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Appendix I Battle of Jutland Despatch
Appendix II Action in the North Sea, on Sunday, 24th January, 1915
(included in text)
The Commander-in-Chief and Staff, Captain, Officers, and Ship’s Company of H.M.S. Iron Duke
Destroyers Raising Steam on the First Occasion of a Submarine Being Reported Inside Scapa Flow
The First Obstruction at Scapa Flow
Smoke Screen Made by Destroyers
A Dummy Battleship, March, 1915
The Commander-in-Chief, Captain of the Fleet (Commodore Lionel Halsey), and the Flag Lieutenant (Lieut.-Commander Herbert Fitzherbert) on Board H.M.S. Iron Duke
The Battle of Jutland as Depicted by a German Artist (colour)
H.M.S. Iron Duke and 3rd Division of the Battle Fleet Deploying at the Battle of Jutland
H.M.S. Iron Duke Opening Fire at the Battle of Jutland
H.M.S. Superb Opening Fire at the Battle of Jutland
PLANS & DIAGRAMS
(included in text)
1. Scapa Flow and the Orkneys
2. Area of Operations of 10th Cruiser Squadron
3. Typical Sweep, September 8th-11th, 1914
4. Approximate Dispositions, October 3rd-11th, 1914, whilst Canadian Convoy Was Crossing
5. Movements of Fleet, January 23rd-25th, 1915
6. Operations off Horn Reef, May 2nd-5th, 1916
7. Operations of Battle Cruiser Fleet, 2 p. m. to 6.15 p.m., May 31st, 1916
8. Approximate Position of Ships of Grand Fleet, 6.45 p.m., May 31st, 1916
9. Approximate Position of Ships of Grand Fleet, 7.15 p.m., May 31st, 1916
(in pocket at end of book - now included in text)
In the following pages the work of the Grand Fleet, from the outbreak of war until the end of November, 1916, is described. The writing of this record of the work of the Grand Fleet, of which little has been heard by the nation hitherto, has helped to fill in days of leisure. The manuscript was finished by the autumn of 1918, but publication was deferred for obvious reasons. When the armistice had been signed and the German Navy had, for all practical purposes, ceased to exist, I felt free to issue the book. The final revision has been done hastily owing to my early departure for the Dominions, and in the circumstances I hope I may rely on the indulgence of readers if any clerical errors have escaped me. In order to minimise the chances of such errors Mr. Archibald Hurd has kindly read the proofs, and I am much indebted to him.
The narrative necessarily includes an account of the gradual organisation and development of the Grand Fleet, and its bases, by successive steps, after the hoisting of my flag on the outbreak of hostilities; and the manner in which the changing conditions of naval warfare were met is also dealt with.
Admiral Mahan, amongst others, has truly said that whilst the principles of naval strategy are unchangeable, experience in war and changes in the weapons with which war is waged may profoundly affect the application of those principles.
The truth of this statement was shown in the Russo-Japanese war; in the short interval between 1904 and 1914 further great advances took place in the technique of warfare; these produced a striking influence on strategy and tactics during the late war.
The reasons which made it necessary, during the war, to hide from public view the work of the Grand Fleet no longer exist, and it will no doubt be of interest to the nation to learn something of its operations, especially as, for various justifiable reasons, few despatches were issued dealing with its activities. So far as the Battle Fleet was concerned, the Battle of Jutland was the one exception, and that despatch was written and published when it was necessary to conceal a good deal from the enemy.
As is inevitable, much of the information in this volume is of a technical character and, though interesting to seamen, may prove less so to the general reader. Those who take this view may decide that Chapters IV to X, inclusive, require only to be glanced at. Confidential matter, which it is still undesirable to make public, has been excluded from the book. Some of this may see the light in later years.
The main portion of the book is written in narrative form, but where it is thought that an explanation may be useful, as to the reasons which governed any particular movement or decision, such reason is given in order that opportunity may be afforded the reader of understanding the purpose in view and the manner in which it was hoped to achieve it.
In some parts of the book reference is made to the Germans being superior to us in materiel. There were many directions, however, in which war experience showed the correctness of our views and the wisdom of
our pre-war policy. We did, in fact, obtain a margin of safety in the most essential type of vessel, the capital ship, and we did gain advantage from the heavier calibre of our guns. Naval policy is pursued in peace conditions under inevitable disadvantages in a democratic country, because there are many claims on the Exchequer. Reviewing our pre-war programmes of ship construction and equipment, and bearing in mind the unconsciousness of the nation generally as to the imminence of war, it is matter for satisfaction that the Boards of Admiralty from the beginning of the century were able to achieve so much, and that when at last war became inevitable the nation had in control of its destinies at Whitehall a First Lord and a First Sea Lord who, accepting their responsibility, mobilised the Fleet before war was actually declared, thus securing for us inestimable advantages, as, I hope, I have demonstrated in my record of the Grand Fleet. The years of strenuous work and training carried out by the officers and men of the Fleet, which should never be forgotten, had made of it a magnificent fighting machine, and bore ample fruit during the war.
The Germans, in creating their Fleet, followed generally the British lead. In this book reference is made to the general efficiency of the German Navy and of the good design and fine equipment of their ships. These points were never questioned by British naval officers, and the shameful surrender of the host of the German ships in 1918 did not alter the opinions previously formed. That surrender was the result of broken moral.
More than a hundred years after the Battle of Trafalgar, and after a century of controversy, the Admiralty considered it desirable to appoint a committee to decide whether that action was fought in accordance with the original intentions of the Commander-in-Chief, as
embodied in his famous Memorandum. It is hoped that the facts recorded in this book, and the comments accompanying them, constitute a clear statement of the making of the Grand Fleet and the manner in which it endeavoured, whilst under my command, to fulfil its mission.
THE OPENING OF THE WAR
Early in 1914, whilst serving at the Admiralty as Second Sea Lord, I had been offered and had accepted the command of the Home Fleets, which in the ordinary course would have become vacant in the following December on the expiration of Admiral Sir George Callaghan's term of command, and public announcement was made of the intended appointment.
Sir George Callaghan was my senior by seven years, and he and I had served together in China fourteen years before, when I was Flag Captain to Admiral — afterwards Admiral of the Fleet — Sir Edward Seymour. He had since had what is probably a unique period of sea service, passing from one appointment to another without an interval of half pay. Soon after his promotion to flag rank he had become Rear-Admiral in the old Channel Fleet; thence he had gone on to the 5th Cruiser Squadron in 1907; two years later he became second in command in the Mediterranean, and on the expiration of his term there, in 1910, he returned to take up the appointment of Vice-Admiral commanding the Second Division of the Home Fleets, succeeding to the position of Commander-in-Chief in 1910. The usual period for which the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet was supposed to fly
2 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
his flag was two years, but in 1913 the Admiralty, accurately interpreting the sentiment of the whole Service, extended Sir George Callaghan's appointment. And it was the approaching termination of this further period of command — to the regret of the Admiralty, for which I can speak from personal knowledge, and to the regret also of the officers and men of the Home Fleets — which led to my nomination in the spring of that year.
In the latter part of July, when the situation in Europe had assumed a threatening aspect, Mr. Churchill, the First Lord, informed me that in the event of hostilities occurring involving this country, it was considered necessary that the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleets should have the assistance of a second in command, and he added that I had been selected for the appointment, and it was desired that I should arrange with Sir George as to the ship in which I should fly my flag.
Sir George Callaghan visited the Admiralty very shortly afterwards, and it was decided between us that the battleship Centurion should be my flagship. We discussed the slight reorganisation that this would involve in the Fleet, and I selected my staff, which comprised:
Captain R. W. Bentinck as Chief of the Staff; Lieut. H. Fitzherbert as Flag Lieutenant; Lieut.-Commander E. Hardman Jones as Signal Officer; Lieut.-Commander R. L. Nicholson as Wireless Officer; Lieut.-Commander (N.) A. F. B. Carpenter as War Staff Officer, and Fleet Paymaster H. H. Share as Secretary.
On July 28th, with no premonition of coming events, I was present at a dinner party given by Lord Morley at the United Services Club. The party was interesting, as it comprised Field-Marshal Lord Kitchener, Mr. Churchill, Lord Haldane, Lord Bryce, and others who figured later prominently in the War.
THE OPENING OF THE WAR 3
During the two following days conferences took place at the Admiralty as to the disposition of the Fleet, etc., and, in view of the threatening political situation, the work of demobilisation after the King's inspection at Spithead and the subsequent short fleet exercises were suspended, pending further developments. I met Lord Kitchener, who was about to return to Egypt, on one or two occasions at the Admiralty during these days.
On July 30th I turned over the duties of Second Sea Lord, which I had discharged since December, 1912, to Vice-Admiral Sir Frederick Hamilton, K.C.B., and made my final preparations for joining the Fleet as second in command.
I spent some hours at the Admiralty on the following day, and during a conversation with Mr. Churchill and the Marquis of Milford Haven, the then First Sea Lord, it was intimated to me that, in certain circumstances, I might be appointed Commander-in-Chief in succession to Sir George Callaghan.
This intimation came upon me as a great surprise, and I protested against such an appointment being made on what might possibly be on the very eve of war. Nothing definite was settled. I left, however, with the impression that the change was not one that had been finally decided upon, but that it might take place. I left London the same night by the mail train for Wick, the Commander-in-Chief having informed me that he would send a vessel to meet me there.
The idea that the change might be made occupied my thoughts during the journey to the North. As I thought over the possibility of a transfer of command at such a moment, the stronger appeared the objections. During the ensuing forty-eight hours I sent several telegrams to both the First Lord and the First Sea
4 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
Lord on the subject. I dwelt strongly upon the danger of substituting, at such a juncture and at such short notice, an admiral who was not in touch with the Fleet, for a Commander-in-Chief with long experience of the Command. I mentioned, also, the strong feeling of admiration and loyalty to the Commander-in-Chief that existed, and suggested as an alternative that I should act as his assistant on board the Fleet-Flagship. I had in mind that I might act somewhat in the capacity of his Chief of the Staff. In spite of the First Lord's reiterated opinion, my views remained unaltered, although it did not occur to me that some anxiety might be felt that Sir George Callaghan's health would not stand the strain of commanding the Fleet in the event of war. That, however, was a matter on which the Admiralty would be better informed than myself, and I had no hesitation in urging the opinions expressed in my successive telegrams.
A thick fog prevailed at Wick, and the Boadicea, the ship in which I made the passage to Scapa Flow, was not able to leave until late in the forenoon of August 2nd, and arrived at Scapa Flow in the afternoon.
When I reported myself to the Commander-in-Chief, the knowledge of the event which was apparently impending made the interview both embarrassing and painful, as I could see that he had no knowledge of the possibility of his leaving the Fleet, and obviously I could not tell him.
We discussed various arrangements, including the question of the defence of Scapa Flow, for which temporary but naturally inadequate measures were being energetically taken with the limited resources at the disposal of the Fleet.
THE OPENING OF THE WAR 5
At about 4 a.m. on August 4th, I received Admiralty orders to open a secret envelope which had been handed to me in the train as I was leaving London, by an officer from the Admiralty. This envelope contained my appointment as "Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet" — a new designation which must be explained later.
On this order I was obliged to act, and I proceeded on board the Iron Duke and found that the Commander-in-Chief had received orders to turn over the command to me.
Sir George Callaghan had been my Commander-in-Chief during my command of the 2nd Battle Squadron. He was, in addition, a personal friend, and I, like all those with whom he had been in contact, had the most profound respect and admiration for him. The idea of taking over his command at the moment of his life naturally caused me feelings of the greatest pain, and, moreover, it was impossible to dismiss the fear that the Fleet might conclude that I had been in some measure responsible for the change. This possibility had, of course, been present in my mind from the moment I left London, and it appeared to add to the objections to a change of command at such a juncture, since any idea of this nature prevalent in the Fleet must affect the feeling of loyalty to me as the new Commander-in-Chief.
It is unnecessary to dwell on the matter, but I cannot close this portion of my narrative without paying a warm tribute to the manner in which Sir George accepted the Admiralty decision, which obviously came as a great shock to him. He behaved, as always, as a most gallant officer and gentleman, and his one desire was to make the position easy for me, in entire disregard of his own feelings.
6 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
It was decided that I should take over the Command on the following day, but a telegram having been received from the Admiralty ordering the Fleet to proceed to sea at once, I returned to the Iron Duke, and Sir George Callaghan arranged to leave the Fleet in the Sappho before its departure at 8.30 in the morning.
At that hour I took over the Command from Sir George Callaghan, who then struck his flag.
The following ten or fourteen days were a period of great strain and anxiety. To assume so heavy a responsibility as the command of the Grand Fleet at such short notice on the eve of war was in itself a matter not to be taken lightly; it became necessary to gather together the strings of the whole organisation, to ascertain the dispositions already made and those immediately required, and the whole problem was largely complicated by the fact that the port on which the Fleet was based was open to attack both by destroyers and by submarines, the only obstacle to such attack being the navigational difficulties of the Pentland Firth. Though considerable, these were by no means insuperable.
Added to this was my feeling of deep regret at superseding a valued chief and friend at such a moment. The one thing that helped me through this period was the great and most loyal assistance rendered to me by the staff of Sir George Callaghan, who, notwithstanding their intense personal regret at his departure, gave me their very warm support, and concealed from me any trace of the feelings which they must have experienced at my presence amongst them under such exceptional and trying conditions. They behaved as naval officers always behave — in a true spirit of comradeship. The same may be said of the flag officers and captains in the Fleet, and indeed of every officer and man.
Sir George Callaghan left his whole staff with me, with the exception of his flag lieutenant, who accompanied him to London.
THE OPENING OF THE WAR 7
This staff included:
Commodore A. F. Everett, C.B., Captain of the Fleet;
Captain R. N. Lawson, Flag Captain;
Commander Roger Backhouse, C.B., Flag Commander;
Fleet Paymaster C. F. Pollard, C.B., Secretary;
Commander the Hon. Matthew Best, War Staff Officer;
Commander R. W. Woods, Signal Officer;
Lieut.-Commander J. S. Salmond, Wireless Officer;
Lieut.-Commander R, M. Bellairs, War Staff Officer;
Lieut. W. D. Phipps, Signal Officer.
(Later, Commodore L. Halsey, C.M.G., became Captain of the Fleet, Captain F. C. Dreyer, C.B., Flag-Captain; Commander C. M. Forbes, Flag-Commander, and Fleet-Paymaster V. H. T. Weekes, Additional Secretary, Fleet-Paymaster H. H. Share having in the meantime succeeded Fleet-Paymaster C. F. Pollard as Secretary)
When it became certain that I was to take command of the Fleet, I asked the Admiralty to appoint Rear-Admiral Charles Madden as Chief of the Staff; and I was thus able to transfer Captain R. W. Bentinck to act as Chief of the Staff to Vice-Admiral Sir George Warrender, the next senior flag officer in the Fleet.
The composition of the GRAND FLEET was:
Fleet-Flagship — H.M.S. Iron Duke.
Attached Ships — H.M.S. Sappho, H.M.S. Oak.
1st Battle Squadron:
Vice-Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, K.C.B. (in command).
Rear-Admiral H. Evan Thomas (2nd in command).
Battleships Marlborough (Flag), St. Vincent (Rear Flag), Colossus, Hercules, Neptune, Vanguard, Collingwood, Superb, Bellona (attached Light Cruiser), Cyclops (repair ship)
2nd Battle Squadron:
Vice-Admiral Sir George Warrender, Bart., K.C.B. (in command).
Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot, Bart. (2nd in command).
Battleships King George V, (Flag), Orion (Rear Flag), Ajax, Audacious, Centurion, Conqueror, Monarch, Thunderer, Boadicea (attached Light Cruiser), Assistance (repair ship).
8 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
4th Battle Squadron:
Vice-Admiral Sir Douglas Gamble, K.C.V.O, (in command).
Battleships Dreadnought (Flag), Temeraire, Bellerophon, Blonde (attached Light Cruiser).
3rd Battle Squadron:
Vice-Admiral E. E. Bradford, C.V.O. (in command).
Rear-Admiral M. E. Browning (2nd in command).
Battleships King Edward VII. (Flag), Hibernia (Rear Flag), Commonwealth, Zealandia, Dominion, Africa, Britannia, Hindustan, Blanche (attached Light Cruiser).
1st Battle Cruiser Squadron:
Vice-Admiral (acting) Sir David Beatty (in command).
Battleships (sic) Lion (Flag), Princess Royal, Queen Mary, New Zealand.
2nd Cruiser Squadron:
Rear-Admiral the Hon. S. Gough-Calthorpe (in command).
Cruisers Shannon (Flag), Achilles, Cochrane, Natal.
3rd Cruiser Squadron:
Rear-Admiral W. C. Pakenham, C.B. (in command).
Cruisers Antrim (Flag), Argyll, Devonshire, Roxburgh.
1st Light Cruiser Squadron:
Commodore W. E. Goodenough (in command).
Light Cruisers Southampton (Flag), Birmingham, Lowestoft, Nottingham.
THE OPENING OF THE WAR 9
Captain J. R. P. Hawkesley (in command in Active).
Destroyers Acorn, Alarm, Brisk, Cameleon, Comet, Fury, Goldfinch, Hope, Larne, Lyra, Martin, Minstrel, Nemesis, Nereide, Nymphe, Redpole, Rifleman, Ruby, Sheldrake, Staunch.
Captain C. J. Wintour (in command in Swift).
Destroyers Acasta, Achates, Ambuscade, Ardent, Christopher, Cockatrice. Contest, Fortune, Garland, Hardy, Lynx, Midge, Owl, Paragon, Porpoise, Shark, Sparrowhawk, Spitfire, Unity, Victor.
Commander L. G. Preston (in command).
H.M. Ships Skipjack (S.O. Ship) (absent at first), Circe, Gossamer, Leda, Speedwell, Jason, Seagull.
Shetland Patrol Force: Forward (Scott) and four destroyers of the River class.
The above vessels formed the Fleet under the immediate command of the Commander-in-Chief at the outbreak of hostilities. In addition, there were in southern waters, and also under the command of the Commander-in-Chief, the following vessels:
THE HARWICH FORCE
This force, although an integral portion of the Grand Fleet, was based on Harwich. It was intended that it should join the Grand Fleet at sea, if possible, in the event of a fleet action being imminent, and for this reason it was included in the organisation of the Fleet for battle; but the force did not in actual fact, ever so
10 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
join the Fleet, nor did I expect that it would he able to do so. At the outbreak of war it was commanded hy Commodore R. Y, Tyrwhitt in H.M.S. Amethyst and comprised:
Commanded by Captain W. Blunt in Fearless with 20 destroyers.
Commanded by Captain C. H. Fox in Amphion with 15 destroyers.
Included also in the organisation of the Home Fleets, which Sir George Callaghan had commanded-in-chief, were the Second and Third Fleets:
(under command of Vice-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney, K.C.B., K.C.M.G.).
Fleet-Flagship - Lord Nelson,
Rear-Admiral Stuart-Nicholson and Bernard Currey (commanding Battle Squadrons).
5th Battle Squadron:
Prince of Wales (Flag), Agamemnon, Bulwark, Formidable, Implacable, Irresistible, London, Queen, Venerable.
6th Battle Squadron:
Russell (Flag), Cornwallis, Albemarle, Duncan, Exmouth, Vengeance.
5th Cruiser Squadron:
Rear-Admiral A. P. Stoddart (in command).
Carnarvon (Flag), Falmouth, Liverpool.
6th Cruiser Squadron:
Rear-Admiral W. L. Grant (in command).
Drake, Good Hope, King Alfred, Leviathan.
THE OPENING OF THE WAR 11
(These last two Cruiser Squadrons were, however, broken up immediately, and the ships transferred to other duties.)
commanded by Captain M. H. Cobbe.
H.M. Ships Naiad (S.O.'s ship), Andromache, Apollo, Intrepid, Iphigenia, Latona, Thetis.
This Fleet comprised the 7th and 8th Battle Squadrons, consisting of our oldest battleships, and the 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th Cruiser Squadrons, comprising our oldest cruisers.
But the only vessels of this Fleet which were ever associated with the Grand Fleet were the ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, which, under the command of Rear-Admiral Dudley de Chair, joined the Grand Fleet shortly after the outbreak of war, the Squadron being employed mainly on blockading duties. It was composed as follows:
Crescent (Flag), Edgar, Endymion, Gibraltar, Grafton, Hawke, Royal Arthur, Theseus.
All submarines, except those of the B and C classes which were detached for the protection of our coast and ports from Rosyth southwards, were worked, in accordance with Admiralty policy, from Harwich, and were not, therefore, under my command. The C class submarines were unfit for oversea work, and our operations in enemy waters were therefore confined to boats of the D and E classes, of which we possessed a total of 8 D’s and 9 E's, as against the German total of 28 boats of the U class.
GENERAL NAVAL STRATEGY IN HOME WATERS
It is hardly surprising if the work and purpose of the Navy had somewhat faded from public interest during the century that had elapsed since the Napoleonic Wars, the last occasion on which the inhabitants of this country had felt that their safety depended on maritime power. Indeed, it had fallen to the lot of a distinguished officer in a foreign navy. Captain Mahan, to awaken interest in this matter, and to point out the all-important influence which Sea Power had exerted, and would exert, on history.
Associations such as the Navy League had been formed, having as their object the enlightenment of our countrymen, and although a great work was done in this direction, the mere necessity for such work is an indication of the extent to which the nation had forgotten the lessons of the past.
I therefore offer no apology for making some reference to the use and purpose of the British Navy.
The main objects for which our Navy exists may be shortly summed up under four heads:
1. To ensure for British ships the unimpeded use of the sea, this being vital to the existence of an island nation, particularly one which is not self-supporting in regard to food.
2. In the event of war, to bring steady economic pressure to bear on our adversary by denying to him the use of the sea, thus compelling him to accept peace.
STRATEGY IN HOME WATERS 13
3. Similarly in the event of war to cover the passage and assist any army sent overseas, and to protect its communications and supplies.
4. To prevent invasion of this country and its overseas Dominions by enemy forces.
The above objects are achieved in the quickest and surest manner by destroying the enemy's armed naval forces, and this is therefore the first objective of our Fleet. The Fleet exists to achieve victory.
But history has always shown that it is a very difficult matter to impose our will upon a weaker naval adversary, and that, instead of giving us the opportunity of destroying his armed naval forces, he usually keeps the main body of those forces — the Battle Fleet — in positions of safety in fortified harbours, where they are a constant threat to the sea communications of the stronger naval Power, and force upon that Power a watching policy so that the enemy may be engaged, should he put to sea, before he is able to gain any advantage.
The watching policy in the great wars of the Napoleonic era was carried out by keeping our squadrons, through fair or foul weather, in the vicinity of those ports of the enemy in which his fleet lay. Occasionally our ships were driven off by stress of weather, but they regained their stations as soon as conditions permitted. During this war, however, the advent of the submarine and destroyer, and, to a lesser extent, the use of the mine rendered such dispositions impossible.
14 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
No large ship could cruise constantly in the vicinity of enemy bases without the certainty that she would fall an early victim to the attacks of submarines. Destroyers could, it is true, afford some measure of protection, but destroyers have a very limited range of action, and could not keep the sea off the enemy's distant coast even in good weather for a sufficient length of time. Periodical relief of the destroyers was an impossibility, owing to the great numbers that would be required for this purpose.
Moreover, even if the submarine danger could be overcome, the heavy ships would be so open to attack by enemy destroyers at night, if cruising anywhere near enemy bases, that they would certainly be injured, if not sunk, before many days had passed.
These facts had been recognised before the War and a watching policy from a distance decided upon, the watch being instituted for the purpose of preventing enemy vessels from gaining the open sea, where they would constitute a danger to our sea communications. Now a watch maintained at a distance from the port under observation is necessarily only partial, except in circumstances where the enemy has to pass through narrow straits before gaining open water.
The chances of intercepting enemy ships depend entirely on the number of watching vessels and the distance that those on board them can see. At night this distance is very short — on a dark night not more than a quarter of a mile, and even in daylight, under the average conditions of visibility obtaining in the North Sea, it is not more than six to eight miles.
The North Sea, though small in contrast with the Atlantic, is a big water area of about 120,000 square miles in extent. The width across it, between the Shetland Islands and Norway (the narrowest portion), is 160 miles, and an additional 40 miles (the Fair Island Channel) would need to be watched also if a patrol were established along this line.
STRATEGY IN HOME WATERS 15
A consideration of all the circumstances had led to the adoption by the Admiralty of Scapa Flow in the Orkneys as the main Fleet Base, and the Admiralty had determined upon a naval strategy in Home Waters, in the event of war with Germany, based upon the idea that the Grand Fleet would control the North Sea, and that the Channel Fleet would watch the English Channel, thus, in combination, holding the enemy's main force.
To effect this purpose, it was intended that the main Battle Fleet should occupy, as circumstances permitted, a strategic position in the North Sea where it would act in support of Cruiser Squadrons carrying out sweeps to the southward in search of enemy vessels, and should be favourably placed for bringing the High Sea Fleet to action should it put to sea.
This policy of cruiser sweeps had been adopted as the result of experience in the various naval manoeuvres carried out in previous years in the North Sea. These had demonstrated quite clearly that the alternative policy of stretching cruiser patrol lines across the North Sea for the purpose of watching for the enemy was an impracticable one, it having been shown on many occasions that evasion of a single patrol line during the hours of darkness, or even daylight, under the conditions of visibility that usually prevail in the North Sea, is a very simple matter. Further, a line of cruisers occupying regular patrol positions is always in peril of successful submarine attack; the loss of the cruisers Hogue, Cressy and Aboukir showed this. It is also open to a concentrated attack by surface vessels.
The War Orders issued to the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet were based, therefore, on this general idea, and when the Grand Fleet proceeded to sea in compliance with Admiralty orders at 8.30 a.m. on August
16 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
the 4th, 1914, it left with the intention of carrying out this general policy. The Channel Fleet, under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney, assembled in the Channel in accordance with the general strategic dispositions.
The vessels engaged in this first move of the Grand Fleet comprised the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Battle Squadrons, with their attached cruisers; the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, with its Light Cruiser Squadron, strengthened by the addition of the Falmouth and Liverpool; the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, and the 3rd Cruiser Squadron. These dispositions continued in force for some three weeks, when the strong influence of the submarine on naval strategy began to make itself apparent.
The ideas held in pre-War days as to the capabilities of submarines were found, after a short experience of war, to need modification. In the first place, it became quickly apparent that the German submarines possessed a radius of action and sea-keeping qualities considerably greater than those of our own submarines. It had been, for instance, looked upon as a considerable achievement for our submarines to keep the sea for a period of five to seven days, and they had not operated at any great distance from the coast. It is true that submarines had on occasion made long voyages such as to Australia, but they were then usually escorted, or even towed, and the number of days from port to port did not approach the length of time for which German submarines remained at sea. Further, it was known that the Germans possessed a considerable superiority in the number of submarines which were capable of operating overseas, and the frequent sighting of enemy submarines as far north as the Orkney and Shetland Islands early in the War, combined with the fact that it appeared that the enemy
STRATEGY IN HOME WATERS 17
had established a regular submarine patrol in the centre of the North Sea, made it evident that the German submarines would constitute a very serious menace to our heavy ships.
The comparative strength in submarines in Home Waters at the outbreak of war was as follows:
28 U Boats, of which U 1 to U 4 were hardly fit for oversea work, but were as good as our D class.
8 D Class and 9 E Class, of which D 1 was unreliable and the remaining units of the D class were not equal to the U boats.
34 C Class and 3 B Class. Unfit for oversea work and used only for local defence of the coast or in the Channel.
The Germans also had at least 24 submarines under construction, whilst we were building 19, apart from two experimental vessels of which nothing resulted. Of these 19 submarines, several were of new type, in pursuance of a policy introduced by the Admiralty in 1913-14 of widening the area of supply of these vessels. This policy had far-reaching and beneficial results on the subsequent output of this class of vessel, as it enabled us to increase our submarine flotillas more rapidly than would otherwise have been the case.
A change in previous naval practice was considered necessary at an early period, because vessels moving at anything but high speed, particularly in the case of a number of ships in company, ran very considerable risks in waters where we might expect enemy submarines to be operating, unless screened by a strong force of destroyers. This conclusion affected the movements and operations of the Battle Fleet, since the number of destroyers we
18 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
possessed was quite inadequate to form a screen for a Battle Fleet and a Battle Cruiser Squadron which constantly kept the sea. The number required, for such a screen to be effective, was at least 40 for the Battle Fleet alone as then constituted, and that number, 40, was all that we had stationed at the Northern Base. The fuel capacity of destroyers was only sufficient for them to remain at sea in company with a fleet for some three days and nights, whereas the Fleet itself could remain out for three or four times that period. Moreover, the destroyers could not be kept nearly so constantly at sea as the large ships owing to their requirements in the way of boiler-cleaning and the refit and adjustment of their more delicate machinery, and the necessity for giving not only the machinery, but the personnel, periods of rest. The heavy ships, then, had two alternatives, either to remain at sea without a destroyer screen or to return to harbour with the destroyers. In the early days the first alternative was adopted, the risk being accepted, but minimised as far as possible, by keeping the ships in the northern part of the North Sea.
A further danger soon made itself apparent. It became evident at an early period, as many naval officers had expected, in view of German language at the Hague Conference, that our enemy intended to throw overboard the doctrines of international law when he could gain any advantage by doing so. He accordingly proceeded at once to lay mines in positions where he thought they would be advantageous to his operations, in utter disregard of the safety, not only of British, but also of neutral merchant ships. It was, therefore, thought very probable that he would elaborate this practice by laying mines in the North Sea in positions where he anticipated they might prove effective against the Grand Fleet, and that he would do this without issuing any warning to neutral countries.
STRATEGY IN HOME WATERS 19Consequently, if the main Battle Fleet were kept moving continuously in the central and southern waters of the North Sea, in which waters the enemy could easily lay mines with little danger of his operations being witnessed (as he could carry them out under cover of darkness), it was evident that considerable risks might be incurred without our being aware of the fact. The policy of attrition of our Battle Fleet might thus be carried out with such success as to produce equality, or even inferiority, on the part of the British Fleet as compared with the German, in a comparatively short space of time. The only safeguard against such action which we could take would be to keep mine-sweepers constantly working ahead of the Battle Fleet. But the number of minesweepers that we possessed was wholly inadequate for such a task; and even if this had not been so, to carry out such an operation would have necessitated the speed of the Battle Fleet being reduced to some 10 knots, the maximum sweeping speed of minesweepers, and it would have been forced also to steer a steady course without zigzagging, conditions rendering the battleships exceedingly vulnerable to submarine attack.
The first effect, therefore, of the submarine menace, combined with possible German action in regard to minelaying, was to cause the Battle Fleet to confine its movements under ordinary conditions to the more northern waters of the North Sea, where the risk might be taken of cruising without the presence of a screen of destroyers, and where it was improbable, owing to the depth of water and the distance from enemy bases, that the Germans would be able to lay mines without discovery.
20 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
The fact that this course of action would be forced upon us as the submarine and destroyer menace grew had often been present in my mind in pre-War days, when I had expressed the view that the beginning of a naval war would be a conflict between the small craft, whilst the larger and more valuable vessels were held aloof. I have no doubt that this opinion was very generally held by officers of experience.
The northward movement of the Battle Fleet was combined with the establishment of certain cruiser patrol areas in the North Sea. These areas, which were purposely made large, were watched on a regular, organised plan by our Cruiser Squadrons, moving at fairly high speed in such a manner as to reduce the submarine risk to the cruisers to a minimum, whist at the same time they kept as effective a watch as possible, first, to intercept German war vessels that might be covering a raid on our coasts or transports, or trying to reach the open sea to operate against trade, and, secondly, to ensure that all merchant ships entering or leaving the North Sea should be closely examined in order to enforce the blockade.
This patrol policy was associated with periodical sweeps of cruisers, supported by the Battle Fleet, down into the southern waters of the North Sea, the object being to catch the enemy's fleet at sea, if possible, and in any case, owing to our movements being probably reported to the Germans by neutral merchant ships, to make them feel that they could never move a force to sea without the possibility of encountering our Fleet engaged in one of these southern sweeps, which we carried out at irregular intervals. A typical sweep is illustrated in accompanying plans. On these occasions the Battle Fleet was kept strictly concentrated during the southern movement, and was screened as far as possible by destroyers against submarine attack; and at times minesweepers were directed to work ahead of the Battle
STRATEGY IN HOME WATERS 21
Fleet When this was not possible, owing to the small number of minesweepers available or the state of the weather, some of the older battleships of the 6th Battle Squadron, if they were in company, were stationed ahead of the main Battle Fleet in order that, should a minefield be encountered, these older ships would be the first to strike the mines, thus giving sufficient warning to enable me to manoeuvre the more valuable ships clear of the field.
This general policy was continued until the attack on the Theseus and loss of the Hawke, belonging to the 10th Cruiser Squadron, by submarine attack on October 15th, 1914, showed that even under the dispositions then adopted, our larger cruisers were being risked to too great an extent when working without destroyers in the central part of the North Sea.
The next move, therefore, was the withdrawal of the cruiser patrols to a safer position farther to the northward and eastward of the Shetland Islands, this being combined with a watch by the smaller craft on the Fair Island Channel, and on the Pentland Firth approaches to the North Sea. Under these conditions the Battle Fleet was often kept either in a position westward of the Orkneys, where it was in support of the cruisers and at the same time formed a second blockade line, or it cruised to the north and east of the Shetland Islands, the cruiser patrols working farther south.
In all the dispositions which were made for a watch on the northern entrance to the North Sea, the principle kept in mind was the necessity for such an organisation of the patrols as to have, in so far as numbers permitted, two lines, or two areas, watched. The two areas were at such a distance apart that vessels moving in or out of the North Sea were forced, so far as all human fore
22 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
sight could provide, to pass through the waters occupied by one of the two groups of ships during daylight hours; the distances apart were regulated according to the length of the night at the different seasons of the year.
As the Battle Fleet worked farther to the northward and westward, it became possible to make use of the heavy ships to assist in blockade work without running undue risks from submarines, and the blockade increased correspondingly in effectiveness. As time went on, however, the provision by the Admiralty of a larger number of armed merchant cruisers enabled us to establish an effective blockade line by the use of these vessels alone, backed up by Cruiser Squadrons when such were available.
The withdrawal of the Battle Fleet to more northern and western waters first took effect when the Fleet Base was shifted temporarily from Scapa to Lough Swilly. When this occurred, it did not affect the policy of frequent cruiser sweeps into the southern portion of the North Sea, supported by the Battle Fleet, which were still continued.
The dispositions that have been described took account naturally of two other very important factors.
The first was the transport of our Expeditionary Force to France. It was highly probable that the enemy would endeavour to interfere with this movement, and in the early days of the War it would not have been a difficult matter for him to cause us some loss. His failure to make at least some attempt in this direction showed a lack of enterprise which surprised me, as I think it surprised most naval officers.
The conditions for him were distinctly favourable. Our main Fleet was based, as he must have been aware, far away to the northward, and if he had timed an attack on the cross-Channel traffic for a period during which he
STRATEGY IN HOME WATERS 23
reckoned that the Grand Fleet, or at least the destroyers, were returning to the base to fuel, he would have stood a good chance of making the attack and returning to his base before that Fleet could intervene. Consequently, he would only have had to deal with the comparatively light forces based in southern waters. On the other hand, if our Fleet arrived on the scene without destroyers, the Germans would have possessed no mean advantage.
The enemy was preceded with a large number of modem destroyers, and some of them would have been well expended over a Channel dash, which would in all probability have met with some success. During the transport of the Expeditionary Force the heavy ships of the Grand Fleet kept the sea as far as possible in order to cover the movement, but the destroyers were constantly returning to the base to fuel.
The second factor which had considerable influence on Fleet dispositions was the possibility of an attempt at a raid or invasion by the enemy. Such a move was not very likely in the earliest days of the War, when the nights were comparatively short and the Expeditionary Force had not left the country. It is also probable that the enemy had few troops to spare for the purpose. But the chances became greater as we denuded the country of men, and the conditions in other respects became more favourable. In October and November, 1914, I held and expressed the opinion that, if raids were attempted, landings would probably be effected in the rivers on the East Coast, the entrances to which were either unprotected or inadequately protected. A beach landing on our East Coast can only be carried out in fine weather, and the chances of encountering favourable conditions on arrival off the coast are not great, and I always doubted the attempt being made. In our rivers the opportunities
24 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
are greater, and are not so dependent on fine weather, and I suggested to the Admiralty that a simple preventive in this case was to place merchant ships in position ready to be sunk across the channels (which are narrow and shallow), the ships being fitted with explosive charges below ready to blow out the bottoms in case of necessity. I mentioned the names of certain retired naval officers who, I felt certain, would make all the necessary preparations in a very few days. I believe that my proposals were carried out.
The danger of raids, however, and the consequent responsibility thrown upon the Admiralty for their prevention, during a period when we had very little military force in the country, led to a division of the Fleet by Admiralty direction, which, however necessary, had certain disadvantages from a strategic point of view.
The 3rd Battle Squadron, consisting of eight ships of the "King Edward VII" class, and the 3rd Cruiser Squadron of four ships of the "County" class, were ordered to be based on Rosyth, together with destroyers for screening purposes. The eventuality that had then to be faced was that of the remainder of the Grand Fleet having to engage the High Sea Fleet, since concentration with the 3rd Battle Squadron could probably not be effected without the risk of losing the opportunity of engaging.
At this time the battle cruisers Princess Royal, Invincible, and Inflexible were in the Atlantic operating against Von Spee's squadron; and the Australia, Indomitable had not joined the Grand Fleet. The Tiger was not yet ready, so that at times our battle cruiser force consisted of only three ships, the Lion, Queen Mary, and New Zealand.
Throughout the War the responsibility of the Fleet for the prevention of raids or invasion was a factor which had a considerable influence on naval strategy.
STRATEGY IN HOME WATERS 25
If the Fleet, with destroyers, carried out a sweep in the North Sea, or if it was at sea for a cruise having exercises for its main object, there was bound to be present in the mind of the Commander-in-Chief the chance that he might be required suddenly to move south to engage the High Sea Fleet which had put to sea to cover a landing. If his destroyers were short of fuel at such a moment very serious consequences might ensue, and therefore all cruiser sweeps or other operations had to be curtailed to prevent such a situation arising.
One other factor exercised a cramping effect upon our naval strategy throughout the War, namely, the bombardment of our undefended towns on the East Coast. Such bombardments were of no immediate military value to the enemy, but, in spite of the fact that the majority of the Press, and the public, realised that the Navy should not be led into false strategy because of these bombardments, it was difficult for the Fleet to ignore them, and I have no doubt that the Germans relied upon this fact.
Whilst the Fleet was based at Scapa Flow, it was quite impossible to ensure that the enemy would be brought to action after such an operation, since to attain this end it would have been necessary for the Fleet, or a portion of it, to be constantly cruising in the southern portion of the North Sea. This was not practicable, even had it been desirable, because of the impossibility of keeping destroyers with the heavier ships, and in any case it was false strategy to divide the Battle Fleet, as such a course might well have resulted in disaster.
26 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
The usual course adopted was to base the Battle Cruiser Fleet on Rosyth, and for that Fleet to cruise from that neighbourhood. The speed of the battle cruisers enabled them to get away from a decidedly superior enemy force of battleships if encountered, but there was always some risk in this case of a ship being disabled; the flag officer in command would then have been faced with the unpleasant alternative of abandoning her or of risking his whole force to cover her retreat.
Had we been able to keep an effective look-out off the enemy ports, so as to obtain warning of their ships leaving, the difficulty would not have been so great, but our submarines in those days (the only class of vessel which could be used for such a purpose) were not fitted with wireless installations with which they could signal from the required positions, or indeed from positions anywhere near the enemy's coast, and, in any case, it must be borne in mind that at night the exit of enemy vessels unobserved, even under the conditions of a close submarine look-out, is a comparatively easy matter.
At this stage it is convenient to remark upon the condition of British naval bases. As is well known, the Grand Fleet was moved to Scapa Flow during the latter days of July, 1914, and the defenceless condition of the Base, both against destroyer attack and submarine attack, was brought very strongly into prominence by the presence of so valuable a Fleet at this Base.
The anchorage known as Scapa Flow has three main entrances navigable by all ships, the Hoxa, the Switha, and Hoy Channels, and, in addition, has some more narrow, shallow and tortuous entrances on the eastern side, the main one being Holm Sound. The question of providing gun defences for this Base, which the Admiralty had decided a year or two before the War was to be the main Fleet Base, had been discussed on more than one occasion, after examination by a committee of officers on the spot; but since finance governs defence.
STRATEGY IN HOME WATERS 27
and the Admiralty from year to year had insufficient money for even more urgent needs, no action had been taken. Scapa Flow lies some 450 miles from the German naval bases, and was, therefore, open to an attack by enemy's destroyer flotillas as well as, of course, by submarines. Its main, indeed its only, safety against such attacks by submarines lay in the navigational difficulties attendant upon entry into the harbour, combined, as regards destroyer attacks, with the possibility of an enemy's force being intercepted on its outward or homeward passage, or of its being successfully engaged in the vicinity of the base. The sailing directions laid great stress upon the difficulties of navigations in the approaches to this Base, due to the very strong and varying currents, but the Germans were well acquainted with the Orkney and Shetland Islands. They had indeed made it a practice to send ships to visit these islands fairly frequently before the War, and they were, therefore, as well able to judge of the difficulties of entry into Scapa Flow as we were; and seeing that we used it as a main Fleet Base, they could deduce the fact, if they did not know it already, that the difficulties of entry were not insuperable.
Sir George Callaghan, under these conditions, on the arrival of the Fleet at Scapa Flow at the end of July, took immediate steps, with the resources at his disposal in the Fleet, to improvise defences for the Base against destroyer attack. All that he could do was to land some 12-pounder guns from the ships of the Fleet and mount them at the entrances. No searchlights could, however, be provided, so that the guns were not of much value at night. Arrangements were also made for placing light cruisers and destroyers at the various entrances to assist these defences. The further step, of course, was taken
28 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
when the Fleet was present at the Base of placing patrols to the eastward of the Pentland Firth. It was not felt in the Fleet, however, that these measures gave much security even against destroyer attack on a dark night, and it gave no security whatever against submarine attack. Nothing but obstructions of some kind could give that security. The matter was frequently discussed. Although many brains had been at work, no satisfactory anti-submarine obstruction had been devised. Under the urgent pressure of war the solution was found. The conclusion generally held by experienced submarine officers was that, whilst the least important entrances, such as the Hoy, the Switha and the Holm Sound Channels, would be extremely difficult for the passage of a submarine, entry by the Hoxa Sound Channel was quite practicable by a determined submarine officer. So much for the Base at Scapa Flow.
At Cromarty the conditions were somewhat better. The only entrance to this Base is comparatively narrow, and was defended against the entry of destroyers and larger vessels by guns, which had been mounted by the Admiralty before war broke out. There was, however, no boom protection against the entry of destroyers, and the conditions in regard to submarine attack were the same as at Scapa Flow, there being no obstructions.
At Rosyth the same conditions prevailed as at Cromarty, namely, the harbour was defended by guns only against attack by destroyers. In this case, the guns were manned by the military, and not by marines, as at Cromarty; again the harbour was quite open to submarine attack.
STRATEGY IN HOME WATERS 29
Consequently, the anxiety of officers in command of Fleets or Squadrons at anchor in any of the Bases used by the Grand Fleet was immense. For my part, I was always far more concerned for the safety of the Fleet when it was at anchor in Scapa Flow during the exceedingly brief periods which were spent there for coaling in the early days of the War, than I was when the Fleet was at sea, and this anxiety was reflected in the very short time that the Fleet was kept in harbour. It was also the cause of my taking the Fleet to sea very hurriedly on more than one occasion owing to the reported presence of a submarine in the anchorage, and considerable risks were accepted in getting the Fleet to sea in very thick weather at night on at least one of these occasions.
I have often wondered why the Germans did not make greater efforts to reduce our strength in capital ships by destroyer or submarine attacks on our bases in those early days. They possessed, in comparison with the uses for which they were required, almost a superfluity of destroyers, certainly a superfluity as compared with ourselves, and they could not have put them to a better use than in an attack on Scapa Flow during the early months of the 1914-1915 winter.
In August, 1914, Germany had 96 destroyers in home waters fit for such an operation, all with a speed of, or exceeding, 30 knots, this number being in addition to a total of 48 more destroyers, rather smaller and with speeds varying between 26 and 30 knots, which were quite fit for work in the Baltic or in the vicinity of German bases in the North Sea.
This country had in home waters at the same period only 76 destroyers that could be compared with the German vessels in view of modern requirements, and 33 of these had a speed of only 27 knots. Of the 76 destroyers, 40 were allotted to the Grand Fleet proper, the remaining 36 being based on Harwich. We had in addition 11 large and fast destroyers of the "Tribal" class which, owing to
30 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
their small fuel capacity, were only of use in southern waters and were appropriated to Dover. And we possessed 25 destroyers of the "River" class, of a nominal speed of only 25 knots, as well as the old 30-knot destroyer; the latter class was only fit for patrol work in the vicinity of the coast.
It may be said that similar reflections to those I have mentioned might be made by the Germans as regards our own movements, and that they were surprised that we did not attack their Fleet at anchor. The answer is obvious to those aware of the conditions. We were very short of destroyers for fleet work, and we were well aware of the thoroughness of the defences of the German naval bases. We knew that they not only possessed the most powerful and ample artillery defences, but we knew also that the Germans had a very efficient mining service, and we were justified in assuming that they had protected their naval bases by extensive minefields. We, on the other hand, were entirely unprovided with this particular form of defence.
In view of the known quality of German artillery and mine defences and the thorough nature of their organisation, my own view was that they also possessed, in all probability, anti-submarine defences. For these reasons, together with the important fact that the German rivers are so shallow that our submarines could not enter them in a submerged condition, it appeared to me that an attack on their ships in harbour would meet with no success, and that we could not afford to expend any of our exceedingly limited number of destroyers, or submarines, in making an attack which would, in all human probability, be foredoomed to failure. Later knowledge of the German defences proved the correctness of this view. I can only imagine that the Germans credited us, also.
STRATEGY IN HOME WATERS 31
with possessing harbour defences and obstructions which in our case were non-existent, although we did our best in the Fleet to give the impression that we had obstructed the entrances, for, pending the provision of proper obstructions, we improvised various contrivances. It may have seemed impossible to the German mind that we should place our Fleet, on which the Empire depended for its very existence, in a position where it was open to submarine or destroyer attack.
This view, however, did not relieve the minds of those responsible for the safety of our Fleet from the gravest anxiety whenever the more valuable ships were in the undefended harbours.
A comparison of numbers between the Grand Fleet and the High Sea Fleet in the early part of the War shows the following figures. Only ships that had completed their training and were fit to fight in the line are included:
32 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
The above list gives the vessels nominally available.
In comparisons of the strength at Germany's selected and our average moment, the following facts should be remembered, and were necessarily taken into account by me at the time:
(a) We usually had at least two battleships, one or two light cruisers, six destroyers, one or two cruisers, and perhaps one battle cruiser under refit, in addition to any other vessels that might be temporarily disabled.
(b) Germany would see to it that none of her ships was refitting when planning an operation, and she could reinforce her Fleet by several light cruisers and two or more flotillas of destroyers from the Baltic.
(c) The pre-Dreadnoughts were not a very important factor on either side owing to inferiority of speed, and, in the case of our ships, the comparatively short range of their guns, due to the small amount of elevation of which their mountings admitted.
(d) The German Zeppelins, as their numbers increased, were of great assistance to the enemy for scouting, each one being, in favourable weather, equal to at least two light cruisers for such a purpose.
(e) Account is not taken in the British figures of the Harwich force, as this force could not be counted upon to effect concentration with the remainder of the Grand Fleet at the German selected moment.
(f) The British cruisers, not being very modern, lacked the speed necessary for efficiency as scouts. They were very slightly faster than the battleships of the "Dreadnought" type, and, owing to their lack of speed, they were awkwardly placed if they came within range of an enemy Battle Squadron or Battle Cruiser Squadron. On the other hand, they were very superior in fighting qualities to the German light cruisers.
STRATEGY IN HOME WATERS 33
It will be seen from the above statements that the enemy had by far his best opportunity from the naval point of view in the early months of the War, as he was then much nearer equality of strength with the Grand Fleet than at any later period. A carefully laid trap, which included minefields and submarines, with the High Sea Fleet as a bait, might have been very effective at any period of the War in inflicting considerable losses on us. The Germans had their best opportunities between November, 1914, and February, 1915. After April, 1915, the situation got steadily worse for the enemy.
The lesson of vital importance to be drawn from this review of relative naval strength, is that if this country in the future decides to rely for safety against raids or invasion on the Fleet alone, it is essential that we should possess a considerably greater margin of superiority over a possible enemy in all classes of vessels than we did in August, 1914.
THE GRAND FLEET AND ITS BASES
The Grand Fleet may be said to have come into being only at the outbreak of the War, when it was so christened. As with the name, so with the organisation.
The great majority of the really effective ships in the Grand Fleet were the outcome of the policy initiated by Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fisher of Silverstone when he took up the appointment of First Sea Lord in 1904 in the Administration of the Earl of Selborne. One of Lord Fisher's first acts — and he carried through a number of other changes which reacted favourably on the efficiency of the Fleet for war — was the introduction of the "all-big-gun" type of battleship, of which the Dreadnought, laid down at Portsmouth on October 2nd, 1905, was the earliest example. She was closely followed by the three "all-big-gun" battle-cruisers of the "Invincible" class, which were of the same programme — 1905-6. Much criticism was levelled at the Dreadnought, but even more at the principle embodied in the battle-cruisers — ships with the speed of cruisers, but the same calibre armament as battleships. The War has fully justified Lord Fisher's conception.
Our superiority in capital ships at the outbreak of war was due to the efforts of the Boards presided over by Lord Selborne and his successors from 1904 onwards, and Lord Fisher held the post of First Sea Lord for five and
GRAND FLEET AND BASES 35
a half years of that period. At the beginning of 1909, during Mr. McKenna's tenure of office as First Lord, great efforts were necessary to ensure the maintenance of a sufficient standard of superiority in capital ships over Germany, and to make good our deficiencies in destroyers. The nation has good reason for the most profound gratitude to Mr. McKenna for the very strong attitude he assumed at this highly critical period. Reference to the table on page 31 will show the position that would have arisen if the four additional "Dreadnoughts" had not been included in the 1909-10 building programme. In the later Administration, presided over by Mr. Churchill, continued efforts were necessary, and were made, and steps were also taken with a view to meeting the crying need for modern light cruisers; Lord Beresford had for some years been pointing out how essential it was to add largely to our programmes of light cruisers and destroyers.
So much for construction in pre-War days when the Germans were carrying out their Navy Acts, one following the other in rapid succession.
It is also of interest to note the part which Lord Fisher took in building up the Fleet organisation that existed in 1914. He introduced the system of manning the older ships, not in the first line, with nucleus crews composed of the principal officers and ratings. These ships were thus rendered capable of being put, in a very short time, into a condition in which they were fit to fight. This system superseded the old arrangement, by which ships not in full commission were not manned at all. Although it naturally led to a reduction in the total number of fully-manned ships, a disadvantage which was minimised by reducing squadrons abroad, it is probably accepted now that in the circumstances existing at the time the nucleus crew system is far preferable; it raised the general standard of the whole Navy in British waters and facilitated the use of the Royal Fleet and Naval Reserves on the outbreak of war.
36 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
I. — THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE GRAND FLEET
In the organisation existing before the War, the Home Fleets comprised the First, Second and Third Fleets — in fact, practically all ships in home waters which it was intended to mobilise on the outbreak of war. The war organisation, as carried out, divided the Home Fleets into two parts.
The First, the Grand Fleet, included the First Fleet, comprising the latest-built ships; the force stationed at Harwich; four ships of the 6th Battle Squadron; the 6th and 10th Cruiser Squadrons from the Second and Third Fleets respectively; and the mine-laying Squadron from the Second Fleet.
The Second, or Channel Fleet, included the older battleships, the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Battle Squadrons, the 5th and 7th Cruiser Squadrons, and a sweeping flotilla with torpedo boats. This force was commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney until the end of 1914, when he joined the Grand Fleet. It was independent of the Grand Fleet.
Of the ships of the Channel Fleet, the 5th and 6th Battle Squadrons and the 5th Cruiser Squadron were manned before mobilisation with nucleus crews, and were consequently partly trained; these ships assembled at Portland. The ships of the 7th and 8th Battle Squadrons and 7th Cruiser Squadron were not manned until mobilisation, and the crews consequently required training. This training was carried out near Plymouth, and the battleships joined Sir Cecil Burney's command on September 3rd, 1914.
GRAND FLEET AND BASES 37The ships of the 7th Cruiser Squadron were employed as a look-out force in the Straits of Dover during the time that the Channel Battle Fleet was patrolling to guard the passage of the Expeditionary Force. They were subsequently ordered by the Admiralty to another service, and three of them, the Hogue, Cressy and Aboukir, were sunk whilst patrolling the Broad Fourteens off the Dutch coast.
These, then, were the conditions when War opened. It was only natural that war experience should show very quickly the many directions in which we had to recast, or elaborate, our pre-War ideas, or to introduce new arrangements.
Peace manoeuvres, however useful, can never be a substitute for war experience. They are many factors which render peace manoeuvres unreal. In the first place, the available ships have to be divided so as to form the opposing fleet, "an enemy"; secondly, a matter of far greater moment, the manoeuvres occupy much too short a period, and many of the difficulties affecting both materiel and personnel are not experienced; thirdly, the conditions of war cannot be reproduced without serious inconvenience, and even danger, to merchant ships; finally, in our own manoeuvres there was a tendency in the rules to give the torpedo less than its proper value as a fighting weapon.
But, more than all, it was the conditions under which war broke out that made it necessary for us in the Grand Fleet to build up what was almost a new organisation.
(a) The submarine had just become a most formidable weapon; its development during the War was extraordinarily rapid.
(b) The airship as a scout was in its infancy at the start, but it also developed with great rapidity, as did the heavier-than-air machines.
38 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
(c) The mine, neglected by us, had been highly developed by the enemy, both defensively and offensively.
(d) The effective range both of the gun and of the torpedo was quickly shown to be much greater than had been considered possible before the War. (In pre-War days our Battle Practice had been carried out at a maximum range of about 9,500 yards, and only on one occasion, when the Colossus fired at a target at 14,000 yards off Portland in 1912, had this range been exceeded.)
(e) Wireless telegraphy developed with great rapidity, and was put to many uses not dreamt of in pre-War days.
On the other hand, we were very fortunate in having the Fleet concentrated at the outbreak of war. People had often pictured war with Germany coming as a bolt from the blue, and even naval officers feared that when the occasion did arise, it would be found, as had previously been the case, that fear of precipitating a conflict might lead the Government to delay concentration with the result that our squadrons would be separated when war was actually declared. Fortunately, the Admiralty in the last days of July, 1914, placed us at once in a strong strategic position. For this action the nation should be grateful to the First Lord and First Sea Lord.
It was curious that, in spite of all the lessons of history, there was general expectation that a great Fleet action would at once be fought. No doubt this arose, partly, from the boastings of German naval officers in pre-War days, and partly from a knowledge of the great sacrifices the enemy would incur unless he could dispute effectively our command of the sea. Most people found it difficult to imagine that the High Sea Fleet (built at vast expense, and rightly considered by the enemy to be an efficient weapon of war) would adopt from the outset a
GRAND FLEET AND BASES 39
purely passive role, with the inevitable result that German trade would be swept from the seas. But there were two factors tending to make the High Command adopt this course. First, there was the fear that action with the Grand Fleet would so weaken the High Sea Fleet as to cause the command of the Baltic to pass into Allied hands, with a consequent landing of Russian troops on German soil as the result. This fear had been present in the German mind ever since the days of Frederick the Great, when Russia threatened Berlin during the Seven Years’ War.
The second point, no doubt, was that the German High Command realised that, if Germany adopted a defensive role with her Fleet, it created, by far, the most difficult situation for us. Repugnant as this might be to high-spirited German naval officers, it was unquestionably the worst policy for us, for, whilst the German High Sea Fleet remained "in being" as a fighting force, we could not afford to undertake operations tending to weaken our Grand Fleet, particularly in the earlier period of the War when our margin of superiority at Germany’s "selected moment" was not great. The main disadvantage to the Germans, apart from their loss of trade, lay in the inevitable gradual weakening of the morale of the personnel of the Navy, and it is highly probable that this loss of morale was in the end responsible for the series of mutinies which broke out in the High Sea Fleet during 1917 and 1918, culminating in the final catastrophe in November, 1918. In my view, the passive role was carried much too far.
II. — THE STAFF ORGANISATION
To pass to the development of the organisation.
Almost the first question was that of Staff and Staff work. In the days before the War, the Staff of the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleets consisted of the following officers:
40 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
(a) A Personal Staff, comprising a Flag-Commander, Flag-Lieutenant, and Secretary. The Flag-Captain was also, in a sense, on the Personal Staff.
(b) A General Staffs, comprising a Captain of the Fleet with his Secretary, a Wireless officer, a Signal officer, and the clerical staff of the Secretary.
In addition, the organisation provided for the appointment of two War Staff officers, on mobilisation for war.
This was the Staff which, together with an additional Signal officer, I found in the Iron Duke, on assuming command of the Grand Fleet.
It had always been my intention, on relieving Sir George Callaghan in December, 1914 (as was originally arranged before the War broke out, as I have explained), to add to the above, a Captain, for the operational side of the Staff, leaving the Flag-Captain responsible only for the Command of the Fleet-flagship, this being, in my opinion, sufficient work and responsibility to occupy his whole time; and I had prepared an organisation of the Staff of the Fleet-flagship in accordance with which the work should be divided into two distinct branches, the operations and the materiel side, each with a secretariat. I had communicated my views to the officers selected for the Staff. This, in my judgment, was the correct line for any Naval Staff organisation, and it was later introduced by me into the Admiralty Naval Staff.
When informed, just prior to the declaration of War, that I might be required to take over the command of the Fleet, I decided to ask, as the first step, for the services of Rear-Admiral Charles E. Madden as Chief of the Staff.
GRAND FLEET AND BASES 41
I had brought with me from London on my own Staff, as Second in Command of the Grand Fleet, a Captain (Captain Bentinck), with the title of Captain on the Staff, a Secretary with assistants, a Flag-Lieutenant, a Signal officer, a Wireless officer, a War Staff officer, and a Signal Boatswain. These, with the exception of Captain Bentinck (who joined Vice-Admiral Sir George Warrender’s Staff), I took to the Iron Duke, and my Staff then comprised:
A Rear-Admiral as Chief of the Staff.
A Commodore as Captain of the Fleet.
Two Secretaries, with the necessary clerical staff.
Three Signal officers.
Three Wireless officers (very soon reduced to two).
War Staff officers.
Two Signal Boatswains.
A Fleet Coaling officer also joined the Staff.
The main difficulty in providing a Flag officer afloat with a suitable staff is that of accommodation, and this difficulty was somewhat serious when I doubled the staff on board the Iron Duke. However, it was successfully overcome.
The Staff was organised into two branches — Operations and Materiel — the former directly under the Chief of the Staff, the latter immediately under the Captain of the Fleet. On proceeding to sea, however, the work of the Captain of the Fleet became, of necessity, very largely reduced, and he joined the operational side, arrangements being made by which either he or the Chief of the Staff was always on the bridge in my absence, as we soon found under the new conditions, consequent on the advent of the submarine as an important factor in naval warfare, that it was essential that an officer should be constantly on the bridge who could take immediate action in moving the Fleet, or any portion of it, as might be required.
42 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
Even so, the presence of the Commander-in-Chief was so frequently required, at a moment’s notice, owing to the swiftness with which a modern fleet moves, that I never left my sea cabin, which was under the bridge, to go to the after part of the ship when the Fleet was at sea.
The duties of my Staff afloat were separated, as already stated, under two headings. This division, as is clear from the above remarks, affected their duties in harbour more than when at sea. In the latter case the two branches combined, and the whole staff became "operational.”
The Staff work under these conditions was carried out in the war-room, situated under protection, below the conning tower. Here the movements of our own ships were recorded, as well as those of the enemy until we were nearing contact. All intelligence was sent from the bridge to this centre by the Signal officers, and the situation at any moment could be seen by a glance at the charts kept by the War Staff officer on duty.
When we were nearing enemy vessels or enemy waters, the work was shifted from the war-room to the Admiral's shelter on the bridge, so that the situation could be seen by me more readily; and finally, when, as on May 31st and August 19th, 1916, the two fleets were nearing touch with one another, the "plot" of the movements as reported was continually under my observation.
At ordinary times, in harbour, the Staff officers engaged on the operational side were following the movements of such enemy vessels (chiefly, of course, submarines) as were known to be at sea, as well as those of our own vessels. (In the latter case frequent orders to ships were necessary to ensure that they did not meet
GRAND FLEET AND BASES 43
each other at night — when risk of collision would be incurred owing to ships not carrying lights, or in thick weather.) They put into execution the orders given by myself or the Chief of the Staff, and were engaged in elaborating plans of future movements and drawing up the necessary orders for such movements as I had in contemplation. They were also engaged in arranging all gunnery, torpedo and other practices and exercises, and in the constant work of the production, revision and issue of orders for the organisation and tactical working of the Fleet.
On the materiel side, the Staff work comprised that of storing, provisioning and fuelling the Fleet, all questions of instruction, training, personnel, discipline, mails, refits and repairs, etc.
In action each member of the Staff had his own particular duty allotted to him. The secretaries took notes and recorded proceedings; certain officers had as their sole duty that of watching and reporting to me every movement of enemy vessels; one officer was detailed to attend solely to torpedo attacks made by the enemy, keeping me informed of their progress and of their possibilities; another dealt with all questions relating to concentration or distribution of fire, bringing to my notice any signals required to give effect to our preconceived arrangements; each signal officer had his own special duty, one being responsible that all signals for tactical movements made visually were also made by "short distance” wireless telegraphy. One wireless officer worked in the main office and one in the auxiliary office. The Staff was so organised as to leave the Commander-in-Chief free to take a comprehensive survey of the whole position, whilst ensuring that nothing that should be done was left undone. It must, however, be realised that the rapidity
44 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
of movement of fleets is so great that, at critical moments, the Commander-in-Chief of a fleet, or the Flag Officer Commanding a Squadron, must of necessity make instant decisions; there is no time for consultation or for advice.
III. — PREPARATION OF CRUISING ORDERS
One of the earliest steps taken in organising the Grand Fleet after the declaration of War was to lay down definitely the various cruising orders for the Battle Fleet and its "look-out" screen of battle-cruisers, cruisers and light cruisers. There had been much discussion for some years before the War as to the best disposition of cruisers ahead of a Battle Fleet. None of the arrangements that had been under discussion was adopted as a whole, but war experience led to a series of diagrams being drawn up giving the cruising stations of all the various classes of cruisers and other light craft under the different conditions that might exist.
These included diagrams showing the cruiser disposition with the fleet moving towards enemy waters, under conditions of ordinary visibility, by day, or in low visibility by day, both with the Battle Cruiser Fleet in company and without it; a similar diagram when moving away from enemy water by day (this being to meet the possible case of an attempted attack by destroyers as the fleet steered away from enemy waters); diagrams were got out for steering towards of away from enemy waters at night; and, finally, diagrams were prepared, both for day and night, for the dispositions of the cruisers and other light forces after an action.
GRAND FLEET AND BASES 45
Several different cruising diagrams for the Battle Fleet itself, both by day and at night, were similarly drawn up. Some of these were specially designed to give such safety from submarine attack as was possible to the main body of the Fleet, in the not unlikely event of destroyers being absent, from bad weather, shortage of fuel, or other causes. The dispositions for use at night provided for the use of destroyer attack, and were designed to give safety from collision, due to squadrons inadvertently closing each other in the darkness, when showing no lights; this was a very possible event during the course of a long night when a very slight error in steering, or a slight difference in compasses, will rapidly bring two squadrons together that started the night five miles apart. It was necessary to keep squadrons separated, as a long line of ships greatly facilitated successful submarine attack, whilst a slight dispersal of squadrons gave greater freedom of movement in the case of destroyer attack. At the same time it was necessary to provide for concentrating the Fleet quickly at daylight.
The question of submarine screens was taken up at the commencement of war. This matter had naturally been considered before the War, but was in its earliest stages, and, although an efficient disposition of a screen of destroyers is a comparatively simple matter when there is no lack of destroyers, the case is different when a fleet is very short of the requisite number, as was our experience, and one destroyer had often to be disposed to endeavour to do the work of two.
Diagrams of submarine screens were, therefore, drawn up to meet the different conditions resulting from the presence of varying numbers of destroyers, or a decreased number of ships requiring to be screened, and also providing for the ships being in various formations. In November, 1916, the number of these diagrams was seventeen.
46 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916Early in the War the danger of successful submarine attack on warships at sea, whether in company or proceeding singly, had impressed on us the necessity of taking every precaution for safety, and the practice of the fleet steering zigzag courses was devised and generally adopted in accordance with my directions. In the case of a fleet or squadron, the usual practice was to carry out the alterations of course by turning the ships together; occasionally the turn was made "in succession," but this was exceptional. In small squadrons, the turns were occasionally made at fixed time intervals without signal.
Zigzagging had a very beneficial effect on the manner in which officers of watches kept station in a fleet, since there is no better practice than keeping station on a line of bearing, a far more difficult matter to the novice than keeping station astern of another ship. I attribute the excellent manner in which the ships were handled in 1915 and 1916 very largely to this early experience. Much theoretical investigation was instituted to determine the method of zigzagging, both in a fleet and in a single ship, which gave the greatest protection against submarine attack, and actual experiments took place with our own submarines with a view to forming correct conclusions; the flag officers of the fleet rendered me much assistance in this as in all other matters.
The experience of the Grand Fleet was utilised in the instructions subsequently issued to merchant ships, and the value of zigzagging in reducing the danger of submarine attack was clearly shown during the year 1917 by the comparative immunity of merchant ships that complied with the orders as compared with those that did not do so. Occasionally, of course, zigzagging brought a ship into danger, but this was exceptional as compared with the general immunity given.
GRAND FLEET AND BASES 47
When the convoying of merchant ships through the submarine zone was instituted in 1917, after I had returned to the Admiralty, the Grand Fleet experience was again of value in the preparation of instructions.
The supremely important question of how best to handle in action the large and increasing Fleet engaged my attention from the commencement. In drawing up the various instructions for the conduct of the Fleet, both when cruising and in action, I availed myself of the advice and assistance of the experienced flag officers commanding the various Squadrons. Much discussion took place on these matters, and many of the dispositions adopted formed the subject of actual experiment at sea before being incorporated in the orders.
The successful and rapid deployment of the Battle Fleet from its cruising formation was a matter of the greatest importance, and constant practice in carrying cut this manoeuvre under every varying condition was given to the Fleet when at sea. Various arrangements were introduced having as their object the simplification and shortening of the manoeuvre, with a view to bringing the heaviest possible fire to bear on the enemy's fleet as quickly as possible. Orders were drawn up to meet cases of deployment in thick weather, when the enemy might be sighted at short range, and immediate independent action by a divisional Flag Officer would be necessary.
In the early part of the War the rapid deployment of the Fleet for action was complicated by the presence of the 3rd Battle Squadron of pre-Dreadnoughts — the vessels of the "King Edward VII." class — as the speed of the ships of this squadron was some three knots less than that of the rest of the Battle Fleet. I endeavoured to solve this problem by practical experience. Much
48 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
depended on the tactics likely to be adopted by the enemy's Battle Fleet. The main difficulty lay in the fact that if the 3rd Battle Squadron was placed on one flank of the Battle Fleet when in cruising order and deployment towards that flank became necessary in conformity with an enemy movement, thus placing the slow 3rd Battle Squadron in the van, the fleet speed of the whole Battle Line was necessarily reduced to some 14 knots, in order to have the necessary reserve of speed in hand. If, on the other hand, the 3rd Battle Squadron was placed in the centre of the Fleet, the Fleet speed was again reduced to that attainable by this squadron. It was desirable to devise a cruising order for the Battle Fleet which would admit of the 3rd Battle Squadron being in the rear after deployment, in whichever direction deployment took place. There was still the objection, which had to be accepted, that a turn of 16 points forced upon us by the enemy would place this squadron in the van.
The cruising order eventually adopted placed the pre-Dreadnought Squadron in rear of the Dreadnought Squadrons, with a view to the slow squadron turning in the opposite direction to the remainder on deployment, and eventually taking station in rear of the Dreadnought Fleet. This involved accepting some delay in getting the 3rd Battle Squadron into effective action.
The question was not one of importance subsequent to April, 1915, from which date our superiority in battleships of the Dreadnought type was sufficient to give me confidence that the High Sea Fleet, engaged under suitable conditions, could be crushed in action without the aid of the 3rd Battle Squadron; but during the winter of 1914-15, when our superiority in Dreadnoughts was frequently very slight, and the enemy possessed two pre-Dreadnought Battle Squadrons, our 3rd Battle Squadron was a necessary addition to the Grand Fleet.
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The Battle Orders indicated the position to be occupied by our battle-cruisers, cruisers, light cruisers and destroyers on deployment, as well as that of the fast 5th Battle Squadron, consisting of ships of the "Queen Elizabeth” class, when that squadron joined the Fleet. The first Battle Orders drawn up and issued shortly after war commenced were modelled on a Battle memorandum which I had prepared when in command, first, of the Atlantic Fleet, and, later, of the 2nd Battle Squadron. But the changing situation soon made alterations and additions necessary, and the Orders were under constant revision.
The tactics to be pursued by the different units of the Fleet in action under all conceivable conditions were provided for as far as possible.
Stress was laid from the beginning on the fact that the Commander-in-Chief of a large fleet could not after deployment control the movements of all the squadrons comprising that fleet under the conditions of modern action when funnel and cordite smoke, and the great length of the line, would hamper his knowledge of events, and increase the difficulty of communication. The necessity for wide decentralisation of command, after the deployment of the fleet for action, was emphasised.
As the Fleet grew in size, increasing stress was laid on this point. Flag officers commanding squadrons were, of course, kept fully acquainted with the general ideas under which the Fleet would act, so that they might be able to interpret my wishes when acting independently. Stress was laid on the necessity for keeping a close watch on the movements of the Commander-in-Chief, so that squadrons could conform to his movements. The general
50 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
lines on which I intended to engage were defined. These included the range at which it was intended to open the engagement, the range below which it was not intended to close under ordinary conditions, on account of the risks to be apprehended from torpedo fire, and the exceptions to this rule which might become necessary. Emphasis was laid on the supreme necessity for a free use of our own torpedoes when opportunity occurred.
After the experience of the engagement on January 24th, 1915, between the battle-cruisers, and especially as our superiority increased and the High Sea Fleet gave no sign of a desire to engage, the conviction became stronger that in any action between the two fleets, the enemy would fight a retiring battle. This is the most difficult form of tactics to counter in these days of submarines, mines and torpedoes, since a retiring fleet is in a position of great tactical advantage in the employment of these weapons. The Tactical Board was in constant use for a consideration of this problem, both by myself and the other flag officers.
In the earliest stages of the War, when the German submarine strength was not great, one of the main problems to be considered in regard to a fleet action was the employment of our destroyers and light cruisers to attack the enemy's Battle Fleet with torpedoes and to counter his similar attacks, which, owing to his great superiority in destroyers, was a matter of supreme importance. The knowledge, too, that his light cruisers and destroyers, as well possibly as some of his heavier ships, were fitted for mine-laying (which was not the case with us) made it necessary to take into account the probability that he would use this form of attack at the commencement of a general action, or during the stages leading up to it. Later, when his submarines increased in number,
GRAND FLEET AND BASES 51
the method of countering the use of such vessels by the enemy, in the preliminary stages of a fleet action, had also to be considered, particularly as it was not until 1916 that the Grand Fleet was provided with any submarines of this type, and not until 1917 that submarines which could maintain the Fleet-speed at sea became part of the organisation.
The comparative immunity of the van from torpedo attack by the enemy, if the fleets were approximately abeam of one another, and the risks run by the centre and rear were pointed out, as were the different conditions produced in the case of a retiring enemy, or one which had a position of torpedo advantage.
The influence of the torpedo on tactics became greater as the War progressed, owing to the advance made in the technique of these weapons. Before the opening of hostilities, for instance, torpedoes had a maximum range of about 10,000 yards. We made many improvements in our torpedoes as the War progressed, including a great increase in range, and we had every reason to believe that the Germans were making similar progress, and that the range of their torpedoes was as much in excess of the pre-War range as was that of our own weapons.
The threat of successful torpedo attack even from battleships in the line was, therefore, an important factor to be taken into account, with the ships of the opposing fleets formed in single line at the close intervals which are necessary for successful co-operation and the concentration of power afforded by a shortened line. Investigation into possible alternative formations for fighting a fleet action was constantly proceeding, but the single line, or a modification of it, was, under most conditions, the best that could be devised.
52 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
It was pointed out that, although our Fleet would be manoeuvred for advantage in gunnery position, it might be necessary to engage under unfavourable gunnery conditions in order to prevent the enemy reaching his own waters.
Several new manoeuvres were introduced and practised by the Fleet with a view to countering possible tactics on the part of the enemy. These included a "turn away" or a "turn towards" to counter a serious attack by torpedoes; a quick method of reversing the course of the Fleet without impairing its organisation to meet enemy tactics necessitating such a move; rapid methods of re-forming single line; etc. Other new tactical methods were introduced as time progressed to meet the changing conditions of modern warfare.
Detailed orders were drawn up in regard to the conduct of the Fleet after an action, so far as it was possible to foresee the conditions that might arise. The object was to arrange to continue the attack by light craft, whilst safeguarding the heavy ships against counter-attack by light forces.
In the orders which were issued for the guidance of the destroyers both before, during, and after an action, endeavour was made to provide for all these contingencies. The stations of the flotillas, including the Harwich flotillas, if they were present, were laid down, and each had its particular duties assigned to it. General directions were given for the employment of the destroyers, wide latitude being reserved to the officers commanding flotillas.
The treatment of disabled ships was legislated for.
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The duties of each class of vessel, battle-cruiser, cruiser and light cruiser when in cruising order, or in action, or after an action, were defined, particular emphasis being laid on the necessity for ships in the van, when in action, gaining a position of torpedo advantage in regard to the enemy's Battle Fleet, whilst at the same time engaging enemy vessels of a similar class and preventing torpedo attacks on our own Battle Fleet from developing.
Thus it was laid down as the leading principle in the General Cruiser Instructions, that after gaining touch with the enemy the first essential was to maintain that touch. Instructions were also given that in the event of the enemy's advanced forces becoming engaged with our Battle Cruiser Fleet, the cruisers in our advanced line were to push on and gain touch with the enemy's Battle Fleet. It will be seen later that this situation arose during the Jutland battle.
The Instructions for battle cruisers laid down the principle that in action their primary function was the destruction of the similar enemy vessels if present, and, after their destruction or in their absence, to attack the van of the enemy's Battle Fleet. Prior to action their duty was defined as giving information as to the enemy's Battle Fleet, whilst denying similar information to the enemy. The Vice-Admiral commanding the Battle Cruiser Fleet was given a free hand to carry out these general instructions.
The Instructions for the 5th Battle Squadron (the ships of the "Queen Elizabeth" class) were drawn up to provide for the battle-cruisers being either absent or present. In the former event, this squadron took the place, and the duties, of the battle-cruisers; with our battle-cruisers present and in the van, the 5th Battle Squadron was ordered to take station ahead of the remainder of the Battle Fleet in the case of a deployment
54 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
towards Heligoland, and in rear of the Battle Fleet in the case of deployment away from Heligoland. The object of this latter disposition was to place the High Sea Fleet at a disadvantage should it execute a 16-point turn after deployment. In order to enable the 5th Battle Squadron to carry out its functions in action, it was stationed between the Cruiser Line and the main Battle Fleet when in cruising order.
The Instructions to the light cruisers defined their duties in action as being to attack the enemy's light cruisers and torpedo craft, to support our destroyers, and to attack the enemy's battle line with torpedoes. For this purpose most of the light cruiser squadrons were required to be in the van on deployment.
The Instructions for destroyers laid emphasis on the fact that they should carry out an early attack on the enemy's Battle Fleet, commencing their attacks in clear weather, as soon as the Battle Fleet were engaged. Under conditions of low visibility, they were instructed to attack without waiting for the Battle Fleets to be engaged. It was pointed out that destroyers closing the enemy's Battle Fleet for the purpose of an attack were also in the best position for preventing successful attacks on our own fleets.
As soon as submarine flotillas were attached to the Grand Fleet, in 1916, instructions for their conduct before, during, and after action were drawn up. Instructions for two other classes of vessel, namely, mine-layers and sea-plane carriers, had been issued earlier, vessels of the mine-laying type, but of a slow speed, having been attached to the Fleet from the commencement of War, and sea-plane carriers, possessing, however, but slow speed and inferior arrangements, having joined during 1916.
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IV. — THE TRAINING OF THE FLEET
Inseparable from the question of the management of the Fleet before and during action was that of the working together of its units at sea by day and at night. This matter was, of course, one to which great attention had been devoted by Sir George Callaghan, who, when he handed over the Fleet to me, gave me a fighting machine trained to a very high pitch of perfection by an officer who was a past master in fleet training.
But it was inevitable that war conditions should make even greater demands on the skill of the personnel than had previously been necessary, and in no direction was this more necessary than at night, the number of ships in company being far greater than had previously been usual; and the necessity of abstaining from signalling added to the difficulties. Further, under peace conditions, fleets cruising on dark, stormy nights without showing any lights, did so for comparatively short periods, during which the more experienced officers could, to a certain extent, remain on deck.
Under war conditions no ships at sea ever showed more than a very dim light at the stern, and frequently not even that, adding greatly to difficulties of fleet cruising. Consequently provision had to be made for ensuring safety whilst cruising under these conditions, and considerable foresight and great skill on the part of officers was necessary
Single ships and squadrons that might by any possibility pass close to one another during hours of darkness were warned beforehand of the danger, and arrangements made so that they should be aware of each other’s positions. Destroyers, especially, were given directions so as to enable them to keep clear of larger vessels which
56 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
otherwise might open fire upon them. Patrol craft of all sorts were similarly warned so far as this was possible, but in their case the conditions, owing to difficulties of communication, were frequently much more embarrassing.
Finally, the methods of disposing the Fleet at night had to be such as to reduce to a minimum the necessity for signals, whilst giving freedom of action in an emergency. What applied to conditions of darkness applied equally to fog. The ordinary means adopted for ensuring safety in a fog at sea, the use of the steam syren, could not as a rule be employed, since the blasts might give warning to the enemy and place the Fleet open to attack by enemy destroyers or submarines. On the other hand, the necessity for our destroyers being in close company with the larger ships for screening purposes against submarines led, in the case of sudden fog, to a difficult situation, as, before the Fleet could safely carry out any manoeuvre, it was essential to get the destroyers clear. The sudden descent of fog during zigzagging by the large ships was also embarrassing. Orders were issued to meet all these conditions, and the best testimony to the training of the Fleet prior to the War was the remarkable freedom from accident during the early months after the opening of hostilities. The manner in which newly commissioned ships (in many cases ships which were by no means handy vessels in a fleet) fell into the organisation, was also a source of great gratification to me, and must have been most satisfactory to the officers and men concerned.
The gradual increase in the size of the Fleet, particularly in light craft, the higher speeds attained by its units, the extreme importance of reducing signalling by wireless at sea to an absolute minimum, except in the
GRAND FLEET AND BASES 57
presence of the enemy, all tended to concentrate attention on the question of the efficiency of our signal arrangements. Wireless signalling by ships at sea had to be stopped, because by means of directional wireless stations the positions of ships using wireless telegraphy could be determined by the enemy. As time went on, we felt that the enemy might be able to ascertain the class and in some cases even the name of the ship so signalling. This we deduced from the fact that we ourselves made progress in this direction. The fact of a German fleet being at sea, for instance, could hardly be disguised if much use was made of wireless signals. We naturally concluded that the enemy could similarly locate any of our squadrons using the same means of communication. That was an inevitable inference.
The foregoing considerations made it necessary, in the first place, to endeavour, by means of carefully compiled and elaborate orders, to reduce the amount of signalling that would ordinarily be required after the Fleet had left its bases. Printed orders were prepared for the Fleet leaving its bases under all the varying conditions that could be anticipated, and whilst this made the orders somewhat lengthy so as to meet every possibility, the object was achieved.
Similarly, when the Fleet was in cruising order at sea in daylight, arrangements were made to pass signals in and out between the most advanced cruisers and the Fleet Flagship by searchlight, except in the presence of the enemy, and good organisation gradually reduced the time occupied in this process very considerably. All Fleet manoeuvring when much to the southward of the latitude of Kinnaird Head, on the coast of Aberdeen, was also carried out by visual signalling.
58 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
Owing to the danger of disclosing the position of the Fleet to enemy submarines or destroyers, it was not possible to use visual signalling at night, except with carefully shaded lamps which were only visible at a distance of about a quarter of a mile, and then only by the ship addressed, and this problem thus became complicated at night, in fogs or in very thick weather. Occasional resort had then to be made to wireless, but by signalling before dark all expected movements during the night, and by arranging the course of the Fleet so that few alterations were necessary, we succeeded in keeping almost absolute wireless silence. It had to be used, however, when important information from the Admiralty and elsewhere was to be transmitted to the Fleet-Flagship, or to senior officers of squadrons, or to single ships when at sea engaged in operations, etc., and early in the War we had to devise a method by which this could be done without calling up the ships in question by wireless, thus necessitating a reply from them, and thus possibly acquainting the enemy of their position.
After a time a satisfactory and ingenious system of communicating the required information without causing the ship herself to divulge her position was devised by the Fleet Wireless officer, Lieutenant-Commander R. L. Nicholson. This plan worked excellently and gradually was greatly extended during the later stages of the War.
It must not be thought that, because wireless signalling at sea was restricted, it was not intended to make full use of it when necessary and when silence was no longer required, such as when the fleets were within sight of one another. On the contrary, a great advance was made during the War in the use of wireless telegraphy for manoeuvring the Battle Fleet, as well as in every other direction. So proficient did the ships become under the organisation introduced by Lieutenant-
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Commander Nicholson, assisted as he was by the very efficient wireless officers and wireless personnel, that in 1916 I could handle the Battle Fleet by wireless with as much ease and rapidity as by visual signals. At the beginning of the War ten minutes to a quarter of an hour would elapse before I could be sure that all ships had received a manoeuvring wireless signal addressed to the whole Battle Fleet. In 1916 the time rarely exceeded two to three minutes. This great improvement was due to new methods introduced, as well as to incessant practice in harbour.
Our advance in the use of wireless telegraphy was very considerable indeed, and I owed a great debt of gratitude to Lieutenant-Commander Nicholson, the other wireless officers of the Fleet-Flagship, and the wireless officers and personnel of the whole Fleet. The progress was the more remarkable since, owing to extreme shortage of wireless personnel for the expanding Fleet and the large number of auxiliary vessels commissioned, we were forced to discharge many of the best operators in the Fleet as the War progressed and to replace them by boys trained in the Wireless School established by the Fleet at Scapa Flow.
A point which war experience brought into considerable prominence was the difficulty of distinguishing, with sufficient rapidity, enemy vessels from our own ships both before, and, more particularly during, action. The difficulty applied to all classes of vessels, but was greatest in the case of torpedo craft and submarines. Steps were taken to deal with it, and satisfactory arrangements made for certain distinguishing marks visible at long distances to be worn during daylight by our own surface vessels. The question of identification at night was more difficult, and although we effected improvement in this respect also, the results were not so satisfactory.
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Of the original experimental work carried out by the Fleet at Scapa Flow none was more important than that connected with the safety of ships from mines. Early in the War it had become obvious that there was danger of a serious weakening of the Grand Fleet by successful mine attack, and no safeguard existed beyond the work of the mine-sweepers; these vessels could not work far afield, and in bad weather could not work even close to their bases, whereas the Fleet might be required to proceed to sea when mine-sweeping was impracticable.
A solution of this difficulty was required. Commander Cecil V. Usborne, of the Colossus, in these circumstances proposed to me the trial of an apparatus which he suggested should be towed from the bows of ships; it was intended to fend off any mine encountered, provided the ship did not strike it absolutely “end on." I ordered immediate trials; all the necessary materiel was provided with Fleet labour and appliances, and starting with trials in a picket boat, they were continued until a series of experiments commenced in large ships, battleships and cruisers. I placed Rear-Admirals A. L. Duff and A. C. Leveson in charge of the experiments and great progress was made, although absolute success was not obtained.
Lieutenant Dennis Bumey, the son of Admiral Sir Cecil Burney, visited the base at this juncture, and, knowing his inventive turn of mind, I discussed the matter with him at considerable length. Lieutenant Burney soon afterwards put forward proposals for effecting the required object. His idea was to utilise apparatus which he had devised earlier for other purposes. His scheme was of a more elaborate nature than that
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devised by Commander Usborne, and necessitated the manufacture of appliances by outside manufacturers. I urged the Admiralty to take up the question at once; this was done, and the experiments, started at Portsmouth, were transferred to Scapa Flow as soon as preliminary success had been obtained.
The two devices were then tried over a considerable period at Scapa Flow, still under the immediate direction of Rear-Admirals Duff and Leveson, who threw themselves wholeheartedly into the task, Rear-Admiral E. F. A. Gaunt taking up this work in their occasional absence. After many disappointments the Burney system was proved to be successful, and I at once requested that manufacture on a large scale should be proceeded with. The device was of an elaborate character, and many persons at first were sceptical as to its value, owing partly to early difficulties in manipulation. But Rear-Admirals Duff and Leveson rendered the greatest assistance in overcoming objections, and gradually it came to be seen in the Fleet that we had become possessed of a most valuable safeguard. By the time I relinquished the Command a very large number of battleships, battle-cruisers, and cruisers, and some light cruisers had been fitted, and the gear was working well. Owing to Lieutenant Burney's efforts, improvement was constantly being effected, with the result that during 1917 the fitting was universal. During that year it was instrumental in saving several warships from damage by mines, and in 1918 the number of ships saved was also considerable.
The initial idea was that of Commander Usborne, and both he and Lieutenant Burney displayed much energy in working out their respective devices. But it was through Lieutenant Burney's ingenuity that final
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success was achieved. Rear-Admirals Duff and Leveson eventually brought the appliance to perfection, with the result that it was generally adopted. A modified arrangement of the same nature was fitted to merchant ships during 1917 and 1918, and proved of very great value.
As was inevitable, my thoughts turned at an early stage of my Command to the necessity for constant improvement in the fighting efficiency of the Grand Fleet. My knowledge of the German Navy, which was considerable, left me under no delusions as to its character. I had made it my business to keep myself very fully acquainted with German progress. I had first been brought into close touch with the modern German Navy during service in China from 1899 to 1902, which included the Boxer campaign, when I saw a great deal of its officers and men. I had then formed a high estimate of its efficiency, and subsequent touch on many occasions with the German Fleet had convinced me that in materiel the Germans were ahead of us, and that the personnel, though lacking the initiative and resource and seamanlike character of the British, was highly disciplined, and well educated and trained. I knew also that the German Fleet was in no way short of officers; this was the case with us owing to the constant political pressure in the years before the War, and I expected that this shortage of officers would be a great handicap to us as the War progressed. The branch of the German Navy from which I expected very good work was the destroyer service. I had seen German destroyers manoeuvring.
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Finally I knew, perhaps better than most of our officers, how efficient was the gunnery and torpedo work of the High Sea Fleet, and how rapid had been its advance in the year or two before the War. A great increase had been made in the allowance of ammunition for practice. Before the War this was much higher than our own, and there was no doubt in my mind that the German allowance would be well expended. Indeed, we had obtained information which placed this beyond question.
I was well acquainted personally with many of the flag officers and captains in the German Navy and had some idea of their views on naval warfare. Amongst those whom I knew best were Admiral von Ingenohl, the then Commander-in-Chief of the High Sea Fleet, Vice-Admiral von Lans, commanding a Battle Squadron, Admiral von Pohl, the Chief of the Naval Staff, who later succeeded Admiral von Ingenohl, Grand-Admiral von Tirpitz, Admiral von Holtzendorff, a former Commander-in-Chief of the High Sea Fleet, who succeeded Admiral von Pohl as chief of the Naval Staff, and Admiral von Usedom, who did conspicuous work in the shore batteries during the Dardanelles operations. My knowledge of these officers led me to expect good work in the High Command, and I also expected that they would be well supported.
It is interesting to record that I took part in a Conference of Allied naval officers in a pagoda at the end of the Great Wall of China in company with Admiral von Holtzendorff (the then German Flag Captain in China) after the capture of the Shan-hai-Kwan forts, in 1900, and that Admiral von Usedom succeeded me as Chief of the Staff to Admiral — afterwards Admiral of the Fleet — Sir Edward Seymour, when I was wounded during the international expedition for the relief of the Peking Legations. I had met both these officers on several subsequent occasions, as well as Admiral von Lans, who was in command of the Iltis at the capture of the Taku forts by the Allies in the Boxer campaign.
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My knowledge of the German Navy was a strong reason, had no others existed, for making me desirous of doing all that was possible to increase our own gunnery and torpedo efficiency.
The Germans possessed an excellent practice ground in Kiel Bay, with every appliance for carrying out gunnery exercises, and I felt sure that they had rendered it safe from any hostile attack, and that the German Fleet would be able to maintain and improve its efficiency as time progressed.
We were not in so fortunate a position. There had been no recent opportunity for carrying out gunnery and torpedo exercises and practices; Scapa Flow had not been used as a base for such work in peace time, except for destroyers, and consequently no facilities existed there, although the proximity of Cromarty, which had been a Fleet practice base, neutralised this disadvantage to a certain extent at a later period. But there was no protected area outside the harbour where practices could be carried out in safety, and the harbour itself was not at first secure against submarine attack.
Much use, however, was made of the Moray Firth outside Cromarty later when submarine obstructions had been provided, and the Germans had obligingly laid a mine-field which protected the practice area from seaward. At the commencement of the War, then, it was necessary to depend on fleet resources for the provision of targets for gunnery practices, and the practices themselves were carried out under conditions which laid the ships open to submarine attack. This was most unsatisfactory, and the work suffered considerably as the result. The opportunity provided by constant sea work in the first months of the War was, however, utilised to carry out such gunnery practices as the conditions admitted.
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At first the custom was for the Fleet to use small targets which the ships carried with them. These were unsuitable; their small size rendered them frequently invisible at even moderate ranges in any sea, and I felt that the Fleet could not make progress under such conditions.
Practice at rocks or small islands was next resorted to, but no really suitable rocks existed, and, in any case, practice at them eventually involved too much risk of submarine attack, as the German submarines began to find their way to the westward of Scotland. Towards the end of 1915 it became possible, owing to the increase in the number of destroyers attached to the Fleet, and to the provision of submarine obstructions at Cromarty, to carry out gunnery practices at long ranges at targets in the Moray Firth, and real improvement dated from that period.
Later still, battle practice targets were brought to Scapa Flow, and the long-range firing was carried out in the Pentland Firth, a still more convenient place.
Meanwhile Scapa Flow itself had been developed for all the preliminary gunnery practices which could be carried out with guns up to 6-inch in calibre, and also for night firing and for torpedo work. The fine stretch of water was secure from submarine attack after the obstructions had been provided, and ships could practise by day and night without danger of attack. The Flow was simply invaluable for this purpose. Ships were firing, running torpedoes, practising fire control exercises, carrying out experiments and exercising in dealing with attacks by destroyers, day after day, from daylight until dark.
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After dark, night firing was frequently carried out, and occasionally a division of battleships was exercised in steaming in company, without lights, in order to give the officers of watches practice. When the constant sea work of the earlier months of the War gave place to occasional cruises, the seagoing and fighting efficiency of the Fleet was maintained at a remarkably high standard as a result of the work in Scapa Flow.
During the period 1914-16 a marked advance was undoubtedly made in gunnery efficiency. At an early period of the War a memorandum was issued pointing out the necessity for increased attention to drill and organisation. Absolute perfection was insisted upon, and it was obtained, by the strenuous efforts of officers and men. I knew that we had to deal with an enemy who would be as perfect as constant drill could ensure.
A great extension of the system of Director Firing, by which one officer or man could lay and fire all the guns, was made. The situation in this respect before the War was that a few ships had been fitted for the system, which had been devised by Admiral Sir Percy Scott. But a very large number of officers were sceptical as to its value compared with the alternative system; there was considerable opposition to it, and the great majority of the ships were not fitted. In some cases the system was not favoured even in the ships provided with it.
It had fallen to my lot in 1912 to carry out competitive trials of the Director System and the alternative system already in use, and the results of these trials had fully confirmed me in my previous opinion of the great value of the Director System. I was able to press these views on my return to the Admiralty at the end of 1912 as Second Sea Lord, and it was then decided to provide all the later ships with the arrangement. Little progress had, however, been made when the War broke out, only eight battleships having been fitted.
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Early in 1915 arrangements were made, with the assistance of Sir Percy Scott and the warm support of Lord Fisher, then First Sea Lord, by which the battleships and battle-cruisers were supplied with this system, without being put out of action or sent to a dockyard for the purpose. The necessary instruments were manufactured at various contractors’ shops, and the very laborious task of fitting them, and the heavy electric cables, on board the ships was carried out by electricians sent to the various bases. The complicated work naturally took a considerable time, and many vexatious delays occurred; but gradually all ships were fitted. Sir Percy Scott rendering invaluable assistance at headquarters.
As a first step, the system was fitted to the heavy guns mounted in turrets, and by the date of the Battle of Jutland there were few ships that were not supplied with the system, although six of those last fitted had not had much experience with it.
The conditions under which that action was fought converted any waverers at once to a firm belief in the Director System, and there was never afterwards any doubt expressed as to its great value.
Further efforts were made later to accelerate the work, and the system was extended to smaller vessels. This had been the intention even before the action, but there were then still many who were unconvinced. However, during the remainder of 1916 and 1917 the work was pressed forward, and the system became universal for all guns and in all classes of ships.
The improvement in what may be termed the application of existing methods of fire control may now be
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mentioned. Throughout the War we had gradually, as the result of practice, increased greatly the effective range at which ships could engage, and stress had been laid on the necessity for bringing the fire rapidly on to the target in order to obtain early hits. Improvement was perhaps most rapid in the five or six months following the Jutland action. In this action the Fire Control Instruments, as adopted in the Service, which were the outcome of the work of naval officers, were found to meet the gunnery requirements most successfully. The only important improvement that was made was the provision of additional means for keeping the observation of Fire Instruments trained on the correct enemy ship. Various committees were formed immediately after the battle in order that full advantage might be taken at once of our experience. The result was the introduction of new rules for correcting gunfire; these, in addition to greatly increasing the volume of fire from a ship, also rendered it difficult for the enemy vessels to evade punishment by dodging tactics.
In order to cope more successfully with the latter development, more experiments were ordered, having as their object the determination of the inclination of the enemy vessel to the line of bearing from us, and various methods of obtaining this inclination were recommended to the Fleet. The most promising at the time that I relinquished command of the Fleet was that proposed by Lieutenant J. W. Rivett-Carnac, R.N., the range-finding expert of the Grand Fleet, who had investigated this inclination problem for some years. A great increase in the rapidity with which the fall of shot were "spotted on" to a target resulted from all this work. It is not too much to say that the interval between opening fire and the moment at which the salvoes began to "straddle” the target was certainly halved, and the rapidity of fire when the enemy was "straddled" was very greatly increased. The new firing rules, by standardising the system of correcting fire, produced a marked increase in the efficiency of the methods by which the fire of two ships was concentrated on to one target and generally paved the way for the solution of many gunnery problems which the Fleet had previously been unable to solve completely.
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The use of smoke screens was closely investigated as a result of our experience of the German use of this device. Prolonged experiments were carried out at Scapa Flow to ascertain the possibilities and the best method of using smoke screens, and they were also used during battle tactics, and during range-finder exercises. The trials included the use of smoke shell as well as funnel and artificial smoke.
In another direction efforts were made to increase efficiency. The Jutland battle convinced us that our armour-piercing shell was inferior in its penetrative power to that used by the Germans, and immediately after the action I represented this with a view to immediate investigation. A Committee sat to consider the matter. In 1917, as First Sea Lord, I appointed a second Committee.
With one of the old type of armour-piercing shells of a particular calibre as used at Jutland the shell would, with oblique impact at battle range, break up whilst holing a certain thickness of plate, and the shell could not, therefore, reach the vitals of the enemy's ships. A shell of the new type, as produced by the 1917 Committee, of the same calibre would at the same oblique impact and range pass whole through a plate of double the thickness before exploding and could therefore with delay action
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fuse penetrate to the magazines of a capital ship. Had our ships possessed the new type of armour-piercing shell at Jutland, many of the enemy's vessels, instead of being only damaged, would probably not have been able to reach port. The manufacture of these new type shells for the Fleet was well advanced before the end of 1917.
The value of the torpedo as a fighting weapon in action, from ships, from destroyers, and from submarines, was also greatly increased. The torpedo practices at Scapa Flow, which were of a realistic character, were of the greatest possible use.
The real cause underlying the improvement was the great keenness displayed by officers and men. Their one idea was to strive for the highest efficiency, and there was never apparent the least sign of weariness or staleness in repeating time after time exercises and practices with which they were so familiar. No tribute that I can pay to the personnel of the Grand Fleet in this connection could be sufficiently high. I know that under my successor the improvement in fighting efficiency continued.
Owing to the collapse of the moral of the personnel of the German Navy, culminating in the surrender for internment of the majority of their capital ships, the Grand Fleet was given no opportunity of testing in action the methods adopted as a result of our experience during the first two years of war, and perfected by two years' further training. Had the German fleet come out to battle a terrible punishment awaited it!
Mention has been made of the development of aircraft during the War. The possibilities resulting from the use of the air for reconnaissance work, for assisting in the direction of gunfire, and, finally, for offensive operations, were fully recognised in the Grand Fleet; but for a
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considerable period the lack of suitable machines hindered development. The first decisive step taken was the fitting out of the Campania, a passenger ship of the Cunard Line, as a sea-plane carrier to be attached to the Battle Fleet. Prior to that, the Harwich Force and, later, the Battle Cruiser Fleet had been provided with smaller vessels, the Vindex and Engadine, carrying a few sea-planes. They had been used in operations in the Heligoland Bight, but without much success, owing to the difficulty experienced in getting sea-planes to rise from the water except in the finest weather.
With the arrival of the Campania at Scapa, we were able to investigate the difficulties attending the use of aircraft from ships as then fitted and to indicate the direction in which improvement was desirable and possible. It was apparent that little improvement could be expected so long as we were dependent on the machines rising from the water. The first step, therefore, was to improve the arrangements for flying off from the deck of the Campania. The ship returned to Liverpool at the end of 1915 in order that the necessary alterations might be effected; these were not completed until the late spring of 1916; during the alterations, the Campania was also, at my request, fitted to carry a kite balloon.
The advantages to be obtained from the use of kite balloons had been demonstrated during the Dardanelles operations, and the Menelaus, kite balloon ship, was sent to the Grand Fleet. But it was soon obvious that we could not make profitable use of kite balloons in a fleet action unless they were flown from the ships themselves, and experiments were carried out, under the direction of Vice-Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee, commanding the 4th Battle Squadron, having as their object the best
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method of fitting and using kite balloons from warships. Many difficulties were experienced, the principal one being that of providing wire of sufficient strength to stand the tension of the balloon during strong winds. The Kite Balloon Section at Roehampton gradually solved the difficulties, and by the end of 1916 the majority of the flagships leading divisions of the Fleet were provided with kite balloons, and were experiencing their utility. From this beginning, great developments took place in providing vessels of all classes, including light cruisers, destroyers, P boats, and trawlers, with kite balloons; the balloon was used in the case of the smaller vessels for anti-submarine reconnaissance work, whilst in the heavy ships it was used for observation and correction of fire.
Meanwhile, the development of the aircraft carrier had proceeded, but not with the same rapidity. It was evident to me in 1916 that for anti-Zeppelin work we should look towards the aeroplane flying from the deck, rather than to the sea-plane, although it also could rise from the deck; but I gathered the time was hardly ripe for the step, owing to the landing difficulty, and the first efforts of the Royal Naval Air Service lay in the direction of providing a type of sea-plane that would fly well off the deck and climb quickly. These efforts were fairly successful, but the development of the heavier-than-air craft machine for use with the Fleet did not begin until the aeroplane was adopted for the work; and this took place in 1917, when progress became rapid, and continued until the end of the War.
There remains the question of the air-ship, which was also being developed during the period 1914-16, but as this matter was not within the province of the Fleet, it is not necessary to touch upon it here.
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V. — THE BLOCKADE
The story of the development of the Grand Fleet would be incomplete without reference to the Blockade, and, in particular, to the work of the 10th Cruiser Squadron. In the early days of the War, the 10th Cruiser Squadron consisted of the ships of the "Edgar" class — vessels at least twenty years old; and during August, 1914, the Admiralty commissioned three armed merchant ships, the Mantua, Alsatian and Oceanic, to strengthen the squadron for blockade work; the latter ship was lost, by shipwreck in September of that year.
The Blockade in those early days was carried out by the 10th Cruiser Squadron and by the other cruiser squadrons attached to the Grand Fleet. During November, 1914, the ships of the "Edgar" class were withdrawn owing to their unseaworthy condition, and the ships' companies utilised to commission a number of additional armed merchant cruisers. By the end of December, 1914, the squadron consisted of eighteen ships, being raised later to a strength of twenty-four ships. A very large proportion of the officers and men of the reconstituted 10th Cruiser Squadron belonged to the Mercantile Marine.
The advent of so large a squadron of these vessels called for a considerable organisation for their maintenance; they were based on Liverpool for all the heavy work of upkeep, whilst a secondary advanced base at Swarbachs Minn, on the west coast of the Shetland Islands, was gradually developed, and obstructed against submarine attack. The work of organisation was carried out by Rear-Admiral de Chair, who commanded the squadron, ably seconded by Rear-Admiral H. H. Stileman the Senior Naval Officer at Liverpool, to whom we were much indebted for hearty co-operation and efficient organisation at the base.
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A careful organisation of the movements of the ships was necessary to cover such an immense area of the sea, and to provide that all ships should, as far as possible, be intercepted. Even in the case of ships of such large coal endurance as the armed merchant steamers, it was not possible to keep much more than one-half the number in commission on an average on the patrol line at the same time. The remainder were either in port refitting and refueling, or were en route to and from the bases. The distance from the middle of the patrol line to Liverpool was some 600 miles, so that two days were occupied in the passage each way.
When going to or from Liverpool the ships had to run the gauntlet of enemy submarines, which were passing down the west coast of the Hebrides and Ireland, and as no destroyers were available with which to screen them against attack, the risk was considerable. They had also
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to face the constant danger of mine-fields. Several ships of the squadron fell victims to submarines or mines with a resultant heavy loss of life.
Whilst the ships were on patrol, the work of the boarding parties was very arduous. The preliminary examination could not be carried out without boarding, and the manner in which the boats of the squadron were handled in the very heavy weather, almost constant in northern latitudes, was a fine tribute to the seamanship of the officers and men. In this boarding work the fishermen of the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve, hardy and experienced seamen, rendered most conspicuous service.
The efficiency of the Blockade increased gradually from its inception, as is well known, and after a time the percentage of vessels that evaded the ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron became so low as to be almost negligible. The procedure adopted was to send all ships, preliminary examination of which at sea aroused any suspicion, into Kirkwall or Lerwick harbours, where regular examination services were instituted. The ships were taken in under the supervision of an armed guard, sent on board from the boarding-vessel, and these guards underwent many unpleasant experiences. Several lost their lives in ships which were torpedoed by German submarines, and in many cases, particularly in badly found sailing ships, they underwent great hardships. The guards were also the means of saving more than one such ship from shipwreck, by working her themselves when the crew refused to do so any longer, and in all cases great tact and discretion on the part of the officer in charge, usually a junior officer of the Royal Naval Reserve, were necessary in his dealings with the neutral captains. The whole question of the efficiency of the Blockade — as shown by
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the returns furnished to me from Headquarters — was constantly under review by my Staff and myself.
The fate of the detained ship was decided in London on receipt of the report of examination. As was perhaps natural, the sentence on many ships' cargoes pronounced in London was not accepted without question from the Fleet, and a good deal of correspondence passed with reference to individual ships. We, in the Fleet, were naturally very critical of any suspicion of laxity in passing, into neutral countries bordering on Germany, articles which we suspected might find their way into Germany, and constant criticisms were forwarded by me, first to the Admiralty, and, later, to the Ministry of Blockade, when that Ministry was established.
The difficulties with which the Foreign Office was faced in regard to neutral susceptibilities were naturally not so apparent in the Fleet as to the authorities in London, and though many of our criticisms were perhaps somewhat unjustifiable, and some possibly incorrect, it is certain that in the main they were of use. Indeed, they were welcomed in London as giving the naval point of view. The decisive effect of the Blockade did not become apparent until the end, when the final crash came, and it was seen how supreme an influence on the result of the War this powerful weapon had exercised. Even those who during the War had been asking what the Navy was doing, recognised at the last how victory had been achieved, largely, as the result of the silent pressure of Sea Power.
VI. — THE GRAND FLEET BASES
Mention has been made elsewhere of the unprotected state of the Grand Fleet bases against submarine attack in the early part of the War. The matter was one of
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supreme importance, and formed the subject of very urgent representations to the Admiralty. Many brains were at work on the problem at the Admiralty, at the bases, and in the Fleet itself.
The first step was that taken under the direction of Captain Donald S. Munro, the King’s Harbour Master at Cromarty, who devised a system of submarine obstruction which later formed the pattern for the deepwater obstructions at most of our naval bases. Owing to his energy and driving power, the entrance to Cromarty was rendered fairly secure by October 26th, 1914. Whilst he was working out a defence for Cromarty another officer, Lieutenant Bircham, R.N.V.R., under the command of Admiral Sir Robert Lowry, the Commander-in-Chief of the coast of Scotland, suggested a method for providing an obstruction for the Rosyth base. This was fitted in place by the end of October, 1914, and was also entirely successful.
As soon as the Cromarty scheme was in train, I requested that obstructions on similar lines should be fitted to the three main entrances to Scapa Flow, the Hoxa entrance (by far the most likely to be attempted) being taken in hand first. Exasperating delays in the supply of the necessary material were experienced, and the first line of obstructions in the Hoxa entrance was not completed until December 29th, 1914, the first line in Switha Sound by January 12th, 1915, and that in Hoy Sound by February 19th, 1915. Meanwhile officers and men of the Fleet had improvised obstructions, first at Lough Swilly and Loch na Keal, and later at Scapa Flow, which, while not giving thorough security against a determined attempt at entry, had a psychological value. These obstructions, which were kept in existence
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even after the completion of the more efficient methods of dealing with the problem, involved much labour.
Towards the end of 1915, or early in 1916, the disadvantages attendant on basing the Fleet so far north as Scapa Flow, were discussed between Sir Henry Jackson (then First Sea Lord) and myself. We both felt that, with the Fleet at the northern base, the difficulties of intercepting the High Sea Fleet during coast raids, and of dealing with landing raids covered by the High Sea Fleet, were so considerable as to make it eminently desirable to base the whole Fleet farther south, if this were feasible. A discussion took place at Rosyth, and as the result I suggested a scheme of submarine obstructions across the Firth of Forth, which would admit not only of berthing the whole Grand Fleet in that anchorage, but would also allow of gunnery and torpedo practices being carried out with a considerable degree of safety in the Forth, so that the Fleet, if based there, could keep up its fighting efficiency. Many senior officers in the Grand Fleet were not in favour of the idea, for two reasons: first, that the Fleet could be mined in by the enemy with much greater ease when in the Forth than when at Scapa; and, secondly, that practices could not be so efficiently carried out in the Forth. There was much weight in both these objections, although the difficulties of carrying out practices in the Forth were exaggerated; but the strategic advantage, in my opinion, outweighed them, and the scheme was proceeded with as proposed.
That part of the scheme which admitted of the safe carrying out of practices was completed by December, 1916, and the whole of the new obstructions were in place by July, 1917, nearly a year later, it is true, than the anticipated date. The result certainly justified the conclusion arrived at. When the conditions made it at
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all probable that the High Sea Fleet might put to sea for an operation in southern waters, the Grand Fleet assembled in the Firth of Forth, and the undoubted disadvantages of the southern base were neutralised by skilful dispositions on the part of the flag officers responsible.
The protection of the Grand Fleet bases against submarine attack was only one of the many factors necessary for their development. In pre-War days, although it had been decided that the use of northern bases would be necessary in the event of a war with Germany, the bases had not been prepared to meet the new situation. It is, perhaps, desirable to remove any misunderstanding as to the causes of this failure:
(a) The decision had not long been taken, and
(b) The necessary financial provision was lacking.
Under the first of these headings the base at Scapa Flow was affected, and, under the second, that at Rosyth, where for some time progress in the development of the base had been arrested. The Admiralty had taken steps to make some preparations at Cromarty, in so far as the provision of gun defences against attack by surface vessels was concerned, but nothing had been done for the upkeep of a fleet beyond a decision to transfer to Cromarty, during war, one of the floating docks at southern yards.
In fact, the situation was that, whilst we had shifted our Fleet to the north, all the conveniences for the maintenance of that fleet were still in the Channel ports. The first step was the transference of the large floating dock from Portsmouth to Invergordon, in the Cromarty Firth, together with a staff of dockyard workmen, who were housed in a merchant ship captured from the Germans. Workshops were fitted up on shore under the
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energetic superintendence of Rear-Admiral Edmund R. Pears and his able staff of dockyard officers. It can be said with great emphasis that this floating dock was simply invaluable to the Grand Fleet.
Invergordon gradually developed into a great repairing base. A second and smaller floating dock was purchased early in 1916 at my request and placed there, and by the middle of that year the base had attained large proportions; work of all kinds was carried out with rapidity and success, including the repairs of battleships after the Jutland battle, and the great extension in armoured-deck protection fitted to ships after the same action.
Ordinary refits of battleships had been carried out at Invergordon since the autumn of 1914. At Scapa Flow the same possibilities as a repairing base did not exist, although a floating dock for destroyers, for which many requests had been made, was eventually obtained and placed there.
But the base at Scapa Flow had extended out of all knowledge in other directions. In August, 1914, the base organisation consisted only of the seagoing Fleet repair ships Cyclops and Assistance. At an early stage the Cyclops was connected to a shore telegraph cable off the village of Scapa, and she became at the same time a floating post office and a base for the auxiliary vessels (a few drifters) which were first requisitioned. Rear-Admiral Francis S. Miller was appointed to her as the Senior Naval Officer at the base. The manner in which the great demands on her accommodation were met was a standing wonder to me. In the early part of the War, officers on Admiral Miller's staff and others were obliged to make their sleeping berths, as best they could, on the deck or on top of their writing-tables, and it was surprising that the overcrowding in all directions did not affect health. But the work went on very successfully in the most inconvenient circumstances.
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Towards the end of 1914 it became necessary, owing to the weather conditions, to move the base organisations from the north to the south-west side of Scapa Flow. The anchorage at Long Hope was selected, whilst the Fleet itself lay off the north side of the Island of Flotta, and the numerous larger auxiliaries, colliers, oilers, store ships, and the ammunition ships lay between Long Hope and Hoy Sound. Prior to this, the importance of the organisation in the Orkneys and Shetlands had increased to such an extent that I had asked for the appointment of a Senior Flag Officer in general command of the whole district, and of the defences in particular.
So much of my time was being occupied in deciding and pressing forward the work of organisation of the base and its obstructions and defences, in dealing with the numerous questions relating to the patrol of the coast by coast watchers, in arranging for the disposal of merchant ships sent in for reexamination, and for guarding such vessels, in considering questions affecting the occupation of land for the erection of defences, in the requisitioning of trawlers and drifters, etc., that it was becoming difficult to deal with the fast accumulating Fleet work proper. Vice-Admiral Sir Stanley Colville, who suggested that he should waive his seniority in order to serve as my junior officer, was appointed Vice-Admiral Commanding the Orkneys and Shetlands. This left Rear-Admiral Miller free to devote himself to the increasingly heavy work of base organisation proper, relieved me of a mass of work outside the Fleet, and was of the greatest possible benefit in every way. Under Sir Stanley Colville's
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most able direction, the completion of the organisation for the general defences of the Islands, the work of patrol craft and mine-sweepers, and the provision of submarine obstructions was effected, and the work pushed forward. Captain Stanley Dean Pitt, R.N., an officer of very wide experience, was appointed to superintend the work of laying the submarine obstructions, and under his able direction, in the face of the greatest difficulties due to bad weather and strong tides, the entrances to Scapa Flow were either blocked by sunken ships or obstructed by nets, mines, and other devices.
The gun defences at Scapa, which at the beginning of the War consisted of 12-pounder and 8-pounder guns landed from the Fleet, were gradually reinforced by four-inch and six-inch guns obtained from abroad, the whole being manned by Royal Marine pensioners under Lieut.-Colonel Gerald N. A. Harris, R.M.A. The garrison was housed in huts, erected temporarily for the purpose, and although with the handiness which characterises a Royal Marine in all circumstances, the officers and men eventually made themselves comfortable even under such weather conditions as are experienced at Scapa Flow, they endured a very considerable amount of hardship in the early days with their accustomed cheerfulness.
And here I cannot fail to mention the endurance and staying qualities of the crews of the trawlers that supported the submarine obstructions, particularly those at Scapa Flow. These trawlers were moored in positions in which they were exposed to the whole fury of northerly and southerly gales; in many cases they were within a few yards of a rocky coast, heavy seas breaking over them and bringing on board tons of water. The skippers knew that they had to stick it out for the sake of the safety of
GRAND FLEET AND BASES 83
the Fleet and the maintenance of the obstruction, and under these conditions they did their duty in a manner which calls for the highest praise.
Meanwhile the development of the base proper proceeded apace. One of the earlier arrivals was the old cruiser Imperieuse, which was used as a post office, depot, and general overflow ship to the Cyclops. The number of trawlers and drifters, which had their home at Scapa Flow and which were engaged on patrol or minesweeping work, attendance on the Fleet, garrison, or on the mass of Fleet auxiliaries, increased with great rapidity during the winter of 1914-15; on September 1st, 1914, the number was nil, and it reached a total of some four yachts, eighty-five trawlers, and twenty-seven drifters by the summer of 1915. These vessels all looked to the Cyclops, Assistance and Imperieuse for refit, pay, food, and for every conceivable want. Gradually the number of base ships was increased, culminating in the arrival of the old battleship Victorious about March 6, 1916, as the "home" of some 500 dockyard workmen working in the Fleet, fitting the Director System, increasing the protection to decks and magazines, carrying out minor repairs, re-tubing condensers, and many other urgent tasks.
Mention has been made of the large number of colliers, oilers, store ships, ammunition ships, etc, that were used by the Fleet. At one time this caused some criticism, based principally on the time spent by the colliers at the Fleet Base. It may be as well to explain the necessity for this. There were no facilities at the base for the storage of coal, either in lighters or on shore. Consequently, the whole of the coal required at the base was necessarily kept on board the colliers. The actual number of colliers which I deemed it necessary to keep
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at the base during the first two years of war was determined by the necessity for coaling the Fleet and getting it to sea again with the utmost possible rapidity. We could not contemplate such a situation as the Fleet arriving short of fuel, and being delayed in completing owing to shortage of colliers, with the possibility of information being received simultaneously that the High Sea Fleet was at sea and covering a landing raid on our coast! Rapidity of fuelling was of vital importance to the Empire.
Therefore, in stating my requirements of colliers, I gave the number necessary to enable almost the whole Fleet to be fuelled simultaneously; in other words, the number of colliers was dependent on the number of coal-burning ships in the Fleet, Some slight reduction was found possible, to allow for the probable case of some ships requiring less coal than others, thus admitting of two such ships using one collier in succession; but, broadly speaking, the requirements were as stated. When the cargo of colliers fell below a certain minimum, they returned to Cardiff to refill to economise tonnage.
At Rosyth the situation was eased by the transport of coal by rail to Grangemouth and its transshipment to colliers there. As we needed colliers as coal-storing ships, so also we required ammunition ships to carry a proportion of the reserve ammunition for the Fleet. There were no facilities at Scapa or Cromarty for storage on shore. The number of ships required for this service was, however, much smaller.
Floating storage of all sorts possesses one great advantage over shore storage; should strategic conditions necessitate a change of base, the coal, ammunition and other auxiliaries can move with the Fleet. The same argument applies in a lesser degree to floating docks.
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A consideration of all these facts connected with the development of fleet bases will show that this question necessarily required a good deal of attention on the part of my Staff and myself, and was incidental to the development of the Grand Fleet.
VII. — THE PERSONNEL AND ITS WELFARE
Another factor in the development of the Fleet, by no means the least important, was that of the moral and spirit of the personnel. It is, of course, impossible to exaggerate the importance of this question as an element in the efficiency of the Fleet. In the early months of war, when the Fleet was continually at sea, the few hours spent in harbour were fully occupied in coaling and storing the ships; but these conditions could not be continued indefinitely. As the months passed with no sign of enemy vessels at sea and time in harbour increased as compared to that spent at sea, it became necessary to find some diversion for the minds of the officers and men.
The first step taken at Scapa Flow was carried out under the superintendence of Vice-Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, then commanding the 1st Battle Squadron. Always alive to the necessity for providing occupation, recreation, and exercise for officers and men, he started considerable works on Flotta Island, works of such a divergent nature as batteries for the defence of the submarine obstructions then in progress, football grounds for the men, a golf course for the officers, and landing piers on the beach. These schemes grew and were eventually divided out amongst the various squadrons. A rifle and pistol range were also constructed, and several piers
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built. The whole of the work was carried out, I may add, by means of Fleet labour. Later a “Canteen" ship, the s.s. Ghourko, was fitted up by the Junior Army and Navy Stores, and this vessel played an important part in the harbour life of the Grand Fleet. She carried stores and provisions of all sorts, available for use by all ships, but particularly of the smaller vessels which could not send their mess stewards far afield in search of a change of diet. She was provided with a stage, and theatrical and cinema entertainments took place on board frequently. She was also fitted with a boxing ring, and squadron boxing competitions were held on board with great frequency. Finally, she was utilised for lectures of all sorts, and for the Church services of Roman Catholics and Nonconformists.
The system of lectures was encouraged to the utmost. Officers lectured on board their ships to the ships' companies on every subject, the War included, and much good resulted.
Education was freely developed. The Admiralty provided, at my request, schoolmasters in large numbers, and classes for the boys and voluntary classes for the men in the evenings in harbour were very well attended.
And, finally, exercise of all sorts was encouraged to the utmost extent possible. This took the form principally of football, rowing regattas, athletic sports and boxing. The keenness displayed in all these sports was a certain indication that the personnel was showing no sign of staleness.
The Englishman's love of sport helps him to tide over periods of tedium and weariness, which are most calculated to undermine discipline. Occupation and interest are the surest antidotes to discontent and unrest, and never during the first two and a half years did I see signs
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of either. On the contrary, the men, I believe, were thoroughly happy and contented, treated the War as being in the day's work, and looked forward eagerly to the day on which their enemy would give them the opportunity for which they were waiting, and for which they kept themselves thoroughly efficient and fit.
In those days the officers got to know the men even better than they had done before, and the spirit of comradeship between all ranks became correspondingly closer. Certainly no Commander-in-Chief could ever have desired to see in the force under his orders a finer spirit than that which animated the officers and men of the Grand Fleet.
DECLARATION OF WAR
At 8 a.m. on August 4th, 1914, the Grand Fleet proceeded to sea in compliance with Admiralty orders. The ships accompanying the Fleet-Flagship Iron Duke were the vessels of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Battle Squadrons, the light cruisers Southampton, Birmingham, Boadicea, Blonde and the destroyers of the 4th Flotilla; the cruisers Shannon, Natal and Roxburgh, and the light cruisers Nottingham, Falmouth and Liverpool, which were at Rosyth with the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, were directed to meet the Fleet at a rendezvous in Lat. 58.40 N, Long, 1.30 E. The light cruisers Bellona and Blanche were left behind to coal.
A report received from the Admiralty that three German transports had passed the Great Belt on the evening of August 1st had led to the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, with the cruisers Cochrane and Achilles, and the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, being ordered to sea on the evening of August 3rd to cruise to the southward of the Fair Island Channel during the night. The orders under which the Fleet acted were to sweep east as far as Long. 2 E. and, then, for the cruisers to carry out a wide sweep to the southward and south-westward.
These orders were in conformity with the general strategical ideas embodied in the War Orders for the Grand Fleet, which, as already indicated, aimed at establishing a blockade; at preventing the enemy forces from getting into the Atlantic to interfere with the operations
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of our cruisers engaged in protecting our own trade as well as stopping trade on the part of the enemy; and at asserting control of the North Sea and denying it to the enemy. Pursuant to these orders, the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and 3rd Cruiser Squadron were directed to sweep the area between Lat. 60 and 61 N., working eastward from the Shetland Islands to Long. 2 E., arriving there at 4 p.m., thence to sweep to the S.E. until 5 a.m. on August 5th, when they were on a line drawn S.W. from Hangesund Light in Lat. 59.25 N. with the eastern ship 20 miles from the coast. The Antrim and Argyll, being short of fuel, were detached during the evening of August 4th to coal at Scapa.
The sweep was prolonged to the westward by the cruisers and light cruisers from Rosyth; the 2nd Flotilla was detached to Rosyth to fuel. This first sweep was begun in northern waters because the North Sea is narrower at this point, and also because it afforded opportunity of intercepting vessels which might have left German ports two days previously in anticipation of hostilities. The cruiser sweep was supported by the Battle Fleet, which steamed as far as Long. 2 E., turning at 3 a.m. on August 5th to the westward.
The 3rd Battle Squadron which had been compelled to leave Scapa 30 per cent, short of fuel owing to the paucity of colliers, was detached to that base at 8.30 p.m. on the 4th, to complete with coal.
During the night information was received by wireless telegraphy that war had been declared against Germany at midnight, 4th-5th August, and the following gracious message was received from His Majesty the King and was communicated to the Fleet:
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"At this grave moment in our National History, I send to you and through you to the officers and men of the Fleet of which you have assumed command, the assurance of my confidence that under your direction they will revive and renew the old glories of the Royal Navy, and prove once again the sure Shield of Britain and of her Empire in the hour of trial."
During daylight on the 5th, the Battle Fleet cruised to the northward of Lat. 57.30 N., in accordance with Admiralty telegraphic orders; the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron was sent back to Scapa to coal, as well as four light cruisers and the Lowestoft, and the 4th Flotilla was sent to Invergordon for a similar purpose. In the afternoon, the 2nd Cruiser Squadron and the cruiser Devonshire, as well as the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, were detached to sweep to the eastward, and the Battle Fleet turned to the southward at 8 a.m. on the 6th to meet the 3rd Battle Squadron and 3rd Cruiser Squadron in Lat. 59 N., Long. 1.0 E.
During August 6th the following reports were received:
(a) Two German cruisers were reported passing Trondhjem going north. (This came from the Admiralty.)
(b) Four torpedo-boats had been seen off the northwest end of the Shetlands going north. (This was a local report.)
(c) The German liner Kronprinzessin Cecilie was stated to have passed through the Stronsay Firth, Orkneys, boimd east, during the night of the 5th-6th. (Local report.) The destroyer Oak was despatched to search the vicinity of the Stronsay and Westray Firths, but obtained no confirmation of the report.
(d) It was reported that the Germans had established a base in Lat. 62 N. on the Norwegian coast (the exact position unknown).
DECLARATION OF WAR 91
A search of the coast by cruisers revealed nothing in confirmation of the last report, but a British trawler reported that a large number of German merchant ships had assembled in the West Fiord and in the harbours of the Lofoten Islands on the coast of Norway. Reports as to the Germans having established a base on the Norwegian coast were very persistent during the early days of the War. These reports were probably to some extent due to the ideas prevailing before the War as to German intentions in this respect, these views being naturally coloured by the frequent visits of the German High Sea Fleet in peace time to Norwegian waters, particularly to the vicinity of Trondhjem.
In 1911, when I commanded the Atlantic Fleet, arrangements had been made for me to visit Norwegian ports at the same time as the High Sea Fleet, in order to bring about a meeting between the two navies, with, it was hoped, beneficial results. But the Agadir crisis intervened, and the visit was postponed. The meeting took place in 1914, when a portion of the 2nd Battle Squadron, under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir George Warrender, visited Kiel during the regatta week, very shortly before the outbreak of war.
During daylight of August 6th the Dreadnought Battle Fleet cruised between Lat. 59 N. and 60 N. and Long. 1 E. and 1 W.; the 2nd Cruiser Squadron and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron swept to the eastward between Lat. 58 N. and 60 N., thence to the northward along the Norwegian coast, and to the Shetlands and Scapa Flow, the 3rd Battle Squadron being detached to the N.E. to cover them. The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron rejoined the Battle Fleet at sea after refuelling; the
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2nd Flotilla left Rosyth at daylight and swept to the north-eastward; and the 4th Flotilla left Invergordon with orders to search the vicinity of the Pentland Firth for submarines prior to the arrival of the Battle Fleet on the 7th.
The Dreadnought Battle Fleet arrived at Scapa at 6 a.m. on the 7th to fuel; the 2nd Cruiser Squadron and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron arrived at 10 a.m., and during the day the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, with the 2nd Flotilla, carried out a thorough search of the Norwegian coast, being covered by the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and 3rd Battle Squadron. No sign of a German base could be discovered, and the force was ordered back to Scapa to fuel.
The fuelling of the Fleet was considerably delayed, owing to the inadequate number of colliers, many of those present being also unsuitable for the work of rapid coaling. The lack of lubricating oil for the 3rd Battle Squadron also caused trouble, but these early difficulties, although a source of considerable anxiety at the commencement of hostilities, were overcome later.
The greatest anxiety constantly confronting me was the defenceless nature of the base at Scapa, which was open to submarine and destroyer attacks. Whilst the Fleet was fuelling the only protection that could be afforded was to anchor light cruisers and destroyers off the various entrances and to patrol outside the main entrance; but these measures were no real defence against submarines, and the position was such that it was deemed most inadvisable to keep the Fleet in harbour longer than was absolutely necessary for fuelling purposes. Accordingly, at 6.30 p.m. on the same day, the Battle Fleet again proceeded to sea, being screened through the Pentland Firth to the westward until dark by the 4th Flotilla, and course being then shaped to pass
DECLARATION OF WAR 93
round the Orkneys into the North Sea. In order to provide some protection against destroyer attack, a request was forwarded to the Admiralty asking that two of the older battleships might be sent up to defend the main entrances. This measure was approved and a reply was received that the Hannibal and Magnificent were being despatched.
The Russell, Albemarle and Exmouth, of the 6th Battle Squadron, belonging originally to the Channel Fleet, arrived at Scapa to join the Grand Fleet on the night of the 7th-8th.
At 9.30 p.m. on the 8th the battleships Orion, Monarch and Ajax, were detached to carry out target practice, and the remainder of the Fleet proceeded to the south-eastward from Fair Island, carrying out Fire Control Exercises; but, on receipt of a report from the Monarch that a torpedo had been fired at her by a submarine, the practice was stopped and the ships rejoined, one-half of the 2nd Flotilla being directed to search for the submarine. At 6.30 p.m. the officer of the watch on board the Iron Duke sighted a periscope and altered course to ram; the same periscope was shortly afterwards reported by the Dreadnought, but was not seen again.
At 4 a.m. on the 9th, the Fleet was in Lat. 58.31 N., Long. 1.9 E.
Shortly afterwards the Orion reported a strong smell of oil, and bubbles were seen on the surface, and the Birmingham, commanded by Captain A. M. Duff, of the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, which had been screening ahead of the Fleet with the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, claimed to have rammed and sunk the German submarine U 15, which she had sighted on the surface. This initial success was hailed with great satisfaction in the Fleet. Subsequent information showed that the Birmingham
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had been handled with great promptitude. During daylight of August 9th, the Battle Fleet and 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron were cruising in company, the noon position being Lat. 58.41 N., Long. 0.15 W., and as the presence of submarines was suspected, the Fleet was constantly zigzagging, the ships altering course by "Blue Pendant" turns, that is, turning together by signal.
At midnight, 9th-10th, the position of the Iron Duke was Lat. 57.51 N., Long. 1.2 E.
On the 9th a telegram was dispatched to the Admiralty requesting that the movements of the Commodore (T) and Commodore (S) might be directed from the Admiralty, whilst the Commander-in-Chief with the Fleet remained in northern waters, as it was not possible to be sufficiently conversant with the conditions in the south for the Commander-in-Chief to control these movements. This plan was adopted and continued throughout the War.
On August 10th, the movements of the Fleet were as follows:
At 5 a.m. the Iron Duke parted company from the Fleet and proceeded to Scapa in order that the Commander-in-Chief might communicate by land wire with the Admiralty and make further arrangements for the work at the fleet bases. The Iron Duke, with the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, and the Falmouth, Liverpool and Bellona, arrived at Scapa at 2.30 p.m., the 2nd Flotilla forming a submarine screen through the Pentland Firth.
The remainder of the Battle Fleet proceeded north under the command of Sir George Warrender to a position to the westward of the Shetlands, in accordance with telegraphic directions received from the Admiralty, where it was considered that the submarine danger in the North Sea was considerable at this time. The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron was detached to sweep a wide area to
DECLARATION OF WAR 95
northward and westward in advance of the Battle Fleet, which was screened by the 4th Flotilla as far north as Lat. 60 N.; this flotilla was then detached for operations on the Norwegian coast in conjunction with the 3rd Cruiser Squadron and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, The latter force was directed to search for a suspected German submarine base in the vicinity of Stavanger Fiord. The Flag officer in command was directed to carry out the operation of endeavouring to locate this base — if it existed — with due regard to the susceptibilities of the Norwegians. Commodore W. E. Goodenough, commanding the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, visited Stavanger in the Southampton and was assured by the Norwegian authorities that no base had been formed in that vicinity by the enemy.
The 2nd Cruiser Squadron and the Falmouth left Scapa at 10 p.m. on the 10th to co-operate with the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, the Hannibal and Magnificent having arrived at Scapa at 4 p.m. These two battleships were stationed to defend the Hoxa and Hoy entrances to Scapa Flow against attack by destroyers.
Rear-Admiral Miller, who arrived in the Hannibal, was placed in administrative charge of the base and of the local defences, and arrangements were made for the local Territorial Force and other inhabitants of the Orkneys and Shetlands to patrol the coast and watch the harbours. Telephonic communication round the coast was established by degrees.
Reports were received of aeroplanes having been seen over the Orkneys on the evening of the 10th, and the Centurion reported having sighted an airship north of the Shetlands on the same evening. Little credence was attached to these reports, which in the early days of the War were very frequently received.
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August 11th. — The Iron Duke left Scapa and rejoined the Battle Fleet at 5 p.m. in Lat. 60.8 N., Long 3.28 W. The Battle Fleet was then exercised in forming line of battle, and also carried out sub-calibre gun practice. The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron joined after completing its northern sweep and was detached to Scapa to fuel at 8 p.m. The 3rd Cruiser Squadron, 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, and 4th Flotilla, having completed their examination of the Norwegian coast, returned, some to Scapa and some to Cromarty, to fuel. The 2nd Cruiser Squadron returned to a position N.E. by E., 30 miles from Kinnaird Head. The Drake, flying the Flag of Rear-Admiral W. L. Grant, which had joined the Grand Fleet, was dispatched to search the coast of the Faroe Islands for possible enemy bases.
The 10th Cruiser Squadron, consisting of the old cruisers of the "Edgar" class, had by this time been established on a northern patrol area between the Shetlands and the Norwegian coast, under the command of Rear-Admiral Dudley de Chair.
On this day orders were given to establish Loch Ewe, on the north-west coast of Scotland, as a secondary coaling base for the Fleet, and Rear-Admiral Richard P. F. Purefoy was appointed to take charge of the base.
A week of war had now elapsed without any move whatever being made on the part of the High Sea Fleet; the only German naval activities had been mine-laying in southern waters during the first two days of the War, together with some submarine activity in the North Sea. The British Fleet during the week had been largely occupied in boarding all merchant vessels sighted, and in instituting as strict a blockade as was possible.
DECLARATION OF WAR 97
August 12th. — The Battle Fleet to the westward of the Orkneys (noon position Lat. 59.20 N., Long. 4.12 W.) was exercised during the forenoon and afternoon at battle tactics and carried out gunnery practices between 4 and 8 p.m.; it proceeded then to Scapa Flow to fuel arriving at daylight on the 15th, with the exception of the 3rd Battle Squadron, which went to Loch Ewe to coal, and to test the suitability of this base and its capability for defence against submarine attack.
The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, which had been fuelling at Scapa, left before dark on the 12th to cruise west of the Orkneys with orders to economise fuel in view of a projected operation to the southward.
The 2nd Cruiser Squadron and the Falmouth swept 100 miles to the south-eastward from Kinnaird Head during the day, and then returned to Cromarty to fuel. The Bellona and Liverpool swept to the south-eastward of the Pentland Firth during the day and night of the 12th, together with one-half of the 2nd Flotilla as a guard against destroyer attack on the Fleet whilst coaling.
The 10th Cruiser Squadron remained on the northern patrol. A report was received from Rear-Admiral Grant, in the Drake, that the position in the Faroe Islands was quite satisfactory, neutrality being observed. The Drake remained on patrol to the north-eastward of the Faroe Islands, and two ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron were sent to assist her in her work of blockade.
Rear-Admiral E. R. Pears was on this date appointed in charge of the Fleet Base at Cromarty.
The Admiralty informed me that a neutral steamer from Hamburg had arrived in England and reported that there were fourteen enemy battleships at Cuxhaven on the 9th inst., together with several mine-layers; that there were 30 destroyers between Cuxhaven and Heligoland, and that a large mine-field had been laid outside the
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entrance to the Jade river. This was the first definite news of the enemy's main fleet.
August 13th. — The Dreadnought Battle Fleet was coaling at Scapa during the day, and the 3rd Battle Squadron coaling and storing at Loch Ewe. My object in providing this alternative base was to expedite entry into the bases for fuelling, and also to be prepared with a second base in the event of Scapa Flow becoming untenable by submarine attack.
The Albemarle relieved the Liverpool and Bellona on patrol to the eastward of the Orkneys in the evening, these two ships returning to Scapa to fuel.
The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron was at sea west of the Orkneys; the 2nd Cruiser Squadron at Cromarty coaling; the 3rd Cruiser Squadron at sea sweeping to the south-eastward from the Aberdeenshire coast; and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron at Scapa coaling. The Falmouth was now attached to this squadron.
The 10th Cruiser Squadron and the Drake were on the northern and Faroe patrols. During the day the Commander-in-Chief held a conference with the Flag officers of the Fleet and explained the operations contemplated on the 15th and 16th inst. At 7.30 p.m. the Dreadnought Battle Fleet proceeded to sea to the westward, except two ships which had not finished coaling, the operation having been again delayed owing to an insufficient number of colliers being provided. They followed later.
Ajax reported a turret defective, and was sent back to effect repairs with the aid of the Cyclops.
August 14th. — During the forenoon the Dreadnought Battle Fleet and battle cruisers were carrying out target practice. Noon position of the Iron Duke, Lat. 59.11 N., Long. 4.27 W.
DECLARATION OF WAR 99
At 2 p.m. all Battle Squadrons, including the 3rd Battle Squadron from Rosyth and the 6th Battle Squadron, rejoined the Flag, and battle exercises, including deployments, were carried out till 7 p.m.
At midnight the whole Fleet passed through the Fair Island Channel on its way to carry out a sweep in the North Sea.
During the night of the 14th-15th all squadrons were moving towards a concentration rendezvous in the North Sea, that for the 2nd and 3rd Cruiser Squadrons being Lat. 58.52 N., Long. 0.0, and for the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron Lat. 59.0 N., Long. 0.15 E., at 3 a.m. on the 15th; the rendezvous for the 2nd and 4th Flotillas was Lat. 59. 7 N., Long. 0.40 W., at 4 a.m. the 15th; for the mine-sweepers Lat. 58.40 N., Long. 3.45 E., at 6. p.m. the 15th; four ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron from the northern patrol joined the Fleet at 6 a.m. on the 15th.
Towards the end of July, 1914, information from a usually reliable source had been received at the Admiralty indicating that the Germans intended carrying out a very extensive mine-laying policy in British waters in the event of war between the two countries. The actual positions of many mine-fields were given by our informant, and it was apparent, provided the information were correct, that the enemy intended to lay mines regardless of their effect on mercantile traffic, whether British, Allied, or neutral.
The proceedings of the mine-layer Koningen Louise in the first days of war tended to confirm this view, and consequently it was thought to be quite probable that mine-fields of an extensive character might be laid in the North Sea, in positions where they might be expected to be effective against any movement of our Fleet, particularly any southward movement.
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The small margin of superiority which we possessed over the German fleet, as compared with the immense difference in our naval responsibilities, made it very necessary that precautions should be taken to safeguard the most valuable of our ships from such a menace when operating in waters that might be mined.
It was for this reason that the six mine-sweepers accompanied the Battle Fleet during this sweep, for, although the speed of the Fleet was necessarily reduced by their presence in order to admit of sweeping operations, and the danger from submarine attack thereby increased, and although the sweeping operations could only be carried out in an exploratory fashion, there was the chance that the danger incurred by taking the whole Fleet over possible mine-fields might be much reduced.
Later, when it became impossible to take the sweepers to sea as their presence was more necessary in the vicinity of the bases, the practice was introduced of placing one of the older battleships of the 6th Battle Squadron ahead of each squadron of the Dreadnought Fleet in order that these less valuable ships might first discover the mines instead of the Dreadnought battleships. The officers and men of the 6th Battle Squadron named their Squadron the "Mine Bumping Squadron" on this account.
August 15th. — At noon the Iron Duke's position was Lat. 58.16 N., Long. 1.45 E., the whole Fleet being in company in cruising order and steering to the eastward, preparatory to turning south. The plan of operations included a sweep of the southern part of the North Sea by cruiser forces comprising some of the older cruisers, together with the 1st and 3rd Flotillas from Harwich; two of our submarines had been ordered to be off the Ems and two off the Jade by 6 a.m. on the 16th.
During the day three sea-planes and two aeroplanes arrived at Scapa for reconnaissance work from the base.
DECLARATION OF WAR 101
August 16th. — At 4 a.m. the Iron Duke was in Lat. 56.43 N., Long. 4.5 E. At 8 a.m., no report having been received of the sighting of any German vessels, the Commander-in-Chief directed the cruisers to continue the sweep until 9.30 a.m. At this time the Fleet-flagship Iron Duke's position was Lat. 55.56 N., Long. 4.40 E., the battle cruisers being some 40 to 50 miles ahead of the Battle Fleet. The only enemy vessel seen was one submarine by the New Zealand at 10.35 a.m. in Lat. 55.45 N., Long. 5.26 E.
The weather was very fine with high visibility, and at 9.30 a.m., the cruisers being then well to the southward of the latitude of the Horn Reef, the whole Fleet turned to the northward, the Battle Fleet on a north by west course, at a speed of 12 knots, zigzagging.
Rear-Admiral Christian, of the 7th Cruiser Squadron, reported that the sweep of the southern force had been unproductive.
The cruisers were now disposed on a wide front for a northerly sweep, spreading from the Norwegian coast, for a distance of 150 miles, to the westward, with the Battle Fleet in the centre. The 2nd Cruiser Squadron swept to Lister, on the Norwegian coast, and then along that coast as far as Lat. 60 N., thence towards Kinnaird Head, with the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron prolonging and supporting. The 3rd Cruiser Squadron extended the front to the westward, supported by the 3rd Battle Squadron.
The 1st Light Cruiser Squadron remained in rear of the Battle Fleet until dusk, and then was stationed 12 miles ahead. The 10th Cruiser Squadron, spread 10 miles apart, covered the area between the Battle Fleet and the 2nd Cruiser Squadron. The 2nd and 4th Flotillas remained with the Battle Fleet, acting as a submarine
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screen by day, and keeping in rear of the Fleet at night.
The minesweepers, which had swept ahead of the Battle Fleet when on the southerly course, acted as a submarine screen during the passage to the northward. During the night of the 16th-17th the 3rd Cruiser Squadron was detached to Cromarty to coal, the 10th Cruiser Squadron to Scapa to coal, and to resume the northern patrol, and the 6th Battle Squadron, the 2nd Flotilla mine-sweepers and 3rd Battle Squadron proceeded to Scapa to fuel.
August 17th. — At 7.15 a.m. the Dreadnought Battle Fleet altered course to pass through the Fair Island Channel, and the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron rejoined, The 4th Flotilla, which had been disposed astern during the night, resumed station as a submarine screen at daylight. The Battle Fleet zigzagged as usual throughout daylight.
At noon the Iron Duke’s position was Lat. 58.59 N., Long. 1.35 E. At midnight, Lat. 59.27 N., Long. 2.25 W., and at 8 a.m. the 18th, Lat. 58.44 N., Long. 4.47 W.
The 2nd Cruiser Squadron on the northerly sweep sighted only neutral vessels and proceeded to work in an area designated as No. 5 (eastward from Kinnaird Head). Noon position, Lat. 58.42 N., Long. 3.0 E.
This area. No. 5, was designed to cover the approach to the Pentland Firth, both for blockade purposes and as an outpost position for the Fleet at Scapa.
At this time, the northern and central parts of the North Sea were divided into certain numbered areas in which cruisers could be directed by wireless to work without the necessity of making a long signal.
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The various areas were approximately placed as follows:
Area No. 1. — Covering the route round the north end of the Shetland Islands from the southward and eastward.
" No. 2. — Covering the Fair Island Channel to south-eastward, working down to the line Kinnaird Head — Udsire.
" No. 3. South-eastward from the N.E. end of the Orkneys to Lat. of Kinnaird Head, with a width of about 50 miles from the line Noss Head — Kinnaird Head.
" No. 4. — South-eastward 120 miles from the line Kinnaird Head — Udsire Lighthouse between 70 and 140 miles from Kinnaird Head.
" No. 5. — South-eastward 120 miles from the line Kinnaird Head — Udsire Lighthouse, between Area 4 and Norwegian territorial waters.
" No. 6. — South-eastward 120 miles from the line Kinnaird Head — Udsire lighthouse, between 20 and 70 miles from Elinnaird Head.
" No. 7. — Between Lat. 55.20 N. and 57.50 N. and between 50 and 150 miles from the English coast.
The 10th Cruiser Squadron, having coaled, left to resume the northern patrol; the Drake, and the two ships acting with her, were ordered to return to Scapa to coal, and directions were given for the other two ships to rejoin the 10th Cruiser Squadron subsequently. During the day the Orion developed serious condenser defects, necessitating retubing her condensers. A telegram was sent to the Admiralty requesting that new condenser tubes might be sent at once to Loch Ewe, together with dockyard workmen to assist with the retubing. Meanwhile arrangements were made for giving fleet assistance to the Orion, and for all suitable spare condenser tubes from the fleet to be sent to her on arrival.
The situation as regards the coal supply to the Fleet had by this time become very serious, and was causing me much anxiety; in reply to strong representations to the Admiralty, a telegram was received explaining the position and the efforts being made to rectify matters.
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The Admiralty also informed me of the great importance that was attached to the efficiency of the northern patrol, and stated that four armed merchant ships were being sent to reinforce the 10th Cruiser Squadron.
The constant sea work had by this time shown the inadequacy of the engine-room implements of all ships for war conditions, and, in consequence of representations to this effect, 1,000 R.N.R. firemen were sent to Scapa for distribution amongst the various ships. The benefit derived from this measure was very considerable.
Two Fleet messenger vessels, the Cambria and Anglia, arrived at Scapa on the 17th. These ships were used for communications between the bases, for carrying mails and despatches, and for boarding duties.
August 18th. — The Dreadnought Battle Fleet arrived at Loch Ewe to fuel early in the afternoon; it was accompanied by the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron which was without the Falmouth and Liverpool. The attached cruisers were anchored in suitable positions for defending the entrance against submarine attack, so far as they were capable of doing it, and the armed steamboats of the fleet patrolled the entrance.
The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron had been detached to Scapa at daylight to fuel. A coaling base for the 10th Cruiser Squadron had been by this time established at Lerwick in order to shorten the distance for the ships when proceeding to fuel. The Alsatian, an armed merchant ship, joined the 10th Cruiser Squadron.
The Assistance arrived at Loch Ewe as base repair ship, and was connected to the shore telegraph system.
Aeroplanes were reported off Foula Island, south-west of the Shetlands, during the night of the 18th-19th. Enquiry showed this rumour to be false. The Admiralty informed me on this date that Rear-Admiral
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Arthur Christian, with his Flag in the Sapphire, had been placed in command of all forces in the southern portion of the North Sea, namely, Cruiser force C, the destroyer and submarine flotillas. As already explained, these forces were acting under direct Admiralty orders and were independent of me, unless ordered to join my Flag.
This organisation was dropped later on, after the loss of the Cressy, Aboukir and Hogue, Cruiser force C being abolished, and the command of the destroyer and submarine forces reverting to their own senior officers.
August 19th, 21st, 22nd.— The Battle Fleet and 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron remained in harbour during the 19th, coaling, storing, cleaning boilers, and taking in additional ammunition up to a maximum storage. With the exception of the Orion, these ships left on the 20th at 6.30 p.m. for an area to the westward of the Orkneys and Shetlands, with orders to carry out target practice on the 21st. The battle cruiser New Zealand was ordered to the Humber to join the Invincible.
As Commodore Keyes reported on this date that our submarines in the Heligoland Bight were being followed and watched by German trawlers fitted with wireless, I informed the Admiralty that I proposed to treat such vessels as men of war. This was approved. The 2nd and 3rd Cruiser Squadrons were directed to work in Patrol Area 1 alternately, and to carry out target practice in the Cromarty Firth, en route to the patrol area.
The practice of the Battle Fleet on the 21st was interfered with by fog and the Fleet did not form up until late at night, and passed through the Fair Island Channel into the North Sea during the early morning of the 22nd. The Battle Fleet was joined off Fair Island by the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, was exercised in battle tactics during the day, and in the afternoon was joined by the
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2nd Flotilla as a submarine screen in Lat. 59.50 N., Long. 1.30 E. The position of the Iron Duke at midnight, 22nd-23rd, was Lat. 59.34 N., Long. 1.58 E., steering to southward.
The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, which had been detained at Scapa by fog during the 21st, carried out target practice to the westward of the Orkneys on the 22nd, and then proceeded to a position in Lat. 59.15 N., Long. 1 E., in readiness to support cruisers of the 3rd Cruiser Squadron and the 6th Cruiser Squadron, now comprising the Drake and King Alfred, which were ordered to work between Scotland and Norway in areas to the southward of the position named.
There were no reports of enemy ships being sighted except one submarine in Lat. 55.4 N., Long. 1.35 E., on August 20th. The Admiralty informed me on this date that the Portsmouth floating-dock had left for Cromarty northabout, in pursuance of the policy decided on before the War. It was, therefore, suggested that one of the boy artificers’ floating workshops should be sent north to work in conjunction with the dock. Steps were taken to carry out this suggestion, but the ship was lost on passage in bad weather near Portland.
August 23rd. — The Battle Fleet remained cruising in the North Sea in support of the Cruiser Squadrons, the weather being misty, with rain. The 3rd Battle Squadron was detached to Scapa to coal, to arrive at daylight, the 24th; the 2nd and 6th Cruiser Squadrons and 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, supported by the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, were sweeping to the southward as far south as Lat. 56 N.; the Alsatian was sent with the 6th Cruiser Squadron to look out off Jaederens Point, on the southern coast of Norway, to ascertain if German merchant ships, trying to make their own ports, were leaving territorial
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waters at this point, and, if so, to capture them. One half of the 2nd Flotilla was screening the Battle Fleet, the second half searching for a submarine reported east of the Orkneys. A submarine was sighted by the Ruby of the 2nd Flotilla with the Battle Fleet at 5 p.m., and course altered to avoid her.
The destroyers Rifleman and Comet collided in a fog, the latter being considerably damaged.
The Sappho was sent to search North Rona Island, a statement having been received indicating that it might possibly have been used by the enemy as a base for aircraft. She reported, after examination, that the island was, as expected, unsuitable for such a purpose.
The Ajaw reported having burnt out a boiler, and the Admiralty was asked to instruct the contractors to send to Scapa men and tubes for retubing it. The King Edward VII reported cracks in the inner A tubes of two of her 12-inch guns.
August 24th. — The Battle Fleet cruised between the Orkneys and the Norwegian coast, and carried out battle tactics during the forenoon, the weather becoming too thick in the afternoon.
The 1st Battle Squadron was detached to Scapa to fuel, as well as the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, the latter being relieved by the 3rd Cruiser Squadron. The remainder of the cruisers continued their sweeping operations as on the 23rd.
August 25th. — The 3rd Battle Squadron left Scapa to relieve the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron in immediate support of the cruisers at 6 a.m., and while en route to its position captured an Austrian steamer, the Attila. The remainder of the Battle Fleet left its cruising ground, arriving at Scapa at 7.30 a.m, on the 26th, with the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron to fuel. The Agincourt, a new
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battleship which was bought from Turkey when still in an unfinished state, was met off Noss Head and entered with the Fleet. At 5.30 p.m. a submarine was sighted from the bridge of the Iron Duke, and the Fleet manoeuvred clear of the position. One-half of the 4th Flotilla, which had screened the 3rd Battle Squadron to sea, joined the Commander-in-Chief at 5 p.m., and was ordered to search for this submarine, but without result. The Drake, of the 6th Cruiser Squadron, left the Norwegian coast for Scapa at 4 a.m., the 25th, owing to condenser trouble. The Dominion reported two of her 12-inch guns cracked. The King Edward VII left Scapa for Devonport to change her two guns, which had also cracked. Vice-Admiral Bradford shifting his flag to the battleship Dominion. The weather was thick during the night of the 25th-26th, but the fog lifted sufficiently for the Battle Fleet to enter Scapa.
August 26th. — The Iron Duke, the 2nd and 4th Battle Squadrons, 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, and 2nd Flotilla, were at Scapa fuelling.
The 1st Battle Squadron, with one-half of the 4th Flotilla, left to join the 3rd Battle Squadron at sea, their departure having been delayed for some hours by thick fog.
The 2nd Cruiser Squadron left patrol at 5 p.m. for Rosyth to coal.
The 6th Cruiser Squadron left patrol at 8 p.m. to coal, the King Alfred at Scapa, and the Alsatian at Liverpool; the arrangements in the large merchant-ships were such as to render coaling from colliers a difficult and slow progress.
The 10th Cruiser Squadron, except the Mantua, left the northern patrol to coal at Scapa.
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During the day the Admiralty informed me of some operations which the southern forces were intended to carry out in the Heligoland Bight on the 28th, and directed that the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron should join in the operations. I made urgent representations as to the necessity of supporting the force with battle cruisers, and informed the Admiralty that I was sending the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron to take part. I requested that the Vice-Admiral, 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, and the Commodore, 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, might be informed direct by the Admiralty of the positions which the other ships would occupy, and that the senior officers of the southern force taking part should also be informed of the presence of the battle cruisers and 1st Light Cruiser Squadron.
On this date 1,000 additional seamen ratings arrived to join the Fleet, experience having shown that the number of deck complements, as well as the engine-room complements, required increasing, principally owing to the heavy guns of the secondary armament being so constantly manned at sea — by day against submarine attack, and by night against destroyer attack.
August 27th. — On this date I wired to the Admiralty proposing the erection of two wireless stations in the Orkneys for local communication, and a directional station to assist in locating the positions of German ships using wireless. The remainder of the Battle Fleet proceeded to sea at 6 p.m. to join the 1st and 3rd Battle Squadrons at 7 a.m. on the 28th to the south-eastward of the Orkneys in Lat. 58.20 N., Long. 0.20 W. The 2nd Flotilla accompanied the Fleet as a submarine screen.
On this date a patrol of the eastern approaches to the Pentland Firth was inaugurated by the Mine-laying Squadron which was not required at the time for mine
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laying operations, with the object of ensuring a closer watch on the mercantile traffic through the Pentland Firth, and the Oceanic, an armed merchant cruiser, which had joined the Fleet, was detached to carry out a patrol to the westward of the Fair Island Channel in order to control the traffic at this point.
Information was received from the Admiralty of the existence of mined areas off Harwich, Flamborough Head and Tynemouth. The positions of the two latter minefields appeared to corroborate the information obtained prior to the outbreak of war.
A collision occurred at 9.30 p.m. between the Bellerophon and the s.s St. Clair, which was passing through the Fleet. The St. Clair was damaged, but the damage to the Bellerophon was not serious.
August 28th. — The weather was misty with a visibility of 4 to 6 miles until the evening, when it cleared slightly. The Battle Fleet during the day proceeded to the southward, the noon position being Lat. 58.19 N., Long. 0.21 E., with cruisers in advance. The Fleet was exercised during the day at battle tactics.
The sweep of light forces into the Heligoland Bight which took place at dawn was successful in bringing enemy light forces to action. The official despatches relating to this operation are given in an Appendix. The events may be shortly described here. At 6.53 a.m. Commodore Tyrwhitt, commanding the Harwich force, which had swept into the Heligoland Bight during the night to cut off enemy vessels, sighted a destroyer and chased her. From 7.20 to 8 a.m. the Arethusa and the 3rd Flotilla were in action with destroyers and torpedo-boats making for Heligoland, sinking one destroyer. At 7.57 the Arethusa, Commodore Tyrwhitt's flagship, which had been in commission only a few days, sighted two enemy
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light cruisers, and engaged them, assisted a little later by the light cruiser Fearless. At 8.25 a.m. a hit from the Arethusa wrecked the fore bridge of one of the enemy ships, and they both steamed at once for Heligoland, which was then sighted, and our ships turned to the westward. The Arethusa had been considerably damaged during the action and had suffered several casualties.
At 10.55 a.m. another German light cruiser was sighted by the Arethusa, and on being attacked by the Fearless and destroyers turned away; she reappeared at 11.5 and engaged the Arethusa and Fearless and was attacked by these ships and by destroyers and again turned away. Meanwhile Commodore Tyrwhitt had informed Sir David Beatty of the position, and that officer proceeded at full speed to his support. The light cruiser Mainz had been attacking the somewhat disabled Arethusa and the Fearless at about 11.30 a.m. and had suffered very severely in the action, being practically disabled. The arrival of the First Light Cruiser Squadron, under Commodore Goodenough, on the scene at about noon secured her destruction.
Between 12.37 p.m and 1.45 p.m. the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and 1st Light Cruiser Squadron engaged two other German light cruisers, one of which was sunk; the second was last seen burning furiously and in a sinking condition.
Even thus early in the War the difference between the behaviour of British and German seamen was noticeable. On the British side, in addition to other assistance rendered to the survivors of the Mainz (which had been sunk), Commander Keyes, in the destroyer Firedrake, proceeded alongside and rescued 220 of her crew, many of them being wounded. A German light cruiser opened fire on the British destroyers engaged in picking up survivors
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from the German destroyer V187 when that vessel was sunk by our craft, thus making it necessary for the destroyers to leave behind the boats carrying out the rescue work. The British submarine E4 afterwards took our officers and men out of these boats and left some unwounded Germans to take the other boats, which contained German wounded, to Heligoland.
In the afternoon of August 28th the 10th Cruiser Squadron was directed to work in Area No. 6, leaving the armed merchant cruisers farther to the northward. The object was to give a better chance of intercepting enemy vessels or neutral ships carrying contraband of war by establishing two patrols on the probable exit or entrance courses, one of which would in all probability be crossed of necessity during daylight hours, even if the second were passed through at night.
August 29th. — This was a bright, fine day, with high visibility. The Dreadnought Battle Fleet remained at sea with three divisions of the 2nd Flotilla, cruising and carrying out battle tactics and other exercises.
The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron arrived at Scapa to fuel at 7 p.m., in company with the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, the Liverpool being detached to Rosyth to land the German prisoners captured in the Heligoland Bight on the 28th.
The 2nd Cruiser Squadron was cruising in Area No. 5, which the 3rd Cruiser Squadron left during the day for Cromarty to fuel.
The 6th Cruiser Squadron and 10th Cruiser Squadron were in Area No. 6; the mine-layers were in Area No. 3.
During the day the Oak arrived from Scapa with telegrams and despatches for me and returned with similar correspondence for the Admiralty. The Oak was usually employed on this duty while the Iron Duke was at sea
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during the earlier months of the War, my infrequent visits to a base rendering this essential.
Some risk from submarine attack was naturally involved during the time that the Iron Duke, or any other heavy ship, was stopped to communicate. The risk was recognised, and, as the number of enemy submarines increased, it became undesirable to incur it, and the practice of stopping ships at sea for any such purpose was abandoned; the longer time spent in harbour tended to reduce the necessity for the practice to some extent, but during the early part of the War this was the only means of conveying despatches to the Fleet when it was constantly at sea.
The reported increase in enemy mine-laying off our eastern coasts caused me to suggest to the Admiralty at this time the desirability of the patrol flotillas working somewhat farther seaward, and to ask for an increase as soon as possible in the number of fast light craft to work off the northern fleet bases. A request for 20 drifters to work in the approaches to the Pentland Firth was also forwarded.
The Fleet messenger Cambria was brought out to work with the Battle Fleet for the purpose of boarding merchant ships owing to the shortage of light cruisers for this work.
August 30th. — In the afternoon the Dreadnought Battle Fleet shaped course for Scapa, and arrived at 7 a.m. on the 31st to fuel, the 3rd Battle Squadron being ordered out to the eastward of the Orkneys to support the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, which was searching the eastern portion of Area 5.
The patrol of the 6th and 10th Cruiser Squadrons was continued as usual, the 6th Cruiser Squadron leaving the Area at 3 a.m. on the 31st to fuel at Scapa.
During the day the Assistance returned to Scapa from
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Loch Ewe as base ship, and the Illustrious arrived there as defence ship for the entrance. I had decided her position during my previous visit.
As a result of inquiries of the Admiralty, I was informed that trawlers were being taken up and armed for patrol duties as rapidly as possible, and that arrangements for the defences of Scapa, which had formed the subject of correspondence between the Admiralty and myself, had been approved, including the laying of certain mine-fields at the entrances.
August 31st. — A sweep towards the Scottish coast of all vessels at sea, or ready for sea, was carried out in consequence of information having been received pointing to the possibility of mine-laying by the enemy in the vicinity of the Pentland Firth or Moray Firth during the night of August 31st-September 1st; the sweep was arranged to intercept the enemy mine-layers on their return trip. But it was unproductive, no mine-laying having taken place. The squadrons engaged in the sweep were the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, 3rd Battle Squadron, 3rd Cruiser Squadron, 10th Cruiser Squadron.
In consequence of urgent representations as to the insufficiency of .303 rifle ammunition for the Army, all ships disembarked 50 per cent of their ammunition of this calibre at the end of August for conveyance to Woolwich.
Later, still more of the rifle ammunition and all but a very small number of rifles, as well as many machine guns, were landed from the Fleet for use by the Army.
A meeting of all the captains of Dreadnought battleships was held on board the Iron Duke on August 31st in order to discuss with them the subject of tactics in action.
On September 1st, 1914 the Dreadnought Battle Fleet with the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, the 6th Cruiser Squadron and the 2nd and 4th Flotillas were at Scapa Flow, cleaning boilers, storing, and taking in ammunition, etc. The Fleet was at the usual anchorage off Scapa Pier, on the north side of the Flow; the ships which were fitted with torpedo nets had them out, as was customary, unless colliers or store-ships were alongside.
The Falmouth, of the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, was anchored to the westward of Holm Sound, and the remainder of this squadron formed the outer or southward line of ships, all at two hours’ notice for steam. The weather during the day was dull and misty, with rain at times.
At 6 p.m. the Falmouth reported the periscope of a submarine in sight inside the harbour, and immediately opened fire, four rounds being fired by this ship; she reported having probably hit the submarine. Directly afterwards the Vanguard, one of the outer line of battleships, also opened fire on an object reported as a periscope, as did one of the E class destroyers, which was patrolling between the Fleet and the Hoxa entrance.
The 1st Light Cruiser Squadron was directed to weigh immediately steam was ready, which was at 8.30 p.m., and to endeavour to locate the submarine and keep her under.
The 2nd Flotilla, lying at Longhope, at short notice,
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was also instructed to weigh at once and search for the submarine. The whole of the ships present were ordered to raise steam with all despatch, and to prepare for torpedo attack, and the small craft, such as drifters, steamboats, motor-boats, yachts, etc., which had steam ready and which could be collected, were at once organised in detachments to steam up and down the lines at high speed and outside the Fleet, with the object of confusing the submarine and endeavouring to ram her, if sighted. Colliers and store-ships which had steam ready were directed to weigh and to go alongside the battleships that were not fitted with torpedo nets, in order to act as a form of protection against torpedoes fired at these valuable vessels. All ships in the outer lines were directed to burn searchlights to locate and confuse the submarine.
At about 6.30 p.m. the Drake reported a submarine in sight from that ship, thus confirming the earlier reports.
The Fleet was directed to weigh by divisions as soon as steam was ready and to proceed to sea. By 9 p.m. the weather was exceedingly thick inside the harbour and considerable difficulty was experienced in getting the Fleet out, as at this time there were no navigational facilities of any sort for leaving the harbour at night or in thick weather; but by 11 p.m. all the ships had left the harbour without accident, and, although there was a dense fog outside, the Fleet cleared the Pentland Firth successfully.
The Assistance was ordered to Loch Ewe, and left after the Fleet, reporting having sighted a submarine in the entrance whilst going out. The 2nd Flotilla was left behind to locate and, if possible, destroy the submarine, and the 4th Flotilla was stationed outside the Hoxa and Hoy entrances during the night, and directed to meet the Fleet at 7 a.m. on the 2nd. The only ship, as distinct from destroyers, remaining in the harbour was the
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Cyclops, lying off Scapa with the telegraph and telephone cables on board, and directions were given to Rear-Admiral Miller to endeavour to locate, by means of the minesweeping gunboats, the submarine reported sunk by the Falmouth.
No trace of a submarine was discovered, and subsequent investigation showed that the alarm may have been false, the evidence not being conclusive either way. The incident, however, made it clear that protection against submarine attack was an absolute necessity, as the Fleet could not remain at a base that was as open to this form of attack as Scapa Flow. The only possible action, in the event of an alarm being given of the presence of a submarine, was to take the Fleet to sea, and, in addition to the dangers arising at that time from a hurried departure in thick weather, a feeling of insecurity was created, which would be bad for moral, and the ships were deprived of opportunities for cleaning boilers, refitting machinery, etc., which experience was showing was essential if the steaming efficiency of the Fleet was to be maintained.
The matter was at once represented to the Admiralty and proposals were made for blocking all the entrances to Scapa Flow, except the Hoxa and Hoy entrances, by sinking old merchant ships in the channels. Pending the supply of reliable defences for the main entrance, Rear-Admiral Miller was directed to requisition a large number of net-drifters. The plan was to lay drift nets in the entrance to be watched by the drifters, the nets having indicator buoys attached to them and floating on the surface, so that the presence of a submarine might be indicated by the buoy moving with the net.
The navigational difficulties of the narrower entrances were, meanwhile, the only obstacles to the passage of
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submarines through them, but it was realised that these were considerable. The opinion was formed, however, that the Hoxa entrance presented no insurmountable difficulty of this nature to a determined submarine commander.
By this date the local defence flotilla of destroyers consisted of vessels of the E class. A request was made for basing a hunting flotilla of 16 trawlers on Kirkwall, these vessels being intended to guard the approaches td the Pentland Firth and to act as submarine hunters generally. It was also suggested that a monetary reward should be offered to the personnel of any trawler through whose agency a submarine was captured or destroyed.
The minesweeping force at Scapa had been strengthened by the addition of a flotilla of trawlers, and the mine-sweeping gunboats and trawlers were continuously employed in keeping certain fixed channels of approach to the Pentland Firth swept and clear of mines. These vessels were, therefore, not available for anti-submarine work, except to the detriment of their minesweeping duties.
On September 1st the available cruiser squadrons were employed in Area No. 6, supported by the 3rd Battle Squadron and the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron.
From September 1st to September 5th the Battle Fleet remained at sea, cruising in the area between the north-east coast of Scotland and the coast of Norway, in support of the cruiser squadrons working to the southward, and opportunity was taken to continue the exercises of the Fleet in battle tactics, together with occasional gunnery practice. The Orion, of the 2nd Battle Squadron, was still absent from the Fleet, retubing condensers; the King Edward VII rejoined on the 2nd, after exchanging
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defective guns; and the Dominion was then detached to Devonport to exchange her damaged 12-inch guns.
The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron had been strengthened by the arrival of the Inflexible from the Mediterranean, and was employed during this period in support of the cruiser sweeps, the Squadron joining the Battle Fleet on the 3rd for battle exercises.
During the period under review reports from time to time of the sighting of enemy submarines appeared to indicate that they were working on a line Ekersund-Pentland Firth, the line which they were apparently occupying during the first few days of the War, when U 15 was sunk by the Birmingham.
Information received on September 3rd suggested that enemy cruisers might have passed, or might be intending to pass, into the North Sea via the Skagerrak. The 2nd and 3rd Cruiser Squadrons and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, supported by the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and accompanied by the 2nd Flotilla, were, therefore, directed to sweep to the entrance to the Skagerrak, arriving there by noon of September 4th, starting from a position in Lat. 58 N., Long. 2.86 E., at 4 a.m. that day. From the Skagerrak the 2nd and 3rd Cruiser Squadrons were to make a detour to the south westward with the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, the latter proceeding then to Rosyth and the Cruiser Squadrons to Cromarty; and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, with the 2nd Flotilla, was directed to sweep on a wide front towards the Pentland Firth on the Ekersund-Pentland line in search of enemy submarines, which it was hoped might be caught on the surface at night. Thence the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron was to proceed to Scapa to fuel, and the 2nd Flotilla to the westward of the Orkneys to search for submarines, returning to
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Longhope at 9 p. m. on September 6th. The 4th Flotilla, which had been with the Battle Fleet, was directed at the same time to sweep the western portion of the Ekersund-Pentland line for submarines, and then to return to Longhope.
These orders were carried out, but no enemy vessels of any sort were sighted, except that at 6.30 a.m. on the 5th the Thetis, mine-layer, working south-eastward of the Orkneys, reported a suspicious vessel, thought to be a German cruiser. The 2nd and 6th Cruiser Squadrons and 1st Light Cruiser Squadron closed in on the position, but the ship was eventually identified as one of our own vessels.
The Dreadnought Battle Fleet arrived at Loch Ewe at 4 p.m. on the 5th to coal, two minesweeping gunboats having been previously detached to that base to search the entrance for mines.
During the early days of September frequent reports were received of enemy mines having been discovered on the east coast, and several vessels were sunk, as a consequence, including the gunboat Speedy. It appeared that the enemy was laying the mines from merchant vessels flying neutral or even, possibly, British colours, as well as from regular mine-laying ships. The large number of vessels trading on the east coast and of fishing craft at sea, both British and neutral, greatly increased the difficulty of preventing these operations. The task of boarding and examining even a considerable percentage of these vessels involved a heavy strain. Our cruiser sweeps were showing this daily. The Admiralty's attention was drawn to the matter, and the question was raised of establishing some restrictions, particularly as regards the areas in which fishing should be permitted.
The extinction of a large proportion of our coast lights
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was also proposed, the burning of which enabled the enemy to fix his position accurately when engaged in mine-laying operations. This policy of the extinction of lights, thus started, gradually became general, and eventually only the most important lights were exhibited at night, and the large majority of these were only shown when requests were made by men-of-war who required them for entering port, the time of their exhibition being thus reduced to a minimum.
The Dreadnought Battle Fleet remained at Loch Ewe until 6 a.m. on September 7th, and then proceeded to sea. The Orion was left behind to complete work on her condensers and rejoined the Fleet at sea on September 9th, having been absent for twenty-one days.
The Agincourt, the new battleship which since commissioning had been engaged in gunnery and torpedo practices either at Scapa or to the westward of the Orkneys, joined the 4th Battle Squadron at sea on September 7th in order to give her officers experience in working with the Fleet. There had been great difficulty in carrying out her practices because she had not been supplied with "sub-calibre" guns, and this deficiency could not be made good for some months; this caused much delay in raising her battle efficiency. However, she was manned with officers and a ship's company of a very high standard and, in spite of all disadvantages, the early gunnery practices carried out by her in company with the Fleet showed that she would eventually prove to be a most valuable addition to the Fleet.
Representations had been made by me to the Admiralty that the presence of a senior Flag officer in general command of the Orkneys and Shetlands, who would be responsible for the defences of these islands and the Fleet bases, was very necessary, the work of actual administration of the base at Scapa Flow being sufficient fully to occupy the time of Rear-Admiral Miller.
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Vice-Admiral the Hon. Sir Stanley Colville accepted the post, and as it was very desirable that the officer holding this position should be junior to the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, he paid me the compliment of expressing his desire to be placed junior on the list to myself, a reversal of our proper respective seniorities.
He was, accordingly, appointed, and came to Loch Ewe on September 6th, to confer with me before taking up his appointment. He accompanied me to sea in the Iron Duke on the 7th in order to talk matters over, was embarked on board the Oak to the westward of the Orkneys, and took up his command on arrival. The result was immediately most beneficial. He was able to devote his whole time to the questions of defence and organisation and relieved me of all these matters which had, as was inevitable under the previous arrangement, occupied so much of my time in harbour and so much of my thoughts at sea.
On September 6th the Portsmouth floating dock arrived safely at Cromarty.
During September 7th the Dreadnought Battle Fleet proceeded northward from Loch Ewe en route to the North Sea, and passed through the Fair Island Channel at 10 p.m., being joined at 4 a.m. by the 3rd Battle Squadron. The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron left Rosyth after dark on this date and proceeded to the north-eastward, being joined at 4 a.m. on the 8th by the Sappho and four destroyers of the 4th Flotilla. These smaller vessels were intended to carry out boarding duties in order to avoid the danger to the large ships from submarine attack, consequent on stopping for this purpose. The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron swept to the south-eastward
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of Area 6 during daylight on the 8th, and during the night of the 8th and daylight of the 9th was on a patrol area approximately between Lat. 55 N., Long. 2 E., and Lat. 56.20 N., Long. 2.40 E., with the object of intercepting possible enemy mine-layers. The Battle Fleet carried out gunnery practices and exercised battle tactics during the 8th eastward of the Orkneys, and at dark proceeded to the southward to support an extensive sweep into the Heligoland Bight which it had been decided to carry out on September 10th. The dispositions for this sweep were generally as follows:
The 1st and 3rd Flotillas from Harwich, supported by the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron and 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron to the northward, and the 7th Cruiser Squadron to the westward, swept out the Heligoland Bight from east to west, commencing from a position some ten to twelve miles from Heligoland, which position was to be reached one hour before dawn. The Battle Fleet, with the 2nd and 3rd Cruiser Squadrons, spread 20 miles ahead, was in position Lat. 55.9 N., Long. 4.24 E. at 8 a.m. on September 10th, steering S.S.E. at 12 knots speed of advance.
The Battle Fleet, with the 2nd and 3rd Cruiser Squadrons to the southward, cruised to the north-westward of Heligoland until 11 a.m. on the 10th, by which time it was clear that the sweep had been unproductive. No German vessel of any sort was sighted, except one seaplane reported by the 7th Cruiser Squadron. The 2nd Flotilla was stationed with the Battle Fleet as a submarine screen, and to assist the attached cruisers in boarding duties during the day, and the 4th Flotilla, which had been working with the 2nd and 3rd Cruiser Squadrons, principally for boarding duties, was also directed to join the Battle Fleet on the morning of the 10th, but by reason
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of the thick weather did not do so until 2 p.m. Owing to the large number of trawlers that were met with, nearly all of which were flying neutral colours, the boarding duties were very onerous. Considerable suspicion attached to these trawlers because frequently Telefunken wireless signals were noticed to be very strong after the Fleet had passed these vessels; but close examination failed to reveal anything suspicious in those that were boarded, no wireless apparatus being discovered in any of them.
The conditions on September 10th were very unfavourable for the sweep into the Bight. Thick weather prevailed both before and after daylight, and the visibility varied from between two and five miles. The mist prevented the junction of the 4th Flotilla with the Battle Fleet for eight hours, a circumstance which would have had awkward consequences had the High Sea Fleet been encountered with its full complement of 80 to 100 destroyers, as might have been the case in such close proximity to German ports.
It was noted at the time that the conditions were very unfavourable for a Fleet action owing to the low visibility combined with the glare produced by the occasional sunshine and absence of wind. A passage in the notes made on this occasion referred to such conditions as follows:
"The weather conditions . . . were very unfavourable for a general action owing to the low visibility and the glare caused by brilliant sunlight and absence of wind. . . . The conditions make it impossible for the Commander-in-Chief in the centre of the Fleet to know what is going on in the van and rear . . . besides being entirely favourable to tactics largely based on the employment of torpedo craft or mine-layers.
"In addition there are great difficulties in concentrating detached ships and flotillas and in forming the Fleet prior to battle, also in the recognition of ships and destroyers.”
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This passage is of interest because of its bearing on the Jutland battle some two years later when somewhat similar conditions prevailed.
The difficulty of recognition mentioned made so much impression on my mind that special daylight recognition devices which could be seen at a considerable distance were subsequently devised and used by our own light cruisers and destroyers when in the presence of the enemy.
When it became evident that there were no enemy vessels to engage, I organised a sweep to the northward on a large scale, with a view to intercepting any enemy ships that might be at sea and of closely examining all merchant ships and fishing vessels which were met with.
The starting-point of the sweep was Lat. 55.30 N., Long. 4.0 E., the dispositions being:
The Invincible (which had now joined the Battle Cruisers) and the Inflexible, to sweep towards Dundee.
3rd Cruiser Squadron towards Aberdeen at 12 knots speed of advance.
1st Light Cruiser Squadron towards Pentland Firth at 11 knots speed of advance.
2nd Cruiser Squadron towards Fair Island at 10 knots speed of advance.
All ships spread as widely as visibility admitted.
The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron (which now once more included the New Zealand) to be in general support.
The Battle Fleet with divisions spread four miles apart to extend the sweep to the eastward.
These dispositions are shown below:
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At 3 a.m. on the 11th the sweep was directed to turn to N. 16 E., and, later, the 2nd Cruiser Squadron was stationed in a new area, No. 7, between Lat. 55.20 N. and 57.30 N., between 50 and 150 miles from the coast. The 3rd Cruiser Squadron was sent to Cromarty to coal; the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and 1st Light Cruiser Squadron rejoined the Battle Fleet, and the Invincible and Inflexible were sent to Scapa to coal, as well as the 3rd Battle Squadron, a half flotilla of destroyers screening these vessels into the base.
During the 11th and 12th the Battle Fleet and 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron carried out battle tactics and gunnery exercises, and the Battle Fleet then proceeded to Loch Ewe, and the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and 1st Light Cruiser Squadron to Scapa to fuel.
During the passage south and north numerous reports of floating mines were received. The majority proved to be fishermen's bladders which at this time were being frequently reported by merchant ships as floating mines.
The Admiralty now informed me that a patrol of the 3rd meridian of East Long, between the parallels of 55.30 N. and 53.30 N. had been established by the 1st and 3rd Flotilla, the patrol consisting of eight destroyers and one light cruiser, supported by two cruisers of the "Bacchante" class, the object being to catch enemy mine-layers. I was also informed that a patrol of the "Broad Fourteens," off the Dutch coast, was being maintained to guard the Eastern Channel and Thames approaches.
On September 11th the Hibernia reported a 12-inch gun cracked, the fifth since the outbreak of war.
On the same day salvage operations on the armed merchant-cruiser Oceanic, which had gone ashore in a fog on Foula Island on September 8th, were abandoned owing to heavy weather. The vessel broke up eventually.
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Rear-Admiral E. R. Pears reported that the Portsmouth floating dock would be ready for work on September 21st, a very smart piece of mooring work having been carried out by Captain Munro, R.N., the King's Harbour Master.
The Dreadnought Battle Fleet remained at Loch Ewe coaling, storing and cleaning boilers, etc., from 5 p.m. on September 13th until 6 p.m. on September 17th, and the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, except the Inflexible and Invincible, remained at Scapa until September 18th. Meanwhile the usual cruiser sweeps in the North Sea in Areas 3, 6 and 7 were carried out by the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 10th Cruiser Squadrons and the Mine-layer Squadron, supported by the Invincible, Inflexible and 3rd Battle Squadron, which left Scapa on the morning of September 14th for the purpose. The armed merchant cruisers Alsatian and Mantua were patrolling eastward of the Shetlands.
Advantage was taken of the stay at Loch Ewe to make general arrangements with the Admiralty for the defence of that base, and on September 17th the First Lord of the Admiralty, with the Chief of War Staff, the Director of Intelligence Division, Commodores (S) and (T) arrived at Loch Ewe to confer with me. The bombardment and capture of Heligoland was also discussed. The proposals had been previously forwarded to me by Mr. Churchill, and had been carefully examined by myself, Rear-Admiral Charles Madden, the Chief of Staff, and by the Flag officers commanding the Battle Squadrons. The opinions of these officers against the operatin were unanimous. It had not been suggested that the Grand Fleet should be used for the operation, except as a supporting force; the older battleships were intended for this purpose.
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But the arguments against the operation were overwhelmingly strong. It was pointed out that ships were no match for heavy fortifications such as were known to exist on Heligoland; that direct fire from high velocity guns with a low trajectory would be ineffective against well-placed, heavily protected and well-concealed land guns; that, even if a storming party were able to land and to capture the island, it would be quite impossible to hold it, situated as it was close to German naval bases, for if we could take it in a fortified condition, it would be far easier for the Germans to recapture it with the fortifications demolished; that it would be under continuous attack by sea and air, and that any attempt to hold it, if captured, would involve keeping the Grand Fleet constantly in southern waters, which, owing to the number of small craft then available, was an impossibility. Aircraft spotting, which would be a necessary adjunct, was at that time in its infancy, and we had no vessels specially suited for bombardments at long range, such as the monitors which, later on, carried out such useful work on the Belgian coast. After a conference, at which the Flag officers were present, I thought that the idea would be abandoned.
This was not the case, however, and the matter was taken up later at the Admiralty with Vice-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney, commanding the Channel Fleet. His view coincided with those expressed by the Flag officers at the Loch Ewe conference, although he was of course prepared to carry out any orders that might be given him. The idea was not finally abandoned for some time. The opinions of Sir Cecil Burney and myself were identical, as indeed were those of every Flag officer with whom I discussed the matter, with one single exception, a junior Flag officer.
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Another subject touched on during Mr. Churchill's visit was that of operations in the Baltic, but as no large operations of this nature could be attempted without the assistance of Allied battleships, in order to maintain supremacy in the North Sea during such operations, no steps were taken.
By this date a regular programme of dockings and refits for all ships was recognised as necessary, and battleships were now being detached one at a time for this purpose. For some months after the commencement of the War, it was not possible to allow ships more than four days for docking and for the execution of the most urgent work, except in cases of accident or very serious defects, as our margin of superiority was none too large, and we were already experiencing a good deal of trouble with condenser tubes, necessitating ships being laid up for the work of retubing; but the work achieved in the four days was a very fine tribute to the dockyard organisation and to the industry of the dockyard men.
The Battle Fleet left Loch Ewe on the evening of September 17th, the Erin, a new battleship bought, incomplete, from Turkey, being in company for the first time in order to accustom her officers to working the ship with the Fleet. Target practice was carried out to the westward of the Orkneys during the forenoon of the 18th, but was interfered with by bad weather — a frequent experience. The Battle Fleet then proceeded into the North Sea, via the Fair Island Channel, the position at midnight, 18th, being Lat. 59.23 N., Long. 1.13 W., and course south. The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron left Scapa with the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron on the evening of the 19th, and the 2nd Cruiser Squadron left Cromarty at the same time, all for the southward for a sweep into the Heligoland Bight, supported by the Battle Fleet, in search of the enemy and with a view to carrying out a thorough examination of trawlers suspected of acting as look-out vessels for the enemy.
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While on passage south during the September 19th the Battle Fleet was exercised at battle tactics. At midnight on the 19th the Battle Fleet was in position Lat. 58.3 N., Long. 2.24 E., and at 8 a.m. on the 20th, in Lat. 57.8 N., Long. 3.20 E., having met the 2nd Cruiser Squadron. The 2nd Flotilla had been under orders to leave Scapa in time to meet the Battle Fleet at 8 a.m. on the 21st, but, owing to bad weather, the orders were cancelled and the flotilla returned to Scapa, as did the 4th Flotilla, which was to have accompanied the battle cruisers. During daylight of the 20th the Battle Fleet cruised towards the Norwegian coast to the northward of Lat. 57 N., in support of the battle cruisers engaged in examining trawlers in the vicinity of the Little Fisher Bank; it turned to the southward at 4 p.m. to rendezvous, at 5 a.m. on the 21st, in Lat. 56 N., Long. 3.30 E., with the 3rd Battle Squadron, which had been coaling at Scapa and had left on the 20th to join the Commander-in-Chief.
At 7 a.m. on the September 21st the Battle Fleet was in position Lat. 55.45 N., Long. 3.30 E., and the Vice-Admiral of the battle cruisers having reported at 6.20 a.m. from a position in Lat. 55.16 N., Long. 4.52 E., that the weather was too bad to admit of the search of trawlers being carried out satisfactorily, the operation was abandoned and the Fleet turned to the northward, as it was considered that an incomplete examination would do more harm than good.
During this period the 3rd Cruiser Squadron was working in Area 7, and the 10th Cruiser Squadron in Area 6, as usual; the Alsatian and Mantua, with the Drake, of the 6th Cruiser Squadron, were sweeping down the Norwegian coast and then returned to resume their patrol east of the Shetlands, where they were joined by the armed merchant ship Teutonic.
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The 2nd and 4th Flotillas left Scapa on the 20th and joined the Battle Fleet and the Battle Cruiser Squadron respectively on the 21st.
All wireless telegraphy signalling at sea was stopped between 4 p.m. on the 20th and 4 p.m. on the 21st, in order that the enemy should not become aware of the movements of the Fleet, as such knowledge might prevent the High Sea Fleet from putting to sea and possibly deprive us of our opportunity of catching it.
During the passage of the Fleet to the northward, an extensive sweep was carried out during daylight of the 21st. The Battle Fleet covered a front of 40 miles, and battle cruisers and cruisers prolonged the front to the eastward and westward.
On the evening of the 21st I was informed by wireless telegraphy from the Admiralty of a report that a German force of two light cruisers, with destroyers and submarines in company, had been sighted from Esbjerg on the 20th, proceeding to the northward. The whole Fleet was turned to the southward at midnight on the 21st, and spread at dawn to cover a front of 104 miles from the Norwegian coast westward, sweeping to the northward, to endeavour to intercept the enemy vessels if they had continued a course to the northward. The sweep to the northward was continued until 10 a.m. The Iron Duke was in position Lat. 69 N., Long. 2.35 E., when the line was directed to wheel towards the Orkneys and Shetlands on a course N. 51 W. During the 22nd, visibility was very good, but no enemy vessels were sighted, and the Dreadnought Battle Fleet and battle cruisers passed to the westward of the Orkneys during the night, the 3rd Battle Squadron and 6th Battle Squadron being detached to support the cruisers searching in the North Sea areas.
132 THE GRAND FLEET 1914-1916
At 7.45 a.m. on the September 22nd wireless telegraphy signals from the Creasy were intercepted indicating that the Aboukir and Hogue had been sunk by submarines in Lat. 52.18 N., Long. 3.41 E. These vessels were patrolling the "Broad Fourteens," off the Dutch Coast, under Admiralty orders. No further details were received, beyond a wireless signal from Commodore (S), at 11.80 a.m., that he was proceeding in the Fearless with seventeen destroyers to Terschelling to endeavour to intercept the enemy submarines on their way back. The Commander-in-Chief, thereupon, ordered the 2nd Cruiser Squadron (from the southern position of Area 7) to proceed at once to support the Commodore (S). By directions, however, given by the Admiralty these orders were cancelled, and the forces returned.
At 10.30 p.m. I ordered the armed merchant-cruisers to proceed at once to a position off Trondhjem, as a report had been received that the German liner Brandenburg, lying at that port, was likely to sail. Constant reports to this effect were received for several days, and the Brandenburg was heard using her wireless telegraphy on September 25th. The patrol was maintained until September 28th, when contradictory reports were to hand — one that she had been seen at sea on the 27th, and the other that she was being interned by the Norwegian Government. The latter report proved to be correct. The patrol was then moved to a position off the Utvoer Lighthouse, Lat. 61.3 N., Long. 4.30 E., to intercept the German commerce destroyer Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm, said to be leaving a Norwegian port.
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During the 23rd the Dreadnought Battle Fleet and battle cruisers attempted to carry out gunnery practices, but thick weather interfered. The force returned to Scapa to fuel, arriving on the 24th; the 3rd Battle Squadron arrived for the same purpose on the 25th,
On September 23rd and 24th the 2nd Cruiser Squadron proceeded from Area 7 to sweep up the Norwegian coast, thence going to Cromarty to coal. The squadron arrived there on the evening of the 25th.
The Dreadnought Battle Fleet remained at Scapa until the evening of the 25th September, when it proceeded out to the westward of the Orkneys; on the 26th bad weather again prevented target practice, a heavy westerly gale being experienced. This moderated on the morning of the 27th, when the Battle Fleet was to the eastward of the Shetlands, but increased again to a very strong gale during that day, with a wind force of 70 miles per hour and a very heavy confused sea.
A considerable amount of damage was done to wireless masts, topmasts, etc., and several ships had boats damaged or washed away. The ships of the "Iron Duke" class took in large quantities of water through their 6-inch gun ports, due to these guns being mounted at such a low level. The gale continued during the 28th, veering to the northward, and moderated on the 29th, on which date the Battle Fleet, which had moved to the southward during the 28th, returned to Scapa, being met and screened by destroyers which had not been able to join the Fleet at sea owing to the bad weather.
The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron left Scapa on the morning of the September 26th, and proceeded to the Norwegian coast, sweeping down as far as the Naze in search of enemy ships, particularly the s.s. Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm, reported to be about to leave Bergen. It was also to support the Drake, Nottingham, Falmouth, and two
134 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
destroyers, which had been sent to the vicinity of the Naze to meet Submarines E1 and E5. The latter vessels had been reconnoitring in the Skagerrak and Kattegat for enemy vessels. The two submarines and the destroyers experienced very heavy weather on their return across the North Sea, and some anxiety was felt for their safety.
The 3rd Cruiser Squadron proceeded to Area 2 on the 26th, and on the 29th was sent to watch off the entrances to Bergen in Norway for the German s.s. Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm. The squadron returned to Cromarty on October 1st. On the 28th the Princess Royal left the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron (proceeding to Scapa to fuel, en route) to meet, and protect, a convoy of Canadian troops about to leave the Dominion for the United Kingdom. The Invincible and Inflexible, which had been cruising north of the Faroe Islands, joined the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron at sea on the 29th. For the purpose of supporting the cruisers in the North Sea area, the 3rd Battle Squadron and 6th Battle Squadron sailed from Scapa on the arrival of the Dreadnought Battle Fleet. Additional precautions against attack by submarines were taken during the stay of the Fleet at Scapa on this occasion, as reports indicated the presence of a considerably increased number in the North Sea. These precautions included more numerous patrols by destroyers of the 2nd and 4th Flotillas outside the entrances to Scapa, and necessarily involved a greatly increased strain on the destroyers.
Further precautions against submarine attack were also found necessary in the Firth of Forth, and the arrival of light cruisers at Leith for refit were temporarily suspended by Admiralty orders owing to the presence of submarines in the vicinity. Two torpedoes were fired at the destroyer Stag, and another at a torpedo boat off May Island on the 25th. The destroyer Cheerful was also fired at on the 26th.
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The month of October, 1914, opened with the Dreadnought Battle Fleet at Scapa, with the exception of the Ajax which was en route to Devonport to refit, and the Audacious, which was on passage from Devonport after refit. The 3rd and 6th Battle Squadrons were at sea supporting the cruisers, except the Exmiouth, of the 6th Battle Squadron, which was at Devonport refitting. The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, the Invincible, and the Inflexible, were at Scapa; the Princess Royal was cleaning boilers and preparing for her trip to Halifax.
Of the cruisers, the Devonshire, of the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, was refitting at Cromarty; the Theseus, of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, was returning from the White Sea, where she had been to fetch some Russian officers; the Mantua and Alsatian, armed merchant-cruisers, were at Liverpool, coaling and making good defects.
Of the destroyer flotillas, the Active and five destroyers of the 2nd Flotilla, and two of the 4th Flotilla, were absent refitting.
On October 1st regulations were brought into force under which a large number of coastal navigational lights were extinguished, as also were regulations closing the east coast ports to neutral fishing craft; other regulations were issued to control the movements of fishing vessels in certain areas. On October 10th further orders, under which additional coastal navigation lights were extinguished (principally in the North of Scotland), became effective.
136 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
The Dreadnought Battle Fleet remained at Scapa until 5 p.m. on October 2nd, and then proceeded into the North Sea. The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron sailed at daylight, October 3rd, and the newly constituted 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron, consisting of the Invincible and Inflexible, with the Sappho and three mine-layers, left at 2 p.m. on October 3rd.
On October 3rd all the ships of the Grand Fleet took up pre-arranged positions designed to secure a close watch over the northern portion of the North Sea, partly with a view to an interception of all traffic, and partly to ensure that no enemy vessel broke out of the North Sea during the ensuing week. The main object was the protection of an important convoy of Canadian troops, which was crossing from Halifax, and which the battle cruiser Princess Royal and the battleship Majestic had been sent to meet and to protect. The Princess Royal arrived at the rendezvous at 8 p.m. on October 7th, and waited for the convoy, which was two and a half days late.
The Grand Fleet was disposed for this purpose during the period Oct. 3rd-11th approximately as follows:
The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron was watching the Fair Island Channel from the western side.
The 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron, with armed merchant-cruisers, the Sappho and three mine-layers, was stationed to the northward and eastward of the Shetland Islands.
The 1st Light Cruiser Squadron patrolled the northern portion of Area No. 4.
The 2nd and 3rd Cruiser Squadrons patrolled Area No. 5.
The 10th Cruiser Squadron also patrolled Area No. 5.
The minesweepers patrolled to the eastward of the Fair Island Channel.
The Dreadnought Battle Fleet, with its divisions widely spread, worked to the northward of Area No. 5, and the 3rd Battle Squadron to the northward of Area No. 4, whilst the 6th Battle Squadron was utilised to watch the waters between the Dreadnought Battle Fleet and Norwegian territorial waters.
The destroyers were stationed, some to guard the eastern
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approaches of the Pentland Firth, some to work off the Norwegian coast, and the remaining available vessels to work with the Battle Fleet for screening and boarding purposes. They returned to the bases (Lerwick or Scapa) as necessary for refuelling, and for shelter when the weather necessitated this.
These dispositions are shown in Chart No. 4.
The Princess Royal met the Canadian convoy in Lat. 49.45 N., Long. 27.5 W., on October 10th. On the 11th the Dreadnought Battle Fleet passed to the westward of the Orkneys, remaining there until daylight on the 12th, and then returning to Scapa, the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron, with the Teutonic being withdrawn from the patrol north of the Shetlands to a patrol line north-west from Sule Skerry lighthouse, Lat. 59.6 N., Long. 4.24 W., during the night of the 11th and remaining there until daylight on the 13th, when they left for Scapa. During October 12th all other vessels engaged in this operation returned to their bases for fuel, except the 3rd Battle Squadron (the ships of which had coaled two at a time during the operation) and the cruiser squadrons, which had been relieved as necessary to fuel.
Plan 4. Approximate Dispositions, October 3rd-11th, 1914, whilst Canadian Convoy Was Crossing
(click to enlarge)
Whilst the Fleet was engaged on this service the following incidents occurred. On October 2nd the Alsatian took six concealed Gerrmans off a Danish steamer. At 5 a.m. on October 7th a submarine was reported inside Loch Ewe, being sighted by a collier and by the Assistance; she was fired at by the latter ship, in misty weather. On receipt of the report I ordered all vessels to leave Loch Ewe at once, and sent a division of destroyers there from Scapa to search for the submarine. Later investigation indicated that the report was well founded.
138 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916On October 9th the Alsatian sighted an enemy submarine in Lat. 61.42 N., Long. 0.50 W.; on the same day at 3 p.m. the Antrim, flagship of the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, when in Lat. 59 N., Long. 4.40 E., was missed by two torpedoes fired at her by a submarine which the Antrim just failed to ram after the attack; numerous reports of enemy aircraft having been sighted on the East and West coasts of Scotland were also received.
On October 10th the Liverpool and one-half of the 4th Flotilla were sent to the Norwegian coast to examine the islands in the vicinity of Udsire light, Lat. 59.19 N., Long. 4.50 E., to ascertain that they were not being used as German submarine bases, in view of the attack on the Antrim in that vicinity on the 9th. The 3rd Cruiser Squadron supported. Nothing was seen that lent colour to this idea.
Ships of the Battle Fleet were detached to the northward, two or three at a time, during the operations, to carry out gunnery practices by day and by night. Thick fogs were prevalent during the whole period, and ships detached from the Fleet experienced very considerable difficulty in rejoining. The foggy weather nearly resulted in a serious collision between a battleship of the 6th Battle Squadron and one of the Dreadnought Battle Fleet, the two ships passing within a few feet of each other on opposite courses.
On the return of the Battle Fleet to Scapa on the morning of October 12th, Admiral Sir Stanley Colville reported that a partial submarine obstruction was in place across the Hoxa entrance. The presence of even a partial obstruction reduced the danger of submarine attack on the Fleet whilst coaling, a matter which had given me much anxiety since the beginning of hostilities.
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On arrival in harbour it was found that the condenser tubes of the Iron Duke were in a bad condition, although the ship was quite new, and that the condensers would need either complete, or partial, retubing. The discovery was very disconcerting when taken in conjunction with the case of the Orion, the condensers of which ship had been retubed during September; it naturally led to suspicion being directed to the condenser tubes generally of other ships, from which reports of cases of tubes occasionally giving out were being received.
The whole question was taken up with the Admiralty, requests being made that all available spare tubes should be sent at once to the Northern bases, together with some dockyard fitters who could assist the artificers of the Fleet in the work of retubing. Representations were also made as to the urgent necessity of increasing the stock of reserve tubes in case the defects became general in the Fleet owing to the ships being so constantly under steam at sea. The task of replacing the defective tubes in the Iron Duke’s condensers was begun at once, with the help of the artificers of the Fleet, and the Centurion was detailed as the spare Fleet-Flagship in case of emergency. But at this time the Iron Duke was not kept specially in harbour for retubing work, this being carried out as opportunity occurred, although under considerable difficulties, since the labour of suddenly preparing for sea, with a condenser undergoing retubing, was very appreciable. The manner in which this heavy work was taken in hand and rapidly completed in several ships, largely by Fleet labour, demonstrated the extreme efficiency and very fine spirit of the engine-room departments of the ships of the Grand Fleet.
From the 12th to the 16th October the 1st and 4th Battle Squadrons remained at Scapa, and at 6 p.m. on the 16th they left to carry out target practice to the westward of the Orkneys. The 2nd Battle Squadron left Scapa on the evening of the 18th to support the cruisers in the
140 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
North Sea; it joined the 3rd Battle Squadron already there, the ships of which were being detached to Scapa two at a time to fuel and to overhaul their machinery. It was found necessary to give these ships, with reciprocating engines, five days off duty periodically in order to carry out necessary adjustments.
The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, with the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron and two divisions of destroyers, left Scapa at 5.30 p.m. on the 12th, to carry out a sweep of the southern part of the North Sea. This force swept on the 13th on a broad front down to the Dogger Bank, thence to the Norwegian coast, and to the northward on the 14th in conjunction with the 2nd Cruiser Squadron (which was then prolonging the sweeping line), without sighting any enemy vessels. The battle cruisers and light cruisers took up a position on the 15th to support the cruiser squadrons on patrol, the destroyers proceeding to Lerwick to fuel.
The 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron remained at Scapa. The 2nd Cruiser Squadron was working the N.E. corner of Area 6, and the 10th Cruiser Squadron at this period was working the south-western portion of Area No. 6. At 1.15 p.m. on October 15th the Theseus reported that a torpedo, which had missed, had been fired at her in Lat. 57.50 N., Long. 0.33 E.
On receipt of this report orders were given that the ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, on patrol, were to be withdrawn to the northern corner of the area, and later, at 8 p.m., orders were sent that they were to join the 2nd Battle Squadron still farther north, and to be used by the battleships (which were spread for the purpose of intercepting trade or enemy's ships) for boarding purposes. Meanwhile the senior officer of the 10th Cruiser Squadron ships operating in Area 6 (H.M.S. Edgar)
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reported that he could get no reply to wireless signals from the Hawke. The Swift, with a division of destroyers, was ordered to proceed from Scapa at high speed to the last reported position of the Hawke in Lat. 57.47 N., Long. 0.12 E., to search for the ship. Two other divisions of destroyers were sent, later on, to assist the Swift. It is to be noted that a submarine had been reported off Tod Head on the Aberdeen coast at 8.30 a.m. on the 14th, but this report did not reach the Iron Duke until the afternoon of the 15th.
The Swift reported on the 16th having picked up a raft with an officer and 20 men, survivors of the Hawke, which had been sunk by a submarine in Lat. 57.40 N., Long. 0.18 W., on the 15th. Shortly after sighting the raft, the Swift was attacked by the same or another submarine (it was thought by more than one) whilst engaged in her work of rescue, and torpedoes were fired at her. Captain Wintour subsequently stated that he was only able to effect the rescue by manoeuvring at high speed in the midst of the wreckage, etc., using the destroyers with him to screen his movements. His experience was an unpleasant one, as he naturally desired to remain on the spot until he had ascertained with certainty that he had picked up all the survivors, and this he proceeded to do with praiseworthy persistence, bringing them to Scapa.
On the 16th reports were also received that the destroyers Alarm and Nymphe had been attacked by submarines to the eastward of the Pentland Firth, and that the Nymphe had rammed the submarine that had attacked her. Later examination of the Nymphe's bottom by divers showed that her starboard propeller was damaged.
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At 4.18 p.m. on the same day, the 16th, it was reported from one of the shore batteries that a submarine was close into the Switha entrance to Scapa Flow. The ships inside were immediately ordered to raise steam with all despatch, and the usual precautions were taken of patrolling the harbour with every available small craft, including destroyers, tugs, trawlers, drifters and picket-boats; and colliers and store-ships were as usual sent alongside the battleships, which were not fitted with torpedo nets, as a precaution.
The scene in the harbour on such occasions was a busy one. Small craft of every nature were patrolling at the sight of a periscope; all guns were manned; torpedo nets, where fitted, were placed in position; and every effort was made to ensure that the Fleet was as adequately guarded by the available patrol craft as circumstances admitted. All large ships except the repair ships Cyclops and Assistance left harbour during the night, the Iron Duke joining the 1st and 4th Battle Squadrons west of the Orkneys.
At noon on October 17th Sir Stanley Colville, who had been requested to organise a careful search for the reported submarine, signalled that a submarine was believed to be inside Scapa Flow and had been hunted, but not actually located. Reports had been received that officers and men on board several of the destroyers, and the gunboat Leda, had seen the periscope of the submarine, and that a torpedo had actually been fired at one of the hunting vessels. It was, however, ascertained subsequently that this torpedo was one which had been accidentally discharged by one of our own destroyers.
The accuracy or otherwise of these reports has never yet been determined with certainty, but many of the officers engaged in the search were convinced at the time that a submarine was actually inside, and that they had seen her. Indeed, a good many rounds were fired during the day at objects which were thought at the time to be a periscope.
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The reports signalled to me convinced me that, until the matter was cleared up with certainty, and until some more absolute security against submarine attack on the Fleet at anchor could be provided, it was courting disaster to base battleships or battle cruisers at Scapa Flow. We had seen in the loss of the Hawke that enemy submarines could quite well operate in northern waters, and it was thought to be only a matter of time before they would attempt an attack on the Fleet in Scapa Flow, if indeed the attempt had not already been made.
I decided, therefore, that it was necessary to seek for a temporary base which could be used with safety whilst the submarine obstructions at Scapa were being perfected. The incident that had already occurred at Loch Ewe cast doubt on the safety of that base, since it was unprovided with any obstructions at all and the depth of water made it impossible to improvise them with Fleet resources. Accordingly I looked for other and more easily obstructed ports, and eventually decided on Lough Swilly for the main part of the Fleet, and Loch-na-Keal in the Island of Mull for the ships for which berthing-space could not be found at Lough Swilly. Both ports possessed comparatively narrow entrances, and at Lough Swilly the water was so shallow as to make it difficult for a submarine to enter submerged. It was also a “defended port" and therefore possessed an organisation which would be useful for regulating the entry of ships.
The extensive dispositions necessitated by the temporary change of base were at once ordered. Colliers, store-ships, and auxiliaries of one kind and another, which were either en route to, or at, Scapa Flow, were diverted
144 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
to the new bases; the 2nd Battle Squadron and 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron were ordered to Loch-na-Keal to fuel and to improvise anti-submarine obstructions at the entrance; and the Illustrious was ordered there from Loch Ewe to act as guard ship; the 1st and 4th Battle Squadrons and 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron were detached to cruise to the north-westward of the Hebrides for blockading purposes, and to carry out practices; and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, 2nd Cruiser Squadron and 3rd and 6th Battle Squadrons were sent to Lough Swilly to coal.
The cruiser blockade and look-out line was withdrawn farther to the northward owing to the danger from submarines incurred in operating in the central or southern portions of the North Sea on a regular patrol, and the impossibility of providing destroyers as a screen for the ships. The new line was to the northward of the Shetland Islands, and the 3rd and 10th Cruiser Squadrons and armed merchant-cruisers carried out the patrol. There were, therefore, two lines of blockade, one formed by the heavy ships north-westward of the Hebrides, the second to the northward of the Shetland Islands. The organisation was such that it was probable that vessels attempting to evade the blockade would pass one of the two lines during daylight hours. In making these new dispositions it was still intended to keep the North Sea itself under observation by frequent cruiser sweeps.
Numerous reports of submarines in the Minch at this time led to the Active and two divisions of destroyers being sent there to search for them, and the remainder of the 2nd and 4th Flotillas were divided between blockade duty in the Pentland Firth, work at Scapa Flow, and in the vicinity of the Orkneys and Shetlands, and with the ships at Loch-na-Keal and Lough Swilly.
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On October 21st the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron arrived a Cromarty to coal. Owing to the receipt of information from the Admiralty early that day, that it was reported that some German cruisers, destroyers and submarines had left Danzig on October 17th for the North Sea, the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and 1st Light Cruiser Squadron were ordered to leave their bases that morning, proceed into the North Sea, and sweep down on a broad front to the Skagerrak, screened by the 4th Flotilla of destroyers. The latter had to be sent back to their base on October 22nd owing to heavy weather. The remainder of the force swept up to the Skaw without sighting any enemy vessels, then north along the Norwegian coast, and proceeded, the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron to Cromarty and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron to Scapa.
On October 21st a submarine was reported just outside Cromarty by an armed trawler, and another report was received of one having been sighted by the destroyer Lynx. The submarine obstruction at Cromarty, designed by Captain Munro, had now been completed, and the base was considered secure. It would, however, only accommodate a small portion of the Fleet.
The dispositions given above were maintained until October 22nd, when the Iron Duke, 1st and 4th Battle Squadrons, the Active and two divisions of destroyers of the 2nd Flotilla, arrived at Lough Swilly. The 3rd and 6th Battle Squadrons and 2nd Cruiser Squadron took their place to the north-westward of the Hebrides as an outer blockade line and support for the cruiser squadrons.
The 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron and four destroyers were detached to the southern part of the North Sea on the 23rd to support the Commodore (T) in carrying out aerial operations in the Heligoland Bight. The operations failed owing to the difficulty the sea-planes experienced in rising off the water, and the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron returned to Cromarty.
146 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
On arrival of the 1st and 4th Battle Squadrons at Lough Swilly, steps were immediately taken to lay an anti-submarine obstruction at the entrance, and this was very smartly completed with the limited resources of the squadrons by 4 p.m. on the 23rd, and for the first time since the declaration of war the Fleet occupied a secure base. Wire hawsers provided by the ships of the Fleet were suspended at varying depths between six colliers which were anchored across the entrance, with target rafts as intermediate supports.
It was a fairly effective obstruction, and armed steamboats from the fleet patrolled near it with destroyers as a support.
The relief to those responsible for the safety of the Fleet was immense, and attention was at once turned to the well-being of the personnel, which had been pressed very hard, and to improving the efficiency of the ships in gunnery and torpedo work. Battle practice targets were ordered over from Lamlash, in the Island of Arran, a pre-War practice base, with the intention of carrying out practice in the waters north-west of Ireland. The work of retubing the condensers of the Iron Duke was once more taken in hand, and ships were given the opportunity of overhauling and adjusting machinery, steam being put back to longer notice than had previously been possible. The anti-submarine defence was continually strengthened and improved during the stay of the Fleet, and the colliers supporting it were gradually replaced by trawlers and drifters.
In order to give the men some much-needed diversion and exercise a pulling regatta was organised and held on October 26th, and the men were landed for route marches as frequently as possible during the stay of the ships at Lough Swilly.
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On the 26th a submarine was reported inside Cromarty harbour, but Sir David Beatty, who was there with the battle cruisers, stated, after investigation, that he did not consider the report was true.
Discussions took place with the Admiralty during the stay of the Fleet at Lough Swilly on the subject of trawlers for the patrol of the Minches and vicinity, and the requirements were given as thirty-six trawlers for this service, which was considered next in importance to the provision of an adequate patrol force of this nature for the waters in the vicinity of the bases at Scapa Flow and Cromarty.
The stay of the Fleet at Lough Swilly was rendered memorable by the unfortunate loss of the Audacious, then one of our most modern battleships.
Orders had been given to the 2nd Battle Squadron to carry out target practice against the two battle practice targets obtained from Lamlash, and the squadron left Loch-na-Keal on the evening of October 26th for a rendezvous in Lat. 55.45 N., Long. 8.30 W., at daylight on the 27th, where the targets which had left Lough Swilly in tow of two tugs, the Plover and Flying Condor, escorted by the light cruiser Liverpool, were to be met.
The squadron was in Lat. 55.34 N., Long. 8.30 W. at 9 a.m. on the 27th, preparing for the practice, when at that hour the Audacious struck a mine whilst turning. The explosion resulted in the flooding of the port engine-room and partly flooding the centre engine-room. It was not clear at the time whether the ship had been mined or torpedoed. The Monarch having reported sighting a submarine at 11 a.m., a precautionary signal was made to Sir George Warrender to keep the squadron clear of the Audacious.
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Meanwhile all available destroyers, tugs, trawlers and other small craft were sent from Lough Swilly and Loch-na-Keal to assist the Audacious and to prevent the submarine (if one were present) from doing further damage; and the armed boarding steamer Cambria escorted the collier Thornhill (provided with towing hawsers) to the scene. The hospital-ship Soudan was ordered out to give help to survivors in case the Audacious sank or to the injured, and the Liverpool was directed to stand by her, but to keep moving at high speed. The battleship Exmouth was put at "short notice” ready to tow the Audacious in if necessary. Vice-Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, commanding the 1st Battle Squadron, came on board the Iron Duke to suggest that he should proceed to the scene to render any assistance, an offer of which I very gladly availed myself, as Sir George Warrender, in the 2nd Battle Squadron, could not close the ship whilst the danger of submarine attack existed.
Shortly after the Audacious struck the mine, the s.s. Olympic, on passage from the United States to Liverpool, closed the ship on learning of the disaster, and Captain Haddock, C.B., R.N.R., who was in command, at once volunteered to help in any way possible. Captain Dampier, of the Audacious asked that his ship might be taken in tow and brought into Lough Swilly, and Captain Haddock, disregarding the danger of submarine attack or of being mined, took immediate steps to carry out this request. Unfortunately a considerable sea was running, which increased during the day. In spite of the most magnificent and seamanlike handling of the Olympic by Captain Haddock, and later in the day excellent work on the part of the master of the Thornhill, the hawsers
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constantly parted, owing to the state of the sea and the weight of the Audacious, the stern of that ship being almost awash by the afternoon. The two ships were worked in a manner which Sir Lewis Bayly reported as beyond praise. The attempts to tow the injured ship had to be abandoned before dark, and Sir Lewis Bayly, Captain Dampier and the few officers and men who had remained on board to work the hawsers, etc., were taken off the Audacious by 7.15 p.m. The remainder of the ship's company had been removed without accident, in spite of the heavy sea, in the course of the day by destroyers, trawlers, and other small craft, and in the boats of the Audacious.
The work of the destroyers on this occasion was, as usual, of the greatest value, and the exceedingly seamanlike handling of the Fury by Lieutenant-Commander Sumner, who, in the teeth of the greatest difficulties, took heavy wire towing hawsers between the Audacious and the towing ships on several occasions, elicited from Sir Lewis Bayly expressions of warm admiration. Arrangements were made for the Liverpool to stand by the Audacious during the night, but at 9 p.m. she suddenly blew up with great violence and sank. The cause of this explosion was never ascertained with certainty. At the time the ship blew up the Liverpool was not far distant, and a good deal of debris fell on the deck of that ship, killing one petty officer. This was the only casualty due to the loss of the Audacious.
Meanwhile, at 1.8 p.m., information reached me from Kingstown that the s.s. Manchester Commerce had been sunk on the night of the 26th by a mine in the vicinity of the disaster to the Audacious, and at 4.40 p.m. a report came from Malin Head that a four-masted sailing vessel, the Caldaff, had also struck a mine in the neighbourhood on the previous night.
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These unfortunately belated reports disposed at once of any idea that submarines had attacked the Audacious, and at 5 p.m. the Exmouth sailed from Lough Swilly to attempt to tow her in. Steps had already been taken to warn outward and homeward bound vessels of the existence of the mine-field and to divert all traffic clear of it; and all minesweeping gunboats were ordered to Lough Swilly to locate the exact limits of the mine-field and to sweep a clear passage along the north coast of Ireland.
On the arrival of the s.s. Olympic at Lough Swilly, orders were given that no communication between the ship and the shore was to take place. I wired to the Admiralty suggesting that the loss of the Audacious should be kept secret for as long as possible, so that the enemy should not learn of it, as the fact would afford him encouragement at a time when the military situation was extremely critical for the Allies, and also because, as a general policy, it was desirable to conceal from the enemy any serious losses of which he could otherwise have no immediate knowledge.
This procedure was approved for the time, because of the military situation, and the Olympic was kept at Lough Swilly for several days. This was necessary as she had on board a considerable number of United States passengers, and it was known that they had taken photographs of the Audacious in a sinking condition. Amongst these passengers was Mr. Schwab, of the Bethlehem Steel Company, and it was made known to me after a day or two that he had come over on very important business connected with War Office contracts, and wished to proceed to London. After an interview with him, this was agreed to, and I asked him to call on Lord
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Fisher of the Admiralty in connection with the construction of some submarines which I ascertained from him that his firm was in a position to build very rapidly and which would be of the greatest value to us. He did this, and with the most satisfactory results, as ten submarines were constructed — as he promised — in the extraordinarily short space of five months. These vessels were most useful to us later.
The 1st and 4th Battle Squadrons were at Lough Swilly during the remainder of October; the 2nd Battle Squadron proceeded to Lamlash on the 29th to coal, and to Lough Swilly on November 1st; the 3rd Battle Squadron went to Scapa on the 27th; and the 6th Battle Squadron to Lough Swilly.
On October 27th a trawler reported very suspicious movements on the part of a large steamer to the westward of the island of Sule Skerry (west of the Orkneys). It appeared possible that the ship might be a German minelayer, and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron at Scapa was sent to a position 120 miles from Fair Island on the Fair Island — Heligoland line, to intercept her on returning, with orders that, at daylight on the 29th, she should spread widely and sweep towards Fair Island, then sweeping over to the Norwegian coast near Jaederen’s Point, spreading at daylight on the 30th and sweeping up a line approximately N. 15 W. from Heligoland, before returning to Scapa. Destroyers of the 4th Flotilla were also sent out from Scapa on the 28th in search of the suspected vessel, and the 3rd and 10th Cruiser Squadrons were disposed so as to cut her off if she passed to the north of the Shetlands. The ship was not sighted, and no mines had been laid.
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The Grand Fleet was considerably weakened at this time apart from the loss of the Audacious. The Ajax had developed condenser defects; the Iron Duke had similar troubles; the Orion had to be sent to Greenock for examination of the turbine supports, which appeared to be defective; the Conqueror was at Devonport refitting, and the New Zealand was in dock at Cromarty. The Erin and Agincourt, having been newly commissioned, could not yet be regarded as efficient, so that the Dreadnought Fleet only consisted of 17 effective battleships and 5 battle cruisers; the German Dreadnought Fleet at the time comprised 15 battleships and 4 battle cruisers, with the Blucher in addition. The margin of superiority was, therefore, unpleasantly small in view of the fact that the High Sea Fleet possessed 88 destroyers and the Grand Fleet only 42.
During the stay of the Fleet at Lough Swilly numerous reports of the presence of submarines on the west coast of Scotland were received, a large number of the reports coming from the coast watchers. Destroyers were sent on many occasions to search the localities from which the reports emanated, and the various harbours that could be used by submarines as a base were frequently examined. At this period it was considered possible that enemy submarines, acting so far from their home ports as the west coast of Scotland, would be working from a shore or from a floating base.
It was not thought — from experience with our own submarines — that they would be self-supporting at this distance, and the best method of limiting their activities, if not destroying the submarines, was to find their base. Later experience, and a closer knowledge of German submarines, however, showed that they were independent of such bases.
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It is very doubtful whether any enemy submarines passed to the westward of Scotland during October. We, at any rate, found no certain evidence that they were present, in spite of the very numerous reports of their being sighted. Similarly, reports were constantly being received of air-craft (both Zeppelins and aeroplanes) being seen in the north of Scotland; many of the rumours were of the most circumstantial nature, some coming even from warships. It is quite certain that these reports were founded on optical illusions, and it may be said that little credence was attached to them at the time.
But the currency of many rumours in those early days of the War, sometimes supported by statements of the most plausible character, were not only embarrassing, but frequently involved a great deal of unproductive cruising, for it was impossible to ignore anything which would enable us to find out the enemy's movements or intentions.
At the end of October, news came of the unfortunate wreck of the hospital ship Rohilla off Whitby, with considerable loss of life.
About this time the German land forces occupied the Belgian coast. The effect of this occupation on naval strategy was considered in the Grand Fleet, and Sir Lewis Bayly and I discussed the blocking of Zeebrugge by sinking ships across the channel. Sir Lewis Bayly considered the scheme feasible, and wrote to me on the subject. I then suggested to the Admiralty that such an operation should be carried out. It was not considered practicable by the Admiralty at the time. It is perhaps of interest to note that the subject was discussed as early as 1914.
Some two years later I caused the question to be reconsidered after taking up the appointment of First Sea Lord at the Admiralty (it had been under consideration between 1914 and 1917). More than one plan was discussed between Admiral Bacon (commanding the Dover patrol) and myself; one idea, which I favoured, was to utilise ships of the "Apollo" class, cutting down their
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upper works to render them less visible during approach. Meanwhile, other schemes for driving the enemy from the Belgian coast were in operation, so the question of blocking was deferred. In September, 1917, when it became clear that the object in view would not be effected by military operations during that year, I gave directions to the Plans Division of the Naval Staff, of which Rear-Admiral Roger Keyes had recently become the head, that plans for blocking Zeebrugge were to be prepared; later, after considering an independent proposal by Sir Reginald Bacon for attacking the mole by landing parties from monitors run alongside it, I decided that the operation was to be combined with the landing on the Zeebrugge mole. The main objective for the landing was the destruction of enemy destroyers known to be lying alongside the mole, and I considered that this landing would also be very useful in creating a diversion to facilitate the approach of the block ships. The scheme was eventually approved by me in November, 1917, and the training of the storming party and selection of the block ships were taken in hand.
INCIDENTS AT SEA — NOVEMBER 1 TO DECEMBER 31, 1914
On November 1st I left Lough Swilly to confer at the Admiralty with the First Lord and the First Sea Lord, Lord Fisher, who had relieved the Marquis of Milford Haven in this post. During this conference, held on November 2nd, the requirements of trawlers, drifters, etc., for the patrol of the vicinity of the various fleet bases, the Minches, and the waters surrounding the Orkneys and Shetlands were discussed at length and decisions reached. The defence of the bases was also considered. I stated that the requirements of patrol vessels for the Orkney and Shetland areas were a total of 72, and for the Minches of 36.
The future general naval policy was also discussed, one of the main questions being that of the 3rd and 6th Battle Squadrons joining the Channel Fleet. It was determined that this step should be taken and the necessary orders were given. I agreed to it with some reluctance, as there was obviously no prospect of the 3rd Battle Squadron being able to join the Dreadnought Fleet before a Fleet action if stationed in southern waters, and a dispersion of the Fleet, which resulted in the main Battle Fleet having but a slender preponderance of strength over the High Sea Fleet, was a measure which was open to considerable objection. The increasing necessity for refitting our ships, which involved sending them as far away as Portsmouth or Devonport, combined with the failures in condenser tubes that were occurring,
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led to two, or three, or even more battleships being absent at a time, on passage, laid up, or refitting. At the German selected moment, our main Battle Fleet might well at this period have been reduced to 18 ships (all Dreadnoughts), whilst the High Sea Fleet was just rising to a strength of 16 Dreadnoughts and 16 pre-Dreadnoughts.
Later, however, after the raid on East Coast towns, the 3rd Battle Squadron was again detached from the Channel Fleet and based on Rosyth, with the 3rd Cruiser Squadron; the two squadrons arrived there on November 20th after passing west of Ireland and coaling at Scapa. The 6th Battle Squadron remained in southern waters. The object which it was desired to attain by this last distribution, which was ordered from the Admiralty, was to have a naval force based farther south than Scapa, to be more immediately available in the case of an attempt by the enemy to land a hostile force on our east coast.
I returned to Lough Swilly at noon, November 3rd, and found the Fleet under orders from the Admiralty to proceed to Scapa at once. These orders were cancelled after my arrival, and the movements of the Battle Fleet left to my discretion. I proceeded to sea with the 1st, 2nd and 4th Battle Squadrons at 3.45 p.m. and, passing south of Tory Island, made for the vicinity of the Bills Rocks on the coast of Galway, for target practice, which was carried out on the 4th, the Fleet then proceeding to the northward.
The Battle Fleet was screened out of Lough Swilly by the 2nd Flotilla, which then left for Scapa. This flotilla had been employed during the stay at Lough Swilly in providing patrols off the entrance and in hunting for submarines, reports of which were very frequent.
INCIDENTS AT SEA 157
Prior to leaving Lough Swilly, news arrived from the Admiralty that the light cruiser Undaunted, of the Harwich force, was being chased by several German vessels in southern waters, and that hostile battle cruisers had been sighted off Gorleston. These occurrences had, presumably, led to the ordering of the Fleet to Scapa. As it was thought that the operations of the German battle cruisers might be part of a general movement, orders were sent to the 3rd Battle Squadron to join the Commander-in-Chief at Scapa, the 1st and 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadrons being directed to proceed with all dispatch towards Heligoland, with the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron; the 2nd and 6th Cruiser Squadrons were ordered to Scapa to coal, and the 10th Cruiser Squadron to the Shetlands for the same purpose, ready for eventualities. These orders were cancelled when it became apparent that the German movement was local, and that our ships would be too late to intercept the enemy. On this occasion, the German cruiser Yorck, when returning to port, struck a German mine and sank.
The base at Loch-na-Keal was abandoned when the Fleet left Lough Swilly, and the obstructions removed by the battleship Illustrious.
On November 3rd the Admiralty issued a general notice proclaiming the North Sea as an area in which hostile operations were being carried out, and pointing out the danger incurred by neutral vessels which entered the North Sea without first ascertaining the steps necessary for safety.
On November 5th the Invincible and Inflexible left Cromarty for Devonport by Admiralty orders, prior to proceeding to search for Admiral von Spee's squadron in the South Atlantic. This order, the necessity for which was apparent, and the subsequent results of which were undoubtedly of high value, had, however, the effect of still further weakening the Grand Fleet.
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The Iron Duke, with the 1st, 2nd and 4th Battle Squadrons cruised between the Hebrides, Faroe Islands and Shetlands after November 4th, and carried out gunnery practices and battle exercises as opportunity occurred. The 1st Battle Squadron was sent to Scapa to coal on the 7th, the 2nd Battle Squadron on the 8th, and the Iron Duke and 4th Battle Squadron arrived there on the 9th.
The 2nd, 3rd and 10th Cruiser Squadrons were engaged on blockade work during this period.
On November 6th, the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, with the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron and one-half of the 4th Flotilla, was sent from Cromarty to carry out a sweep of the North Sea, passing through the following positions, namely:
1. Lat. 56.0 N., Long. 1.30 E.
2. Lat. 57.50 N., Long. 5.0 E.
3. Lat. 60.10 N., Long. 3.15 E.
4. Lat. 61.20 N., Long. 3.0 E.
5. Lat. 61.0 N., Long. 1.0 E.
6. Lat. 58.50 N. Long. 0.0.
thence the Battle Cruiser Squadron and destroyers were to go to Cromarty and the light cruisers to Scapa.
The new battle cruiser Tiger, which had been working up gunnery and torpedo practices at Bantry Bay in the south of Ireland, arrived at Scapa on November 6th to continue her practices and to join the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron. It was felt that she would prove a very welcome reinforcement when efficient, since the departure of the Invincible and Inflexible had left us in a questionable position with regard to battle cruisers as compared with the Germans.
INCIDENTS AT SEA 159
After the Battle Fleet left Lough Swilly, and in consequence of information sent to me by Admiral Colville as to the slow progress being made with the submarine obstructions, orders were given to the various ships to prepare sections of rope net submarine detectors for use in the entrances to Scapa Flow, and these were rapidly placed in position by the Fleet in Hoxa, Switha and Hoy Sounds when the ships arrived at Scapa, armed trawlers being detailed to watch each section. It was very disappointing to find on returning to the base that so little headway had been made with the supply of material for the permanent submarine wire net obstruction, and that the Fleet was still, therefore, open to submarine attack. The increase in the number of patrol trawlers, however, for service in the vicinity of the base gave some protection to the entrances, and relieved the hard-pressed destroyers to a welcome extent.
At this time the watching and blockading cruisers were disposed in areas between the Shetland Islands, Faroe Islands, and Iceland and to the north-westward of the Hebrides, but the whole of the cruisers were beginning to show signs of overwork.
The Rear-Admiral commanding the 10th Cruiser Squadron reported that all his ships, which were very old, were showing increasing signs of needing thorough repair at a dockyard, and arrangements were put in hand for sending them, three at a time, to the Clyde. In addition, the Antrim, of the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, reported condenser defects; the Drake, of the 6th Cruiser Squadron, was at Scapa making good defects, which were constantly developing, and the King Alfred and Leviathan, of the same squadron, were refitting at dockyard ports. In spite of these incidents, however, large numbers of steamers were being intercepted daily by cruisers, battleships and destroyers, and sent into Kirkwall for examination.
160 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
About this time the increase in the number of patrol craft at Scapa made it necessary to add considerably to the administrative organisation at that base, and requests were sent to the Admiralty to provide depot ships for the local defence destroyers, the patrol trawlers, and the other small craft, as well as adequate administrative staffs.
The Dreadnought Battle Fleet remained at Scapa until November 17th with steam ready at from two to three hours' notice, and on that date the 2nd Battle Squadron, 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, 2nd Cruiser Squadron, and 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, with a half flotilla as a screen, left their bases to take up positions for preventing a suspected attempt on the part of the enemy to send some ships into the Atlantic. The 2nd Battle Squadron worked to the westward, and the remaining vessels to the eastward of the Shetland Islands. The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and 1st Light Cruiser Squadron returned to Scapa on the 20th and the 2nd Battle Squadron and 2nd Cruiser Squadron on the 21st.
A heavy gale was experienced in the northern part of the North Sea and in the waters surrounding the Orkneys and Shetlands from November 11th to November 18th, and all work in the harbour had to be suspended, ships lying with steam up, whilst at sea most of the cruisers were obliged to lay to. At Scapa all the sea-plane sheds were wrecked by the gale, and the sea-planes damaged.
During this stay of the Battle Fleet at Scapa the routine was introduced of carrying out gunnery and torpedo practices inside the harbour, two or three ships being under way at a time for the purpose. This routine was subsequently carried out whenever the Fleet, or any portion of it, was at Scapa and the greatest possible benefit was derived from it. It was found possible to carry out
INCIDENTS AT SEA 161
practice from all guns, up to and including 6-inch, inside the harbour by day and night, besides the ordinary sub-calibre firing and torpedo practices by ships, and by destroyers attacking ships, or divisions of ships.
On November 11th, the battle cruiser Princess Royal sailed for Halifax, by Admiralty orders, for the purpose of strengthening the North American Squadron in operations against Admiral von Spee's squadron, should it appear in northern waters. I protested, as Commander-in-Chief, against sending so powerful a ship as the Princess Royal, armed with 13.5-inch guns, since her absence left our Battle Cruiser Squadron inferior in strength to the German battle cruiser force. I suggested that the New Zealand, carrying 12-inch guns, was, owing to her economical coal consumption, more suited to the work required and strong enough for the purpose. However, the Princess Royal sailed and remained absent from the North Sea until the beginning of January, 1915.
At this period, reports of enemy submarines being sighted, more particularly by shore observers in the Hebrides, Orkneys and Shetlands, were very numerous, and destroyers and patrol craft were frequently being sent to search suspected bases or sheltered bays in which submarines might be taking refuge. All such searches were, however, fruitless, although in many cases the reports were very circumstantial and convincing.
On November 18th the minesweeping gunboats, whilst searching the Fair Island Channel, sighted a submarine on the surface and chased her at a speed of 18 knots, but could not overhaul her. The submarine subsequently dived. This incident was the first practical proof of the high surface speed possessed by German submarines.
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Destroyers were sent out immediately from Scapa to assist in the search, with orders to use their searchlights after dark in order to force the submarine to keep under water and so exhaust her batteries. The search, however, proved abortive, although continued for 24 hours. The use of searchlights for this purpose, begun on this occasion, became common later on.
A submarine was sighted by the 2nd Battle Squadron at 9 a.m. on the 19th, well to the westward of the Orkneys, and this may have been the vessel chased by the minesweepers.
During the gale on November 12th, the ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron — the old "Edgar" class of cruisers — which were on patrol between the Shetlands and Faroe Islands had suffered much damage, many of them showing signs of leaking and straining; boats and ventilators were washed away; and water in large quantities found its way below. It became evident that these old ships were not sufficiently seaworthy to withstand the winter gales of northern latitudes without first undergoing a thorough repair, and arrangements were made to send them, three at a time, to the Clyde for survey and refit. The survey of the first three, however, revealed that some months' work would be required to make them efficient for winter blockade duty, and it was then decided by the Admiralty to pay off the whole squadron, and to utilise the crews to commission armed merchant ships, which would be far more suitable, as they could keep the sea for much longer periods.
The ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron had been using Swarbachs Minn, a harbour in the Shetland Islands, as an occasional coaling base. This was evacuated on November 20th in consequence of the receipt of a report that a submarine attack on the harbours in the Shetland Islands was probable, all of these harbours being, at that time, defenceless against such attack. On leaving the base, the ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, not already at a refitting port, were ordered to dockyard ports to pay off.
INCIDENTS AT SEA 163
On November 20th, during practice, a lyddite common shell detonated in one of the 9.2-inch guns of the Achilles, and the muzzle of the gun was blown off, eleven of the gun's crew being injured. This occurrence cast doubt on the safety of the whole of the lyddite shell afloat, and restrictions on their use were issued, but were eventually removed, after the withdrawal of all suspected shell of this nature.
At dusk on November 22nd the Grand Fleet left its bases for the purpose of carrying out a sweep of the North Sea, and to support an aerial operation in the Heligoland Bight. The 3rd Battle Squadron and 3rd Cruiser Squadron, from Rosyth, were included in this movement, and met the remainder of the Fleet at sea at 9.30 a.m. on November 23rd in Lat. 57.40 N., Long. 2.30 E.
The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Battle Squadrons, 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, 2nd Cruiser Squadron, 3rd Cruiser Squadron, 6th Cruiser Squadron, and 2nd and 4th Flotillas, took part in the operation, the Fleet proceeding south in cruising order, with destroyers screening the Battle Fleet and 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron against submarine attack by day. The channel eastward of the Pentland Firth was, as usual, searched by the minesweeping gunboats prior to the departure of the Fleet.
The Commodore (T) from Harwich, with three Light Cruisers and eight destroyers, was directed to co-operate in the aerial operations. During daylight on the 23rd opportunity was taken to carry out two tactical exercises.
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The Iron Duke's position at midnight was Lat. 56.55 N., Long. 4.11 E. Ships were ordered to be at action stations by dawn on the 24th, and the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, with the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron and a division of destroyers, was detached in the afternoon of the 23rd with directions to be in Lat. 55.10 N., Long. 6.20 E. by 5.30 a.m. on the 24th.
The Drake reported her port engine disabled at 1 p.m. on the 23rd, and had consequently to be sent back to Scapa.
During the night the Admiralty informed me that the aerial operations had been abandoned, as it was thought that the enemy had a force present in the Bight, which would be too strong for our detached vessels. I then directed the Commodore (T) to meet the 2nd Cruiser Squadron at its daylight position in Lat. 54.50 N., Long. 7.6 E., and thence to proceed towards Heligoland and endeavour to draw any enemy forces that might be encountered towards our Fleet. The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and 1st Light Cruiser Squadron were directed also to proceed to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron to give any necessary support.
The weather on the 24th was fine and bright with high visibility. The Commodore (T) reconnoitred Heligoland and reported at 10.40 a.m. that there was smoke behind the island, and ships steaming to the southward; and that he had sighted a submarine. The Rear-Admiral of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron reported at 11 a.m. that he had only sighted destroyers, and that he could not draw the enemy towards him, and so was returning to the northward with Commodore (T). The Vice-Admiral of the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, who was supporting, turned to the northward shortly afterwards, his noon position being Lat. 54.47 N., Long. 6.35 E. The 2nd Cruiser Squadron was attacked at 12.35 p.m. by an aeroplane, which dropped five bombs near the Liverpool, which was in company.
INCIDENTS AT SEA 165
The Battle Fleet cruised in support, the 10 a.m. position of the Iron Duke being Lat. 55.23 N., Long. 5.30 E. At 2 p.m. the Battle Fleet turned to the north-westward, sighting the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron astern at 3.30 p.m. The battle cruisers and light cruisers were stationed 15 miles to the eastward of the Battle Fleet during the night, and the necessary dispositions were taken to provide against a destroyer attack during the night.
On November 25th two more tactical exercises were carried out. During the afternoon the wind increased, and thick weather set in, and by daylight on the 26th a heavy southerly gale was blowing, so the attached cruisers were sent to the bases for shelter. The 1st Battle Squadron, 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, and the destroyers, had been detached at midnight on the 25th for Scapa, Rosyth and Invergordon respectively. The original intention was to take the remainder of the Fleet farther north for target practice, but it was abandoned owing to the bad weather, and the Iron Duke, the 2nd and 4th Battle Squadrons and the 2nd Cruiser Squadron arrived at Scapa on the 27th.
During the absence of the Fleet, the German submarine U 18 was rammed at 12.20 p.m. November 24th by minesweeping trawler No. 96, one mile off the Hoxa entrance to Scapa. U 18 was damaged in the collision, dived, hit the bottom and received further damage. All the available patrol craft were ordered to the spot most promptly by the Vice-Admiral commanding the Orkneys and Shetlands and hunted her. She finally came to the
166 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
surface and surrendered off Muckle Skerry in the Pentland Firth. The submarine sank as the crew came on deck, the sea cocks, probably, having been previously opened. The commanding officer of the submarine, who had apparently intended to try to enter Scapa Flow, expressed great surprise to Admiral Colville at the absence of the Fleet. It seemed possible that he had been deterred from his attempt by the sight of the buoys across the entrance, probably suspecting the presence of an obstruction which, however, was not there. The sinking of the submarine caused the greatest gratification to the local defence forces at Scapa and acted as an incentive to further efforts. It was also, probably, a deterrent to further attacks on the Fleet at Scapa, as the circumstances in which U 18 was sunk were kept most secret in order that the enemy might be led to think that her destruction was due to nets or mines. Indeed, it is very likely that this incident and the secrecy observed had important results in preventing the loss of ships of the Grand Fleet when at anchor in Scapa Flow.
Great submarine activity occurred at this time in the vicinity of the Orkneys and Shetlands. The Dryad sighted a submarine on the 24th in Lat. 58.35 N., Long. 1.45 W.; a second was sighted by an armed trawler off Copinsay on the same day; and a third was sighted from the shore, proceeding to the eastward through the Pentland Firth. On the 25th U 16 was sighted by a collier and trawler in Lat. 58.46 N., Long. 2.15 W., and later by the minesweeping gunboat Skipjack not far from this position.
On the return of the Fleet arrangements were made for constructing, with Fleet resources, net obstructions across the Hoy entrance to Scapa Flow, and, in view of the attempt of U 18, all patrols were stiffened to the utmost extent possible.
INCIDENTS AT SEA 167
During November 27th and 28th the strong gale continued, interfering considerably with the work on the submarine obstructions. Several reports of the sighting of submarines in harbours in the north of Scotland, the Orkneys and Shetlands were received during the last days of November, and destroyers and patrol craft were kept very busy in searching the various bays and harbours. In many cases charges were exploded on the bottom in bays in which it was considered that a submarine might be lying, in the hope of forcing her to the surface. No known result, however, was obtained.
The Fleet remained in the various bases until the end of the month, the ships in Scapa Flow carrying out gunnery and torpedo practices and working at the obstructions. The King George V., which had just returned from refit at a dockyard, developed condenser defects necessitating partial retubing; she was the fourth battleship in which this defect had occurred since the War started, a period of only four months, and it will be realised that such wholesale breakdowns caused me uneasiness.
During November the work of sinking block-ships in all the entrance channels to Scapa Flow, except the Hoxa and Hoy entrances, was carried out. Unfortunately the block-ships had been sent up in a light condition without cement ballast which, I was informed, could not be supplied, and they began in many cases to break up or to shift their position during the winter gales. This fact, combined with the great difficulty experienced in sinking them in the exact positions required owing to the strong tides prevailing (up to at least eight knots in strength), and the very short periods of slack water, rendered the work of blocking only partially effective,
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At the end of November the effective state of the Grand Fleet was as follows:
Fleet-Flagship - the Iron Duke.1st Battle Squadron - 7 ships, the Neptune being away refitting.
2nd Battle Squadron - 7 ships, of which one, the King George V., was disabled, retubing condensers.
3rd Battle Squadron (Pre-Dreadnoughts) - 7 ships, one ship refitting at twelve hours' notice for steam, and the 8th ship returning from a dockyard refit.
4th Battle Squadron - 5 ships (complete).
1st Battle Cruiser Squadron - 4 ships (the Princess Royal having been detached to North America).
2nd Cruiser Squadron - 3 ships. The Shannon was refitting.
3rd Cruiser Squadron - 4 ships (complete).
6th Cruiser Squadron - 4 ships (complete).
1st Light Cruiser Squadron - 5 ships. The Liverpool was refitting.
2nd Flotilla -15 destroyers (5 refitting).
4th Flotilla - 15 destroyers (5 refitting).
10th Cruiser Squadron - Nil (paid off).
Armed Merchant-Cruisers - 2 (2 were coaling at Liverpool).
Minesweeping Gunboats - 5 (3 were refitting).
INCIDENTS AT SEA 169
The two new battleships, the Emperor of India and Benbow the former flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A. J. Duff, CB., had arrived at Berhaven in the south of
Ireland on December 1st to "work up" after commissioning. On the same date the Leviathan arrived at Cromarty to act as flagship of the 1st Cruiser Squadron under the orders of Rear-Admiral Sir A. G. W. Moore. His flag was transferred to her from the New Zealand on December 2nd.
On the night of December 2nd a very violent gale sprang up at Scapa Flow, during which several ships dragged their anchors, in spite of two anchors being down and steam up; the gale lasted until the morning of the 4th. All communication between ships in Scapa Flow, even by drifter, was suspended, and the light cruisers at sea on patrol were forced to lie to. An officer and one man were washed overboard from a picket-boat sheltering under the stern of a store-ship and drowned.
On December 3rd Rear-Admiral Dudley de Chair, lately in command of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, hoisted his flag in the armed merchant ship Alsatian to command the merchant cruisers attached to the Grand Fleet, which were now constituted as the new 10th Cruiser Squadron.
At 1.45 p.m. on December 3rd the destroyer Garry, Commander W. W. Wilson, of the local defence force, reported that she was engaging a submarine at the Holm Sound entrance to Scapa Flow. This submarine was possibly sheltering there from the bad weather. Destroyers and trawlers were at once sent out to assist, and the submarine was last reported diving to seaward. Several rounds from her 12-pounder gun were fired by the Garry at the submarine's conning tower, but apparently without effect, and an attempt to ram her also failed owing to the heavy sea and very strong tides. The submarine and the Garry fired torpedoes at one another, the submarine's torpedo passing under the stern of the Garry. All ships were directed to raise steam for leaving
170 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
harbour on receipt of the first report from the Garry, from which it was not clear whether the submarine had passed through Holm Sound into the harbour, but this order was cancelled when it was ascertained that she was outside.
On December 4th all the minesweeping gunboats attached to the Grand Fleet were sent to Sheerness by Admiralty direction for the purpose of carrying out sweeping operations off the coast of Belgium; trawlers were then the only sweeping vessels left with the Grand Fleet.
On December 5th another heavy gale was experienced, lasting until the following morning, and all small craft at sea were forced to shelter.
In consequence of representations made to the Admiralty of the inadequacy of the minesweeping force at this time attached to the Grand Fleet, owing to the withdrawal of the gunboats, steps were taken to fit out eight small steamers (screw minesweepers) for the purpose, and I was informed that they would arrive on various dates during the month of December. These vessels did not prove very satisfactory as minesweepers in northern waters, and were withdrawn later for use in the Mediterranean.
During the stay of the Fleet in Scapa Flow work on the improvised submarine obstructions was continued by naval parties with all possible speed, and, meanwhile, work on the permanent obstructions was in hand, though progressing but slowly, owing to the difficulty experienced in fitting out the trawlers at Inverness with the necessary winches and providing the required moorings.
On December 6th bad weather was again experienced. Orders were issued on this date for a sweep down the North Sea, but were cancelled on receipt of information from the Admiralty that the recent bad weather had
INCIDENTS AT SEA 171
caused a very large number of mines to break adrift in the southern portion of the North Sea. On the same day the light cruiser Sappho and three armed boarding steamers were sent to Loch Ewe and based there with orders to work north-west of the Hebrides for the interception of trade; the force of armed boarding steamers was increased later. These vessels were mostly Irish mail packets. Rather extensive alterations were necessary, after they had been sent up, before they were fit for their duties.
During the early part of December the ships of the 2nd and 6th Cruiser Squadrons and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron were mainly engaged in Areas 3, 4 and 6; the 3rd Cruiser Squadron was at Rosyth and working to the eastward from that base.
On December 7th Rear-Admiral Sir A. G. W. Moore, K.C.B., assumed command of the newly constituted 1st Cruiser Squadron, and the Leviathan and Duke of Edinburgh arrived at Scapa on that date; the Warrior and Black Prince, with the above ships, comprised the squadron.
On December 7th, two merchant ships, the s.s. Michigan and City of Oxford, disguised as men-of-war, arrived at Scapa. These vessels, with several others, had been fitted out at Belfast by Admiralty orders with dummy turrets and guns, and altered with a view to representing certain British battleships and battle cruisers. The whole of these were formed into a squadron under the command of Commodore Haddock, C.B., R.N.R., of Olympic fame, and termed the Special Service Squadron. The disguise of the ships was carried out very cleverly, though presumably at considerable expense. They would have been of value had it been possible to select vessels of a suitable speed, but the highest speed attainable by any vessel in the squadron was not more
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than nine to ten knots, whilst the speed of the squadron as a whole did not exceed seven knots. The ships could not under these conditions accompany the Fleet to sea, and it was very difficult to find a use for them in home waters. Commodore Haddock was, later, detached with the squadron to Loch Ewe, where the ships were worked up to carry out fleet movements. This he did most successfully, so that, had the ships possessed the requisite speed, use might have been made of them as a squadron for various decoy purposes. But, under the conditions existing, this was impossible, and eventually the squadron was disbanded with the exception of one vessel; the experiment was tried of sending her to sea disguised as a disabled man-of-war with a considerable heel to one side, and with patrol craft accompanying her as if for protection, in the hope that a submarine might be induced to attack her and so afford the patrols an opportunity of sinking the submarine.
This scheme, however, met with no success. All the vessels were restored to their original conditions for trading purposes, with the exception of some which were sent to the Mediterranean and to North America, where it was reported that they were of some use.
On December 8th another gale was experienced. The Thunderer, which had developed condenser defects, left for Devonport on the 8th for refit and for retubing condensers; yet another case of this defect!
On December 9th the 1st Battle Squadron proceeded to sea to cruise to the north-westward of the Shetland Islands and to carry out gunnery practices as convenient. In consequence of bad weather the Vice-Admiral sent the attached cruiser Bellona back to Scapa for shelter.
INCIDENTS AT SEA 173
On December 10th the new battleships Benbow and Emperor of India arrived from Berehaven to strengthen the 4th Battle Squadron, and proved very welcome additions to the Fleet. They, as well as all other new ships joining, necessarily spent several weeks in practices before becoming efficient to join the Fleet at sea, or to take part in action. Owing to the hurried completion of these two ships, a great deal of fitting work was also required before they were in a proper condition, and this delayed their practices considerably.
On the December 11th another gale was experienced which lasted until the 14th. The weather during this period was very bad, and ships at sea (including the 1st Battle Squadron which returned to Scapa on the 12th) met with very bad weather. Destroyers on patrol were unable to maintain their stations and were forced to run for shelter, and one of them, the Cockatrice, suffered some damage.
On the 12th the work of retubing the port condenser of the King George V. was completed; the starboard condenser was not taken in hand owing to the small margin of superiority of the Battle Fleet over the High Sea Fleet at this time.
During this stay of the Battle Fleet some very necessary work in the ships of the "Iron Duke" class was partially carried out. These ships were the first modern battleships fitted with 6-inch guns for their secondary armament, and the gunports were very low. Early in the War it was found necessary to unship the ports altogether, as the sea washed them away constantly. Water then had free access to the inside of the ship through the opening between the revolving shield and the ship's side, and, except in fine weather, water entered freely. In bad weather the water, as deep as three to four inches, was continually washing about the living decks and finding its way below through the open hatches, to the great discomfort of the ship's company, who were continually wet, and
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to the detriment of efficiency. Arrangements were devised on board the Iron Duke to overcome this trouble, and steps taken to have all the necessary fittings made at various contractors' yards. A partial bulkhead was fitted in rear of the guns to confine the water which entered the ship, and watertight india-rubber joints provided between the gun shields and the ship's side. The result was satisfactory, and similar changes were made in the ships of the "Queen Elizabeth" class and in the Tiger. The two after 6-inch guns, which were on the main deck level, were removed altogether at the first opportunity, and the ship's side and armour completed in the after embrasure in all these ships, as it was apparent that these guns could never be worked at sea, being only a few feet above the water line. The guns themselves were mounted in new unarmoured casemates on the superstructure deck level. The work connected with the forward 6-inch guns was entirely carried out at Scapa, with the ships at short notice for steam, and in some cases the workmen remained in the ships and continued the work at sea.
On December 12th serious defects in the boilers of the Liverpool became apparent and the speed of the ship was limited to 17 knots. This defect, which first showed itself in this ship, gradually affected the boilers of the same type in all ships so fitted, as they experienced a certain degree of wear, and from this time onwards there was usually one, and occasionally two, light cruisers paid off for the purpose of carrying out the necessary repairs which occupied a period of two or three months. This reduction in the number of efficient light cruisers was serious, at a time when our numbers compared badly with those possessed by the enemy.
INCIDENTS AT SEA 175
On December 14th directions were given to the 2nd Battle Squadron and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron at Scapa, the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron at Cromarty and all the available destroyers which were at that base, and the 3rd Cruiser Squadron from Rosyth, to proceed to sea to meet at a rendezvous in Lat. 57.20 N., Long. 0.10 W., at 2.30 p.m. on December 15th, the force then to proceed to the southward with a view to sweeping the western portion of the North Sea. The 2nd Battle Squadron — without the Thunderer, which was refitting, and, therefore, comprising only six ships — left Scapa early on the 15th, but in passing through the Pentland Firth the attached cruisers Blanche and Boadicea were seriously damaged by the heavy sea running as the result of the late exceptional gales, and were forced to return.
The Boadicea had her bridge washed away and lost several men swept overboard and drowned. This ship was sent to the Clyde for repairs; the damage to the Blanche being less was made good at Scapa. The number of destroyers accompanying the force was, unfortunately, very inadequate, the 2nd Battle Squadron being unprovided with any vessels of this class, as the weather conditions in the Pentland Firth made it out of the question for destroyers to go to sea from Scapa. It was decided not to postpone the sweep on this account. I ordered all available destroyers out from Cromarty in the hope that the weather conditions in the Moray Firth might be better than at Scapa; only seven were available, however, and I therefore asked the Admiralty to direct the Commodore (T), with the 1st and 3rd Flotillas from Harwich, to meet the northern force at a southern rendezvous at daylight on December 16th. This proposal was not carried out, however, the Harwich force, which was at sea, remaining a considerable distance to the southward.
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Whilst the force was on passage to the southward, the destroyers Lynx, Ambuscade, Unity, Hardy, Shark, Acasta and Spitfire — which had left Cromarty with the battle cruisers and on reaching the rendezvous were stationed 10 miles ahead of the 2nd Battle Squadron — sighted and became engaged before daylight on December 16th with a strong force of enemy destroyers, and, later, with one enemy cruiser and three light cruisers. The destroyers appeared to be screening ahead of the other vessels and both destroyers and cruisers were engaged by our small destroyer force. It was difficult to ascertain the result of the engagement so far as the German vessels were concerned, although the Hardy claimed to have hit a light cruiser at close range; the Hardy's steering-gear was disabled by enemy fire, two men killed and one officer and 14 men wounded.
The Ambuscade and Lynx were also holed, the Lynx having one man wounded. The Hardy finally withdrew under escort of the Lynx. The engagement caused our own destroyers to become scattered and separated from the Battle Squadron, and in the course of the day they proceeded to various east coast ports to repair and refuel, the Hardy being escorted to the Humber by the Spitfire. No report of this engagement reached me at the time. My first information of the presence of enemy forces in the vicinity of our coast was obtained by intercepting at 8.55 a.m. a wireless message from the Admiralty to Vice-Admiral commanding the 2nd Battle Squadron, timed 8.35 a.m., stating that Scarborough was being shelled. The Grand Fleet was at once ordered to raise steam, and left at 12.15 p.m., steering for a position Lat. 57 N., Long. 2.30 E. The weather had now moderated sufficiently to allow of destroyers accompanying the Fleet.
INCIDENTS AT SEA 177
Meanwhile Sir George Warrender, who was in command of the 2nd Battle Squadron and was the senior officer of the forces at sea, on receipt of the Admiralty telegram had turned to the northward to endeavour to intercept the enemy forces on their return passage. Wireless signals were intercepted in the Iron Duke indicating that the scout cruiser Patrol was being engaged by two enemy battle cruisers and that battleships or battle cruisers were off Scarborough and light cruisers off Hartlepool. I knew that a gap between two mine-fields, laid by the enemy off our coast existed between Lat. 54.20 N. and 54.40 N. and concluded that any enemy forces operating off our coasts would pass through this gap. At 10 a.m., therefore, after intercepting the various messages mentioned above, I reminded the Vice-Admiral of the 2nd Battle Squadron and the Vice-Admiral of the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron by wireless that this gap existed, and that the enemy would probably emerge there, and Sir George Warrender at 10.26 a.m. directed Sir David Beatty to pass through the gap towards our coast.
The Admiralty at 10.30 signalled, however, to the Vice-Admiral of the 2nd Battle Squadron that the enemy was probably returning towards Heligoland, and that he should keep outside the mine-fields and steer to cut off the enemy. Sir George Warrender then directed Sir David Beatty to obey this latter order.
I had ordered the 3rd Battle Squadron to sea from Rosyth immediately on receipt of the first news of the enemy, and Vice-Admiral Bradford, whose squadron was at short notice for steam, left at 10 a.m. with directions from me to proceed to lat. 55.50 N., Long. 1.10 W., my object being for this force to intercept the enemy should he pass out to the northward of the German minefields instead of through the gap between them.
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Sir George Warrender, with the 2nd Battle Squadron, the 3rd Cruiser Squadron being in company, was informed of these dispositions by me. At 11.40 a.m. he signalled that at 12.30 p.m. he would be in Lat. 54.24 N., Long. 2.0 E. Sir David Beatty, with the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, was to the north-westward of the Battle Squadron, and the Commodore (T) some 60 miles to the southward, having been ordered by the Vice-Admiral of the 2nd Battle Squadron, at 10.28 a.m., to steer for a position in Lat. 54.20 N., Long. 1.30 E. The weather throughout the whole morning had been very misty, with a visibility of about five miles, and sufficient sea to cause a great deal of spray when ships were steaming at high speed.
At 11.30 a.m. Commodore Goodenough, in the Southampton (1st Light Cruiser Squadron), sighted an enemy light cruiser and destroyers steering to the southward, gave chase with the Birmingham and engaged them; owing to the spray washing over the ship, and to the mist, no result was visible. Three other enemy light cruisers, or cruisers, were sighted to the south-westward shortly before 11.50 a.m., at about which time touch with these vessels was lost.
At 12.16 p.m., German cruisers and destroyers were sighted in Lat. 54.23 N., Long. 2.14 E. by the 2nd Battle Squadron distant about five miles on a bearing north by west, steering to the eastward, having evidently come out through the gap in the mine-fields as was anticipated; the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron at this time was some 15 miles north of the Battle Squadron. It seems probable that the German force passed either between our 2nd Battle Squadron and the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, or ahead of the former and astern of the latter. On sighting our Battle Squadron, which turned to close, the enemy steered to the northward and disappeared shortly afterwards in the mist, steaming at high speed, and without being engaged by the 2nd Battle Squadron. The 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron did not sight any enemy forces.
INCIDENTS AT SEA 179
The escape of the enemy’s force was most disappointing, seeing that our own squadrons were in a very favourable position for intercepting the raiders. Low visibility was the main reason for their escape, but the absence from the Battle Squadron (through the bad weather in the Pentland Firth) of its attached cruisers and of a sufficient force of destroyers was a contributory cause, as well as the fact of our light cruisers having lost touch with the enemy at 11.50
At 3 p.m. the Vice-Admiral of the 2nd Battle Squadron informed me of the main features of the position, and stated that he was in Lat. 54.43 N., Long. 1.55 E., steering to the northward, with the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, adding that he had ordered the battle cruisers and light cruisers to rejoin him.
At about 2 p.m. the Admiralty informed me that it was thought, from the information given by our directional stations, that other ships of the High Sea Fleet were probably at sea, and at 6.30 p.m. I gave all our forces a rendezvous at which to meet at 6 a.m. on the 17th.
The force from Scapa, consisting of the 1st and 4th Battle Squadrons, with the 2nd Flotilla, and the 1st, 2nd and 6th Cruiser Squadrons, met at this time the force under Sir George Warrender, the 3rd Battle Squadron under Vice-Admiral E. E. Bradford, and the Commodore (T) with three light cruisers, and proceeded to the southward. During the afternoon of the 17th the Admiralty was able to ascertain (by directional wireless telegraphy) and to inform me that the ships of the High Sea Fleet, previously reported, were now in harbour.
180 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
Opportunity was then taken of the whole Fleet being in company with the Commodore (T) to carry out a battle exercise. At dusk the Commoodore (T) was detached to Harwich, the 3rd Battle Squadron and 3rd Cruiser Squadron to Rosyth, the 2nd Battle Squadron and 2nd Flotilla to Scapa, and the Marlborough to Rosyth, for the purpose of allowing Sir Lewis Bayly and Sir Cecil Bumey to exchange commands in accordance with orders received from the Admiralty by wireless telegraphy when at sea. The light cruiser Bellona and the flotilla leader Broke collided during the battle exercises, and were seriously damaged, being sent to Rosyth under the escort of the Devonshire.
During the 17th wireless messages intercepted in the Iron Duke showed that the enemy raiding force had laid a large number of mines off the Yorkshire coast and that some British and neutral merchant ships had been sunk as a result.
During December 18th the 1st and 4th Battle Squadrons, the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron remained at sea to the eastward of the Orkneys, and in the evening the battleships shaped course for Scapa, arriving oh the 19th, the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and 1st Light Cruiser Squadron reaching Cromarty on the same day. The 1st and 2nd Cruiser Squadrons also proceeded to Cromarty, and the 6th Cruiser Squadron remained out on patrol.
During the 18th a submarine was reported inside Scapa Flow, and the 2nd Battle Squadron raised steam; but investigation showed that the report was not well founded.
INCIDENTS AT SEA 181
The strength of the 10th Cruiser Squadron had now risen to 18 ships, and directions were given by me to the Rear-Admiral commanding to establish patrols as follows:
Patrol A. — North of the Faroes and to westward of Long. 5.30 W.
Patrol B. — North of the Shetlands and to westward of Long. 1.0 W.
Patrol C. — South of the Faroes and to westward of a line joining Sydero and Sule Skerry lighthouses.
Patrol D. — West of the Hebrides and a line N.1/2W. from St. Kilda.
The Sappho and the seven armed boarding-steamers, now available, were based on Loch Ewe, and completed the blockade line between Patrol D and the Hebrides. They were, however, shifted later on to Scapa, where they were employed on patrol and boarding duties in the approaches to the Pentland Firth, or at sea with cruiser squadrons.
On December 20th a report was received that the submarine obstruction in Hoxa Sound had been found to be pierced; this led to steam being raised by all ships at Scapa, and the usual search by small craft was ordered; boats were also sent to explode charges on the bottom in the vicinity of the damaged portion of the submarine obstruction, where it was thought a submarine might have been entangled. Another alarm took place later, due to some trawlers inside Scapa Flow mistaking the concussion due to the explosion of these charges for torpedoes and firing warning signals in consequence. The precautions were kept in force until after daylight on the 21st. On that date Vice-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney arrived at Scapa in the Marlborough and assumed command of the 1st Battle Squadron, Sir Lewis Bayly taking over the command of the Channel Fleet.
On the 21st the 1st Battle Squadron and 1st Light Cruiser Squadron left Cromarty for Rosyth in obedience to directions from the Admiralty that the battle cruisers and light cruisers were to be based on the latter port. This change was one result of the Scarborough raid.
182 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
The minesweeping gunboats rejoined the Grand Fleet on this date.
On December 23rd the 2nd and 4th Battle Squadrons, with the Iron Duke, proceeded to sea to the westward of the Orkneys, and carried out target practice at the Sulisker Rock, north of the Hebrides, on the 24th, passed through the Pentland Firth at 6 p.m. on that date, and proceeded into the North Sea for a sweep into southern waters.
During daylight of the 25th the 1st Battle Squadron, the 2nd Flotilla and the 6th Cruiser Squadron from Scapa, the 3rd Battle Squadron, the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron from Rosyth, and the 1st and 2nd Cruiser Squadrons and 4th Flotilla from Cromarty met the Iron Duke, and the 2nd and 4th Battle Squadrons at given rendezvous between Lat. 56.45 N., Long. 1.30., and Lat. 56.14 N., Long. 3.20 E.
Vice-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney was under treatment on board a hospital ship and too unwell to take his squadron to sea. Admiral Sir Stanley Colville was, therefore, directed to hoist his flag on board the Marlborough and to assume temporary command of the 1st Battle Squadron.
The whole Fleet was together by 1.20 p.m. on the 25th, steering south-south-east at 15 knots. At 1.40 p.m. the Birmingham and Southampton, of the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, both sighted submarines about 15 miles to the south-westward of the Battle Fleet.
The Battle Fleet was then gradually turned from the south-south-eastward course to north-north-eastward until 3 p.m., being then in position Lat. 56.22 N., Long. 3.43 E.
INCIDENTS AT SEA 183
Course was altered to north-north-west at 8.15 p.m. and speed reduced. At 9.15 p.m. the Fleet again turned to the southward, speed having to be reduced owing to the sea becoming too heavy for the destroyers. By midnight a south-westerly gale was blowing.
At 8 a.m. on December 26th the Battle Fleet was in Lat. 55.58 N., Long. 2.16 E., with the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron 40 miles to the southward; a speed of 11 knots was the most that the destroyers could keep up without risk of serious damage, and, as the weather was getting rapidly worse, they were detached at 8.10 a.m to their bases.
By 10 a.m. a whole gale was blowing from the south-eastward. The sweep was abandoned and course altered to the northward. At 11 a.m. the Rosyth and Cromarty squadrons were ordered to proceed to their bases, the Indomitable, which had joined the Fleet at 8 a.m. from the Mediterranean, being ordered to Rosyth, there to join the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron. The destroyers and light cruisers suffered somewhat from the gale, the 2nd Flotilla unfortunately losing three men, and from the light cruiser Caroline one man was washed overboard.
Bad weather continued during the passage north with a very rough sea, and on nearing the Pentland Firth the Dreadnought Battle Fleet found the conditions to be exceptionally severe, with a following wind which caused the funnel smoke to obscure objects ahead of the ships. The ships were directed to enter Scapa Flow in the following order: 2nd Battle Squadron, 1st Battle Squadron, 4th Battle Squadron; the 2nd Battle Squadron was timed to enter at 6 a.m. — some time, of course, before daylight, which, at this period of the year at Scapa Flow, is about 8.30 a.m.
184 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
As the rear sub-division of the 2nd Battle Squadron approached the entrance, the ships as usual having no lights showing, the Monarch altered course and stopped to avoid a patrol trawler which she suddenly sighted close under her bows. The Conqueror, astern of her, was unable to avoid the Monarch and the two ships collided; the stern of the Monarch and the starboard bow of the Conqueror were very seriously damaged, rendering both ships unseaworthy. They were brought into the harbour and safely berthed.
Meanwhile, the 1st Battle Squadron, following astern of the 2nd Battle Squadron, entered safely. The Iron Duke was leading the 4th Battle Squadron, and, on intercepting the wireless messages indicating that something was wrong, I stood through the Pentland Firth to the westward with the 4th Battle Squadron until the situation had become clearer. The dawn was very late and a furious gale was blowing, with a very heavy sea and strong tide in the Firth. These conditions made the handling of the battleships very difficult when they turned through 16 points to return to the eastward.
The Iron Duke and 4th Battle Squadron entered at 10 a.m. The whole Fleet remained with two anchors down and steam up on account of the weather until 1 p.m., when the wind and sea moderated, and by the morning of the 28th normal conditions were resumed. As a result of the gale, it was necessary to send the destroyers Hope, Redpole and Ruby to dockyards for repairs.
On the 28th a new Light Cruiser Squadron, termed the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, was formed, consisting of the Falmouth (Flag of Rear-Admiral Trevelyan Napier), Gloucester, Yarmouth and Dartmouth.
Vice-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney now resumed command of the 1st Battle Squadron.
INCIDENTS AT SEA 185
Enemy submarines were active at the entrance to the Firth of Forth at this time; a torpedo was fired at T.B. No. 38 and another at T.B. No. 31 on the 25th, and two submarines were sighted during the 28th off the entrance to the Tay.
Temporary repairs to the Monarch and Conqueror were begun as soon as the weather permitted, and the former ship was able to leave Scapa for Devonport for thorough repair on December 29th. It was found necessary to obtain salvage plant and assistance in the case of the Conqueror, which had sustained very extensive underwater injury over a considerable length, and Captain Young, of the Liverpool Salvage Association, for whose services I applied at once, was sent up with the salvage ship Rattler, arriving on December 31st. The Conqueror was taken into Switha Sound and the repair ship Assistance secured alongside her, and excellent temporary repairs were effected by the 18th January, by the staff of the Assistance, Captain Betty, R.N., and by the salvage artificers under Captain Young.
The second condenser of the King George V. was taken in hand for retubing at this time.
At the end of 1914 the condition of the Fleet was:
Fleet-Flagship - the Iron Duke.1st Battle Squadron - 8 ships (complete).
2nd Battle Squadron - 4 ships (the Conqueror and Monarch being disabled, and the King George V. retubing her second condenser).
3rd Battle Squadron (Pre-Dreadnoughts) - 7 ships (Commonwealth refitting)
4th Battle Squadron - 7 ships (complete); but two new ships, the Benbow and Emperor of India not yet efficient.
1st Battle Cruiser Squadron - 5 ships (Princess Royal was away).
1st Cruiser Squadron - 3 ships. (Black Prince refitting).
2nd Cruiser Squadron - 4 ships (complete).
3rd Cruiser Squadron - 4 ships (complete).
6th Cruiser Squadron - 2 ships (complete).
1st Light Cruiser Squadron - 4 ships (complete).
2nd Light Cruiser Squadron - 2 ships (2 not joined).
10th Cruiser Squadron – 14 ships (4 coaling and refitting).
2nd Flotilla -16 destroyers (4 refitting).
4th Flotilla - 17 destroyers (3 refitting).
THE DOGGER BANK ACTION
Developments in the intelligence system at the Admiralty, initiated at the outbreak of war by Rear-Admiral Henry F. Oliver, the Director of the Intelligence Division, and improvements in the efficiency of our directional wireless stations and of wireless telegraphy generally, led to our being able to obtain more reliable knowledge of the movements of enemy vessels. The result was that it had become unnecessary towards the end of 1914 to keep the Fleet so constantly at sea in anticipation of enemy movements. It was very desirable to spare the ships to some extent, since it was increasingly evident that the War would be prolonged, and we had already had several warnings that the strain of constant sea work was telling on the efficiency of the machinery. Two very disquieting examples of this were the failure of condenser tubes on a large scale, particulary in the battleships, and the trouble developing in the boilers of a very considerable number of light cruisers.
The problem of training personnel was also beginning to prove serious. In order to commision the large number of new ships which had been laid down since Lord Fisher, full of energy and ideas, had taken up the office of First Sea Lord (the number, of all sorts, building and projected, being more than 600), it became evident that it would be necessary to remove trained men from the Grand Fleet and to replace them with boys or untrained
188 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
landsmen. Under these conditions the individual efficiency of the ships in gunnery and torpedo work, as well as in such matters as signalling (visual and wireless) and the other factors which are essential in a fighting ship, could only be maintained if we could spend sufficient time in harbour, during which regular instruction could be given; this instruction to be followed by frequent practices under way, in conditions where the ships would not be liable to attack by enemy submarines, and need not, therefore, be screened by the overworked destroyers. The organisation for carrying out this work at Scapa Flow was, therefore, greatly elaborated.
Steps were taken to start a school for training young wireless operators at Scapa, first on board each ship, and, later, in a specially fitted merchant ship. The want of wireless operators had been most seriously felt since the War began. In addition to the needs of new warships of all classes in this respect, the requirements for merchant ships, trawlers and other patrol craft were immense and could not be met. In this branch of instruction Lieut.Commander R. L. Nicholson, the Fleet wireless officer on my staff, carried out invaluable work in organising and starting the school. The training of young ratings in visual signal duties was also taken in hand vigorously under Commander A, E. Wood and the signal officers of the Fleet, The Grand Fleet became, in effect, a great school for turning out trained personnel for the Navy as a whole, whilst still keeping watch over the High Sea Fleet, and controlling the North Sea and its northern exit, thus carrying out its role as the centre and pivot of the whole naval side of the War.
DOGGER BANK ACTION 189
Early in 1915 the subject of the instruction and education of the midshipmen also exercised my attention. On mobilisation all the cadets had been removed from Dartmouth and sent to sea, with their training, of course, very incomplete. During the first months of the War, when the ships were either at sea or, if in harbour, were coaling, it was impossible to give these young officers any regular instruction, and, whilst they were learning much that would be invaluable to them in the future, it was evidently highly desirable that their systematic education should be continued as far as was possible during a war.
Steps were accordingly taken in this direction. The first essential was to obtain naval instructors for the ships carrying midshipmen. The policy of the Admiralty, for some years before the War, had been to reduce gradually the number of naval instructors afloat, the idea being that the training at the Colleges and on board the training cruisers rendered the presence of instructors at sea unnecessary. I never held this view personally, but, in any case, it was clear that, as the cadets had gone to sea with less than half their course completed, further instruction at sea was necessary. The specialist officers afloat could not undertake this work under war conditions and strong representations were, therefore, made to the Admiralty on the subject. Eventually a number of gentlemen were entered specially for this instructional work and, after a short course of training in navigation at Greenwich, were sent to the Fleet, where their work proved to be of great value to the rising generation of officers.
The blockade was becoming daily more effective, although the blockading cruisers worked at so great a distance from the German coast. The only interference ever attempted by the enemy was by submarine attack or by mines, and during the year 1915 no great success was achieved by them in this respect when the conditions
190 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
are considered. The regular blockading squadron, the 10th Cruiser Squadron, was assisted in its work by the sweeps of our cruisers and light cruisers, accompanied occasionally by the Battle Fleet. In addition to the discharge of these duties, the Battle Fleet engaged in periodical cruises, during which battle exercises were carried out for the purpose of maintaining efficiency in the handling of the ships and squadrons and of giving the fresh officers, who were frequently joining the Fleet, to replace others required for the new ships, experience in the work of the Grand Fleet under the novel war conditions.
Pursuant to this general policy, the Dreadnought Battle Fleet remained in harbour until January 10th, and then left for a cruise to the westward of the Orkneys and Shetlands. Gunnery practices were carried out by day and at night, as well as battle exercises, and the Fleet returned to Scapa during the day and the night of the 13th. The 3rd Battle Squadron left Rosyth on the 12th for a cruise in the North Sea, and on the night of the 13th-14th passed to the westward of the Orkneys for gunnery practice, returning to Rosyth on the 15th.
Other events of interest during the first fortnight of January 1915 were the return of the Princess Royal from North American waters on the 1st; a short cruise in the centre of the North Sea by the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron between the 3rd and the 5th, and by the 3rd Cruiser Squadron between the 6th and the 8th; a cruise by the 1st Cruiser Squadron to the westward of the Orkneys between the 4th and 6th, and by the 6th Cruiser Squadron between the 6th and the 9th, and the 10th and 14th. On January 4th the King George V. completed the work of retubing her condenser.
DOGGER BANK ACTION 191
On the 9th all ships at Scapa raised steam ready for leaving, in consequence of a report of a submarine being sighted in Hoy Sound, and available destroyers and trawlers were sent to patrol in the vicinity of the Hoy anti-submarine Fleet obstructions until the Battle Fleet left harbour on the 10th.
Gales were experienced at Scapa on the 1st, 13th, 16th and 19th of January.
On January 15th the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron was reconstituted, under Vice-Admiral Sir A. G. W. Moore, K.C.B., whose flag was transferred from the Leviathan, of the 1st Cruiser Squadron, to the New Zealand; the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron then comprised the New Zealand, Indomitable and Invincible (the last not having yet arrived). Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot, Bart., took command of the 1st Cruiser Squadron in place of Sir Gordon Moore, flying his flag in the Defence, which took the place of the Leviathan; the latter vessel was transferred to the 6th Cruiser Squadron. Rear-Admiral A. C. Leveson, C.B., relieved Sir Robert Arbuthnot as Rear-Admiral in the 2nd Battle Squadron, flying his flag in the Orion.
On the 17th the 1st and 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadrons and 1st Light Cruiser Squadron left Rosyth for a cruise in the centre and southern portions of the North Sea, and on the 19th, at dawn, arrived in position Lat. 55 N., Long. 5.30 E. to support Commodore Tyrwhitt in carrying out a reconnaissance in Heligoland Bight. Nothing was sighted beyond an airship and a seaplane, and the force was ordered to return to its bases and arrived during the night of the 20th-21st.
192 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
On the 18th the Admiral commanding at Queenstown reported that a German mine had been washed ashore at Portrush, as well as bodies and wreckage, apparently belonging to the Viknor, an armed merchant cruiser of the 10th Cruiser Squadron. Anxiety had been felt as to the safety of the Viknor for two or three days owing to no reply to wireless signals being received from her, and the ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron had been directed to search for her. The report from Portrush pointed to the probability that she had struck a mine off the north coast of Ireland, either in the Audacious minefield or a field further to the southward, and had been lost with all hands in the very heavy weather prevailing at the time in this vicinity. All traffic round the north of Ireland was stopped until sweepers were able to examine the whole area.
At this time a large number of German mines were being constantly reported both in the North Sea and on the west coasts of Scotland and Ireland, having evidently broken adrift from their moorings in the heavy weather which had been generally prevalent. These mines, which were not safe when adrift, as provided for under The Hague Convention, were a source of some danger to ships, particularly at night. On the 18th the battleship Superb, having developed defects in one of her turbines, was sent to Portsmouth. She was absent from the Fleet until March 11th.
On January 19th, the orders for the 10th Cruiser Squadron (blockading squadron) were somewhat modified by me; the new centre lines of patrol positions being:
Patrol A. - A line 80 miles long, 360 degrees from Lat. 62.20 N., Long. 10.0 W.
Patrol B. - A line 80 miles long, 360 degrees from Lat 61.10 N., Long. 1.15 E.
Patrol C. - A line 80 miles long, 360 degrees from Lat 59.40 N., Long. 9.0 W.
Patrol D. - Eastern line of patrol to be 80 miles in the direction 335 degrees from St. Kilda.
DOGGER BANK ACTION 193
The ships were ordered to patrol on east and west courses on each side of the centre line at a speed of at least 13 knots by day, zigzagging.
At the same time four ships were directed to carry out a special patrol of the Norwegian coast between the parallels of 62 N. and 62.20 N. This patrol was maintained until the 22nd. As indicating the growing work of the ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron and the efficiency of the blockade, the Rear-Admiral of the 10th Cruiser Squadron reported on January 18th that 80 ships had been intercepted by his squadron since December 26th, 52 of which were eastward-bound. The strength of the 10th Cruiser Squadron had now risen to 21 ships, exclusive of the Viknor, the loss of which ship with her fine ship's company was deeply regretted.
A patrol to the eastward of the Pentland Firth was at this period being worked by the Sappho and five armed boarding-steamers, which were supported at night by one or two cruisers or light cruisers as necessary.
The Monarch returned from being repaired at Devonport on the 20th. Temporary repairs to the Conqueror had been completed about January 18th, but the ship was detained pending more favourable weather conditions; on the 21st she left for a southern dockyard, escorted by four destroyers. On clearing the Pentland Firth, however, she found that the sea was too heavy for the passage to be made with safety in her damaged condition, and the ship returned to Scapa, where further work was taken in hand and it was decided that it would be necessary to dock her in the floating-dock at Invergordon to effect more permanent repairs for the passage south than could be carried out by divers at Scapa. She reached Invergordon on January 24th.
194 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
On January 23rd the 1st and 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadrons and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron at Rosyth left for a sweep in the southern portion of the North Sea, in conjunction with the Harwich force. The remainder of the Grand Fleet acted in support. The 1st and 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadrons (except the Queen Mary, which was absent refitting) and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron were directed to a rendezvous, where the Commodore (T), with available destroyers and light cruisers, was ordered to meet them.
The 3rd Battle Squadron and 3rd Cruiser Squadron were ordered to the vicinity of the battle cruisers’ rendezvous.
The Iron Duke, the 1st, 2nd and 4th Battle Squadrons, the 1st, 2nd and 6th Cruiser Squadrons, and the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, available destroyers of 2nd and 4th Flotilla (a total of 28 destroyers) left Scapa during the evening of the 23rd and proceeded towards the same rendezvous.
At 7.20 a.m. the Aurora, of the Harwich force, reported that she was in action with enemy vessels; at 7.30 a.m. Sir David Beatty reported enemy battle cruisers and cruisers in sight in Lat. 54.53 N., Long. 3.32 E., steering east. At 7.55 a.m. Commodore Goodenough, commanding the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, reported his position as Lat. 55.10 N., Long. 3.32 E., and enemy vessels in sight, consisting of battle cruisers, light cruisers and destroyers, steering between south-east and south. On receipt of these reports the Battle Fleet increased to 19 knots speed, and steered to support the battle cruisers, and the 3rd Battle Squadron and 3rd Cruiser Squadron, which were further to the southward, were ordered to steer for Heligoland at full speed, to act in immediate support. The 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron was also sent on ahead at full speed to join the other forces.
DOGGER BANK ACTION 195
The proceedings of the force under Sir David Beatty are best described in his report given in an Appendix.
At 11.50 a.m. Commodore Goodenough, commanding the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, reported the enemy steering south-east at 25 knots, and at noon that he had lost touch with them; at 12.5 p.m. Rear Admiral Sir Gordon Moore reported that he was retiring north-west, and, later, north-north-west, that the Blucher was out of action, and that the remaining enemy battle cruisers were out of sight; he added that the Lion had hauled out of action. He gave his position as Lat. 54.19 N., Long. 5.22 E.
The Dreadnought Battle Fleet's position at noon was Lat. 56.29 N., Long. 3.22 E., with the cruisers 15 miles ahead and the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron ahead of the cruisers. At 1.15 Rear-Admiral Moore reported in reply to my enquiry that Sir David Beatty was on board the Princess Royal, that the Lion was damaged and detached; Sir David Beatty then reported that the Lion's speed was reduced to 12 knots, that the Blucher had been sunk, and two other enemy battle cruisers seriously damaged, and that he was covering the retirement of the Lion, which was steaming with her starboard engine only.
196 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
The hit which disabled the Lion was a piece of luck for the enemy.
At 2 p.m. Vice-Admiral Bradford, commanding the 3rd Battle Squadron, reported that he was turning to the northward, having all the battle cruisers in sight. The 3rd Battle Squadron was sighted from the Iron Duke at 3.30 p.m., and stationed on the Dreadnought Battle Fleet. Sir David Beatty had meanwhile directed the Indomitable at 3.38 p.m. to take the Lion in tow, and this operation was effected by 5 p.m. At 4 p.m. the Iron Duke's position was Lat. 55.15 N., Long. 4.7 E., and at 4.30 p.m. the battle cruisers were in sight from the Iron Duke. The Battle Fleet then turned to the northward, keeping in company with the battle cruisers until dark.
At 7 p.m. the Lion’s starboard engine became disabled and the speed was still further reduced.
At dusk the 1st and 2nd Light Cruiser Squadrons and all destroyers of the 2nd and 4th Flotillas with the Battle Fleet, except those vessels which were short of fuel, had been detached to assist the remaining destroyers in screening the Lion and her escort against destroyer and submarine attack. The heavy ships, battleships and battle cruisers, stood to the northward to be clear of torpedo attack. The night passed without incident, the 1st and 2nd Light Cruiser Squadrons joining the battle cruisers during the darkness. Wireless messages were sent on the 24th to the Senior Naval Officer, Tyne, to send out tugs to meet the Lion, and this was done.
The Dreadnought Battle Fleet and the battle cruisers remained cruising in the North Sea during daylight on the 25th, except the 3rd Battle Squadron and 3rd Cruiser Squadron, which were detached to Rosyth at 8 a.m.
DOGGER BANK ACTION 197
During these operations many floating mines were sighted and sunk.
The battle cruisers proceeded to Rosyth at dusk, and the Battle Fleet to Scapa, except the Iron Duke and Centurion, which were sent to Cromarty, the Iron Duke to dock and refit and the Centurion to act as "stand by" Fleet-Flagship during the refit. The Lion arrived at Rosyth at 6.35 a.m. on the 26th in a dense fog and was taken up harbour for temporary repairs, the Assistance being sent from Scapa to Rosyth to help in the work. The main injury to the Lion was caused by two hits under water, which pierced the feed tank and displaced an armour plate; the permanent repairs were completed on the Tyne, the work being carried out by the aid of coffer dams, there being no dock there capable of taking the ship. Her casualties consisted of 11 men wounded. The only other battle cruiser that received injury was the Tiger, in which ship Engineer Captain Taylor, a most valuable officer, and five men were killed, 11 being wounded; the material damage to the ship was slight.
The enemy, as the result of this action, suffered the total loss of the Blucher; and two battle cruisers, the Derfflinger and Seydlitz, sustained severe injuries, a serious fire or explosion occurring in one of the after turrets of one ship, which put that, or possibly both after turrets, out of action and caused a large number of casualties amongst the crew. It was ascertained at a later date from German prisoners that the condition of one, if not of both ships on return to harbour was very serious; the casualties, as well as the material injury, were heavy. It was stated subsequently that the Derfflinger had 60 killed and 250 wounded, and the Seydlitz about 100 killed.
One of our destroyers, the Meteor, was damaged in the action, but was towed back to port and repaired.
198 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
On the 26th the 6th Cruiser Squadron was reconstituted and composed of the Drake, Leviathan and Cumberland, and a 7th Cruiser Squadron was formed under the command of Rear-Admiral A. W. Waymouth, consisting of the Minotaur (flagship), Hampshire and Donegal. The 1st and 6th Cruiser Squadrons were sent to Scapa, and the 2nd and 7th to Cromarty.
The Britannia, of the 3rd Battle Squadron, grounded in the Firth of Forth in the fog on her way back to Rosyth, was ashore for 36 hours, and suffered considerable damage, necessitating repairs at a dockyard.
On the 27th January the 1st Cruiser Squadron and a division of destroyers sailed to cruise in the centre portion of the North Sea and returned on the 30th, being relieved by the 2nd Cruiser Squadron. On January 28th the battle cruisers Princess Royal and Queen Mary, with the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, left Rosyth to support operations being carried out in the Heligoland Bight by Commodore Tyrwhitt and Commodore Keyes on January 30th and 31st. Owing to fog the operations could not be carried out, and the force returned to its bases on the 30th.
A report of a submarine inside Cromarty Harbour on the 29th caused ships to raise steam preparatory to leaving, and all small craft to search for the submarine, but on investigation it was considered that the report was unreliable.
On January 30th enemy submarines appeared in the Irish Sea, one of them opening fire on Walney Island, where the works of Messrs. Vickers, Limited, are situated. At about this date, owing to marked enemy submarine activity in the Irish Sea, the ships of the 10th Cruiser
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Squadron were directed to coal temporarily at Loch Ewe instead of at Liverpool, and two divisions of Grand Fleet destroyers were detached to the Irish Sea to assist in hunting the submarines.
During January the number of drifting German mines in the North Sea was very considerable. Many were sighted and sunk by the Fleet when at sea; the 2nd Cruiser Squadron alone, when on patrol on the 30th and 31st January sinking 12 mines.
At the end of January the condition of the Grand Fleet was as follows:
Iron Duke, Fleet-Flagship, refitting.
1st Battle Squadron: 7 ships (Superb was away).
2nd Battle Squadron: 6 ships (Conqueror was unserviceable).
3rd Battle Squadron: 6 ships (Commonwealth and Britannia refitting).
4th Battle Squadron: 7 ships (complete).
1st Battle Cruiser Squadron: 2 ships (Lion was effecting temporary repairs; the Tiger refitting).
2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron: 1 ship (Indomitable refitting after a fire due to defective electric circuits).
1st Cruiser Squadron: 4 ships (complete).
2nd Cruiser Squadron: 3 ships (Natal refitting).
3rd Cruiser Squadron: 3 ships (Roxburgh refitting).
6th Cruiser Squadron: 3 ships (complete).
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7th Cruiser Squadron: 3 ships (complete).
1st Light Cruiser Squadron: 4 ships (complete).
2nd Light Cruiser Squadron: 4 ships (Liverpool refitting).
2nd Flotilla: 11 destroyers (5 refitting, 4 detached in the Irish Sea).
4th Flotilla: 11 destroyers (5 refitting, 4 detached in the Irish Sea).
The shortage of destroyers at this period was exceedingly marked.
During February the Battle Fleet remained in harbour. No enemy movements took place or were expected as several changes were being made in the High Sea Fleet commands; the principal of these was the relief of Admiral von Inghenol by Admiral von Pohl as Commander-in-Chief. It was anticipated that the new Flag officers would exercise their squadrons in order to become familiar with them before attempting any operations.
The opportunity was taken of refitting the Iron Duke, and the ship remained at Invergordon, in the Cromarty Firth, until February 23rd. It was becoming desirable to give the officers and men of the Battle Fleet some change from Scapa Flow, where there were no opportunities for landing for exercise or recreation, and arrangements were made by which battle, as well as cruiser squadrons should visit Invergordon periodically for this purpose. The 2nd Battle Squadron accordingly arrived at this base on February 24th.
During the first half of February, 1915, eight destroyers were absent from the Grand Fleet flotillas, working in the Irish Channel against submarines, leaving only a total of 20 to 22 available for the Fleet; an insufficient number for screening purposes. This deficiency made it desirable to keep the Battle Fleet in harbour, except in an emergency.
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The enemy's submarine activity became much more marked during February. Early in the month the German Admiralty proclaimed that after February 18th all the waters round the British Isles would be declared unsafe for merchant-ships of all nationalities, and intimated that Allied merchant-ships would be destroyed in these waters and that neutral merchant-ships ran similar risks. Enemy submarines began to operate in increasing numbers in the English Channel, to the westward of the English Channel, in the Irish Sea and off the west coast of Ireland, as well as on the east coast of England, and the losses of merchant-ships from submarine attack became serious. The destroyers of the Grand Fleet that remained at the northern bases were kept fully employed in searching for and hunting reported submarines.
In addition to the maintenance of the blockade by the 10th Cruiser Squadron, cruiser and light cruiser squadrons carried out various patrol and search operations during the month. The 3rd Cruiser Squadron cruised in the centre portion of the North Sea from February 1st to 3rd; the 2nd Cruiser Squadron cruised off the Shetland Islands from the 11th-13th, then swept down the Norwegian coast and returned to Cromarty on the 16th; the new 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron carried out a sweep in the southern portion of the North Sea between the 16th and 20th with destroyers in company; the new 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron cruised to the westward of the Shetlands for exercise between the 15th and 18th, then passed into the North Sea and swept to the southward, returning to Scapa on the 20th; the 1st Cruiser Squadron left Scapa on the 17th for the vicinity
202 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
of the Norwegian coast, swept down towards the Naze and then returned to patrol north of the Shetlands until the 21st, when the squadron arrived at Scapa; the four light cruisers attached to the Battle Fleet, Bellona, Blanche, Boadicea, and Blonde, with four destroyers, left Scapa on the 18th for a line N. 37 E. 60 miles long from Lat. 57.30 N., Long. 0.30 W., with directions to sweep towards the Naze by day and patrol the line at night; they remained on this duty until the 21st. The 7th Cruiser Squadron cruised to the westward of the Fair Island Channel from the 19th to the 22nd, and available destroyers of the 2nd and 4th Flotillas were patrolling to the eastward of the Fair Island Channel and the Moray Firth respectively during the same period.
The 3rd Cruiser Squadron, with four destroyers, left Rosyth on the 23rd to cover the Fleet minesweepers whilst searching for mines along a projected Fleet track in the North Sea, but, the sea being too heavy for minesweeping, the squadron carried out a patrol instead until the 25th, when the minesweeping operations took place, lasting until the 27th, when the squadron returned to Rosyth.
This searching minesweep was carried out because of the increasing probability of the enemy laying mines intended to catch our heavy ships when proceeding towards the southern portion of the North Sea, and the consequent necessity for a periodical examination of a route which the Fleet could traverse with some safety. This policy was maintained throughout the period of my command, alternative routes being periodically examined; although it was obviously impossible to carry out this examination frequently, it did afford some chance of a mine-field being discovered before serious losses were sustained by the Fleet.
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During the month of February a reorganisation of the battle cruiser and light cruiser squadrons was carried out by Admiralty orders, and a "Battle Cruiser Fleet" instituted under the command of Sir David Beatty, with the title Vice-Admiral Commanding the Battle Cruiser Fleet.
The organisation was as follows:
1st Battle Cruiser Squadron: Princess Royal (Flag of Rear-Admiral O. de B. Brock), Queen Mary, Tiger.
2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron: Australia (Flag of Rear-Admiral W. C. Pakenham), New Zealand, Indefatigable.
3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron: Invincible (to be Flag), Inflexible (had not yet joined by the end of February), Indomitable.
1st Light Cruiser Squadron: Galatea (Broad pendant of Commodore E. S. Alexander Sinclair), Cordelia, Caroline, Inconstant.
2nd Light Cruiser Squadron: Southampton (Broad pennant of Commodore W. E. Goodenough), Nottingham, Birmingham, Lowestoft.
3rd Light Cruiser Squadron: Falmouth (Flag of Rear-Admiral Trevelyan Napier), Yarmouth, Gloucester, Liverpool,
The Battle Cruiser Fleet remained an integral portion of the Grand Fleet. In some respects the term "Fleet" was an unfortunate selection, as it implied, incorrectly, an independent organisation. On my taking office as First Sea Lord at the end of 1916, the title was altered to the more appropriate one of Battle Cruiser Force.
The Australia joined the Battle Cruiser Fleet at Rosyth on February 17th, and the Invincible, having concluded the very successful operations in the South
204 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
Atlantic under Sir Doveton Sturdee, which culminated in the destruction of Admiral von Spee’s Squadron of cruisers and light cruisers, arrived at Scapa for gunnery practices during the latter part of February, and joined the Battle Cruiser Fleet at Rosyth early in March; the Indefatigable also arrived on the 24th from the Mediterranean.
The Tiger arrived in the Tyne on February 1st for refit, and left again on the 8th. The Lion reached the Tyne for repairs on February 9th, remaining there for the remainder of the month. The strength of the destroyer force working with the Grand Fleet was increased on February 19th by the addition of the light cruiser Fearless and two divisions of destroyers from the 1st Flotilla. These vessels had been relieved at Harwich by new destroyers of the "M" class. This addition brought the destroyer force actually with the Grand Fleet up to a total of 48, and further additions were now gradually made from the 1st Flotilla at Harwich as new destroyers were completed to relieve them.
His Majesty the King honoured the Grand Fleet on February 27th by visiting the ships based on Rosyth.
In the course of February the destroyers of the "River" or "E” class, based at Scapa for local defence, were replaced, by Admiralty directions, by destroyers of the "C” class (old 30-knot type). This change, although dictated by the general naval situation, limited considerably the range of activity of the local defence vessels, owing to the poorer sea-going qualities of the destroyers of the "C" class. During the month the destroyer Erne was wrecked offf Rattray Head on the Aberdeen coast, and became a total loss; the Goldfinch went ashore in a fog in the north of the Orkneys and was also lost; the Sparrowhawk also
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went ashore, but was got off, though considerably damaged. The armed merchant cruiser Clan McNaughton, of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, was lost with all hands during the month, the supposition being that she foundered in one of the numerous heavy gales. Although a prolonged search was carried out, only a certain amount of wreckage was found. The loss of this ship and her efficient ship's company brought once more into prominence the excellent work of the 10th Cruiser Squadron and the risks to which the ships were subjected.
The activities of the 10th Cruiser Squadron were daily increasing, and the number of ships passing the blockade line unexamined was becoming very small. During one week in February sixty-seven vessels were intercepted and eighteen of them sent in with prize crews on board. During February the old battleships Hannibal and Magnificent were relieved as guard-ships by the old cruisers Crescent and Royal Arthur.
Vice-Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee succeeded Vice-Admiral Sir Douglas Gamble in the command of the 4th Battle Squadron during the month; Admiral Gamble's period of command had expired. Sir Doveton Sturdee, who had served as Chief of the Naval Staff early in the War, came to the Fleet fresh from his Falkland Islands victory.
The weather at the northern bases during February was less boisterous than usual. There was a good deal of misty and foggy weather in the early part of the month, and a considerable amount of snow towards the end.
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During March the principal movements of the Fleet were as follows:
From March 4th to the 10th, the 6th Cruiser Squadron was, with the Orotava of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, cruising off the Norwegian Coast, From the 7th to the 10th the Dreadnought Battle Fleet was cruising in the northern portion of the North Sea, accompanied by the 1st, 2nd, and 7th Cruiser Squadrons and the 4th Flotilla; and the Battle Cruiser Fleet was also cruising during the same period in the central part of the North Sea. The opportunity was taken of carrying out various battle exercises. The 2nd Battle Squadron and 7th Cruiser Squadron did not return with the remainder of the Battle Fleet on the 10th, but remained at sea until the 11th. The 4th Flotilla was forced to shelter at Lerwick from the 7th to the 9th owing to bad weather.
From March 10th to the 18th the 3rd Battle Squadron and 3rd Cruiser Squadron were cruising in the centre portion of the North Sea.
From the March 16th to the 19th the Dreadnought Battle Fleet again cruised in the northern and central parts of the North Sea, accompanied by the 1st, 2nd, and 7th Cruiser Squadrons, the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron, and the 2nd Flotilla, The 2nd Flotilla, however, could not remain at sea on the 17th owing to bad weather and was sent back to Scapa. A collision occurred between the Nemesis and Nymphe, which necessitated the docking of both vessels for repairs. The flotilla was ordered out again from Scapa early on the 18th, but only seven destroyers were available, and they reached the Fleet at 2 p.m. on that date.
The Battle Fleet and cruisers carried out a strategical exercise in the early morning of the 18th, and then steered for the bases, a projected second exercise being abandoned as the Fleet was by this time in an area which was not considered safe from submarine attack; the visibility was also very high, and it was suspected that at least one enemy submarine might be in the neighbourhood.
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At noon the Battle Fleet was in Lat. 58.21 N., Long. 1.12 E., zigzagging at a speed of 15 knots, and the 4th Battle Squadron had just been detached to proceed to Cromarty, when at 12.18 p.m. Vice-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney commanding the 1st Battle Squadron signalled that a submarine's periscope had been sighted from the Marlborough, the leading ship of the port wing column, and that a torpedo fired by the submarine had passed just astern of the Neptune, the rear ship of the column. The Fleet was at once turned away from the submarine 12 points to starboard (ships turning together) and speed was increased to 17 knots.
At 12.30 p.m. the 4th Battle Squadron was crossing under the stern of the remainder of the Battle Fleet and signals were being made to Vice-Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee to steer clear of the position in which the submarine was sighted, but before any movement was effected the officer of the watch, Lieutenant-Commander Piercy, of the Dreadnought of that Squadron, sighted a periscope close to, one point on the port bow, the submarine apparently steering a southerly course and zigzagging. Captain Alderson, commanding the Dreadnought, at once altered course direct for the submarine, increased speed, followed, and rammed her. The bow of the submarine came out of the water and her number, U 29, was plainly visible. She sank immediately. The Blanche, which passed close to the spot, reported a large quantity of wreckage, one article of clothing and much oil and bubbles on the surface, but no survivors.
It seems probable that the captain of the submarine, after firing at the 1st Battle Squadron, was confused by the movements of the 4th Battle Squadron crossing astern of the remainder of the zigzagging Fleet, at high speed, and in trying to get clear failed to observe the Dreadnought until too late. The Dreadnought was admirably handled.
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On arrival of the Fleet in harbour I wired to the Admiralty urging that the fate of U 29 should be kept secret. The secrecy regarding the loss of this submarine commanded by Commander Weddingen, was much resented in Germany, and many accusations of treacherous conduct levelled at the British, probably in the hope that we might give information as to her fate. The policy of secrecy was certainly correct, as it left the enemy entirely ignorant of our methods, and possibly had some effect of the moral of the submarine crews.
The Fleet steered to the eastward until well clear of the area in case other submarines were present, and then shaped course for the bases, arriving on the 19th.
On March 29th the Grand Fleet left its bases with the intention of carrying out a sweep of the North Sea, but the plan was abandoned and the Fleet returned to its bases on the following day.
The principal movements of destroyers during March, additional to the regular patrols and fleet movements, were as follows:
From March 2nd to March 5th search was made by a half flotilla for a number of oil drums reported as moored in certain areas in the North Sea. The report indicated that the enemy might be refuelling submarines in this manner; the search disposed of the supposition.
From March 8th to March 10th the Commander-in-Chief Coast of Scotland, Sir Robert Lowry, in conjunction with Vice-Admiral Bradford, who was the Senior Flag Officer of Grand Fleet ships at Rosyth, and was, therefore, responsible for all movements of these ships from the Rosyth base, organised a search on a large
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scale for a submarine reported to be operating off the Aberdeenshire coast. The vessels employed in this operation comprised trawler patrols and destroyers of the 1st Flotilla, and they were rewarded on March 10th by forcing the submarine - U l2 - to the surface, when H.M.S. Ariel, very skilfully handled, succeeded in ramming and sinking her. Ten of her crew of twenty-eight were rescued. The Ariel was considerably damaged, and was docked at Leith for repairs.
On March 20th and 21st a division of destroyers hunted a submarine in the Moray Firth without success.
On March 12th the Faulknor and six destroyers were detached from the Grand Fleet flotillas to operate against submarines in the Irish Sea.
In the course of the month the small steamers, specially fitted as minesweepers for the Grand Fleet, were withdrawn for service abroad. The increasing number of mines in the North Sea and the paucity of minesweepers led me to decide on March 22nd to fit eight destroyers each from the 2nd and 4th Flotillas with light minesweeps, and the work was taken in hand. These vessels were intended to augment the regular force of minesweepers in an emergency, as it was felt that a movement of the High Sea Fleet for an important naval operation would in all probability be preceded by extensive mine-laying outside the Fleet bases, and a much stronger sweeping force than we possessed was required to enable a passage for the Fleet to be rapidly cleared.
The Conqueror rejoined the Fleet on March 6th after effecting repairs which had been carried out by Messrs. Cammell Laird at Liverpool with most commendable rapidity.
210 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
The 10th Cruiser Squadron experienced a further loss during March, the Bayano being sunk by a submarine off Corsewall Point, Galloway, on March 11th, with considerable loss of life.
In the course of this month Rear-Admiral W. L. Grant succeeded Rear-Admiral W. C. Pakenham in command of the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, the latter succeeding Rear-Admiral Sir Gordon Moore in command of the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron; Vice-Admiral Patey transferred his flag from the Australia to the Leviathan to proceed to the West Indies as Commander-in-Chief, and the 6th Cruiser Squadron was broken up, the ships being transferred to service abroad.
The enemy submarines were very active against merchant shipping during March, and our losses were considerable, both from this cause and from mines.
During March, the weather at the northern bases was not very boisterous, but a great deal of mist and fog was prevalent during the first fortnight, and during the last fortnight snow fell on at least seven days.
An average of fifty-six ships per week was intercepted by the ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron during the month.
During April, 1915, intended Fleet movements were prevented on several occasions by bad weather, and the 10th Cruiser Squadron and other ships at sea experienced exceptional gales; the principal movements carried out were as follows:
From the 5th to the 8th the 3rd Battle Squadron, 3rd Cruiser Squadron and five destroyers of the 1st Flotilla cruised in the North Sea (central portion), and from the 5th to the 9th the Battle Cruiser Fleet with eight destroyers of the 1st Flotilla cruised in the northern portion of the North Sea.
On April 8th the Lancaster, of the 7th Cruiser Squadron, and the Caribbean, of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, were detached to watch the Norwegian coast between Lat. 62 and 64 N.
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On April 11th the whole Grand Fleet proceeded to sea; the Battle Fleet met the Battle Cruiser Fleet and 3rd Battle Squadron from Rosyth, and cruised in the centre portion of the North Sea during the 12th and 13th, returning to the various bases on the 14th to fuel. The opportunity was taken of carrying out battle exercises.
Whilst the Dreadnought Battle Fleet was passing down east of the Orkneys at 2.30 p.m., and was being met by the 2nd and 4th Flotillas, which had come out to screen the ships in, the Neptune reported having sighted a submariners periscope, but as the Fleet was steaming at 18 knots and the destroyers were taking up screening stations it was not considered that successful attack was probable, and the Fleet held its course for Scapa.
Submarines were also sighted during the day by the Antrim in Lat. 57.18 N., Long. 1.2 E., and by the Battle Cruiser Fleet in Lat. 58.15 N., Long. 2.40 E., but no successful attack resulted.
The Grand Fleet proceeded to sea again for a sweep in southern waters on the 17th, and at 8 a.m. on the 18th the Dreadnought Battle Fleet, with the 1st, 2nd, and 7th Cruiser Squadrons looking out ahead and the 2nd and 4th Flotillas screening, was in Lat. 57.25 N., Long. 1.4 E., steering at 18 knots' speed for a position in Lat. 56.30 N., Long. 3.30 E., where it was intended to meet the 3rd Battle Squadron and 3rd Cruiser Squadron from Rosyth.
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The junction took place at 4 p.m., the Battle Cruiser Fleet, which had been ordered to a position a little farther south, arriving there at this time. No enemy vessels having been sighted, the whole Fleet was turned to the northward shortly before dusk, when in the vicinity of the Little Fisher Bank, to the westward of Northern Denmark. During the night the 3rd Battle Squadron and 3rd Cruiser Squadron were detached to return to Rosyth, and the 2nd and 4th Flotillas to Scapa; the Vice-Admiral, Battle Cruiser Fleet, was directed to cruise independently on the 19th; and the Dreadnought Battle Fleet, with the 1st, 2nd and 7th Cruiser Squadrons, proceeded to the eastward of the Shetlands; target practice was carried out during daylight of the 19th and the night of the 19th-20th, and the Battle Fleet returned to its bases at Scapa and Cromarty during the night of the 20th-21st and fuelled. During the cruise the Achilles, of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, reported sighting a submarine at 2.40 p.m. on the 18th.
On the 19th the Albemarle and Russell, of the 6th Battle Squadron, which had rejoined the 3rd Battle Squadron from the Channel ports, were detached from Rosyth to Scapa for practices.
The Grand Fleet again proceeded to sea on the night of the 21st for another sweep towards the Danish coast, and at 8 a.m. on the 22nd the forces from Scapa and Cromarty, comprising the 1st, 2nd and 4th Battle Squadrons, Russell and Albemarle, 1st, 2nd and 7th Cruiser Squadrons, and the 2nd and 4th Flotillas, were in position Lat. 58.4 N., Long. 0.27 E.
At 4.30 p.m. the 3rd Battle Squadron and 3rd Cruiser Squadron joined the Commander-in-Chief, and the Battle Cruiser Fleet took station ahead of the cruiser screen. At dusk no enemy ships had been sighted and the Fleet turned to the northward again, the Iron Duke's position being Lat. 57.11 N., Long. 4.53 E.
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The 3rd Battle Squadron, 3rd Cruiser Squadron and the Battle Cruiser Fleet were detached to return to Rosyth during the night, and the remainder of the Fleet arrived at the Scapa and Cromarty bases on the 23rd.
During these two southerly sweeps the Fleet sighted a large number of neutral steamers and trawlers which were closely examined, but nothing suspicious was found, although the interception of German wireless messages, when the Fleet was in the vicinity of the trawlers, raised suspicions that they were acting as look-out vessels; this suspicion was strengthened by carrier pigeons being sighted from various ships.
One Norwegian steamer which was found to be carrying magnetic ore to Rotterdam was sent to the Firth of Forth.
Movements of interest of individual ships during April included the arrival of the Lion at Rosyth on the 7th after completion of all repairs, the arrival of the new battleship Warspite, of the "Queen Elizabeth” class, at Scapa on the 18th, and the commissioning on the 26th of four more mercantile vessels to join the 10th Cruiser Squadron.
The Invincible was sent to the Tyne to change some of her 12-inch guns, which had become worn during the Falkland Island engagement.
On April 10th Rear-Admiral Tottenham succeeded Rear-Admiral Waymouth in command of the 7th Cruiser Squadron, the latter officer's health having unfortunately broken down.
On April 7th the patrol areas of the 10th Cruiser Squadron were rearranged somewhat in view of the lengthening of the days:
Patrol Area A was north of the Faroes, the centre line being occasionally shifted.
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Patrol Area C had as its centre a line from Cape Sydero in the Faroe Islands to Lat 58.30 N., Long. 8.0 W.
Patrol Area E was north of Iceland.
Patrol Area F was south of Iceland.
Patrol Area G had as its centre the meridian of 3 degrees E. Long, between Lat 62 N. and 63 1/2 N. A cruiser was sent to strengthen the patrol in this area.
(Note: There are no patrol areas B and D listed)
During the month the average number of vessels intercepted weekly by the ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron was 68, of which an average number of 23 was sent in weekly for examination.
Enemy submarines were very active in April, and destroyers were sent out frequently from the Fleet bases to endeavour to destroy craft reported in the vicinity - particularly in the neighbourhood of the Fair Island Channel - but no success was achieved, except in the case of the Ariel and U 12. The look-out and navigational arrangements for the Pentland Firth were improved during April by the establishment of telephonic communications between Scapa and the Island of Swona. Arrangements were also gradually perfected for obtaining the exhibition of all navigational lights and fog signals in the Pentland Firth on demand by our ships at all times. The weather at Scapa during April was bad.
Gales were experienced on the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th and 10th. There was a great deal of mist and fog during the latter part of the month as well as a moderate amount of snow.
The enemy laid a large mine-field in the middle of the southern portion of the North Sea during April, thus pursuing the policy which it was expected he would adopt, regardless of the interests of neutrals. Fortunately, information as to its existence was obtained in time to prevent any of our ships from falling victims
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to the mines. But the mine-field was undoubtedly well placed strategically so as to interfere with the freedom of movement of our Fleet in southern waters if it were endeavouring to bring the High Sea Fleet to action, since it necessitated our ships making a wide detour to the eastward or westward to reach the waters to the southward of the mine-field; it was doubtless laid with this object in view.
In May the Grand Fleet flotillas were much occupied in endeavouring to locate and destroy enemy submarines, and the movements of the heavy ships were curtailed during the month owing to the absence of destroyers for the purpose of acting as a submarine screen.
The principal work of the destroyers in this connection - officers and men showing a fine spirit in carrying out what were frequently fruitless searches - was as follows:
May 1st-3rd. - The 2nd Flotilla was engaged in operations against enemy submarines reported, first, in the Fair Island Channel and, then, to the eastward and south-eastward of the Pentland Firth. The flotilla did not succeed in gaining touch with the submarines.
May 5th-7th. - One half of the 1st Flotilla was searching for a submarine off the Aberdeenshire coast, without result
May 7th. — One division of the 2nd Flotilla was acting against a submarine reported in the Fair Island Channel, and then proceeded to work down the shipping route west of the Hebrides and Ireland in the hope of catching a submarine attacking trade.
May 8th. — Half the 4th Flotilla was searching for submarines off the east coast of the Orkneys.
May 10th-11th - Adivision of the 4th Flotilla was searching for a submarine reported to be off North Ronaldshay; later, this division was reinforced by all available destroyers from Scapa, with orders that the force was to continue the search during the night, burning searchlights to assist the work and cause the submarine to submerge, thus exhausting her battery power.
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May 13th - Six destroyers were searching for a submarine reported west of Thurso.
May 15th. - A division of the 1st Flotilla left Rosyth to operate against a submarine off Aberdeen.
May 16th. - A division of the 4th Flotilla was searching for a submarine reported approaching the Fair Island Channel.
May 19th-20th. - A division of the 4th Flotilla was acting against a submarine reported west of the Orkneys.
The principal Fleet movements during the month were:
May 2nd to May 5th. - Two forces, each consisting of two light cruisers and eight destroyers, were engaged in carrying out a thorough examination of all vessels, especially fishing craft, found in the areas usually traversed by the Fleet during southerly sweeps in order to ascertain whether any were acting as German look-out ships under neutral colours. A considerable number of vessels were examined, especially trawlers, and some were sent in for more detailed examination at the bases, but nothing incriminating was discovered.
Between May 5th and 10th the 3rd Battle Squadron and 3rd Cruiser Squadron cruised in the northern portion of the North Sea, being screened out from Rosyth by a half flotilla. On the return towards Rosyth in Lat. 56.49 N., Long. 0.89 E., and before being met by the screening destroyers, the 3rd Battle Squadron, two torpedoes were fired by a submarine; they were aimed apparently at the Dominion, but both missed. The squadron was in division in line ahead, steaming at 15 knots, and was zigzagging at the time.
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On May 6th the mine-layer Orvieto and eight destroyers left Scapa to carry out a mine-laying operation in the Heligoland Bight. The force ran into a dense fog, and a collision occurred between the destroyers Comet and Nemesis, the latter being seriously damaged. The force was directed to return and left Scapa again on the 8th, carrying out the operation successfully during the night of the l0th-11th; it returned on the 12th.
The light cruisers Phaeton and Royalist left Scapa on May 12th for a position north of the Shetlands, in order to intercept a neutral steamer reported to have left Bremerhaven on May 11th with wireless installations on board. The C Patrol of the 10th Cruiser Squadron was also moved to a position to intercept this vessel, and the light cruiser Sappho and armed boarding steamer Amsterdam were placed on the western side of the Fair Island Channel. The force returned on the 14th, the report proving to be incorrect.
The whole Grand Fleet carried out a sweep of the central part of the North Sea between May 17th and 19th, the forces from Scapa, Cromarty and Rosyth meeting at a rendezvous in Lat. 57.10 N., Long. 0.0 at 7 a.m. on the 8th, and sweeping to the south-eastward at a speed of 16 knots until the afternoon, with the Battle Cruiser Fleet some thirty to fifty miles ahead of the Battle Fleet. The Fleet returned to its bases on the 19th, not having sighted any hostile vessels. Battle tactics were exercised during the passage north.
On May 21st the Fleet minesweepers, which had been sent to Aberdeen beforehand in readiness, left with an escort of two light cruisers to examine the mine-field reported to have been laid in the centre of the southern portion of the North Sea. Two of the sweepers collided in a fog on leaving Aberdeen, and another went ashore; the remainder proceeded and located the north-east comer of the mine-field on the 22nd and 23rd; they returned to Aberdeen on the 24th, after examining en route a position in which it was reported that paraffin barrels were moored. These were destroyed. It was thought that they might be intended for German submarines.
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Whilst the Fleet sweepers located the north-east comer of the mine-field, paddle sweepers, under the escort of two light cruisers from Harwich, located the south-west comer. The search was subsequently continued under the same conditions, and the limits of the mine-field, which covered a large area south of Lat. 56 N. and east of Long. 2.30 E., were determined. The enemy made no attempt to interfere with the sweeping operations, if indeed he was aware of them.
On the 21st the patrol, comprising the Sappho and armed boarding steamers, hitherto maintained in an area east and south-east of the Pentland Firth, was moved temporarily to the west of the Firth on account of submarine activity. Destroyers from the Grand Fleet replaced the original patrol at night, the interception of mercantile traffic being carried out by the armed boarding steamers to the westward. The destroyer Rifleman grounded in a fog on the 22nd, necessitating docking for repairs.
A new form of anti-submarine operation was begun on May 23rd by the Commander-in-Chief Coast of Scotland (Admiral Sir R. Lowry). This consisted of two C-class submarines operating with an armed trawler, the idea being that the trawler should invite attack by a submarine, thus giving our submarines an opportunity of sinking the enemy by torpedo attack.
On May 24th the Admiralty telegraphed that Italy had entered the War on the side of the Allies. On the next day I proceeded in the Iron Duke to Rosyth to confer with Admiral Sir Henry Jackson, who had succeeded Lord Fisher as First Sea Lord. The conference took place on the 26th and was of an important
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nature. The general naval policy, so far as it concerned the Grand Fleet, was discussed, and arrangements made as to the procedure to be followed in future. Sir Henry Jackson asked that Commodore Everett might join him at the Admiralty as Naval Assistant, and, with the consent of Commodore Everett, this was arranged. His place as Captain of the Fleet was filled by Captain Lionel Halsey, C.M.G., of the New Zealand. It was with great regret that I parted with Commodore Everett; his long experience in the Fleet under Sir George Callaghan and his intimate knowledge of fleet work and unfailing tact had been of the greatest possible assistance. The Iron Duke returned to Scapa on the morning of the 28th. On the 26th Rear-Admiral the Hon. Horace Hood, C.B., had hoisted his flag in the Invincible as Rear-Admiral commanding the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron. The battleship Queen Elizabeth arrived at Scapa from the Dardanelles on the same day.
From May 29th to 31st the Grand Fleet carried out another sweep in the North Sea, the direction on this occasion being towards the Dogger Bank. The forces from Scapa and Cromarty concentrated in Lat. 57.35 N., Long. 0.0 at 7.15 a.m. on the 30th, and steered to the southward at 17 knots' speed. The Rosyth force steered for a point farther south and was in sight from the cruiser line at 9.30 a.m., being ordered to keep ahead of the Fleet. The sweep was continued until the Dreadnought Battle Fleet was in the vicinity of the Dogger Bank. No enemy vessel was sighted.
The Fleet then turned to the northward and, owing to a northerly swell, speed had to be reduced on account of the destroyers. During the night the Rosyth force was detached to its base. Speed was increased as the weather improved, and the Scapa and Cromarty forces arrived on
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the morning of May 31st. The Iron Duke left Scapa for Cromarty during the afternoon of May 31st, and arrived that evening.
During the month the procedure of moving squadrons between Scapa and Cromarty was continued. At this period a second line of submarine obstructions, which was designed to prevent the entry of destroyers, as well as submarines, into Scapa Flow, advanced considerably towards completion. Progress was also made with the laying of mine-fields at the entrance. The anchorage at Swarbachs Minn, in the Shetlands, had been selected as a secondary coaling base for the ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, and steps were taken to prepare a submarine obstruction for the entrance, and to provide the necessary labour for coaling the ships from colliers.
The blockade work of the 10th Cruiser Squadron continued actively during the month, the average number of ships intercepted per week being 62, and the average number sent into port for closer examination, 16.
The weather at Scapa during the month was misty, fog being experienced on the 5th, 6th, 21st, 23rd, 24th, 27th and 28th, and snow on the 11th and 12th. The wind during the month was not strong.
GERMAN MINES AND SUBMARINES
In the early summer of 1915 there was a vague impression in some quarters, unsupported, so far as I am aware, by any confirmatory evidence, that the enemy might exhibit greater activity at sea. But during June, so far as could be ascertained by our intelligence system and by our submarine patrols, the Germans made no attempt to move to sea, but concentrated attention on increased submarine activity. The Grand Fleet, for various reasons unconnected with this development, spent the greater part of the time in harbour, exercising in Scapa Flow, the ships from the Rosyth base being sent up in pairs to exercise and carry out gunnery and torpedo practices. The opportunity of this change of base was usually taken for a searching sweep whilst en route between the bases, so that the North Sea was continually under observation.
On June 11th, however, the Grand Fleet went to sea for a cruise in northern waters principally for gunnery practices and battle exercises, which were carried out on a large scale. On this occasion the sea-planes working from the Campania were utilised, so far as I am aware, for the first time in history in observing the movements of the squadrons, which were ordered to represent a large hostile fleet. From this beginning, there was a great development in the work of heavier-than-air craft operating with a fleet. The first step was the provision of a
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flying-off deck in a ship for sea-planes, as the extreme difficulty experienced by sea-planes in rising from the water, except in very fine weather, rendered the provision of a flying-off deck essential; the next was the substitution of aeroplanes for sea-planes, working from special carriers; and, finally, the provision of flying-off platforms in fighting ships themselves, first in light cruisers, afterwards in battle cruisers, and, eventually, in battleships; these successive developments were rendered possible by the progressive improvement in aircraft In this way naval power was given the assistance which air power could give it, both in reconnaissance and in making its gunnery more effective.
The Scapa force proceeded to the westward through the Pentland Firth on the 11th. It carried out target practice at special targets towed by colliers to the north-westward of the Shetlands on the 12th, being joined by the Cromarty force (the 1st Battle Squadron and 7th Cruiser Squadron) that evening; the fleet then separated for night-firing.
The Battle Cruiser Fleet, which had also left Rosyth on the 11th, carried out night-firing on the 12th, and the whole Grand Fleet practised battle exercises on the 13th, the Battle Cruiser Fleet afterwards firing at the targets which were towed by colliers, and rejoining my flag at daylight on the 14th. On that day further battle exercises were carried out. The Campania, with her seaplanes, again took part in these exercises, and an improvement in the scouting work of the sea-planes was noticeable. The Fleet then returned to the various bases, the Scapa force passing westward of the Orkneys.
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Whilst the main portion of the Grand Fleet was exercising in northern waters, the 3rd Battle Squadron and 3rd Cruiser Squadron, with one-half of the 1st Flotilla, cruised in the central portion of the North Sea.
Other operations during the month included:
From June 1st to the 3rd, and the 5th to the 7th, further minesweeping operations were carried out by the Fleet sweepers and paddle sweepers in connection with the German mine-field in the southern portion of the North Sea, the operation being covered by four light cruisers and a force of destroyers. The work of clearing that portion of the mine-field, which it was decided to sweep up, was completed on the 7th. On several days during the month a force from Harwich, comprising light cruisers and destroyers, was cruising off the Dutch coast with the object of intercepting and attacking zeppelins. The force did not, however, meet with any success.
From June 4th to the 7th the 1st Cruiser Squadron, with three armed boarding-steamers and three destroyers, operated on the two trade routes, St. Abbs Head to the Skagerrak and Rotterdam to Norwegian ports, examining all vessels encountered; nothing of special interest occurred. But when returning during a thick fog to Scapa the armed boarding-steamer Duke of Albany grounded on the Lother Rock, Pentland Firth, at 4 a.m. on the 7th, remained ashore for seven days, and was considerably damaged.
From June 18th to the 21st the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, with the light cruisers Nottingham and Birmingham, of the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, accompanied by four destroyers, swept across the North Sea, steering to the eastward from Rosyth to the entrance to the Skagerrak, thence to the coast of Norway and back to Rosyth. This force was attacked by at least three submarines during the sweep, and torpedoes were fired at the Birmingham on the 19th, and at the Argyll, the Roxburgh (on two
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occasions), and the Nottingham on the 20th. Two torpedoes were fired at the Nottingham. These ships were proceeding at high speed and all the attacks failed, except the second attack on the Roxburgh (Captain C. R. de C. Foot), which was hit in the bows by a torpedo at 2 p.m. on the 20th in Lat. 56.47 N., Long. 0.38 E. Fortunately, the damage was well forward, and the Roxburgh was able to maintain a speed of 14 knots during her return to Rosyth, all available destroyers of the 1st Flotilla being sent out to meet and screen her in. At the time of the attack the Roxburgh was proceeding at high speed and zigzagging, with one destroyer screening her. The ship was considerably damaged, and her repairs at a dockyard occupied a lengthened period.
The incident furnished an example of the risks run by heavy ships cruising in the North Sea in waters frequented by submarines, unless accompanied by a much stronger screen of destroyers than it was possible to provide owing to the paucity of destroyers and the immense amount of work required of them. It was noted at the time, and considered to be suspicious, that a large fleet of trawlers flying neutral colours was fishing in the neighbourhood of these submarine attacks.
As a result a force comprising three armed boarding steamers and three destroyers was despatched from Scapa on June 26th to examine a fleet of neutral fishing vessels working to the south-eastward of the Pentland Firth and on the ordinary track of the Fleet when proceeding to sea. Six vessels were sent in for detailed examination, but nothing suspicious was found on board. The fishing fleet, however, shifted its ground to a position clear of the track of the Fleet.
Operations against enemy submarines carried out by Grand Fleet forces during June included the following:
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June 1st to 2nd - A division of destroyers endeavoured, without success, to locate and attack a submarine 60 to 80 miles to the eastward of May Island.
June 4th to 5th. — Two destroyers and two sloops operated against a submarine, with a supposed tender, to the eastward of the Pentland Firth.
June 5th. — The armed trawler Hawk, of the Peterhead area, disabled submarine U 14 by gun fire and sank her by ramming at 7.30 a.m. in Lat. 57.15 N., Long. 0.32 E. One officer and 21 men were rescued. It was a fine exploit, typical of the consistently good work of the vessels of the Peterhead patrol; it was a success that was specially welcome at this time when submarines were very active in northern waters.
There were many other engagements between auxiliary patrols and submarines during the month, but no other certain successes. It was believed that at least one submarine was sunk in a deep mine-field which had been laid at my request off Tod Head on the Aberdeen coast. Appended are notes of further operations against the enemy's under-water craft:
June 18th and 19th. — Anti-submarine operations by three destroyers and sloops were carried out in the Fair Island Channel.
June 20th. — Four destroyers were operating against submarines to the westward of the Orkneys.
June 21st and 22nd. — The Botha and eight destroyers of the 1st Flotilla were operating against submarines in an area between Lat 56.20 and 57.10 N. and Long. 1 E. to 1 W.
June 21st. — Four destroyers and six gunboats were operating to the east of the Pentland Firth against a submarine.
June 23rd. — Submarine U 40 was sunk 50 miles S.E. by S. of Girdle Ness at 9 a.m. by submarine C 24, working in company with a trawler.
June 23rd. — A division of destroyers was sent to operate against a submarine to westward of the Fair Island Channel.
June 24th-26th. — Three sloops were engaged in searching for a submarine to the eastward of Orkneys and Shetlands.
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June 26th. — A large force, comprising 20 armed trawlers from Granton in the Firth of Forth, began to operate against submarines in an area round Lat 57 N., Long. 1 E., remaining out until July 7th. Two armed trawlers, with C class submarines in company, were also operating to the southward of this position.
June 30th-July 1st — A force of eight destroyers was operating against submarines in the Fair Island Channel.
The anti-submarine operations by destroyers or sloops met with no success. The invariable difficulty was the provision of a sufficiently large number of vessels to keep the submarine down long enough to cause her to exhaust her battery power, a period of some 48 hours. When destroyers belonging to the Grand Fleet were used for anti-submarine operations at any distance from the base, the disadvantage of their not being available to accompany the Fleet to sea in an emergency had to be accepted. This would have led to awkward results had the Fleet proceeded to sea with any considerable shortage of destroyers for screening purposes on passage south and for Fleet purposes during a Fleet action. The dilemma was one which faced me during the whole period of my command of the Fleet.
My experience convinced me that anti-submarine operations by destroyers in such open waters as existed near the northern bases had but little prospect of success unless undertaken by a considerably larger number of vessels than were usually available at Scapa for such operations; a contributory reason for the shortage of destroyers was that in addition to the operations carried out by the heavy ships, cruisers and light cruisers, for which the presence of destroyers was necessary, there was a constant call on these vessels for escort work during the movements of single ships or of squadrons between bases.
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Other events of interest during this month included:
The formation of the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron of new light cruisers under the command of the late Commodore Le Mesurier, C.B., in the Calliope. This squadron was attached to the Battle Fleet, and in cruising order at sea was usually stationed from three to five miles ahead of the Battle Fleet to act as an advanced submarine screen forcing submarines to dive. From this position it could reach the van of the Fleet on deployment for action, and was stationed there for the purpose of attacking enemy destroyers with gunfire and the enemy's Battle Fleet with torpedoes. It was a squadron on which, as Commander-in-Chief, I kept a hold so that I might be certain it would be at my disposal when action with the enemy was joined. Other light cruiser squadrons, which occupied an advanced position in the cruiser screen, could not be depended upon with the same certainty to occupy the van position to which they were allotted during a fleet action, since they might become engaged with enemy vessels of the same class.
The battle cruiser Inflexible joined the Fleet from Gibraltar on June 19th.
The Liverpool left to pay off on the 26th for repair to boilers. Rear-Admiral W. B. Fawckner took charge of the 10th Cruiser Squadron base at Swarbachs Minn on the 18th.
During the month observation mine-fields at the entrance to Cromarty and off Hoy Sound, Scapa Flow, were completed.
A short visit was paid to the Fleet at Scapa Flow by the Archbishop of York on the 26th. He held a Fleet Confirmation in the Iron Duke, a great open-air service on Flotta Island, many thousands of officers and men attending; there was another service at Longhope, and, in
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addition, he visited the majority of the ships. He was indeed indefatigable and left amidst the most sincere expressions of regret. To me personally his visit gave the greatest pleasure. From Scapa he passed to Invergordon, where, during a two days' stay, he held a large open air service, and visited most of the ships based there, moving on to Rosyth, where an impressive open-air service took place in one of the large graving-docks.
The activities of the 10th Cruiser Squadron continued throughout the month, an average of 78 ships being intercepted weekly and 15 sent in for detailed examination.
A serious attack was made by an enemy submarine on the fishing fleet some 50 miles to the eastward of the Shetlands on the night of the 23rd-24th June, about 16 drifters being sunk by bombs and gunfire. This incident emphasised the necessity for better control over the movements of our fishing vessels in northern waters and of providing some form of protection for them. Steps were taken in both directions, although they naturally resulted in some unavoidable reduction in the operations of the fishing fleet.
The weather at Scapa during June was very misty, fog or mist being experienced on the 7th, 8th, 12th, 18th, 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th.
During July, 1915, fleet movements were kept to the lowest possible minimum owing to a threatened strike in the Welsh coal-fields, which eventually took place on the 18th, and caused considerable anxiety as to its effect on Fleet movements.
From July 11th to the 14th the Dreadnought Battle Fleet, the 1st, 2nd and 7th Cruiser Squadrons, the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron, the 2nd and 4th Flotillas, and the Campania cruised in the vicinity of the Shetland Islands and carried out a series of battle exercises during the
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cruise. The Battle Cruiser Fleet made a sweep between the 11th and 13th down to the Dogger Bank. Whilst the Battle Fleet was at sea the destroyer flotillas were sent into Balta Sound (Shetland Islands) to complete with fuel in case a move south on the part of the Battle Fleet became necessary.
On the July 28th the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron, with two ships of the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron, and 14 destroyers of the 1st and 4th Flotillas from Rosyth and Scapa, together with Commodore Tyrwhitt and four light cruisers and 12 destroyers from Harwich, left their bases to carry out an operation in the Skagerrak, with the object of intercepting trade and searching for any enemy vessels. Only one German vessel (a trawler) was encountered, and she was sunk after removal of the crew. A Danish steamer was sent in to a British port with a guard on board and the force returned to their various bases on the 31st. As the threatened coal strike limited the movements of the coal-burning heavy ships, the oil-burning destroyers were used for anti-submarine work to a greater extent than would have been desirable if greater activity of the Fleet had been anticipated.
Operations against enemy submarines included:
On July 1st the Hampshire reported that a torpedo had been fired at her in the Moray Firth. Twelve destroyers and all available local patrol vessels were sent to endeavour to locate and sink the submarine. The steamboats from the ships at Cromarty were also despatched to operate in the various bays in the Moray Firth, where a submarine might elect to lie on the bottom. The boats exploded a large number of charges on the bottom in the hope of forcing any submarine to the surface. The operations were abandoned on the evening of the 2nd, the submarine not having been located.
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On the 4th a division of the 2nd Flotilla hunted for another submarine reported in the Moray Firth.
From the 5th to the 10th the sea-plane carrier Campania, with a flotilla leader, eight destroyers, four sloops and a large number of trawlers and net-drifters, operated against submarines that were reported to be passing through the Fair Island Channel, being based on Pierowall Harbour, in the north of the Orkneys. The destroyers, sloops and patrol vessels operated in conjunction with the sea-planes. No success was achieved, however, although these extensive operations covered a large area.
On the night of the 16th a division of destroyers operated against a submarine reported to the southward of the Pentland Firth, off Duncansby Head, but again without result.
From the 15th to the 19th six sloops and seven gunboats were despatched against submarines in the Fair Island Channel and north of the Shetlands, the Campania’s sea-planes again assisting from Pierowall Harbour. Destroyers were also helping during a portion of the period covered by the operations. On the 16th the gunboat Speedwell reported having sighted the periscope of a submarine, running her at a speed of 15 knots. The submarine was struck on her starboard quarter at an angle of 10 degrees, but there was, unfortunately, no evidence to show that she was sunk, although it was probable that she was considerably damaged. She was not seen again. On the same day a submarine was reported by the armed yacht Zaza, as being in a drift-net 12 miles east-northeast from Fair Island. Local patrol vessels, gunboats and four destroyers concentrated on the position and explosive charges were fired, but without certain result.
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From the 25th to the 27th a sub-division of destroyers searched, fruitlessly, a large area to the northward of the Hebrides for submarines and a reported submarine base ship. They were assisted by four sloops operating in the area from the 26th to the 30th.
On the 18th and 19th a division of destroyers was engaged in moving a neutral fishing fleet away from an area to the eastward of the Firth of Forth where they interfered with Fleet operations. Submarine C 27 had for some little time been operating against submarines in the North Sea from Scapa, in tow of a trawler, to which vessel she was connected by telephone. This idea, which had first been conceived at the Rosyth base, had also been put into operation at Scapa, the arrangements being made under the direction of Admiral Sir Stanley Colville.
On July 20th the trawler Princess Louise, Lieutenant Morton, R.N.R., being in command, with Lieutenant Cantlie, R.N., a submarine officer, on board, was towing Submarine C 27 (Lieutenant-Commander Dobson) in a submerged condition when a German submarine, U 28, was sighted 1 ? miles off on the port bow. C 27 was informed by telephone, telephonic communication then breaking down. U 28 opened fire at a range of 2,000 yards on the Princess Louise. Lieutenant Cantlie, being unable to communicate further with C 27, slipped the tow and proceeded to abandon the trawler with every appearance of haste. U 28 closed to within 600 yards and stopped. Meanwhile, Lieutenant-Commander Dobson, hearing nothing further by telephone, but noticing the splash and explosion of the projectiles in the water, got well clear of the trawler after slipping, and then brought his periscope to the surface for a look around. He sighted U 28 about 900 yards off, closed to a good position for attack within 500 yards, and fired his first
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torpedo, which missed. His second shot hit; there was a heavy explosion, and U 28 sank; four officers and six men were picked up out of a crew of 34. The whole attack was exceedingly well managed and a very well deserved success scored, which reflected much credit on all concerned in the operations.
On the 26th a submarine was engaged about 120 miles east of Dundee by the armed trawler Taranaki, which claimed to have sunk her.
On the 27th an engagement took place between the armed trawler No. 830 and a submarine to the southward of St. Kilda, the trawler reporting that the submarine was hit several times by gunfire and considered to have been badly damaged.
Other events of interest during the month included an attempt by the Digby to tow the Norwegian steamer Oscar II, damaged by collision with the Patuca on July 1st, into Stornoway, the destroyers Fury and Staunch being detached from Scapa and local patrol vessels from Stornoway to assist. In spite of perseverance under very bad weather conditions, during which the ships and the destroyers were handled with great ability, the Oscar II sank on the night of the 3rd.
An expedition consisting of the armed merchant-ship Columbella, the sloop Acacia and the two trawlers Arley and Mafeking, left Scapa on July 29th for Bear Island and Spitzbergen to search for a reported German submarine base and wireless station. These vessels carried out as thorough a search as was possible, in face of the ice-fields in the neighbourhood of the islands; but no trace of a submarine base was discovered, nor could it have been possible for one to operate under such conditions.
The average figures per week for the 10th Cruiser Squadron during the month were: Number of ships intercepted, 62; number of ships sent in with armed guards, 10; number of ships on patrol, 15; number of ships refitting, coaling or on passage to or from base, 9.
MINES AND SUBMARINES 233German submarines were active in the vicinity of the ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron during the month, and the Columbella was unsuccessfully attacked on the 21st.
Some armed boarding steamers were detailed to assist the 10th Cruiser Squadron during the month, being withdrawn from the patrol eastward of the Pentland Firth.
The anti-submarine defence of the base at Swarbachs Minn was practically completed during the month.
An event of great interest to the officers and men of the Fleet was a visit from His Majesty the King, who arrived at Scapa on July 7th, crossing from Thurso in the Oak, escorted by a portion of the 2nd Flotilla, During His Majesty’s visit he stayed with Admiral Sir Stanley Colville at Longhope and spent two very busy days with the Fleet. His Majesty visited all the flagships, and a large number of the officers and men of the ships of each division of the Battle Fleet and of each vessel in the cruiser squadrons were assembled on board the various flagships and passed before the King.
His Majesty reviewed the officers and men of the smaller vessels, destroyers, sloops, etc., on the island of Flotta, visited hospital ships, and reviewed the great mass of auxiliary vessels anchored in Scapa Flow, being greeted with enthusiastic loyalty by the crews of these vessels; visited the various shore batteries, and inspected the anti-submarine defences and the boom vessels. The weather was bad, but the programme was carried out in spite of these conditions. The officers and men of the Fleet derived the utmost encouragement from His Majesty's gracious visit.
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The King made the following signal to the Commander-in-Chiefas the Oak left the Fleet, escorted by a portion of the 4th Flotilla:
"I am delighted that I have been able to carry out a long, cherished desire to visit my Grand Fleet. After two most interesting days spent here, I leave with feelings of pride and admiration for the splendid force which you command with the full confidence of myself and your fellow-countrymen.
"I have had the pleasure of seeing the greater portion of the officers and men of the Fleet. I realise the patience and determined spirit with which you have faced long months of waiting and hoping. I know how strong is the comradeship that links all ranks together.
"Such a happy state of things convinces me that whenever the day of battle comes my Navy will add fresh triumphs to its old glorious traditions."
In reply to His Majesty's gracious message, I expressed the appreciation of the officers and men of the Grand Fleet, adding that it was "my conviction that the glorious traditions of the Navy are safe in the hands of those I have the honour to command."
During August the coal strike continued to influence Fleet movements to a certain extent.
On August 2nd the Iron Duke, the 2nd Battle Squadron and the 1st Cruiser Squadron carried out target practice from Cromarty. This was a new departure, the practice hitherto having been limited to firing at a small target towed by other ships or by a collier to the northward or eastward of the Shetlands, or firing at a rock. Both were highly unsatisfactory methods, which did not enable the gunnery efficiency of ships to be either tested or greatly improved. Accordingly I decided to risk sending ships out from Cromarty to fire at a large target of the pattern used in peace practices; it was towed across the Moray Firth, the ships firing and the towing vessels being
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protected from submarine attack by destroyers, sloops and gunboats. The system was an improvement, although very expensive in the employment of destroyers, etc. It was continued until practice in the Pentland Firth took its place.
The usual procedure was for two ships, screened by destroyers, to be on the firing ground at a time, firing either independently or with concentrated fire, with two more vessels approaching the firing ground ready to fire when the first pair had finished. On completion of practice the first pair returned to harbour and were met at the entrance by the third pair, to which they turned over their destroyers. Careful organisation insured that ships did not have to wait at the entrance, nor was there delay for the target to be turned round for the return run. A large number of destroyers, sloops or gunboats, patrolled to seaward of the target to prevent submarines from approaching. The total number usually employed screening and patrolling during a day's firing was from 22 to 28.
The Iron Duke, with the 2nd Battle Squadron and the 1st Cruiser Squadron, proceeded to Scapa on completion of the practice, being relieved later by another battle squadron and cruiser squadron in accordance with the routine which had been established of changing bases periodically. The special service ship No. 6 left Scapa for Rosyth, with two destroyers, to endeavour to "draw" submarines to attack her and give the destroyers an opportunity of engaging them; but no attack took place.
From August 5th to the 9th extensive anti-submarine operations were carried out to the westward of the Orkneys by a force consisting of nine destroyers, six sloops, five gunboats and a large number of patrol trawlers. The operations covered a very large area, the general idea being to compel any submarine intending
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to pass round the Shetland Islands or through the Fair Island Channel to submerge for a period that would exhaust her batteries and eventually bring her to the surface to recharge. The limited duration of darkness in northern latitudes assisted the operations of the hunting vessels. No certain success was attained. A submarine was sighted on the 6th at 7 p.m., and a heavy explosion, under water, close to the sloop Hollyhock at 9.30 p.m. on the same night might have been due to a submarine coming to grief, while another submarine was sighted at 10.30 a.m. on the 7th. Examination of a sailing vessel found in the vicinity of this latter submarine was unproductive.
The 4th Light Cruiser Squadron left Scapa on August 6th to cruise off the Norwegian coast, and the battleships Albemarle and Russell, of the 6th Battle Squadron, arrived at Scapa for practices, having left the Channel Fleet.
On August 7th I returned in the Iron Duke to Cromarty in order to meet the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer who were about to visit Invergordon. At 9 a.m. on the 8th a wireless report was received in the Iron Duke that a submarine was attacking a steamer off Rosehearty on the southern shore of the Moray Firth. The “duty" destroyer division was ordered to sea at once, and the remaining three available destroyers followed shortly afterwards. Meanwhile, the destroyer Christopher, already on patrol in the Moray Firth, reported herself in action at 11 a.m. with the submarine, which had submerged, the report stating that the merchant-ship had been sunk. The second destroyer on patrol, the Midge, assisted in the search for the submarine, as did the remaining destroyers and patrol trawlers, without result. At 10 a.m. the trawler minesweepers, which had been carrying out the usual routine sweep on the
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southern shore of the Moray Firth, reported the discovery of a mine-field to the northward of Banff, and several reports were received during the day of drifting mines being sighted along the coast and in the Firth. All destroyers were ordered in at 4 p.m., except the two on patrol and any others in touch with the submarine, and vessels remaining on patrol were given the limits of the mine-field as far as they had then been ascertained.
Such investigation as could be hurriedly carried out during the day, by signal and wireless, revealed the fact that a yacht and a trawler on patrol on the night of the 7th-8th had sighted strange lights, but without identifying the vessel carrying them, and it became apparent that a German surface mine-laying vessel had been at work. The night had been somewhat misty. Directions were at once sent by wireless to the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron, still at sea, to proceed at full speed towards the Horn Reef to endeavour to intercept the returning minelayer, and the 1st and 2nd Light Cruiser Squadrons, from Rosyth, were also sent out for the purpose; the Admiralty was also informed, and as a result the Harwich force was sent on the same mission.
As the other squadrons proceeded, the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron was directed to the Skagerrak in case the mine-layer endeavoured to return by that route, whilst the remaining light cruiser squadrons made for the Horn Reef. All the minesweepers and the destroyers engaged in the anti-submarine operation mentioned earlier were recalled to fuel with all despatch, and sweeping by the Fleet minesweepers, trawlers and destroyers, organised on a large scale, was begun on the 9th and continued until clear routes for the ships at Cromarty and for merchant ships, gradually extending to 10 miles in width, had been swept on both the northern and southern shores of the
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Moray Firth. These sweeping operations were greatly delayed by persistent fog, although a clear channel sufficiently wide to admit of the exit of the squadrons at Cromarty was quickly swept. The Campania was sent to Cromarty, so that her sea-planes might assist to locate the mines, but in the rather thick waters of the Moray Firth they were of no use for this purpose.
On the afternoon of August 9th news was received that the destroyer Lynx had been sunk by a mine at 6 a.m. that morning in a position stated to be two miles to the northward of the mine-field as then located. It was very regrettable that only three officers and 21 men were saved out of her fine ship's company; those lost included her captain, Commander John F. H. Cole, an officer of great promise. The loss of such a comparatively shallow draft vessel showed that some of the mines had been laid near the surface, and minesweeping operations were suspended near the time of low water.
At 4.30 p.m. Commodore Tyrwhitt, of the Harwich force, reported that the German mine-layer Meteor, which had been sighted by his vessels in the vicinity of the Horn Reef, had been abandoned and sunk by her own crew and that he had subsequently rescued four officers and 39 men, survivors of the armed boarding steamer Ramsey, who had been prisoners on board the Meteor.
The Ramsey had been on patrol south-east of the Pentland Firth, and it was ascertained from the survivors later that she had sighted and closed the Meteor, which was disguised as a neutral merchant-ship, shortly after daylight on August 8th, with the intention of boarding her. On closing, however, the Meteor suddenly showed her true character; her powerful armament, hitherto concealed, opened a heavy fire on the Ramsey, which was returned by the latter ship's greatly inferior
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armament of 12-pounder guns. But the surprise was too complete and the odds too heavy, and the Ramsey was sunk very quickly with her colours flying, four officers and 39 men out of a complement of 97 being picked up by the Meteor. Acting-Lieut. P. S. Atkins, R.N.R., the senior surviving officer of the Ramsey, came north to report himself to me, and gave full details of his experiences. He stated that when the officers of the Meteor abandoned and sank their ship on sighting Commodore Tyrwhitt's force, the crew, with the British prisoners, went on board a neutral fishing vessel. Shortly afterwards the British light cruisers passed close to the fishing vessel, and Lieut. Atkins signalled to the Commodore, stating that they were survivors of the Ramsey and asked to be taken off. He added that the Commodore, who was at that time being attacked by both aircraft and submarines, replied, "Steer south-west; I will return and pick you up.”
Lieut. Atkins thereupon asked the Captain of the Meteor to steer south-west, but the Germans naturally enough objected, as they desired to make their own coast. However, in spite of the fact that the British were unarmed and numerically very inferior, their arguments prevailed and a south-west course was steered for a short time until another fishing vessel was sighted; the British suggested transferring to her; this was agreed to by the Germans. As the British were leaving, the German captain, Korvetten-Kapitan von Knorr, asked Lieut. Atkins if he had any money, to which he replied, "How could I, seeing that you picked me up in pyjamas?" Captain von Knorr pressed money on him, but Lieut. Atkins said that he did not see that he would require it. However, he eventually took it. Captain von Knorr handing him an English £5 note and other money. It is pleasant to record so gentlemanly and courteous an act, which stands out
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in strong contrast to the usual behaviour of German naval officers during the War. The money was given to me, and I sent it to the Admiralty, asking that it might be repaid, with the thanks of the British for the courtesy shown to our prisoners of war.
The 1st, 2nd and 4th Light Cruiser Squadrons were ordered to return to their bases on receipt of the news of the sinking of the Meteor.
The minesweeping operations in the Moray Firth on August 9th showed that the mine-field was larger than had been at first reported, and additional paddle minesweepers were sent from the Clyde to assist the other vessels.
Mr. Asquith and Mr. McKenna were on board the Iron Duke from the 7th to the 9th, and various matters of importance were discussed. When questioned as to urgent requirements I pressed for the building of a large number of sloops, a class of vessel which had proved most useful, both as minesweepers and as patrol vessels, and which could supplement the numerous destroyers then building, which took much longer to complete.
The persistence of the fog at this period is shown by the fact that the Agincourt, returning to Scapa from Portsmouth, was unable to enter the base for 36 hours after passing Cape Wrath, only 60 miles distant, and was forced to cruise to the westward, making repeated attempts at entry. The Ajax was similarly delayed in entry for 12 hours during the same period.
On August 10th the armed merchant-ship India, of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, was torpedoed and sunk by an enemy submarine off the coast of Norway with considerable loss of life.
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Four destroyers were sent on August 13th to locate and engage a submarine that had attacked one of the Fleet minesweepers. They did not succeed in finding her, but on the following day an armed yacht engaged a submarine off the Aberdeen coast and claimed to have hit her by gunfire; and the trawler Shamrock claimed to have run over another submarine.
The 1st Light Cruiser Squadron from Rosyth, the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron from Scapa, and seven destroyers carried out a search between the 16th and 18th for enemy vessels in the northern and central portion of the North Sea, sweeping towards the Skagerrak, and covering a large area by wide zigzags.
The Iron Duke returned to Scapa from Cromarty on the 16th.
From August 18th to the 21st the Lion, with the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, was cruising in the North Sea and carrying out exercises off the Shetland Islands, proceeding to Scapa for practices on the 21st, and returning to Rosyth on the 23rd.
On August 18th the Fleet minesweeper Lilac, Lieut.-Commander Leslie Fisher, while at work on the Moray Firth mine-field, struck a mine. The whole fore part of the ship was destroyed and the wreck of it hung down from the after part, causing her to draw 80 feet of water forward, instead of the usual nine to ten feet. The weather was very bad and a heavy sea running, but by great persistence and good seamanship, aided by very gallant work on the part of her own crew and that of the Hollyhock, Captain Preston, senior officer of Fleet minesweepers, who was in command of the Hollyhock, succeeded in towing her to Peterhead. She was eventually reconstructed and rejoined the Fleet minesweeping flotillas. The value of this class of vessel was clearly shown by the incident.
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Eight destroyers from Scapa, with a flotilla leader, were carrying out on August 23rd and 24th anti-submarine operations in the Fair Island Channel, and a division was similarly employed east of May Island, in the Firth of Forth.
Between August 24th and 26th the 3rd and 7th Cruiser Squadrons exchanged bases, between Scapa and Rosyth, carrying out a wide search of the North Sea en route, destroyers screening the ships by day.
On the 24th Rear-Admiral E. F. A. Gaunt, C.M.G., relieved Rear-Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas in the 1st Battle Squadron, the latter officer being designated to take command of the new 5th Battle Squadron (five ships of the “Queen Elizabeth" class), as it was formed.
On August 30th-31st the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron, with destroyers, searched to the eastward of May Island for enemy vessels; and from August 31 to September 1st the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, accompanied by four destroyers, was cruising between the Firth of Forth and the Dogger Bank for the same purpose.
During the month the 2nd and 4th Battle Squadrons carried out target practice in the Moray Firth, and all battle squadrons and cruiser squadrons proceeded to sea for cruises, independently, from their bases, screened by destroyers.
His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales visited Sir Stanley Colville at Longhope during the month, remaining for six days. He went on board many of the ships of the Grand Fleet.
The 10th Cruiser Squadron report for the month showed the average weekly results as follows: Ships intercepted, 65; ships sent in, 13; number of vessels on patrol, 14; number refitting, coaling or en route to or from patrol, 9.
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The weather at Scapa was very misty. Fog or mist was experienced on the 3rd, 6th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 18th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 23rd, 31st. There were no gales.
On August 3rd the large floating-dock from the Medway, which had been towed to the Tyne, was reported as ready for use.
On the 29th the old light cruiser Brilliant arrived at Lerwick to act as guard and depot ship at that base, which was being developed as a secondary examination base for vessels sent in by the 10th Cruiser Squadron.
An extended patrol to the south-eastward of the Pentland Firth during the month was maintained by three armed boarding steamers and three destroyers.
The principal events of September, 1915, may perhaps be given most conveniently and briefly in diary form:
On September 1st eight destroyers, fitted for minesweeping, swept the waters to the westward of the Pentland Firth. This was the first occasion on which destroyers were used for this purpose.
September 1st and 2nd. — The Black Prince and four light cruisers, with six destroyers, carried out a sweep to the eastward from Scapa.
September 2nd-5th. - The Dreadnought Battle Fleet, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Cruiser Squadrons, and the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron were cruising in northern waters. Destroyers screened the Fleet out and back, but did not remain with it during the cruise, being kept at the base, ready fuelled, in case it became necessary to move to the southward. Battle exercises and night-firing were carried out during the cruise, as opportunity offered. The battleship Superb reported sighting the periscope of a submarine.
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On September 2nd the Fleet was visited by five French gentlemen of eminence, and a representative of the United States Press, This was the first visit paid to the Grand Fleet base by anyone not immediately connected with the Service, and we were flattered that the occasion should have brought to Scapa Flow representatives of our gallant Allies from across the Channel. The Fleet left immediately after the visit, and an opportunity was afforded our visitors of seeing the ships leave harbour.
September 4th. - Another minesweeping sloop, the Dahlia, Lieutenant G. Parsons, R.N., struck a mine in the Moray Firth mine-field during sweeping operations. She was very badly damaged; Lieut. Parsons himself was severely injured. The ship reached Invergordon with the loss of three killed and one missing. She was subsequently repaired.
September 7th. - The 3rd Cruiser Squadron left Scapa, with destroyers, swept down in the direction of the Horn Reef, and arrived at Rosyth on the 9th without sighting enemy vessels. Visibility was low during the sweep.
September 8th. - The 7th Cruiser Squadron left Rosyth, with destroyers, swept out to the eastward, towards the Skagerrak, then turned to the northward and arrived at Scapa on the 10th. Two destroyers were damaged by collision with steamers in a fog on the 8th, necessitating repairs at a dockyard in both cases.
September 10th-12th. - The Lion, with the 1st and 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadrons, the 1st and 2nd Light Cruiser Squadrons and 16 destroyers, was cruising in the North Sea to cover mine-laying operations carried out by our mine-layers in the Heligoland Bight, the remainder of the Grand Fleet being, as was usual on such occasions, at short notice for steam. The Fearless and a destroyer, part of the force with the battle cruisers, collided while at sea, the former sustaining considerable damage.
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September 11th. - The Patia and Oropesa, of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, collided; the Patia was seriously damaged, and was brought into port under convoy of a destroyer and armed trawlers with considerable difficulty, being unsuccessfully attacked by a submarine en route.
September 12th. - Submarine E 16, attached to the Grand Fleet flotilla, was sent to the coast of Norway from Aberdeen to operate against an enemy submarine thought to be operating in those waters. On the 15th E 16 sighted a hostile submarine off the Norwegian coast and sank her with a torpedo. This success, one of the earliest achieved by one submarine operating against another, was very encouraging after the somewhat similar success of C 27 in July.
September 17th. - The 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, with four destroyers, left Rosyth to sweep to the Skagerrak. They returned on the 19th, without having sighted any enemy vessels.
September 23rd. - The destroyer Christopher was damaged in collision with the armed boarding-steamer King Orry in a fog.
September 26th. - The s.s. Caribbean, which had been fitted out as a receiving-ship for dockyard workmen, encountered very heavy weather whilst en route from her port to Scapa, and got into serious difficulties, taking in a great deal of water. Her wireless distress calls off Cape Wrath were answered by sending to her assistance the light cruiser Birkenhead from Scapa, together with tugs and yachts from Scapa and Stornoway. At 4.45 a.m. on the 27th the Birkenhead and patrol vessels, which were then standing by, took off most of the crew of the Caribbean,
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which sank at 7.30 a.m., unfortunately with the loss of 15 lives.
During the month the battle and cruiser squadrons carried out independent cruises by day and at night from the Scapa and Rosyth bases, being screened by destroyers during the exercises. The squadrons of the Battle Cruiser Fleet, also, all visited Scapa for the purpose of carrying out gunnery and torpedo practices.
A widely extended patrol by one or more light cruisers with destroyers, working to the south-eastward from Scapa, was maintained during the month, in order to guard against any attempt at mine-laying in the Pentland Firth by enemy vessels disguised as merchant ships. Similar precautions were taken at Rosyth. This patrol was henceforth regularly established when the conditions of the moon rendered attempted mine-laying operations at night probable.
The sweeping operations in the Moray Firth were continued on a large scale throughout the month, and clear channels on each shore were provided. Up to September 19th, 222 mines had been accounted for out of the 450 which survivors of the Ramsey stated had been laid by the Meteor. The Moray Firth mine-field, in the centre of the Firth, was purposely left undisturbed, as it formed an excellent anti-submarine defence in that position and reduced the area to be patrolled by our vessels.
The 3rd Cruiser Squadron became non-existent during the month, two ships being detached by the Admiralty on special service, and the remaining two sent into port for somewhat extensive repairs.
The 10th Cruiser Squadron's weekly average for the month worked out at: Ships intercepted, 64; sent in with armed guards, 11; number of vessels on patrol, 13; number absent or en route to or from patrols, 10.
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The weather at Scapa showed fog or mist on the 6th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 14th, 18th, 23rd and 24th; a very heavy gale occurred between the 25th and 28th, during which great damage was done to the anti-submarine obstructions at Scapa, and a good deal of damage was suffered on the mainland in the north of Scotland, a portion of the Highland Railway being washed away.
Between June and August, 1915, I had pressed upon the Admiralty my opinion that we should carry out a much more comprehensive mining policy in the Heligoland Bight. I had urged this early in the War, but the view taken at the Admiralty was that mining on any large scale would impede both our submarine operations and also any Fleet operations that might be undertaken in those waters. I felt that unless we adopted one of two policies - namely, either a close watch by surface ships on the exits from the German bases, or an extensive mining policy - we could never feel that we should receive sufficient warning of the exit of enemy forces as to prevent mischief being done. The close blockade by surface ships was not a feasible operation in view of the number of craft at our disposal and the submarine danger; our submarines were too few in number and had not the necessary means of communication to take the place of surface ships.
I could see no alternatives to very extensive mining, limited only by the number of mines that could be produced. The mining proposed by me was intended to hamper the operations of both surface vessels and submarines. I pointed out that earlier in the War the view had been expressed to me by the Admiralty that we should not risk our cruisers too freely in the North Sea
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owing to the submarine danger, and that, if we adhered to this policy, it was impossible to insure that the exits to the Fleet bases would not be mined by surface minelayers, as the Meteor incident had shown, and as was also indicated by the success of our own infrequent mining excursions to the Heligoland Bight.
The correspondence resulted in increased activity on the part of our mine-layers, but the success of our work was unfortunately handicapped by defects in the pattern of mine in use at that time, especially as against submarines.
In 1917, shortly after my return to the Admiralty, I undertook a very extensive mining policy. In the previous year, during Sir Henry Jackson's period as First Sea Lord, a new and much improved mine was designed, the trials of which were carried out after I relieved him. This was one of the replies to the submarine. One hundred thousand of these mines were ordered by me early in 1917 to carry out various schemes for mining the Heligoland Bight and the Straits of Dover. Later in 1917, with the assistance of the United States, provision was made for the large mine-field across the North Sea known as the Northern Barrage. It was not until the large supplies of mines became available in the autumn that really effective results against submarines by mining began to be achieved, although the operations of German surface vessels had previously been hampered to a very considerable extent.
CONTROLLING THE NORTH SEA
During the later months of 1915 the Grand Fleet continued to sweep and control the North Sea in spite of the enemy's efforts to effect attrition by submarines and mines. On October 1st the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron, with destroyers escorting, left Rosyth and proceeded towards the Little Fisher Bank; on reaching that locality the squadron turned to the north-westward and steered towards Scapa, arriving on the 3rd. The line thus swept was the possible course of enemy mine-laying or other vessels, proceeding towards, or returning from, the vicinity of Scapa and Cromarty. No enemy ships were sighted.
On October 2nd the battleship Barham, Flagship of the new 5th Battle Squadron, arrived at Scapa.
Commodore Tyrwhitt, with the 5th Light Cruiser Squadron (now comprising six light cruisers) and nine destroyers, left Harwich on the 6th to sweep towards the Skagerrak in search of enemy vessels, particularly fishing trawlers, which were suspected of acting as outpost vessels. The operation on this occasion was fruitful in result; 14 German trawlers were captured and sent in; one was also sunk. As usual during such operations when a supporting force was not actually at sea, the Battle Cruiser Fleet was kept at short notice for steam, to be ready to put to sea if required.
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On October 10th the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron left Scapa and swept down to the Little Fisher Bank, and thence to Rosyth with the same object in view as that of the Harwich force, being met at daylight on the 11th by destroyers from Rosyth, and arriving at that base on the 12th. On this occasion the operation gave no result.
The Dreadnought Battle Fleet, comprising the 1st, 2nd and 4th Battle Squadrons, the 1st, 2nd and 7th Cruiser Squadrons, the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron, and the 2nd and 4th Flotillas, left Scapa on the 13th, and proceeded into the northern portion of the North Sea for a cruise. Owing to bad weather the destroyers were sent back on the 11th, one, the Mandate, being damaged by a heavy sea; the Ardent and Fortune collided, the former vessel being damaged. The fleet carried out battle exercises during the cruise, and returned to the bases at Scapa and Cromarty on the 15th, on which day the new battleship Canada joined the Grand Fleet.
On October 18th the Harwich force, consisting of the 5th Light Cruiser Squadron and destroyers, sailed to operate off the Danish coast, north of the Horn Reef, against any enemy vessels found there. The Lion, with the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and eight destroyers, left Rosyth to support the Harwich force, which closed the Danish coast at daylight on the 19th, then steered to the north-westward, till dark, returning afterwards to Harwich. The search was unproductive, no enemy vessels being sighted. The Lion and 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron proceeded towards Cromarty, but were diverted to Scapa during the night of the 19th-20th, owing to a report of suspicious vessels, possibly mine-layers, being sighted off Noss Head. These vessels were subsequently identified as two of our own trawlers.
On October 22nd three divisions of destroyers were sent from Scapa to hunt a submarine off Fair Island, but were forced to return owing to bad weather.
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On October 27th the 1st Cruiser Squadron, with two armed boarding-steamers, left Scapa to search the northern portion of the North Sea, returning on the 30th. Nothing was sighted.
On October 30th Commodore Tyrwhitt, with the 5th Light Cruiser Squadron and destroyers, left Harwich for another sweep off the Danish coast. His force passed through a position some 70 miles north-west of Heligoland before daylight on the 21st, steered for the Little Fisher Bank, and thence to Harwich. A portion of the Battle Cruiser Fleet kept steam at short notice during the operation, which was unproductive, except for the interception of an ore-laden neutral steamer which was sent in to a British port.
On October 30th the Birkenhead and Liverpool, newly commissioned light cruisers, left Scapa for a searching and exercise cruise in the northern portion of the North Sea, and returned to Scapa on November 1st.
During October squadrons cruised independently in the North Sea from Scapa, as in previous months, by day and at night. The ships of the Battle Cruiser Fleet, as well as the 3rd Battle Squadron from Rosyth and squadrons from Scapa, proceeded to Cromarty, in turn, in order to carry out long-range firing at towed targets in the Moray Firth, being screened from submarine attack by destroyers. Squadrons from Rosyth proceeded also to Scapa to carry out practices.
A patrol, comprising the Sappho and eight armed whalers, based on Peterhead, was instituted as a guard against further attempted mine-laying in the Moray Firth. The Peterhead and Cromarty minesweeping vessels, which had been working under the Senior Officer of Fleet minesweepers (Captain Preston) for the clearance of the Moray Firth mine-field, reverted to their
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proper commands, and arrangements were made for a constant sweep by minesweeping trawlers of the channel along the south shore of the Moray Firth, which was that used by ships based on Cromarty when concentrating with the remainder of the Grand Fleet in the North Sea. It was essential to ensure that this channel was kept clear of mines so long as any portion of the Grand Fleet was based on Cromarty.
It may not be out of place here to state the patrol arrangements existing in the vicinity of the Pentland Firth at this time. Usually three armed boarding steamers and three destroyers were patrolling to the eastward of the Firth. They moved to the northward during daylight and worked for a considerable distance to the south-eastward of the Firth at night. An extended patrol, usually consisting of a light cruiser and a destroyer, also worked from Peterhead. A patrol of one or two destroyers was maintained at night off Noss Head on the north shore of the Moray Firth. Destroyers were kept off the entrance to Hoy Sound and Holm Sound, and a large number of trawlers near the Hoxa Sound entrance. In bad weather the eastern destroyer patrol was withdrawn to work between Swona Island and the land to the eastward and to the north-westward. The old local defence destroyers also carried out patrol work off the entrance, and off Kirkwall. These particulars are of interest as conveying some idea of the sea work in a restricted area which had to be carried out in all weathers.
From October 1st to October 11th the Fleet Flagship Iron Duke was refitting at Invergordon.
On October 28th the Argyll, en route from Devonport to Rosyth to rejoin the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, grounded on the Bell Rock, near Dundee, early in the
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morning in thick weather, and became a total wreck; all hands were taken off in a heavy sea by destroyers from Rosyth. The destroyers were exceedingly well handled under very difficult conditions. On the following day the Arlanza, of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, which had been sent to the White Sea, struck a mine and was seriously damaged, but succeeded in reaching the Yakanski anchorage, in the neighbourhood. Repairs were impossible during the winter and the greater part of her crew was, therefore, brought home in the Orcoma, of the same squadron which had been sent north for the purpose.
From October 29th to October 30th a heavy gale was experienced at Scapa, and considerable damage was done to the anti-submarine defences and to the block-ships at the entrances. Fog or mist was experienced on October 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 9th, 14th, 16th and 30th.
The 10th Cruiser Squadron's work showed as a weekly average the following figures: Ships intercepted, 56; sent in, 16; number on patrol, 14; number absent, 8. The bad weather experienced interfered with the work of the squadron.
On November 2nd the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th Battle Squadrons, the 1st, 2nd and 7th Cruiser Squadrons, the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron and the destroyers of the 4th and 11th (old 2nd) Flotilla left for a cruise to the westward of the Orkneys. The destroyers were sent back on the 3rd owing to bad weather. Battle exercises and sub-calibre firing took place during the cruise, which was otherwise uneventful; the Fleet arrived at Scapa and Cromarty on November 5th, being screened in by the destroyers.
On November 6th the 1st and 2nd Light Cruiser Squadrons, with destroyers, left Scapa and Rosyth respectively, to carry out an operation in the Skagerrak.
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The force was timed to arrive at the eastern end of the Skagerrak at dawn on the 7th, and to sweep westward during daylight in order that our ships should be between the enemy and his Baltic base if enemy ships were sighted. The Lion, with the 1st and 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadrons and destroyers, left Rosyth in time to be in a supporting position by daylight on the 7th. A large number of vessels were boarded by the destroyers, but nothing suspicious was encountered, and the forces returned to the bases on November 8th.
During the night of November 6th-7th the battleship Hibernia, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral S. Fremantle, with the Zealandia and Albemarle, passed through the Pentland Firth to the westward en route for southern ports and the Mediterranean. A strong wind was blowing against the spring tides, and a very heavy sea was running in the Firth, as was not unusual.
Whilst passing through the Firth the Albemarle, Captain R. A. Nugent, shipped two heavy seas which washed away her fore bridge, with everyone on it, and even displaced the roof of the conning tower; hundreds of tons of water flooded the decks and poured down below. An officer and one man were washed overboard and drowned, and several men injured; Captain Nugent found himself on the upper deck amidst the wreckage of the bridge. The Hibernia, which was ahead, turned to assist the Albemarle, and an urgent signal for assistance was received on board the Iron Duke. One of the emergency cruisers at Scapa was directed to raise steam with all despatch; the Hibernia arrived in with the Albemarle at daylight. The ship presented an extraordinary sight, the sea having made a clean sweep of her bridge and everything on it. In all our experience of the Pentland Firth, we had never witnessed such havoc before. The
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Zealandia was also obliged to turn back to repair her gunports, damaged by the sea in the Firth.
The next few days were marked only by comparatively trifling incidents. On November 6th the Birkenhead, which had recently been commissioned, completed her practices at Scapa and joined the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron at Rosyth. Two days later the Princess Margaret laid mines successfully in the Heligoland Bight; on the 9th the Crescent, harbour-defence vessel at Hoy Sound, was withdrawn and left to pay off; and the Matchless, of the 10th Destroyer Flotilla, struck a drifting mine in southern waters, her stern being blown off.
On the 12th Submarine E 17 was sent into the Kattegat to reconnoitre and ascertain whether any German trawlers or other vessels were working there. She returned on the 19th and reported in the negative. On the night of the 15th-16th the s.s. Kristianiafiord, of the Norwegian-American line, a ship which had been endeavouring on other occasions to evade the blockading squadron, was intercepted by the Teutonic in high latitudes; she was steaming fast without lights, and was sent to Kirkwall for examination. In this and in other similar cases the ships ran great risk of being mistaken for enemy vessels and sunk, since the methods employed by the Germans made it very difficult to abstain from opening fire on vessels without running the serious danger of our own ships being sunk by surprise attack. In the case of a ship carrying a large number of passengers, like the Kristianiafiord, the risk taken was very great and could not be justified.
On November 16th the 7th Cruiser Squadron, without the Donegal, but accompanied by the Liverpool and one armed boarding-steamer, left Scapa to patrol an area north of the Shetlands and Faroe Islands, with a view to intercepting possible raiders or other vessels.
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At noon on the 18th a report reached me that an enemy three-funnelled cruiser had been seen on the 17th to pass through the Danish Sound going north. The possible objectives of this vessel, if the report were true, appeared to be either mine-laying off our bases or an attempt to interfere with the White Sea traffic, the Admiralty having informed me on the 16th that large consignments of arms and ammunition would be passing from France to the White Sea during November and December. In view of the fact that the news had reached me too late to intercept this vessel in southern waters, the dispositions made were as follows:
The Donegal, which had left Scapa on the 17th to cruise along the trade route to the White Sea, was directed to rendezvous with the Orcoma (a ship of the 10th Cruiser Squadron on patrol off the Norwegian coast), and to patrol the parallel of Lat. 66 N. between the meridians of 5.30 E. and 7.30 E.
The 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron sailed from Scapa for a position Lat. 63 N., Long. 4 E., there to meet the 7th Cruiser Squadron, already at sea. Both squadrons, widely spread, were to sweep to the northward along the Norwegian coast, as far as the Rost Islands, and to cruise to the westward of the Lofoten Islands during daylight of the 20th, then returning to their base. The 2nd Cruiser Squadron also left Scapa and proceeded north, the ships spread to cover a wide area to the westward of the 7th Cruiser Squadron, in order to protect the Archangel trade. The 4th Light Cruiser Squadron also left Scapa on the 18th to sweep to the eastward, with orders to return to Cromarty on the 19th.
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Strong destroyer patrols were despatched from Scapa and Rosyth to prevent mine-laying off the bases, and one Battle Cruiser Squadron was put at short notice for steam. No enemy vessels were sighted, and the Donegal eventually proceeded to the White Sea, being accompanied by the Minotaur as far as the North Cape.
On November 19th three submarines proceeded from Harwich to the Kattegat to obtain information relative to the presence of any enemy vessels.
On November 23rd the Warspite rejoined the 5th Battle Squadron, after having been for some weeks under repair in the Tyne, owing to injuries sustained through grounding in the Firth of Forth.
On November 28th the Battle Cruiser Fleet left Rosyth for a cruise in the northern portion of the North Sea, during which cruiser exercises and gunnery practices were carried out; the squadron returned to Rosyth on December 2nd.
From November 22nd to December 7th, the Donegal and Hampshire were protecting the White Sea trade, working on the trade route and coaling at Alexandrovsk. During the month independent squadron exercise cruises from the bases were continued, as was target practice from Cromarty.
The figures for the 10th Cruiser Squadron gave as a weekly average: Ships intercepted, 30; sent in, 9; number on patrol, 10; absent at ports or en route, 9; on special service, 3. The bad weather experienced during the month interfered considerably with the boarding operations of the squadron and also hampered Fleet movements.
On December 1st the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th Battle Squadrons, the 1st and 2nd Cruiser Squadrons, the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron, and the Minotaur of the 7th Cruiser Squadron, proceeded to the westward for a cruise.
258 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
Battle exercises were carried out on the 2nd and 3rd, and the Fleet returned to Scapa and Cromarty on December 4th. The exercises were specially intended to represent the conditions that might arise if the High Sea Fleet tried to draw the Grand Fleet over areas in which mines had been laid or in which submarines were operating. During the exercises the Barham and Warspite of the 5th Battle Squadron collided, both being considerably damaged. They were escorted to Scapa for temporary repairs and left later, the Barham for Invergordon and the Warspite for Devonport.
On December 8th the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron left Rosyth, swept to the eastward to the Little Fisher Bank, and returned on the 10th.
From the 11th to the 18th two ships of the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron were cruising to the eastward of the Fair Island Channel.
On December 12th Submarines D 7 and D 8, which were based temporarily on Blyth, were directed to leave for the Norwegian coast to operate against enemy trade and against enemy submarines. D 7 was directed to make the Ryvingen Light during the dark hours and then to cruise to intercept trade between Ryvingen and Arendal, and between Ryvingen and the west coast of Denmark. It was anticipated that this might draw enemy submarines to the northward from German ports to try to sink D 7, and D 7 was directed to be back at Ryvingen 36 hours after she expected that the first vessel she examined had reached port, so that she might be ready to attack enemy submarines sent after her. D 8 was directed to cruise on a bearing 270 degrees from the Hantsholm Light (coast of Denmark) in order to intercept enemy submarines sent after D 7. Bad weather prevented D 7 leaving before December 15th. The enemy was apparently not drawn, and no success was obtained.
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On December 15th the 2nd Cruiser Squadron left Scapa for a sweep to the south-eastward, and returned on the 17th.
Two neutral ships, steaming at high speed at night without lights on the 15th and 16th, evidently intending to evade the blockade, were intercepted by the 10th Cruiser squadron and sent into Kirkwall.
On December 20th Commodore Tyrwhitt left Harwich with the 5th Light Cruiser Squadron, to sweep to the Danish coast, and the Battle Cruiser Fleet was kept at the usual short notice for steam during the time that he was absent until the 23rd.
On December 24th the 1st Cruiser Squadron left Scapa to search the central portion of the North Sea, During the day anxiety was felt as to the safety of the destroyers Porpoise and Morning Star, which had been escorting a Russian ice-breaker to the northward and which had hove to near the Fair Island Channel in a heavy gale during the 23rd. The 1st Cruiser Squadron was directed to spread and search for them, and the Hampshire and Donegal were also sent from Scapa to endeavour to gain touch. Both the destroyers, however, reached Cromarty in safety, the Porpoise on the 25th, and the Morning Star on the 26th, after having experienced very heavy weather. Many compartments were flooded, and very considerable damage was done. They had been handled with great ability during the exceptionally heavy weather. The 1st Cruiser Squadron, with the Hampshire and Donegal, returned to Scapa on the 26th.
260 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
On the 24th the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron also proceeded from Rosyth to search the North Sea, down to the vicinity of the Dogger Bank, thence towards the Little Fisher Bank, and back to Rosyth. No enemy vessels were sighted. The weather in the North Sea at this period was very severe, and the Sappho, which was supporting the armed trawler patrol to the north-eastward of Peterhead, lost her rudder in a heavy sea.
On December 30th the 3rd Cruiser Squadron and 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, with destroyers, left Rosyth and carried out a sweep to the south-eastward, returning on the 31st.
On the same day, a lamentable disaster occurred, the cruiser Natal (Captain Eric Back) being blown up in Cromarty harbour with great loss of life. Captain Back was amongst those who lost their lives. It was reported by adjacent vessels at 3.25 p.m. that the ship was on fire, and at 3.30 p.m., before any action could be taken, the ship blew up and sank, the explosion taking place in her after magazines. Steps were taken to deal with the situation in case the explosion had been caused by an enemy submarine having entered the harbour, but it soon became evident that this was not the case. Examination of the wreck by divers later showed no signs of any external explosion. A court-martial was subsequently held at Chatham to investigate the causes of the disaster, but the conclusions were not made public.
During the month of December independent exercises from the Fleet bases were continued, as well as target practice from Cromarty. As to the latter, an interesting practice was carried out by the Iron Duke at the range, and under the conditions of battle practice before the War, in order to ascertain, by examining the actual hits made on the canvas of the target, whether the pre-War standard of shooting was being maintained. Some uncertainty existed owing to the great increase in the ranges at which practices were carried out during the War,
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namely, 16,000 to 19,000 yards, as compared with the 9,500 yards, which was the maximum peace range. The result was very satisfactory and indicated a most decided advance on pre-War accuracy of fire.
On December 13th the first target practice was carried out in the Pentland Firth. This was in the nature of an experiment and, being successful, practice in this locality was later substituted for practice in the Moray Firth; it was far more convenient for the main Fleet base and much less extravagant in the use of screening and protecting destroyers.
On December 16th Vice-Admiral Sir Martyn Jerram, K.C.B., relieved Vice-Admiral Sir George Warrender, Bart., in command of the 2nd Battle Squadron, on the termination of the latter officer's three years' command.
During December patrols seaward of the bases were strengthened and considerably extended during the first and fourth quarters of the moon in order to frustrate any attempted mine-laying on the part of the enemy. This "dark night” patrol subsequently became a matter of routine.
The 10th Cruiser Squadron's weekly average showed: Ships intercepted, 35; sent in, 14; number of ships on patrol, 12; number at bases or en route 7; number on special service, 2.
The long nights and bad weather were responsible for the reduction in the number of vessels intercepted.
During December fog or mist were experienced at Scapa on the 15th, 22nd, 25th and 26th; gales on the 6th, 8th and 23rd; and snow on the 3rd, 4th, 8th and 12th. Although the weather at Scapa Flow was fairly good, gales in the North Sea and to the westward of the Orkneys were frequent and violent during the month.
262 THE GRAND FLEET, 1914-1916
Before turning to the events of 1916 it is of interest to notice the work of the "decoy ships" known later by the name of "Q" ships, fitted out at Scapa during the year 1915. These vessels, five in number, were designed to sink enemy submarines by inducing the latter to close them for the purpose of attack by gunfire or by torpedo. The same system was employed in southern waters, and was developed greatly during the year 1917. At Scapa in 1915 and 1916 the ships were manned principally by volunteers from the Grand Fleet, or from the depot ships at the base. Colliers or store-ships were selected for their size and general suitability for the work, and they were fitted with a very carefully concealed armament, which was kept hidden until the submarine was within point-blank range, so that fire opened on her must be immediately effective; unless the submarine was holed in less than a minute after fire was opened on her she could submerge and escape, and probably torpedo the decoy ship as well.
The five ships, the Prince Charles, Vala, Duncombe, Penshurst and Glen Isla, were fitted up by Captain Farrington of the Cyclops, under the direction of Admiral Sir Stanley Colville and were marvels of ingenuity. Their usual cruising-ground was in the vicinity of the Orkneys, Shetlands, or Hebrides, or towards the Norwegian coast, or the White Sea, or down the east coast of Scotland. They worked on a route that was freely used by merchant ships and altered their appearance according to their route so as to give them the look of vessels usually trading on that route.
Many stories of the "Q" ships have been told in the Press and need not be repeated here, but a high tribute must be paid to the extreme gallantry and splendid discipline of the officers and men who manned these vessels. I had personal knowledge of the