The Wartime Memories Project - The Great War - Day by Day
20th January 1918On this day:
- Sinking of Ship HMS Raglan was an Abercrombie class monitor, the first class of big gun monitors to be commissioned for the Royal Navy during the First World War. The Admiralty foresaw the need for coast bombardment vessels to harass Germans on the Belgian coast. All battleships were required either in the Grand Fleet or on patrol duties, so a new class of ship, with a shallow draught for inshore work and a small number of big guns was specified.
By coincidence, on 3 November, 1914 Charles M. Schwab, president of the Bethlehem Steel Company paid a call at the Admiralty to try to sell armaments. It transpired that he had eight 14-inch guns of the latest pattern which had been ordered by the Greeks for the battleship Salamis then building in Germany. Now that the British had commenced their blockade of Germany, the guns could not be delivered and Schwab, when asked what he had available, offered the now spare guns for sale.
Lot No. 476, laid down as M.3, was given the name Robert E. Lee in February, 1915 - the names of the four ships of the class being American Civil War Generals to reflect the guns background. The monitor was launched on 19 April, 1915, her guns having crossed the Atlantic in February. Due to U.S. Neutrality laws and the outcry the namings caused, the names were changed on 31 May and Robert E. Lee, the last to be completed, had commissioned as M.3 under Captain Cecil Dacre Stavely Raikes. On 19 June M.3 became Lord Raglan then on 23 June became simply Raglan.
Equipped with Harland and Wolff engines, Raglan achieved the best trial speed of any of the monitors, whose anti-torpedo bulges and poor hull form slowed them considerably. Her best speed on the measured mile was 7.64 knots.
She was promptly sent into action in the Dardanelles, being despatched on the 28 June in tow of the old cruiser Diana. She arrived on 22 July and went straight into action, supporting the Suvla Bay landings on 6-7 August. Unfortunately, on one shoot, one of Raglan's guns fired prematurely and the shell exploded in the British lines, killing one man and wounding three. Her gunnery officer at the Dardanelles was Lieutenant Arthur John Power (1889-1960), later Admiral of the Fleet.
Continually supporting the troops with gunfire, in October Raglan embarked a R.N.A.S. Short 166 aircraft designed specifically for shipboard use, to help spot the shooting of the monitors firing on Gallipoli town.
With the commencement of the evacuation from the peninsula, Raglan, due to a rather bad shooting record was kept in reserve with other ships at Imbros in case the withdrawal from Helles in the new year of 1916 should go awry. On 7 January the Turks launched a heavy attack on the British lines and all available ships were moved up to lend fire support. The evacuation of the position was eventually completed on the night of 8/9 January with the loss of one man.
Raglan and her sister-ship Abercrombie were the only two of her class kept in the Eastern Mediterranean, and Raglan was employed regularly, bombarding Smyrna and the west coast of Turkey in February and March, 1916 before being sent to the Salonika front to bombard Bulgaria.
In May, Commander Henry Franklin Chevallier, Viscount Broome, the nephew of Earl Kitchener, took command, while the ship was undergoing a refit at Malta.
She participated throughout the rest of 1916 and 1917 in lying off Imbros watching for the Battlecruiser Goeben and her escorting cruiser Breslau whilst being engaged in supporting the Allied offensives in Salonika, at Stavros, and in Palestine, when she bombarded Deir Seneid in Gaza and Askalon.
Following her support off Palestine, on 26 December Raglan returned to Imbros, where with the small monitor M.28 she formed the Second Detached Squadron of the Aegean Squadron, again keeping watch for German/Turkish ships from the Black Sea.
In the early morning of the 20 January, 1918, the battlecruiser Goeben and her consort cruiser Breslau sneaked out of the straits in the mist of the Sunday morning. Goeben hit a mine, but the damage was not serious and the two ships proceeded towards Imbros to destroy whatever ships were anchored there.
There ought to have been a Lord Nelson class battleship there but Agamemnon was stationed at Mudros 25 miles away and Lord Nelson was at Salonika with the Admiral.
A little after half seven, Raglan sighted the two German ships and at 0735 signalled "GOBLO" by wireless, the code that the breakout of the two ships had occurred. She then started exchanging fire with Breslau, each correcting their aim until they began to hit each other with medium calibre fire. However, the German's fourth salvo hit the spotting top and killed the Gunnery Officer and wounded Broome. The 14-inch gun was reloaded and ready to go into local control when a hit from Goeben pierced the tall armoured barbette and killed a number of the gun crew, having detonated the ready use charges. The First Lieutenant, who had been in the turret, came out, saw the carnage and unable to see the C.O. ordered the ship to be abandoned at anchor.
The Germans then closed to 4,000 yards and after several hits detonated the 12-pdr magazine, which sank her bow-first at 08:15 in 40 feet of water, leaving her foremast and spotting top jutting from the water. Unfortunately, 127 men from Raglan were killed while 93 survived. At the Court-martial held on 31 January the conduct of the crew under overwhelming odds was recognised to have been exemplary.
The small monitor M.28 had also been sunk in the onslaught, but soon after the action Breslau hit a mine to the east of Imbros and went under. Goeben was also mined again and was forced to beach herself on the Turkish shore, where she effectively became a non-combatant.
- Battle of Imbros 1918 The Battle of Imbros was a naval action that took place during the First World War. The battle occurred on 20 January 1918 when an Ottoman squadron engaged a flotilla of the British Royal Navy off the island of Imbros in the Aegean Sea. A lack of heavy Allied warships in the area allowed the Ottoman battlecruiser Yavūz Sultān Selīm and light cruiser Midilli to sortie into the Mediterranean and attack the British monitors and destroyers at Imbros before assaulting the naval base at Mudros. Although the Ottoman forces managed to complete their objective of destroying the British monitors at Imbros, the battle turned sour for them as they sailed through a minefield while withdrawing. Midilli was sunk and Yavūz Sultān Selīm heavily damaged. Although Yavūz Sultān Selīm managed to beach herself within the Dardanelles, she was subjected to days of air attacks until she was towed to safety. With the most modern cruiser of the Ottoman Navy sunk and her only battlecruiser out of action, the battle effectively curtailed the Ottoman Navy's offensive capability until the end of the war.
By January 1918, the situation for the Ottoman Army in Palestine had begun to falter. The new German commander of the Ottoman Black Sea fleet, Rebeur Paschwitz, decided to try to relieve Allied naval pressure on Palestine by making a sortie out of the Dardanelles. Several British naval elements of the Aegean Squadron had been taking refuge in Kusu Bay off the islands of Imbros and they were a prime target for an Ottoman raid. After raiding what shipping could be found at Imbros, Rebeur-Paschwitz would then turn to Mudros and attack the British naval base there. The Allied force guarding the Dardanelles consisted of a few heavy British and French units as well as several monitors tasked with coastal bombardment. Escorting the monitors were several British destroyers. The pre-dreadnought battleships HMS Agamemnon and HMS Lord Nelson were also tasked with guarding the area, but the Lord Nelson had been tasked with ferrying the squadron's admiral to a conference at Salonika. Taking advantage of the absence of the British battleship, the Germans and Ottomans decided to dispatch the battlecruiser Yavūz Sultān Selīm (ex-SMS Goeben) and the light cruiser Midilli (ex-SMS Breslau) to attack the area. The Allied forces at Imbros on 20 January consisted of the monitors HMS Raglan and HMS M28 as well as the Acheron-class destroyers HMS Tigress and HMS Lizard. Agamemnon was nearby at Mudros, but she was much too slow to chase down the Ottoman ships if they wanted to avoid engaging her. Without the Agamemnon and Lord Nelson the British were severely undergunned in comparison to the Ottoman ships.
The Tigress and Lizard both were armed with two 4-inch guns, two 12 pounders and two 21-inch torpedo tubes. They were swift ships capable of making 27 knots at best speed. The two monitors present at Imbros were better suited for coastal bombardment than naval combat, though their heavy guns gave them an element of firepower the destroyers lacked. Raglan, an Abercrombie-class monitor, was armed with two 14-inch guns, two 6-inch guns and two 3-inch guns. M28 was a smaller vessel than Raglan and as such carried a lighter armament sporting a single 9.2-inch cannon, one 12 pounder, as well as a six pounder anti-aircraft gun. The biggest weak point of both Raglan and M28 were their low top speeds of 7 and 11 knots respectively, giving them little capability to escape an Ottoman raid.
In contrast to the British force, the Ottoman vessels were both fast and heavily armed. Midilli sported eight 150 mm cannons, 120 mines, two torpedo tubes, and a top speed of 25 knots. Yavūz Sultān Selīm was the most powerful ship in the Ottoman fleet with a top speed of 25.5 knots, ten 283 mm guns, twelve 150 mm guns, a dozen 8.8-centimetre guns and four torpedo tubes. Thus, with no heavy units available to repel them, there was little in the means of effective Allied opposition when the Ottomans set out on their mission.
Setting out towards Imbros, the Yavūz Sultān Selīm struck a mine on transit to the island, but the damage was insignificant and the two Ottoman vessels were able to continue their mission. Yavūz Sultān Selīm then proceeded to bombard the British signal station at Kephalo Point while the Midilli was sent ahead to guard the entrance of Kusu Bay. As the Yavūz Sultān Selīm and Midilli approached Kusu Bay, they were sighted by the destroyer HMS Lizard at 0530. The Lizard attempted to engage the Ottoman ships, but could not close to torpedo range due to heavy fire from her opponents. The Yavūz Sultān Selīm soon sighted the two British monitors taking refuge in the bay and broke off from Lizard to engage them. As Yavūz Sultān Selīm attacked the monitors, Midilli continued to duel with Lizard who was then joined by the destroyer HMS Tigress. Lizard and Tigress attempted to shield the monitors from Yavūz Sultān Selīm by laying a smoke screen, but this was ineffective. The monitors were both much too slow to evade Yavūz Sultān Selīm and she was able to score numerous hits on the Raglan, hitting her foretop and killing her gunnery and direction officers. The Raglan attempted to return fire with its 6 and 14 inch guns, but scored no hits on the German vessels before her main armament was knocked out when a shell pierced its casemate and ignited the ammunition within it. Shortly after she was disarmed, the Raglan was hit in her magazine by one of Goeben's 11 inch shells causing the monitor to sink. After Raglan was sunk, the Ottoman battlecruiser began turned her attention to HMS M28, striking her amidships and setting her alight before she was sunk when her magazine exploded at 0600. With the two monitors sunk, the Ottomans decided to break off the engagement and head south in an attempt to raid the allied naval base at Mudros. Upon withdrawing from Kusu Bay, the Ottoman force accidentally sailed into a minefield and were shadowed by the two British destroyers they had previously engaged. In addition to the destroyers, several British and Greek aircraft were launched from Mudros to engage the Germans. In the meantime, Greek ace Aristeidis Moraitinis, managed to shoot down three enemy seaplanes with his Sopwith Camel. With the approach of enemy aircraft the Midilli, which had been following the Yavūz Sultān Selīm, took the lead so as to take advantage of her heavier anti-aircraft armament. Midilli then struck a mine near her aft funnel and shortly afterwards Yavūz Sultān Selīm hit one as well. Within half an hour the Midilli had struck four more mines and began to sink. The Yavūz Sultān Selīm attempted to rescue the Midilli but also struck a mine and was forced to withdraw. Fleeing towards the safety of the Dardanelles, Yavūz Sultān Selīm was pursued by Lizard and Tigress. In order to cover the Yavūz Sultān Selīm four Ottoman destroyers and an old cruiser rushed out to engage the British destroyers. After the lead Ottoman destroyer began to take hits, the Ottoman squadron was forced to withdraw back up the Dardanelles. As the British destroyers approached Cape Helles, they were fired upon by Ottoman shore batteries and withdrew.
In addition to the Lizard and Tigress, a dozen British seaplanes from Ark Royal were launched to finish off the Yavūz Sultān Selīm. Although they managed to score two hits against the battlecruiser, the Ottoman ship was by this time near the coast. The combined efforts from ten Ottoman seaplanes as well as heavy anti-aircraft fire were able to drive off the air attacks, downing one Sopwith Baby and damaging another aircraft.
The four Ottoman destroyers returned and guarded the Yavūz Sultān Selīm as she sailed up the Dardnelles. Severely damaged, the Ottoman battlecruiser ran aground on a sandbar off Nagara Point and became stranded. The next six days saw further air attacks by Allied seaplanes against the Ottoman battlecruiser, with six hits being scored against her. Ottoman seaplanes and heavy shore batteries responded to the raids and were able to guard the Yavūz Sultān Selīm and beat back the air attacks. Despite the air raids, the Yavūz Sultān Selīm suffered only superficial damage from them as the 65-pound bombs used by the British were too small to be effective. Allied commanders proposed plans for a submarine raid against the battlecruiser, but the only submarine attached to the Aegean squadron, HMS E12, had mechanical problems and was inoperative. A raid into the Dardanelles was therefore postponed until a working submarine could be dispatched to the area.
With no way to free herself, the Yavūz Sultān Selīm remained stranded on the sandbar until 26 January when the Turgut Reis finally arrived and towed her back into the Black Sea. In one last effort to destroy the battlecruiser, the British sent the submarine HMS E14 into the Dardnelles on 27 January. The Yavūz Sultān Selīm had already left the area and so E14 began sailing back to Allied waters after discovering the battlecruiser's absence. Sighting an Ottoman freighter, the British submarine attempted to engage her with torpedoes. The second torpedo fired exploded prematurely.
In the resulting explosion the submarine was damaged and was forced to try to flee the straits. She came under heavy fire from the nearby Ottoman shore batteries and was eventually beached with her commander, Geoffrey Saxton White, and another sailor killed and seven captured. White was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his efforts to beach the submarine and save its crew. Although the Ottoman force was able to destroy the British monitors they set out to engage, their losses traversing the minefield after the engagement in Kusu Bay negated any impact the British losses had in their favour. With the Midilli sunk and Yavūz Sultān Selīm severely damaged, the threat of the Ottoman Navy to the Allies was greatly reduced for the remainder of the war. Despite the removal of these two vessels from the Ottoman battle line, the commanders of the British Aegean Squadron were still criticized for having dispatched both of their heavy units too far from the Dardanelles to engage the Ottomans. If the Agamemnon or Lord Nelson had been at their posts during the Ottoman raid, the Yavūz Sultān Selīm might have been destroyed, eliminating her threat once and for all rather than having her escape.
- 20th Jan 1918 Home from Germany
- ARLEUX SECTOR
Still raining. Patrol of 1 Officer and 25 ORs went out in the direction of LONE TREE to discover whether consolidated shell holes and posts in German front line were occupied. Patrol reports them unoccupied. Wiring party of 1 NCO & 6 men wire in front of BRITANNIA between OAK & ARLEUX POSTS.
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