- HMS Raglan during the Great War -
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20th January 1918 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.Marador
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