouring commands at Portsmouth and the Nore, the Adjutant-General, Royal Marines, and the Depot at Chatham, I received support and assistance, not only in ships and men, but in every possible way. The Rear-Admiral Commanding the Harwich Force spared me a flotilla leader and six destroyers, besides protecting the northern flank of the area in which I was operating.


Brigadier-General McEwan and his staff at (Chatham supervised the training of the officers and men from the Grand Fleet as if for the Royal Naval Division, France. Their assistance was invaluable, and I much appreciate their whole-hearted co-operation.


42. I am much indebted to Brigadier-General Charles L. Lambe, C.M.G., D.S.O., commanding the 7th Brigade of the Royal Air Force, and Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick C. Halahan, M.V.O., D.S.O., in command of the Air Forces under my command, for the cooperation of the 61st and 65th Wings, under Lieutenant-Colonels P. F. M. Fellowes, D.S.O., and James T. Cull, D.S.O., respectively, throughout the preparation and execution of the operations. The 65th Wing was lent for the purpose by the Field-Marshal Commander-in-Chief British Armies in France. For several weeks the 61st Wing was engaged in frequent reconnaissances, and took a large number of photographs in different conditions of tide, from which photographs plans and models were constructed. On the first occasion of attempting the operation, the 65th Wing was already committed to their attack when I was compelled by shift of wind to withdraw the sea attack. The air attack was delivered with the greatest gallantry at a low altitude, and against a tremendous anti-aircraft defence. To the intense disappointment of the 65th Wing, mist and rain made it impossible to co-operate by repeating the aerial bombardment on the night of the 22nd-23rd April, but the 61st Wing and aircraft from the Guston aerodrome at Dover escorted the main force across the North Sea.




43. The preparation of the routes from the starting points of attack, by the removal of obstructions and the placing of navigational marks and those for the long-range bombardments was carried out by Captain Henry P. Douglas, borne for surveying duties on my staff, and Lieutenant-Commander Francis E. B. Haselfoot, his assistant. The completely successful manner in which this very important work was done, in circumstances of interference from the enemy and the elements, does great credit to these officers, both of whom I recommend to the favourable notice of the Lords Commissioners.


44. To afford protection at a certain point in the route, and to maintain the aids to navigation during the approach, and retirement of the expedition, a force consisting of the flotilla-leader "Scott " and the destroyers "Ulleswater," "Teazer," and "Stork," lent from the Harwich Force, and the light cruiser "Attentive," flying the broad pendant of Commodore the Hon. Algernon D. E. H. Boyle, my Chief of Staff, was stationed there. The duties of this force were not interrupted by the enemy, but it was instrumental in controlling and directing the movements of detached craft in both directions, and relieved me of all anxiety on that score.




45. At the moment of starting, the forces were disposed thus:


(a.) In the Swin.

For the attack on the Zeebrugge Mole: "Vindictive," "Iris II.," and "Daffodil."

To block the Bruges Canal: "Thetis," "Intrepid," and "Iphigenia."

To block the entrance to Ostend: "Sirius" and "Brilliant."


(b.) At Dover.

T.B.D. "Warwick" (flag of Vice-Admiral).

Unit L, "Phoebe" and "North Star."

Unit M, "Trident" and "Mansfield."

Unit F, "Whirlwind" and "Myngs."

Unit R, "Velox," "Morris," "Moorsom," and "Melpomene."

Unit X, "Tempest" and "Tetrarch."

To damage Zeebrugge viaduct: Submarines C.1 and C.3.

A special picket boat to rescue crews of C.1 and C.3.

Minesweeper "Lingfield" to take off surplus steaming parties of blockships, which had 100 miles to steam.

Eighteen coastal motor boats, numbers 5, 7, 15, 16, 17, 21B, 22B, 23B, 24A, 25BD, 26B, 27A, 28A, 29A, 30B, 32A, 34A, 35A.

Thirty-three motor launches, numbers 79, 110, 121, 128, 223, 239, 241, 252, 258, 262, 272, 280, 282, 308, 314, 345, 397, 416, 420, 422, 424, 513, 525, 526, 533, 549, 552, 555, 557, 558, 560, 561, 562.

To bombard vicinity of Zeebrugge: Monitors "Erebus" and "Terror."

To attend on monitors, &c.: "Termagant," "Truculent," and "Manly."

Outer Patrol off Zeebrugge: "Attentive," "Scott," "Ulleswater," "Teazer," and "Stork."


(c.) At Dunkirk.

Monitors for bombarding Ostend: "Marshal Soult,". "Lord Clive," "Prince Eugene," "General Craufurd," M.24, M.26 and M.21"

For operating off Ostend: "Swift," "Faulknor," "Matchless," "Mastiff," and "Afridi."

The British destroyers "Mentor,"  "Lightfoot," "Zubian," and French "Lestin," "Roux," and "Bouclier," to accompany the monitors.

Eighteen British motor launches, numbers 11, 16, 17, 22, 23, 30, 60, 105, 254, 274, 276, 279, 283, 429, 512, 532, 551, 556, engaged in smoke-screening duty inshore and rescue work, and six for attending on big monitors.

Four French T.B's and four French Motor Launches, numbers 1, 2, 33, and 34, attending on "M.24," "M.26" and "M.21".

Coastal motor boats (40 feet), numbers 2, 4, 10, and 12; (55 feet) 19 and 20.


46. Navigational aids having been established on the route, the forces from the Swin and Dover were directed to join my flag off the Goodwin Sands and proceed in company to a rendezvous, and thereafter as requisite to their respective stations; those from Dunkirk were given their orders by the Commodore.


47. An operation time-table was issued to govern the movements of all the forces, wireless signals were prohibited, visual signals of every sort were reduced to a minimum, and manoeuvring pre-arranged as far as foresight could provide. With few and slight delays the programme for the passage was carried out as laid down, the special aids to navigation being found of great assistance.


48. The Harwich Force, under Rear-Admiral Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt, K.C.B., D.S.O., was posted to cover the operation and prevent interference from the northward, which relieved me of all concern on that score.


49. On leaving the Goodwins, the Main Force was disposed in three columns. The centre column was led by "Vindictive," with "Iris II." and "Daffodil" in tow, followed by the five blocking ships and the paddle minesweeper "Lingfield," escorting five motor launches for taking off the surplus steaming parties of the blocking ships. The starboard column was led by the "Warwick," flying my flag, followed by the "Phoebe" and "North Star," which three ships were to cover the "Vindictive" from torpedo attack while the storming operations were in progress; "Trident" and "Mansfield," towing submarines C.3 and C.1; and "Tempest," to escort the two Ostend blockships. The port column was led by "Whirlwind," followed by "Myngs" and "Moorsom," which ships were to patrol to the northward of Zeebrugge; and the "Tetrarch," also to escort the Ostend blockships. Every craft was towing one or more coastal motor boats, and between the columns were motor launches.


50. The greater part of the passage had to be carried out in broad daylight, with the consequent likelihood of discovery by enemy aircraft or submarine. This risk was largely countered by the escort of all the scouting aircraft under my command. On arrival at a certain position (C), it being then apparent that the conditions were favourable, and that there was every prospect of carrying through the enterprise up to programme time, a short pre-arranged wireless signal was made to the detached forces that the programme would be adhered to.


51. On arrival at a position 1 1/2 miles short of (G), at which Commodore Boyle's force was stationed, the whole force stopped for fifteen minutes to enable the surplus steaming parties of the blockships to be disembarked and the coastal motor boats slipped. These and the motor launches then proceeded in execution of previous orders. On resuming the course the "Warwick " and "Whirlwind," followed by the destroyers, drew ahead on either bow to clear the passage of enemy outpost vessels.


52. When the "Vindictive" arrived at a position where it was necessary for her to alter course for the Mole, the "Warwick," "Phoebe" and "North Star" swung to starboard and cruised in the vicinity of the Mole until after the final withdrawal of all the attacking forces. During this movement and throughout the subsequent operations "Warwick" was manoeuvred to place smoke screens wherever they seemed to be most required, and when the wind shifted from north-east to south-west, her services in this respect were particularly valuable.




53. Zeebrugge.- The monitors "Erebus" (Captain Charles S. Wills, C.M.G., D.S.O.) and "Terror" (Captain Charles W. Bruton), with the destroyers "Termagant," "Truculent" and "Manly," were stationed at a position suitable for the long-range bombardment of Zeebrugge in co-operation with the attack. Owing to poor visibility and an extraordinary set of the tide the opening of bombardment was delayed slightly behind programme time; otherwise the operations of this force were carried out according to plan. During the operation enemy shell fell in the vicinity of "Erebus" and "Terror" but neither was hit. On completion of the bombardment the vessels of this force took up patrolling positions to cover the retirement from Zeebrugge. Aerial photographs show the good effect of this bombardment.


54. Ostend. - Similarly, the monitors "Marshal Soult" (Captain George R. B. Blount, D.S.O., "General Craufurd " (Commander Edward Altham), "Prince Eugene" (Captain Ernest Wigram, D.S.O.), and "Lord Clive" (Commander Reginald J. N. Watson, D.S.O.), and the small monitors M.21 (Commander Oliver M. F. Stokes), M.24 (Acting Commander Claude P. C. de Crespigny), and M.26 (Lieutenant-Commander Arthur C. Fawssett) were stationed by Commodore Hubert Lynes, C.M.G., in suitable positions to bombard specified batteries. These craft were attended by the British destroyers "Mentor," "Lightfoot," and "Zubian," and the French "Lestin," "Boux," and "Bouclier." The Commodore reports that the bombardment was undoubtedly useful in keeping down the fire of the shore batteries. These returned the monitors' fire about five minutes after the latter opened, the ships being hit by fragments of shell, but no material damage being done.


55. Siege Guns.- Co-operation by R.M.A. siege guns (Colonel Pryce Peacock, R.M.A.) on given enemy targets was arranged by the Commodore Dunkirk to which the enemy replied without causing any casualties or any damage of importance.




56. General.- The attack on the Mole was primarily intended to distract the enemy's attention from the ships engaged in blocking the Bruges Canal, its immediate objectives were, firstly, the capture of the 4.1 inch battery at the sea end of the Mole (NOTE.- After the evacuation of Zeebrugge by the enemy it was found that these guns were of 5.9 inch calibre, and subsequent to these operations the battery was moved from the end of the Mole on to the parapet), which was a serious menace to the passage of the blockships, and, secondly, the doing of as much damage to the material on the Mole as time permitted, for it was not the intention to remain on the Mole after the primary object of the expedition had been accomplished. The attack was to consist of two parts; (a) the landing of storming and demolition parties, and (b) the destruction of the iron viaduct between the shore and the stone Mole.


57. The units detailed for the attack were:


(a) H.M. Ship "Vindictive," Acting Captain Alfred F. B. Carpenter (late "Emperor of India"); the special steamers "Iris II," Commander Valentine Gibbs ("Tiger"), and "Daffodil," Lieutenant Harold G. Campbell ("Emperor of India"); the latter detailed to push the "Vindictive" alongside the Mole and keep her there as long as might be requisite.


(b) Submarines C.3 and C.1, commanded by Lieutenants Richard D. Sandford and Aubrey C. Newbold respectively, attended by a picket boat under Lieutenant-Commander Francis H. Sandford, D.S.O.


58. Besides the above, a flotilla of twenty four motor launches and eight coastal motor boats were told off for rescue work and to make smoke screens or lay smoke floats, and nine more coastal motor boats to attack the Mole and enemy vessels inside it, &c.


At 11.40 p.m. the coastal motor boats detailed to lay the first smoke screen ran in to a very close range and proceeded to lay smoke floats and by other methods produce the necessary "fog." These craft came under heavy fire, and only their small size and great speed saved them from destruction.


59. "Vindictive" (below, after the raid - Navy Photos). - At 11.30 p.m. the Blankenberghe light buoy was abeam, and the enemy had presumably heard or seen the approaching forces, as many star shells were fired, lighting up the vicinity, but no enemy patrol craft were sighted. At this time the wind, which had been from the north-east, and therefore favourable to the success of the smoke screens, died away, and at a later period came from a southerly direction. Many of the smoke floats laid just off the Mole extension were sunk by enemy fire, and this in conjunction with the changes in the wind lessened the effectiveness of the smoke screen.




60. At 11.56 the ship having just passed through a smoke screen, the Mole extension was seen in the semi-darkness about 300 yards off on the port bow. Speed was increased to full, and course altered so that allowing for cross tide the ship would make good a closing course of 45 degrees to the Mole. The "Vindictive" purposely withheld her fire to avoid being discovered, but almost at the moment of her emerging from the smoke the enemy opened fire. So promptly, under the orders of Commander Edward O. B. S. Osborne, was this replied to by the port 6-inch battery, the upper-deck pom-poms, and the gun in the fore-top, that the firing on both sides appeared to be almost simultaneous. Captain Carpenter was conning the ship from the port forward flame-thrower hut. Lieutenant-Commander Robert R. Rosoman, with directions as to the handling of the ship should the captain be disabled, was in the conning tower from which the ship was being steered.


61. At one minute after midnight on the 23rd April, St. George's Day - the programme time being midnight - the " Vindictive" was put alongside the Mole, taking gently on the special fenders of the port bow, and the starboard anchor was let go. At this time the noise was terrific. During the previous few minutes the ship had been hit by a large number of shell and many casualties caused. Lieutenant-Colonel Bertram H. Elliot, D.S.O., and Major Alexander A. Cordner, the two senior officers of the Royal Marine storming parties (right, badge of Royal Marine Light Infantry - Jack Clegg), and Captain Henry C. Halahan, D.S.O., commanding the naval storming parties, all ready to lead the men on to the Mole, had been killed; Commander Patrick H. Edwards, R.N.V.R., and many other officers and men killed or wounded.


62. As there was some doubt as to the starboard anchor having gone clear, the port anchor was dropped close to the foot of the Mole and the cable bowsed-to with less than a shackle out. A three-knot tide was running past the Mole; and the scend alongside the Mole created by the slight swell caused much movement on the ship. There was an interval of three or four minutes before "Daffodil" (below, in civilian use - Photo Ships) could arrive and commence to push "Vindictive" bodily alongside. During this interval the ship could not be got close enough for the special mole-anchors to hook, and it was a very trying period. Many of the brows had been broken by shell fire, and a heavy roll had broken up the foremost mole-anchor as it was being placed. The two foremost brows, however, reached the wall and the naval storming parties, led in the most gallant manner by Lieutenant-Commander Bryan F. Adams ("Princess Royal") ran out along them closely followed by the Royal Marines, gallantly led by Captain and Adjutant A. R. Chater. Owing to the rolling of the ship a most disconcerting motion was imparted to the brows, the outer ends of which were "sawing" considerably on the Mole parapet. Officers and men were carrying Lewis guns, bombs, ammunition, etc., and were under heavy machine-gun fire at close range, add to this a drop of 30 feet between the ship and the Mole and some idea of the conditions which had to be faced may be realised. Yet the storming of the Mole by these two brows, and later by two others which were got into position, was carried out without the smallest delay, and without any apparent consideration of self-preservation. Some of the first men on the Mole did splendid work with the object of hauling one of the large mole-anchors across the parapet. Lieutenant-Commander Rosoman assisted in this on board, encouraging and directing the men with great coolness and ability.




"Daffodil" arrived three minutes after "Vindictive," closely followed by "Iris II". Both suffered less in the approach, "Vindictive" occupying practically all the enemy's attention. As already stated "Daffodil's" primary duty was to push "Vindictive" bodily on to the Mole, to enable her to be secured, after which "Daffodil" was to come alongside and land her parties over that ship. In the end her men had to disembark from her bows on to "Vindictive," as it was found essential to continue to push "Vindictive" on to the Mole throughout the action. This duty was magnificently carried out by her Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Harold G. Campbell ("Emperor of India"), who, during the greater part of the time, was suffering from a wound in the head which for the time deprived him of the sight of one eye. Without the assistance of "Daffodil " very few of the storming parties from "Vindictive " could have been landed or re-embarked; and the greatest credit is due to Mr. Campbell for the skilful manner in which he handled his ship.


63. The landing from "Iris II." was even more trying. The scend alongside made her bump heavily, and rendered the use of the scaling ladders very difficult, many being broken up. Lieutenant Claude E. V. Hawkings ("Erin") ascended the first ladder, secured the mole anchor, and was then shot and fell on to the Mole. Lieutenant-Commander George N. Bradford ("Orion") got to the top of a derrick with a mole anchor on it, leaped on to the Mole, secured the anchor and was shot, falling into the water between "Iris II." and the Mole. Gallant attempts to recover his body were made, Petty Officer M. D. Hallihan being killed while so employed. The gallantry and devotion to duty of these two officers was of the highest order. In the end, so impossible was it to get the mole anchors to hold, that the cable was slipped and "Iris II." went alongside "Vindictive" to enable "D" Company and her Royal Marines to land across her, but only a few men had got to the "Vindictive " when the withdrawal signal was sounded.


64. On board the "Vindictive" the fore most 7.5-inch Howitzer's Marine crew were all killed or wounded in the very early part of the action. A naval crew from a 6-inch gun took their place, and were almost entirely wiped out. At this period the ship was being hit every few seconds, chiefly in the upper works, from which the splinters caused many casualties. It was difficult to locate the guns which were doing the most damage, but Lieutenant Charles N. B. Rigby, R.M.A., with his Royal Marines in the foretop, kept up a continuous fire with pompoms and Lewis guns, changing rapidly from one target to another. Two heavy shells made direct hits on the foretop, killing Lieutenant Rigby and killing or disabling all in the top, except Sergeant N. A. Finch, who, though severely wounded, continued firing till the top was wrecked by another heavy shell. Captain Carpenter reports that before going into the foretop Lieutenant Rigby had displayed fine courage and ability, and that the success of the storming of the Mole was largely due to the good work of this officer and the men under his orders.


65. Acting Captain Reginald Dallas Brooks, R.M.A., was in command of the R.M.A. gun detachments in "Vindictive." He not only set his men generally a splendid example of devotion to duty, but commanded the crew of the 11-inch Howitzer in its exposed position in a very fine manner.


66. Half an hour after the storming of the Mole had been commenced, the Captain visited the decks below and found Staff-Surgeon James McCutcheon and the staff under him working with great energy and care. A constant stream of casualties were being brought down every hatch, yet there appeared to be no delay in dealing with each case.


67. The Mole.- The attack on the Mole was designed to be carried out by a storming force to prepare the way for, and afterwards to cover and protect, the operations of a second force which was to carry out the actual demolition, damage, &c. Both these forces comprised Royal Naval ranks and ratings under the command of Captain Henry C. Halahan, D.S.O., and Royal Marines under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Bertram N. Elliot, D.S.O.


68. The storming force was composed of Naval Companies - A. (Lieutenant-Commander Bryan F. Adams, "Princess Royal"), B. (Lieutenant Arthur G. B. T. Chamberlain, "Neptune"), and D. (Lieutenant-Commander G. N. Bradford, "Orion"), all under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Arthur L. Harrison ("Lion"), and the 4th Battalion, Royal Marines, organised as follows:


"A" (Chatham) Company: Major Charles E. C. Eagles, D.S.O.

"B" (Portsmouth) Company: Captain Edward Bamford, D.S.O.

"C" (Plymouth) Company: Major Bernard G. Weller, D.S.O.

Machine Gun Company: Captain Charles B. Conybeare.


On the death of Lieutenant-Colonel Elliot D.S.O., and Major Alexander A. Cordner (Second in Command), Major Weller assumed command of the battalion. Captain A. R. Chater was battalion adjutant.


This force was embarked mainly in "Vindictive," but partly in "Iris II."


69. The demolition force was composed of C. Naval Company, under the command of Lieutenant Cecil C. Dickinson ("Resolution"), and was divided into three parties, Nos. 1 and 3, under Sub-Lieutenant Felix E. Chevallier ("Iron Duke"), being conveyed in the "Daffodil," and No. 2, under Lieutenant Dickinson, in the "Vindictive."


70. The objectives of the storming forces had been communicated to the officers, and specific duties allotted to the different units, who had been exercised on a replica of the Mole, described to the men as "a position in France."


71. This specialised preparation was necessary, but it handicapped the leaders of the storming parties, for, owing to the difficulty in recognising objects on the Mole, the "Vindictive" overran her station and was berthed some 300 yards further to the westward (or shore end of the Mole) than was intended (see plan). It was realised beforehand that "Vindictive" might not exactly hit off her position, but the fact that the landing was carried out in an unexpected place, combined with the heavy losses already sustained by "Vindictive," seriously disorganised the attacking force. The intention was to land the storming parties right on top of the 4.1 inch guns (see footnote to para. 56) in position on the seaward end of the Mole, the silencing of which was of the first importance, as they menaced the approach of the blockships. The leading blockship was timed to pass the lighthouse twenty-five minutes after "Vindictive" came alongside. This period of time proved insufficient to organise and carry through an attack against the enemy on the seaward end of the Mole, who were able to bring heavy machine-gun fire to bear on the attacking forces. As a result the blockships came under an unexpected fire from the light guns on the Mole extension (NOTE: After the evacuation it was found that three of the guns on the Mole extension were of 4.1 inch calibre), though the 4.1 inch battery on the Mole head remained silent (see paragraphs 73 and 94).


72. Lieutenant-Commander Adams, followed by the survivors of "A" and "B" Companies, were the first to land, no enemy being then seen on the Mole. These two companies had suffered severely before landing, especially "B," both of whose officers were casualties. They found themselves on a pathway on the Mole parapet about 8 feet wide, with a wall 4 feet high on the seaward side, and an iron railing on the Mole side. From this pathway there was a drop of 15 feet on to the Mole proper. This raised portion of the Mole will in future be referred to as the parapet. Followed by his men, Mr. Adams went along the parapet to the left (towards the lighthouse extension), where he found a look-out station or control, with a range-finder behind and above it. A bomb was put into this station, which was found clear of men. Wing Commander Frank A. Brock here joined the party, and went inside to investigate. He was not seen again by Mr. Adams, but from other accounts it is believed he was seen alive later.


73. Near this look-out station an iron ladder led down to the Mole, and three of Mr. Adams' party descended it and prevented a few of the enemy from reaching the harbour side of the Mole. Two destroyers alongside the Mole showed no activity up to this time, nor did Mr. Adams see the three-gun battery at the Mole end fire at any time whilst he was on the parapet, but a machine gun about 100 yards to the westward of these guns was firing on his party. It appeared at this time that the enemy were firing at the "Vindictive" from the shore end of the Mole, but no gun flashes were seen, as everything was so well illuminated by enemy star shell and the rockets fired by "Vindictive." After capturing the look-out station Mr. Adams advanced to the eastward about 40 yards, where he left his party in position and himself returned to collect more men.


74. Returning, to the look-out station, Mr. Adams found only some wounded, but later collected two Lewis gunners and a small party under Petty Officer George E. Antell, O.N. 232634 ("Lion"). These he sent to the eastward and the Petty Officer inboard, as he had been wounded in the hand and arm before landing, and although in great pain had carried on most gallantly.


75. The situation now was that Mr. Adams' few men and the two Lewis gunners were beyond the look-out station protected from the machine-gun fire from the direction of the Mole Head, but exposed to that from the destroyers alongside the Mole, and the men were being hit apparently by machine guns and pom-poms. Lieutenant-Commander Harrison arrived at this time; this gallant officer was severely wounded in the head on board "Vindictive" before coming alongside, but directly he recovered consciousness he joined his section on the Mole; on receiving Mr. Adams' report he directed him to try and get more men. Major Weller, Commanding the Royal Marines, on receiving Mr. Adams' report, despatched Lieutenant G. Underhill with reinforcements to assist Mr. Harrison. Whilst this party was being collected, Mr. Adams returned to the look-out station, where he was informed that Mr. Harrison had led a rush along the parapet and that he and several of his men had been killed by machine-gun fire. Able Seaman McKenzie, one of B Company's machine gunners with Mr. Harrison, did good execution with his gun, though wounded in several places, and Able Seaman Eaves was killed in attempting to bring in Mr. Harrison's body. (NOTE: Able Seaman Eaves, it appears, was not killed, but was very severely wounded and taken prisoner.)


76. About this time the recall was sounded, and Mr. Adams therefore withdrew his men from the parapet and Mole, collected the wounded, and sent them to the "Vindictive." He himself went along the parapet in search of Mr. Harrison, but not finding him, returned to assist in the re-embarkation. As originally planned, Mr. Harrison's bluejacket storming parties were to deal with the battery on the Mole head and Mole extension only, but for the reasons given, in paragraph 71 they started 400 yards further from their objectives than was intended with the intervening ground fully exposed to machine-gun fire. Mr. Adams and his men, and later Mr. Harrison, pressed their attack most gallantly, and, though denied a full measure of success, it appears probable their fire prevented the 4.1 inch battery at the Mole head coming into action, as these guns did not open fire at the blockships (see paragraph 94).


77. Marine Storming Party.- The Royal Marines of this expedition were drawn from the four divisional headquarters and the Grand Fleet. The battalion was to provide the officers and men of the storming force: the crews of four Stokes guns, one 11-inch howitzer, five pom-poms, and some Lewis guns of the "Vindictive's" armament, and a few men to work with the Naval demolition party. It was carried to Zeebrugge in the "Vindictive," except A Company, two Vickers guns of the machine-gun section, and two Stokes guns, which went in "Iris II." All had taken part in the special training and practices already referred to, the howitzer crews having been put through a course at Shoeburyness.


78. The first objective of the Royal Marine Battalion was a fortified zone situated about 150 yards from the seaward end of the Mole proper; its capture was of the first importance, as an enemy holding it could bring a heavy fire to bear on the parties landing from "Vindictive." This objective being gained, the Royal Marines were to continue down the Mole and hold a position so as to cover the operations of the demolition parties from an attack by enemy troops advancing from the landward end of the Mole. The destruction of the Viaduct by Submarine "C.3" was intended to assist in this, by preventing reinforcements reaching the Mole from the shore. Owing to "Vindictive" coming alongside to landward of this zone, the Royal Marines were faced with the double duty of preventing an enemy attack from the shore end and of themselves attacking the fortified zone. The casualties already sustained and the fact that "Iris II." (below, later Royal Iris - Photo Ships/M Cooper)  could not remain alongside to land her company of Royal Marines (see paragraph 63) left insufficient men in the early stages of the landing to carry out both operations. The situation was a difficult one, for to attack the fortified zone first might have enabled the enemy to advance up the Mole and seize positions abreast "Vindictive" with the most serious consequences to the whole landing force, whereas by not attacking the fortified zone the guns at the Mole head could not be prevented from firing at the blockships. As will be seen in subsequent paragraphs, the Royal Marines first secured the landward side, after which an assault was organised against the fortified zone, but the unavoidable delay prevented this attack from being carried through before the blockships had passed in and the recall sounded. Major Weller's action was correct; lack of men prevented him reinforcing the bluejacket storming parties under Mr. Harrison and Mr. Adams, who had in consequence to attempt an assault on a very strong position with the depleted A and B Companies, and without the assistance of D Company, which could not be landed in time from "Iris II." (see paragraph 63). How heroically they failed has been related in paragraphs 72 to 75.



79. No. 5 Platoon (Lieutenant T. F. V. Cooke) was the first to land, and proceeded to the right (west) along the parapet. They silenced a party of snipers who were firing from near No. 2 Shed into the men landing. Captain and Adjt. A. R. Chater initiated this, which Major Weller considers greatly assisted the disembarkation. Captain Bamford now joined, and with Lieutenant Cooke and this platoon reached a position some 200 yards from the "Vindictive"; their action greatly assisted the advance along the Mole;, they themselves being exposed to a galling fire. Lieutenant Cooke, who set a fine example, was twice wounded, and was rendered unconscious; he was most gallantly carried back to the "Vindictive" by Private John D. L. Press, R.M.L.I., who was himself wounded.


80. No. 9 Platoon and the remnants of No. 10, under Lieutenant C. D. R. Lamplough, were the next to land. They descended from the parapet to the Mole (a drop of 15 feet) by means of ropes, and proceeded to establish a strong point at the shoreward end of No. 3 Shed, to prevent possible attack from that direction. This unit later attacked a destroyer alongside the Mole, inflicting damage on the craft and crew.


81. Units were now rapidly landing, and No. 7 Platoon (Lieutenant H. A. P. de Berry) succeeded in placing their heavy scaling ladders in position, and then formed up to support Nos. 9 and 10 Platoons. The successful placing of the scaling ladders was largely due to Sergeant-Major C. J. Thatcher. Major Weller then received information that the naval storming party needed reinforcements. He therefore despatched No. 12 Platoon and the remnants of No. 11, under Lieutenant G. Underhill, to their assistance. These platoons advanced to the left (east) along the parapet, and reached the look-out station, where they were checked by machine-gun fire; Mr. Adams and his men were some 40 to 50 yards ahead of them, and both parties could make no headway along the exposed parapet. Meanwhile No. 5 Platoon, which had been recalled from its advanced position, with Nos. 7 and 8 Platoons, all under Captain Bamford, were forming up on the Mole for an assault on the fortified zone and the 4.1 inch battery at the Mole head. This attack was launched, but before it could be developed the general recall was sounded. The units fell back in good order, bringing their wounded with them. The passing of the men from the Mole on to the parapet by means of the scaling ladders was rendered hazardous by the enemy opening fire at that portion of the Mole, several ladders being destroyed; the men were sent across in small batches from the comparative shelter afforded by No. 3 Shed, such rushes taking place as far as possible in the intervals between the enemy's bursts of fire.


82. The Demolition or G Company.- This company was under the orders of Lieutenant Cecil C. Dickinson ("Resolution"), and was divided into three parties, Nos. 1 and 3 consisting of Sub-Lieutenant Felix E. Chevallier ("Iron Duke") and twenty-nine ratings in the "Daffodil," and No. 2 of Lieutenant Dickinson and twenty-one ratings in the "Vindictive." Twenty-two rank and file, R.M.L.I., were attached for the transport of the explosive equipment.


83. Lieutenant Dickinson and No. 2 party landed after the Naval Storming Parties and assembled on the pathway of the parapet, which became somewhat crowded before the scaling ladders could be got into position to enable the men to descend on to the Mole, No. 2 party then proceeded to No. 3 Shed. The heavy fire from the destroyers alongside the Mole prevented any advance towards the shore, and the demolition of this shed was therefore impracticable; charges were, however, placed and everything prepared in case an opportunity for its destruction occurred. An attempt was made to place a charge alongside the destroyers, but was repulsed by their fire. Some bombs were therefore thrown on board. The enemy's shell fire at this portion of the Mole became very heavy, and the recall being sounded the party re-embarked under the conditions related in para. 81.


84. The demolition party was on the Mole about 55 minutes, and it was solely on account of the proximity of our own storming parties that no destruction took place. This party, ably led by Lieutenant Dickinson, behaved in a most cool and undisturbed manner both during the approach (when they suffered severely) and on the Mole. After returning on board the extra explosives, etc., were jettisoned, as they were then only a danger to the ship. The preparation of the demolition scheme and organisation of the company for carrying it out was very efficiently planned by Lieutenant-Commander Francis H. Sandford, D.S.O., borne for special service on my Staff.


85. Experimental Party.- The account of the attack on the Mole would not be complete without reference to the contribution in officers and men made by a detachment from the Admiralty Experimental Station at Stratford, and the work done by them. This detachment was commanded by Lieutenant Graham S. Hewett, R.N.V.R., with Lieutenant A. L. Eastlake, R.E., second-in-command. It contributed thirty-four men, all volunteers, for the working of the fixed and portable flame-throwers, phosphorus grenades, etc., either on board "Vindictive," "Iris II.," and "Daffodil," or with the various naval and marine parties landed on the Mole. The fixed flame-throwers in "Vindictive" were put out of action by enemy shell fire. The portable ones accompanied the seaman and marine landing parties, the personnel of the experimental party sharing the difficulties and dangers of the assault. Lieutenant Hewett specially mentions Air-Mechanics W. H. Gough and W. G. Ryan for good service during the attack on the Mole.


86. Destruction of Viaduct.  The object of this part of the attack on the Mole was to prevent reinforcements from the land passing on to the Mole during the operations. It was proposed to do this by exploding one or two old submarines in contact with the iron piers and cross-ties of the viaduct. It was calculated that a C class submarine at a speed of 6 knots would penetrate the light bracing of the piers up to her conning tower.


87. To enable the submarine! to be abandoned and continue her course automatically, C.1 and C.3 were fitted with gyro-control. A picket boat was provided for the escape of the crew, and each submarine had two motor skiffs, they also carried a light scaling ladder each, so that in case all other means of rescue failed, they might climb on to the Viaduct and escape along it from the effects of the explosion. Exploding charges, primers, battery and switch gear were devised and fitted These three craft were towed by T.B.D.s "Trident" (right, in Dover Harbour - Jon Richards) and "Mansfield" to certain positions, whence they proceeded under their own power.


88. Submarine C.3 (Lieutenant Richard D. Sandford) proceeded on the courses laid down, and duly sighted the viaduct right ahead, distance about a mile and a half. Shortly after this, by the light of star shell, fire was opened on C.3, apparently from 4-inch guns, but was not long maintained. When the viaduct was about half a mile off, a flare on the far side silhouetted the Mole and viaduct, which appeared about two points on the port bow. Two searchlights were then switched on to C.3, and off again, possibly in order that the submarine might run into the viaduct and be caught. By this time the viaduct was clearly visible. One hundred yards away, course was altered to ensure striking the viaduct exactly at right-angles. C.3 struck exactly between two rows of piers at a speed of nine and a half knots, riding up on to the horizontal girders of the viaduct, and raising the hull bodily about two feet; she penetrated up to the conning tower.


89. The crew having mustered on deck before the collision, lowered and manned the skiff. The fuses were then ignited, and the submarine abandoned, the skiff's course being set to the westward against the current. Her propeller having been damaged, oars had to be used. Immediately the skiff left the submarine, the two searchlights were switched on, and fire was opened with machine guns, rifles, and pom-poms, the viaduct being lined with riflemen firing under the wind screen, and the houses on the inner end of the Mole opening on her with pom-poms. The boat was holed many times, but was kept afloat by special pumps which had been fitted. Mr. Sandford (twice) and two of the crew were wounded at this time. As only slow progress could be made against the current, the charge exploded when the skiff was but two or three hundred yards from the viaduct. The explosion appeared to have great effect, much debris falling into the water around. Both searchlights immediately went out, and firing became spasmodic. The picket boat was then sighted, and the skiff's crew taken on board, the wounded being finally transferred to the T.B.D. "Phoebe." Mr. Sandford describes the behaviour of all his crew as splendid, and worthy of the high traditions of the submarine service. He selects his next in command, Lieutenant John H. Price, D.S.C., R.N.R., for mention, and states that his assistance was invaluable, and his conduct in a position of extreme danger exemplary. To this modest praise of the exploit, I would add that the officers and men, who eagerly undertook such hazards, are deserving of their Lordships' highest recognition. They were all well aware that if their means of rescue failed them, as through untoward circumstances it nearly did, and they had been in the water at the moment of the explosion, they must almost inevitably have been stunned and drowned, or killed outright, by the force of such an explosion. Yet they disdained to use the gyro-steering which would have enabled them to abandon the submarine at a safe distance, and preferred .to make sure, as far as was humanly possible, of the accomplishment of their duty.


90. Submarine C.1 (Lieutenant Aubrey C. Newbold), owing to delay caused by the parting of the tow, did not arrive in the vicinity of the viaduct till the retirement had commenced. He had previously seen a big flash, but had not heard any sound, and was therefore in doubt as to what the force in general had done, but realised that his boat might be required for another occasion. He therefore retired, though he and his crew immediately volunteered for similar service. They were naturally disappointed, but in my opinion Lieutenant Newbold was perfectly right, and their Lordships will not lose sight of the fact that they, equally with the officers and men of C.3 (below, left hand boat - Maritime Quest), eagerly embarked on the enterprise in full realisation of what the consequences might well be.




91. The picket boat employed for rescuing the crew of C.3 was commanded by Lieutenant- Commander Francis H. Sandford, D.S.O., who had organised the method of attack on the viaduct. The picket boat displayed bad qualities when towed above a certain speed in the prevailing conditions of wind and sea. She was steered only with great difficulty, and was twice on her beam ends, being saved from total capsize by the tow parting. She then proceeded under her own steam, and endeavoured to reach the viaduct before the explosion. Her speed was not as much as was expected; still she arrived in time to pick up the motor-skiff very shortly after the explosion, and transferred the officers and men to the "Phoebe." This boat subsequently returned to Dover under her own steam, as her fore compartment being holed and full of water made towing inadvisable. From first to last she had made a voyage of 170 miles to and from the Belgian coast in unpleasant conditions, and effected the rescue in the face of almost insurmountable difficulties, due to enemy 'action, weather, and tide. I have already recommended Lieutenant-Commander Francis Sandford for promotion on this and previous grounds. His boat's crew were all volunteers, and I am including them in my general list of recommendations to their Lordships' notice.




HMS Intrepid, Iphigenia and Thetis scuttled as blockships (Photo Ships).

The following photographs show the blockships in their original cruiser role


92. The blocking of the Bruges Canal and the entrance to Ostend Harbour was the principal part of the whole objective, the damage to the Zeebrugge Mole being subsidiary thereto. To the "Intrepid," "Iphigenia," and "Thetis" was assigned the duty in the Bruges Canal; "Brilliant" and "Sirius" being detailed for Ostend.


93. Zeebrugge.- The orders to the blockships were to proceed into the canal. If her two consorts were seen to be following, the leading vessel ("Thetis") was to ram the lock gates; the second and third ("Intrepid" and "Iphigenia") were to be run ashore near the entrance at the southern end of the piers, this being the narrowest part of the channel and the position best calculated to block the channel by silt. This opinion as to the best position was based on local knowledge, and the decision to attempt the project in this way was come to after much consideration, and bearing in mind the fact that if the leading vessel should fail to block the lock gates, and should sink in the channel short of the gates, she would have been no obstruction; whereas two ships well athwart the channel at the entrance would be certain to set up silt and cause great inconvenience to the enemy.


94. The proceedings of these ships were as follows:



"Thetis" (above - Photo Ships) (Commander Ralph S. Sneyd, D.S.O.). - Sighted the Zeebrugge Mole ahead, and signalled the fact to the ships astern. She was greatly assisted by rockets fired from "Vindictive," which showed up the Mole extension and the lighthouse, and also by Captain Ralph Collins in a motor launch, who hailed the "Thetis" and gave her the bearing of the lighthouse. After rounding the latter the barge-boom came into view, and "Thetis" was steered for the barge furthest from the Mole, opening fire at the lighthouse, and then at the barge, which is reported from subsequent observation to have been sunk. The ship was under a fairly heavy fire from the light guns on the Mole extension, but her captain did not see any firing from the 4.1-inch battery at the Mole head. As the ship approached what appeared to be an opening between the barges and the net obstruction extending to the southeastward from them she commenced to swing to port. She was given full port helm, but ran into the nets between the two end buoys, and continuing to forge ahead, took the nets with her. The piers of the canal entrance were in sight when both engines were reported to have brought up. "Thetis" had thus cleared the net obstruction away enough to enable the ships following to pass to starboard of her, and she signalled to them to do so. Being then about 300 yards from the eastern pier-head, and having drifted slightly to port (shoreward), she appears to have grounded. She had a list to starboard, and was settling down, having been frequently holed along the starboard side by gunfire. She continued to be hit from the Mole, from craft alongside it, and from guns on shore east of the canal. One or two machine guns were also firing at the ship, her 6-inoh forecastle gun engaging these guns until her own smoke made it impossible to see. Communication with the engine-room having broken down, a messenger was sent, and Engineer Lieutenant-Commander Ronald C. Boddie ("Hercules") succeeded in starting the starboard engine, which moved the ship ahead; and being still aground aft, her head swung to starboard into the dredged channel. As she appeared to be sinking, the commander cleared the boiler rooms, sent the boat-keepers to their boats, ordered the smoke to be turned on and the ship to be abandoned. Owing to the death of the petty officer in charge of them, the forward firing keys were not in position; smoke and shell fumes prevented their being found, so that the charges were fired by the after keys; they detonated well, and the ship then quickly sank. The ship's company manned the one remaining cutter and pulled to M.L. 526 (Lieutenant A. Littleton, R.N.V.R.), which was lying near. Although crowded and holed in two or three places, the cutter was got away without confusion, due to the exertions of Lieutenant George A. Belben ("Penelope"), Commander Sneyd and Lieutenant Francis J. Lambert ("Sir John Moore") being at this time disabled by gas.



95. "Intrepid" (above - Photo Ships) (Lieutenant Stuart S. Bonham-Carter, "Emperor of India"). - This ship had been unable to get rid of her spare watch of stokers, owing at first to the delay in her motor launch getting alongside, and apparently to the disinclination of the surplus crew to miss the coming fight. She therefore proceeded to the canal with 87 officers and men on board instead of 54. On approaching the Mole she came under heavy shrapnel fire. She rounded the lighthouse and, directed by "Thetis," aground on her port hand, steered for the canal, very few enemy guns firing at her, as they were concentrated on the Mole - doubtless at "Vindictive" - and on "Thetis." On reaching his position in the canal, Lieutenant Bonham-Carter went full speed ahead with the starboard engine and full speed astern with the port helm hard a starboard. He then waited for the crew to get into the boats, but finding the ship was making stern way he had to blow the sinking charges before the steaming party could get out of the engine-room. Engineer Sub-Lieutenant Edgar V. Meikle, with his men, got into a cutter, of which he took charge, proceeding out past the "Thetis" till picked up by motor launch. Another cutter was picked up by the T.B.D. "Whirlwind," and the skiff by M.L. 282. With the two officers and four petty officers, Lieutenant Bonham-Carter launched a Carley raft and went down the canal until picked up by motor launch 282. This motor launch came right into the canal under the stern of the "Iphigenia" - the next blocking ship - under a heavy fire. She was commanded by Lieutenant Percy T. Dean, R.N.V.R., whose conduct Lieutenant Bonham-Carter describes as "simply magnificent." I have had the pleasure of recommending this officer to their Lordships for promotion, and I consider his gallant conduct is well worthy of the Victoria Cross. With the exception of Stoker Petty Officer Harold L. Palliser (O.N. 226201), who was killed while in the motor launch by a machine gun, the whole crew got away. Lieutenant Bonham-Carter reports the exceptionally fine behaviour of the whole of his crew - deck and engine-room alike - and specially mentions Lieutenant Alan Cory-Wright ("Ramillies"), Sub-Lieutenant Dudley A. Babb ("Sarpedon"), and Engineer Sub-Lieutenant Meikle. In another letter I have recommended Lieutenant Bonham-Carter and the two last-named officers for promotion. I may say here that I regarded the chances of escape from any of the blocking ships as very slender, and this was well known to those who so readily volunteered for this hazardous service and to the volunteer crews of the motor launches who ran equal risks in their work of rescue.



96. "Iphiqenia" (above - CyberHeritage) (Lieutenant Edward W. Billyard-Leake, "Fearless"). - This ship, like the preceding one, did not discharge all her engine-room ratings, because some managed to avoid it in order to take part in the fight, and they therefore joined up with the rest of the crew. The "Iphigenia" was the third and last of the Zeebrugge blockers to undertake her duty, and it is no disparagement to the predecessors, who made her task the easier by their example, to say that she was, as I believe, completely successful. On approaching the Mole she came under shrapnel fire, and was lighted up by two searchlights on the western (or land) end of the Mole, and by flares, these latter being rendered useless to the enemy by the smoke-screen, and facilitating navigation for the attacker. On rounding the lighthouse the "Iphigenia" went full speed, a star shell showing up the "Intrepid" headed for the canal and the "Thetis" aground. As she approached "Thetis" that ship showed a green light on her starboard side which enabled Lieutenant Billyard-Leake to find the canal entrance. The ship was now hit twice on the starboard side, one shell cutting the siren steam-pipe and enveloping the fore part of the ship in steam.


97. As "Iphigenia" approached the canal entrance it became obscured by smoke, and her captain found that she was heading for the western pier. Going full speed astern he brought his ship in between a dredger and a barge, severing them. He then went ahead with his starboard engine and drove the barge into the canal. When clear of the barge he went ahead with both engines. Seeing that the "Intrepid" had grounded on the western bank of the canal, with a gap between her and the eastern bank, he steered to close the gap, and collided with the port bow of "Intrepid." He then rang the alarm-gong to signify the imminent blowing of the sinking charges, but finding that he was not completely blocking the channel he telegraphed to the engine-room to go astern, which was done. As soon as his ship was clear he sent Lieutenant Philip E. Vaux ("Marvel"), the First Lieutenant, to the engine-room with an order to go ahead, which was promptly obeyed. 'The entire entrance was then covered in smoke. As soon as he considered the ship had headway, he put the port engine astern, the starboard ahead, and his helm hard-a-starboard, and grounded on the eastern bank. He then abandoned ship and fired his charges, which all exploded. The company left the ship in one cutter, as the other one was badly damaged. While in the cutter the crew came under more shrapnel and machine-gun fire, which caused some casualties. When trying to pull clear of the ship, M.L. 282 (Lieutenant Percy T. Dean, R.N.V.R., whose conduct in rescuing the officers and men from the "Intrepid" has already been described) was sighted across the "Iphigenia's" bows, and the cutter pulled to her. The majority of the crew got into the motor launch, which then went astern. The cutter also pulled round the stern of the ship and the launch took the rest on board, except three, one of whom was killed. The cutter was made fast to 'the stem of the motor launch, which went out of the harbour stern first at full speed. Lieutenant Billyard-Leake reports that this motor launch was entirely responsible for saving the survivors from the "Iphigenia." Heavy machine-gun fire was concentrated on her while on passage out, at which time Sub-Lieutenant Maurice C. H. Lloyd, D.S.C. ("Dominion"), was mortally, and Lieutenant James C. Keith Wright, R.N.V.R., of M.L. 416, dangerously wounded, and two of the motor launch's crew of four killed. I trust that the Lords Commissioners, who have so many claims to judge, will consider that this recital of the part played by the "Iphigenia" well justifies any mention of Lieutenant Billyard-Leake and of Mate (E) Sydney Greville West ("Benbow"), who throughout the preparations and operation worked his department in an admirable manner.


HMS Brilliant (CyberHeritage)


HMS Sirius (Photo Ships)


98. "Brilliant" and "Sinus." - I regret that the effort to block Ostend did not succeed. The "Brilliant" (Commander Alfred E. Godsal, "Centurion"), with "Sirius" (Lieutenant-Commander Henry N. M. Hardy, D.S.O., "Patrol"), in her wake, was approaching the charted position of the Stroom Bank Buoy, but did not sight it as expected. Deducing from the positions of other navigation marks already passed that tihe ships were to the northward of their supposed position, they continued on their original course for an extra, two minutes, sighting the buoy to the north-eastward. They steered to pass to the northward of the buoy, at which time they first came under fire from the enemy's batteries, and then shaped a course for the deduced position of Ostend. No marks were visible owing to smoke, which made it necessary for "Sirius" to keep very close station on "Brilliant." When the Ostend Piers should have been seen by "Brilliant," breakers were observed on the starboard bow, and though the helm was starboarded, the ship grounded. "Sirius," observing this, immediately put her helm hard over and her engines full speed astern, but the ship being already badly damaged by gunfire and sinking, did not answer the helm, and collided with the port quarter of the "Brilliant." In the end, both ships being practically fast ashore, "Brilliant," with her port engine immovable, and "Sirius," in sinking condition, were blown up where they stranded, as observation has since shown, about 2,400 yards east of the canal entrance. Lieutenant A. C. Crutchley ("Centurion"), Sub-Lieutenant Angus H. Maclachlan ("Temeraire"), and Engineer Lieutenant Wilfred Long ("Dublin"), all serving in the "Brilliant," were reported by their captain as having set a fine example to their men. Commander Godsal also mentions Petty Officer Joseph J. Reed (O.N. C230360), who behaved with conspicuous coolness.


99. The rescue of the crews by motor launches which had been standing by under heavy fire of every calibre, was carried out in the gallant manner which distinguished the work of the crews, of the motor launches and coastal motor boats throughout the action. Commander Ion Hamilton Beam, R.N.V.R., attempted to go alongside in Motor Launch No. 532, but owing to thick smoke she was damaged by collision with the ship. Lieutenant Roland Bourke, R.N.V.R., in M.L. 276, repeatedly went alongside "Brilliant" in the difficult circumstances of her starboard engines still going astern, while M.L. 283, under the command of Lieutenant Keith R. Hoare, D.S.C., R.N.V.R., embarked practically all the men from the "Sirius," and sixteen from the "Brilliant's " whaler, sunk by gunfire.


100. After leaving the "Sirius," Lieutenant-Commander Hardy found that Engineer Lieutenant William R. Maclaren ("Iron Duke") and some men were missing. He therefore hailed C.M.B. 10 (Sub-Lieutenant Peter B. Clarke, R.N.R.), and with Lieutenant Edward L. Berthon, D.S.C. ("Viceroy"), went alongside the ship under a heavy accurate fire from 4.1-inch and machine guns to search for them, but found no sign of life in either ship. The officer and men were subsequently picked up by the "Attentive " in a boat, in which they had pulled thirteen miles out to sea after the sinking of their ship.


101. Their Lordships will share with me and the commanding officers of these ships the disappointment due to the defeat of our plans, as we may believe, by the legitimate ruse of the enemy in shifting the buoy. As the Commodore at Dunkirk remarks in the despatch to which their Lordships will refer for details on this point, the location of buoys by aircraft is a high art, and can only be done with accuracy in relation to closely surrounding land or shoal features, but aerial photographs have since established the fact that had the buoy been in its original position the vessels would have made the entrance accurately.


102. Both Commander Godsal and Mr. Hardy immediately and repeatedly asked me for other ships, to be allowed to try again. They report that all their officers, and Petty Officer Joseph Reed have volunteered to make another attempt, sanguine that with the experience gained it would succeed.




103. The viaduct explosion having duly taken place, and the blocking ships having been seen proceeding shorewards, the main object of storming the Mole had been accomplished; and the only reason for prolonging the operation till the programme time for retirement was that of continuing the work of demolition. On the other hand, the only guns in "Vindictive" bearing on the Mole had been put out of action; the upper works of the ship and men in exposed positions were presenting an easy target to the shore guns, while, in view of the failure of the Mole anchors, the storming parties would be unable to embark if the "Daffodil" should be disabled. Captain Carpenter, regarding the "Daffodil's" escape up to this time as being almost a miracle, therefore decided to give the order for the retirement, and in this I consider he acted with good judgment; in fact, I had given orders for the "Warwick" to close the "Vindictive" so that I might inform Captain Carpenter that I had seen the blockships proceeding in, ascertain the conditions on the Mole, and decide on further action, when I saw that she was hauling off.


104. The searchlights, by which twenty minutes' warning was to be given, having been destroyed,' as well as the "Vindictive's" syren (sic), by which the executive signal was to be made, the "Daffodil" made the latter signal at fifty minutes past midnight, and the retirement commenced. About fifteen minutes later it was reported to the Captain that officers and men had ceased coming on board, a large number having already embarked by the same means as they had originally used for storming the Mole. To make doubly sure, Captain Carpenter waited till ten minutes past one, and after repeated assurances from officers and his own observation that no more were returning, he ordered "Daffodil" to tow "Vindictive's" bow away from the Mole, the port cable was slipped, and towing commenced. The hawser parted almost at once, but the ship's head was clear enough to allow her to proceed at full speed with helm hard-a-port under cover of her own smoke screen. A large bumpkin made of her own mainmast, rigged out over the "Vindictive's" port quarter, and taking against the wail, protected the port screw, which nevertheless hung up two or three times, being probably fouled by the debris of the brows. The "Vindictive" reached Dover soon after 8 a.m., on the 23rd.


105. Some of the proceedings of "Iris II" have been reported in connection with the storming of the Mole, and the rest may be told here. Shortly after leaving the Mole she came under a very heavy fire from the Mole and shore batteries, being hit ten times by small shell and twice by large ones. The first large shell came through the port control position and carried away the port side of the bridge, causing a very serious fire amongst the ammunition and bombs under the bridge. It mortally wounded Commander Valentine Gibbs and Major Charles E. C. Eagles, D.S.O. R.M., and seriously wounded Lieutenant George Spencer, D.S.C., R.N.R. Lieutenant Oscar Henderson ("P.19") took a volunteer fire party with a hose on to the upper deck to quench the fire, but seeing the condition of the bridge he ran up on to it and found Commander Gibbs, as he then thought, dead, and Lieutenant Spencer seriously wounded, but still conning the ship. He took command and steadied the ship on her course, the coxswain, Petty Officer David P. Smith, sticking to his post with great gallantry, steering with one hand while holding an electric torch to the compass with the other; it is due to Lieutenant Spencer that the ship was turned away from the land. "Iris II" was again hit by three shells simultaneously, and as the men were packed very closely on the main deck the casualties were very heavy. When the ship was steadied on her course the fire was put out, Able Seaman F. E. M. Lake ("Monarch") being the first man to attack it, which he did with sand, afterwards helping Mr. Henderson to throw bombs overboard, regardless of his own life. A motor launch, No. 558, commanded by Lieutenant- Commander Lionel S. Chappell, D.S.C., R.N.V.R., and with Captain Ralph Collins on board, gallantly came into the heavy fire from the enemy's guns, and throwing a smoke screen around "Iris II" enabled her to get clear, the ship being very badly damaged; she reached Dover at 2.45 p.m., some five hours after the death of her captain, who remained confident and cheerful until his very heroic spirit passed.


106. Although the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty have most promptly recognised and rewarded the services of Acting Captain Carpenter by promoting him to the Post List, I should not like to end this part of my despatch without putting on record the praise which is due to him. An excellent staff officer, he rendered me invaluable assistance in the drawing up of the final operation orders, the preparations for which involved strenuous work by many officers and a vast amount of necessary detail. My account of the proceedings of the "Vindictive" outlines his personal share in the attack, but as showing the force which his example had on those under his command, I hear on all sides that the Captain's calm composure when navigating mined waters and bringing his ship alongside the Mole in darkness, and his great bravery when the ship came under heavy fire did much to encourage similar behaviour on the part of the crew, and thereby contributed greatly to the success of the operation.




107. In arranging the sections of this despatch, I have grouped proceedings of units taking part in the operations off Ostend in their appropriate places, but I submit herewith the report by Commodore Hubert Lynes, C.M.G., Senior Naval Officer at Dunkirk, to whom I am indebted for whole-hearted cooperation and loyal assistance at all times. I share his regret as to the alteration by the enemy of the position of the Stroom Bank Buoy not having been discovered, but I feel that the consequence must be accepted as one of the misfortunes of war.


108. The Lords Commissioners will notice that three French destroyers co-operated at Ostend with our big monitors, and four French torpedo boats and four French motor launches with our small monitors. I should like to be allowed to express my gratification at this co-operation, and my thanks for the valuable assistance these vessels gave are due to Vice-Admiral Pierre Alexis, M. A. Ronarc'h, K.C.B., C.M.G., Commandant Superieur de la Marine dans la zone des Armées du Nord, Dunkerque, and to Capitaine de Vaisseau Breart de Boisanger, D.S.O.


109. Commodore Lynes has recommended for special recognition several officers and men, and the rest their Lordships will have an opportunity of considering in the list which I am forwarding as soon as it can be prepared.




110. I desire to relate the proceedings of some of the vessels of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla under the command of Captain Wilfred Tomkinson, and the "Warwick" flying my flag, which came under my own observation, or are of special interest or merit.


111. The "Trident" (below - Jon Richards) and "Mansfield" after parting company from their submarines, covered the western flotilla of smoke-screening small craft. The "Whirlwind," "Myngs," "Velox," "Morris," "Moorsom," and "Melpomene" covered the eastern smoke flotilla. The "Warwick," "Phoebe," and "North Star" cruised off the Mole to protect the assaulting craft from torpedo attack. These duties took the destroyers close in shore, and they were frequently under a heavy fire from guns of all calibres at short range. When the assaulting craft were leaving the Mole, the "Warwick" followed them for a few minutes, and then returned to assist the withdrawal of the small craft, picking up four motor launches, including No. 282, commanded by Lieutenant P. T. Dean, R.N.V.R. This launch had on board one hundred and one people from "Iphigenia" and "Intrepid," some of whom had been killed in the launch, and others who were wounded. As the motor launch was dangerously overloaded and full of wounded, I ordered them to be transferred to the "Warwick," which took more than half an hour to do. I was much struck with the gallant bearing of Lieutenant Dean and the survivors of his crew. They were all volunteers, and nearly all had been wounded and several killed.




112. While the "Warwick" was engaged as stated in the preceding paragraph, the "North Star," having lost her bearings in the smoke, emerged from the smoke screen to the southeastward of the lighthouse. Seeing some vessels alongside the Mole, she fired all her torpedoes at them and withdrew, but coming under very heavy fire at point-blank range she was immediately disabled, and soon in a sinking condition. The "Phoebe," commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Hubert E. Gore-Langton, was handled with conspicuous gallantry while under this heavy fire. She repeatedly circled round the "North Star," making smoke screens and attempting under their cover to tow her out of action. She was twice successful in getting her in tow, the hawser being shot away once and parted once. "Phoebe" then went alongside "North Star," and endeavoured to tow in that way. "North Star," however, was in a sinking condition, and being continually hit. In these circumstances, Mr. Gore-Langton ordered the abandonment of the "North Star," standing by her, and taking off all of her company who were left alive.


113. I regret that the "North Star" was lost, but the conduct of Lieutenant-Commander Kenneth C. Helyar and his company was all that could be desired, the "North Star" not being abandoned until all possibility of salving her was gone. The Lieutenant-Commander of "Phoebe" states that Mr. Helyar by his coolness and calm devotion to duty set a splendid example to all, though his ship was totally disabled and constantly being hit. He would not leave his bridge until ordered twice to abandon his ship when she was obviously sinking under him, and could not be saved. He also did his utmost to assist the "Phoebe" in every way to take him in tow.


114. "Tempest" (below - Navy Photos/Paul Simpson) and "Tetrarch," of the Harwich force, accompanied the Ostend blockships from the Goodwins until they reached the inshore smoke screen off Ostend, after which they co-operated with the Dunkirk destroyers "Faulknor," flying the broad pendant of Commodore Lynes, "Lightfoot," "Mastiff," "Afridi," "Swift," and "Matchless" in supporting the small craft inshore, within close range of the enemy's heavy batteries.




115. I wish to record my entire satisfaction with the good work done by the torpedo-boat destroyer force throughout the operations. The part taken by the "Phoebe" in protecting and endeavouring to tow out of action the "North Star," and in the final rescue of her people, is a conspicuous example of the fine qualities of this branch of the service, and is highly creditable to Mr. Gore-Langton, his officers, and crew. I have already recommended that officer for promotion, as I consider that his personal and professional conduct on this occasion marks him as likely to be valuable in the higher ranks of His Majesty's service.




116. The orders for smoke-screening the approach and operations of the forces attacking Zeebrugge and Ostend, and the reports from the numerous motor launches and coastal motor boats employed on that duty, are necessarily too detailed to be recapitulated in a despatch of this general nature. Apart from the smoke apparatus supplied to the larger craft for self-protection, the duty of making smoke screens and laying smoke floats was imposed on a large fleet of motor launches and coastal motor boats. Without the services of these little vessels for this duty, for rescue work and for inshore work generally, an attack of this nature could hardly have been considered.


117. Smoke Screens. - While the wind favoured the screens were efficacious. Captain Ralph Collins, who commanded the motor launches, reports that in some units in which the smoke screens were maintained, and in which most of the boats were under fire, there were no boats hit; whereas, in one instance, which came under my own observation, the absence of a screen led to preventably heavy punishment. As to the smoke floats, the enemy sunk many of them directly they were laid, especially if, as happened in many cases, they emitted flame. Those which remained were effective.


118. Motor Launches. - These craft were under the command of Captain Ralph Collins at Zeebrugge and Commander Hamilton Benn at Ostend. As to the handling of these craft, great credit is due to the leaders of sections for the way in which they led their boats up to the objectives. When the wind shifted, the commanding officers proceeded closer inshore to give as much protection to the attacking ships as possible. One unit, under Lieutenant Gordon S. Maxwell, R.N.V.R., went close inshore, and by dropping three floats without baffles succeeded in inducing the enemy to concentrate his fire on these floats. Lieutenant-Commander Dawbarn Young, R.N.V.R., was in command of M.L. 110 (below). He had volunteered to precede the blockships and light the entrance of the harbour and canal with calcium buoys. Whilst approaching the entrance M.L. 110 was struck by three shells, which killed and wounded half the crew and wrecked the engines. Lieutenant-Commander Young, hit in three places, was mortally wounded, but stuck to his post and gave orders to abandon ship, until he collapsed. This very gallant officer died before reaching Dover. Ever the first to volunteer for any dangerous work, the Dover Patrol has sustained a great loss by his death.




119. Of the meritorious work reported from the motor launches, I have already selected the instances of Lieutenant P. T. Dean, R.N.V.R., in No. 282, and Lieutenant H. A. Littleton, R.N.V.R., in No. 526, who brought off the crews of the sunken blocking ships. There is no doubt that these boats were handled in a magnificent manner, and that the highest praise is due to their officers and men. From Ostend reports of the motor launch flotilla are of the same high character. Commander Ion Hamilton Benn reports that M.L. 283 (Lieutenant Keith R. Hoare, R.N.V.R.) took on board the entire crew of "Sirius" and some of "Brilliant's" people, and was seriously overloaded, but was able to reach harbour safely. He cannot speak too highly of the conduct of Lieutenant Hoare and Lieutenant Rowland Bourke, R.N.V.R. (M.L. 276), who both showed remarkable coolness and good judgment throughout the operation. He also mentions Lieutenants, R.N.V.R., Sidney D. Gowing (M.L. 551), Rawsthorne Proctor (M.L. 556), and Malcolm S. Kirkwood (M.L. 11).


120. Coastal Motor Boats. - I have been greatly impressed with the administrative capacity of Lieutenant Arthur E. P. Welman, D.S.C., R.N., the young officer in charge of the coastal motor boats of the Dover Patrol. In the Zeebrugge operation he had seventeen of these vessels under his orders. Besides their screening duties, several of them undertook attacks an enemy vessels and against the Mole, the seaplane shed, &c., with success, Lieutenant Welman always being in the most exposed position. Sub-Lieutenant Cedric R. L. Outhwaite, R.N.V.R., in C.M.B. 5, reports that he attacked an enemy destroyer which was under way, and observed his torpedo hit below her forward searchlight, the light shortly afterwards going out, and her fire diminishing. Sub-Lieutenant L. R. Blake, R.N.R., in C.M.B.7, reports hitting a destroyer alongside the Mole with a torpedo which struck below the fore bridge. No. 32A fired a torpedo at the steamship "Brussels." An explosion followed, but the result was hidden by smoke.


121. The zest of most of the young officers in the coastal motor boats, like that of those in the motor launches, compels one's admiration. I can select only one of many instances which show the eagerness of the officers to take part in a fight from which circumstances tried to exclude them. Lieutenant Edward E. Hill in C.M.B.35A had the misfortune to foul his propellers on the evening of the 22nd April when already 18 miles on his outward voyage. He got a tow from a drifter, and arrived at Dover at 8 p.m. His boat was immediately hoisted and the propellers cleared, but as there was other damage he was not afloat again till 9.40 p.m. He then made his way to the Belgian coast, and was off Zeebrugge - about 70 miles - by 11.50 p.m., taking up his smoke-float patrol at once, and continuing it for an hour, in the course of which he came under rather heavy fire from a battery at Blankenberghe. The chapter of accidents amongst such small craft is naturally a long one, but the resource developed in overcoming them is more than compensation. The daring way in which the crews of these boats approach the shore, drawing the beams of the searchlights and the fire of the guns, then escaping in their own smoke is splendid. Lieutenant Francis C. Harrison, who commanded the Ostend section of C.M.B.'s, mentions the names of Sub-Lieutenant Peter B. Clarke, R.N.R., Midshipman N. S. Herbert, R.N.R., and Chief Motor Mechanic G. H. Hebblethwaite (C.M.B. 10) for the dangerous work which that boat undertook in searching for the engineer of the "Sirius," who was thought to be on board that ship after she had been sunk, in the course of which the boat came under very heavy-fire; and Sub-Lieutenant Frank A. W. Ramsay (C.M.B. 19) for his coolness and quickness in laying the inshore calcium buoys under heavy machine-gun fire. Lieutenant Welman also mentions the names of several officers and men in coastal motor boats; these will be forwarded for Admiralty consideration shortly.




122. Captain William V. Howard, D.S.O., of the Trawler Patrol (below, Dover Patrol trawler in Dover Harbour - Jon Richards), accompanied the expedition in the paddle minesweeper "Lingfield," and did valuable work in keeping touch with the force, giving assistance by towing, and otherwise helping small craft in trouble while on the passage to and from Zeebrugge, also in receiving the surplus crews from blockships, and escorting motor launches. This veteran officer has been on patrol work off the southeast coast of England during the whole of the war. His energy and example are great incentives to the officers and men of the Trawler Patrol which he commands.






123. In conclusion I desire to make a special reference to the praiseworthy manner in which the medical officers and their staff, and volunteer helpers, devoted their skill and sympathy to those who were wounded in these operations. Fighting at such close quarters, the casualties were bound to be numerous, and the wounds likely to be severe. Staff Surgeon James McCutcheon, M.B., was the senior medical officer of the force. In an able report that officer outlines the work of his staff, and the circumstances in which it was done, and I trust that the Lords Commissioners will agree with me in thinking that no branch of the naval service surpassed in zeal and ability the efforts of the medical branch to prove itself worthy of its profession, and of the occasion. I have selected with difficulty from a number of very deserving officers the names of three to be representative recipients of such promotion as their Lordships may be able to award for these operations to the medical branch of the Royal Navy.


I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient Servant,

ROGER KEYES, Vice-Admiral.









Office of Commodore, Dunkirk, April 30, 1918.



I have the honour to forward the following report on Operation Z.- O., carried out on the night of the 22nd-23rd April.


1. A brief preliminary report was 'phoned to Vice-Admiral, Dover Patrol, on the 23rd April, since which photographs and air reconnaissances have established the facts (as reported) that -


(a.)   "Sirius" and "Brilliant" are not inside Ostend Harbour, but lie stranded about 2,400 yards to eastward of eastern pier.


(b.)   The Stroom Bank Buoy is not in its charted position, but is a little to eastward of the prolongation of eastern pier, approximately lat. 51 15 50 N., long. 2 53 20 E. 2.


2 (b) accounts for (a); supposing, as is almost certain, that the buoy was in this position on the night of 22nd-23rd.


3. The location of buoys by aircraft is, of course, a very high art, and can only be done with any degree of accuracy with relation to closely surrounded land (or shoal) features. Captain R. Graham, D.S.O., D.S.C., R.A.F., and Captain L. H. Slater, D.S.C., R.A.F., obtained the present position of Stroom Bank Buoy by coming down to 100 feet and fixing the buoy with reference, for direction, to the line of eastern pier.


4. The organisation detailed in my 0/53, of the 21st April, was carried out for Ostend operation, which I conducted with the assistance of Commander J. L. C. Clark, D.S.O. R.N., from on board "Faulknor" (below, her famous Dover Patrol sister-ship HMS Broke - Jon Richards), leader of the Off-Shore Destroyer Force.




5. The operation was carried out according to programme. There were no hitches, the times were kept precisely, and I have complimented the senior officers of units, and all, on the care with, which they both studied and carried out my necessarily rather voluminous orders.


6. (a.) The wind, on starting out, was light north-westerly, and continued thus until about 10 minutes before "Sirius" and "Brilliant" arrived at Stroom Bank Buoy, when it most unluckily shifted round to the south-westward, causing all the smoke to go wrong at the critical, moment.


(b.) The M.L.'s and C.M.B's strove with resolution and good judgment to compete with this reverse, but all their efforts were overpowered by the enemy's smoke screen blown to seaward, while they themselves became subjected to a heavy, but happily ill-directed, gunfire.


7. The blockships made the Stroom Bank Buoy (which was alight and marked the whole time), but after that the adverse smoke prevented them seeing anything by which they might have retrieved the error of the buoy's position.


8. (a.) Since the Captains of the blockships, Commander A. E. Godsal, R.N., and Lieutenant- Commander H. N. M. Hardy, D.S.O., R.N., will have made their full reports to you, I say little more, since, after what has been said, it is needless to remark that the failure to find the entrance was no fault of theirs; on the contrary, the newly discovered position of the buoy only too plainly shows that their course, after rounding the buoy, ought to have brought them right in.


(b.) I may add that on my return to harbour about six hours later, the bitter disappointment of these two gallant officers showed itself chiefly in begging for another blockship apiece to have another' ry.


9. The low clouds and drizzle put all aircraft participation out of the question.


10. The monitor and siege gun bombardments were undoubtedly useful as a blind, and to keep the fire of the shore batteries down. The shore batteries commenced to return the monitors' fire about 5 minutes after the latter opened. A number of shell fragments were picked up on board the monitors, but there were no hits. Photographs show a number of hits around the German batteries, but none on the guns.


11. (a.) This time the enemy took longer to be alarmed than on the night of 11th/12th. He seemed to take but a desultory interest until the monitors opened fire, i.e., 1/4 hour after the C.M.B.'s arrived at the Stroom Bank Buoy, and, as on the previous occasion, he cannot have had a single patrol out.


(b.) Very few shells fell near us in the offshore destroyers. Enemy's fire was evidently either directed against the inshore boats, at the monitors, or barrage fire into the smoke areas.


(c.) His star shell, as before, averaged about 7,000 yards from the shore; when we closed to that range they dropped alongside of (one on) the division.


(d.) At intervals the enemy's star shell showed up to us the M.L.'s busily engaged with their smoke screens, and at 11.50 also the blockships with their escort to the E.N.E. steering for the Stroom Bank Buoy. It was at this moment that we noticed the shift of wind to south-westward.


(e.) About 10 minutes later the blockships disappeared abreast the buoy into the smoke, and we saw no more of them, but picked up "Tempest" and "Tetrarch."


(f.) C.M.B.'s 12 and 19 report a "M.L. blew up" about 00.15, E.S.E., 2 miles from Stroom Bank Buoy; this apparently refers to the blockships being hit by shell.


(g.) About 00.25 bursts of firing became more frequent, and more searchlights switched on than before, evidently the result of the blockships' emergence from smoke and stranding.


(h.) After this there was little more than desultory firing, probably at monitors, with the exception of two 3-minute bursts of barrage fire at 00.42-00.52.


The searchlights continued searching actively until about 01.30 when their numbers reduced to three or four.


(i.) At 01.00 the "retirement" red rocket signals and syren "K's" were made by destroyers; this produced a few big shrapnel in our neighbourhood.


(j.) A few C.M.B.'s and M.L.'s were seen coming away off and on up to 2 a.m., when we withdrew to fix position by R, R.M.C. Buoy, picking up No. 7 C.M.B., disabled, on the way. ("Tetrarch" towed her home.)


(k.) Having fixed by Position R, we continued to cruise between B and Stroom Bank Buoy until daylight, and the shore became visible, when, nothing floating being in sight, all forces were withdrawn; B.C. Patrol being sent out later, and picking up the last straggler, viz., C.M.B. 17, who had run out of petrol near 3 B.C. Buoy.


(I.) At 03.20, when near Stroom Bank Buoy, we saw two searchlights, judged about 500 yards apart, concentrated on something burning in the water between them. At 03.30 this fire culminated in an explosion, and darkness ensued, the two searchlights switched out a few minutes later.


(m.) No enemy craft were seen by anyone except that C.M.B. 12 feels sure that she was chased by a destroyer with searchlights, but I cannot think a craft coming out of Ostend could have been seen by no one else or escaped us, for, apart from the star-shell illumination, the diffused moonlight gave quite one mile visibility.


12. On return to harbour about 07.30, I found that:


(a.) All the crews of the blockships had been saved, the majority by M.L.'s 276, 283 (below, sister-boat ML.81 - Andy Hunter), and brought to Dunkirk; the few others who had evacuated in a pulling boat were picked up by the Gap Patrol.



(b.) This salvage work of M.L.'s 276 and 283 was carried out under heavy, but fortunately not accurate, fire with a courage and coolness that alone could have achieved its wonderful result, for not a man was wounded, and the heavily laden boats returned to harbour safely.


(c.) All the M.L.'s had returned intact with very slight casualties, and one damaged bow.


(d.) The C.M.B.'s, too, both for Zeebrugge and Ostend, had all returned safely, either to Dunkirk or Dover, with the exception of two or three which were retrieved later. Their personnel casualties were two dangerously wounded and four wounded, considering the work done, a marvellous result, and one which reflects the greatest credit on the C.M.B. officers.


13. Conclusions:


(a.) The luck of the wind changing, combined with the shifting of' the Stroom Bank Buoy, accounts for the failure to block Ostend Harbour. There is no discredit to anyone; indeed, none could have carried out their duties more admirably than did the Ostend forces on this occasion.


(b.) I anticipate success in the new endeavour, the undertaking of which has only been waiting favourable weather conditions during the last few days.


(c.) The lion's share of the work was, of course, done by the C.M.B.'s, M.L.'s, and blockships.


I have, &c.,

HUBERT LYNES, Commodore, Dunkirk.


To: Vice-Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, K.C.B., C.M.G., M.V.O., D.S.O., R.N., Dover.





Fleet House, Dover, June 15, 1918.

(No. 2305/003.)



Be pleased to lay before the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty the following report on the renewed attempt made in the early morning of the 10th May, 1918, to block the entrance of the Ostend-Bruges Canal by sinking the "Vindictive" therein.


2. When I learnt on the 23rd April that the attempt to block Ostend had not succeeded, I represented to their Lordships the desirability of repeating the operation at once. The "Vindictive," the only vessel available at the moment, being placed at my disposal, every effort was made to repair the damage she had suffered and fit her out before the expiration of the period in which the tide and darkness suited, i.e., about four days. This was accomplished at Dover, thanks to the strenuous efforts of Rear-Admiral C. F. Dampier, the Superintendent of the Dockyard, and his small staff; the services of Engineer Commander Henry F. Bell, R.N., and Mr. A. J. Luke being particularly valuable.


Two hundred tons of cement were put into the "Vindictive's" after magazines and upper bunkers on both sides, which was all her draught would permit her to carry, in view of the depth of water in the approaches to Ostend Harbour.


Major-General Sir William Hickey, K.C.B., Commanding Dover Garrison, most helpfully provided men for filling bags with cement and putting them on board.


3. As already reported in my last despatch, Commander Alfred E. Godsal, R.N., and Lieutenant-Commander Henry N. M. Hardy, D.S.O., R.N., of the "Brilliant" and "Sirius" respectively, had begged to be allowed to make another attempt, and had reported that all their officers and Petty-Officer Joseph J. Reed of the "Brilliant," had volunteered for this service. As Commander Godsal had led the previous attack, he was given command of the "Vindictive," and Lieutenant Victor A. C. Crutchley, R.N., Sub-Lieutenant Angus H. Maclachlan, R.N., and Petty Officer Joseph J. Reed, all of the "Brilliant," accompanied him. Engineer Commander William A. Bury, R.N., however, claimed his right to remain in the "Vindictive." This very gallant officer, who greatly distinguished himself on the 23rd April, represented that his knowledge of the engines and boilers of his ship should be utilised. He further begged that Engine Room Artificers Hubert Cavanagh, Norman Carroll, Alan Thomas, and Herbert Alfred Harris, who also volunteered, might be allowed to remain with him. I acceded to his request.


Lieutenant Sir John Alleyne, D.S.C., R.N., of H.M.S. "Lord Clive," who had been most useful in fitting up the navigational arrangements which were destroyed on the 23rd April, asked to be allowed to navigate the vessel during the operation. I approved of this request, feeling that this officer's experience and intimate knowledge of the shoals and currents on the Belgian coast would be of great value to the Commander of the "Vindictive." The crew were selected from a very large number of volunteers from vessels of the Dover Patrol.


4. The "Vindictive" was in all respects ready by the desired date, but the weather was unfavourable, and the operation had to be postponed until the necessary condition of tide and darkness recurred. This delay made it possible to prepare a second ship, the old cruiser "Sappho," which was taken from Southampton to Chatham and fitted out by Chatham Dockyard with the greatest celerity and thoroughness.


5. Lieutenant-Commander Hardy took command of her, and he was accompanied by all the officers of the "Sirius," Lieutenant Edward L. Berthon, D.S.C., R.N., Sub- Lieutenant Alfred V. Knight, R.N.R., and Engineer-Lieutenant William R. McLaren, R.N. Her crew were selected from a very large number of volunteers in the Royal Naval Barracks at Chatham.


6. Aerial observation on the 9th May showed that many torpedo and submarine craft were still shut up in Bruges, and proved that the effectiveness of the blocking of the Zeebrugge branch of the canal was maintained up to that date. Although the craft so shut up in Bruges have been unable to use the small waterways to Ostend, the latter port was still being used by enemy torpedo craft and submarines.


7. Other information, confirmed by aerial observation, also disclosed the fact that to counterbalance the forced inactivity of the craft in Bruges, and probably to resist any repetition of the April attack, a considerable number of German destroyers had joined those units of the Flanders force which were outside the canal on the night of the 22nd-23rd of that month.


8. Commodore Hubert Lynes, C.M.G., at Dunkirk, having so ably carried out the direction of the former attempt as part of the Zeebrugge and Ostend scheme, I entrusted the conduct of the operations on this occasion to him, placing under his orders all the monitors, destroyers, motor launches, and coastal motor boats required, in addition to the blocking ships "Vindictive" (below, in Dover Harbour, after the first Zeebrugge Raid and before the second one on Ostend - Jon Richards) and "Sappho." On the evening of the 9th May, the weather conditions being most promising, the "Vindictive" and "Sappho" sailed in company to join Commodore Lynes at Dunkirk. His report, which is attached, furnishes the details of the operation.




9. In order to prevent interference from Zeebrugge by the newly-arrived enemy destroyer force mentioned in paragraph 7 H.M.S. "Warwick," flying my flag, and a division of destroyers consisting of H.M. Ships "Whirlwind," "Velox," and "Trident," under Captain Wilfred Tomkinson, R.N., cruised midway between Ostend and Zeebrugge.


10. Meanwhile the operation proceeded in accordance with the plan, except for the unfortunate breakdown of the "Sappho," due to a boiler accident, which reduced her speed to such an extent that she was unable to reach her destination in time to take part. This halved the chances of success, and was a great misfortune.


With regard to the proceedings of " Vindictive," I cannot do better than quote from the report of Lieutenant Victor Crutchley, on whom the command devolved when Commander Godsal was killed and Lieutenant Sir John Alleyne seriously wounded:


"On arrival at position P, course was altered for the Stroom Bank Buoy. The boat marking the buoy was seen and left close on the port hand; the buoy was not seen. Speed was reduced to twelve knots on passing the buoy.


"At this time the smoke screen was excellent. There was a lane between the eastern and western sections, and the only fire experienced was shrapnel, which I considered was fired at a venture, and did no harm. We ran on for thirteen minutes from the Stroom Bank Buoy, and then, as the entrance was not sighted, altered course to the westward parallel to the shore, and reduced to 60 revolutions (nine knots). As we still failed to see the entrance we altered course 16 points to starboard, and returned along the shore to the eastward. We again failed to find the entrance, and so altered course 16 points to starboard. All this time, owing to fog and smoke, the visibility was not more than 1½ cables. This time the entrance was sighted about one cable on the port beam, and at the same time the ship came under a very heavy fire from shore batteries of all descriptions.


"On sighting the entrance, in accordance with previous orders, I passed the order 'preparatory abandon ship' to the engine-room. As soon as the entrance was sighted the ship was handled from the conning tower. Commander Godsal immediately turned up for the entrance and ordered smoke to be lighted. At about this time communication with the after control failed. Just after the entrance was passed, Commander Godsal went outside the conning tower and gave the order hard-a-starboard from outside.


"Immediately after this a heavy shell burst either on the conning tower or very close to it; Lieutenant Alleyne was knocked out, and Commander Godsal was not seen again, and all the occupants of the conning tower were badly shaken. I then ordered the port telegraph to full speed astern, to try to swing the ship across the channel. She grounded forward on the eastern pier when at an angle of about three points to the pier. As the ship stopped swinging, and at the time I considered that no more could be done, I ordered the ship to be abandoned.


"When the engine-room had been abandoned, Engineer Lieutenant-Commander Bury blew the ship up, by firing the main charges and after auxiliary charges, and I endeavoured to fire the forward auxiliary charges. There was a considerable shock when the first set of charges were fired. I am not positive that the forward auxiliary charges fired, as I could not distinguish the shock from other disturbances.


"When I got on board M.L. 254 I found that the First Lieutenant had been killed by a shell bursting, also one deckhand. The captain, Lieutenant Geoffrey H. Drummond, R.N.V.R., and the coxswain, had been wounded. We went out of the harbour stern first followed the whole way by machine-gun fire. On finally going ahead the forecastle flooded, and the boat was very much down by the bows. The pump and buckets were got under way and all spare hands placed right aft. However, the water was gaining, and 'S.O.S.' was made by flashing lamp continually to seaward. The courses steered from Ostend were north for 15 minutes, and then west by north until picked up by "Warwick."


"I cannot speak too highly of the bravery of the M.L.'s coming alongside inside Ostend; they were under a continuous and heavy fire. M.L. 254 rescued two officers and thirty-seven men.


"The question of recommendations is a very difficult one. Every man, without exception, behaved splendidly."


11. It had been Commander Godsal's intention to ram the western pier with the object of swinging the ship across the channel under port helm, a manoeuvre that would have been greatly assisted by the tide, which was setting strongly through the piers to the eastward. It would appear that when the "Vindictive" eventually found the entrance she was too close to the eastern pier to use port helm without risk of grounding broadside on. This would account for Commander Godsal's order "hard a starboard" a few seconds before he was killed. The "Vindictive" was thus committed to starboard helm when the command devolved on Lieutenant Crutchley, who very promptly put the port telegraph to full speed astern. Unfortunately the port propeller, which was very severely damaged against Zeebrugge Mole, was of little value. Due to this, and also to the fact that the tide was setting strongly against her starboard side, the ship's stern did not swing across the channel as desired, with the result that she grounded at an angle of about 25 degrees to the eastern pier, leaving a considerable channel between her stern and the western pier.


12. At 2.45 a.m., fifteen minutes after the programme time for the withdrawal of the motor craft, the "Warwick" and her consorts proceeded slowly to the westward parallel to the coast.


13. At 3.15 a.m. a signal of distress was observed from the direction of Ostend. I directed the division to close, and found M.L. 254 (Lieutenant Geoffrey H. Drummond, R.N.V.R.) badly damaged and in a sinking condition, with two officers and thirty-seven men of the "Vindictive's" crew on board. Lieutenant Drummond was very severely wounded, his second in command, Lieutenant Gordon F. Ross, R.N.V.R., and other men killed, and most of her small crew and many of the "Vindictive's," including her gallant Engineer Commander, were wounded. They were transferred to the "Warwick," and this took half an hour to do, on account of the serious condition of some of the wounded.


14. Dawn was now breaking, and H.M.S. "Warwick" and her consorts were within close range of the enemy's batteries. M.L. 254 (below, sister-boat ML.558 in Dover Harbour - Jon Richards) was too badly damaged forward to allow of her being towed, and was rapidly settling down. I ordered her to be destroyed, and, as soon as this had been carried out, withdrew the division at 25 knots.




15. By this time the tide had fallen so low that it was inexpedient to return by the route inside of the shoals by which the approach had been made, and a course was steered for a gap in the net defence by the deep-draught route from Ostend to seaward.


It would seem that the enemy had mined this route in anticipation of an attack. At 4.0 a.m. H.M.S. "Warwick" struck a mine, which broke her back just before the superstructure of the after superimposed 4-inch gun, and destroyed the after part of the ship. She took a heavy list and appeared to be settling by the stern. H.M.S. "Velox" was ordered alongside H.M.S. "Warwick," and the wounded, of whom there were a large number on board, were transferred to the former. H.M.S. "Whirlwind" then took H.M.S. "Warwick" in tow, and the latter being unable to steer, H.M.S. "Velox" was kept alongside while navigating the channels through the shoals to the open sea.


I arrived at Dover in H.M.S. "Warwick" at 4.30 p.m.


16. I have again to refer to the fine work done by the motor launches and coastal motor boats, as reported in paragraph 29 of the Commodore's letter. Their conduct in the late operation confirms the opinion I expressed of them in my despatch on the previous operations.


17. The co-operation of the Air Force, under Brigadier-General Charles L. Lambe, C.M.G., D.S.O., R.A.F., was of great value during the operation. In spite of the fog the 214th Squadron (Squadron-Commander Herbert G. Brackley, D.S.O., D.S.C.) continued to attack in accordance with the programme until after the completion of the operation.


18. I greatly regret the loss of so fine an officer as Commander Godsal. His zeal to retrieve the failure of the "Brilliant" on the 23rd April impelled him to disregard all protection in order to secure success on this occasion.


19. As on the 22nd/23rd April, I am much indebted to Vice-Admiral Pierre Alexis M. A. Ronarc'h, Commandant Superieur de la Marine dans la zone des Armées du Nord, Dunkerque, who placed at my disposal all the available vessels under his command, and assisted me in every possible way. The French torpedo craft and M.Ls. performed valuable service in connection with the monitor bombardment.


20. I commend Commodore Hubert Lynes to their Lordships' favourable consideration.


The officers and men mentioned by him are being included in my list of recommendations, which will be forwarded as soon as possible.


I have, &c.,

ROGER KEYES, Vice-Admiral, Dover Patrol.



Enclosure to Vice-Admiral, Dover, letter No. 2305/003, dated 15th June, 1918. (No. 053.).


Office of Commodore, Dunkirk, 10th May, 1918.



I have the honour to forward the following report on the operations for blocking Ostend Harbour, carried out on the night of the 9th-10th May, 1918.


2. It will be remembered that on the night of the 22nd-23rd April, when the forces under your command so successfully achieved the blocking of the Zeebrugge-Bruges Canal, the Western Squadron, under my Command, was unsuccessful in its attack; simultaneously delivered, and with the same object on Ostend.


3. The failure on that occasion was due, firstly, to the adverse shift of wind that blew all our smoke screens across the harbour entrance at the critical moment, and secondly, to the displacement - whether by design or chance on the enemy's part - of the Ostend Buoy, whose normal position had formed a convenient departure point for the blockships.


4. Our lack of success was the fortune of: war, not the fault of anyone concerned; indeed, no one could have carried out their duties more admirably than did the Ostend forces that night, and I am deeply grateful that, in recognition of this fact, you were so considerate as to place the organisation and leadership of another attack in my hands.


5. In the first operation, the blockships had advanced under cover of a smoke screen, guided by the lights and signals made by the small craft (C.M.B.'s and M.L.'s) working close inshore. I decided to adopt in general a similar plan for the new attack, but previous experience, and the necessity for assuming that the enemy would make counter preparations against an exactly similar attack, called for modification in detail.


6. In preparing for the new attack, particular attention was paid to perfecting the navigational arrangements; numerous small, but important, improvements were introduced into the smoke gear, and the alternatives for guiding the blockships into the entrance were made so numerous as to reduce chance of failure, in that respect, to the smallest possible dimensions.


7. The quicker the delivery of the new attack, the greater the element of surprise, and, consequently, of success. Realising this, special efforts were made both at Dover and1 Dunkirk, so that within a few days of the first attack, "Vindictive" had been prepared for her new role of blockship, all the small craft had been completed with their smoke-lights and other fittings, and reorganised according to the new plan of attack, which had been promulgated to all concerned.


The alternative plans of attack, "Y.O." and "V.S.," were submitted to you in my operation orders 0/54 and 0/58 respectively.


8. For this rapid and satisfactory work of preparation at Dover, I beg particularly to offer my grateful thanks to Commodore the Hon. A. D. E. H. Boyle, C.B., M.V.O., Chief of the Staff, who left no stone unturned to have all my numerous requests carried out; for that at Dunkirk, I am chiefly indebted to the energy of Commander J. L. C. Clarke, D.S.O., R.N., my Second-in-Command; to Lieutenant-Commander F. H. Sandford, D.S.O., R.N., the staff officer you were good enough to lend me, who was mainly responsible for the smoke screen organisation; and to Lieutenant H. F. Witherby, R.N.V.R., my staff intelligence officer, whose knowledge of the enemy's coast and close association with air reconnaissance work of the 61st (Naval) Wing were invaluable


9. The elements were, however, against us - for despite all these preparations, strong northerly winds, with rough seas, precluded all possibility of the enterprise up to a period when the conjunction of darkness and tide, in its turn, demanded postponement until the second week of the present month.


10. This enforced period of inaction was occupied in perfecting and testing the arrangements, and, above all, in the preparation of a second blockship, which on your representation, was ordered to be prepared and fitted out by His Majesty's Dockyard, Chatham.


11. The conjunction of darkness and tides made the night of the 9th-10th May the first favourable night of the new period. By good fortune the weather conditions on the 9th gave every indication of promise, and accordingly on the afternoon of the 9th the operations were put in progress, firstly by the passage of "Sappho" to Dover, and later by the passage of both blockships, with their supporting and escorting forces, from Dover to Dunkirk. It was at first doubtful whether "Sappho" could be completed in time, but Chatham Dockyard made great efforts, and "Sappho" arrived at Dover with several hours in hand.


12. For days preceding the operation, rain, cloud, and mist had prevented more than the scantiest air reconnaissances, but towards sunset on the 9th, i.e., when the blockships were already steaming eastwards, an air reconnaissance announced that all the buoys off Ostend had apparently been removed. At considerable risk of having to land after dark, Squadron-Commander Ronald Graham, D.S.O., D.S.C., himself at once went out, returned safely, and confirmed the report. This new move on the enemy's part had to be countered; we accordingly arranged to lay a special (calcic-phosphide) light-buoy of our own, which subsequently made a satisfactory departure point for the blockship and smoke screens.


13. The weather conditions as night advanced continued excellent, wind N. by W., sky clear, atmosphere good, both for air work and navigation, sea smooth, enough for the small craft to operate, barometer steady, and conditions likely to remain stable.


14. "Vindictive" and "Sappho" arrived in Dunkirk Roads in good time, disembarked their surplus crews, and then proceeded with their escorts at the appointed time in the programme. "Sappho," however, had scarcely left the anchorage than a man-hole joint in the side of her boiler blew out, reducing her speed to about six knots, and therefore putting her participation that night out of the question.


15. This very serious reduction of blocking material required consideration whether or no it was advisable to proceed with the operation.


I decided to continue with "Vindictive," and signalled to Commander Godsal that I had every confidence he would do his best without "Sappho." I also informed you by W/T of my decision.


16. This done,  I proceeded on board "Faulknor" (Commander Henry G. L. Oliphant, M.V.O., D.S.O.), leader of the off-shore supports, to overtake the other forces, who, in accordance with orders, were already well on their way to their various stations. Commander Clarke and Lieutenant-Commander Sandford accompanied me in "Faulknor" to carry out staff work, and were of great assistance to me in conducting the operations.


17. After the sudden removal of the buoys, and in the knowledge that nine enemy destroyers had been seen in the offing late that evening, I had fully expected enemy interference with our plan before reaching the place off Ostend where we should lay our buoy and spread the small craft. But no, nothing occurred. The enemy star shells and " flaming onions" fired intermittently from the coast during the approach were evidently only part of his new searching routine. Once again his preparations against surprise included no patrol craft in the offing.


By 1.30 a.m. all preliminary dispositions had been completed, and the (advanced) inshore forces, i.e., the C.M.B. and M.L. divisions, sent in to carry out their various duties.


18. One new feature of the present plan was that there should be no preliminary bombardments or air raid; we were to make no attacks until our sea force were discovered by the enemy.


19. At 1.35 a.m. there was still no firing from the shore, but a searchlight lit up, and commenced to search. The C.M.B.'s had arrived, and were running their smoke screens. The noise of their engines, and those of the M.L.'s approaching on their heels, was, of course, carried ashore by the breeze.


At 1.43 a.m. I gave the pre-arranged signal! to "open fire," which was immediately responded to by the monitors, siege guns, and the air squadrons. Bombs and shells, whose bursts could be seen over the top of our smoke screen, were undoubtedly giving the enemy a warm time, and constituting a protection to the small craft inshore.


20. Shortly before this, I had noticed with some anxiety the gathering of light-drifting "clouds" - but good-sized gaps, through which stars shone, could be seen at 1.45 a.m., when the sky became completely overcast, and five minutes later we were enveloped in a thick sea fog which, for the next all-important hour, reduced our means of keeping in touch with events to sound alone.


21. I felt that we could hope for no more air or monitor bombardments, and that thus deprived of their valuable support, the small craft in-shore would suffer in proportion, but fortunately this was not the case. The fog proves to have been merely a local patch, not extending to the monitors to the westward, and was also sufficiently low-lying to enable the airmen to continue their attacks between it and the true cloud system at some 10,000 feet altitude.


To realise these conditions, and the darkness due to absence of moon, and to know that the Royal Air Force carried out its whole programme is, in itself, a very high tribute to the efficiency of the air squadrons, who, under the orders of Brigadier-General Charles L. Lambe, C.M.G., D.S.O., took part in the operations. All our aeroplanes eventually returned to their aerodromes; some landed well to the westward naturally under difficulties, one crashed so badly that the pilots were both severely injured.


The monitors, too, did good and useful work - particularly "Prince Eugene" (below, Dover Patrol sister ship of the same Lord Clive-class - Jon Richards). Captain Ernest Wigram, D.S.O., led his division well inside range limits, in order that guns of the secondary armament might play a part as well as the big guns. This they did with good effect, and it is really rather wonderful that his division escaped without injury, for his front rank position put him inside the enemy's long-ranged star shells, and brought his division under a heavy fire from the shore batteries.




The R.M.A. siege guns, under Colonel Pryce Peacock, also maintained a valuable fire on the enemy's heavy coast batteries throughout the operation.


22. To return to Ostend. 2 a.m., i.e., "Vindictive's" programme time to arrive at the piers, was signalled by a heavy cannonade of quick-firers and machine-gun fire near the entrance. The enemy had now almost certainly realised the nature of the attack, and since the smoke screens and fog prevented him aiming at definite objectives, except when the small craft ran close alongside to fire torpedoes at, or engage, the pier-heads with their machine guns, he concentrated his effort in a continuous barrage fire across the entrance from the whole of the exceedingly formidable array of batteries in the neighbourhood of Ostend.


23. For the next twenty minutes, the critical period during which "Vindictive" must succeed or fail, the offshore destroyer forces were ordered to fire star shell over the entrance, and shell at the enemy's batteries - the former to light up the pier-heads for "Vindictive," and the latter to divert the enemy's attention further seaward. This firing was useful; the inshore forces were encouraged by having audible proof of our support close behind them, and the enemy diverted a small proportion of his fire. Very few shells came near us, however, either at this time or later; there were no casualties either to material or personnel among the off-shore forces. I attribute this mainly to the fog and smoke screens.


24. Meanwhile, "Vindictive," after passing our calcic-phosphide buoy, had arrived "on time" at where she expected to find the entrance. The fog, and apparently also some of the smoke borne on an easterly draught of air (the result of wind impinging on the tall houses on the sea front), had reduced the seashore visibility to two or three hundred yards at the most, and nothing could be seen.


"Vindictive" accordingly reduced speed, turned about, and searched to the westward. Still finding nothing, she again turned about, steered slowly eastward, and gave the "last resort" signal to her C.M.B. escort. This signal was obeyed by lighting a million candlepower flare close inshore to the westward of the entrance. In most circumstances, the illumination of the whole sea front by this intensely brilliant flare would probably have brought very heavy casualties to the inshore craft and "Vindictive" herself, through placing them under accurate gunfire, but on this occasion the fog, hitherto our enemy, now proved our friend, for while the flare showed "Vindictive" the piers, the small craft still remained ill-defined or invisible, except at closest range.


25. "Vindictive" now became clearly visible to the enemy's batteries, who concentrated all efforts on her, but she had only two hundred yards to go, and Commander Godsal immediately turned up for the entrance.


Communication between the conning tower and the after control soon failed, and, the entrance being passed, Commander Godsal went outside the conning tower and gave the necessary orders for placing the ship in her blocking position.


At this moment a very heavy shell burst, either on the conning tower or close to it. This must have killed Commander Godsal, for he was seen no more; and later, after the ship had been sunk in the channel, careful search failed to reveal his body.


This very gallant officer must have known before being killed that his efforts were crowned with success. Lieutenant Sir John Alleyne was knocked out, severely wounded in the stomach, and all the occupants of the conning tower were badly shaken by this shell. Lieutenant Victor Crutchley then took command, and endeavoured to place the ship across the channel. The sinking charges were fired by Engineer Lieutenant-Commander William A. Bury, and preparations made to abandon ship.


26. All this time "Vindictive" was continuously fired at, both by heavy and machine guns, and repeatedly hit; the after control had been completely demolished, killing Sub-Lieutenant Angus Maclachlan and all with him, and the whole upper deck was a mass of debris. Notwithstanding this, perfect order was maintained, and a careful search for wounded was made before embarking in the two M.L.'s (Nos. 254 and 276), who had run in through the fire zone to effect the rescue.


27. Motor Launch 254 (Lieutenant Geoffrey H. Drummond, R.N.V.R.), coming alongside "Vindictive's" inshore side, embarked Lieutenant Crutchley, Engineer Lieutenant-Commander Bury, and thirty-seven men. With his First Lieutenant (Lieutenant Gordon Ross, R.N.V.R.) .and Deckhand J. Thomas killed, his coxswain wounded, and himself wounded in three places, Lieutenant Drummond backed his now heavily laden motor launch out of the harbour, still under a tremendous fire, cleared the entrance, and made straight to seaward.


Arriving outside the fire zone, Lieutenant Drummond found his launch gradually filling forward from her injuries. Standing on at slow speed through the fog, and contriving somehow or other to pass close to the offshore, destroyers without either getting in touch, M.L. 254 was most fortunately picked up in a sinking condition about forty minutes after leaving Ostend by your flagship "Warwick." Rescuers and rescued were quickly taken on board, and M.L. 254 then sank.


28. M.L. 276 (Lieutenant Rowland Bourke, R.N.V.R.), having followed "Vindictive" into Ostend (engaging both piers with his machine guns en route), went alongside "Vindictive" after M.L. 254, with her first-rescued party, had shoved off.


After much search and shouting, and still under a very heavy fire, Lieutenant Bourke and Sub-Lieutenant Petrie managed to find and embark the last three of "Vindictive's" survivors (Lieutenant Alleyne and two ratings), all badly wounded, in the water clinging to a capsized skiff. This fine rescue effected, M.L. 276, hit in fifty-five places and with three of her crew killed or wounded, cleared the harbour, and was able to continue steering to the westward until picked up and taken in tow by "Prince Eugene." '


29. The small inshore craft - C.M.B.'s, under Lieutenant Arthur E. P. Welman, D.S.C., R.N., and Lieutenant Francis C.Harrison, D.S.O., R.N., and the M.L.'s under Commander Ion Hamilton Benn, D.S.O., R.N.V.R., as before, carried out all their duties splendidly; to them must be given the chief honours of having guided "Vindictive" in.


Daring exploits of these small craft (all 55ft Coastal Motor Boats, such as such 25BD, below - PhotoShips), all contributory to the general success, are numerous; they are recounted by the senior officers of divisions in their detailed reports, but I would specially mention the following:




C.M.B. No. 25 (Note: 25BD) (Lieutenant Russell H. McBean, R.N.) escorted "Vindictive" with smoke screen close up to the entrance, where she assisted her with guiding lights, then torpedoed the piers, and finally engaged the machine guns there with his own machine guns with apparently good effect, during which Lieutenant McBean was wounded and Acting-Chief Motor Mechanic G. E. Keel killed. Having seen "Vindictive" inside the piers, and her work being completed, Sub-Lieutenant George R. Shaw, R.N.R. (second-in-command), brought her safely back to harbour, Motor Mechanic A. J. Davies filling Chief Motor Mechanic Keel's place, and keeping the engines running most efficiently.


C.M.B. No. 24 (Lieutenant Archibald Dayrell-Reed, D.S.O., R.N.R.) and C.M.B. No. 30 (Lieutenant Albert L. Poland, R.N.), both carried out successful torpedo attacks on the pier ends, afterwards laying and maintaining good smoke screens close inshore throughout the remainder of the operation.


C.M.B. No. 26 (Lieutenant Cuthbert F. B. Bowlby, R.N.) escorted "Vindictive" close up to the entrance, then ran ahead, and, finding-one of the piers, fired his torpedo at it. 'The water being shallow, and range short, the explosion shook the boat so severely as to damage her engines and open her seams. She commenced to sink, but by has presence of mind, and the cool perseverance of Chief Motor Mechanic G. W. McCracken, Lieutenant Bowlby got the leak stopped, engines going again, and brought his boat out of the fire zone, where Commander Bertram H. Ramsay, leader of one of the offshore divisions, took her in tow.


C.M.B. No. 22 (Lieutenant William H. Bremner, R.N., with Lieutenant Arthur E. P Welman, D.S.C., Senior Officer of C.M.B.'s, aboard), when carrying out her smoke screening of the shore batteries, encountered close inshore an enemy torpedo boat, who switched on her searchlight and opened fire. C.M.B. No. 22 had no better weapon than her Lewis guns, but with these she attacked and peppered the torpedo boat to such good effect as to drive her away from the harbour entrance, and prevent her interfering with the blocking operation.


C.M.B. No. 23 (Lieutenant the Hon. Cecil E. R. 'Spencer) escorted "Vindictive" close inshore, and kept touch with her until "Vindictive" gave the "last resort" signal, on which C.M.B. No. 23 laid, and lit, the million candle-power flare, by whose light "Vindictive" eventually found her way in.


30. To recount the foregoing exploits of the small craft is in no way to detract from the praise due to all, particularly to the senior officers of units, for the care and precision with which they carried out my necessarily rather elaborate orders.


31. The general retirement was well executed, and without further casualties or incident, the supporting forces remaining out until daylight to pick up any disabled small craft who might still be out. There were none, however; those who were unable to return by their own power had already been towed home.


32. No interference by enemy craft was experienced throughout the operation, but from subsequent reports of some of the inshore craft it appears that several German torpedo boats were lying close under the shore batteries the whole time, and made no move to come out.


33. Our casualties were remarkably light - 2 officers and 6 men killed, 5 officers and 25 men wounded, 2 officers and 9 men missing, believed killed. Our only loss in material is M.L. 254. A number of the small craft were considerably damaged by gunfire, but all these are, or will be shortly, ready for action again. The light casualty list must be attributed to the efficient smoke screens, and probably also to the fog.


34. Of the "Sappho," I can but record the bitter disappointment of all aboard her at the accident that prevented her following "Vindictive." One and all, they begged to be given another chance, and when the day comes for their request to be granted, I am sure they will not be found wanting.


I have, &c.,

HUBERT LYNES, Commodore.


To: Vice-Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, K.C.B., C.V.O., D.S.O.


Click here for Honours for Services in the Operations against Zeebrugge and Ostend on the Night of the 22nd-23rd April 1918

Click here for French and Belgian Gallantry Awards to Royal Navy






31301 - 15 APRIL 1919



NAVAL DESPATCH dated 21st March 1917


Admiralty, 18th April, 1919.


The following, despatches describe the sinking of an enemy raider by H.M. Ships "Achilles" and "Dundee" in March, 1917.( This raider was, it is now known, commissioned as the German auxiliary cruiser "Leopard," being in fact no other than the British steamer "Yarrowdale," captured by the raider "Moewe" in December, 1916, and fitted out in Germany for service as a raider:


From Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, to Admiralty.


"Queen Elizabeth," 21st March, 1917.



I have the honour to transmit, herewith, for the information of their Lordships, reports from the Commanding Officers of "Achilles" (below - CyberHeritage/Terry Phillips) and "Dundee," on the action between those ships and an enemy raider on 16th March, 1917, in latitude 64° 54' N., longitude 0° 22' E., resulting in the sinking of the raider with all hands.




The raider appears to have had a heavy torpedo armament, and evidently hoped, by manoeuvring during chase and boarding, to torpedo both "Achilles" and "Dundee." This was prevented by the skilful handling of both ships. The Commanding Officer of "Dundee" displayed excellent judgment in manoeuvring his ship in such a way that he was able to pour in a hot fire for five or six minutes at a range of 1,000 yards before the raider could bring a gun to bear.


After weighing the evidence, I am satisfied that no submarine was present. The object reported by "Achilles" as a mine, and by "Dundee" as a submarine, was probably a cask, possibly containing oil, leakage of which would have given the appearance of the wake noted by "Dundee."


I very much regret the loss of Lieutenant Frederick H. Lawson, R.N.R., and his gallant boat's crew of volunteers, who undoubtedly perished with the raider. The boarding parties from the patrol squadrons have, throughout the war, displayed the greatest skill and fearlessness in carrying out their hazardous work in all weathers.


That the raider was intercepted and brought to action is the result of much patient work under trying conditions. Much credit is due to Rear-Admiral Sydney R. Fremantle, M.V.O., for his conduct of the Second Cruiser Squadron patrol.


I submit, for the favourable notice of their Lordships, the ability and sound judgment displayed by Captain Francis M. Leake, R.N., of "Achilles," and Commander Selwyn M. Day, R.D., R.N.R., of "Dundee," in rounding up and destroying the vessel which was capable of doing such damage to our commerce.


The Rear-Admiral Commanding, Second Cruiser Squadron, is being furnished with a copy of this letter, and will submit, in due course, a list of recommendations of other Officers and Men whose services he considers special noteworthy.


I am, Sir, Your obedient servant,

David Beatty, Admiral.


The Secretary of the Admiralty



H.M.S. " Achilles," 17th March, 1917.


Sir, I have the honour to report that on the 16th March, when patrolling in accordance with orders from the Rear-Admiral Commanding Second Cruiser Squadron, in latitude 64.42 north, longitude 0.56 west, at 11.45 a.m., a steamer was sighted steering 66°, bearing N. 84 E, distance about nine miles. Weather at the time being: Wind south-easterly, force 4 to 5, snow and rain squalls, sea moderate. "Achilles" was steering N. 15 W., and altered course N. 84 E., to close steamer, and directed "Dundee" to conform. Speed of advance 15 knots.


At 1.00 p.m., finding a very small gain, "Achilles" increased speed to 18 knots, and at 1.45 p.m. course was altered to S. 87 E., to avoid following directly astern.


At 2.00 p.m. steamer was overhauled and directed to stop, which signal she obeyed. She was then directed to steer W. by S., and at 2.35 p.m. was again stopped for "Dundee" to examine her. "Achilles" manoeuvring at a distance of two and a half to three miles.


At 3.45 p.m. "Dundee" and raider commenced an action simultaneously. "Achilles" at once joined in, at a range of 5,300 yards, raider firing at her, but with more intensity at "Dundee," whose safety was due to the prompt manner in which Commander Selwyn Mitchell Day, R.N.R., answered the raider's first hostile act, and the initial success she gained in getting raking hits; hers was the dangerous position, and she extracted herself with the utmost credit.


On opening fire the raider at once enveloped herself in smoke of a light colour. At 3.55 p.m. she fired a torpedo at "Achilles," which broke surface off the port quarter. A submarine was reported at the same time in this direction, and speed was increased from 16 to 20 knots. Hats were now being obtained, and the raider was on fire forward. About this time she was hit in the bow (on the gripe) by a torpedo from "Achilles."


About 4.00 p.m. fire was checked, the raider being well on fire, with occasional explosions forward. Soon after this, "Dundee" took station astern of "Achilles," and was then ordered to steer west. At 4.23 p.m. she reported a submarine between herself and the raider. Consequently, fire was again opened on the raider and continued until, at 4.33 p.m., she listed to port and sank, more or less horizontally, a mass of flames, and red hot forward, leaving no visible survivors.


The position of this action was latitude 64.54 north, longitude 0.22 east. The weather during the time was: Wind south-easterly, force three to four, with continuous rain and moderate sea.


The loss of the "Dundee" boarding party is greatly regretted. The actual movements of this boat could not be seen from "Achilles," but she was apparently alongside the raider when the action commenced. An overturned boat was sighted from "Achilles." Excepting this, at no time was anything resembling a boat seen.


List of "Dundee" boarding party attached.


I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient Servant,

F. M. Leake, Captain.





Lawson, Frederick Herman, Lieutenant, R.N.R.

Anderson, Henry, Seaman, R.N.R., 2845 A.

Anderson, Henry James, Seaman, R.N.R., 4911 B.

Anderson, Magnus John, Seaman, R.N.R., 3936 B.

Anderson, Robert John, .Seaman, R.N.R., 3717 C.

Birchall, Alfred, Able Seaman, R.N.V.R., Mersey, 1/150.



H.M.S. "Dundee," 11th March, 1917.


possibly the correct SS Dundee, 2709 grt, built 1911,

but a number of vessels with the same name

existed around this period (Photo Ships)



Re Action with German twin-screw Armed Merchantman, approximately 7,000 tons - Seven or eight guns - Complement unknown - Flying Norwegian colours - With "Rena," Norge, painted on each side - in 64.50 N., 0.32 E., on Friday, March 16th, 1917.


I have the honour to report that whilst patrolling with H.M.S. "Achilles" on Friday, March 16th, p.m., I proceeded to the examination of the above steamer bound East (Mag.), which had been overhauled and stopped by "Achilles" for that purpose.


At 2.42 p.m. "Dundee" lowered a boat with Lieut. F. H. Lawson, R.N.R., and five R.N.R. Seamen forming the boarding and boat party. The boat was towed towards the intercepted vessel, at that time about two miles distant and steaming slowly towards us.


The following signals were then exchanged:







"What ship is that?"

No reply.


"Stop instantly."

Answered by A.P.


"Pay attention to my signals."

No reply.


Blank round fired.



"What is your cargo?"



"Where are you from?"



"When did you leave?"

No reply.


Her size, manoeuvres, and the information in confidential books supplied convinced me eventually she was a raider, and it was obvious he was trying to defeat my object of maintaining a position (for attack) close up to the weather quarter and heading across ihis stern, and he constantly moved the propellers, slewing to port or starboard. Keeping station thus we awaited some sign from the boarding Officer or the boat, which was, of course, on the lee side, and could not be seen by us.


At 3.40 I heard the noise of the large Norwegian flag painted on her port quarter fall outboard, being hinged on the lower side, and I gave the orders "Fire" and "Half speed ahead" to keep station, the raider now slewing rapidly to port with slight, if any, headway. Two torpedoes followed from her in quick succession, passing from 20 to 50 feet astern. The Norwegian flag remained hoisted on the ensign staff throughout and no other flag was seen. Our guns were already firing, and every shot was a hit. The first (from our aft 4") raked her port battery deck, causing an explosion and volumes of smoke. The fore gun fired through the deck into her engine-room, and volumes of steam spread with intense smoke and flames, caused by further hits, so as to completely hide the ship from us from bridge to stern. The 3-pdr. gun fired at her bridge.


Forty-four 4", and twenty-five 3-pdr. rounds were fired at about 1,000 yards' range before the raider fired her first gun. "Dundee" was then in the smoke (wind south-easterly, force 4 to 5) to leeward, and both ships practically obscured from each other in consequence.


Observing "Achilles" on almost opposite bearing, I turned, and went full speed and down the lane of smoke so as to clear the range for the cruiser. On turning, one torpedo was fired at us, and also three salvoes, two short and one over of three or four guns by her port broadside. Then followed some very wild single shots, including shrapnel, fragments of the latter only hitting ship. The aft gun was bearing the whole time, and made consistently excellent hitting on any visible part of the enemy. Ignited oil was observed streaming from her port beam.


At 4.10, when out of torpedo range, we again engaged enemy in company with "Achilles" already firing, and ceased fire at 4.15, having no more ammunition. The raider was a mass of flame, and obviously a doomed ship, although she continued to fight with apparently but one gun. Enemy sank whilst under fire of "Achilles," 4.35p.m.


We saw a submarine about half a mile from the raider, of which fact I immediately advised "Achilles."


I desire to submit the names of the following Gunlayers:


W. Lee, P.O.1, R.F.R., Off. number, Po. 129854;

J. M. Cullen, A.B., R.N.V.R., Off. number, Mersey 35, 1/30;

J. L. Arthurson, Ldg. Sea., R.N.R., Off. number, B.3673;

J. G. Anderson, Sea., R.N.R., Off. number, C. 2485;


for favourable consideration, because with no Officers of Quarters available (two were absent on duty), they calmly and skilfully controlled the guns' crews and their own firing, doing their own spotting and judging point of aim to the most vital places about the raider's decks and hull, so that the enemy, who was approximately three times our size, complement and armament, was made by their marksmanship incapable of inflicting the smallest damage to us within the same period. In fact, the enemy ship at this time was stopped, disabled, and in time would have been entirely consumed by the fire then raging.


With the utmost regret I have to report that Lieut. Lawson, R.N.R., and the boat's crew who volunteered to accept the extreme risk entailed by a boarding operation under such conditions, are missing, having undoubtedly been forced into the raider and lost with her. The boat was observed empty at the commencement of the action as we followed round the stern of the enemy. Other than the boarding party, we suffered no casualties nor any damage to the ship.


I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient servant,

Selwyn M. Day, Commander, R.N.R.


The Rear-Admiral Commanding Second Cruiser Squadron, H.M.S. "Minotaur."

Copy to Commanding Officer, H.M.S. "Achilles."  






31322 - 29 APRIL 1919



NAVAL DESPATCH dated 17 March 1915



Gallipoli and area - click to enlarge


Admiralty, 2nd May, 1919.




H.M.S. "Queen Elizabeth," March 17, 1915.



I have the honour to submit, for the consideration of their Lordships, the narrative of events during the operations of the Allied British and French Squadrons against the defences of the Dardanelles, from the 19th February to 16th March, 1915.


There was a marked difference in the tactics of the enemy manning the forts at the entrance when attacked on this occasion to that which they followed on the 3rd November, 1914; on that day when a short bombardment was carried out by "Indefatigable," "Indomitable," "Suffren," and "Verite," by a run past in close order, range 13,000 yards, they replied to our fire almost at once, and maintained from forts Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 6, till our squadron completed their run. The only projectiles, however, which fell close were those from the 9.4inch guns in forts Nos. 1 and 4. Good practice was made by the Allied Squadron on forts Nos. 3 and 6, in the former of which there was a large magazine explosion. Information was received later that the casualties to personnel were high amongst the enemy, some accounts putting it at 600.


That it was considerable is, I think, shown by the fact that on the 19th February, when the present operations began, and a deliberate bombardment by our ships took place, no Turkish fort attempted to reply until late in the afternoon, when the old battleships were sent close in. They apparently kept their men in shelters until the desired moment.


Bad weather prevented a renewal until the 26th February, and then there was this difference. Fort No.1 opened fire on "Agamemnon" at 10,000 yards as soon as that ship was in position, and hit her several times. This fort maintained its fire with great perseverance against "Queen Elizabeth," "Agamemnon," and "Gaulois," until the former ship by hitting with two consecutive 15-inch projectiles dismounted one gun and put the other out of action, and effectually silenced the fort; the surviving personnel quickly made their way down to the neighbouring village.


On the same day the accurate fire of "Irresistible" on fort No. 4 prevented its two 9.4-inch guns taking any part in the proceedings. When the ships closed in forts No. 3 and 6 fired a few ineffective rounds.


Although a heavy and prolonged fire at short range was poured into these forts, 70 per cent of the heavy guns were found to be in a serviceable condition when the demolition parties landed.


The destruction of the guns in fort No. 3 by "Irresistible," and in Nos. 4 and 6 by "Vengeance" (below - Photo Ships), was most smartly and effectively carried out on the 26th February and the 1st March by demolition parties from those ships, which were ably supported by their detachments of Royal Marines.




In this service the following officers are specially and strongly recommended:


Major G. M. Heriot, D.S.O , R.M.L.I., "Vengeance."

Lieutenant-Commander (T.) E. G. Robinson, "Vengeance."

Lieutenant (T.) F. H. Sandford, "Irresistible."


The two latter officers are further very strongly recommended for their conduct in the sweeping operations.


I was present in "Inflexible" close off Kum Kale on the 4th March, and witnessed the landing operations which were under the immediate direction of Rear-Admiral de Robeck and Brigadier-General Trotman, both of whom were on board "Irresistible" in the entrance of the Straits. I consider the operations were correctly conducted, and that everything possible under the circumstances was done.


The skilful manner in which "Wolverine" (Commander O. J. Prentis) and "Scorpion" (Lieutenant-Commander A. B. Cunningham), ran close inshore after dark, and sent whalers ashore to bring off the remaining officers and men is highly commended.


I desire specially to endorse recommendations made by the Rear-Admiral and Brigadier-General on the conduct of Lieutenant-Colonel G. E. Matthews, R.M.L.I., and also of Major A. E. Bewes, R.M.L.I.


Four Maxim guns, which had been left on Kum Kale Pier, were recovered by volunteers from "Agamemnon" (below - Maritime Quest) - a smart and plucky piece of work.




The sweeping operations by night between the 12th and 15th March were conducted with great gallantry under heavy fire, and though not completely successful I consider the officers and men are deserving of great praise for their efforts.


It is regretted that a complete list of those who volunteered for this dangerous duty was lost in "Ocean," but a further list is being prepared and will be submitted as soon as possible.


The attempt made on the night 13th-14th March was most determined, and I desire to bring particularly to the notice of their Lordships the following names:


Commander W. Mellor, in charge of minesweepers.

Lieutenant-Commander J. B. Waterlow, "Blenheim."

Lieutenant-Commander J. R. Middleton, "Albion."

Lieutenant-Commander E. G. Robinson, "Vengeance."

Lieutenant-Commander G B. Palmes, "Egmont."

Lieutenant F. H. Sandford, "Irresistible."

Lieutenant B. T. Cox, R.N.R., "Prince George."

Acting-boatswain R. G. Young, "Cornwallis."

Midshipman J. C. W. Price, "Ocean." Captain of trawler 318.


The six officers first-mentioned carried out these duties on several nights, and I desire to submit that they may be awarded the highest decoration suitable for their rank and seniority, and that Commander Mellor and Lieutenant-Commander Waterlow be promoted now.


In connection with the operation of the night 13th-14th March I desire also to bring to their Lordships' notice the name of Commander G. J. Todd, "Amethyst" (below - Photo Ships).




"Amethyst" was hit several times by large projectiles, and had her steering gear and engine-room telegraphs put out of action. Arrangements were quickly made to man the hand-steering wheel, and improvise engine-room communications. Both during and after the action Commander Todd was very ably assisted by Lieutenant James C. J. Soutter, Senior Lieutenant of "Amethyst," who was indefatigable in his efforts.


The services rendered by the Destroyer Flotilla during all this period have fully maintained the high traditions of that branch of the service, their boldness in action and untiring devotion to duty are worthy of the highest praise.


I beg to call special attention to the excellent work done by the French squadron on every occasion that they have been called upon, and also to the cordial good feeling which prevails in the Allied Fleet, due so much to the personality of that dashing and courteous officer, Contre-Admiral E. P. A. Guepratte.


I consider it a special duty to call attention to the excellent work done by Malta Dockyard, under Vice-Admiral A. H. Limpus, C.B., in supplying every need of the large force off the Dardanelles in addition to the main French Fleet. Commanding officers speak most highly of the great assistance rendered to them on all occasions at Malta, and the rapidity with which work is done, which shows that the principle that the dockyard exists for the benefit of ships is fully understood and acted upon.


The conduct and ability of the commanding officers has been of a high order.


The behaviour of officers and men on all occasions has been most admirable, and in every way as could be expected.


In closing the report on this stage of the operations I wish especially to bring to the notice of their Lordships the splendid work done by Rear-Admiral J. M. de Robeck, and the great assistance I have received from him, together with the valuable services of Commodore R. J. B. Keyes, C.B., M.V.O., Flag Commander Hon. A. R. M. Ramsay and Captain W. W. Godfrey, R.M.L.I., War Staff.


I have, &c.,

S. H. CARDEN, Vice-Admiral,


To The Secretary the Admiralty 







The attack on the defences of the Dardanelles commenced on the 19th February, 1915.


Air reconnaissance on the 17th, 18th, and A.M. 19th confirmed information in our possession with regard to forts Nos. l, 3, 4, and 6, except that an additional gun was shown in eastern bastion of fort No. 6.


Seaplanes also reported that some minor earthworks and trenches appeared to have been extensively prepared for the defence of possible landing places.


The following ships took part in the operations of the 19th February:


SUFFREN (flag of Contre-Amiral Guepratte).




INFLEXIBLE (flag of' Vice-Admiral).



The "Gaulois" acted in support of "Suffren," while "Amethyst" supported "Albion."


Seven British mine sweepers were employed with "Albion."


The "Vengeance " (flag of Rear-Admiral de Robeck) was ordered to take station as convenient to observe the fire of her division.


4.30 P.M. "Queen Elizabeth" arrived with "Agamemnon," the latter taking part at the end of the day.


February 19.


9.51 A.M. "Cornwallis" fired first shot on fort No. 4.


10. "Triumph" opened fire on fort No. 1.


10.32. "Suffren" opened on fort No. 6.


10.38. Ships were ordered to anchor with a view to improving the practice.


11. The "Vengeance" and "Cornwallis" were ordered to exchange positions, "Cornwallis," owing to a defective capstan, being unable to anchor in deep water.


11.25. "Cornwallis" was ordered to spot for "Triumph" and for "Inflexible" if required.


11.45. "Inflexible" opened on fort No. 1, which was hard to distinguish, but practice appeared good.


0.14 P.M. "Vengeance" opened fire on fort No. 4 - practice was very good - her third shot appeared to hit close to northern embrasure.


0.30. "Triumph" was ordered to cease fire, as she was unable to hit fort No. 1.

"Suffren," at this time, was making excellent practice against fort No. 6, firing by indirect laying, with "Bouvet" (below - Photo Ships) spotting.




0.52. "Triumph," was ordered to open fire with light guns on men showing signs of activity in a field-work 2 miles north of Cape Tekeh.


0.55. A seaplane was ordered up to spot for "Vengeance," but, owing to wireless troubles in seaplane, no results were obtained.


1. "Inflexible" opened fire on fort No. 3, making good practice.


1.56. It was now considered that the effect produced by the bombardment at long range was great enough to allow of ships approaching nearer to the forts, and signal was made accordingly.


2.12. "Suffren" and "Triumph" were ordered to commence their operations, the "Triumph" being ordered to engage the position of the new battery of Cape Tekeh only.


3.53. "Cornwallis" was close fort No. 1 "on present line of bearing," and open fire when certain of position.


4.10. There, being still no reply from the forts, "Vengeance" and "Cornwallis" were ordered to close and destroy forts.

Forts Nos. 3 and 6 were heavily bombarded by "Vengeance" and "Cornwallis," assisted by "Sufrren." "Vengeance" engaged fort No. 4 with her secondary armament, while "Cornwallis" did the same to fort No. 1.


4.40. "Sufrren" was directed to close the forts.


4.45. At the same time "Cease fire, examine forts," was signalled to "Vengeance." Fort No. 1 opened fire on "Vengeance" and "Cornwallis," and shortly after fort No. 4 also opened fire.

"Vengeance" and "Cornwallis," assisted by "Bouvet," engaged and silenced fort No. 1. Fort No. 4 being left unfired at, both inshore ships were unaware that she had opened fire.


5. "Inflexible" opened fire on fort No. 4, with the immediate effect of causing her fire to suffer in accuracy.


5.08. "Gaulois" also opened fire on this fort.

"Agamemnon" was ordered to support "Vengeance."


5.09. The "General recall" was made - "Vengeance" requested permission to continue the action; this was not approved as the light looking towards the land was becoming bad, while ships showed up well against western sky.


5.30. Cease firing was ordered and the squadron withdrew.


7. "Albion" reported "No mines or guns encountered - area has been swept."


The result of the day's action showed apparently, that the effect of long range bombardment by direct fire on modern earthwork forts is slight; forts Nos. 1 and 4 appeared to be hit, on many occasions, by 12-inch common shell well placed, but when the ships closed in all four guns in these, forts opened fire.


From February 20 to 24.


From the 20th to 24th February, inclusive, the weather was too rough to continue operations, and no reconnaissance by seaplanes was possible.


February 25.


The weather being favourable, operations were resumed. No seaplanes took part - the sea being too rough for them to rise off the water.




Ships were in position to commence the long-range bombardment by 10 a.m.- the destroyers forming, a screen to seaward of the battleships 


10.7 a.m. "Agamemnon" reported range obtained of fort No. 1.


10.14. "Queen Elizabeth" opened fire on fort No. 3.


10.16. Fort No. 1 opened fire on "Agamemnon," range 10,000 yards.


10.18. "Gaulois opened fire on fort No. 6.


10.22. "Agamemnon" opened fire on fort No.1.


10.27. "Irresistible" opened fire on fort No. 4.


10.33. Fort No. 1 seemed to be getting the range of "Agamemnon," who was ordered to weigh and proceed further out - "Queen Elizabeth" being ordered to fire on fort No. 1.


Between 10.34 and 10.43. "Agememnon" was hit seven times, but as the shells did not detonate it was not realised she had been struck; directly "Agamemnon" had good weigh on fort No.1 lost the range.


10.44. Fort No. 1 opened an accurate fire on "Gaulois," who immediately replied to it from all her guns, this probably accounted for the fact that she was able to weigh and proceed further out without the fort scoring a single hit.


10.45. "Queen Elizabeth" opened fire on fort No. 1, and "Dublin" (below - Photo Ships) was observed firing at a gun near Yeni Shehr.




10.55. "Irresistible" reported she obtained range of fort No. 4, she was ordered to continue slow firing. She opened a very deliberate, accurate fire on the fort, which kept silent practically all day.


11.30. "Gaulois" was making excellent practice on fort 6.


11.47. Fort No. 1 was still firing at "Agamemnon" and "Gaulois," but shots were going short - its extreme range appeared to be about 11,000 yards.


Noon. "Queen Elizabeth," whose shooting had been extremely accurate, appeared to drop a shell right into fort No. 1, and at 0.02 p.m. she reported eastern gun dismounted.


0.15 p.m. "Irresistible" reported she thought her tenth round had damaged northern gun of fort No. 4.

"Vengeance" and "Cornwallis" were ordered to prepare for run 1, which was commenced at 12.45 p.m., with all covering ships firing deliberately on their allotted forts.


0.50. "Queen Elizabeth" reported she had hit the western gun of fort No. 1. "Agamemnon" also claimed to have hit this gun at 12.55 p.m. "Agamemnon" at this time was firing on fort No. 1. "Inflexible" engaging fort No. 3.


0.55. "Vengeance" and "Cornwallis" opened fire, concentrating chiefly on forts 1 and 4. Forts 3 and 6 both opened fire, but their practice was poor, and few rounds were fired. Forts 1 and 4 did not fire during the run.


By 1.22 "Vengeance" and "Cornwallis" had completed run 1, and all ships checked fire.


1.50. Rear-Admiral, "Vengeance," reported "No. 1 battery west gun pointing in the air, right gun not visible, battery not manned. No. 3 fired at "Vengeance"  apparently using black powder - three guns are visible on south-west face. No. 4, both guns laid horizontal, battery not manned, one round was fired from western gun . ."


2.5. Contre-Amiral, "Suffren," was directed to commence run 2, and given the following directions: "Battery No. 1 out ot action, battery No. 4 was not manned, concentrate your fire on 3, 4, and 6, especially 4."

Run 2 was carried out most deliberately, "Suffren" being about 3,000 yards ahead of "Charlemagne" - both ships made excellent practice - the only round fired at them was from fort No. 6.


The run was completed at 3 p.m.

Covering ships fired very few rounds during this run; it was evident that forts were silenced.


3.5. Mine sweepers were ordered to close the entrance, and carry out sweeping operations laid down.

"Albion" and "Triumph" were ordered to prepare to close forts to 2,000 yards of southern and northern shore respectively, keeping way on and carrying out destruction of guns still intact.

Rear-Admiral in "Vengeance" being directed to follow them to direct operations.

While "Albion" and "Triumph" were attempting to destroy the guns of forts 1 and 6, at close range, fort No. 4 apparently fired one round from her northernmost gun. The fort was immediately engaged by "Albion" and "Irresistible." Forts 1 and 6 also appeared to fire one round each. These were the last rounds fired at the ships.

Concealed guns of apparently 6" calibre fired from positions 1 mile north-east of Cape Tekeh, and from behind northern end of Yeni Shehr village. These guns did no damage, though "Gaulois" was struck three times on the armour.

"Albion," when off Kum Kale, reported two explosions, probably light ground mines; these occurred about 100 yards ahead of the ship, and did no damage.


By 4 p.m. the forts were reduced, and the mine sweepers were ordered to enter and commence sweeping.

"Vengeance," "Albion," and "Triumph," with six destroyers, covered these operations.

The remainder of the fleet returning to Tenedos during the night of the 25th/26th, mine sweepers swept the entrance; they found no mines. The enemy were reported as burning the villages at entrance.


February 26.


"Albion," "Triumph," and "Majestic" entered straits between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., and shelled forts 3 and 6 from inside entrance, also firing station below De Totts' battery.

"Albion," preceded by sweepers, proceeded to a position 12,000 yards from fort 8, from which position fire was opened on that fort. "Majestic" supported "Albion," these two ships being under fire from field guns and howitzers from Asiatic shore, ships remained under weigh; enemy scored one hit on "Majestic."

"Jed" and "Chelmer" reconnoitred northern and southern shores during forenoon as far up as the line White Cliffs - Suandere, both ships being engaged with the enemy's light batteries; they sunk some large range buoys, and located several batteries.

"Vengeance," from outside straits, was engaged bombarding position on Asiatic shore near Achilles Tomb.


At 2.30 p.m., the enemy apparently having abandoned Kum Kale and Seddul Bahr, the opportunity was seized to land demolition parties on both sides - from "Vengeance" at Kum Kale, and "Irresistible" at Seddul Balir. Parties being covered by the guns of "Vengeance," "Irresistible," "Cornwallis," "Dublin," and "Racoon," forts 3, 4, and 6 were entered and demolitions carried out, and two new 4" guns concealed near Achilles Tomb were destroyed, but owing to lateness of the landing it was impossible to verify results. Both parties encountered slight opposition, the enemy being in some force in Seddul Bahr prevented fort 1 being reached.


On night of the 26th/27th mine sweepers entered straits to continue sweeping in lower area, being covered by "Colne," "Jed," and "Kennet," who engaged enemy's batteries and sunk more range buoys.

Seaplanes carried out reconnaissances inside Straits in order to locate batteries, &c. Amongst other details they reported battery 8 now contains eight guns. Many positions for guns have been prepared on both shores.


February 27.


Weather broke, north-easterly gale, much rain with low visibility. Operations inside the Straits much impeded, small progress made.


February 28.


Heavy north-easterly gale. Operations confined to watching the Straits.


March 1.


Gale having moderated, operations inside Straits were resumed.

The following battleships entered Straits to engage howitzers and field batteries: "Vengeance," "Ocean," "Albion," "Triumph," "Irresistible," and "Majestic" (below - Pat Gariepy).



Fort 8 and battery at White Cliffs were engaged by "Albion" and "Triumph," "Ocean " and "Majestic " meanwhile engaging guns near Aren Kioi village and on European shore. These proved extremely hard to locate, and when seen great difficulty was experienced in obtaining points of aim, the guns being well concealed.

The action was discontinued at 5 p.m. "Ocean," "Albion," and "Triumph" were each hit on several occasions by projectiles of 6-inch calibre and below -

without suffering any serious damage.

Demolition party from "Irresistible" landed at Seddul Bahr and completed demolition of fort 6.

The party was attacked during the operation. The fire from covering ships and destroyers in Morto Bay, however, was sufficient to disperse enemy.

During the night of 1st-2nd March minesweepers entered and swept to within 3,000 yards of Kephez Point. They were covered by destroyers. When abreast of Suandere River batteries opened fire and sweepers retired, destroyers covering withdrawal.

No vessels were hit.


March 2.


"Canopus," "Swiftsure," and "Cornwallis" entered the Straits and engaged forts Nos. 8 and 7, also field guns.

Garrison of fort No. 8 were forced to withdraw, but material damage to fort could not be determined.

Howitzers and concealed field guns opened a heavy fire, which could not be silenced. All ships were hit on several occasions, suffering some material damage.

An observation mine exploded ineffectively ahead of "Canopus."

On the 1st-2nd March the French squadron reconnoitred the Gulf of Xeros, bombarding the forts and earthworks of the Bulair lines and the bridge over Kavak. French minesweepers swept along the coast. They discovered no mines.

The landing-places in the Gulf of Xeros were also reported on.

Destroyers and mine-sweepers continued the attack on the Kephez minefield, but made no progress in the face of heavy fire.


March 3.


Weather in the morning unfavourable - foggy.

In the afternoon "Albion," "Prince George," "Triumph" continued the attack on forts 7 and 8 and field batteries. These latter were not so active as on former days.

Sweeping operations continued at night, covered by destroyers. Slight progress was made.

Seaplanes carried out useful reconnaissance, without, however, being able to locate batteries firing at the ships.


March 4.


It being uncertain whether forts Nos. 1 and 4 were absolutely destroyed, demolition parties were ordered to land and complete the destruction, being covered by a landing party of the Royal Marine Brigade, one company of 250 men each side.

This landing had been postponed for several days, on account of the weather.

Seaplanes reconnoitred the vicinity of forts and villages near them in the morning, and reported no movement of troops.


At 10 a.m. parties landed at Seddul Bahr and Kum Kale.

Both parties met with opposition. At Seddul Bahr no progress could be made, and the party withdrew at 3 p.m.

At Kum Kale an attempt was made to reach fort No. 4, but without success, the enemy being in some force in well-concealed trenches. Great difficulty was experienced in withdrawing the advanced party, the enemy gaining possession of a cemetery near Mendere Bridge, commanding the ground over which the party had to fall back, and which could not be shelled by the ships, as our troops were between the cemetery and the ships.

Seaplanes attempted to locate the enemy's trenches without success, descending to 2,000 feet in their efforts to distinguish the positions: one seaplane was hit twenty-eight times and another eight times.

It was not till the destroyers were sent close in to shell the trenches that the retirement could be carried out.


After sunset "Scorpion" (below - Photo Ships) and "Wolverine" ran in and landed parties, under fire, to search the beach from Kum Kale to the cliffs below fort No. 4. The former brought off two officers and five men, who had been unable to reach the boats.




March 5.


The attack on the forts at the Narrows commenced by indirect bombardment by "Queen Elizabeth."

Three seaplanes were sent up to spot for fall of shot. One met with an accident, and the second was forced to return on account of her pilot being wounded by a rifle bullet; in consequence, they were not of assistance in the firing.

"Queen Elizabeth" was under fire from field guns, being struck on many occasions, without, however, suffering any great material damage.


March 6.


Indirect attack by "Queen Elizabeth" continued.

"Vengeance," inside the Straits, spotted for "Queen Elizabeth," "Albion," "Majestic," "Prince George," and "Suffren" engaged forts No. 7, 8, and 13, with what result could not be discovered.

At night "Amethyst," with destroyers and mine-sweepers in company, proceeded inside Dardanelles to attack the Kephez minefield. Some progress was made, but, as on former occasions, gunfire drove the mine-sweepers out of the mined area.

Between the 3rd and 6th March "Sapphire" was engaged in the neighbourhood of Mitylene in destroying telegraph stations, &c.


March 7.


French squadron consisting of "Suffren," "Gaulois," "Charlemagne," and "Bouvet" entered the Straits and engaged forts Nos. 7 and 8.

Later " Agamemnon" and "Lord Nelson" attacked the forts at the Narrows by direct fire from ranges between 14,000 and 12,000 yards. After a severe engagement, during which both ships were hit by heavy projectiles, forts Nos. 13 and 19 were silenced. During this attack the French battleships kept down the fire from howitzers and field guns.

"Dublin" at Bulair was engaged with a shore battery.

During the night of the 7th-8th March destroyers attacked the searchlights at Kephez, but without result, the lights being extinguished temporarily, but invariably reappearing.


March 8.


"Queen Elizabeth" entered the Straits to continue the attack on the Narrows by direct fire. Conditions became unfavourable for spotting, and little was accomplished.

Weather was too misty for seaplanes to do any spotting.

Attack on minefield was continued at night with mine-sweepers and picket boats. Batteries opened fire.


March 9.


"Albion," "Prince George," and "Irresistible" entered the Straits and made a thorough search for boats, &c., and shelled look-out stations. The weather was misty throughout the day.

At night picket boats covered by destroyers attacked the Kephez minefield with explosive creeps.


March 10.


"Irresistible," "Dublin," and "Ark Royal" off Bulair. The former bombarded the enemy's positions when guns had been located. The seaplanes were unable to fly owing to the rough weather.

"Ocean" and "Albion" bombarded light gun battery in Morto Bay, also villages and positions near entrance.

After nightfall seven sweepers, attended by picket boats fitted with explosive creeps (sic), supported by destroyers, "Amethyst" and "Canopus," entered the Straits. The latter opened fire on the batteries and searchlights protecting the minefield off Kephez Point, but was unable to extinguish the lights. The vessels were subjected to a heavy fire from guns of and below 6-inch calibre.

Sweepers and picket boats succeeded in getting above the minefield with the object of sweeping down with the current. Picket boats destroyed several cables, but only one pair of sweepers got out their sweep and little was effected. Two trawlers were hit by 6-inch projectiles. Trawler No. 339 was sunk by a mine.


March 11.


Seaplanes carried out reconnaissance for the ships operating off Bulair.

Ships inside the Straits engaged in watching both shores.

Operations against the Narrows delayed by failure to clear the minefield.

Attack on the minefield at night failed owing to the sweepers refusing to face the heavy fire opened by batteries on them and the covering destroyers.


March 12.


Daylight operations at a standstill. Weather misty.

French mine sweepers attacked the minefield at night with no success, being driven off by heavy fire.

Aerial reconnaissance reported a line of mines near the surface extending from Suandere Bay in an E.S.E. direction. These were examined by a sweeper and picket boats which attacked the line with creeps and explosive sweeps. The line subsequently turned out to be an obstruction consisting of empty observation mines moored by chain cables and connected by a wire hawser. The latter apparently had a hemp netting suspended from it. It was evidently an anti-submarine obstruction.


March 13.


A determined attack on the minefield was made on the night of the 13th March, volunteer officers and men being in each trawler.

The plan of attack was similar to that on the 10th, it being very essential for the sweepers to get above the minefield before getting out their sweeps as they can make no progress against the current.

"Amethyst" and destroyers covered the operations, which commenced with a bombardment of the lights and batteries by "Cornwallis" (below, in 1908 - Maritime Quest).



The defence of the minefield was well organised, and sweepers and picket boats had to pass through an area lit by six powerful searchlights, under fire from fort No. 13 and batteries Nos. 7 and 8, besides numerous light guns estimated at twenty to thirty on either shore.

The passage was accomplished, but on reaching the turning point only one pair of trawlers was able to get out the sweep owing to damage to winches and gear, and loss of personnel.

Picket boats did excellent service in blowing up cables with explosive creeps.

"Amethyst" drew the fire of the batteries at a critical period, and suffered severely.   


March 14, 15 and 16.


Mine sweepers engaged in clearing up area inside the Straits in which ships would have to manoeuvre in their combined attacks against the forts at the Narrows and the minefields at Kephez.





"Queen Elizabeth," March 26, 1915.



I have the honour to enclose a detailed narrative of the operations in the Dardanelles on the 18th March, 1915.


With regard to the general results of this attack, although the principal forts remained silent for considerable intervals, only a portion of their armaments can be considered disabled. The tactics employed by the enemy when the bombardment by the fleet becomes heavy are to desert their guns and retire to bomb-proof shelters. When they consider a favourable opportunity offers they re-man the guns and open fire again.


But taking into consideration the accuracy of fire of the ships and the number of explosions which occurred in the forts, both materiel and personnel must have suffered considerably. Throughout the greater part of the day the fleet appeared to have a marked advantage, as regards gunfire, so much so that the mine sweepers were called in at 2 P.M., Soon after they were inside it was, however, evident from the amount of fire from howitzers and field guns that they would not be able to proceed into the minefield at Kephez Point, and beyond sweeping in the area where "Bouvet" sank the sweepers effected nothing.


Up to the time "Bouvet" was mined everything had proceeded satisfactorily, the ships receiving little damage by the enemy's gunfire, although the annoyance from concealed batteries on both sides of the Straits was very great. It was evident that some of these batteries were directing their fire on the control positions of the ships. In this way the "Inflexible" lost two very fine officers who were in her fore control, viz., Commander Rudolf H. C. Verner and Lieutenant Arthur W. Blaker.


During, the period the second division battleships "Ocean," "Irresistible," "Albion," and "Vengeance" were bombarding the situation again looked satisfactory.


"Inflexible" reported shortly after 4 P.M. that she had struck a mine, and she was ordered out of the Dardanelles. I submit that it reflects great credit on Captain Phillimore and his ship's company that "Inflexible" was able to reach shoal water off Tenedos.


It was only after "Wear" had returned from "Irresistible" (below - Pat Gariepy) at 4.50 P.M. that it was realised that the latter had also struck a mine. As soon as I was informed of this I ordered "Ocean" to take her in tow. This was, however, impossible, as will be seen from the reports of "Ocean" and "Irresistible," It was also apparent that the area in which the ships were operating was too dangerous, and I therefore determined to withdraw the "B" (advance) line and break off the engagement. Whilst these orders were being carried out "Ocean" was also struck by a torpedo or mine.




Eventually the ships withdrew at dark, tho destroyers having taken off the ships' companies of both "Ocean" and "Irresistible."


The conduct of all ranks was reported to be excellent and up to the best traditions of our Service. The saving of valuable lives by WEAR, COLNE, CHELMER, JED, and KENNET, was a brilliant and gallant performance on their part.


I would submit the names of:


Captain Christopher P. Metcalfe, H.M.S. "Wear,"

Commander Claude Seymour, H.M.S. "Colne,"

Lieutenant Commander Hugh T. England, H.M.S. "Chelmer,"

Lieutenant Commander George F. A. Mulock, H.M.S. "Jed," and

Lieutenant Charles E. S. Parrant, H.M.S. "Kennet,"


for their Lordships' favourable consideration; and if I single out one for specially meritorious service, it is Captain Christopher P. Metcalfe, H.M.S. "Wear," of whose conduct I cannot speak too highly.


I would also bring to their Lordships' notice the excellent conduct of the officers in charge of picket boats.


These young officers, who were under fire all day, performed most valuable service.


I received every assistance from my staff.


The advice and initiative of my Chief of Staff, Commodore Roger J. B. Keyes, was of the greatest value. He left in "Wear," shortly before 5.30 P.M., to see whether it was possible to save "Ocean" or "Irresistible" but their condition made it impracticable.


Though the squadron had to retire without accomplishing its task, it was by no means a defeated force, and the withdrawal was only necessitated owing to the mine menace, all ranks being anxious to renew the attack.


As a result of this bombardment it is considered imperative for success that the area in which ships are manoeuvring shall be kept clear of mines, also that the mine sweepers be manned by naval ratings, who will be prepared to work under heavy fire. In some cases their crews appear to have no objection to being blown up by mines, though they do not seem to like to work under gun-fire, which is a new element in their calling.


A reorganisation of the mine sweepers' personnel is completed, and they are now manned for the most part by naval ranks and ratings.


I have, &c.

J. M. DE ROBECK, Vice-Admiral.


To The Secretary of the Admiralty,  







(All times are local, i.e., two hours fast on G.M.T.)


The attempts to clear the minefield at Kephez Point during the dark hours having failed, it became necessary to carry this out by daylight.


The plan of operations was fully explained to captains of ships on the 16th, and issued to them on the 17th March.


Sweeping operations against Kephez minefield were suspended during the nights of the 15th-16th, 16th-17th, and 17th-18th, trawlers during this time being employed in thoroughly sweeping the area in which the ships would have to manoeuvre.


It was considered impracticable for ships to be at anchor inside the Dardanelles, owing to the heavy howitzer fire which can be brought to bear on them; subject to the necessity of occasionally moving, so as to throw off the enemy's fire, ships remained stationary on the 18th, in order that the gun-fire of the fleet might be as accurate as possible.


The morning of the 18th was fine, though it was at first doubtful whether the direction of the wind - which was from the south - would allow the operations to take place under favourable conditions for spotting; there was also a slight haze over the land; this, however, cleared, and the wind having fallen the signal was made at 8.26 a.m. that operation would be proceeded with, commencing at 10.30 a.m.


March 18.


Final Naval Attack on the Narrows

(ships lost in italic CAPITALS sunk, and italic lower case damaged. Note; sources vary on the precise order of the ships. All images Photo Ships unless otherwise identified)


Line A, 1st Division - Queen Elizabeth, Agamemnon, Lord Nelson, Inflexible to go in first to bombard and dominate the Narrows forts.

HMS Queen Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth-class 

HMS Agamemnon, Lord Nelson-class

HMS Lord Nelson, Lord Nelson-class (Maritime Quest)

HMS Inflexible, Invincible-class battlecruiser


Line B, 3rd Division - French ships Gaulois, Charlemagne, BOUVET, Suffren to pass through Line A and engage the forts more closely; cover by Prince George on the European side and Triumph on the Asiatic

FS Gaulois, Charlemagne-class  

FS Charlemagne, Charlemagne-class

FS Bouvet, Bouvet-class, 

FS Suffren, Suffren-class

 (Maritime Quest)



HMS Prince George, Majestic-class (Pat Gariepy)

HMS Triumph, Swiftsure-class



2nd Division ships Vengeance, IRRESISTIBLE, Albion, OCEAN to relieve the French Line;
Majestic & Swiftsure to take over from Prince George & Triumph;

HMS Vengeance, Canopus-class


HMS Irresistible, Formidable-class (Maritime Quest/Robert W Green)

HMS Albion, Canopus-class


HMS Ocean, Canopus-class




HMS Majestic, Majestic-class

 (Pat Gariepy)

HMS Swiftsure, Swiftsure-class




Minesweeping cover - Canopus and Cornwallis reserved for that night


HMS Canopus, Canopus-class

HMS Cornwallis, Duncan-class

 (Maritime Quest)



At 8.15 a.m. the Commander of the British mine sweepers reported area between 8,000 and 10,000 yards range was traversed by sweepers on the night of the 17th-18th without result.


8.45. - Senior Officer of mine sweepers reported that they had swept as far as White Cliffs, "eleven cutters showed signs of working - no mines have been caught in the sweep."


8.50. - Signal was made to French Admiral that Vice-Admiral did not wish him to approach nearer than 500 yards to the position of the reported mines situated at S.E. of Suandere Bay.


9.7. - It was reported that "Mosquito" had sunk three electric mines, none of which exploded; these were evidently empty minecases which were used to form a boom defence below Suandere Bay, and which had been broken up by our explosive creeps.


9.10. - Destroyers, fitted with light sweep, were ordered to sweep in ahead of the fleet.


10.30. - Ships reported - "Ready for action" - and Lane "A" proceeded in the following order:


PRINCE GEORGE (on port beam).





TRIUMPH (on starboard beam).


Destroyers with sweeps preceded Line "A" into the Dardanelles. Each battleship had one picket-boat in attendance on her to deal with floating mines, and "Wear" was also in attendance on "Queen Elizabeth."

"Dartmouth" (below - Photo Ships) was ordered to patrol the north coast of Gallipoli to fire on any batteries she could locate, and which were firing on the fleet inside the Straits.




"Dublin" demonstrated against Bashika Bay and watched Yeni Shehr.


11. - Ships were engaging field-guns and howitzers firing from the Asiatic shore.


11.15. - Four steamers were observed in the middle of the stream off Chanak; these made off up the Straits about fifteen minutes later.


11.25. - "Queen Elizabeth" opened fire on fort No. 19; "Agamemnon," "Lord Nelson," and "Inflexible" opening fire shortly afterwards in the order named. All line "A" were firing by 11.36 a.m.


11.40. - "Triumph" was firing at fort No. 8 at a range of 10,400 yards.

Line "A" was now being subjected to a heavy fire from howitzers and field-guns. One battery of the former, using four guns of about 6-inch calibre, which fell well together, was particularly annoying. The forts also opened fire, but the range, about 14,400 yards, was evidently too great for them, and they fired only a few shots, none of which took effect.


11.50. - A big explosion was seen in fort No. 20, on which "Queen Elizabeth" was now firing. "Agamemnon" .and "Lord Nelson" were apparently making good practice against forts Nos. 13 and 17.

About this time the fire from the heavy howitzers was less intense, but there were still a large number of smaller guns firing on ships of line "A," all of whom were struck several times at this period.


0.6 p.m. - "Suffren," "Bouvet," "Gaulois," "Charlemagne" (below - Photo Ships) (who formed the first line "B"), were ordered to pass through line "A" and engage the forts at closer range.



The wind at this time was blowing almost straight from the ships to Chanak, making spotting difficult from aloft.

"Suffren" led the French Squadron through line "A" well ahead of "Bouvet," and by 0.32 p.m. she came under fire from, and engaged, the forts. Fort No. 13 was firing four guns, and forts Nos. 19, 7A, 9, and 8 all opened fire, and possibly 16 as well.


The action now became general, both lines "A" and "B" engaging the forts, and, at the same time, the lighter batteries.

Fort No. 7A was very persistent, and seemed hard to hit.


0.47. - "Agamemnon" was being made the target for most of the lighter guns. She turned 32 points, and the batteries lost the range.

"Inflexible" was also under heavy fire, and a picket boat alongside her was sunk.


0.52. - Some large projectiles were falling into the water about 500 yards short of the line "B."

Forts Nos. 13, 19, 7A, and 8 were all firing: their practice was good, chiefly directed against line "B," "Prince George," and "Triumph."


0.56. - "Inflexible's" fore bridge observed to be on fire, blazing fiercely.

About this time a heavy explosion occurred in fort No. 13.


1.15. - Line "B" under a heavy fire, "Suffren" apparently hit several times, Fort No. 8 had now ceased firing.


1.25. - There was a slight lull in the firing, "Lord Nelson," however, being straddled by a 6-inch battery.

"Gaulois" and "Charlemagne" were making good practice on forts Nos. 13 and 16.


1.25.- "Inflexible" quitted line to extinguish fire and clear control top, which had been wrecked by a shell, and all personnel, therein disabled.


1.38. - Seaplane reported Fort No. 16 firing; 19 hit; 17 hit but firing; new battery at Kephez Point not manned; battery south of Suandere River firing.


1.43. - There was little firing; mine sweepers were ordered to close. The French Squadron were ordered out of the Straits, also "Prince George" and "Triumph," the ships relieving them being formed up just inside the Straits.


1.54. - "Suffren" leading line "B" out of Straits, with "Bouvet" immediately astern. A large explosion occurred on the starboard side of the latter, abaft the afterbridge, accompanied by dense masses of reddish-black smoke. "Bouvet" capsized to starboard and sank within two minutes of the first explosion.

From the "Queen Elizabeth" it appeared that the explosion was not due to a mine, but possibly to a large projectile; it was also considered that a magazine explosion had occurred, as she was previously observed to be on fire aft, and she sank so rapidly; there appears little doubt that her magazine blew up, but whether it was exploded by a mine, gunfire, or by an internal fire, is not clear.

British boats were quickly on the scene, but the whole episode occupied so short a time that few of the crew could have reached the upper deck; only sixty-six were picked up.

"Suffren" stood by till all the survivors were picked up, the remainder of her line proceeding out of harbour.

The enemy fired a few shells at the boats picking up survivors, without, however, obtaining any hits.


2.15. - "Queen Elizabeth" and "Lord Nelson" were practically the only ships firing, the forts being silent. About this time the enemy again opened fire with their 6-inch howitzer battery.


2.31. - Seaplane over forts at 1 p.m. reported troops at Kephez Point. Forts Nos. 13, 16, 17, and 19 all manned and firing; Saunders also firing.


2.32. - New line "B" passed through line "A" to engage forts at closer range. This line consisted of "Vengeance," "Irresistible," "Albion," and "Ocean," with "Swiftsure" and "Majestic" in support.


2.52. - Line "B" was engaged with forts, of which only No. 19 was firing at all rapidly.


3.7. - Large explosion behind Fort No. 13; from the volume of smoke it appeared that an oil tank had been set on fire.


3.14. - A heavy explosion was observed alongside "Irresistible," evidently a big shell. All forts were now firing rapidly, but inaccurately.

Fort No. 19 apparently concentrating on "Irresistible," "Queen Elizabeth" in consequence opened salvo firing on it.


3.32. - "Irresistible" was observed to have slight list.


4.11. - "Inflexible" reported "struck a mine"; she proceeded out of the Straits.


4.14. - "Irresistible" apparently unable to move, and with a noticeable list. "Wear" was ordered to close her and ascertain what was the matter, signalling communication having broken down.

"Irresistible" was ordered to proceed out of the Straits, if able to do so, and "Ocean" (right - Photo Ships) to prepare to take "Irresistible" in tow.




"Wear" was seen to go alongside "Irresistible," and subsequently returned to "Queen Elizabeth " at 4.50 p.m. with 28 officers and 582 crew of "Irresistible " on board her. It was then ascertained for the first time that "Irresistible" had struck a mine, both engine rooms being immediately flooded.

As the ship was helpless, her commanding officer decided to remove a portion of the crew, retaining the executive officer and 10 volunteers to work wires, &c., should it be found possible to take her in tow.

The operation of removing the crew was carried out in a perfectly orderly manner, the ship being under fire the whole time from forts Nos. 7 and 8 and batteries near Aren Kioi.


4.50. - When it was learnt that "Irresistible" had also struck a mine, orders were given for line "B" to withdraw.


5.10. - "Wear" having disembarked crew of "Irresistible," was ordered to close "Ocean" and "Irresistible" and direct the former to withdraw if she was unable to take the latter in tow.


5.50. - Survivors on board "Irresistible" were removed to "Ocean," the captains of both ships being of opinion that it was impracticable to take "Irresistible " in tow, she being bows on to the Asiatic shore, listing badly, at right angles to the course for going out, and there appearing to be insufficient room to manoeuvre between her and the shore.

It was therefore determined to leave her till dark, when an attempt would be made to tow her out with destroyers and mine sweepers, arrangements being meanwhile taken to torpedo and sink her in deep water should there be any chance of her grounding; this was always a possibility, as she was in the dead water off White Cliffs with a light breeze blowing up the Straits.

"Irresistible" having been abandoned, it was decided, in view of the unexpected mine menace, to abandon the mine-sweeping of the Kephez minefield, it being inadvisable to Ieave heavy ships inside the Straits to cover the minesweepers.


6.5. - "Ocean," while withdrawing, struck a mine and took a quick list to starboard of about 15 degrees.

At the same time a shell, striking the starboard side aft, jambed the helm nearly hard a-port.

The list becoming gradually greater, her commanding officer determined to disembark the crew; this was done in the destroyers "Colne," "Jed," and "Chelmer," under a heavy cross fire from forts Nos. 7 and 8 and batteries at Aren Kioi. "Chelmer" was twice struck while alongside "Ocean."

Destroyers "Wear," "Racoon," "Mosquito," and " Kennet" also stood by "Ocean."


When all were reported clear of the ship, the captain embarked in "Jed" and lay off till dark; he then returned to her to make absolutely certain no one was left on board and that nothing could be done to save her.


His opinion being that nothing could be done, the ship was finally abandoned in the centre of the Straits at about 7.30 p.m. 


The captains of "Ocean" and "Irresistible," after reporting to the Vice-Admiral Commanding, returned to the Dardanelles to join the destroyers, which, with six mine sweepers, had been ordered to enter the Straits after dark to endeavour to tow "Irresistible" into the current and prevent "Ocean" drifting out of it. No trace of either ship could be found; this was confirmed by "Jed" at 11 p.m. after an exhaustive search. "Canopus" at daylight also reconnoitred, and found no trace of either. There is no doubt 'both ships sank in deep water.


The squadron anchored at Tenedos for the night, "Canopus" and "Cornwallis" being on patrol with destroyers at the entrance of the Straits.


The damaged ships were dealt with as follows:

"Inflexible" anchored north of Tenedos.

"Gaulois" grounded on north of Drepano Island - damage due to gunfire.


On the morning of the 19th instant, Contre Amiral Guepratte informed me that the "Suffren" was leaking forward; it had been necessary to flood the fore magazine on account of fire, and a heavy shell had started a leak.


"Inflexible," "Suffren," and "Gaulois" will therefore require to go to Malta for repairs.


J. M. DE ROBECK, Vice-Admiral.

March 24, 1915.





(All times are local.)


"Basilisk," "Grasshopper," "Racoon" and "Mosquito" covered the operations of the mine sweepers on the night of the 17th-18th March, being engaged during this service with shore batteries on both sides of the Straits.


At 6 a.m. on the 18th March, "Mosquito" saw and sunk three carbonite mines floating near Morto Bay - none exploded.


10 a.m. - "Colne" and "Chelmer" sweeping ahead of line "A." During this time "Colne's" whaler was struck by a 4-inch shell.

"Wear" was in attendance on "Queen Elizabeth" throughout the day, being in consequence frequently under fire. When "Bouvet" sank, "Wear" closed and lowered whaler to pick up survivors, being under fire at the time. "Basilisk," "Grasshopper," "Racoon," "Mosquito," "Ribble," "Kennet," "Colne," and "Chelmer" also closed, but were too late to pick up any survivors.


2.45 p.m.- Destroyers closed "Gaulois," who was in distress outside the Straits, "Colne," "Chelmer," "Mosquito," and "Kennet" transferring some of her crew to "Suffren," "Dartmouth" and " Lord Nelson."


4.10. - When "Irresistible" was observed to be in distress, "Wear" was ordered to close her. "Wear" went alongside and took off practically the whole crew under heavy, fire, transferring them at 4.50 p.m. to "Queen Elizabeth."

She then returned and, after sounding round the "Irresistible," remained in the vicinity of the damaged ships until nightfall, when she rejoined "Queen Elizabeth" to report.

"Colne," "Chelmer," "Racoon," "Mosquito," "Kennet," and "Jed" stood by "Irresistible," having come in from entrance of Straits.


6.5. - When "Ocean" struck a mine, "Racoon," "Mosquito," "Colne," "Chelmer," "Jed," "Kennet," and "Wear" stood by under heavy cross fire, "Colne," "Chelmer," "Jed," and "Kennet" going alongside to remove the crew.


7.15. - "Colne" found no signs of "Ocean"; enemy still firing on "Irresistible."


8.30 to 11.30 p.m. - "Jed" carried out a thorough search, but could find no trace of "Ocean" or "Irresistible."


Damage sustained by destroyers:


"Chelmer," while alongside "Ocean," struck and holed by centre stokehold, which was flooded. She went alongside "Lord Nelson," where her own mat and that belonging to "Lord Nelson" were placed over the hole. She shortly afterwards proceeded to Tenedos, escorted by "Colne" (below - Photo Ships).




"Racoon," while standing by "Irresistible," was damaged by concussion of large shell under starboard quarter and some shrapnel bullets.


J. M. DE ROBECK, Vice-Admiral.

March 24, 1915.





Night of March 17 and 18.


British and French mine sweepers continued sweeping area below the line Suandere River-Kephez Light.


They reported: "No mines found."


March 18.


Mine sweepers ordered to enter and commence sweeping at 2 p.m. Of these two pairs got sweeps out, when abreast of White Cliffs, about 3.30 p.m.; they were under fire.


No progress was made beyond this point, as it was not considered advisable to leave heavy ships inside the Straits to cover their operations, "Inflexible " having already struck a mine.


J. M. DE ROBECK, Vice-Admiral.

March 24, 1915.






31336 - 13 MAY 1919




Protection Against Risks Of Mines Order.


In exercise of the powers conferred upon .them by the Defence of the Realm Regulations and all other powers thereunto enabling them, the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty hereby make the following Order with a view to protecting British Merchant Vessels when navigating within certain Areas from the risk of damage by Mine:


Part I. - Use of Mine Protection Gear.


1. British vessels equipped with the "Otter" protection gear are to stream their "Otters" on all occasions in the following waters:


(a) Arctic Ocean and White Sea: East of 30° East longitude.

(b) Baltic and Cattegat (sic): Throughout.

(c) Mediterranean:

(i) Aegean Sea: North and East of a line Thaso-Lemnos-Tenedos, extended both ends to meet the nearest point on the main land.

(ii) Eastern Mediterranean: North and East of a line Marmarice-Cyprus-Beirut.

(iii) Adriatic: North of the parallel of latitude of Santa Maria di Leuca.

(iv) Western Mediterranean: In the Straits of Bonifacio and Straits of Messina.

(d) Black Sea: Throughout.


2. Otters are to be streamed if uncertain of position, i.e., in doubt as to being in approved tracks, channels and fairways, as follows:

(a) North Sea:

In an area bounded on West by meridian of Cape Wrath.

In an area bounded on North by 61° N. parallel.

In an area bounded on East by 10° East meridian.

In an area bounded on South by line Dungeness-Boulogne.

(b) Bay of Biscay and English Channel: Within 10 miles of the North and West coasts of France.

(c) Mediterranean: East of 2° East and West of 21° East in waters of less than 180 fathoms.


3. In all other waters Otters are not required to be used provided that the approved tracks, channels and fairways are adhered to.


4. Senior Naval Officers at Ports from which ships are sailing may modify or add to these Orders' as necessary.


5. To secure the efficient working of the Otter gear it must be properly adjusted, actually, running, and adequately manned.


The Master or other person, in command or charge of any British vessel who neglects to see that the apparatus is so adjusted, running, manned and worked as required by paragraphs 1 and 2 hereof, subject to the exceptions authorised or ordered under paragraph 4 hereof, shall be guilty of an offence against the Defence of the Realm Regulations.


Entry is to be made in the ship's log regarding the streaming and taking inboard of Otters.


6. Masters of vessels carrying deck cargo are to ensure that sufficient space to enable Otters to be handled efficiently is always left when loading.


7. The Admiralty Order dated 17th June, 1918, and published in the London Gazette of the 21st June, 1918, is hereby cancelled:


Part II.- Special Masthead Look-Outs.


8. The special Masthead Look-Outs ordered to be carried and employed in ships of 2,500 gross tonnage and upwards, under-Admiralty Order of the 16th November, 1917, are still to be employed in the areas mentioned in paragraph 1 hereof, and, in addition, in the English Channel to the Eastward of the Meridian of Greenwich and in the entire area of the North Sea to the Southward of latitude 62° North and East of the Meridian of Cape Wrath. The special Masthead Look-Outs are to be paid only while the ship in which they are borne is navigating in these areas, and vessels which trade entirely outside these areas should cease to carry and pay these Look-Outs.


9. Special care is to be taken in navigating in the waters defined in paragraph 2, clauses (b) and (c) hereof, but special Look-Outs are not required to be carried in vessels navigating through these waters unless part of their voyage is within the areas covered in paragraph, 1 hereof.


10. This Order is to apply to all ships to which Admiralty Order of the 16th November, 1917, in regard to Masthead Look-Outs applied, whether fitted with Otters or not.


11. The Admiralty Order dated the 16th November, 1917, and published in the London Gazette of, the 20th November, 1917, is hereby cancelled.


Given under our hands this 9th day of May, 1919.


A. L. Duff., J. A. Fergusson. Admiralty, S.W. 1.





31590 - 7 OCTOBER 1919



NAVAL DESPATCH dated 5 July 1919


Admiralty, 9th October, 1919.


The following despatch has been received from the Rear-Admiral, Black Sea, on the action in the Caspian Sea off Fort Alexandrovsk, on the 21st May, 1919:


5th July, 1919.


I have the honour to submit the following despatch on the action off Fort Alexandrovsk on the 21st May, 1919, with an account of the circumstances leading up to it and all subsequent operations:


At the beginning of May reports were being received from various sources that the Bolsheviks had occupied, or intended to occupy, Fort Alexandrovsk. From reports of refugees, prisoners, etc., it was also apparent that the Naval Authorities at Astrakhan were desirous of carrying out an attack on Petrovsk or Baku with the object, of obtaining oil, of which they were in urgent need.


2. Commodore Norris determined, therefore, to visit. Fort Alexandrovsk and to carry out a reconnaissance by means of the coastal motor boats and by the seaplanes of "A. Yusanoff," supported by the ships of the Caspian Squadron. In accordance with this plan, "Kruger," "Asia," "Emile Nobel," "Sergei" and "A. Yusanoff, left Chechen on 14th May and steered for a rendezvous off Kulaly Island. Early in the morning of the 15th the wind got up from the south-east, and it was impossible to get out C.M.B.'s or seaplanes, and the Squadron therefore altered course direct for Fort Alexandrovsk. Soon after daylight a number of fishing boats and a steamer hull down were sighted on the starboard bow, and later on a convoy of three steamers towing two barges in sight, escorted by one T.B.D. The convoy made off in the direction of Fort Alexandrovsk and the destroyer kept on the port bow of the squadron out of range. "Emile Nobel" fired a few long range shots at the convoy, and at 07.15 the barges, were slipped. The chase was continued until early noon, when the enemy disappeared into the mist which was lying off shore, and Commodore Norris, being unable to determine his position, drew off. During the afternoon the barges were sunk and their crews made prisoners.


3. The examination of the prisoners revealed the fact that Fort Alexandrovsk was occupied by a considerable number of Bolsheviks, and that the main part of their fleet was there. Also that the concentration was preparatory to an attack on Petrovsk, with the object of obtaining oil.


4. On 17th May the wind had gone round to west, so that no lee was obtainable on the eastern shore of the Caspian. Consequently (after an unsuccessful attempt to get the seaplanes away) the seaplane carrier had to return to Petrovsk, escorted by "Emile Nobel," who was running short of fuel. By this, time Commodore Norris had news of reinforcements in. the shape of "Venture," and he cruised off the eastern shores of the Caspian to the southward to await her arrival.


5. In addition to "Venture" he was joined by "Windsor Castle" and "Emile Nobel," and on the morning of 21st May was cruising in position lat. 44.57 N., long. 50.02 E. Course S.E., speed 5 knots. Detached squadron, consisting of the C.M.B. carriers and seaplane carrier, had parted company on 20th May, with orders to rendezvous off Fort Alexandrovsk.


6. At 09.27, in lat. 44.43 N., long. 50.03 E., course was altered to S. 66 E. Two small craft were sighted north of the harbour.


7. Shortly before 11.00 one T.B.D., two small craft and A.M.C. "Caspie" were sighted under the land west of the harbour steering northward. At 11.00 the destroyer opened fire, but the shot fell a long way short. The enemy craft returned to harbour. It was thought possible to cut them off, and the course was altered accordingly and speed increased to 9 knots.


8. At 12.03 ranging shots were fired by both sides, and ten minutes later "Venture" was straddled. The general signal to "Open Fire" was made at 12.13.


9. "Emile Nobel's" third salvo hit a large armed barge, which caught fire amidships, and whose crew were taken off by small craft. From 12.30 to 13.00 all ships were in action with "Caspie," a destroyer of the "Finn" class, and various armed barges. "Caspie" was hit by "Emile Nobel," and the destroyer was probably hit by "Venture," as she was seen to be in difficulties, and appeared to run ashore among the fishing boats.


10. By this time the enemy's fire was both accurate and heavy. "Asia" was repeatedly straddled, and at 12.57 a shell hit "Emile Nobel" in engine room, killing five and seriously wounding seven, and causing considerable damage to the engines. "Emile Nobel" hauled out of line, but eventually followed the squadron into the harbour and continued to engage the enemy.


11. At 13.03 course was altered down harbour in single line in the following order: "Kruger," "Venture," "Asia," "Windsor Castle," "Emile Nobel." The enemy had retired to the southern end of the harbour and taken shelter behind barges and small craft, so that only the flashes of his guns could be seen, and it was difficult to get good points of aim. At this time a shore battery situated on the cliffs opened fire on the squadron, and was engaged by "Kruger," "Venture," and "Asia." A few minutes later "Kruger" was hit aft, but, beyond cutting away the telegraphs, little damage was done.


12. All the enemy ships were now packed together at the south end of the harbour, and it was estimated that five or six separate ships were firing at the British Squadron; these included "Caspie" and the "Finn" class T.B.D. "Caspie," who had been hit repeatedly, was on fire, but was continuing to fire with one gun. A very large fire was started ashore at the south end of the harbour, and many of the ships and small craft were observed to be on fire. This rendered all control very difficult, as there was so much smoke and so many splashes from the various ships. At times the enemy were seen landing from their ships and running up the hillside.


13. About 13.30, in view of the difficulty in manoeuvring and "Emile Nobel's" condition, Commodore Norris decided to haul off. The shore battery had been silenced and did not fire at the .Squadron on its way out. When well clear of the harbour speed was eased to 5 knots, but at 14.30 "Emile Nobel" reported she could steam 8 knots, and speed was accordingly increased.


14. While still in sight of Fort Alexandrovsk the smoke on shore was seen to be increasing; one very large explosion was observed at 1.5.00 and two others at 15.15 and 15.43, besides several smaller ones. It was known that "Caspie" and one steamer were on fire during the action, and it was presumed that the enemy was destroying his stores and fuel.


15. At 17.00 the Squadron stopped and surgeons were sent to "Emile Nobel." Squadron then proceeded N.N.W. in the direction of Astrakhan, as Commodore Norris intended, if possible, to remain on the enemy's line of retreat.


16. At 20.10 "Emile Nobel" was forced to stop, and the Squadron so remained till midnight. At midnight course was shaped S. 37 W., speed 4 knots, but during the night "Emile Nobel" worked up to 7 knots.


17. In the early morning two more heavy explosions were observed in the direction of Fort Alexandrovsk.


18. At 10.00, on 22nd May, the men who had been killed in "Emile Nobel" were buried at sea, after which "Emile Nobel" and "Windsor Castle" were detached to Petrovsk.


19. In the meantime the detached squadron of C.M.B. and seaplane carriers had arrived at rendezvous, and a seaplane had been sent up to bomb Alexandrovsk. Unfortunately, he had to return owing to engine trouble, and was out of action for 12 hours. He again went up at 15.35, and returned two hours later. Bombs were dropped, but no direct hits were obtained. He reported that a large oil steamer was burning as a result of the bombardment of the afternoon.


20. In the evening some fishing boats were observed from "Sergie" and searched by a C.M.B., and their cargoes thrown overboard.


21. At 05.25 the seaplane again started for Fort Alexandrovsk, and dropped bombs on the shipping in the harbour and small craft machine-gunned. During the 22nd May five raids were carried out by this one seaplane with the following results:


First Raid - Shipping and Eastern Pier bombed and machine-gunned. No direct hits, but probably some damage done as bombs fell close.


Second Raid - Shipping bombed. Direct hits obtained on large destroyer of "Finn" class, which sank. One hit on armed merchant cruiser. Ships and piers machine-gunned.


Third Raid - Barges at eastern and western piers bombed. No direct hits, but bombs fell very close, and damage was probably inflicted.


Fourth Raid - Shipping bombed. No direct hits. T.B.D. bombed in second raid now completely sunk.


Fifth Raid - Southern pier bombed. Bombs fell very close. Shipping machine-gunned.


A sixth raid was attempted, but machines failed to rise. Photographs were taken on second and fifth raids.


22. On the evening of 22nd and on the morning of 23rd a deserted appearance of ships and town was noticed, no one being seen in streets nor on decks of ships. No armed forces or encampments were seen in vicinity. On the first day heavy A.A. fire was experienced, but on the evening of 22nd and morning of 23rd there was none.


23. Commodore Norris had every hope of carrying out a final attack with C.M.Bs. on the morning of 22nd May, but was unable to get into W./T. communication with the carriers. In view of the fact that the remainder of the enemy did not leave until night of 22nd May this lost opportunity is very much to be regretted.


24. On 23rd May, after a night of thick fog, "Kruger" and "Venture" were attacked by two enemy destroyers, who had the range and speed of them, so that they were forced to withdraw. The carriers were informed of the presence of the enemy by W./T., and a seaplane was again got out to attack the enemy. Unfortunately the seaplane was unable to locate the enemy destroyers, and finally carried out another raid on Fort Alexandrovsk. It is probable that the enemy sighted the carriers, as they suddenly turned towards "Kruger," and then made off to the northward. The seaplane ran into a fog on her way back from Fort Alexandrovsk and fell in the water. The officers were not picked up until 32 hours later (see par. 25 below).


25. On 24th May Commodore Norris in "Kruger," who was short of fuel, with "Sergie" and "Edinburgh Castle," parted company, and proceeded to Petrovek, leaving Captain Washington in charge of the squadron, which now consisted of "Windsor Castle," "Asia," "Venture," "Bibi-Abat" and "A. Yusanoff," with orders to cruise to the northward and search for the missing seaplane, to ascertain that Chechan was safe, and, when the carriers returned, to make an extended reconnaissance of Port Alexandrovsk. The seaplane was picked up on the evening of 24th May, after which the squadron cruised between Port Alexandrovsk and Chechen until the carriers arrived.


26. On 28th May Captain Washington, with "Windsor Castle," "Venture," "Slava," "Bibi-Abat," "Sergie," "Edinburgh Castle," and "A. Yusanoff," made a close reconnaissance of Fort Alexandrovsk. The 1st and 2nd Divisions (1st Division "Windsor Castle" and "Venture," 2nd Division " Slava " and "Bibi-Abat") took up positions for covering the approach of the C.M.Bs. who were got out and proceeded up harbour under the command of Commander Eric G. Robinson, V.C. (right - Digger). On their way up harbour they torpedoed a large barge, and on arrival up harbour a white flag was hoisted ashore and a deputation came off. The deputation consisted of the Chief Engineer of the "Leila" and some of her crew, and some Persians and agents of the K-M Company.


From these men full details of the Bolshevik occupation were obtained, and also information concerning the capture of the "Leila" and the death of General Almaroff. The attached lists show the details of the ships which were sunk and which escaped.


27. From the reports of Commodore Norris, Captain Washington and other officers in command of vessels, and also from the Royal Air Force reports, the conduct of the officers and men appears to have been in accordance with the traditions of the service. I would specially draw attention to the following:


Commodore David T. Norris, C.B., in command of the Caspian Flotilla. Quite apart from the successful conduct of this action, Commodore Norris deserves the highest praise for the unfailing tenacity with which he has overcome many and great difficulties and eventually succeeded in getting his Squadron in such a. state of efficiency as to make this successful action possible. He has been handicapped all through the winter by want of efficient officers, by frequent and serious strikes in the various works at Baku, by delay in the arrival of material and also personnel, by the serious accident he met with in the autumn of 1918 and from which he is by no means recovered, his arm causing him continual discomfort. The way in which he has risen superior to all these and many other difficulties is beyond all praise. He had to take serious risks in attacking an enemy which was known to be efficiently manned and to possess ships with superior gun-power, including several destroyers. He has taken these risks, and has succeeded, by the latest reports, in driving the superior enemy from the Caspian.


Act. Captain Basil G. Washington, C.M.G. He commanded the "Windsor Castle" with great ability, and was the only British officer on board during the action. He did admirable work whilst temporarily in charge of the Caspian during Commodore Norris's illness from 9th October, 1918, to 5th February, 1919.


Commander Kenneth A. F. Guy. Handled the "Emile Nobel" with great ability under difficult circumstances.


Lieutenant-Commander Richard Harrison, R.N.R., of H.M.S. "Venture."

Lieutenant Alexander G. B. Wilson, commanding the "Asia."

Both handled their ships well.


Lieutenant Robert M. Taylor, D.S.C., of the "Emile Nobel." By his admirable control of fire was responsible for much damage to the enemy.


Engineer Lieutenant Thomas Gardner. The manner in which this officer kept his engines running after considerable heavy losses in personnel and severe damage to the complicated machinery reflects the greatest credit on his ability and resource.


Commodore Norris reports that Commander Edward L. Grieve's services on his Staff were of greatest assistance to him. This officer's services in the Caspian have been very valuable.


Lieutenant Bolinsky, R.N.V.R., of "Emile Nobel." Was of great service in attending the wounded.


Petty Officer John William Thompson, O.N. 239958. G.L. II., "Windsor Castle." This petty officer was of greatest assistance during the action to Captain Washington, who had no British officer with him.


J. E. Pether, Ch. E.R.A., O.N. 270497, "Emile Nobel." Was of greatest assistance in refitting repairs and in keeping the engines running after they were damaged.


The conduct of the following ratings is specially mentioned:

Sabin, Percy Robert, S.B.S., O.N.351617, "Kruger:"

Collins, William Frank, P.O., J.2387, "Emile Nobel."

Bell, Mark, Lg. Smn., 238463, "Emile Nobel."

Crofts, Albert Ernest, Lce.- Cpl., Ply./8538, "Emile Nobel."

Hansler, James Henry William, Cpl., Po./14568, "Emile Nobel."

Young, Reginald George, S.B.A., M.21585, "Emile Nobel."

Hall, Henry Amos, Lce.- Sgt., Ply./ 15471, "Emile Nobel."

and also the Russian Rating Nikolai Samliteoff, who I consider it is very desirable should be included in any awards that may be given.


28. I have the honour to call particular attention to the services rendered by the following officers of the Royal Air Force who between them carried out 5 raids in one seaplane on the same day with excellent results, and attempted a sixth, and also the services of Lieutenant Chilton, R.N.R., commanding "A. Yousanoff," for his able handling of the ship and organisation which allowed this to be done.



2nd Lieutenant Howard Grant Thompson.

Captain John Archer Sadler.

2nd Lieutenant Robert George Kear Morrison.



Lieutenant Frank Russell Bicknell.

2nd Lieutenant Frank Leslie Kingham.

2nd Lieutenant Henry Godwin Pratt.


(Signed) M. SEYMOUR, Rear-Admiral.



Vessels Sunk in Alexandrovsk Harbour.

Name of Ship and Details.


"Barge No. 2" (properly an oil barge). Two 6 in. guns (reported). Hit by shell when outside the Harbour. Twelve men killed. Abandoned on fire. Hit again. Later towed inside and afterwards sunk.


"Scheastlevy" (motor boat). One gun. Run ashore by crew and abandoned. Useless now.


"Reval." S/M Depot Ship. Fitted with machine gun. Set on fire by us, and abandoned. Blew up. Reported all the crew escaped. Two mines or torpedoes on board. It is stated that this ship had all the Bolshevik money and valuables in gold on board.


"Tuman" or "Kuman." Store ship carrying ammunition. Unarmed. Burnt and. sunk. Not clear if by us or by their own action.


"Galema" (?). Small tug. No gun. Burnt and sunk.


"Muskvityanise." T.B.D., 2/4 in., 2/3 in., two tubes, two pom poms. Damaged in action, and either sunk by Bolsheviks or by seaplane bomb on 22/5. The latter most likely from photographs.


Small Barge. No details. Sunk.


"Zoroaster" (old). Depot ship now. Formerly carried Mazout. Torpedoed 28th May.


"Ruvik." Steel barge. Very strong. Fresh water and Mazout (now mixed). Torpedoed 28th May.


"Demisthene." Baltic M/S or M/L. Two 4 in., and probably being used as ordinary fleet unit. Sunk, probably as result of gunfire.


Small Barge. No details. Sunk.


Coal Barge (Wooden). Large and laden. Torpedoed 28th May.


Ships that Escaped from, Alexandrovsk after the Action.


"Caspie." Damaged in boilers ? by bombs. Reported could only steam 5 knots.


"Martin" or "Meshty." Mine carrier. Ninety-nine mines on board.


"Alehper." Ammunition carrier. Unarmed.


"Communist." Tug. ? 2/4 in.


"Baku." Coal transport.


"Spartacus." Tug. 2/2½in. Hit but got away.


Two submarines. One had fouled propeller and had to be towed.


This is exclusive of the various groups of enemy destroyers and armed merchant vessels that were in action with our vessels outside.











31856 - 6 APRIL 1920



NAVAL DESPATCH dated 9 February 1920


 Gulf of Riga and part of Gulf of Finland
click map to enlarge


Admiralty, 9th April, 1920.


"Delhi" at Devonport, 9th February, 1920.



I have the honour to forward herewith this my report on my year's Service in Command of His Majesty's Naval Forces in the Baltic, where I relieved Rear-Admiral Sir Edwyn S. Alexander-Sinclair, K.C.B., M.V.O., on the 6th January, 1919.


2. When I arrived the German situation was as follows: German Troops were nominally in occupation of Latvia, with Headquarters at Libau.


The Bolsheviks were in Riga, and gradually advancing South and West.


The German Troops were of low morale, and in a poor state of discipline - and wherever the Bolsheviks advanced the Germans fell back, in many cases handing over arms and munitions to the Bolsheviks on their retirement.


3. The Bolsheviks had by the middle of February advanced so far as Windau, and were also within forty miles from Libau from the Westward.


4. I therefore in "Caledon" (below - CyberHeritage/Terry Phillips)(Commander Henry S. M. Harrison-Wallace, R.N.) shelled them out of Windau; and made what preparations I could to evacuate the refugees from Libau, as I did not consider an indiscriminate shelling of the town in the event of its occupation by the Bolsheviks would be advisable if no troops were available to land for its reoccupation.




5. Shortly after this (at the end of February), large German reinforcements began to arrive by sea, and General-Major Graf Von. der Goltz assumed command. at Libau, and very soon afterwards stabilised the situation, and drove the Bolsheviks well East again - and this, so far, was satisfactory.


6. In the meantime the Letts - under the direction of M. Ulmanis, the Acting President -were making every endeavour to raise and equip a sufficient military force - aided by a limited quantity of small arms, machine guns and ammunition supplied by His Majesty's Government - to enable them to undertake the defence of their own country against the Bolsheviks when the time should come for the Germans to withdraw.


It soon became evident, however, that it was not the Germans' intention to permit any Lettish Force being raised, and constant cases of friction, oppression and disarmament of Lettish Troops began to occur.


7. The climax was reached on the 16th April, when at the Naval Harbour - where the Headquarters of the Lettish Troops were - German troops raided these Headquarters, arrested and disarmed all the Officers, and looted money and documents, killing and wounding several Lettish soldiers.


Simultaneously with this, in the town of Libau itself, Baltic-German troops arrested those members of the Lettish Government who were unable to escape them, whilst the rest took refuge on board His Majesty's ships, and M. Ulmanis, the Acting President, with the British Mission, which consequently was surrounded by Baltic-German sentries.


8. That night two young Baltic-German Officers came off to my ship and announced that they were the Heads of the Committee of Safety until the formation of a new Government, and asked me if I could guarantee them the support of His Majesty's Government in this movement. 


I pointed out to them that until I had some satisfactory explanation for the events of the day I could listen to and recognise no such proposals. I then sent them on shore again and heard nothing more of them.


9. On my requiring an explanation from Von der Goltz for these happenings, he denied all responsibility or knowledge for them, saying that his troops were out of hand, and that the Baltic-Germans were not under his orders.


10. In consequence of this I called a meeting of the Allied representatives, and with them demanded the following from Von der Goltz:


First.- That the unit which raided the Lettish Headquarters should be at once removed from the Libau district.


Second.- That the Commanding Officer of the offending Baltic-German Unit be relieved of his command.


We also gave him the time and date by .which we required the fulfilment of these demands.


11. Both were complied with within the time, but Von der Goltz stated that as he considered the Lettish Government to be Bolshevik and a danger to the district he was administering by order of the Allies, he could not agree to their release from arrest, or the continuance of their functions.


12. This state of affairs was reported to Paris accordingly, and a very few days afterwards, owing to the melting of the ice, and signs of activity by the Bolshevik Fleet, I had myself to proceed to the Gulf of Finland, and Commodore Arthur A. M. Duff, C.B., arrived on the 29th May and took charge of affairs in the Western Baltic; and thereafter, by his quick and accurate grasp of the whole German situation there, freed me from a very considerable portion of my preoccupations.


It is hard for me to do justice on paper to the adequacy and effectiveness of his administration until he left for England again on the 28th September.


I have now transferred to him the duties of Senior Naval Officer in the Baltic.


13. On. arrival in the Gulf of Finland and reviewing the situation, my hope and intention was - as soon as ice conditions allowed it - to move as far East as possible in order to support the left flank of the Esthonian Front, and to protect it from any attempt at being turned from the sea.


14. After getting into touch with the Esthonian Naval and Military Authorities, I went over to Helsingfors to call on the Regent (General G. Mannerheim), and also to congratulate the Finns on the recognition of their independence, which had been announced the previous day. Circumstances then obliged me to return to Libau for a day on the 12th May.


15. I had previously - on the 7th May - shifted my flag from "Caledon" to "Curacoa,"


On returning from Libau to Reval on the 13th May "Curacoa" struck a mine, which disabled her from further service and occasioned eleven casualties amongst her personnel.


16. I therefore shifted to "Cleopatra" (below - Photo Ships), and left Reval the next morning for the Eastward, and, from the 14th May onwards I lay - first in Narva Bay for a few days reconnoitring as far as Kaporia whilst the Esthonians were landing and operating between there and Louga - and then, as they established themselves further East, I moved forward to Seskar, from which place, with the very good visibility prevailing day after day, I was able from the mast head to keep an effective watch on Petrograd Bay.




17. The situation then was somewhat of an anxiety to me, as the strength of the Bolshevik. Naval Forces was known to include Armoured Ships - the Esthonians were lying in Kaporia with unarmed Transport (including the Nekmangrund Light Vessel, so hard up were they for ships), an old, slow ex-Russian Gunboat "Bobr," and one ex-Russian Destroyer, dependent on me for fuel, of which I had then, only a limited supply - and my own Force consisted only of "Cleopatra" and four Destroyers, the Seventh Submarine Flotilla. arriving shortly afterwards at Reval.


18. From then onwards I maintained a watch on the Bay, whilst the Esthonians were constantly in contact with the Bolshevik Troops, bombarding and pushing forward here and there, and landing more men, whilst relieving those who needed refit, always under the direction of Admiral John Pitka, who, before the War, was a Shipowner of Reval and Director of a Salvage Company, but who assumed command of the Esthonian Naval Forces last winter, and has always shown a most correct instinct for war, both on land and sea. He has since been decorated by His Majesty.


19. On the 17th May a great deal of smoke was observed over Kronstadt; and on the 18th five Bolshevik craft, led by a large Destroyer of the "Avtroil" type came as far West as Dolgoi Nos, five miles clear of the Petrograd Minefields, and then while still close under the land turned back. So in "Cleopatra" (Captain Charles James Colebrooke Little, C.B.), with "Shakespeare" (Commander - now Captain - Frederick Edward Ketelbey Strong, D.S.O.), "Scout" (Lieutenant-Commander Edmund F. Fitzgerald), and "Walker" (Lieutenant-Commander Ambrose T. N. Abbay), I went ahead full speed from Seskar on an Easterly course, closing the range rapidly from 20,000 to 16,000 yards when fire was opened, the Bolshevik Destroyer, flying a very large red flag, firing the first shot. I stood on until within half a mile of the mined area, and came under the fire of the Grey Horse Battery, but by this time the range was opening and spotting very difficult, owing to the vessels being close under the land all the time.


20. The speed of the enemy appeared to be reduced to about ten knots, one good hit on the Destroyer at any rate was observed, but under the circumstances I did not consider it advisable to run in over the minefields and under the guns of the shore batteries in order to obtain a decision, and so these craft made good their escape.


21. To the Eastward, but not taking part in the action, was a three-funnelled Cruiser, the "Oleg," and to the Eastward of her again was smoke - and it was reported that the Bolshevik Dreadnought Battleship "Petropavlovsk" was also out.


22. On the 24th May General Sir Hubert Gough arrived in "Galatea" on a special Mission to Finland and the Baltic States, and I accompanied him over to Helsingfors to assist at his ceremonial landing, and to salute him there, and went with him to interview the Finnish authorities, thereafter leaving again for the Eastward, leaving "Galatea" at Helsingfors.


23. On the 31st May, whilst still lying off  Seskar in "Cleopatra" with "Dragon" (Captain Francis Arthur Marten, C.M.G., C.V.O.), "Galatea " (Captain Charles Morton Forbes, D.S.O.), "Wallace" (Captain George William McOran Campbell), "Voyager" (Lieutenant-Commander Charles Gage Stuart, D.S.C.), "Vanessa" (Lieutenant-Commander Edward Osborne Broadley, D.S.O.), "Wryneck" (Commander Ralph Vincent Eyre, R.N.), "Versatile" (Commander Gerald Charles Wynter, O.B.E.), "Vivacious" (Commander Claude L. Bate, R.N.), and with "Walker" and two Submarines on patrol, a Bolshevik Destroyer was sighted coming West with a Dreadnought Battleship, and two other small craft behind the minefields. The Destroyer was engaged by "Walker" and chased Eastwards, the Battleship opening a heavy and well-controlled fire at the same time.


24. On the first report I weighed and steamed East, a Bolshevik aeroplane appearing overhead and dropping bombs among my force as it advanced, but it flew off Eastwards on being fired at.


25. The Destroyer fell back on the battleship, which manoeuvred behind the minefields and kept up a heavy and well-disciplined fire on "Walker" (below - Photo Ships) as she fell back to meet me; Fort Krasnaya Gorka, having a kite balloon up and fixing also.




26. I stood up and down the edge of the minefield, but the Bolshevik Force showed no intention of coming on, and retired Eastwards after a few salvoes had been fired.


27. "Walker" was hit twice, but no appreciable damage was done, and there was one slight casualty only.


28. It now became apparent to me that with the small forces at my disposal it would be necessary, in order to keep an effective watch on Bolshevik Naval movements, and in particular to, if possible, ensure that no mines were laid to the Westward of the existing fields across the entrance to Petrograd Bay, that I should have a Base nearer to Kronstadt than Reval.


29. I therefore moved to Biorko, and required certain assistance from the Finns in the way of patrols and accommodation on shore for aircraft, which assistance was at once agreed to by them.


30. It was evident by then that the Bolshevik Active Squadron consisted of:


2 Battleships. (1 Dreadnought "Petropavlovsk"),

1 Cruiser, and

6 Large Destroyers.


31. Up to about the end of June there were constant attempts by Enemy Light Craft to break out on the Northern side at night, and both to sweep and lay mines - and a good deal of shooting, though little hitting, went on between the Patrols - also, there is no doubt more mines were laid by the Bolsheviks to the Southward of Stirs Point, and to the Eastward of the existing Mine Barrier.


32. On the 13th June very heavy firing broke out between Fort Krasnaya Gorka and the forts and ships at Kronstadt - Fort Krasnaya Gorka having suddenly turned over to the "Whites," who, however, were not strong enough to hold it - the forces immediately available being only a hundred or so of badly-armed and much-exhausted Ingermanlanders, who, owing to the fire from the Bolshevik Heavy Ships, were unable to occupy the Fort long enough either to effectively man the guns, or destroy them - and so, after changing hands twice, Krasnaya Gorka remained in Bolshevik hands.


33. These Ingermanlanders were fighting under the direction of the Esthonian Command, and were armed and equipped by them, chiefly from supplies captured from Bolsheviks, and had done very well ever since these operations started, and were fighting with the more enthusiasm as it was their own country they were freeing.


Apparently, however, their successes aroused the suspicion and jealousy of the Russians of the Northern Corps, who, equipped and supported in every way by the Esthonians, had by then begun to become a considerable fighting force, and were holding the line on the right of the Esthonian-Ingermanland Force - whose left flank rested on the sea, and had pushed forward as far as Krasnaya Gorka..


34. In order to deal with any attempt by heavy ships to break out - as well as to maintain an effective patrol on the entrance to Petrograd Bay, I considered it advisable to lay mines so as to restrict .the movements of the enemy, and this was done by "Princess Margaret" (Captain Harry H. Smyth, C.M.G., D.S.O.) and the 20th Destroyer Flotilla (Captain (D) Berwick Curtis, C.B., D.S.O.).


35. On 17th June our lookouts reported a Cruiser ("Oleg") and two Destroyers  at anchor West of Kronstadt, and also a Submarine moving Westward.


36. A few minutes after midnight a sudden burst of firing was heard by our outpost Destroyers, which, as suddenly ceased, and next day Lieutenant Augustine W. S. Agar, R.N., informed me that he had torpedoed the Cruiser "Oleg" at anchor, the torpedo hitting her about the foremost funnel, and came under heavy fire from the Destroyers on retiring.


37. On the 6th July "Vindictive" (below - Photo Ships) on passage from England to join me in the Gulf of Finland, ran aground outside Reval on the Middle Ground Shoal, and remained there for eight days.




It was a time of some anxiety to me, as she was going fifteen knots at the time of striking, and had slid up half her length, and was in two feet six inches to three feet less water there than her draught, and in a tideless sea.


"Delhi" and "Cleopatra" made several ineffectual attempts to tow her off before,  after lightening her by 2,212 tons, and experiencing a rise of water of about four to six inches due to a Westerly wind, "Cleopatra" at last pulled her clear after eight days of effort and, as we discovered shortly afterwards, all the towing operations were carried out in the middle of a minefield.


38. Early in July strong attacks were made by the Bolsheviks on the Russian front on the southern shore, necessitating frequent  bombardments by Light Cruisers and Destroyers of the Bolshevik positions. Bolshevik aircraft were also active; Fort Krasnaya Gorka also occasionally firing at our patrols in Kaporia Bay.


39. Later in the mouth our Flying Operations started, consisting at first of reconnaissance and photographic flights, and then on the morning of the 30th July a bombing operation against the ships in Kronstadt, the main objective being a Destroyer Depot Ship with five or six Destroyers lying alongside her. The whole was under the command of Squadron Leader David G. Donald, A.F.C., R.A.F. Sixteen bombs in all were dropped, and one hit, at any rate, was registered on the Depot Ship, which disappeared from her accustomed position in the harbour, and was not seen again. All machines returned safely after passing through a heavy anti-aircraft fire from the ships and batteries defending Kronstadt.


40. Thereafter continued a close watch on Petrograd Bay, with frequent bombardments by us of Bolshevik positions on the Southern Shore, and occasional shellings by Fort Krasnaya Gorka and other guns, varied by attacks by enemy submarines on our vessels, and intermittent activity by Bolshevik Destroyers and Minesweepers, with occasional appearances outside the harbour by larger craft.


41. On the morning of 18th August, with the object of removing, as far as possible, the threat which existed to my ships and also to the Left Flank of the Russian advance to Petrograd by the presence of the Bolshevik Active Squadron, an attack on the ships in Kronstadt by Coastal Motor Boats and Aircraft was made.


42. The position of the ships in the harbour had been ascertained by aerial photographs. Frequent bombing raids on the harbour had also been made at varying times in the weeks beforehand.


43. The attack was planned so that all available aircraft co-operated under Squadron Leader D. G. Donald, A.F.C., R.A.F., and that they should arrive and bomb the harbour so as to drown the noise of the approach of the Coastal Motor Boats.


44. The time-table was most accurately carried out, with, the result that the first three Coastal Motor Boats, under Commander Claude C. Dobson, D.S.O., passed the line of Forts and entered the harbour with scarcely a shot being fired.


45. Each boat had a definite objective - six in all. Of these six enterprises four were achieved, the results being gained not only by dauntless disciplined bravery at the moment of attack, but by strict attention to, and rehearsal of, every detail beforehand by every member of the personnel, both of the boats and also of the Air Force.


46. Of the latter there is this to say, that though all their arrangements for bombing were makeshift, and the aerodrome from which the land machines had to rise in the dark, was a month before a wilderness of trees and rocks, and in size is quite inadequate, not one of the machines (sea and land) failed to keep to its time-table, or to lend the utmost and most effective support during, and after, the attack to the Coastal Motor Boats.


47. After this nothing bigger than a Destroyer ever moved again, but a certain amount of mine-laying and sweeping was observed near the approaches to the harbour.


48. During September our ships constantly bombarded Bolshevik positions on the Southern Shore in Kaporia Bay, in support of the Esthonian Left Flank, whilst the aircraft were employed in bombing Kronstadt and attacking their small craft whenever seen.


49. Early in October the long talked of advance against Petrograd by General Yudenitch began - but as his left flank was not made secure by making the capture of Forts Krasnaya Gorka and Saraia Lochad his first objective - as was repeatedly urged - the attempt failed.


50. The Esthonians, so long as their advance was such that the guns of the light cruisers and destroyers of the Biorko Force could support them, went forward - but thereafter they met with strong and effective resistance and much barbed wire, and were held up within four miles of the land approaches to Fort Krasnaya Gorka and suffered very heavy losses -equal to nearly one-third of their forces, which did not at the beginning exceed two thousand men.


51. It was after this check that "Erebus" (Captain John A. Moreton, D.S.O.) arrived (24th October), which encouraged Admiral Pitka, who was in command of the Esthonian Forces, to try again; but by then the Russians had begun to fall back, thereby uncovering the Esthonian right flank and causing them further distress, and dispersion of their few remaining effectives.


The Russians and Esthonians then fell back with considerable rapidity as far west as the line Narva-Peipus Lake, and I devoted myself to endeavouring to ensure that, from the sea, no further attempt was made to further harass these very war-weary and dispirited troops.


52. Unfortunately the "Erebus" (Captain John A. Moreton, D.S.O.) arrived only after the attempt was doomed to failure, and by that time also the weather had broken, making it very unsuitable for flying in order to direct the firing of "Erebus"; also our machines and many of the pilots were, from hard service through the summer, rather past their best. The type of machine, too (Short Seaplane), was unable to get sufficient height to avoid the very severe and accurate anti-aircraft fire from these two forts.


53. All that could be done by our ships (light cruisers and destroyers) besides "Erebus," in the way of shelling positions and covering the advance, was done, and always within the range of Fort Krasnaya's Gorka's twelve-inch guns, and under the observation of its kite balloon; these guns, however, though, throughout the year they have constantly shelled us, have never succeeded further than to land a few splinters on board.


54. On the 30th October arrived, out from England General Sir Richard Haking and a small staff of officers, who, after investigating and acquiring what appeared to me to be a very complete grasp of the whole Baltic situation and its needs, returned to England after two weeks.


55. Towards the beginning of October and concurrently with the attempt on Petrograd by the Russian North-West Army, the German- Russian threat against Riga became acute, and a bombardment of the town commenced.


"Abdiel" (Captain Berwick Curtis, C.B., D.S.O.) and "Vanoc" (Commander Edward O. Tudor, R.N.) were there at the time, also a French destroyer ("L'Aisne"), "Dragon" (Captain Francis A. Marten, C.M.G., C.V.O.) was on her way out from England and I therefore diverted her there.


56. Owing to the situation in the Gulf of Finland and the necessity of supporting the advance of the Esthonians on the left flank of the Russian Army, I was unable to leave those waters myself, and so requested Commodore Brisson, the French Senior Naval Officer, who had by then proceeded to Riga, to take charge of the operations there, and to open fire on all positions within range on the the left bank of the Dvina River, at the expiration of the time given in my ultimatum to Prince Avaloff Bermont, who was ostensibly in command of the troops occupying those positions, and attacking Riga.


57. This Commodore Brisson most faithfully and effectively did at noon on the 15th October, apparently much to the surprise of Bermont, who had, in reply to my ultimatum, stated that he was friendly to the Allies and was only resisting Bolshevism, and disowned all connection with the Germans, and whose forces, were in position and with little shelter, in some places less than one thousand yards from ours, and the French ships, Bermont having evidently assumed that his statements and arguments were sufficient to hoodwink me and delay our offensive action.


58. This enabled the Lettish troops to cross the river in strength and with great enthusiasm after twenty-six days' fighting, to sweep away all these Russo-German forces from within striking distance of Riga and out of Mitau -  which had been the German main base and headquarters throughout the year - Tukkum and the Windau district.


59. On about the 30th October the threat to Libau by German troops became serious, and I sent directions to Captain Lawrence L. Dundas, C.M.G., the senior naval officer there, to, with the help of the British Military Mission, get into co-operation with the Lettish Defence Forces, establish communications and observation posts and plot targets, and sent "Dauntless" (Captain Cecil Horace Pilcher) down from Biorko to reinforce, and shortly afterwards "Erebus" (below - Navy Photos) also, as by this time General Yudenitch was falling back from before Petrograd, and therefore the need for bombarding Fort Krasnaya Gorka had ceased.




60. On the 14th October a very heavy attack on Libau commenced and the Germans succeeded in occupying the outer fixed defences of the town, but after eight hours hard fighting by the Lettish troops and incessant bombardment by the British ships they were thrown, back again with very heavy losses.


61. The ammunition question at the end of this day was of some anxiety to me, two vessels having fired the whole of their outfits and others being very short.


An ammunition ship was on her way down from Riga at the moment - "Galatea," homeward bound with General Sir R. Haking on board, and also two destroyers were in the vicinity, so all were ordered in to replenish the Libau force with their ammunition.


No further attack of any weight however was made, and the crisis passed.


62. With regard to these two attacks on Riga and Libau, it is unquestionable that the German intention was to frustrate by every means in their power any successful attack on Petrograd and Kronstadt, and to gain this footing for the winter in the Baltic Provinces with a view to overwhelming them, and then to drive on to Petrograd.


63. I had constant rumours that the Dreadnought Battleship "Sevastopol" had been prepared for, and was in every way fit for service - also, there was ever-recurring Submarine activity - and by my reckoning there were still two large Destroyers available as well, though two had been destroyed by our mines during the operations in support of Yudenitch whilst attempting to come out and attack our patrols at night.


64. The work of the Destroyers was, as ever, tireless, dauntless, and never ending, and with never the relaxation of lying in a defended port with fires out and full rations, and all their work in cramped navigational waters, necessitating the almost constant presence on deck of the Captain, and, in the case of the Petrograd Bay "Biorko" Patrol, always within the range, and often under the fire, of the twelve-inch guns from Fort Krasnaya Gorka.


65. This patrolling of Petrograd Bay, though generally in smooth water, was arduous and anxious always, because there was no room to manoeuvre East or West - there were mines in each direction - much foul ground, unindicated by the charts, and the charting of the Southern Shore disagreed by a mile of longitude with that of the Northern - also for that small space, (six by twenty miles), bounded on the West by Seskar, and on the East by the minefields, three charts had to be in use.


66. In the whole of that area no shoals (and there are many), were marked by anything better than a spar buoy.


When the winter came on, with incessant snow and fog throughout the long sixteen-hour nights, I scarcely hoped that the Destroyers could succeed in maintaining their stations without frequent and serious groundings or collisions, and the fact that they did is sufficient witness of the spirit that was in these two Flotillas - the First, Captain George W. McO. Campbell, and the Second, Captain Colin K. MacLean, C. B., D.S.O., reinforced by some of the Third Flotilla also, under the command of Commander Aubrey T. Tillard, in "Mackay."


The energy, care and forethought which these two officers constantly displayed in order to maintain the efficiency of their Flotillas, I must always bear in most grateful admiration and remembrance.


The boats were always in "watch and watch" - i.e., as often at sea as in harbour, and very frequently under harder conditions.


67. At the beginning of the campaign the enemy's active Naval Force appeared to be: 


2 Battleships (1 Dreadnought "Petropavlovsk," 1 "Andrei Pervozvanni,")

1 Cruiser ("Oleg") (below- Photo Ships),

5 Destroyers ("Novik" class),

2 to 4 Submarines, and perhaps

4 smaller coal-burning Torpedo Boats, besides





68. Of these:


2 Battleships ("Petropavloysk" and "Andrei Pervozvanni") were torpedoed and disabled, in Kronstadt Harbour, and have not moved since - except "Andrei Pervozvanni" into dock.

1 Cruiser ("Oleg") was torpedoed and sunk at her moorings off Kronstadt.

3 Destroyers ("Novik" class), "Azard," "Gavril" and "Constantin" were sunk, two of them by our mines, the other either by mine or torpedo.

1 Patrol Vessel (armed), "Kitoboi," which surrendered on the night of 14th-15th June,

and, I think,

2 Submarines, one by depth charge and the other by mine.


Besides this-

1 Oiler was bombed and badly damaged.

A number of Motor Launches were set on fire and destroyed, and

1 Submarine Depot Ship ("Pamiet Azov") was torpedoed and sunk,

all in Kronstadt Harbour.


An Oil Fuel Store and a very large quantity of, wood and coal fuel was also burnt.


69. Against this our losses have been: 




1 Submarine ("L.55") (above, sister-boat L.52 - Navy Photos) mined and sunk.

1 Destroyer ("Verulam") mined and sunk.

1 Destroyer ("Vittoria") torpedoed and sunk by enemy submarine.

2 Mine-sweeping Sloops ("Gentian" and "Myrtle") mined and sunk.

3 Coastal Motor Boats sunk during the attack on Kronstadt.

2 Coastal Motor Boats blown up; unserviceable.

2 Coastal Motor Boats and 2 Motor Launches sunk through stress of weather whilst in tow. 

1 Store Carrier ("Volturnas") mined and sunk.

1 Light Cruiser ("Curacoa") mined and salved

1 Paddle Minesweeper ("Banbury") mined and salved.

1 Motor Launch (M.L.156) mined and salved.

1 Admiralty Oiler ("War Expert") mined and salved.

1 Mine-layer ("Princess Margaret") damaged by mine.


70.- The losses of personnel have been: 




Royal Navy

16 Officers

97 Men

Royal Air Force

4 Officers

1 Man.


20 Officers

98 Men




Royal Navy

7 Officers

35 Men

Royal Air Force

2 Officers

- Men


9 Officers

35 Men




Royal Navy

3 Officers

6 Men

Royal Air Force

- Officers

- Men


3 Officers

6 Men




Total Killed, Wounded and Missing

Officers 32

Men 139

Grand total 171


71. My aim was throughout the year to prevent any Bolshevik warships breaking out into the Gulf of Finland - and the ice has now relieved me of this responsibility - and also to frustrate by every means the most evident design of the Germans to overrun and dominate the Baltic Provinces and then to advance on Petrograd, and their repulse from both Riga and Libau in October and November by the Lettish troops under cover of the bombardment of our ships has, I think, put an end to this also, and all German troops were back into Prussia by 15th December.


I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient servant,

WALTER COWAN, Rear-Admiral Commanding First Light Cruiser Squadron. 






31906 - 18 MAY 1920



NAVAL DESPATCH dated 1 January 1920


North Russian theatre
click map to enlarge


Admiralty, 1st January, 1920.



With the cessation of hostilities against the Bolsheviks in North Russia, consequent upon the final withdrawal of all British and Allied forces from Archangel and Murmansk on 27th September and 12th October, 1919, respectively, I have the honour to submit the following despatch relating to the Naval side of the operations during the period of my command as Senior Naval Officer, White Sea, from November, 1918, to October, 1919.


2. A short resume of the Naval events in North Russia during the months preceding my arrival is, however, necessary in order to explain the situation as it developed during the time I was in command: All British men-of-war, except the icebreaker "Alexander," were withdrawn from Archangel before the winter of 1917/18. In April of 1918 H.M.S. "Attentive" (below - Photo Ships) (Captain (actg.) E. Altham, R.N.) was selected, on account of suitability of size and draught, to go to Archangel as the ship of the Senior British Naval Officer at that port, when ice conditions should permit.




On leaving England Captain Altham had been given instructions that he was not to take warlike action to prevent munitions and stores being railed away from the port, but was invested with wide discretionary powers. At the beginning of June, 1918, when the "Attentive" arrived at Murmansk, the political situation was already beginning to change. Whereas the local Government had hitherto, been in agreement with both that at Archangel and the Central Government at Moscow as regards their attitude to the Allies, with the declaration of peace between Russia and Germany, the Central Government under pressure from Germany became hostile to the continued Allied occupation of Murmansk, and resented any proposal to send Allied forces to Archangel.


It was essential that we should remain in occupation of Murmansk and the Kola Inlet to prevent their use as a probable hostile submarine base. The same remark applied to the Pechenga Gulf, and to Archangel when the White Sea opened. Further, it was to the interest of the local population of these place that we should remain, as they were largely dependent on the Allies for food supplies. The Murmansk Government therefore decided to throw in their lot with the Allies and reject the authority of the Central Moscow Government.


In order to secure the port of Murmansk, it was necessary to hold the railway to the southward, and as soon as ice permitted the


"Attentive" passed into the White Sea, and co-operated with the Russian-Allied forces on its western shores during the month of July until they were firmly established as far down the line as Soroka. The damage done to the railway line to the south of Soroka by the retreating Red troops had already caused much distress, and prevented refugees returning to their homes and fishermen from travelling North for the season's fishing. Under the direction of the Captain of  "Attentive," shipping in the White Sea was commandeered and diverted as necessary to assist in reaching their destinations the large number of people who would otherwise have been homeless and destitute. Soroka, which was in the hands of the Bolsheviks until the arrival of "Attentive," was secured by a Naval detachment from that ship on 7th July. A junction was subsequently effected with the Military forces at Kem.


It will also be recalled that in view of the attitude of the local Government at Archangel it was decided to postpone sending a ship until additional troops were available to occupy the town. By the end of July these troops had arrived, and "Attentive" and H.M. Seaplane Carrier "Nairana" (Commander C. F. R. Cowan, R.N.) were recalled to Murmansk from the White Sea to prepare for the expedition to Archangel. The "Nairana" had joined "Attentive" soon after the latter ship's arrival at Soroka, and the seaplanes had already performed most useful service in that vicinity.


The situation in Archangel developed unexpectedly, and necessitated the early despatch of the "Attentive" and "Nairana," together with the French cruiser "Amiral Aube," to secure the approaches to the port and support an anti-Bolshevik rising. The "Amiral Aube" having been delayed on passage, the attack on the fort of Modyuski Island and reduction of the defences there was accomplished by the guns of "Attentive" and bombs from "Nairana's" seaplanes. French troops embarked in these two ships were subsequently landed for the occupation of the island, and on the 2nd August, 1918, the ships entered Archangel without further resistance. The following day the troopships arrived and the Allied occupation was secured.


It was this which initiated our obligations on the Archangel front, and in order to secure further the approaches to the port, operations, details of which are described in the report of the Senior Naval Officer (Captain E. Altham, R.N.) had to be undertaken up the Dwina River. H.M. ships "Attentive," "Glory IV." (ex-Russian cruiser "Askold") and the French cruiser "Amiral Aube," were at Archangel. H.M. Monitor "M.23" (Lieutenant-Commander St. A. O. St. John, R.N.) was detached for service in the White Sea to assist in the occupation of Onega, and with "Nairana" co-operated with the forces on the west coast of the White Sea in the vicinities of Kem and Soroka.


Before the closing of the White Sea for the winter of 1918/19 the "Attentive" and "Nairana" were withdrawn and sent home. Monitors "M.23" and "M.25" (Lieutenant-Commander S. W. B. Green, D.S.O., R.N.) were laid up at Archangel for the winter. My predecessor (Rear-Admiral T. W. Kemp, C.B., C.M.G., C.I.E.), having represented the necessity for a stronger river flotilla in the spring of the following year, the large river gunboats "Glowworm," "Cockchafer," "Cicala," and "Cricket," which were then in home waters, were despatched in time to arrive at Archangel before that port closed. They were laid up for the winter, and their crews, together with those of the two monitors, were accommodated in barracks ashore.


During the winter months a small Russian-Allied force was raised at Archangel, under the command of Lieutenant-Commander H. E. Rendall, D.S.O., R.N., and subsequently provided a useful personnel for manning flotilla auxiliaries.


H.M.S. "Cochrane" (below - CyberHeritage/Terry Phillips) had arrived at Murmansk on 7th March, 1918. Whilst at Murmansk 50 Royal Marines were landed to assist in defending the place. On 2nd May she proceeded to Pechenga, and there landed a Naval Brigade of 100 seamen and 50 Royal Marines, to prevent its occupation by White Finns, who were being supported by Germany.




On 11th and 12th May actions took place between "Cochrane's" Brigade and a force of "White" Finns, which latter were finally beaten off and retired across the frontier. More seamen were subsequently landed, together with Royal Marine reinforcements from "Glory," altogether a total force of about 350 men being maintained.


This force was finally relieved by the Military on 29th September.


"Cochrane" left Pechenga for Murmansk to turn over to "Glory IV." on 1st November, and left Murmansk for England on 3rd November.


3. My instructions were to assist the Military with all available resources at my disposal. On my arrival at Murmansk on 13th November, 1918, the following were the Naval forces under my orders: 


At Archangel.

Monitors:  "M.23," "M.25."

River Gunboats:  "Cricket," "Cicala," "Glowworm," and "Cockchafer." (Laid up and frozen in for the winter.)

French Cruiser "Gueydon" (Capitaine de Vaisseau J. E. Hallier, C.M.G.), which was relieved in July by French Cruiser "Conde" (Capitaine de Vaisseau J. R. Lequerre), the latter remaining till final evacuation.


A t Murmansk.

H.M.S. "Glory" (Captain G. Hopwood, C.B.E., R.N., who was invalided and relieved by Captain J. F. Warton, C.M.G., C.B.E., R.N., in April, 1919).

"Glory IV.," late Russian Cruiser "Askold" (Captain (actg.) A. W. Lowis, R.N.), returned to England in April, 1919.

"Sviatogor" and "Alexander," Ice-breakers; and various Drifters and Trawlers.


These vessels were reinforced during summer of 1919 by H.M.S. "Cyclops," Repair Ship (Captain A. C. Bruce, D.S.O., R.N.); H.M.S. "Fox," (Captain E. Altham, R.N.) (S.N.O., River Expeditionaiy Force); Hospital Ship "Garth Castle"; H.M.S. "Nairana," Seaplane Carrier (Commander H. R. G. Moore, O.B.E., R.N.); H.M.S. "Pegasus," Seaplane Carrier (Commander O. M. F. Stokes, D.S.O., R.N.); River Gunboats "Moth" and "Mantis"; Monitors, "Humber," "M.24," "M.26," "M.27," "M.31," "M.33"; "Erebus" (Captain J. A. Moreton, D.S.O., R.N.); and in addition numerous and miscellaneous Auxiliaries and Hospital Carriers.


4. During the winter months no Naval operations were possible except the arduous and difficult work of keeping up communications between Murmansk and Archangel by passing various troops and Storeships under escort of the Ice-breaker's through the ice, and also in preparing the Monitors and Gunboats for the summer campaign.


5. The U.S. Navy was represented by Rear-Admiral Newton A. McCully, U.S.N., who lived ashore at Murmansk till March, 1919, when he transferred his flag and was accommodated on board U.S. Yacht "Yankton."


In June, 1919, U.S. Cruiser "Des Moines" (Captain Zachariah H. Maddison, U.S.N.), U.S. Cruiser "Sacramento," and 3 Eagle boats arrived, Rear-Admiral McCully returned to England in "Sacramento" in July.


U.S. Cruiser "Des Moines" remained at Archangel until all the U.S. troops had left in September.


6. With the clearing of the ice at the end of April, 1919, Naval operations on the River Dwina were commenced. Captain Altham, who had been appointed by the Admiralty as S.N.O., River Expedition, narrates their exploits in the attached report.


7. During the summer months of 1919 the water in the River Dwina ran very low. Water transport, which was the only means of carrying troops and stores, &c., for the expedition, therefore became most difficult, and strained to the utmost the capabilities and resources of the Naval Transport Service, which was working under Commodore R,. Hyde, C.B.E., M.V.O., R.N. Every sort of local craft that was of light draught was commandeered for use either as a troop, store, or hospital carrier. The transport difficulties inseparable from such operations were most successfully undertaken by Commodore Hyde and his staff.


8. The medical arrangements for the transport afloat of the sick and wounded, both naval and military, British or otherwise, were carried out entirely by the Navy under the very able organisation of Surgeon Commander D. W. Hewitt, C.M.G., M.B.. F.R.C.S., R.N., with much success and the greatest credit to all under his orders.


9. In July it was decided to withdraw all Allied troops from North Russia before the arrival of the winter.


During the summer monitors and gunboats were operating in the White Sea in conjunction with the military, for which purpose the "Nairana" was based on Kern and the "Pegasus" at Archangel.


On 25th July "M.26" (Lieutenant-Commander A. O. Fawssett, R.N.) rescued the small British garrison at Onega, which was in the hands of Russian troops who had mutinied and joined the Bolsheviks.


On 1st August "M.26" (below - Photo Ships), "M.24," H.M. Auxiliary "Walton Belle" and a small Russian steamer carrying a mixed force of Russians, supported by British Gunners, entered the Onega River to retake Onega, but after a hot engagement failed to do so.




Onega was shelled by "Erebus" (Captain J. A. Moreton, D.S.O., R.N.), assisted by "Nairana" with her seaplanes on 28th August, and the town was re-occupied by the Russians.


10. The final evacuation of Archangel took place on 27th September, when some 8,000 British troops were embarked without a hitch.


''Erebus," "Nairana" and "M. 23" operated from Kem and in the Gulf of Kandalaska during the time troops were being evacuated from the Murmansk front.


The final evacuation of troops from North Russia took place from Murmansk on 12th October, when I left for England in the "Glory."


11. The Naval transport arrangements generally, under the abnormal conditions obtaining in North Russian Waters and on the Dwina River, and the organisation for evacuation reflect the greatest credit on Commodore Hyde and all concerned under him.


12. H.M.S. "Glory" was the depot ship at Murmansk during 1917-18-19, and her presence there was essential both as an armed support for the military and for the safety of the town. The repair work, administration. &c., of all the many small craft, both those permanently attached to her and those visiting the port, was undertaken by "Glory," and her officers and men deserve high commendation for their valuable work, which was carried out continuously throughout the hardships and discomforts of a rigorous Arctic winter.


H.M.S. "Cyclops," acting as repair ship at Archangel during the summer of 1919, rendered invaluable service by the efficiency with which her staff performed the repairs, &c., required by the vessels employed on the expedition.


13. I wish to place on record the very cordial relations which always existed between the Naval and Military Services, without which good feeling all these varied operations could not have been successfully undertaken.


14. I wish to make mention of the; following Officers: 


Commodore R,. Hyde, O.B.E., M.V.O., P.N.T.O. at Archangel.

Captain A. C. Bruce, D.S.O., R.N., H.M.S. "Cyclops," repair ship, who acted as S.N.O. at Archangel during my absence from that port.

Capt. J. F. Warton, C.M.G., H.M.S. "Glory," my Chief of Staff.

Captain E, Altham, R.N., S.N.O., River Expedition..

Engineer Captain R. W. Skelton, D.S.O., R.N., on my staff. Acting at Archangel.

Surgeon Commander D. W. Hewitt, C.M.G., M.B., F.R.C.S., R.N., S.M.O, in charge of medical arrangements on. Dwina River.

Tempy. Hon. T. Major W. C. T. Hammond, R.M. In charge of Naval stores.


A list of the Officers and men whose services were considered specially deserving of recognition has already been submitted to Their Lordships.


 I also desire to endorse Captain Altham's commendations of the work of the various officers and personnel mentioned by him in the accompanying report, with which I concur.


15. My thanks are due to the following Officers of our Naval Allies: 


Rear-Admiral N. A. McCully, U.S.N.;

Captain Z. H. Maddison, U.S.N., U.S. Cruiser "Des Moines" ;

Capitaine de Vaisseau J E. Hallier, C.M.G., French Cruiser "Gueydon ";

Capitaine de Vaisseau Lequerré, French Cruiser "Conde,"


whose cordial co-operation and assistance were at all times of much value.


I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient Servant,

John F. E. Green, Rear-Admiral. Late Senior-Naval Officer, White Sea.



Admiralty, S.W. 1, 1st January, 1920.


To Rear-Admiral Sir John F. E. Green, K.C.M.G., C.B.



I have the honour to submit the following report on the Operations of the Naval flotilla employed in the Archangel River Expedition: 


It will be recalled that on 1st August, 1919, H.M.S. "Attentive," then under my command, assisted by the seaplanes of H.M.S. "Nairana" (below - Photo Ships) attacked the forts on Modyuski Island which formed the chief defences of Archangel.




These were silenced by bombardment and bombing after a short but hot engagement, in which the ''Attentive" sustained damage by shell-fire.


Archangel was subsequently occupied without opposition.


2. In the subsequent pursuit of the enemy up the Dwina River it at once became evident that armed ships would be essential to cooperate with the Russian-Allied forces ashore and counteract the fire of the enemy's ships. A river flotilla was evolved mainly out of local paddle steamers, which were armed and equipped with an expedition and ingenuity which reflected much credit on the technical Officers of the "Attentive."


3. Later in the month the flotilla was strengthened by the addition of the small monitor "M.25" (Lieutenant-Commander S. W. B. Green, D.S.O., R.N.). The fighting developed, and by desire of the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Allied Forces, I went up-river and took command of the force which originated our naval obligations on this front.


4. The flotilla successfully countered the attacks of the enemy ships, sinking two of them. With our support the shore forces were established some 200 miles up river. The lateness of the year then necessitated the withdrawal of the ships before the ice set in.


5. In October, 1918, the "Attentive" returned to England, H.M. Gunboats "Glowworm," "Cockchafer," "Cicala" and "Cricket" were sent out, and together with H.M. Monitors "M.23" and "M.25 " wintered at Archangel in readiness for the opening up of the river in spring.


6. In February, 1919, it was decided that the situation on the Archangel front necessitated the provision of a strong Naval flotilla, more particularly in view of the part the Navy might be called upon to play in an evacuation.


7. The ships composing this force were: 


(a) Up-River Force.

Monitors "Humber," "M.24," "M.26," "M.27," "M.31" and "M.33."

Gunboats "Moth" and "Mantis."

4 Tunnel Minesweepers.

6 Coastal Motor-boats.

River Depot Ship - H.M.S. "Hyderabad.''


(b) Flying force attached to above.

8 Seaplanes (number subsequently increased).

1 Kite balloon.


(c) Ships at base. (Archangel.)

H.M.S. "Fox" as flotilla depot ship.

H.M.S. "Pegasus" - (Seaplane Carrier.

H.M.S. "Cyclops" - Repair Ship.


The flotilla was organised solely for active operations, the whole of the transport work being undertaken by the Naval Transport Service.


8. Having been appointed in command of the flotilla, I reached Archangel in H.M.S. "Fox" on 16th May.


The majority of the ships of the up-river force arrived during the month of June.


The monitors and gunboats which had wintered at Archangel had already proceeded upriver, and were under command of Commander (Act.) 18. W. B. Green, D.S.O., R.N., until my arrival.


I.- Commencement of Operations.


"M.23" (Lieut.- Commander St. A. O. St. John, R.N.) left Archangel on the 3rd May, and, forcing her way through thick ice in the lower reaches of the river, reached Pless on 5th May.


2. The first Naval offensive of the year was opened on 6th May by "M.23" in co-operation with a scouting party, when Tulgas was bombarded "Cricket" (Lieut.- Comdr. F. A. Worsley, D.S.O., R.D., R.N.R), and "Cockchafer" (Lieut.- Comdr. C. Hester, R.D., R.N.R.) arrived off Pless on the afternoon of 6th May, and the following day the "Glowworm" (Commander (act.) C. Ackland, R.N., Retd.) and "Cicala" (below, on the Dvina River - Yeoman of Signals George Smith) (Lieut. E.. T. Grayston, R.N.R.) entered the Vaga River and bombarded Nijni Kitsa.




3. The prompt arrival of our ships at the front when the ice broke, and the good seamanship displayed in getting them up-river, prevented what might have proved a critical period when the enemy's ships could have come down and bombarded our positions without having their fire returned by heavy long-range guns which only the ships could bring to bear.


4. The Allied forces at this time held Kourgamen and Shushuga, the enemy Topsa and Tulgas, on the right and left banks of the river respectively.


5. On 18th May the flotilla co-operated in an attack on the enemy's positions at Tulgas. The attack was completely successful, and resulted in the enemy being driven out with the loss of 30 prisoners and 12 machine-guns. Our forces sustained no casualties.


Heavy fire from the enemy gunboats was countered by our ships.


One of the enemy ships was observed to be hit, but was not sink.


From now onwards the enemy flotilla frequently employed "tip-and-run" tactics, coming down river, firing a few shots and retreating directly fire was returned.


On 27th May a lowest depth of 12 feet of water was found on Chamova Bar. On 31st May it was reported to have fallen to 10 feet.


6. I arrived up-river on 3rd June in the local paddle steamer "Borodino," which henceforth became Naval Headquarters and accommodated the flotilla staff.


7. The relief of the troops who had been out during the winter was in progress at this time.


8. Intention to Advance.- The success of Koltchak, and our obligations to leave the North Russian troops in a sound position when we withdrew before the winter, decided the policy of an endeavour to enable the Russians to reach Kotlas and join hands with Koltchak, who was at that time reported to be at, or near, Perm.


9. Effect on Naval Plans.- This decision materially affected the Naval considerations, as the flotilla had not been intended for an advance far up-river; some of the ships were of too deep draught and the river was already low and falling. Further, the gunboats had suffered from contact with the ice and constantly firing their guns at extreme elevation, and required refitting.


10. Guns mounted on shallow-draught barges would have been invaluable, but the base was unable to undertake the work. The heavy-draught monitors had therefore to be retained, at much risk, to ease the strain on the gunboats, which alone might be able to operate later.


11. By the middle of June the flotilla was complete with the exception of "Moth" and "Mantis," which had not then arrived from England, and 2M.24 " and "M.26," which were detached for service in the White Sea.


II.- Capture of Topsa and Troitsa.


On 19th June a more extensive operation was undertaken with the object of capturing the high ground between Topsa and Troitsa, and the flotilla co-operated with Graham's Brigade, bombarding heavily prior to the attack and countering the fire of the enemy ships.


2. H.M.S. "Cockchafer" (Lieut.- Comdr. Q. B. Preston-Thomas, R.N.) did particularly good work in getting up the narrow Kourgamen channel to within a mile of Topsa when that place was taken, and materially assisted in repulsing a counter-attack which threatened the success of our undertakings.


3. H.M.S. "Glowworm" (Commander (actg.) S. W. B. Green, D.S.O., R.N.) was actively engaged with the enemy flotilla in the main channel.


4. H.M. Monitors "Humber" (below - Photo Ships) (Lieut.- Comdr. A. Johnstone, R.N.), "M.27" (Lieut.- Comdr. G. H. I. Parker, R.N.), and "M.33" (Lieut.- Comdr. K. Michell, D.S.C., R.N.) also assisted in this operation, which marked the first stage of the advance, and materially improved our positions.




In the course of this fighting a barge on which the enemy had mounted two heavy long-range guns was holed by our fire and abandoned.


5. Mine-sweeping.- This brought the ships to the edge of the enemy minefield, and for the next week mine-sweeping had to be carried out under most difficult conditions. The river water was so thick that it was impossible to see to any appreciable depth, even from a seaplane. Instead of being able to sweep in comparative safety on the rise of the tide, as at sea, the river was of course tideless and falling.


6. It was necessary to explore channels with small steamboats, clear mines where discovered, buoy a passage, and then send up the heavier-draught tunnel mine-sweepers to sweep up the heavier and deeper-moored mines. The whole of the work had to be carried out within range of the enemy flotilla, and the minesweeping craft were daily exposed to heavy fire from his guns, and at times even came under direct machine-gun and rifle fire.


7. The exploratory sweeping in steamboats was most gallantly performed by parties of British seamen and the Russian boats' crews under the orders of Lieutenant R. H. Fitzherbert-Brockholes, R.N., and Lieutenant C. E. McLaughlin, R.N. The tunnel minesweepers were under the command of Lieutenant A. K. McC. Halliley, R.N.


8. I cannot speak too highly of the gallantry and devotion to duty displayed by the minesweeping party in their tireless endeavours to clear the river for the safe navigation of the flotilla and water transport.


Their efforts were crowned with success after a week's most arduous work, and over 40 mines had been cleared from the river. This had not been achieved, however, without the loss of the mine-sweeper "Sword Dance," which was mined and sunk on 24th June. Subsequently a second mine-sweeper, the "Fandango," also struck a mine and was lost.


9. Flotilla passed through mine-field to Troitsa.- On 27th June I went on board H.M.S. "Cricket" (Lieutenant I. W. G. White, R.N.), and that ship passed safely through the swept channel, and running the gauntlet of a heavy barrage of enemy fire arrived off Troitsa. Here the high cliffs gave some measure of protection, and a gunboat, once established, could drive the enemy's ships back and secure the anchorage for the flotilla.


10. The remainder of the ships and transport moved up the following day, and from then .onwards this became our advanced base and Brigade headquarters.


11. Situation on 7th July.


On the right bank we held Topsa, Troitsa and advanced positions north-west of Selmenga River, the enemy having strong blockhouses on the opposite bank, with artillery in support.


On the left bank we occupied Yakolevskoe and advanced positions on the Nyuma River, the enemy holding Seltso.


The enemy flotilla was based on Puchega, with advanced gunboats between that place and Lipovets.


Enemy mines.- Three new lines of deep-sea mines were reported off Seltso.


12. Mutiny of Russian Troops.- On 7th July a mutiny broke out amongst the Russian troops of Dyer's Battalion, and the 4th North Russian Rifles also became affected. Fifty seamen under Commander F. G. Bramble, R.N., and a small Royal Marine Detachment under Lieutenant C. M. Sergeant, R.M., were landed at the request of the General Officer Commanding to assist in securing our position until the arrival of more British troops.


The enemy, who was evidently fully conversant with the situation, seized the opportunity to attack.


On the night of 7th/8th July the situation was critical, as British reinforcements had not arrived, and the enemy's gunboats were pressing hard in support of an advance along the right bank.


13. The Seaplanes' good work.- Very valuable assistance was rendered by the seaplanes bombing and machine-gunning, but by the forenoon of the 8th July they had "run out" and had to be given a brief rest and overhaul.


14. The Flotilla.- The situation about this time was that the enemy ashore was reported within 1,200 yards of the flotilla anchorage, with the Russians slowly retiring. The auxiliary craft were therefore moved back, and H.M. Monitor "Humber," which had been covering Topsa during the mutiny, came upriver and I embarked in that ship.


A telephone cable was run to the shore to keep in close touch with the General Officer Commanding (Brigadier-General L. W. de V. Sadleir-Jackson, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O.), who had by now taken over the command.


"M.33" was hit by a heavy shell, fortunately without casualties, and continued in action. "M.27" did useful service with her triple 4-inch mounting.


The "Cicala," which had been heavily engaged as advanced gunboat, developed defects due to the continual firing at high elevation, and was relieved by "Cricket." The latter ship came under heavy machine-gun fire from the woods in the vicinity of Selmenga, but replied to it with her own machine-guns, and continued to engage the enemy ships until hit on the waterline with a heavy shell and obliged to come down-river and secure alongside the repair barges, as there appeared to be risk of the ship sinking.


The gap had to be filled promptly to prevent the enemy profiting by his success. The "Humber" slipped her cable and telephone and proceeded up-river at full speed. The fire of her twin 6-inch turret was so effective that, with the further assistance of seaplane bombing, the enemy flotilla's fire was silenced and it withdrew.


That evening a counter-attack was organised to be carried out by our Russian troops, and four heavy bombardments were carried out by the monitors; but very little progress was made.


As there were still no signs of the British reinforcements the naval paddle steamers and "Borodino" (below, Petty Officer's mess onboard at the time - Yeoman of Signals George Smith) were despatched to assist in bringing them up, and on the morning of the 9th July they arrived and the position was stabilised.




15. Floating mines and net defences.- The enemy now endeavoured to damage the flotilla by floating mines down on to it.


One of these mines was sighted very early on the morning of the 2nd July approaching the hospital barge. Lieutenant R. H. Fitzherbert-Brockholes, R.N., jumped out of his bunk and into a skiff which happened to be alongside and reached the mine before it could do any damage. He was in the act of securing it, when it exploded, instantly killing him and the three men forming the crew of the boat.


The death of this very gallant young officer was a great loss to the flotilla.


All ships promptly set to work, and in a few days a complete net defence had been laid out above the flotilla anchorage.


16. Fall of the river.- The movements of the ships, and the water transport in particular, were seriously handicapped for the ensuing seven weeks by the abnormally low state of the river. Bars at several places limited the load draught to 3 feet 6 inches for some time, and this greatly increased the difficulties of supply.


III.- Change in the Situation.


On the 18th July a mutiny of the 5th North Russian Rifles at Chinova spread on to Onega, and by the 22nd July that place had been lost. This caused considerable anxiety to the Military Command on account of the threat to our line of communications on the railway front, and orders were received to prepare for immediate withdrawal on the Dwina front and to mine the river.


However, the position was stabilised, and such premature withdrawal avoided.


2. A marked change had now taken place in the whole situation.- Koltchak, who had completely failed, was retiring.


Our advance on Kotlas would therefore be purposeless.


3. The evacuation of our forces was governed by various factors, including the provision of shipping to enable persons whose lives might be endangered by our withdrawal to be given the opportunity of leaving the country first, and the collection up-river of the necessary water transport. This latter undertaking was affected to a great extent by the state of the river, as was also the withdrawal of the flotilla. A number of the ships of the flotilla were of such deep draught that at one time they could not have crossed the bars, and would have had to be destroyed.


4. The main considerations preparatory to withdrawal became therefore: 


(a) To strike a blow at the enemy to obtain freedom of movement.


(b) To mine the river to obstruct his advance after our withdrawal.


(c) To pass as many ships of the flotilla as possible down the river when the depth of water permitted.


IV.- Battle of 10th August, and Subsequent Events.


An extensive plan of attack was prepared and carried into effect on 10th August.


2. The troops detailed having completed their enveloping movements and arrived in position for assault, the flotilla, in conjunction with the shore artillery, opened a heavy bombardment on Terekovskaya, Leushinskaya, Gorodok and Seltso.


3. H.M. Monitors "Humber," "M.31" (Lieut.- Comdr. F. L. Back, R.N.) and "M.33" were engaged. Seaplanes assisted in bombing and spotting. The kite balloon, working from its barge, was moved up close to the ships to assist in spotting and reconnaissance.


4. After a forty minutes' bombardment fire ceased, and the shore attacks were launched.


5. On the right bank the attack on Gorodok succeeded at once. A further bombardment on Borok was called for and carried out by "Cicala" (Lieut.- Comdr. J. H. L. Yorke, R.N.) and "Humber," when that place fell. (Below, ships of the Dvina River Flotilla - Yeoman of Signals George Smith).




6. On the left bank the attack on Seltso failed at first, and a new attack had to be organised. "Humber," "M.27" and "M.33 " bombarded in conjunction with the shore artillery, and Seltso was taken that evening.


7. During these operations the Navy also assisted the Army ashore.


Thirty-five seamen under Lieutenant M.S. Spalding, R.N., and thirty-nine Royal Marines under Lieutenant C. M. Sergeant, R.N., were landed to reinforce at the base


Twenty seamen under Lieutenant R. P. Martin, R.N., manned two 60-pounders, one of which had been rescued from the bottom of the river by a naval salvage and diving party. The 60-pounders were actively engaged during the bombardments; the Royal Marines subsequently assisted to garrison Seltso, and the seamen detachments were at Takolevskoe.


8. The successful operations on 10th August, and during the next few days, secured the banks of the river up to Borok on the right bank and Puchega on the left bank. In addition to the large number of prisoners taken, the enemy's flotilla sustained severe damage, including one gunboat sunk.


9. Further minesweeping operations.- An extensive enemy minefield was discovered off Seltso and a passage cleared for the transport of Army supplies up to Nijni Seltso.


While sweeping this passage one of the steamboats was mined and Lieutenant (actg.) C. E. McLaughlin, R.N., was killed. This officer had been employed in the advanced minesweeping steamboats on every occasion, and had rendered very gallant service.


In view of the fact that no further advance was intended, minesweeping was stopped, as the risk outweighed the convenience of water transport.