Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size
Login

Military Photos



Zeebrugge, 1918

(489 total words in this text)
(805 Reads)  Printer-friendly page
Planned to neutralise the key Belgian ports of Zeebrugge and Ostend, both used by the German Navy as a base for submarines and light shipping, the Raid on Zeebrugge was launched early on the morning of 23 April 1918.

The raid was originally proposed by British First Sea Lord, Sir John Jellicoe, shortly before his abrupt dismissal at the close of 1917 (as a consequence of his ongoing reluctance to back First Lord of the Admiralty Sir Eric Geddes' convoy policy).

Jellicoe gained acceptance of an attack in principle - actually formulated by Dover port commander Sir Roger Keyes - by stating to the cabinet his view that Britain's continuing ability to wage war depended upon blocking the exits from both ports, and thus denying German submarines convenient bases.

Thus the Zeebrugge raid was planned in much secrecy and conducted (in part by a volunteer force) by 75 ships following its formal approval by the British Admiralty in February 1918.

The main force of the attack was to be at Zeebrugge, with a smaller offensive launched against Ostend. In preparation for both however the elderly British cruiser Vindictive was used to land 200 troops at the entrance to the Bruges Canal (at the mile-long Zeebrugge mole), in order that they could destroy its formidable shore batteries.

The operation began badly however. The prepared smokescreen to cover the Vindictive as it landed its troop contents proved ineffective in the face of unexpected winds.

Under crippling fire the old cruiser moored in the wrong location, its guns effectively out of action. However an old submarine did destroy the mole connecting the bridge to the shore after it exploded containing explosives.

The loss of the Vindictive's guns was significant: without their crucial support the shore batteries remained untaken. In turn their sustained fire also disabled a further three ancient British cruisers - Thetis, Iphigenia and Intrepid - packed with concrete and which had moved into the inner harbour, preventing them from halting and scuttling themselves in their correct pre-assigned locations at the narrow entrance to the canal.

If the raid upon Zeebrugge produced initially unclear results, the smaller attack upon Ostend was an unequivocal failure however. Two old cruisers, intended as blockships, failed to reach the harbour entrance. A subsequent attempt made to cripple Ostend similarly failed on 9 May.

Represented at the time as a tremendous British victory by Allied propaganda (with the consequence that its devisor Sir Roger Keyes was ennobled), and by the Germans as a demonstration of their success in holding each port, the Zeebrugge raid did not in reality hinder German operations from either port for more than a few days.

Some 500 British casualties were incurred during the operation (of which approximately 200 were fatalities). A total of eight Victoria Crosses were awarded for the night's action.

Military History
Forum Posts

Military Polls

Should troop strength in Iraq be increased?

[ Results | Polls ]

Votes: 52

This Day in History
1775: On Cambridge common in Massachusetts, George Washington rides out in front of the American troops gathered there, draws his sword, and formally takes command of the Continental Army.

1778: As part of a British campaign against settlers in the frontier during the Revolutionary War, 360 American settlers, including women and children, were killed at an outpost called Wintermoot's Fort after they were drawn out of the protection of the fort and ambushed.

1863: Troops under Confederate General George Pickett begin a massive attack against the center of the Union lines at Gettysburg on the climactic third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, the largest engagement of the war.

1863: Major General Grant and Lieutenant General Pemberton, CSA, the commander of the Vicksburg defenses, arranged an armistice to negotiate the terms of capitulation of the citadel. Only with the cessation of hostilities did the activity of the fleet under Rear Admiral Porter come to a halt off Vicksburg.

1863: Battle of Donaldsonville, LA.

1864: Battle of Chattahoochee River, GA, began.

1864: At Harpers Ferry, WV, Federals evacuated in face of Early's advance.

1898: The Spanish cruisers Cristóbal Colón, Almirante Oquendo, Vizcaya and Infanta Maria Teresa, and two torpedo-boat destroyers, lay bottled up in Santiago Harbor, with seven American ships maintaining a blockade just outside.

1915: US military forces occupied Haiti, and remained until 1934.

1927: Ensign Charles L. Duke, in command of CG-2327, boarded the rumrunner Greypoint in New York harbor and single-handedly captured the vessel, its 22-man crew, and its cargo of illegal liquor.