- Book reviewer
- History - WW1, Book reviews, WWI operations, Royal Navy, Naval Engagements, Operations and Capabilities
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 2003 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
By Barrie Pitt
Cassell Military Paperbacks.
Allen & Unwin, Sydney.
Pp. 230. Price $19.95
Reviewed by B.L. Cleary
This is the 2003 edition of a book, first published in 1958, describing some of the most valorous deeds of the Royal Navy in World War I. Early in the war the Navy established the Dover Patrol, of destroyers, trawlers, fast patrol craft and minefields, charged with the duty of depriving the enemy, particularly his submarines, of use of the English Channel. By late 1917 the new Director of Plans at the Admiralty, Rear Admiral Roger Keyes, was able to show that complacency in the Dover Patrol had prevented it from impeding the passage of U-boats into the Atlantic where the toll on Allied shipping was enormous. At the end of the year Keyes was given command of the Dover Patrol with orders to fix it.
He quickly boosted the efficiency of the patrol but decided that a more effective measure would be to deny the Germans the use of the Belgian island port of Bruges, where a submarine and destroyer base has been established. Two canals, a large to Zeebrugge and a smaller and longer one to Ostend, connected Bruges to the North Sea. Keyes planned to block both canals by sinking block ships in the entrances. Both ports were heavily defended by German artillery, machine gun posts and infantry patrols. In addition Zeebrugge was protected by a long mole which was also a post for artillery, machine guns and destroyers.
Cover for the blockships was provided by a large number of patrol boats, destroyers and miscellaneous assault ships. The whole force was less than one thousand men, all volunteers and unmarried. This story of their successes and failures is dramatic and well presented. The report of the operation was an enormous boost to the morale of the English people deeply depressed by heavy army losses in the land battles of Flanders. The award of eleven Victoria Crosses, four of them awarded when the recipient was elected by his companions present at the action, is sufficient evidence of an outstanding event. Although the action was some 85 years ago the publishers have done well to reissue Pitt’s excellent work. Australian interest arises in the participation of Engineer W.H. Edgar RAN, Lieutenant V.A.C. Crutchley RN VC, later Rear-Admiral Commanding Australian Squadron at the time of Japanese action on the Solomons and Lieutenant Dallas Brooks, DSO, Royal Marines, later Governor of Victoria.