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to do, and ordered his son to throw him overboard.

The nature of his wounds being such that he would have died if he had
been moved, they deemed it best, after consultation, to leave him where
he lay. Accordingly, yielding to his reiterated order to abandon the
ship, they left this most gallant seaman lying in his blood, and
embarked in the boat as the _Nelson_ sank.

The submarine in the meanwhile concentrated her fire on the _Ethel and
Millie_, and having eventually sunk her, made the survivors of the crew
prisoners, and steamed away.

The crew of the _Nelson_ were rescued by a man-of-war after being in
their boat for forty-four hours.

The second case occurred in the Adriatic. On the night in question our
drifter patrol in the Straits of Otranto was attacked by a force of
Austrian light cruisers. The drifters were each armed with a 3-pounder
gun, and the light cruisers with 4-inch and 6-inch guns. The drifters
were, of course, quite unable to defend themselves. Nevertheless the
indomitable skipper, I. Watt, of the drifter _Gowan Lea_, when summoned
to surrender by an Austrian light cruiser which was firing at his craft,
shouted defiance, waved his hat to his men, and ordered them to open
fire with the 3-pounder gun. His orders were obeyed, and, surprising to
relate, the light cruiser sheered off, and this fine seaman with his
gallant ship's company brought the _Gowan Lea_ into port in safety.

Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon, in his most interesting narrative of the
work of the Dover Patrol, has brought to light many individual instances
of work gallantly performed; it is much to be hoped that before
recollection fades, those who can speak of the actions of individuals in
other areas will tell their countrymen something of the great deeds

A feature of the patrol service of much interest was the manner in which
a large number of retired officers, including many of flag rank - who had
reached mature age - volunteered for service in the yachts and other
small craft engaged in the work. The late Admiral Sir Alfred Paget was
one of the first, if not the first, to come forward, and in order to
avoid any difficulty in the matter of rank, this fine veteran proposed
to sink his Naval status and to accept a commission as captain of the
Royal Naval Reserve. Sir Alfred, in common with many other officers who
took up this work, was over sixty, but age did not deter these gallant
seamen from facing the hardship and discomfort of service in small craft
in the North Sea and elsewhere. To name all the officers who undertook
this duty, or who were in charge of patrol areas, would be impossible,
and it may seem invidious to mention names at all; but I cannot forbear
to speak of some of those with whom I came most frequently into contact
during 1917. Sir James Startin, K.C.B., who was the life and soul of the
patrols and minesweepers working from Granton, was frequently at sea in
decoy ships fitted out there, as well as in minesweepers, etc., and
together with his son won the Albert Medal for saving life during the
war; Admiral J.L. Marx, C.B., D.S.O., served also in a decoy ship;
Admiral John Denison, D.S.O., was in charge first at Falmouth and later
at Kingstown; Admiral T.P. Walker, D.S.O., had his yacht sunk under him;
Admiral Sir Charles Dare, K.C.M.G., C.B., won great distinction in
command of the patrols, etc., working from Milford Haven; and
Rear-Admiral C.H. Simpson's Peterhead trawlers, splendidly manned, took
a heavy toll of enemy submarines. A large number of retired Naval
officers below the rank of admiral served in minesweepers and patrol
craft, and in command of various areas, and their work was of the
greatest possible value. A few of those with whom I came into personal
contact during the year 1917 were the late Captain F. Bird, C.M.G.,
D.S.O., who was most conspicuous in command of the drifters of the Dover
Patrol; Captain W. Vansittart Howard, D.S.O., who commanded the Dover
Trawler Patrol with such ability; Commander Sir George Armstrong, Bart.,
who so successfully inspired the minesweeping force working from Havre;
and Commander H.F. Cayley, D.S.O., whose services in the Harwich
minesweeping force, working under his brother, Rear-Admiral C.G. Cayley,
were invaluable.

So much for the patrol craft. The great work carried out by the
minesweepers can be best judged by quoting a few figures for 1917,
during which year the mine menace attained its maximum intensity, owing
to the large increase in the number of German submarine minelayers.

During the year 1916 the average number of mines swept up per month was

Statistics for 1917 show the following numbers of mines swept up per

January 250
February 380
March 473
April 515
May 360
June 470
July 404
August 352
September 418
October 237
November 184
December 188

making the average per month in 1917 355 mines.

It will be noticed how rapidly the figures rose in the early part of the
year, and how great was the diminution in the figures for the later
months. This decrease was due to the fact that the extension of
anti-submarine measures was beginning to take effect, and the
destruction of German submarines, and especially of submarine minelayers
of the U.C. type, was becoming considerable.

The heavy work involved a great strain on the minesweeping service, and
the greatest possible credit is due to the personnel of that service for
the fine response made to the call for additional exertions and heavier

At the same time the organizing work achieved at Headquarters by the
minesweeping section of the Naval Staff should not be forgotten. At the
head of this section was Captain Lionel G. Preston, C.B.; he had
succeeded to the post of Head of the Minesweeping Service early in 1917,
after two and a half years of strenuous and most successful minesweeping
work in the Grand Fleet flotillas, and he at once grappled with the task
of dealing with the large number of mines then being laid by German

Instructions were issued to fit all patrol craft round the coast for
minesweeping work in addition to their patrol duties, and they were used
for sweeping as required. Many drifters were also fitted for
minesweeping in addition to the trawlers hitherto employed; and although
there was some prejudice against these vessels on account of their
slower speed, they proved to be of great assistance. Every available
small craft that could be fitted for the work was pressed into the
service, including a considerable number of motor launches.

There was unfortunately great delay in the building of the "Hunt" class
of minesweeper, which was the type ordered in 1916 and repeated in 1917,
and in spite of very large additional orders for this class of vessel
having been placed early in 1917 (a total of 100 extra vessels being
ordered), the number completed during that year was only sixteen,
together with a single paddle sweeper. Consequently we were dependent
for the largely increased work on improvised craft, and the very
greatest credit is due to all who were concerned in this arduous and
dangerous duty that the waters were kept comparatively clear of mines,
and that our losses from this cause were so small when the immense
number of mines swept up is considered.

Fortunately the enemy lost very heavily in submarines of the U.C., or
minelaying type, largely because they were working of necessity in
waters near our coast, so that our anti-submarine measures had a better
chance, since they were easier to locate and destroy than submarines
working farther afield. By the commencement of 1918 the average number
of mines swept up monthly showed a very remarkable decrease, the average
for the first two months of that year being only 159 per month, eloquent
testimony to the efficiency of the anti-submarine measures in operation
during 1917. I have no information as to the figures for the remaining
months of 1918.

The record of minesweeping work would not be complete without figures
showing the damage caused by mines to minesweeping vessels.

During the last six months of 1916 the average number of these craft
sunk or damaged by mines _per month_ was 5.7, while for the first six
months of 1917 the figures rose to ten per month. For the second six
months of 1917 the figures fell to four per month, a reduction even on
the losses towards the end of 1916, in spite of the fact that more mines
were being dealt with. This reduction may have been due to improvements
effected in organization as the result of experience.

Similarly the total number of merchant ships sunk or damaged by mines,
which during the first six months of 1917 totalled 90, dropped in the
second six months to 49.

By far the greater proportion of mines swept up were laid in Area
10 - i.e. the Nore, Harwich and Lowestoft area. This part of the coast
was nearest to the German submarine base at Zeebrugge, and as the
greater part of the east coast traffic passed through the area it
naturally came in for a great deal of minelaying attention. Out of some
2,400 mines swept up in the first half of 1917, over 800 came from Area
10 alone. The greatest number of casualties to merchant ships from mines
during this same period also occurred in Area 10, which in this respect
was, however, rivalled by Area 8 - the Tyne. Many ships also struck mines
in Areas 11 and 12 in the English Channel, and in both of these areas a
considerable number of mines were swept up.

In addition to the daily risks of being themselves blown up which were
run by the vessels engaged in this work, many very gallant deeds were
performed by individual officers and men of the minesweeping force, who
were one and all imbued with the idea that their first duty was to keep
a clear channel for traffic regardless of the consequence to themselves.
I must leave to abler pens than mine the task of recording in fitting
phrase some of the courageous actions of our small craft which will be
looked upon as amongst the most glorious episodes of the Naval part of
the Great War, and content myself to mention only one case, that of the
trawler _Grand Duke_, working in the Milford area in May, 1917. In this
instance a flotilla of minesweepers was employed in sweeping when two
mines exploded in the sweep towed by the second pair of minesweeping
trawlers in the flotilla. The wire parted and one of the two trawlers
proceeded to heave in the "kite," the contrivance employed to keep the
sweep at the required depth. When hove short up it was discovered that a
mine was foul of the wire and that it had been hauled up against the
ship's side. Just beneath the surface the circular outline of a second
mine could also be detected entangled in the wire and swirling round in
the current beneath the trawler's counter. In the circumstances, since
any roll of the ship might suffice to strike one of the horns of either
mine and detonate the charges, the officer in charge of the trawler
chose the best course open to him in view of his responsibility for the
lives of those under his command, and ordered the trawler to be

The senior officer of the division of minesweepers thereupon called for
a volunteer, and accompanied by the engineman, boarded the abandoned
trawler, and disregarding the imminent probability of an explosion
caused by the contact of the ship and the mine, cut the sweep and kite
wires. The mines fell clear without detonating, and by means of a rope
passed to another trawler they were towed clear of the spot.

It is appropriate to close this chapter by giving a synopsis of the
losses amongst our patrol escort and minesweeping vessels between the
commencement of the war and the end of 1917 due (1) to enemy action, and
(2) to the increased navigational dangers incidental to service afloat
under war conditions.

Under the first heading - enemy action - the losses were 8 yachts, 6 motor
launches, 3 motor boats, 150 trawlers, 59 drifters, and 10 paddle
minesweepers; and the losses due to navigational risks were 5 yachts, 55
trawlers, 7 motor launches, 3 motor boats, 30 drifters, and 1 paddle
minesweeper, whilst the total loss of life was 197 officers and 1,782



Vice-Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon has given ("The Dover Patrol,
1915-1917," Hutchinson & Co., 1919.) a most valuable record of the
varied work carried out in the Straits of Dover and on the Belgian coast
during the period of his command. There is little to be added to this
great record, but it may be of interest to mention the general Admiralty
policy which governed the Naval operations in southern waters during the
year 1917, and the methods by which that policy was carried out.

The policy which was adopted in southern waters, and especially in the
Straits of Dover, was that, so far as the means at our disposal
admitted, the Straits should be rendered impassable for enemy ships of
all kinds, from battleships to submarines, with a view to protecting the
cross-Channel communications of our Army in France, of affording
protection to trade in the Channel, and preventing a military landing by
the Germans either in the south of England or on the left flank of the
Allied Army in France. So long as the Belgian coast ports remained in
German possession, the Naval force that could be based there constituted
a very serious menace to the cross-Channel traffic. This really applied
more to destroyers than to submarines, and for this reason: submarines
have an infinitely larger radius of action than destroyers, and if the
Belgian coast ports had not been in German occupation, the additional
210 miles from the Ems would not have been a matter of serious moment to
them, and if sighted on the longer passage they could submerge. The case
was quite different with destroyers or other surface vessels; in the
first place they were open to attack by our vessels during the passage
to and from the Ems, and in the second the additional distance to be
traversed was a matter for consideration, since they carried only
limited supplies of fuel.

A fact to which the Admiralty frequently directed attention was that,
although annoyance and even serious inconvenience might be caused to the
enemy by sea and air operations against Ostend and Zeebrugge, no
_permanent_ result could be achieved by the Navy alone unless backed up
by an advance on land. The Admiralty was heart and soul for an audacious
policy, providing the form of attack and the occasion offered a
reasonable prospect of success. Owing to the preoccupations of the Army,
we had to be satisfied with bombardments of the ports by unprotected
monitors, which had necessarily to be carried out at very long ranges,
exceeding 25,000 yards, and necessitating direction of the fire by

Bruges, about eight miles from the sea, was the real base of enemy
submarines and destroyers, Zeebrugge and Ostend being merely exits from
Bruges, and the use of the latter could only be denied to the enemy by
land attack or by effective blocking operations at Ostend and Zeebrugge,
for, if only one port was closed, the other could be used.

Neither Zeebrugge, Ostend, nor Bruges could be rendered untenable to the
enemy with the guns available during 1917, although Ostend in
particular, and Zeebrugge to a lesser extent, could be, and were
frequently, brought under fire when certain conditions prevailed, and
some temporary damage caused. Indeed, the fire against Ostend was so
effective that the harbour fell into disuse as a base towards the end of
1917. We were arranging also in 1917 for mounting naval guns on shore
that would bring Bruges under fire, after the enemy had been driven from
Ostend by the contemplated operation which is mentioned later. When
forced to abandon this operation, in consequence of the military advance
being held up by the weather, these guns were mounted in monitors.

In the matter of blocking the entrance to the ports of Zeebrugge and
Ostend, the fact had to be recognized that effective _permanent_
blocking operations against destroyers and submarines were not
practicable, mainly because of the great rise and fall above low water
at ordinary spring tides, which is 14 feet at Ostend and 13 feet at
Zeebrugge for about half the days in each month. Low water at Ostend
also lasts for one hour. Therefore, even if block-ships were sunk in the
most favourable position the operation of making a passage by cutting
away the upper works of the block-ships was not a difficult matter, and
the Germans are a painstaking people. This passage could be used for
some time on each side of high water by vessels like destroyers drawing
less than 14 feet, or submarines drawing, say, 14 feet. The block would,
therefore, be of a temporary and not a permanent nature, although it
would undoubtedly be a source of considerable inconvenience. At the same
time it was realized that, although permanent blocking was not
practicable, a temporary block would be of use, and that _the moral
effect alone of such an operation would be of great value_. These
considerations, together with the abandonment of the proposed landing on
the Belgian coast, owing to unfavourable military conditions, led to the
decision late in 1917 to undertake blocking operations concurrently with
an attack on the vessels alongside the Mole at Zeebrugge.

In order to carry out the general policy mentioned, the eastern end of
the Straits of Dover had been heavily mined at intervals during the war,
and these mines had proved to be a sufficient deterrent against any
attempt on the part of surface vessels larger than destroyers to pass
through. Owing to the rise of tide enemy destroyers could pass over the
minefields at high water without risk of injury, and they frequently did
so pass. Many attempts had been made to prevent the passage of enemy
submarines by means of obstructions, but without much success; and at
the end of 1916 a "mine net barrage" - i.e. a series of wire nets of wide
mesh carrying mines - was in process of being placed by us right across
the Straits from the South Goodwin Buoy to the West Dyck Bank, a length
of 28 miles, it being arranged that the French would continue the
barrage from this position to the French coast. The construction of the
barrage was much delayed by the difficulty in procuring mooring buoys,
and it was not completed until the late summer of 1917. Even then it was
not an effective barrier owing to the tidal effects, as submarines were
able to pass over it during strong tides, or to dive under the nets as
an alternative; it was not practicable to use nets more than 60 feet
deep, whilst the depth of water in places exceeded 120 feet.

Deep mines were laid to guard the water below the net, but although
these were moored at some considerable distance from the barrage,
trouble was experienced owing to the mines dragging their moorings in
the strong tide-way and fouling the nets. One series had to be entirely
swept up for this reason. Many devices were tried with the object of
improving this barrage, and many clever brains were at work on it. _And
all the time our drifters with their crews of gallant fishermen, with
Captain Bird at their head, worked day after day at the task of keeping
the nets efficient_.

In spite of its deficiencies the barrage was believed to be responsible
for the destruction of a few submarines, and it did certainly render the
passage of the Straits more difficult, and therefore its moral effect
was appreciable. Towards the end of 1917, however, evidence came into
our possession showing that more submarines were actually passing the
Straits of Dover than had been believed to be the case, and it became a
question whether a proportion of the drifters, etc., required for the
maintenance of the nets of the barrage should be utilized instead for
patrol work in the vicinity of the mine barrage then being laid between
Folkestone and Cape Grisnez. This action was taken, drifters being
gradually moved to the new area.

In April, 1916, a net barrage, with lines of deep mines on the Belgian
side of the nets, had also been laid along the Belgian coast covering
the exits from the ports of Ostend and Zeebrugge as well as the coast
between those ports. These nets were laid at a distance of some 24,000
yards from the shore. This plan had proved most successful in preventing
minelaying by submarines in the Straits of Dover, and the barrage was
maintained from May to October, but the weather conditions had prevented
its continuance from that date.

The operation was repeated in 1917, the barrage being kept in position
until December, when the question of withdrawing the craft required for
its maintenance for patrol work in connection with the minefield laid on
the Folkestone-Grisnez line came under discussion.

The Belgian coast barrage being in the nature of a surprise was probably
more useful as a deterrent to submarine activity in 1916 than in 1917.
In both years a strong patrol of monitors, destroyers, minesweepers,
drifters for net repairs, and other vessels was maintained in position
to the westward of the barrage to prevent interference with the nets by
enemy vessels and to keep them effective.

These vessels were patrolling daily within 13 or 14 sea miles of the two
enemy destroyer and submarine bases, and although occasionally attacked,
were not driven off in spite of the superior destroyer force which the
enemy could always bring to bear. In 1917 actions between our vessels
and those of the enemy, and between our own and enemy aircraft, were of
very frequent occurrence. The Germans also introduced a new weapon in
the form of fast motor boats controlled by a cable from the shore and
guided by signals from aircraft, these boats being heavily loaded in the
fore part with explosives which detonated on contact with any vessels
attacked. On only one occasion in four attacks were the boats successful
in hitting their mark, and the monitor _Terror_, which was struck in
this instance, although considerably damaged in her bulge protection,
was successfully brought back to port and repaired.

Whilst our monitors were on patrol near the barrage, as well as on other
occasions, every favourable opportunity was taken of bombarding the
bases at Zeebrugge and Ostend. In the former case the targets fired at
were the lock gates, and in the latter the workshops, to which
considerable damage was frequently occasioned, as well as to vessels
lying in the basin.

These bombardments were carried out in 1917 at distances exceeding
25,000 yards. The long range was necessary on account of the net
barrage, and also because of the rapidity with which the "Knocke" and
"Tirpitz" shore batteries obtained the range of monitors attacking them,
one hit on an unprotected monitor being sufficient to sink her.

They were also invariably carried out under the protection of a smoke
screen; in the autumn of 1917 the enemy commenced to start a smoke
screen himself as soon as we opened fire, thus interfering with our
observation of fire even from aircraft, but in spite of this much damage
resulted from the bombardments. Our observation of fire being
necessarily carried out by aircraft, and the enemy attempting similar
measures in his return gunfire, resulted in aerial combats over the
monitors being a frequent occurrence.

The carefully organized arrangements made by Admiral Bacon for these
coastal bombardments excited my warm admiration. He left nothing to
chance, and everything that ingenuity could devise and patient
preparation could assist was done to ensure success. He received
assistance from a staff which, though small in number, was imbued with
his own spirit, and he brought to great perfection and achieved
wonderful success in methods of warfare of which the Navy had had no
previous experience.

During the year 1917 aerial bombing attacks were persistently carried
out on the German naval bases in Belgium by the Royal Naval Air Force at
Dunkirk, which came within the sphere of the Dover Command. These
attacks had as their main object the destruction of enemy vessels lying
in these bases, and of the means for their maintenance and repair. The
attacks, under the very skilful direction of Captain Lambe, R.N., were
as incessant as our resources and the weather admitted, and our gallant
and splendidly efficient airmen of the R.N.A.S. were veritable thorns in
the sides of the Germans. Our bombing machines as well as our fighting
aircraft were often required to attack military instead of naval
objectives, and several squadrons of our fighting machines were lent to

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