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The battle of Broad Fourteen

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Old 3rd January 2018, 02:12
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The battle of Broad Fourteen

Shortly after the commencement of WW1 it appeared to the British Admiralty that the Royal Navy would just be acting as a support group to the British Army. In September, 1914 Troops were being shipped to the Continent via Dunkirk. The Admiralty were relying on the Southern Force and in particular the 7th Battle Squadron to protect the approaches and troop movements.

The 7th Battle Squadron consisting of the armored cruisers 'Bacchante', 'Aboukir', 'Cressy', and Hogue. accompanied by a cover group of a light cruiser 'Fearless'and destroyers and ten submarines. The object of the plan "was to keep the area south of the 54th parallel ( which runs south of the Dogger Bank and Heligoland) clear of enemy torpedo craft and mines". Subsequently two areas had been established, one off the Dogger Bank and one in the Broad Fourteen.

Sept. 19-22, 1914

The 7th Battle Squadron prepared to depart harbor for the Broad Fourteen area off the Dutch coast. The weather became so bad that the destroyer and submarine protection were ordered back to harbor, adding to this, the flagship 'Bacchantes' became out of service due to "re coaling" problems and the wireless out of commission due to the storm."

Admiral Christian attempted to transfer his flag from the 'Bacchantes' to the 'Aboukir' but it was impossible to launch small boats. He gave sailing instructions to Commodore Captain Drummond of the 'Aboukir' and returned to harbor.

The unescorted remaining three cruisers proceeded to steam towards their station at the Broad Fourteen. This area was particularly dangerous to patrol as it lay between German minefields and the Dutch coast.

During the night the storm abated. For some unknown reason the three cruisers now on station proceeded two miles apart without zigzagging and at only ten knots.

At a little before 6:30 a.m., there was a violent explosion under the 'Aboukir's' starboard side. No sign or a submarine was seen and Captain Drummond assumed they had hit a mine and signaled the other two cruisers in-close to commence rescue operations. Twenty-five minuets later the 'Aboukir' capsized and turned over.

HMS 'Hogue' moved in to pick-up survivors, boats were lowed and crew members were tossing; mess tables, chairs, stools, anything that floated to help those floating in the cold waters stay afloat. Two explosions hit the 'Hogue' amidships and a submarine surfaced on the port quarter and gun-crews of the 'Hogue' engaged in fire. Ten minuets after the explosions the 'Hogue' sank.

The 'Cressy' moved slowly in and stopped with the intent of picking up survivors. My brother's great-uncle, and my step great-uncle (same mother different fathers), was a stoker 1st class on this the remaining cruiser. I can imagine the dark engine room illuminated by the roaring coal fires, he along with his crew of stokers, shoveling non-stop. The order from the bridge was full steam ahead, the submarine had been sighted. The pace of shoveling would have picked-up.
At 7:17a.m., before the 'Cressy' could get underway, a torpedo hit abreast of her aft funnel. a second torpedo missed and a gun-crew opened up on what was thought a periscope, the crew cheered them on. Suddenly a third torpedo hit just aft of the bridge. It was the 'Cressy's' coupe de grace—she turned over and lay there for half an hour when she too disappeared.

The night of Sept. 21-22, 1914, The German U-boat, U-9, had stayed on the bottom avoiding the rough surface activity from the storm. Surfacing to periscope depth, in the morning, the Kapitän saw a smudge of smoke on the horizon and moved closer and observed smoke from two other vessels—three British warships moving parallel to each other in a straight line at a slow speed.

The actions of this captain and crew sank three cruisers with a loss of 1,397 officers and ratings including a stoker 1st class directly related to my brother, and sharing today both the same first and family name.

Admiral Christian. Fleet. was "reprimanded" and Squadron Commander Captain Drummond was "Criticized" for failing to take anti-submarine practises recommended by the Admiralty.

Kapitänlieutnant Otto Weddingen and crew arrived two days later to a hero's welcome. Weddingten was awarded the Iron Cross 1st class and the crew the Iron Cross 2nd class.

Two Dutch steamers and later Dutch fishing boats move in and despite the minefields 837 were rescued. The Admiralty issued a commendation letter acknowledging their collective bravery.

The squadron had been named "The Live-bait Squadron". Due to the age of the coal burning ships and the majority of the ships company being Royal Navy Reserves. They had been recalled to duty seven weeks previous at the outbreak of hostilities between Britain and Germany. Many of the R.N.R. were up in years compared to the average R.N. member and were husbands and fathers, so this terrible tragedy was multiplied with grieving widows and orphans.

My step-great-uncle was forty-seven. He left a grieving mother and father and a combined nine brothers and sisters.

Rodney
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Old 3rd January 2018, 20:29
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Dartskipper United Kingdom Dartskipper is offline
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In the village of Orford in Suffolk, there is a prominent church tower. Inside this tower, a large plaque commemorates the sacrifice of quite a large number of men from this village who served in HMS Hogue and lost their lives in this action.

Many thanks Rodney, for posting your family links to this very sad episode.

Roy.

Last edited by Dartskipper; 3rd January 2018 at 21:09.
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Old 6th January 2018, 17:42
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A coincidence Dartskipper:

My brother's great-uncle's birth was registered in Westleton, Suffolk, but probably born in Blything, Suffolk. The family was from Suffolk for at least the five generations I have recorded that's back to 1730. All marrying partners from the Blything, or neighboring villages. The exception being one who married a foreigner: a woman from Beaumont-cum-Naze, ESSEX.
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