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Battle of Heligoland Bight 1918

17th November 1917 Heligoland Bight 1917  The Second Battle of Heligoland Bight, also called the Action in the Helgoland Bight was an inconclusive naval engagement fought between British and German squadrons on 17 November 1917 during the First World War.

Background to events

Following the German Navy's successful raid on the Scandinavian convoy on 17 October 1917, Admiral Sir David Beatty, Commander-in-Chief of the British Grand Fleet, determined to retaliate. On 17 November 1917 a strong force of cruisers under Vice Admiral Trevylyan Napier was sent to attack German minesweepers, which were clearing a channel through British minefields in the Heligoland Bight. The intentions of the German force had been revealed by British Naval Intelligence, allowing the British to mount an ambush. The German sweepers were escorted by a group of cruisers and torpedo-boats under Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter.

The Battle

The action began at 0730 roughly 65 nautical miles west of Sylt, when HMS Courageous sighted the enemy. She opened fire at 0737. Admiral Reuter, the German commander, with four light cruisers and eight destroyers, courageously advanced to engage his more powerful enemy in order to cover the withdrawal of his minesweepers, all of which escaped except for the trawler Kehdingen(GE), which was sunk. The battle thereafter developed into a stern chase as the German forces, skilfully using smoke-screens, withdrew south-east at their best speed, under fire from the pursuing British ships of the 1st Cruiser Squadron, the 1st and 6th Light Cruiser Squadrons, and, later, HMS Repulse (which had been detached from the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and came up at high speed to join the battle). Both sides were hampered in their maneuvers by the presence of naval minefields. The British ships gave up the chase some two hours later, as they reached the edge of known minefields. At about the same time, the light cruisers came under fire of two German battleships, SMS Kaiser and SMS Kaiserin which had come up in support of von Reuter's ships. HMS Caledon was struck by one 12-in shell which did minimal damage and shortly thereafter, the British forces withdrew.

All personnel on the bridge of the light cruiser HMS Calypso, including her captain, Herbert Edwards, were killed by a 6-in shell. The battle cruiser HMS Repulse, briefly engaged the German ships at about 1000, scoring a single hit on the light cruiser SMS Königsberg that ignited a major fire on board. It was during this battle that Able Seaman John Henry Carless of HMS Caledon won a posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery in manning a gun despite mortal wounds.

Order of Battle

  • Royal Navy Ensign British forces - The following British vessels were engaged
  • 1st Cruiser Squadron: Vice Admiral Trevylyan D. W. Napier CB, MVO
  • HMS Courageous (flag; Capt Arthur Bromley)
  • HMS Glorious (Capt Charles B. Miller CB)
  • 13th Destroyer Flotilla
  • HMS Ursa (Cdr John C. Tovey)
  • HMS Nerissa (Lt. Cdr. Montague G. B. Legge DSO)
  • HMS Urchin (Lt Cdr Guy P. Bowles)
  • HMS Umpire (Lt Cdr Roger V. Alison DSO)
  • 6th Light Cruiser Squadron: Rear Admiral Edwyn S. Alexander-Sinclair CB MVO
  • HMS Cardiff (flag; Capt. Claud H. Sinclair)
  • HMS Ceres (Capt. the Hon. Herbert Meade DSO)
  • HMS Calypso (Capt. Herbert L. Edwards)
  • HMS Caradoc (Capt. William M. Kerr)
  • 13th Destroyer Flotilla
  • HMS Valentine - flotilla leader (Cdr. Charles A. Fremantle)
  • HMS Vimiera (Cdr. Dashwood F. Moir)
  • HMS Vanquisher (Lt Cdr. Kenneth A. Beattie)
  • HMS Vehement (Lt. Vernon Hammersley-Heenan)
  • 1st Light Cruiser Squadron: Commodore Walter H. Cowan CB, MVO, DSO
  • HMS Caledon (Cdre Cowan)
  • HMS Galatea (Capt. Charles M. Forbes DSO)
  • HMS Royalist (Capt. the Hon. Mathew R. Best MVO, DSO)
  • HMS Inconstant (Capt. Francis A. Marten)
  • 13th Destroyer Flotilla
  • HMS Vendetta (Cdr. Charles G. Ramsey)
  • HMS Medway (Lt. Cdr. Charles H. Neill James)
  • 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron Detahment Rear Admiral Richard F. Phillimore CB, MVO
  • HMS Repulse (flag; Capt. William H. D. Boyle)

KLM Ensign German forces

  • The following German vessels were engaged
  • 2nd Scouting Group (Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter) light cruisers
  • SMS Königsberg (FKpt Karl Feldmann)
  • SMS Pillau (FKpt Gerhard von Gaudecker)
  • SMS Frankfurt (FKpt Otto Seidensticker)
  • SMS Nürnberg (KptzS Walther Hildebrand)
  • 7th Torpedo-Boat Flotilla (KKpt Cordes)
  • S62 (KptLt Fink; lead boat, flotilla)
  • G87 (OLtzS Komorowski)
  • 14th half-flotilla (KptLt Richard Beitzen)
  • G92 (KptLt Arthur von Killinger; lead boat, half-flotilla)
  • G93 (KptLt Reimer)
  • V83 (Kpt Lt Wedig von Keyserlingk)
  • 12th half-flotilla (KKpt Lahs)
  • V43 (OLtzS Narjes; lead boat, half-flotilla)
  • V44 (OLtzS Kautter)
  • V45 (KptLt Laßmann)
  • Minesweepers
  • 6th Minesweeper Half-Flotilla (6.Minensuchhalbflottille) (KptLt d'Ottilié):
  • M66, M7, A36, T74, M53, M4, M3,
  • M14th Auxiliary Minesweeper Half-Flotilla (4.Hilfsminensuchhalbflottille) (KptLt d R Joachim Löwe)
  • A63, A68, A69, A74, A41, A52
  • 2nd Auxiliary Minesweeper Half-Flotilla (KptLt d R Klose): fishing vessels
  • 6th Auxiliary Minesweeper Half-Flotilla (KptLt d R Wilke): fishing vessels
  • 4th Barrier-Breaker Group (IV. Sperrbrechergruppe) (KptLt d R Hillebrand): two vessels Group S
  • North Sea Outpost Half-Flotilla (LtzS Woldag): armed trawlers Fritz Reuter and Kehdingen(GE)
  • 4th Battle Squadron (Vice Admiral Wilhelm Souchon) detachment (KptzS Kurt Graßhoff)
  • SMS Kaiserin (KptzS Kurt Graßhoff)
  • SMS Kaiser (KptzS Max Loesch)
  • attached torpedo-boats (anti-submarine escort)
  • S18 (KptLt Wildemann)
  • S24 (KptLt Paschen)

John Doran

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