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the military for the operations carried out during the year on the
Western Front; they did most excellent work, and earned the high
commendation of Sir Douglas Haig (now Earl Haig). But we were still able
to work against naval objectives. Zeebrugge, for instance, was bombed on
seven nights during April and five nights during May, and during
September a total weight of 86 tons of bombs was dropped on enemy
objectives by the Dunkirk Naval aircraft, and we had good reason to be
satisfied with the results achieved. During this same month 18 enemy
aircraft were destroyed and 43 driven down. Attacks upon enemy
aerodromes were very frequent, and this form of aerial offensive
undoubtedly exercised a very deterrent influence upon enemy aerial
activity over England. Two submarines also were attacked and were
thought to be destroyed, all by our machines from Dunkirk. To Commodore
Godfrey Paine, the Fifth Sea Lord at the Admiralty, who was in charge of
the R.N.A.S., and to the staff assisting him our thanks were due for the
great work they accomplished in developing new and efficient types of
machines and in overcoming so far as was possible the difficulties of
supply. The amount of bombing work carried out in 1917 cannot, of
course, compare with that accomplished during 1918, when production had
got into its stride and the number of machines available was
consequently so very much larger.

Whether it was due to our aerial attacks on Bruges that the German
destroyers in the autumn months frequently left that base and lay at
Zeebrugge cannot be known, but they did so, and as soon as we discovered
this fact by aerial photographs, plans were laid by Sir Reginald Bacon
for a combined naval and aerial night operation. The idea was for the
aircraft to bomb Zeebrugge heavily in the vicinity of the Mole, as we
ascertained by trial that on such occasions the enemy's destroyers left
the Mole and proceeded outside the harbour. There we had our coastal
motor boats lying off waiting for the destroyers to come out, and on the
first occasion that the operation was carried out one German destroyer
was sunk and another believed to have been damaged, if not also sunk, by
torpedoes fired by the coastal motor boats, to which very great credit
is due for their work, not only on this, but on many other occasions;
these boats were manned by a very gallant and enterprising personnel.

Numerous other operations against enemy destroyers, torpedo boats and
submarines were carried out during the year, as recounted in Sir
Reginald Bacon's book, and in the autumn, when supplies of the new
pattern mines were becoming available, some minelaying destroyers were
sent to Dover; these vessels, as well as coastal motor boats and motor
launches, were continually laying mines in the vicinity of Zeebrugge and
Ostend with excellent results, a considerable number of German
destroyers and torpedo boats working from Zeebrugge being known to have
been mined, and a fair proportion of them sunk by these measures.

In addition to the operations carried out in the vicinity of the Belgian
coast, the Dover force constantly laid traps for the enemy destroyers
and submarines in waters through which they were known to pass.

Lines of mined nets laid across the expected track of enemy vessels was
a device frequently employed; submarines, as has been stated, were used
on the cross-Channel barrage to watch for the passage of enemy
submarines and destroyers, and everything that ingenuity could suggest
was done to catch the German craft if they came out.

Such measures were supplementary to the work of the destroyers engaged
on the regular Dover Patrol, the indomitable Sixth Flotilla.

A great deal depended upon the work of these destroyers. They formed the
principal, indeed practically the only, protection for the vast volume
of trade passing the Straits of Dover as well as for our cross-Channel
communications. When the nearness of Zeebrugge and Ostend to Dover is
considered (a matter of only 72 and 62 miles respectively), and the fact
that one and sometimes two German flotillas, each comprising eleven
large and heavily armed torpedo-boat destroyers, were usually based on
Bruges, together with a force of large modern torpedo boats and a very
considerable number of submarines, it will be realized that the position
was ever one of considerable anxiety. It was further always possible for
the enemy to send reinforcements of additional flotillas from German
ports, or to send heavier craft with minesweepers to sweep a clear
channel, timing their arrival to coincide with an intended attack, and
thus to place the German forces in a position of overwhelming

Our own Dover force at the commencement of 1917 consisted of one light
cruiser, three flotilla leaders, eighteen modern destroyers, including
several of the old "Tribal" class, eleven old destroyers of the 30-knot
class (the latter being unfit to engage the German destroyers), and five
"P" boats. Of this total the average number not available at any moment
may be taken as at least one-third. This may seem a high estimate, but
in addition to the ordinary refits and the time required for boiler
cleaning, the vessels of the Dover Patrol working in very dangerous,
foggy and narrow waters suffered heavy casualties from mines and
collisions. The work of the Dover force included the duty of escorting
the heavy traffic between Dover and Folkestone and the French ports,
this being mostly carried on during daylight hours owing to the
prevalence of submarine-laid mines and the necessity for sweeping the
various channels before the traffic - which included a very large troop
traffic - was allowed to cross. An average of more than twenty transports
and hospital ships crossed the Straits daily during 1917, irrespective
of other vessels. The destroyers which were engaged during daylight
hours in this work, and those patrolling the barrages across the Straits
and off the Belgian coast, obviously required some rest at night, and
this fact reduced the number available for duty in the dark hours, the
only time during which enemy destroyer attacks took place.

Up to the spring of 1917 the examination service of all vessels passing
the Straits of Dover had been carried out in the Downs. This led to a
very large number of merchant ships being at anchor in the Downs at
night, and these vessels were obviously open to attack by enemy craft of
every description. It was always a marvel to me that the enemy showed
such a lack of enterprise in failing to take advantage of these
conditions. In order to protect these vessels to some extent, a light
cruiser from Dover, and one usually borrowed from Harwich, together with
a division of destroyers either from Dover, or borrowed also from
Harwich, were anchored off Ramsgate, and backed by a monitor if one was
available, necessitating a division of strength and a weakening of the
force available for work in the Straits of Dover proper.

The result of this conflict of interests in the early part of the year
was that for the patrol of the actual Straits in the darkness of night
on a line some 30 miles in length, the number of vessels available
rarely if ever exceeded six - viz. two flotilla leaders and four
destroyers, with the destroyers resting in Dover (four to six in number)
with steam ready at short notice as a reserve.

An attack had been made on the Dover Patrol in October, 1916, which had
resulted in the loss by us of one destroyer and six drifters, and
serious damage to another destroyer. A consideration of the
circumstances of this attack after my arrival at the Admiralty led me to
discuss with Sir Reginald Bacon the question of keeping such forces as
we had in the Straits at night concentrated as far as possible. This
disposition naturally increased the risk of enemy vessels passing
unobserved, but ensured that they would be encountered in greater,
although not equal, force if sighted.

Steps were also taken to reduce the tempting bait represented by the
presence of so many merchant ships in the Downs at night. Sir Reginald
Bacon proposed that the portion of the examination service which dealt
with south-going ships should be moved to Southend, and the transfer was
effected as rapidly as possible and without difficulty, thereby
assisting to free us from a source of anxiety.

During the early part of 1917 the enemy carried out a few destroyer
raids both on English coast towns in the vicinity of Dover and the
French ports of Dunkirk and Calais. As a result of these raids, which,
though regrettable, were of no military importance, a good deal of
ill-informed criticism was levelled at the Admiralty and the
Vice-Admiral commanding at Dover. To anyone conversant with the
conditions, the wonder was not that the raids took place, but that the
enemy showed so little enterprise in carrying out - with the great
advantages he possessed - operations of real, if not vital, military

The only explanation is that he foresaw the moral effect that his
tip-and-run raids would produce; and he considered that the effect of
the resulting agitation might be of no inconsiderable value to himself;
the actual damage done was almost negligible, apart from the loss of
some eight lives, which we all deplored. It is perhaps natural that
people who have never experienced war at close quarters should be
impatient if its consequences are brought home to them. A visit to
Dunkirk would have shown what war really meant, and the bearing of the
inhabitants of that town would have taught a valuable lesson.

The conditions in the Straits have already been mentioned, but too much
emphasis cannot be laid on them. The enemy who possessed the
incalculable advantage of the initiative, had at his disposal, whenever
he took heart to plan an attack, a force of at least twenty-two very
good destroyers, all unfortunately of higher speed than anything we
could bring against them, and more heavily armed than many of our
destroyers. This force was based within seventy miles of Dover, and as
the Germans had no traffic of any sort to defend, was always available
for offensive operations against our up and down or cross-Channel
traffic. Our Dover force was inferior even at full strength, but owing
to the inevitable absence of vessels under repair or refitting and the
manifold duties imposed upon it, was bound to be in a position of marked
inferiority in any night attack undertaken by the Germans against any
objective in the Straits.

The enemy had a great choice of objectives. These were: first, the
traffic in the Channel or the destroyers watching the Straits (the most
important military objective); second, the merchant ships anchored in
the Downs; third, the British monitors anchored off Dunkirk; fourth, the
French ports, Dunkirk, Boulogne and Calais, and the British port of
Dover; and fifth, the British undefended towns of Ramsgate, Margate,
Lowestoft, etc., which German mentality did not hesitate to attack.

A glance at Chart F [Transcriber's note: Not preserved in book.] will
show how widely separated are these objectives and how impossible it was
for the small Dover force to defend them all simultaneously, especially
during the hours of darkness. Any such attempt would have led to a
dispersion of force which would have been criminal. The distance from
Dunkirk along the French coast to Calais, thence to Dover and along the
English coast to the North Foreland is 60 miles. The distance at which
an enemy destroyer can be seen at night is about a quarter of a mile,
and the enemy could select any point of the 60 miles for attack, or
could vary the scene of operations by bombarding Lowestoft or towns in
the vicinity, which were only 80 miles from Zeebrugge and equally
vulnerable to attack, since the enemy's destroyers could leave their
base before dark, carry out their hurried bombardment, and return before
daylight. In whatever quarter he attacked he could be certain of great
local superiority of force, although, of course, he knew full well that
the first sign of an attack would be a signal to our forces to try to
cut him off from his bases. Therein lay the reason for the tip-and-run
nature of the raids, which lasted for a few minutes only. The enemy
realized that we should endeavour to intercept his force as soon as it
had disclosed its presence. The Germans had naturally to take the risk
of encountering our vessels on the way to his objectives, but at night
this risk was but slight.

As it was obviously impossible to prevent bombardments by stationing
destroyers in adequate force for the protection of each town, the only
possible alternative, unless such bombardments were ignored, was to give
the most vulnerable points protection by artillery mounted on shore.
This was a War Office, not an Admiralty, responsibility; but as the War
Office had not the means available, the Admiralty decided to take the
matter in hand, and in the spring of 1917 some 6-inch naval guns taken
from our reserves were mounted in the vicinity of the North Foreland.
Further, an old monitor, which was of no use for other work owing to her
machinery being unfit, was moored to the southward of Ramsgate, and her
guns commanded the Downs. Searchlights were also mounted on shore, but
more reliance was placed on the use of star shells, of which the
earliest supplies were sent to these guns. The result was immediately
apparent. German destroyers appeared one night later on off the North
Foreland and opened fire, which was returned by the monitor and the
shore guns. The enemy immediately withdrew, and never appeared again in
1917 in this neighbourhood.

Meanwhile efforts had been made to increase the strength of the Dover
force, and by the end of June it stood at 4 flotilla leaders, 29 modern
destroyers (including "Tribal" class), 10 old 30-knotters, and 6 "P"
boats. The increase in strength was rendered possible owing to the
relief of destroyers of the "M" and "L" classes at Harwich by new
vessels recently completed and by the weakening of that force
numerically. The flotilla leaders were a great asset to Dover, as,
although they were coal-burning ships and lacked the speed of the German
destroyers, their powerful armament made it possible for them to engage
successfully a numerically greatly superior force. This was clearly
shown on the occasion of the action between the _Broke_ and _Swift_ and
a German force of destroyers on the night of April 20-21, 1917.

The flotilla leaders on that occasion were, as was customary, patrolling
at the Dover end of the cross-Channel barrage. The enemy's destroyers
were in two detachments. One detachment, consisting apparently of four
boats, passed, it was thought, round the western end of the barrage at
high tide close to the South Goodwin Buoy, and fired a few rounds at
Dover. The other detachment of two boats went towards Calais, and the
whole force seems to have met at a rendezvous prior to its return to its

The _Broke_ and _Swift_ intercepted them on their return, and after a
hot engagement succeeded in sinking two of the enemy vessels, one being
very neatly rammed by the _Broke_ (Captain E.R.G.R. Evans, C.B.), and
the second sunk by torpedoes. Some of the remaining four boats
undoubtedly suffered serious damage. Our flotilla leaders were handled
with conspicuous skill, and the enemy was taught a lesson which resulted
in his displaying even greater caution in laying his plans and evincing
a greater respect for the Dover force for many months.

The success of the _Broke_ and _Swift_ was received with a chorus of
praise, and this praise was undoubtedly most fully deserved, but once
again an example was furnished of the manner in which public attention
becomes riveted upon the dramatic moments of naval warfare whilst the
long and patient labour by which the dramatic moments are brought about
is ignored.

Thus in this case, but little attention was drawn to the years of
arduous work performed by the Sixth Flotilla in the Straits of Dover by
day and by night, in dense fogs, heavy gales and blinding snowstorms, in
waters which were constantly mined, and in the face of an enemy who was
bound to be in greatly superior force whenever he chose to attack.

Little thought was given either to the wonderful and most gallant work
carried out by the drifters of the Patrol, manned largely by fishermen,
and practically defenceless against attack by the German destroyers.

The careful organization which conduced to the successful action was
forgotten. Sir Reginald Bacon has told the story of all this work in his
book, and I need not repeat it. But let it be added that victory depends
less on such enheartening incidents, welcome as they are, than on the
patient and usually monotonous performance of duty at sea by day and by
night in all weathers, and on the skill in organization of the staff
ashore in foreseeing and forestalling enemy activity on a hundred and
one occasions of which the public necessarily knows nothing.

It has been stated that reliable information reached us in the autumn of
1917 that enemy submarines were passing the Straits of Dover in much
greater numbers than we had hitherto believed to be the case, and the
inefficiency of the net barrage in preventing the passage was apparent.

Early in the year (in February) Sir Reginald Bacon had put forward a
proposal for a deep minefield on the line Folkestone - Cape Grisnez, but
confined only to the portion of the line to the southward of the Varne

It was known that enemy submarines as a rule made this portion of their
passage submerged, and the minefield was designed to catch them.

The proposal was approved after personal discussion with Admiral Bacon,
and directions were given that the earliest supplies of the new pattern
mines were to be allocated for this service; these mines commenced to
become available early in the following November, and were immediately

Admiral Bacon suggested later the extension of the minefield to the
westward of the Varne Shoal, so as to make it a complete barrier across
the Channel. This was also approved and measures were taken to provide
the necessary mines.

The question of illuminating at night the area covered by the deep
minefield was also discussed at length with Sir Reginald Bacon. Various
proposals were considered, such as the use of searchlights on Cape
Grisnez and at Folkestone, together with the provision of small
light-ships fitted with searchlights and moored at intervals across the
Channel, and also the use of flares from patrol craft. Flares had
already been experimented with from kite balloons by the Anti-Submarine
Division of the War Staff, and they were found on trial to be efficient
when used from drifters, and of great use in illuminating the patrol
area so that the patrol craft might have better opportunities for
sighting submarines and the latter be forced to dive into the

A committee had been meanwhile appointed by the First Lord to consider
the question of the Dover Barrage in the light of the information we
then possessed as to the passage of enemy submarines through the Straits
of Dover. This committee visited Dover on several occasions, and its
members, some of whom were naval officers and some civilian engineers,
were shown the existing arrangements.

The committee, which considered at first the question of providing an
_obstruction_, ended by reporting that the existing barrage was
inefficient (a fact which had become apparent), and made proposals for
the establishment of the already approved minefield on the
Folkestone-Grisnez line. I do not recollect that any definite new ideas
were evolved as the outcome of the labours of this committee; some ideas
regarding the details of the minefield, particularly as to the best form
of obstruction that would catch submarines or other vessels on the
surface, were put forward, as also some proposals for erecting towers in
certain positions in the Straits. I do not think that these latter ever
matured. The manner in which the minefield should be illuminated at
night was discussed by the committee, and arrangements were made for the
provision of the vessels proposed by Admiral Bacon.

Some disagreement arose on the subject of the provision of the necessary
number of vessels for patrolling the minefield with a view to forcing
the submarines to dive. In my view a question of this nature was one to
be left in the hands of the Vice-Admiral at Dover, with experience on
the spot, after I had emphasized to him the extreme importance attached
to the provision of an ample number of patrol craft at the earliest
possible moment. Interference by the Admiralty in such a detail of a
flag officer's command would in my opinion have been dangerous and
incorrect, for so long as a flag officer retains the confidence of the
Board he must be left to work his command in the manner considered best
by him after having been informed of the approved general policy, since
he is bound to be acquainted with the local situation to a far greater
extent than any officer serving at the Admiralty or elsewhere. I
discussed the matter personally with Sir Reginald Bacon, and was
satisfied that he was aware of the views held by me and of the necessity
for providing the patrol craft even at the expense of other services, as
soon as he could make the requisite arrangements.

Sir Reginald Bacon's three years' experience at Dover was a great asset
in dealing with this matter, as with other questions connected with the
Command, more especially the difficult and embarrassing operations on
the Belgian coast. His ingenuity, originality, patience, power of
organization and his methodical preparations for carrying out operations
were always a great factor in ensuring success. These qualities were
never shown more clearly than during the preparations made for landing a
force of some 14,000 officers and men with tanks, artillery and
transport on the coast of Belgium under the very muzzles of the German
heavy coast artillery. It was estimated that the whole force would be
put on shore in a period of twenty minutes. The scheme is described in
full in Chapter IX. of the first volume of Sir Reginald Bacon's book on
the Dover Patrol. He had put the proposal before Admiral Sir Henry
Jackson, my predecessor, who had expressed his concurrence so far as the
naval portion of the scheme was concerned, and provided that the army
made the necessary advance in Flanders. When the scheme was shown to me
shortly after taking office as First Sea Lord I confess that I had some
doubts as to the possibility of manoeuvring two monitors, with a pontoon
550 feet in length secured ahead of and between the bows of the
monitors, but in view of the immense importance of driving the Germans
from the Belgian coast and the fact that this scheme, if practicable,
promised to facilitate greatly such an operation, approval was given for
the construction of a pontoon, and after witnessing the first trials of
the pontoon secured between two monitors which were themselves lashed
together, I became convinced that this part of the operation was
perfectly feasible. The remaining pontoons were therefore constructed,
and preparations commenced in the greatest secrecy for the whole

The next matter for trial was the arrangement devised by Sir R. Bacon
for making it possible for tanks to mount the sea wall. These trials
were carried out with great secrecy against a model of the sea wall
built at the Headquarters of the Tank Corps in France, and were quite
successful. It was necessary to see actual photographs of the tanks
mounting the coping at the top of the sea wall to be convinced of the
practicability of the scheme. A matter of great importance was the
necessity for obtaining accurate information of the slope of the beach
at the projected landing places in order that the practicability of
grounding the pontoon could be ascertained. This information Sir R.
Bacon, with his characteristic patience and ingenuity, obtained by means
of aerial photographs taken at various states of tide.

Finally, to gain exact knowledge of the rise and fall of the tide,
Admiral Bacon employed a submarine which submerged in the vicinity of
Nieuport and registered the height of water above her hull for a period
of twenty-four hours under conditions of spring and neap tides.

The preparations for the landing involved much collaboration with the
military authorities, and Sir Reginald Bacon was frequently at G.H.Q.
for the purpose. As soon as it was decided that the 1st Division was to
provide the landing party, conferences took place between Admiral Bacon

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