Devonport Naval Heritage Centre Newsletter November 2015


1st 1944 – Successful assault on Walcheren by No.4 Army & 41,47 & 48 Royal Marine Cdos, with RN ships bombardment & landing craft. Operation INFATUATE.

1956-Operation MUSKETEER, the Anglo-French action against Egypt, continued with more air strikes, both Naval (from carriers) & Air Force. NEWFOUNDLAND (cruiser) & DIANA (destroyer), tasked to protect British & neutral shipping nearing the Suez Canal from the South, encountered & sank Egyptian frigate DOMIAT ex-HMS NITH.

2nd 1918 – MURCIA & SURADO the last 2 British merchant ships to be sunk in WW1, torpedoed by UC.24, off Port Said.

3rd 1914 – Bombardment by Anglo-French squadron of the outer forts at the Dardanelles; an unfortunate curtain-raiser to the Gallipoli campaign, as it gave Turkey warning of the Allied plans.

“I drink to the memory of a gallant & honourable foe” – Admiral Von Spee, in reply to a German civilian who, after the sinking of the British warships in the Battle of Coronel, had proposed a toast “Damnation to the British Navy”.

German battle-cruisers bombarded the British coast for the 1st time, at Gorleston, Norfolk.

1942 – George Cross (GC)-Lt J.S.MOULD George Medal (GM) RANVR, for mine recovery & disposal.

1956 – 1st RN loss of Suez campaign, a Fleet Air Arm Wyvern from EAGLE, shot down. CRANE attacked by Israeli aircraft, mistaking her to be Egyptian.

4th 1805 – Ships under Capt. Sir R.STRACHAN (CAESAR) took 4 French ships under Rear- Admiral D.LE PELLEY (FORMIDABLE) off Rochefort, the 1st survivors of the Battle of Trafalgar.

1840 – Capture of Acre. Ships under Admiral the Hon.Sir R.STOPFORD & Commodore C.NAPIER (PRINCESS CHARLOTTE).

1843 – Upper part of Trafalgar Square statue of NELSON affixed to the lower part. It is said he faces the way he does as it is the nearest way to the sea, but others say he is simply keeping an eye on the Admiralty.

5th 1650 – BLAKE, the General at Sea, destroyed the Royalist fleet under Prince RUPERT, off Cartagena.

1668 – WILLIAM III, of Orange, landed at Torbay, to take the throne of England.

1854 – VCs-Corporal J.PRETTYJOHN RM Light Infantry, cut off with his party, Battle of Inkerman, running out of ammunition, drove off the Russians by throwing stones at them. Seamen T.REEVES, J.GORMAN & M.SCHOLEFIELD (SHANNON Naval Brigade) repulsed a Russian attack, exposing themselves to heavy fire.

1940 – VC-Captain E.S.F.FEGEN RN (Armed Merchant Cruiser Jervis Bay) commanding & going down with his ship, defending Convoy HX84, when attacked by pocket-battleship ADMIRAL SCHEER in mid-Atlantic.

1946 – GC-Surgeon Lt.Cdr.P.A.O’LEARY DSO RN, for work in connection with the escape of Allied prisoners of war.

6th 1860 – Admiral Sir C.NAPIER died, who had said “It is seamen, not ships, that constitute a navy”.

1914 – Start of naval operations on River Tigris, by ships reinforced by Fly & Insect class Gunboats.

1956 – Anglo-French amphibious assault on North end of Suez Canal, British forces at Port Said, the 1st time a Royal Marine Cdo assault had landed from helicopters. A cease-fire was ordered for midnight that night.

7th 1918 – Last attack (unsuccessful) by a German submarine on a British merchant ship (SARPENDON) in WW1.

1976 – FEARLESS, whilst on charter for filming “The Spy Who Loved Me”, broke off to salvage SS NOSTOS VASSO ATHENE, on fire off Malta.

8th 1942 – Anglo-American assault landings in Oran, Algiers & Casablanca. One airfield at Algiers was captured by Fleet Air Arm Martlet fighters, under Lt.B.H.C.NATION (VICTORIOUS), probably the 1st time a shore airfield had been captured by Naval Aircraft. VC-Captain F.T.PETERS RN (ex US Coast Guard cutter WALNEY) for the assault on Oran harbour, being hit & blown up by Vichy French shore batteries. Operation Reservist.

9th 1914 – German light cruiser EMDEN, since 10 Sept. attacking Allied warships, shipping & ports in the Indian Ocean, was raiding a British wireless station on Cocos Island when surprised, attacked & forced aground by Australian light cruiser SYDNEY. However an EMDEN landing party had previously been put ashore on nearby Direction Island, seizing a schooner & sailing to Yemen, crossing the Red Sea & reaching safety in Constantinople in May 1915.

1918 – GC(ex Albert Medal)-Lt.H.M.A.MAY RM Light Infantry, saving life when BRITANNIA was sunk by UB.50, the last major RN ship sunk in WW1.

10th 1914 – Collier NEWBRIDGE sunk to block KONIGSBERG in Rufiji River, Africa, the 1st operation against the German ship.

1931 – SWORDFISH, the 1st of this class of submarine, launched at Chatham.

11th 1858 – Detachments of PEARL’s Naval Brigade joined Army forces in dispersing Indian Rebels at Phanpur.

1914 – Rear-Admiral E.C.T.TROUBRIDGE acquitted by Court Martial of failing to pursue (with the forces under his command) German battle-cruiser GOEBEN. This failure allowed GOEBEN to reach Turkey & helped bring them into the War.

1918 – Hostilities with Germany ceased, an Armistice having been signed.

1940 – 20 Fleet Air Arm Swordfish biplanes flying off ILLUSTRIOUS, including 5 planes from EAGLE, made a night attack on Taranto, with torpedoes & bombs, achieving complete surprise, damaging 3 Italian battleships & 1 destroyer, the battleships having to be put aground to avoid sinking.

1942 – Royal Indian Navy Fleet minesweeper BENGAL, with just one 12 pounder gun, escorting Dutch tanker ONDINA, with one 4 inch gun, encountered 2 Japanese Armed Merchant Cruisers (each 6×6 inch guns, torpedoes & aircraft). Having told ONDINA to act independently (escape) BENGAL & the Japanese each opened fire, HOKOKU MARU being set on fire & blowing up, but ONDINA was hit with shells & 2 torpedoes, so abandoned, her crew later re-embarking, putting out the fires & bringing her safely to Australia.

12th 1944 – In a final attempt to sink battleship TIRPITZ, at Tromso, Lancaster bombers from No.5 Group, Bomber Command RAF, succeeded.

13th 1941 – ARK ROYAL torpedoed by U.81 off Gibraltar, sinking next day, but might have been saved by better damage control, from which many lessons were learnt.

1973 – End of the 2nd Cod War, when Iceland had extended her territorial waters for her fishing fleets.

1978 – 1st deck landing by a Hawker Sea Harrier, on HERMES.

14th 1941 – Submarines TALISMAN & TORBAY landed a group of Commandos near Apollonia to raid ROMMEL’s HQ.

15th 1798 – Capture of Minorca by ships under Commodore J.DUCKWORTH (LEVIATHAN) & troops under General the Honourable C.STUART, Seamen & Marines being landed to support the Army.

1918 – VC-Temporary Cdr.D.M.W.BEAK DSO, MC, RNVR (DRAKE Battalion, Naval Division) for heroic leadership including single-handedly attacking a machine-gun nest in France. After WW1 he transferred to the British Army, ending in WW2 as a Major-General.

16th 1294 – King Edward I ordered construction of 20 galleys, each of 120 oars, for use against the French.

1857 – VC-Lts.N.SALMON, T.J.YOUNG, W.HALL & Able Sea.J.HARRISON (SHANNON Naval Brigade) for gallantry at Lucknow, Indian Mutiny.

1858 – Armstrong rifled breech-loading guns adopted for service.

1926 – BLUEBELL rescued SS SUNNING from pirates off Hong Kong.

17th 1857 – SHANNON’s Naval Brigade at the relief of Lucknow British Residency.

1869 – Opening of the newly built Suez Canal.

1871 – Completion of HOTSPUR, built at Devonport, the 1st RN warship built as a Ram & the 1st to have a fixed circular turret, inside which was one 12inch muzzle-loading gun, able to fire through several gun ports in the turret sides, but never ahead until later altered. She was never in action & rams became obsolete.

1917 – VC posthumous-Ord.Seaman J.H.CARLESS (CALEDON), in the Heligoland Bight battle between cruisers, when all of his gun crew had been killed or injured, although mortally wounded himself he carried on working his gun, until relieved, dying shortly afterwards.

18th 1983 – GLAMORGAN & BRAZEN sent to Lebanon for support of British troops in a multi-national force.

19th 1941 – R.Australian Navy light cruiser SYDNEY, on patrol off the Australian West Coast, was sunk in a battle with German raider KORMORAN, which then sank, all in mysterious circumstances.

20th 1759 – Battle of Quiberon Bay. Fleet under Admiral Sir E.HAWKE (ROYAL GEORGE) defeated the French Fleet under Admiral Le Comte de CONFLANS (SOLEIL ROYALE), which was chased in the teeth of a gale into the shoal waters of the Bay, onto a lee shore, 11 French ships out of 21 being wrecked or captured, others only escaping by throwing guns & stores overboard, in order to cross over the shoals.

1863 – Attack on the Maori position at Rangariri by forces including Naval landing parties during a war over land acquisition by British settlers. One of the ships involved was River Gunboat PIONEER, an iron flat-bottomed stern wheel paddle steamer, armour-plated with cupolas pierced for 12pounder guns.

1939 – STURGEON sank German trawler GAULEITER TELSCHOW, the 1stRN sub. success of WW2.

21st 1914 – 3 RN Air Service Avro504s attacked Zeppelin sheds at Friedrichshavn.

1918 – German High Seas Fleet surrendered off May Island, arriving at Rosyth, for later interment at Scapa Flow.

22nd 1718 – Lt.R.MAYNARD (RANGER & JANE) killed the pirate Edward TEACH, known as Blackbeard, & captured all his crew in Ocracoke Inlet, Pamlico Sound.

1857 – VC-Midshipman A.MAYO Indian Navy (No.4 Detachment IN) defeated & dispersed a superior force of sepoy mutineers at Dacca. By the time he received the award he was an undergraduate at Oxford.

1915 – Battle of Ctesiphon, Mesopotamia, involving river gunboats & vessels.

1941 – DEVONSHIRE sighted what seemed to be a merchant ship but on checking details proved to be a German raider ATLANTIS, armed as a light cruiser, so she was sunk, survivors being picked up later by a U-boat, transferred to a supply ship, which was later sunk by DORSETSHIRE, German survivors again being picked up by another U-boat, finally being landed at her base.

1944 – 1st & unsuccessful raid by Welman mini-submersibles Nos.45,46,47 & 48 at Bergen, operated by 1 man inside a cupola, so no diving suit.

23rd 1896 – Lofts for training carrier pigeons established at Sheerness, Portsmouth & Devonport.

1914 – U.18 rammed by DOROTHY GRAY & GARRY whilst trying to enter Scapa Flow, then by KAPHIADA, ending up wrecked on the Skerries.

1939 – Battle-cruiser SCHARNHORST sank Armed Merchant Cruiser RAWALPINDI (Captain E.C.KENNEDY RN) which had reported the sighting & managed a gunfire hit on the German, before being overwhelmed & sunk. Cruiser NEWCASTLE later picked up survivors & sighted lights of SCHARNHORST, which had been trying to break out into the Atlantic, but contact was lost at night & the German returned to base, surprise having been lost. 1st German magnetic mine, Type A, located at Sheerness, rendered safe by Lt.Cdr.J.G.D. OUVRY RN & Chief P.O. C.E. BALDWIN, assisted by Lt.Cdr.R.C. LEWIS RN & Able Seaman A.L. VEARNCOMBE, then next day dissected at VERNON, Portsmouth, by Dr.A.B. WOOD.

1979 – LAYMOOR paid off, the last RN ship propelled by steam reciprocating engine.

24th 1875 – Suez Canal controlling interest, jointly with France, purchased,

1941 – DUNEDIN sunk in mid-Atlantic by U.124, which then approached Freetown but was fired upon at 6 miles off by a 5.5inch gun landed from FURIOUS.

25th 1899 – Battle of Graspan, South Africa. Naval Brigade from DORIS (whose men captured the gun now in Devonport Park), MONARCH & POWERFUL.

1940 – 3 German acoustic mines were exploded in the Thames, by the 1st use of a technique developed since such mines were found a month before.

1941 – U.331 torpedoed battleship BARHAM, which blew up & sank off Sidi Barrani in less than 5 minutes, with 862 men lost, but 450 survived.

1975 – 3rd Cod War, caused by Iceland’s unilateral extension of fishing limits to 200 miles.

26th 1703 – A great storm over S.W. England & the Channel destroyed 13 warships, among many other ships, with great loss of life, also the Eddystone light.

1899 – Boer War. Naval Brigade formed at Durban from FORTE, TERRIBLE, TARTAR & PHILOMEL.

1914 – BULWARK destroyed by internal explosion at Sheerness. Naval court of enquiry found that ammunition was stowed in corridors between the 11 magazines, so a fault in a shell or overheating cordite near a boiler room bulkhead could have started a chain reaction.

1916 – Second German ship bombardment raid on Lowestoft.

27th 1857 – SHANNON’s Naval Brigade at the defence of Cawnpore.

1916 – R.9 made 1st successful flight by an RN Air Service rigid airship.

1940 – Action off Cape Spartivento. Admiral SOMERVILLE with Force H covering a convoy from Gibraltar to Alexandria, found out that the Italian Navy, with a force including 2 battleships, was determined to attack the convoy. He decided that the best defence was to attack first, both forces being of equal strength. The Italians did not hesitate to join battle but it was inconclusive, with 1 Italian destroyer & 1 British cruiser damaged, however the convoy got through safely.

28th 1914 – VC-Cdr.H.P. RITCHIE RN (GOLIATH) at Dar-es-Salaam during a search & destroy operation, with 3 German ships disabled & harbour installations wrecked.

29th 1945 – 1st RN helicopter in service, for air sea rescue, Sikorski R.5

1950 – Battle of Chosin Reservoir, Korea, 41 Independent Cdo.RM, under command of US 1st Marine Division, later awarded the US Presidential citation.

1967 – Final withdrawal of 42 & 45 Cdo, RM from Aden.

30th 1652 – Ships under Admiral R.BLAKE (TRIUMPH) fought ships under Admiral M. TROMP (BREDERODE) off Dungeness, protecting a Dutch convoy. The English retreated & TROMP hoisted a broom at his masthead, signifying that he had swept the English from the sea.

1914 – “The Miraculous Draught of Fishes”. A British trawler found in her nets a box containing many papers of intelligence value, including the 3rd & last Imperial German Naval code.

1940 – GC-Lt.H.R. NEWGASS RNVR – mine disposal at Garston Gassworks Liverpool.

1944 – Launch of VANGUARD, the last RN battleship.


Cruiser SYDNEY was on patrol off the West coast of Australia, due in to Fremantle on Nov 20th & under orders not to break radio silence. When she had not arrived by the 23rd, signals were sent ordering her to break silence & report her position, but she did not reply. The next day survivors of a German surface raider, said to be KORMORAN, were picked up from the sea off the coast; they told, under interrogation, that SYDNEY had intercepted their ship & sought to check her identity. KORMORAN, tried to pass herself off as a known merchant ship, but eventually being unable to give a special password, she & SYDNEY began a battle, the only details of all this being what the Germans said. According to them SYDNEY was very badly damaged & on fire, thought to be out of control & eventually disappearing out of range. KORMORAN was also badly damaged & had to be scuttled the next day, leaving her survivors in the water. A search was made for SYDNEY, but the only signs of her were the finding of a carley float & a lifebelt, there being no signs of any survivors. Neither wreck could be found then & there were doubts about the truth of the Germans’ evidence, with queries why there were no SYDNEY survivors. Not until 2008 were both wrecks found.


At the outbreak of the Suez war, frigate CRANE, with a bow damaged from a collision, was ordered to join a small task force south of the Suez Canal, in order to protect British & neutral shipping approaching the canal & to destroy any Egyptian naval force interfering with this traffic. Whilst acting away from the main task force, CRANE was hit by rockets fired from French fighter aircraft, thought to have mistaken her for an Egyptian warship. When CRANE was finally released from the task force, she received this signal:

“Blunt in front

Holed behind

Pierced amidships

Never mind-

You start your journey home today

And hell to Nasser anyway.”

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